Tag Archives: Books

Amazon and the Kindle

I sort of love/hate Amazon. Mostly love, but still.

I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd version was released. I’ve liked them all, loved really. They’re my go to reading devices, but most of the time it feels like Amazon is just pushing them out the door ( a new one just dropped last week!), without actually caring what anyone wants. Sure they add a new font here, and finally integrated goodreads a few firmware versions ago, now there’s a really expensive ‘luxury’ one, but look around the internet at an eReader or even Kindle specific forum, you’ll find lots and lots of discussion around the minor things that would vastly improve the kindle for many owners.

IMG_0982Content Management. When you end up with a library of hundreds or thousands of books, managing them on device is a bag of hurt. Especially if that device has an Epaper screen! Managing them on the amazon site isn’t even an option. So what works? Surely there’s something, oh no there’s nothing. The Kindle for mac (or PC I assume) seems like it’d be the right place, plenty of screen space, etc. to allow for easy sorting of books and managing of collections, generally managing your Kindle library. Nope, Collections are a mix of device and cloud, essentially making them useless on both, because what changes you make on your desktop, won’t reflect on the device, and vice versa. Side loaded books aren’t synced so the desktop and mobile app versions, don’t even know about them.

There used to be a nice view on the kindle that showed books and collections together so you could see books that weren’t assigned a place to live, making it easy to manage. Once your kindle screen was just collections, done. You’d sorted all your books. That view went away a few firmwares ago. You can see above that now there’s no telling. The three books at the bottom, are in the collection above, yet there’s no way to see just one. You can see only collections, but then books not in collections are gone. You can see everything but then collections are pretty pointless.

Screen savers. I admit this is a huge one for me (and anecdotally a huge group of owners). I don’t know why, but Amazon thinks we want to see some random ass images (previously it was dead authors) instead of the cover of the book we’re reading, or our own images. Why? beats me. Sure if you have the “special offers” version it makes sense you only see the offers. But if i’m not running that version, why wouldn’t I want to see what I’m reading? instead of one of like 6 rotating images. Why wouldn’t I want to customize that experience?

IMG_0981I know some folks don’t care one way or the other, I’d argue even not caring, none would object to seeing the book cover. It seems like such a low hanging fruit that Amazon could please a vocal subset of customers, please others who don’t care but wouldn’t oppose seeing the cover of their book, and in no way harm anything at all. In fact it’s not even like it’s not possible since one of the biggest reasons people jailbreak their kindles (myself included) is to gain access to book covers as screen saver.

Even if a book doesn’t have a cover, the system that renders it could make a generic one. I know this because the creators of the Screensaver hack have done it. The Side loading app Calibre, has also done it.

To my knowledge Amazon has never said why they don’t offer this, the jailbreak works so well, doing it officially seems like it’d be easier/cleaner.

Unlike Apple who seems to at least pay attention to the jailbreak community to see what’s popular, Amazon seems to ignore it completely, focusing on other things. Other things that no one is asking for (at least based on the last few firmwares, and subsequent roll backs).

None of this keeps me from owning a Kindle, or enjoying mine, but I’ve never understood when businesses seem to ignore their user base so completely as to be seen as hostile towards what are the most active and vocal of their supporters.

¯\_(?)_/¯

The problem with eBook pricing

I saw this NYT blog post and retweeted it (props to @datingdad) with “Good for amazon”

My friend Dave (@courier_new) asked some questions clarifying my position, so I thought I’d write my thoughts up (not new here, check the eBooks category) in a bit more than 140 chars.

Publishers are fighting companies like Amazon on eBook pricing. Many have won with agency pricing. Agency pricing lets the publisher set the price and more often than not you see this.

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If Your Customer Wants to Pay You. Figure out a Way to Take Their Money

This will be a short one as it just popped in to my head as I emailed my friend Tim. He sent me a reading list for some Green Lantern comics because i mentioned I was reading some. The Comic reader i use on my Kindle Fire (awesome comic reader, BTW) posts to Facebook when I finish an issue.

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Startups, who’s in to be Apple?

Like most of Nerd America I started Reading the Steve Jobs Biography last night. I got in some good reading at the gym this morning and started thinking. I haven’t made it to the Apple years yet, but as I was reading it, thinking about Apple, about Jobs, startups and about death, a notion started forming.

Who’s going to step up and be Apple? Heck, where are our Hewlett and Packard? Our Michael Dell?  Bill Gates?

I work in a space with a fair amount of startups, and being so close to Boulder I hear about a lot more of them, and of course I’m in the Silicon Valley for events a fair bit too, and of course I follow my friend Eric Norlin. So I’m not uninformed when it comes to startups.

I know there’s awesome startups out there doing cool things (like Bloom). I work in the same building as one. But in looking at them and at most other startups, I wonder, who’s solving tomorrow’s problems? Who’s working on making the next big thing? NOT the next thing for AOL or Google to acquire. It seems that most startups are starting to be bought by someone, existing more than 5 years isn’t in the plans. That certainly is the exit that makes the most financial sense for their backers, and the founders even. I wonder sometimes if our VC and Angel worlds are so wrapped up in ‘quick bucks’ and early exits, that they’re encouraging young founders to not focus on building companies that can or will be around 20 or 30 years. Let alone build companies that are focused on tomorrow’s problems. Sure messy contacts, old school comic readers, and lack of robot balls are problems worth solving, that’s not my point. My point is there should be a balance, and I don’t see it.

Looking at Techstars and Ycombinator I see awesome companies making cool things like gMail plugins and robot balls with LEDs in them, and new takes on training sites, sites about treating musicians like stock, and such. But I wonder will any of them exist in 5-10 years? I suspect not. They’ll either have folded up and moved on, or been absorbed into some other larger thing. And that’s ok in it’s own right, but where does that leave us? The Country of Dell and HP and Apple and Microsoft? I feel like it leaves us with a sad lack of innovative long term tech companies. VCs are bitching about immigration policy not letting tech founders into the country in high enough numbers. I’d argue the gov’t should be looking at these VCs and asking where the companies that will lead innovation are and why they aren’t helping build them? I’d be thrilled to let the next Bill Gates in on a Startup Visa, but not if he plans to simply build something he can sell to Microsoft for a quick buck.

I know in startup circles and no doubt in VC circles getting acquired is a win. In my book it isn’t. I remember sitting around beers with some friends talking about a company in Boulder that was bought before it even left private beta. To me that was a fail. Sure they made out like bandits, everyone got paid. But they were barely a business, they had maybe a few customers, maybe a few hundred, but they were beta testers not paying customers. I suspect that’s why I’m drawn towards brick and mortar style businesses. Conferences, coworking, etc. Because those businesses are immune or less politely often excluded from the hub bub of tech investing. Therefore for the most part they require bootstrapping which it seems so many startups can’t or won’t do. I’ve seen ideas live and die based on acceptance to Techstars. While I have no doubt Brad Feld and co. know a winner or at least a good horse when they see it, I’m sure they’d agree they can’t see all the winners (or losers) all the time.

That kinda brings this all back around for me. I’ve never asked for money or (at least yet) taken out a bank loan for 360|Conferences or Uncubed. I live and die by what I can do on my own (or with partners as the case may be). In both cases i think to myself often, are these businesses that will be around in 10 years? Can they be a legacy, can I actually do something good with them? I think both can. I don’t know if either will, but I think both can, and I’m happy to try and find out. I think both started for the right reasons. Trying to change systems that exist, for the better of the communities they exist in,  which to me is the right reason to start a business. Will I get rich? be acquired by someone? Probably not on both counts, but that’s ok because that wasn’t and isn’t my motivator. I like money don’t get me wrong :) I want to live a comfortable life, but that’s the extent of it. I don’t need to make something someone else wants to buy so I can pay back investors and retire at 35.

I wonder if startup founders go to bed at night thinking about the future. Not the future where they get bought, where tech crunch writes them up and they secure yet another round of funding. A future where they employ thousands. A future where they and their product/service are shaping lives. A future where they make a difference for more than a year. Sure payroll next month is important, press is important I’m not discounting that, but if they’re not thinking about 10 years from now, I’d say they’re doing it at least a little wrong.

 

Thinking About Death

So obviously with Steve Job’s passing Death has been talked about a lot lately. Of course having such a visionary pass away is a huge loss. But closer to home our downstairs neighbor at Uncubed, Jim recently passed away.

I got back from my trip to LA and found out. I didn’t know Jim all that much, he ran the motorcycle museum below us, mostly opened on the weekends. He’d come up and chat once in a while, lend us a tool during the construction before we opened. He was a good guy, who loved motorcycles.

His kids came by shortly after his passing and held a wake in the museum, and since then it’s been closed up.

Last night I left the office and was taking the trash out and walk passed the dark windows of the museum. Now the lights would never be on at night anyway, but walking past I knew that they’d never be on again, at least not for Jims’ museum.

Death is a funny thing. I’ve been fairly blessed  in that my family hasn’t suffered many deaths. At least deaths of people I knew or had met. Great grand parents passed when I was a child. That’s changing of course as grand parents are getting older, but they’re still kicking.

But now other people in my life are passing, and it really does (as Steve said at Stanford) make you think and evaluate.

This is kind of a navel gazing post, but i just wanted to share that it’s weird as life goes on, that deaths start to occur and you really do start thinking about life, goals, that kind of shit.

 

I almost wrote this up and deleted it, but meh, I figured I’d post it just to put it out there, so that next year I can come look at it.

So an Amazon Tablet huh

Thought I’d take a minute to weigh in on the whole Amazon Kindle tablet thing now the buzz and punditry has kinda died down.

I’m interested, but still skeptical. I DO however LOVE my kindle 3 lest someone immediately jump to “Hater”

The touch model is uninteresting, I don’t see value in an e-ink touch screen. Even with improved refresh rate and such, I just don’t see a long term usability there. Add on the whole, “touch in the middle for menu, touch on the sides to change pages” thing, i just don’t see the use. in the long run. Typing might not suck completely but I’m guessing it’s not awesome.

The one with the D-pad but no keyboard. Ok but i think it’ll be only slightly useful. If nothing else entering wifi credentials is gonna suck, and I assume it still has note making capability, which will get old fast hunting and pecking across an on-screen keyboard. I do like the look of it, very clean. While I love my keyboard when I need it, it’s a definite space waste 90% of the time I’m using my Kindle. That 10% however is huge. I don’t surf the web or tweet (who are these people that bitch about the browser ON THEIR E-READER. YOu guys are doing it wrong) but I make lots of notes. Sometimes I share those notes out, most of the time I don’t. But I take lots of notes when I’m reading non-fiction. Since getting my K3 and seeing the shared highlights of others, it’s clear I’m not the only one. Tapping out a lengthy note to myself or observation on an on-screen keyboard that refreshes like e-ink… no thanks.

I hate typing my passwords on my AppleTV using the stupid remote, and dread when I need to do it on the PS3, all for the same reason. hunting and pecking via a direction pad is a terrible way to use a keyboard. So yeah the keyboard less one and the touch one likely will be huge to readers of fiction or those who see no value in adding any type of annotation. That’s not a criticism just an observation of usage.

Now the Nook color… oops the Kindle Fire I mean.

I don’t read on backlit things. I read way too much, and just can’t do it. I might read a page on my Xoom (kindle app) from time to time, but when it’s sit down and enjoy a book time, it’s not on a reflective backlit screen.

I love the size. The only thing RIM did right in the playbook in my opinion was the size. The OS was nice and had they executed in a way that in any way resembled a real world view of the market I have little doubt the playbook coulda been a real player. But that’s a different post. The size was great. It fit in my shorts pocket. My coat pocket, and the small outside pocket of my laptop bag(s). No I probably wouldn’t use it as an every day tablet for catching up on news feeds, or things like that. but for quickly reviewing email or twitter, for a quick (who am I kidding right) game of Angry Birds and such it’s perfect. The playbook had an incredible screen, I hope the Fire does too.

Watching things. My other big use case for any tablet is watching stuff. I’ll be leaving for Adobe MAX tomorrow and my Xoom is loaded with a movie or two and some episodes of TV I haven’t watched yet. Prior to the iPad and Xoom I watched stuff on my iPhone. The larger tablets are great, but my eyesight is fine, so a smaller screen is also cool. And the Playbook size screen i found to be just right. Not so heavy I get bored/tired of holding it up, and not so small I’m squinting to see the show. So I think the size of the Fire is a good choice and keeps it on my “I’m watching you” list. Had it been 10″ I probably wouldn’t care since I have the xoom. It does just fine.

Content is king. This applies over and over and you see things fail for this simple reason (cough RIM, HP, most android devices). Amazon unlike HP and android and RIM has content. It’s got amazon prime and cloud drive music. Remember why we all love our iDevices? The content and the ease of managing that content, and the ease of using that content. Amazon has a shot here. I thought HP did too, but frankly HP is clearly run by people who don’t get that it’s 2011 not 1992.

As Amazon adds more content to Prime, it gets more and more interesting to me. Since Netflix as a company is beginning to annoy me, I might just redirect my $ and attention to Amazon if they can get a bit more content. I know they compete but it’d be awesome if Amazon Prime VOD was added to AppleTV, that’d be a Netflix killer for me at least.

What wasn’t talked about and what I’ve said over and over in regards to Android vs. Apple user experience is the content management. Android is catching up a little with Google Music, etc but has a LONG way to go, and if your media isn’t in their cloud, it’s a PITA to get it on your Android device. Lock in… gotta love it. But if Amazon makes managing my on device content easy and seamless (even if it means a simple upload from iTunes to Amazon to download to device) way to manage the stuff on my tablet, well they may be the alternative to Apple that Android promised to be. Of course the Kindle aspect of the device much like the Nook aspect of the Nook Color, not at all interesting, but the device itself… hmm

Of course nothing at all was shown in relation to that type of thing which doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies, BUT the Fire doesn’t even ship for 2 more months so…

So my haven’t-even-seen-or-touched-it-yet opinion. I’m cautiously optimistic. I didn’t pre-order anything and I’ll wait for some hands on reviews before I make an moves.

Did you pre-order? What’d you get?

Read Books, it’s Good For You!

I’ve known this anecdotally for a long time. I think it extends beyond bloggers needing to read, and read fiction. It applies to every single person, everywhere.

The points outlined in the article all speak for themselves, so i don’t need to re-hash those.

Reading is good for you. Reading anything is better than nothing, but like all things, there needs to be a balance.

Reading only business books, is no better than reading only comic books. I haven’t read as many business books of late, but still keep 1 or 2 around at any given time, just to keep my brain working on business, I went through a phase where I read mostly business books, and fiction was the minority. Right now it’s the opposite, but that changes as availability of good fiction changes.

Read too many or only business books, and I think you lose an edge. Creativity. Business books, like business school (which I’m against) tell you how things have been done, what’s worked for someone else, how you should do X and Y and how you shouldn’t. Fiction opens your mind to possibilities. Sure i can’t sick a dragon on my competitors, but reading fiction at least keeps my mind able to consider other options.

Creativity is as valuable as knowing how Lou Gerstner brought IBM back, and unless your next job is running IBM, I’d argue that creativity, and a mind open to new thoughts is better than knowing how Lou did what he did.

This relates to the “I don’t have time to read” crowd. You’re fooling yourself, I’m sure you think it makes you look cool, and important that your every waking hour is consumed with something, but really you look like a Douche, and at least to me, and probably most ‘readers’ look like an imbecile. There’s time in the day for everything, and reading is one of those things you should make time for, maybe not daily, but heck, reading a page a week is still better than not reading a page a week…

 

Go grab a book, and be a better person, in business and in life.