Tag Archives: eBooks

Why I won’t be buying ebooks for a while

When I finished my last ebook the other day, i went to my bookshelf. Mainly it was to save a little money, I read fast when I read fiction, so I was consuming about 2-3 books a month, not a cheap hobby.

So I picked up a trusty paperback I’ve read 3 times previous but not recently (the last 4 years or s0).

I had forgotten how nice a book feels. No I’m not suddenly an anti paper luddite, but real books are nice, the feel of paper (in this books case) the degrading spine (mass market paperbacks sadly aren’t designed to last) requiring kid gloves to read it, etc.

But that nostalgia aside, i’m still a big proponent of eBooks, but I’m reconsidering my opinion that they’ve ‘arrived’

Not only does Amazon cow towing to McMillan bother me, but in general the trend of Amazon and the publishers.

I had hoped after what? 2 years of Kindle sales, stats like every Kindle owner on average buys 2.7 or something more books than non Kindle owning Amazon users, etc. That the publishers would get onboard the clue train.

But that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Rather than figure out how to make money in the marketplace as it exists, they’ve bitched and moaned for 2 years, without fixing a broken system.

I had hoped, and have said often, that the change in publishing, will have to be forced, and that I hoped Amazon was strong enough to “Apple” the publishing industry into the 21st Century.

I appear to have misplaced my hope. Sure it would suck to not be able to buy Tor titles from Amazon, I love Sci Fi. But it was a game of chicken, and Amazon jumped out of the car first.

Unfortunately rather than support the modern age, most authors seem to be on the attack of eReader owners, and crying foul on Amazon. Rather than lobbying for change from within most just sit back and bitch about how truly powerless they are. WTF guys come on, you’re the content creator, the power IS yours.

So for now, I’ve established a book buying moratorium. As much as it pains me, I can’t support an industry that staunchly refuses to adapt to the world around them. If the Music industry and figure it out, publishing should be able to as well.

I’ll get books at used book stores, I’ll use Paper back swap, and I’ll get free books for my Kindle when I can.

There’s always bittorrent too, sorry publishers, but forcing paying customers away, is your own doing*

I hope other Kindle owners will stop buying books as well. There’s plenty of other sources, and plenty of free content as well. My Kindle won’t be collecting dust by any means.

I’d love to hear what you think.

*Not an admission of piracy, if I WERE to download a book off a torrent and like it, I’d buy the paper version.

How Dell can survive and truly compete

I had a truly inspiring conversation with Jake and Dave yesterday. We went to lunch then coffee.

The topic turned to Apple of course, the Apple tax, and what it means, and Dell.

We all agreed that we pay more, but where Dell and HP, and windowz peeps use the term in a negative, we see it as paying for a more awesome product, that is the sum of it’s parts not the parts. The whole spec comparison has been done to death. Apple gear isn’t RAM, HDD, glossy screen, etc. It’s the whole package, the OS, the industrial design, the hardware, and the overall feeling of owning something that retains value, isn’t plastic, and does what you want.

We got to talking about Dell (not sure why we focused on Dell, we probably all owned a few so they’re familiar)

We agreed, Dell (from now on, when I say “Dell” it means all PC makers) was competing with apple on product, not narrative. Slapping leather on a laptop, does not a MacBook Pro killer make. Adding replaceable colored skins, ditto.

What we all agreed is that the issue isn’t competing on hardware, it’s competing on the package. It’s a plastic crappy flimsy laptop running Windows. Sure Dell has tried to go Linux before, but the mistake they made was in choosing an off the shelf Linux distro. Maybe they wrote a few drivers for their hardware (I surely hope so) but that was it.

Wrong approach.

It’s amazing how many Apple product-killers fail to deliver because they fail to see the package, and try to kill the gear.

Mac’s run *nix. I know that, Dave and Jake know that. My mom doesn’t. Nicole doesn’t or doesn’t care. Hell I don’t care.

Where Apple went right, and Dell wrong, they took BSD, and made it user friendly. The average user never opens console, NEVER NEVER has to compile a driver from source, etc.

Throwing Ubuntu on a Dell laptop… isn’t the same as throwing OS X on a Mac laptop. Dell missed the mark, but not by much.

What should Dell do? abandon Windows, devote time and money to taking Ubuntu or something else, and making it theirs. Yes it’ll cost a metric buttload of money, and time. Dell will have to stand by their convictions, and help show why choosing their OS is a good idea for their customers. OS X had Classic mode, it shouldn’t be hard for Dell to offer a mode that will run Office. Apple didn’t offer iWork for a long time. Apple owners had to use Mac Office. M$ isn’t stupid, they’ll be mad, but then they’ll make an Office version for Dell OS. Or Dell writes one. Shit, Pages isn’t Word, but it’s got what most people need out of a word processor. The rest of Word is crazy one off fluff, that bloats the app and adds value to 1% or less of the install base. (guessing)

When I say Dell has to stand by their plan, that means after 6 months or a year, they can’t scrap the idea, run back to Microsoft, and make nice. It’s gonna take time. They need to spend that time doing 2 things.

  1. Sell the hell out of Dell OS. It’s an uphill battle, but NO ONE likes windows. Given an alternative that did what Windows does (not the shit no one cares about, the important things), wasn’t bloated, wasn’t full of crapware, etc. People would choose that alternative. BUT it must be stable, it must not need the user to know that the console exists, and it must be supported. It’ll need drivers, it’ll need the regular apps, it’ll need a way to run old windows shit. It’ll need a wizard to help convert people from windows to Dell OS. it’ll need the same experience Mac converts get.
  2. Improve the Dell OS. Show that it’s not a one off. within 6 months, release an update that’s more than a bug fix. Throw in a few new features. Add some Sizzle, but add a bite or two of steak too. Showing your fledgling user base that you’re committed will do wonders. They’ll know you’re in the game to win, and not “Testing the waters”, and they’ll become the cult of Dell.

That’s it. That’s the secret sauce Dell is not seeing. That’s the trees in the forest. It’s not a better laptop with better specs. it’s not leather or wood. It’s not Aluminum unibody, it’s the narrative, and the experience. Windows will forever taint both, and Dell will never compete.

So that’s it. That’s the secret, that so many get (Apple owners) that so few get (PC makers, M$, Etc) that would make PC makers competitive.

Apple didn’t get to $50bil over night, you can take your 8% share and bank on that, Apple is banking with Money. (Please leave the “iPod is supporting it” out. Yes the iPod is the huge money maker, and uh, hello the iPod follows the same model. Dell DJ? what? what’s that? exactly)

That was our coffee talk :) I might have missed a thing or two or glossed over but that was the gist.

What makes the Kindle awesome, isn’t Amazon.

It’s funny I was reading Joe Wikert’s post on the death of the Kindle, when Amazon released it’s long, long, long awaited firmware update 2.3, adding a few, but not enough of the things Joe mentions being conspicuously missing from the Kindle.

Joe has some really good points, and sadly, 2.3 doesn’t negate many if any at all.

Then I got to thinking, what makes me still recommend my Kindle? It’s not the Kindle itself, it’s only a little bit Amazon itself, though I do almost all my buying on amazon, and really like the whispernet service.

it’s the incredible third party ecosystem that has grown around the Kindle to make it a truly kick ass device.IMG_0889_rotated

Enter the hacks. My Kindle now shows images I like to look at, when it’s asleep. The font is now darker, easier to see, a much improved way to read. Why couldn’t Amazon provide that functionality? It doesn’t impact performance that I can tell, it doesn’t cause system instability, no crashes, etc.

This thought came to me when I was reinstalling my screensaver hack, because even after months of no new firmware updates, years of the same three “experimental” features never getting an ounce of love from Amazon, i still couldn’t pick my own images for the screensaver. I was still stuck with the dead authors Amazon thinks I should see.

I still couldn’t pick the font I wanted to read in, stuck with a terribly light, hard on the eyes font. Why?

Now look at services like instapaper, kindlefeeder, and Calibre. While I’d never want those great ideas and awesome entrepreneurs to be thwarted, i’d love Amazon to show them some love, buy their services, buy their code, hire them, something.

Screen shot 2009-11-29 at 2.42.08 PMKindlefeeder delivers a mobi formatted newsfeed every morning, it’s there when I get home from the gym. 20+ of the blogs I read daily, are right there, the most recent posts since the last morning, ready for my reading. Why can’t amazon offer that? Oh wait, I can pay $ for every blog I like for Amazon to send it to me.

Then there’s Calibre, which I’ve used off and on for 360|Whisperings, but now also has a nice new feature I love. I love the Harvard Business Review. Sadly it’s STILL not available on Amazon, but Calibre allows me to plug my credentials in and receive a mobi magazine formatted article. It looks just like any magazine you’d pay Amazon for. I’m already paying for HBR, but it’s nice to be able to get it in the format I want it to be in.

The last feature that Amazon should have included but didn’t is Instapaper, which I’ve long used in my surfing of the internet. Find a site I like, mark it to read later. Now when I mark it to read later, I get a weekly mobi formatted new feed on my Kindle. Where I can save it and read at my leisure.

Where’s Amazon?

All these hacks and services are what make the Kindle a kick ass device. It’s software is lackluster, it’s feature set dated (Folders? Tags? Desktop organization? Hello Amazon), it’s hardware uninspired to say the least. Thank god for smart ingenious people who work to make up for Amazon’s failings.

Maybe Joe is right, maybe Amazon won’t stick with hardware. if they won’t step up, I think it’s for the best. I think they’ve done great things for the eBook marketplace, I think they can again if they actually put some effort into it, but to pull a move like they’ve pulled…? Weak sauce.

Make an effort Amazon, it won’t take much, and you stand SO MUCH TO GAIN.

The effort isn’t really that much. More frequent firmware updates for sure.

A hardware refresh yearly at least, or look at Apple, small changes between the larger updates.

Both of these things are a must for Amazon to remain relevant in the eReader hardware space, for the Kindle to be more than a footnote in the eReader story.

What do you think?

eBooks unprofitable at 9.99? I call Shenanigans

I came across this on Tele-Read, and had to voice my irritation.

Not only do I think it’s BS that a $9.99 eBook isn’t profitable I think it’s outrageous that Steve Haber sucks for thinking consumers are a bunch of idiots that don’t understand profit margins.

Perhaps $9.99 isn’t profitable for Sony (Why is sony profiting at all on eBook sales?) because Sony is a huge bloated company with (I’d guess) more middle management than it needs. Profit margins have to be high for bloated inefficient companies to survive. That’s not the consumers fault, or the competition.

It’s an ebook, very little work goes into it’s creation, distribution, etc beyond the initial writing/editing process. Unless publishers are so backwards they’re still mailing manuscripts around in big envelopes, the work is already digital. Translate to ePub, and that’s it.

WTF, you can’t make money on $9.99 when you’re doing nothing more than taking the finished digital work, and converting to ePub? Really? ¬†eBook sales should be icing. You’re already marketing the book (or should be), already pitching it to brick and mortors, etc. the eBook is the “Oh yeah it’s also available on your eReader”

As a side note, i found this quote hilarious.

On Sony’s embrace of ePub, the open format for reading digital books across multiple devices (which Amazon has not adopted):

“My analogy is if you walk into a mall and you’re with a bunch of your friends to go shopping and you can only go in one store and they can go into many stores. It probably makes more sense to shop many stores. That’s our thinking … It frankly makes it more fun for us because we can work with so many different companies. We’re not here trying to put a wall up to block our customers. We don’t get emails complaining about ‘Why did you lock me in?’

My translation is this.

“We tried being pricks and forcing people to use our own proprietary format, much like we did with digital music, (ATRAC) and memory cards for digital cameras, that didn’t work with any other devices or services on the planet. It didn’t work, so we’re doing what we should have done in the first place, but spinning it like we’re cool, and hip, and all about consumer rights.”

How the Library can survive and Thrive.

Tom and I were in LA for Adobe MAX a few weeks ago. On our last day before heading to LAX, we walked around the LA Public Library. It’s a cool ass building, I gotta say. Massive pillars, cool art, immense open space. I hadn’t been in a library in a long time, it’s nice to be surrounded by books, and people who like them.

As always we started talking about technology, and in particular eBooks, and eReaders, and how the library of tomorrow won’t look like the one we were walking through.

Here’s the idea we came up with, looking at the crowd of people in the library.

Offer a Kindle (or a Nook, or whatever) to each library member. Of course they’d need to be subsidized somehow, and you could probably get away with charging something super small, $20 maybe? Just to put a value on it to holders. It’s Library property, so you could also enforce some “Lose it, buy it” deal, and give the $20 back if it’s returned in working order. Otherwise it’s a lifetime deal like a library card.

Of course it’s not a Kindle like you’d get on Amazon. It’s a library device. It’s useful to read content you’ve checked out of the library. Sort of like the way the Nook knows when you’re in a B&N, the Library Kindle would know you’re in the library. You’d browse the available titles, check out whatever the limit is, etc. following whatever rules exist. You wouldn’t be buying anything, nothing permanent would reside on the device.

The book would transfer to your device, with the appropriate DRM to enforce the check out period (as already exists and is in use at libraries), the patron would go home, and have a book to read on an eReader.

There wouldn’t be 3G, and you couldn’t connect to other Wifi hot spots. The connection is only for the Library. Outside the Library it’s an unconnected eBook reader, which all a library patron would need it to be.

Sidenote (You could get really jiggy, and allow patrons to have an account on the library server, to collect annotations, etc. That way you could make notes on the book you’ve checked out, and they wouldn’t go away when you checked the book back in, but you might have to check the book back out to read them? I dunno, it just popped into my head.)

As far as funding goes, well it doesn’t cost Amazon $259 to build the Kindle, so they could easily give libraries a massive price break on bulk orders. Additionally, what company wouldn’t want, say a screen saver image as advertising on each device? Sell a few (there’s no limit really) ads (600×800 images) that are displayed when the device is sleeping, to offset the cost of the device. That’s a lot of eyeballs on each ad, if you think of how many patrons your typical metro library has.

Once the devices are in the library (assuming someone like Amazon, etc builds the custom OS) the ownership is easy. Charge the devices in a closet somewhere. When someone signs up, give them the device, the charger, and an instruction manual. Heck charging could even be something only offered at the library, since without a wireless connection Kindles last about 2 weeks. But either way, there’s not much overhead in managing the Devices. Repair/replacement would obviously be thru the vendor, just like with library workstations.

The OS is simple (The existing Kindle OS ain’t exactly MacOS) so there’s little to no learning curve, you wouldn’t need to have full time support staff, etc either. Whatever existing staff, would easily handle issues, since worst case, it’s swap out the device, and RMA the bad one.

I think as libraries become more aware of the sun set approaching them, the smart ones, will get on board with this idea. The smart company (Amazon, Sony, B&N) will jump on the idea too and secure the market before anyone else sees the market forming.

This idea free to whomever can make it work, I want to see our libraries thrive in the future, and I want to see reading supported!

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The Nook, From “I need” to “I’ll Pass” in a week.

So in the span of a week, the nook from Barnes & Noble has gone from zero to hero and is now hovering around, “dude I kinda look up to, a little, but not enough to want to be him”

The quick turn around was largely due to new facts coming out, like this. Turns out, the lending feature is pretty much destined to be vaporware.

  1. You can only lend 1 book, one time, ever. That’s it, lend it to a friend, and you can lend it no longer. And of course, while it’s lent out, you can’t read it. Sure a real book works like that, but this AREN’T REAL BOOKS. It’s an eBook, the “e” allows for things that the dead tree model can’t afford.
  2. The lending feature, much like the Kindle‘s now never turned on, Text-to-speach feature is at the mercy of publishers. Which to me, from experience, means, it’ll be turned off on 95% of all eBooks. Cuz of course, why would the publishers want us to use things we purchase, in ways we like?

Then while reading my KindleFeeder morning paper, I saw this on e-bookvine. If you’re curious about the Nook, read the whole thing. One of my absolutely biggest complaints about the Kindle is organization. I can’t organize books by … well anything. Out of the box I can sort by Title, Author and Date. Not Type, etc.

Apparently, while B&N was building the Nook, they chose to follow Palms footsteps, and not learn from the competition. It’s kinda straight forward, that if you’re coming late to the party, you should offer everything (or as much as possible) that the leader doesn’t offer, and of course, offer more too. The Nook doesn’t offer any better eBook organization than the Kindle. There’s no desktop library app (like iTunes), and no support for folders or tags. FAIL.

Why support your fans? I used to be a B&N Member. I love books, and love being in bookstores, so it made sense to save a little money. When i started buying books on Amazon, I let my membership lapse. Will the Nook offer B&N members, anything? Nope. No discount on the device (OK I can kinda get with that, kinda), and no discount on eBooks. FAIL. Why not offer your loyal members an extra incentive to buy eBooks. Especially when your eBooks, are more expensive than Amazon’s it entices members to buy your eBooks, it helps Nook adoption (I’d assume at least), and it might make you slightly price competitive.

The Nook is looking less and less like a device I’ll be buying. Which says a lot to me, I think B&N coulda stolen a lot of Kindle owners away from Amazon had they executed correctly. It looks like they’re hoping to entice a whole new group of people to buy the Nook, and let Amazon have the rest of us. I don’t see that working, not in the short or long term.

Simply offering something won’t create a market for it, and not enticing the early adopters, enthusiastic eBook supporters from Amazon means you have to hope you’ll find another million + eBook people, who don’t already own a Kindle. Good luck.

I’ll be a Kindle owner for a bit longer it looks like.

Trade in my Kindle for a nook?

I’m defintiely a Kindle fanboy. I’ve never owned another eReader, nor thought a netbook or even notebook was a remotely viable alternative to an eReader, heck even an iPhone/iTouch, isn’t up to the job IMO.

500x_android_02And now I’m torn.

The Nook (Gizmodo Review), looks incredible. Up until now, the other eReaders, looked F-ugly, performed poorly, cost too much, etc. But B&N seems to have hit a home run. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen one in person, yet. If half the write ups are accurate though, this device has true Kindle killer potential.

I’ve also made no bones about the things I think Amazon is doing wrong; DRM, proprietary format, pricing, etc. Can the Nook, counter enough of them to win me over?

The nook, certainly looks like a great alternative to the Kindle. So much so, I’m really debating my allegiance to Jeff and Co.

Battery Life:

When measuring time in days, does 10 or 14 matter? Not to me. I charge my Kindle about every 4-5 days when I go to sleep. When I travel sometimes I don’t even charge it. 10 days or 14 makes no difference to me. SO long as I have Days, NOT hours, i’m good.


You know, i don’t care. So long as there’s broadband, I don’t care if it’s Whispernet or AT&T. Though given that I’m an iPhone owner, and know first hand how shitty AT&T’s network is, I’ll be really mad if I have to wait an hour for a book to be delivered. Wifi will be nice, when I travel overseas, but really, not that nice. I mean, I’d likely buy as many books as I planned to read, before leaving.

Sharing AKA Collaboration?

The big thing for me, that the Nook comes closer with its sharing feature than the Kindle… well the Kindle doesn’t even try. Fuck piracy yo! But it’s a book, it’s meant to be shared. Hell yeah I want it back! But if I think it’s worthwhile enough to share, I want to be able to do that! If I want to show someone how great it is, so they buy their own, awesome! Just the other day, Tom suggested I pick up Gary V’s book. I was torn, Gary goes between being inspirational for me, and my wanting to punch him. I told him, “You better be right, I don’t have money to buy books I won’t want” Tom lucked out, and Gary V rocked it. “Crush It!” is worth the buy. Had Tom bee able to loan it to me for two weeks, I’d have read it for a day or two and bought it.

What I’m not sure about, and don’t see mentioned, can the person I lend the book to, make annotations? Will those come back with the book? It’s not exactly what I want, which is two people, two copies of the book, sharing notes. But it might be closer, and with Android, certainly more likely.

Add to that the free in store reading, that’s kinda awesome. Gimmicky for sure, I haven’t been in a B&N in months, but I might visit one more often with a Nook in hand.



The second screen, while kinda weird to think about, sounds awesome. I hate the keyboard on my Kindle. it’s small, hard to use, and mostly in the way. I’m a note making fool and barely use it.

If I could have a keyboard when I needed it, and say media controls (I’ve never used them on the Kindle, but still) always on the bottom, NOT interfering with reading, all I gotta say is w00t!


I hate closed systems. Sure I don’t want crazy hacked instability roll your solution shit, but I always like to be able to mod my stuff. I jailbroke my iPhone to have themes, I hacked my Kindle so I’d stop looking at old Bookplates and authors. Andriod, while I’m not a fan of the phones, opens some seriously awesome doors for the Nook. Hell that second screen could be streaming internet radio, or playing MP3s while I read, without me having to leave the book to control that function. It could show me a running tally on the notes I’ve written so far, or a live dictionary. hell it could be showing me twitter! All while I read my book.

Downside: Amazon.

The one thing that gives me pause is two parts really. It’s Amazon. I’ve had my Kindle for maybe 6 months, bought dozens of books. I like being able to fire up amazon, find a book, and assuming there’s a kindle version, begin reading in under 5 minutes. Sure I can go to the Barnes & Noble site, but it’s not the same, sorry guys.

PLUS, what happens to the dozens of books I’ve bought for my Kindle? Some of which I haven’t read yet. Sure I can probably hack something together to strip the DRM, turn into a usable format, etc, but that’s a PITA. Kinda sad, what makes me not like the Kindle, also locks me into it unless I’m willing to lose my purchases. Way to go Amazon.

What do you think?