Archive for September, 2009

Books of a feather flock together

September 22, 2009

You know what’s great about a Kindle?  You can have a thousand* books on it at once.

You know what’s bad about a Kindle?  You can have a thousand books on it at once.  :)

Why is that a bad thing?  It’s tough to find what you want.  Imagine your Kindle as a backpack, and all the books are just stuffed in there.  Oh, the ones you read most recently would tend to be on the top, but try and find something your read a week ago, or that you haven’t even started yet.

“But wait,” you say, “a Kindle isn’t like an inert backpack.  It’s like a computer, right?   I’ve got a million files on my laptop, and I can find those.”

Well, your computer has these things called folders;)

Ever since people began building up libraries on their Kindle 1s, they’ve been looking for a way to organize them.

While I can’t give you folders, I can give you an alternative technique that I’ve been using for some time.  In fact, Amazon Customer Service gave me kudos for it more than six months ago.  :)

Quick steps (more details below)

1. Add a note to the book with your “tags” (kFantasy, kRead)

2. Search for that tag: you’ll get a nice clickable list

Tags versus folders

Actually, folders are a little old-fashioned.  :)   Oh, they are still the most widely used organizational tool on computers, of course.

An up-and-comer, though, is a different method called “tagging”.  It’s what you’ll see on wikis (user-contributed encyclopedias, like Wikipedia), and for that matter, on blogs. 

Folders are “location-based”.  Tags are “document-based”.  

When you use a folder, you go to a particular place (like “weekly meetings”), and you find all the files that have been put in there.  If you link to one of those documents, you are linking to a specific place (“mycomputer\ilmk\meetings\weeklymeetings\June242009.doc”).   If somebody moves the file out of that folder, or renames one of the folders along the way (if you work for a big company, you may have had that happen), your link doesn’t work.

With a document based system, you link to a specific document, and it doesn’t matter “where it is” in the system.  If it gets moved, your link still works.  That has some disadvantages as well.  You can’t have two documents with the same name in the whole system, for example.

In the real world, many people naturally organize things into groups.  Dump a bunch of those foam building blocks on a table and leave somebody sitting there.  Some people will put all the ones of the same color together.  Some people will put all the ones of the same shapes together.  Some may put all the big ones together and all the small ones together.  Oh, wait…maybe that’s just geeks like me.  ;)

So, if you don’t have a folder for “mysteries” and a folder for “science fiction”, how do you find all the ones that have something in common?

You tag them.

When you tag a document you add a little label to it (or several labels), and then ask the computer to find those labels.  It would be hard for you to find blocks with little Dymo labels on them, but computers are really good at that.

That’s what I’ve been doing with books on my Kindle.  I’ve told other people about the idea, and gotten some good feedback.

It does take “extra work” on your part, and it won’t be for everybody.  If the Kindle did have folders, lots of people would use those…probably including some who are tagging now.  Still, you may find it helpful…I do.

Adding a tag

While you can’t change the documents you get on your Kindle, you can add notes.  Those notes are stored in a separate file…two of them, actually.   Each book has an “associated information” file (ending in .mbp or .tan), and notes are also stored in MyClippings.txt in your Kindle’s documents folder.  Those notes are further backed up by Amazon (for the ones you get from the Kindle store), and you can access them at http://kindle.amazon.com

When you first open a book, click Menu-Add a Note or Highlight.

Then, start typing your tag(s).  I strongly recommend that you use unique words.  Don’t use “mystery”, use something like “kmystery”.  The “k” is for Kindle…you know, like “Batboat” or “Batmobile”.  You can use whatever you want (your own initials, for example). 

The reason you don’t want to just use “mystery” is that, when you search, you’d find all the times that “mystery” shows up…even in the middle of the book, when somebody says, “It’s a mystery.”

It doesn’t matter if you capitalize the word or not.  It’s not “case sensitive” as we geeks (and the “nouveau geeks”) like to say.   When you search for it, it’s going to find it anyway. 

Feel free to make more than one tag in a book.  I’d just separate them with a space, so the Kindle can tell they are different words.  You might want to label them with a genre, whether you’ve finished them or not, as sad or funny or meaningful, or “epic” or “popcorn”…you get the idea.   I don’t think you can specify in your search that you want books that are science fiction AND unread, though.

Then, just save the note (you’ll see that choice).

Finding the books

I usually go to Home before I search.  On a K2 or KDX, the default is to just search the book you are in when you search (the K1 doesn’t have a “search this book only” feature).   On the K1, click the Search button.  On the K2  and KDX, just start typing.  You’ll see a choice to search.

You’ll get a nice clickable list of books with that tag.  That’s one reason why you want to do it at the beginning of the book, so you can jump there when you want to read it (again).  It will automatically show you the title of the book, so you don’t need to worry about that in the tag.

Editing the tag

If you want to change or remove the tag later, you can select it (on a K2 or a KDX).  You just have to get to it.  You’ll see a choice to either edit it or delete it.

Problems

  • Last I heard, .tan files (the “associated information” files for Topaz books) could not be searched, so they wouldn’t work.  Amazon was working on it, though, and I haven’t tested it recently
  • Unconverted pdfs on the KDX can not be annotated, so no tags
  • Samples can not be annotated
  • It may need to index before it works.  I’ve had people say it took a few minutes to work

Again, it’s not for everybody, and I’m sure many people would prefer folders.   Works well for me, though.  :)

Why no folders?

It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to put some kind of folder or hierarchy on the homescreen.  In fact, we do have them already, we just can’t add our own there.  We have a “folder” for Archived Items (on the K2 and KDX), and for Periodicals: Back Issues.  We can’t “drag and drop” into them, but when we do remove a Kindle store book from the device, it goes into that “folder”.

Those aren’t exactly folders, though…they are more like links.  Hook your Kindle up to your computer using your USB cord: you won’t see an Archived Items folder. 

By the way, you can make folders inside your documents folder on the Kindle: you just won’t see them in the homescreen.  You will see the books in them, though.  Some people do that, just for ease in looking at them when it’s connected. 

If you created folders outside of documents, your books won’t show on the homescreen.  You could move books out of those to the documents folder when you want to read them.  If you do (and you want your notes and such), also move the .mbp or .tan file.

For some of you, your heads might be swimming a little bit at the last paragraph.  That’s apparently why Amazon hasn’t put folders on the Kindle already.  They don’t want to complicate the experience.  The success of the Kindle, in my opinion, has come partly from its ability to appeal to readers who aren’t techies.  For those people, Amazon wants to keep the experience simple.  Maybe if they called them “bookshelves” instead of “folders”…  ;)

Finally, some people use the SD card on the K1 as a folder.  They may have several SD cards, one for each genre, for example.  I’ve read a lot of stories about SD cards causing problems on the K1, and I’m guessing that’s a contributing factor as to why the slot was removed on the K2 and KDX.  However, they generally work well, and it’s a good option.

That’s it.  Create a note, and search for it.

I’ve suggested to Amazon that books could be pre-tagged with some standards words, like the genre.  That would really be up to the publishers, of course, and I don’t think they’ll send you the book with an associated information file. 

Let me know what you think about it.  I’m interested in hearing from people who try it, don’t like it, and why.  If you do like it…well, I always like to hear that as well.  :)

* NOTE: Amazon estimates the Kindle 1 can hold about 200 books…in its onboard memory.  SD cards considerably expand that.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The Department of Justice comes down against Google settlement

September 21, 2009

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed a statement in the Google settlement case

It’s important to note that they are not making a decision in the case, merely stating their opinion to the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, as many others have done. The latter court will have a “Fairness Hearing” about the settlement on October 7, 2009.

The thirty-two page document, authored by William F. Cavanaugh (Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division), Preet Bharara (United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York), and John D. Clopper (Assistant United States Attorney), will presumably carry more weight than some of the others.

In fact, my guess is that some commentators will see this as a test of the current administration’s influence.

I won’t say I’ve read a lot of Department of Justice documents ;) , but this struck me as unfailingly polite. It sort of seemed like a police officer coming up to somebody and saying:

“Gee, I hate to mention this, but your car is parked next to a fire hydrant. That appears to me to be a violation of Civic Code THX1138. If you don’t move your vehicle, it may be necessary for me to give you a ticket. I’m looking forward to you taking action to resolve the situation.”

:)

For example, there is this early comment:

“The Proposed Settlement is one of the most far-reaching class action settlements of which the United States is aware; it should not be a surprise that the parties did not anticipate all of the difficult legal issues such an ambitious undertaking might raise.”

In other words, “Even though Google has to pay up to thirty million dollars in legal fees to the other side, all those high-priced lawyers couldn’t figure it out like we can.”

:)

I’m going to give you a rundown of the document: just my own summary, with some brief excerpts as highlights.  You can read it yourself here.

The document starts out by talking about the potential benefits of the settlement.  They say that it has “…the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public.”  They also talk about the advantages to those with print disabilities, and how clarifying copyright status and ownership works for out-of-print books would be a “welcome development”.

They contrast that with their concerns.  The first is one that I’ve expressed before: this is a matter that should be handled by the Congress, rather than by private parties.  They are also particularly concerned about what is called “Rule 23″ (more on that later…it has to do with class action suits being fair to everybody in the class), copyright law, and antitrust laws.   They say simply:

“As presently drafted, the Proposed Settlement does not meet the legal standards this Court must apply.” 

They are also concerned about the settlement affecting future activity, not just past conduct.  That’s not a deal-killer, but an important point.

They say they are guided by three principles: 

  1. Getting books digitized and out there, especially for people with print disabilities, is a good thing :)
  2. Consumers deserve a competitive marketplace
  3. Rule 23 needs to be used to make sure rightsholders who weren’t part of achieving the settlement are protected

They suggest that the best thing would be for the two parties to keep talking and come up with an improved settlement that satisfied all the concerns. They say

“Because a properly structured settlement agreement in this case offers the potential for important societal benefits, the United States does not want the opportunity or momentum to be lost.”

They then go on to discuss their concerns.

Rule 23

The basic set-up here is that a class action suit has to take care of all the members of the class.   The main concern is that the arrangement between Google and the Registry will allow them to benefit from the works of “absent members”, unless those absent members opt out.   They are also concerned that affected people may not have been properly notified…given the number of people who have written things that still have copyright protection in the world, that’s a lot of people to send letters. 

They discuss a range of possible problems, and aren’t as concerned about some things as others.  However, their biggest concern is this:

“…essentially authorizing, upon agreement of the Registry, open-ended exploitation of the works of all those who do not opt out from such exploitations. See Proposed Settlement Agreement, dated Oct. 28, 2008 (“S.A.”) § 4.7 (allowing the Registry to authorize future business models without any class notification). Such licensing is far afield from the facts alleged in the Complaint. And the rights conferred are so amorphous and malleable that it is difficult to see how any class representative could adequately represent the interests of all owners of out-of-print works (including orphan works).”

They are also worried that rightsholders of in-print and out-of-print works are treated very differently.  Google has to work with rightholders of in-print works, but not of out-of-print works.  They point out that rightsholders for orphan works are a huge and wildly diverse group. 

“Moreover, no amount of notice is likely to protect those orphan rightsholders who are unaware of their rights or unclear how or whether they want to exploit them. Yet, if an out-of-print copyright owner does not come forward within five years, profits from the commercial use of the out-of-print work are distributed to pay the expenses of the Registry and then to the Registry’s registered rightsholders.”

and

“…the Registry and its registered rightsholders will
benefit at the expense of every rightsholder who fails to come forward to claim profits from Google’s commercial use of his or her work.”

So, one of the concerns is that the present rightsholders can say whether or not they want things done, but the absent ones who don’t hear about it or don’t opt out don’t control it.  The present rightsholders benefit from the exploitation of the non-present ones.

They say that the parties to the agreement say essentially that, “Hey, there will be money for people who wouldn’t have it otherwise, so they’ll want to come forward.” But, the DoJ points out that you can’t just hope that will happen. They also say that the fact that the rightsholders might be compensated for “…a fundamental alteration of their rights” doesn’t prove that the folks whose rights are staying the same (or who can easily have them stay the same) are representing the other ones…especially when they can benefit from that alteration of rights.

Secondly, they worry about international rightsholders.  They clearly weren’t represented in the settlement, and other countries have been expressing their concerns about it. 

Third, the class of rightsholders that could be affected is so broad (including foreign rightsholders who may not have even decided to publish in the US yet) that it would be really hard to give sufficient notice.  They are careful to say that they don’t know that sufficient notice wasn’t given, but that the issue should be carefully examined.

They then go on to make some suggestions that could make the settlement compatible with Rule 23.  Changing it to an “opt-in” rather than an “opt-out” would help.   They also seem to use the parties’ own words…the parties have been arguing that most people will want to join in, and won’t be as hard to find as people think.  If that’s the case, why not change to opt-in? 

Other possibilites are to extend the deadline, put other representatives in place, use the money differently, and so on.

They say they are looking forward to more ideas from the parties.

Antitrust

They say that there are still investigations on-going, but that they can make two main points now. 

 1. Book publishers appear to be able to “restrict price competition”.  Wholesalers aren’t allowed to dictate to retailers what their prices can be.  They can set “suggested retail prices”, but can’t fix the sale prices. 

Competitors can’t get together and set prices.  The DoJ says:

“…the parties contend that the Proposed Settlement’s pricing terms should be viewed not as a form of horizontal collective action by publishers and authors actionable under Section 1, but simply as a unilateral offer by Google to each individual rightsholder to contract on specified terms. The Department is not persuaded by this description.  Class representatives – who compete with each other – collectively negotiated these pricing terms on behalf of all rightsholders. That some individual authors or publishers might opt out of those terms does not make them any less the product of collective action by competitors.”

A comparison is then made to the music licensing groups, like BMI and ASCAP.  They explain why it isn’t the same, for a number of reasons.

The DoJ also has concerns about there being a set royalty rate.  They point out that is anti-competitive, and appears to be unnecessary, since millions of e-books are available without a set rate.   You also can’t make the deal based on the fact that it saves transaction costs: those are deemed to be worth it in most cases in retail. 

The agreement also has a price-setting algorithm and a limit on discounts, both of which are not okay. 

There is also this:

“The Registry is effectively controlled by large commercial publishers. Allowing it to set the prices of orphan works effectively allows known rightsholders to choose the price at which their competitors’ books (those of unknown rightsholders) are offered for sale. Citizen Publ’g, 394 U.S. at 134-135 (joint sales of newspaper advertising and subscriptions by competing newspapers held to be “plain beyond peradventure” per se violations of § 1). Known rightsholders would appear to have every incentive to ensure that the orphan works will not offer effective competition.” 

2. They worry that the settlement will restrict competition.

They make a point I’ve made myself.  The settlement does allow the Registry to license the works to competitors of Google.  However, that is limited by the rights granted to them under the law, which may be insufficient.  They put it this way:

“The Proposed Settlement appoints the Registry to negotiate with Google on behalf of the entire class regarding new commercial uses of digital books, and releases Google from any copyright liability arising from those new uses. S.A. §§ 4.7, 10.1(f), 10.2(a). The Proposed Settlement does not forbid the Registry from licensing these works to others. But the Registry can only act “to the extent permitted by law.” S.A. § 6.2(b). And the parties have represented to the United States that they believe the Registry would lack the power and ability to license copyrighted books without the consent of the copyright owner – which consent cannot be obtained from the owners of orphan works. If the parties are correct, the Registry will lack the ability to provide competitors with licenses that will allow them to offer to the public anything like the full set of books Google can offer if the Settlement Proposal is approved.”

They go on to talk about how it would be prohibitively difficult for a competitor to get the same (or a better) deal.   They bring up the Sherman Act, and talk about how this could lead to “market foreclosure”, effectively preventing other folks from getting into the act. 

“Consumers may benefit from the creation of digital libraries that would not otherwise be feasible, but they should not be required to pay the price of eliminating competition among authors and publishers on the one hand and de facto exclusive control of the library by Google on the other.”

They then bring up two additional considerations.  One is that this would make books more available to the disabled…that’s specifically built into the agreement. The second (and this will please a lot of people) is that the books should be available in “multiple, standard, open” formats.

“Once these books are digitized, the format in which they are made available should not be a bottleneck for innovation.”

I say that means we should have them in a Kindle-compatible format.  ;)  I know we can convert EPUB, but a little unprotected mobi action would be nice…or even text files.

The DoJ Conclusion:

“This Court should reject the Proposed Settlement in its current form and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to modify it so as to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.”

My Conclusion

You know, at least to this blog post.  :)  Some people are painting this as Google wanting to make books available for free, and Amazon wanting to stop them because they want to sell the books.   They make it “populist Google” on the one side, and “corporate Amazon” on the other. 

It’s nowhere near as simple as that.  A lot of us onliners like to think of the internet as “power to the people”.  After all, you don’t need a big studio to make a movie, or a record company to make a song…or a publisher to get your book out there.    With the internet, you can reach the market with no one in-between. 

However, while the DoJ clearly agrees that making books available on the internet is a good thing, they don’t think that this agreement (the way it stands) is the way to do it, because it’s got problems. 

If this settlement is not approved, I still think you’re going to get those books out there.   That 1935 self-published book on how to save the Music Hall now that radio is here?  You’ll get it.  Volume 27 of the “Adventures of the Ballyhoo Boys”?  The one that sold ten copies…and all of those to the author’s relatives?  Yep, that’s coming, too.  The 1962 “Road Atlas of Zanzibar”?  Sure, why not?

I think we just have to be careful that we don’t give up too much and create too much of a mess so we can get what we want…and what’s going to come eventually anyway.

I’ve got plenty to read…I can wait a little while for a better solution.

UPDATE: After this statement from from the DoJ, it appears that Google and the Authors Guild want more time to do a rewrite to address the above concerns.  I’m thinking that “opt-in” rather than “opt-out” is a possibility, along with some other tweaks.

UPDATE: The fairness hearing has been delayed.  No new date has been set…it may take awhile to rewrite the agreement.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes a year, although it could certainly be faster than that.  Presumably, more money for the lawyers: gee, I wonder if Google will have to pay more for the other side’s legal fees.  :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Good-bye, dog

September 19, 2009

The Kindle community has lost one of its most beloved members.

He was known simply as dog, with a small d.  

In the traditional sense, I never met him. I only knew him through the Amazon Kindle Community. However, I do feel like I know him a whole lot better than I would have if we’d met at some social event.  We don’t have much in common on the surface.   He was a former marine, a Vietnam vet who eventually rose to the rank of Brigadier General.   I’m a geek who didn’t serve in the military at all.

If we’d been introduced, I assume we would have just said, “Hello”, shaken hands and both moved on to other conversations.

Instead, we met in the forum.  I hadn’t been posting there long at all, and this was my first real experience with an on-line forum like that.  I asked how I could see a list of discussions I’d started.

dog said, in part:

“…there might be an ego.com but it probably won’t help!”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that.  :)  I didn’t know if he was being seriously sarcastic, so to speak, or just funny.  Another poster (P. M. H., who is still active) immediately defended me.

It’s a conscious choice for me, when I’m not sure, to assume that someone meant something positively.  I responded in part:

“…I tried ego.com…they were down. Apparently, they suffered a denial of service attack from id.com. ;)”

That particular thread established for me that it was, indeed, a community.  Concern was expressed, support provided, and answers given.  It was smart, friendly, and funny, and dog and I established a common ground that I don’t think would have happened in person.

For the past seven months or so, I (and many others on the forum) have looked forward to dog’s writing.   dog and I directly interacted in threads from time to time, with dog even weaving me into some Kindle fiction and choosing to interview me at one point.  When I searched the forum just now for “Bufo dog”, I got 131 posts where we were both mentioned.  ChuckC suggested we could do commercials, like the Justin Long/John Hodgman Mac and PC spots, and Inquiring suggested we were the same person.

We publicly disagreed about the nature of human interaction, and certainly didn’t always see things the same way.  I’d like to say, though, that we were friends.  For people who think the internet is degrading the way people relate to one and other, I present dog as exhibit A.  While he was truly accomplished in the physical world, he went on to enrich many more lives in the virtual one.   Released of our physicality and backgrounds, we know each online purely through our essences.

And thanks to people like dog, we can form true communities.

We’ll miss you.

The Best of dog

I’m going to list just a few of the threads where you can enjoy dog’s writing, and the writing about him:

I think “dog” deserves some kudos (January 15, 2009)

Forum member Roger started an appreciation thread for dog.

Constitutional amendment to ban kindle introduced in Congress  (May 7, 2009)

dog shows depth with a political satire featuring Michelle Bachman

ILB folds due to Kindle boycotts  (May 19, 2009)

dog slyly comments on the Kindle boycotts in a parody post

The homage to Lee Child consolidated thread  (June 8, 2009)

dog writes in the style of popular author Lee Child.

Twas the day (June 11, 2009)

dog writes about the new Kindle DX…in rhyme!

a song for kindle peace (May 26, 2009)

dog writes several song parodies.

A Day in the Life (August 16, 2009)

dog brings the Beatles into the Kindle age.

 REWARD: Missing dog… (August 31, 2009)

This thread was started by one of the other legends of the forum, Kindling Kowboy. The absence of dog brought out a lot of concern. On September 5, dog bravely and simply told us of his terminal cancer in this post.

Helga seek help with dog (September 17, 2009)

The day before his passing, dog was still writing humor to make other people feel better.

Requiem for Dog (September 18, 2009)

Following his wishes, Robert’s daughter Selena logged on and told us dog had passed on. She told of us his life. Even at the end, he had taken the time and what must have been his fading energy to write a final message, which she shared with us.

Those just represent a small part of what dog wrote.   If you have other favorite posts of his, or other things to say, please feel free to leave a comment here.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Raiders of the Lost Archive

September 19, 2009

When you buy a copy of a p-book (paperbook), you own that copy.  You can sell it, lend it, whatever you want.

However, if something happens to it, you are out of luck.  While paperbooks are pretty hardy, they are vulnerable to liquids, fire, theft, loss…and animals (among other things).

When you “buy a book” from the Amazon Kindle store, you are really getting a license (most often six licences) to read that book on that device.

While people sometimes talk about the negatives of licenses versus copies (you can see my earlier post discussing the relative values here), there is at least one real plus in buying a licence for a book from Amazon.

When you buy that Kindle, Amazon sets up storage for you. Hey, they’re in the data storage business (among other things). If your Kindle is lost or stolen (you can see my post on that here), you can redownload those on to a new device for free.

I see quite a bit of confusion about how to use the archives, so I thought I’d give you some of the steps here.  To keep this simple, I’m going to mostly ignore the iPhone and iPod touch.

QUICK STEPS (details below)

* To remove a book from the Kindle: flick left (or backspace on K1)

* To get a book from the Archives: Home-Menu-View Archived Items click); on the K1: Home-Menu-Content Manager-Click-Menu-Move to Kindle Memory

Getting a book into the archives

Buy it from the Kindle store.  :) 

Books you buy from the Kindle store are automatically in your archives.  Those archives are available to all of the Kindles on your account. 

When you buy the book, you specify a Kindle (or iPhone or iPod touch) for which it is intended, and it is keyed to that device.   If you have Whispernet access, it is delivered to that device.

On a Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, it doesn’t show in the Archived Items on the device for which it was downloaded, but it is there.   For other devices on that account, you will see it listed (more on that later).

Removing a book from the Kindle

If you got the book from the Kindle store, you can remove it from your Kindle.   Remember, it’s already in your archives.

On a Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, click Home.  Get your 5-way to the title you want, and flick left.  You should see a small “button” that says, “remove from device”.   That’s what you are doing.  If you see a button that says, “delete”, that particular item isn’t in your archives (because it wasn’t a book from the Kindle store).

If you see “remove from device” and you don’t want to do that, click the BACK button.

On a Kindle 1, it’s a little different.  Click Home.  Roll your select wheel (that’s that it is called) to the item.  Hit the backspace key (the left pointing arrow on your right-side of the keyboard…not the one that has a bend).  You can click OK to remove it, or Cancel not to remove it.

That, by the way, was a big improvement that we got with a software update.  We used to have to use the Content Manager (see below).

Getting a book from the Archives and putting it on the Kindle

If you are connected to the Whispernet, it’s easy on the K2 or KDX.  Hit Home-Menu.  You’ll see a choice for View Archived Items.  You can just click the item, and it will go to your device (you’ll get a local copy).   If you flick right, you’ll see a choice to add to home, which does the same thing.

You can also get to it by getting to the Archived Items choice on the last page of your homescreen, but that seems harder to me (but I’m not going to decide for you).  :)  You can see how many page are on your homescreen in your bottom lefthand corner.  Type that number using the keyboard, then click and you’ll get to the last page.  Scroll to the Archived Items and click that.

I’ve been able to demonstrate retrieving an item from the archives and then taking it off a K2 in under a minute.

Tip: By default, the items are sorted by title.  You can flick up, flick right to choose to sort by author (although that is dependent on how the books were entered).  You can type the first letter and click to move to that part of the alphabet.  You can also type a number and click to go to that page.  Additionally, you can search for a word in the books.  Type the word, and flick right.   You can click on search my items.  Flick right again, and you can search other things, like Wikipedia.  You do not have to have the book on your Kindle to be able to look things up in it.

With a K1, you have to use the Content Manager, which I don’t find as easy.  Go to Home, scroll to the Menu, and click.  You’ll see a choice for Content Manager.  Click that one. 

In the Content Manager, you’ll see an indicator under each file as to where it is:

* If it’s in the equivalent of the archives, it says it is on Amazon

* If it’s on the Kindle, it’s says Kindle :)

* It could also be on an SD card, and it will say SD Card

On your rightside of the title, there is a checkbox.  Scroll to it, and click on the ones you want to put on the current device.  One advantage is that you can click several titles before you take an action.   Note: if you need to go to another page, that’s okay…just use the Next Page button like you would when you are reading.  Next, scroll back down to Menu and click that.  You’ll see several choices (and your choices will depend on the ones you’ve clicked).  You can Move to Kindle Memory or Move to SD Memory Card.

Using the Manage Your Kindle page

Another way to put books on your devices from the Archives is to go to http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle on an internet-connected computer.   You may have to log into your Amazon account.  Scroll down to your books, and choose to Send t0 a specific device for each book you want to send. 

What if your archives say zero?

Your Kindle knows what’s in the Archives through its wireless connection (the Whispernet).  If your archives say zero, go to Home-Menu-Sync & Check for Items.   That should fix it (if you have a connection)

Making your own backups

Some people like to make their own backups, and that’s fine.  For books from the Amazon store, that’s redundant…and that’s not a bad thing.  For books from other sources (including personal documents you had converted by Amazon, even if they are sent directly to your Kindle), it’s a good idea.

Connect your Kindle to your computer using your USB cord.  Copy your documents folder from your Kindle to your computer (and from there to an SD card, or flash drive or wherever you want).   If you have audiobooks in the Audible folder or music in the music folder, you may want to copy those as well.

Archive or Local?

My tendency is to remove everything from my Kindle except my current books and resource material I really want handy.  However, I do have Whispernet easily available, so it’s easy for me to recover books on the road.

What is NOT archived

* Books from sites other than Amazon, personal documents, samples

Your Annotations

Annotations you create are stored in “associated information” files (.mbp or .tan).  Those are also backed up at Amazon for you…only if you got the book from  the Kindle store.

Syncing between devices

The Archives also allow the syncing between two devices.  That lets you pick up where you were in a book when you go to read it on another device.  More about that in another post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon makes a HUGE improvement

September 18, 2009

You know how I have Frequently Asked Kindle Questions in the Kindle store?

That grew out of things I was seeing and doing in the Amazon Kindle Forum. People would ask essentially the same question over and over…I think I’d seen the same question four or five times on the same screen!

It wasn’t really the question askers’ fault. There wasn’t a way to search the forums, so it was hard to see if a question had already been asked.

In fact, searching the forum was one of the frequently asked questions!

Apparently, as of last night, they’ve added a search feature!

This is great for everybody! Yes, you…you who have never been to the forum before!

You do not even have to have signed up with Amazon.com to be able to use the forum.  Oh, you can’t post if you don’t, but you can read. 

There are lots of great, helpful, and funny people posting in Amazon forums.  Search the forums, and you’ll find wonderful writing and insightful answers.  You’ll also see other things (sometimes things you’ll wish you could “un-see”), but it’s worth a shot.  :)

Amazon gives you a few options on this.

When you go to the first discussions page (listed above), you can search just that forum, or all discussions.  Within a discussion, you can limit to just that discussion or all of them.

It’s worth explaining those:

* Customer Discussions

If you don’t limit the searches (meaning you clear the little checkboxes), you’ll be searching everything…not just the Kindle forum, but the forums about specific books, and windshield wipers and dog toys.  I’m guessing you won’t use that too often.  ;)

* Search only this forum

That’s the default (what you’ll get if you don’t change anything) on the Kindle forum, and that’s the one I think you’ll use the most.  That would search the Kindle material.

* Search only this discussion

That’s the default when you are reading a discussion (also called a thread).  A discussion is a specific question or subject that somebody starts, and then people respond to it.  Most discussions drop off after fewer than twenty responses, and you can see those on a page.  However, they can be as long as 10,000 responses, and that you might want to search. 

Another important point: the forum only shows you the last 1023 discussions to which people have posted (posting just means putting something new in there).  The search feature even searches ones that are older than that!  That’s great!  It might be a little confusing, because way back in the Kindle 1 days, we didn’t use to specify that instructions were for the Kindle 1.  As forward-thinking as some folks may be, they weren’t writing Kindle 2 instructions before we had them.  ;)

This means that at least one frequently asked question (how to search the forum) is likely to become infrequently asked.  :)   It also means that people will be able to find other answers more easily as well.

Well done, Amazon!  Thanks!

They seem to be working on some other issues people have had for awhile: poorly formatted/proofread Kindle books, being able to buy Kindle books for somebody not on your account…don’t judge a company just be what it is, but by what it is going to be.  

That’s why I don’t think a Kindle Killer is going to be an easy accomplishment.  You aren’t just going after a static target: you are going after the whole Amazon corporate culture: a growing, thriving, evolving entity.   Stopping Amazon is like trying to stop its namesake river: it goes around, or over, you build, it flows, a giant rushing, gushing, changing force with a million tributaries and…

Where was I?  Oh yeah, you can search the forum now.  ;)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Love your Kindle? You’re not alone

September 18, 2009

Amazon lets people review items it sells.  Outside of being a customer, there is no entrance exam to write a review.  You don’t even have to have purchased the item your are reviewing, you just have to be registered with Amazon.com.

UPDATE: Amazon now allows you to mark your review as being from an Amazon Verified Purchase…if they can verify that you bough it from them.

This leads to some great (and often funny) reviews.  Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, has stated that the people who review reviews (and they do exist), are specifically instructed not to remove funny reviews (presumably, funny ones that don’t violate other policies).

For example, see the reviews for the The Mountain Men’s Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee.

Reviews for the Kindles have been mostly positive.  Amazon uses a five star rating system.  I’m going to assign my own terms to these:

5=Love it

4=Like it

3=It’s okay

2=Don’t like it

1=Hate it

As I write this, the reviews for the Kindle 2 break down this way:

5 3784 59%
4 1130 18%
3 363 6%
2 232 4%
1 855 13%
  6364  

 

So, 77% of the recent reviewers said they liked or loved their Kindle 2s. 

I saw a question recently about whether there had been increasingly negative reviews, specifically about defects.

Well, my intuition was that there would be fewer negative reviews over time, since initial problems would be corrected.  “Lemon” units would be returned, replaced (and possibly refurbed).

However, while I think intuition can be a great thing, I always like to look at the numbers.  :)

I was also curious about the allegation that negative reviews tend to come from people who haven’t owned Kindles.

So, I looked at the last 100 reviews for the Kindle 2.

I don’t have a baseline, of course, but I could look at the last one hundred versus the overall.

5 70
4 15
3 4
2 6
1 5

The recent reviews (the past 100) were more positive than the overall reviews.  85% of the recent reveiwers said they loved or liked their Kindle 2s.

The percentage who “hated it” also dropped from 13% to 5%.

Looking at the narratives was interesting.

Several people who didn’t rate it a five did actually use the word “love” in describing it.  :)  That was true for five of the people who rated it a four, and one person who rated it a three.  I’ve worked with evaluations for quite some time, and some people just won’t ever give the highest grade…they think of it as an unattainable perfection.   Presumably, if you scored a 99% on a test for these folks, you’d get a B.  ;)

Six people actually said they didn’t own the Kindle 2.   The ratings for those reviews were much lower than for the others.

5 0 0%
4 1 17%
3 1 17%
2 2 33%
1 2 33%

By the way, you might wonder at the person who rated it a four and said they didn’t own the device.  That person had a Kindle 1, and was rating the Kindle 2 a four because it didn’t have an SD slot.

Other negative comments:

* One person said the screen had malfunctioned. They had not yet contacted Amazon, and liked the device before that (rated 2)

* One person didn’t own it, and wouldn’t buy it because of concerns about the books being able to be removed from the device (rated 1)

* Another person had a Kindle broken, but replaced quickly, and was concerned about the fragility (rated 4)

* A person was concerned that it was hard to figure out how to use the device, and claimed an IT background.  (rated 2)

* One person said it wouldn’t start, so they sent it back (rated 1)

* One person was disappointed it didn’t have a touchscreen or a filing system (rated 3)

* One person dropped the Kindle and it broke.  Amazon sent a replacement for $135 (rated 1)

* One person said it was good, but too expensive (and didn’t own one) (rated 1)

* One person didn’t like the contrast and had some bugs with the internet.  Said they would buy the next version (rated 2)

* One person (who called it a “godsend”) had trouble with the contrast, and that the text size on the menus couldn’t be adjusted (rated 3)

* Another person said it was too expensive (rated 2)

* One person didn’t like the text-to-speech and wanted color and a backlight.  That person also said “no major complaints and lots of compliments” (rated 3)

* Another person wanted a backlight (rated 2)

* One person was concerned about doing academic citations without page numbers (rated 2)

* Another person said the screen went bad and it would be two weeks for a replacement (rated 1)

* Another person thought a new version would be out shortly (rated 1)

There were lots of positive comments, of course.  :)  Amazon lets you search for words in the reviews, so I did a few of those.  That search goes through all the reviews, not just the last 100:

* 2910 used the word “love” 46%

* 170 used the word “contrast” (although some were positive) 3%

* 915 used the word “light” (some were talking positively about booklights) 14%

* 77 used the word “fragile” 1%

* 13 used the word “cat” (hey, I was just curious!) .2%

So…um…gee…I hope that provides you with useful information if you are undecided about buying a Kindle 2.

;)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

In the settlement

September 17, 2009

I wrote earlier about the Google settlement, which was reached between that company and the Authors Guild (sic) and the American Association of Publishers over Google digitizing books.  That settlement is awaiting approval, with an important fairness hearing scheduled for October 7, 2009. 

It’s a large, complicated document: the settlement itself is 141 pages, and there are a quite a few other attachments and filings that are relevant.

I was surprised at some of the things in the settlement, and I don’t expect that everybody will read it…even on a Kindle.  :) 

So, I thought I’d list some of the points I thought were interesting:

  • Google (not admitting wrong-doing) pays $45 million into a fund to pay authors whose works were digitized before the “opt-out” deadline
  • If they did a whole book, you get at least $60
  • Google also pays $34.5 million to get the Registry running (which represents rightsholders, among other things)
  • Google will pay up to thirty million dollars in attorneys’ fees
  • Rightsholders are allowed to make deals with groups besides Google, even direct competitors
  • Google determines whether or not a book is commercially available (new, not used) (which affects the uses Google can make of it)
  • A rightsholder can dispute Google’s determination: Google then has 30 days to fix it
  • Google can choose not to display (make available in full) books for editorial reasons
  • Google can not alter the text (with certain limitations, like adding some hyperlinks)
  • It allows for book annotations (with specific prohibitions)
  • “Google may not place on, behind or over the contents of a Book or portion thereof (including on Preview Use pages or Snippet
    Display pages), as displayed to a user, any pop-up, pop-under, or any other types of advertisements or content of any kind.”
  • Google can not let people preview the last 5% (minimum fifteen pages) of fiction books (to prevent spoilers, presumably)
  • The Registry is explictly prohibited from using robots to drive up search results ad revenue (which is shared with the Registry)
  • The Registry will be not-for-profit
  • Unclaimed fees, after being used to defray costs, will be donated to non-profits that “will include entities that advance literacy, freedom of expression, and/or education”
  • The settlement mentions “revenue from licensees of the Registry other than Google”
  • Google can accomodate people with print disabilities, which could mean text-to-speech
  • A library can grant “special access” to “to a user who has provided
    written documentation that a Person having the credentials of a Competent Authority has certified that such user has a Print Disability”
  • Google can exclude books for “editorial reasons”, which is described as an issue of “great sensitivity”
  • Specific copy and paste rules are created for certain circumstances, for example “the user will not be able to select, copy and paste more than four (4) pages of the content of a Display Book with a single copy/paste command”
  • Google and the Registry agree on a set of price points
  • Rightsholders are deemed to have authorized the Registry to exercise their rights (Article VI, 6.7)

Those are just my takes on a few things that caught my eye.  You can read the Settlement agreement yourself here: http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/r/view_settlement_agreement.  The Fairness Hearing is scheduled for October 7, 2009.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon restores Free Books for Your Kindle

September 16, 2009

Yesterday, I reported that Amazon had blocked my title  in the Kindle store, Free Books for Your Kindle, due to a formatting problem.

I am very pleased to report that the title has been restored.

The e-mail from Amazon this morning included:

“…I would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused by the removal of your title from the Kindle Store. Our quality assurance team responded to customer feedback regarding formatting questions associated with your book (i.e. presence of question marks instead of apostrophes throughout the book). As a result, the QA team saw that the best action was to remove the title from future sales in the Amazon store until the formatting issue is resolved.”

 This means that my title, which had been in the Kindle store since March 2008, continues under the same name and the same ASIN.   Why does that matter?  Well, for one thing, the reviews are maintained.  I really appreciate it every time someone writes a review of one of my titles, and I’m glad that what they wrote will still be available for other Amazon customers to read.  It also means that product links in the Amazon forums and links from websites will take people to the current, active version.

The e-mail also said:

“My team is also working to find the best solution, going forward, to ensure that other publishers do not face the same types of challenges in re-publishing their titles. 
 
Thank you, and again, my apologies…”

 
I think that what happened here was that people had complained to Amazon about a formatting issue.  Someone confirmed the problem, and blocked the title.
 
In the future, what I would like to see Amazon do in that case is notify the publisher and give them a period of time to fix the problem.   Alternatively, the title could be suspended until the correction is made and reviewed again by the quality assurance team, with a notification placed on the page:

“This title is temporarily unavailable while improvements are being made.”

That would present a positive point for the Amazon customer seeing it.

So, I do think Amazon acted precipitously initially, but has professionally corrected the error.

The upshot: people can buy the book the again, the continuity is maintained, and (presumably) other independents will not face the same situation. 

Thank you to everybody who expressed concern…that really made me feel good.  :)

I love my Kindle!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Homescreen Sweet Homescreen

September 16, 2009

The homescreen on your Kindle is one of the most important parts of your Kindle experience.   Hey, it’s important enough to have its own dedicated button, right?  That’s like having your own exit on the freeway.  :)

It’s the one “computer-y” thing you have to get used to using, but it’s pretty simple.  I believe one of the reasons Amazon grabbed a large share of the e-book market is that their device appeals to people who are readers and not necessarily techies.

However, it does have a lot of capabilities, even though they may not be obvious.  Feel free to just keep clicking the title you want to read, but for those of you want to get a bit deeper into it, read on.  ;)

I’m going to gear these instructions to the Kindle 2: the Kindle DX is similar, but the Kindle 1 is pretty different.  Don’t feel slighted, K1 owners: you got the “screensaver” instructions:)

First, click the Home button on your right side of your Kindle (even if you are already there).   That way, we’ll all be in the same starting place.

What you’ll see

In your top left corner, you’ll see the name of your Kindle.  In your top right, you’ll see the current Whispernet (the Kindle’s wireless internect connection state).  It may just say that it is off.  If it is turned on, you’ll see a number of bars, indicating the strength of the connection.  The more dark bars you have, the better your connection…up to 5.  You may also see an indicator of the type of connection (3G, which is the better one, or 1X).  The last thing you’ll see is the battery indicator.

Below that, you’ll see indicators of how you are filtered and sorted (see below).

At the bottom, you’ll which page (of your title listings) you are currently viewing.

Tip: you can jump to any page you want.  Click Home.  Type the number of the page you wish to see, and click.  Why would you want to do that?  Your Archived Items are on the last page, and this is an easy way to get there.  However, you can also do that with Menu-View Archived Items.

 Filtering

Flick your 5-way (the little joystick) up.  Now flick left.  You’ve got four choices for a filter.  A filter is a computer term that means you are going to limit what you see based on rules you set.  You’ll get the following choices:

All My Items

Not surprisingly, this shows you all compatible files in your documents and Audible folders.  You’ll see books from the Kindle store, from other places, your periodicals, and so on.

Books

These are books from the Kindle store, and files in your Audible folder from any source.

Subscriptions

Blogs, magazines, and newspapers.  Choosing this is a good way to get to your Periodicals: Back Issues

Personal Docs

These are documents you’ve put on the Kindle.  They could be books you got from other sites, files you’ve had converted, and so on

Flick to the choice you want, then click. 

Trouble-shooting tip: if you put a file in your Kindle’s documents folder, it was a compatible format, and you aren’t seeing it, your Kindle may be set to show you Books rather than Personal Docs or All My Items.

 Sorting

Sorting means to show you your items in a certain item.  It is a similar process to how you change the filtering.

Hit Home (just to get it in the right spot).  Flick up, then flick right.

You have three sorting options:

Most Recent First

This will sort your most recently read and/or downloaded items, so that the more recent ones are on the first page.

NOTE: If this is not working, it is probably because your Kindle clock is out of sync.  See my earlier article . 

Title

This will sort by title alphabetically in what is called an ascending sort in computers: numbers will come before letters, and then it will sort A-Z (A being on the first page).   I believe it’s not using the name of the file, by the way, but what is called the metadata.  Changing the name of the file won’t help the sort.  

Tip: you can jump to a particular letter in the alphabet so you don’t have to flip through all the pages.  Hit Home, then type the letter you want (like M).  Click, and you’ll jump to the M titles.

Author

The author sort is similar to the title sort.  It’s also dependent on the metadata, and sometimes people put the author in last name first, sometimes first name first, and there are other variants as well.

You can also do things with specific titles.  Use your 5-way to get to the item you want.  Flick left. 

  • If it’s a book you bought from the Kindle store (even if it was free), you’ll see remove from device
  • If it’s something else (including a sample you got from the Kindle store), you’ll see delete

If you do want to do one of those two, you can click.  Note that if you delete it, it will be gone altogether.  If you haven’t backed it up yourself, you’ve lost it.  If you remove it from the device, it will still be available in your archives.  Samples are not archived, nor are personal documents you put on the Kindle, even if they were sent by Amazon via Whispernet.

If you do not want to delete or remove the book from your device, hit the Back button. 

 You can also flick right.  For some reason, I find that very few people have done this.  You’ll get to see the cover of the book, if there is one.  You’ll see the author’s name (if one was entered).  You’ll also have some menu choices:

Go to Last Page Read

Go to Beginning

Go to Location…

Book Description (this one requires the Whispernet be activated to work, but you’ll be taken to the book’s product page in the Kindle store…you can see the publisher’s description, ratings, and so on)

Search This Book

My Notes & Marks

Remove from Device

Since the Kindle also has “context sensitive menus” (depending on where you are and what you are doing, the menu key will show you a different list), the homescreen has some significant menu options.  I’m going to write more on menu options in later posts, but I’ll give you a quick run down here:

Turn Wireless On (or off)

Shop in Kindle Store

View Archived Items

Search (the entire Kindle…not just one book)

Settings (this is an important menu: you can enter your personal information, register/deregister, and more)

Experimental (one of the ways to get to your music and the web)

Sync & Check for New Items

You can keep it simple and just click on titles you want to read if you want, but just remember…”there’s no place like homescreen”.    ;)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon removing books for formatting issues

September 15, 2009

I have a bestselling book (Free Books for Your Kindle) in the Kindle store…or at least I did until a few minutes ago, when it was removed (without warning) by Amazon for formatting issues.

I will not be allowed to fix the error and reload, but if I resubmit it, it will be as a different title.

As you can imagine, this is very dismaying to me. Something on the order of 5000 people have bought the book, and it has good reviews.

It can no longer be purchased. I don’t know how this will affect the archives for people who have already purchased it, although my guess is that they will be okay. I’ll check that later.

What was the problem? This was the first title I put into the Kindle store, and apparently, some of the quotation marks that I used (I assume they were “smartquotes” put in by Microsoft Word) weren’t rendering, and were showing up as squares. I actually had been alerted to this issue not too long ago (not by Amazon, by a reader), and was planning to fix it. I just hadn’t gotten to it. EDIT: The particular concern on Amazon’s part appears to have been apostrophes, rather than quotation marks. I was able to fix both problems easily, although I can not now update the same listing on Amazon.

So, warning to everybody with books in the Kindle store through the Digital Text Platform: fix any errors now. It was removed without warning: if I’d been alerted first, I could have fixed it right away.

Now, is this overall a good thing? Certainly, there have been a lot of books with bad formatting in the Kindle store, and that has been a source of complaints. Is it Amazon’s place to police that? As I often say, that’s a complex issue. Clearly, Amazon is taking on a much more powerful role with the digital text platform in recent times. They have started to reject public domain titles as well.

I do intend to get some version of the book back into the store, and I may update this post later, but I wanted to get the information out now, to alert other independent authors.

This is an excerpt of the e-mail I received:

“Thank you for your submission of “Free Books for Your Kindle” to the Kindle Store through Amazon DTP. Unfortunately during a quality assurance review of your title, we have found that the apostrophes are replaced by a small box with a question mark inside throughout the book. As a result it has been removed from sale in the Amazon store.

In order to resolve this problem, I would suggest you to upload (as a new submission) a DOC file instead of HTML and publish it. It will not go live in the Amazon store if you re-publish content over the original submission.”

I have asked for additional clarification.

UPDATE: I corrected the file (it just take a few minutes) and uploaded it as a new book. Unfortunately, you will not be able to buy it for five days, I think. I’m hoping to get a redirect from the old version to the new, but I think that’s unlikely. I’ll post more when I have more information.

UPDATE: I have also escalated the issue at Amazon. I appreciate the kind words that other people have been saying about me in conjunction with the situation, in particular the post by Stephen Windwalker in his The Kindle Nation blog post  , and the comment by Andrys of  A Kindle World.

UPDATE: Amazon apologized and restored access, and I uploaded a corrected file.  For more information, see this later post: http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/amazon-restores-free-books-for-your-kindle/

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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