Archive for November, 2009

A look at the nook

November 22, 2009

Look, let me point out up front: this blog is called I Love My Kindle. I do…and that’s the e-book reader I know the best.

However, I don’t think I’m completely prejudiced. I was originally going to write a post comparing the nook, the Sony, and the Kindle, but I think it’s better to split it up. Kindle loyalists, be warned: I’m going to say some good things about the nook. :)

Let’s start out with this: I think there is room in the market for several main e-book readers. The e-book share of publishing has been growing rapidly, and I think that will continue. There are a lot of different cell phones, a lot of different cars…I don’t see any reason why there can’t be, oh, ten big players in the e-book field. I don’t think one is going to “kill” another.

Let me also say that this is not going to be all about tech specs. I think the Kindle blazed a new trail in the market partially because just plain old readers (not necessarily techies) could use it and liked it.

Okay, let’s get started:

Availability

I had to add this in after I starting writing this post.  It has just been announced that the nook will not be available for orders placed now until next year.  The Kindle had similar shortages in the past, but appears to be currently available.  Point to the Kindle.  ;)

The screen

You care about the screen because, well, there’s where you are going to be reading.  They both use the same screen, the Vizplex from E Ink.  They both have 6″ (measured diagonally) screens.  That part of it is going to be pretty much of a wash.   Both of them use 16 grayscale for pictures.

The buttons

I think you’d adjust if you moved from one to the other.  The nook appears to have forward and backward buttons on both sides of the screen.  The Kindle 2 has a previous page button only on the left side, and a forward button on both.  The Kindle has some other buttons (Home, Menu, and Back).  You’re going to accomplish those functions on the little touchscreen at the bottom of the nook.  You can’t change pages with the touchscreen by the way (I asked). 

The keyboard

The Kindle has a keyboard for data entry, and the nook will use the touchscreen.  You will need to do some data entry when you are searching for things. 

Buying the books

Both devices use a cell-phone like network to get books wirelessly.  The nook also has Wi Fi, which is what computers use.  It’s a little unclear to me how much of a difference that will make to most people.  In some cases, it may make a big difference, if you don’t have the cell network easily available.

You can buy books from the Kindle store while abroad (although if you do it wirelessly, additional charges may apply).  You can not buy from the nook store while abroad.  Barnes and Noble says specifically:

…when you travel abroad, you can read any files that are already on your nook. You can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots that do not use proxy security settings, such those commonly used in hotels, and download eBooks and subscriptions already in your online digital Library. You cannot, however, purchase additional eBooks and subscriptions.
nook FAQs

Selection

The nook claims to have a million books available.  Amazon has about 380,000 right now.  That sounds like a win for the nook, but the nook is counting books from Google.  You can put those books on your Kindle as well, but it requires some converting.  Selection isn’t simply about quantity: it’s also about whether or not they have the books you want.

If you look at the fiction sections for Barnes and Noble and the Kindle store, you get a reveaing number. 

The Barnes and Noble e-book store lists 24,932 when you look at fiction.

The Kindle store lists 124,926 for fiction

That’s almost a hundred thousand more for the Kindle.  Of course, that number could change over time, but initially, the Kindle has more.

A number of those books from the Kindle store are self-published directly to the Kindle store, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.   They tend to be cheap.

I recommend you look for the books you know you want to read in both stores and see what you find. 

Prices

On new bestsellers, they seem to be pretty close.  On older books under copyright, what I’ve been finding is that Amazon wins handily (generally).

Of the 24,932 fiction e-books in the Barnes and Noble store, 17,334 are under ten dollars.  That’s about 70%. 

Of the 124,926 fiction e-books in the Kindle store, 119,965 are under ten dollars.  That’s about 96%.

I wanted to compare prices on specific books.

What I did was take the ten fiction best sellers at each store that were over ten dollars at one of them.

This is a comparison of the top ten fiction e-book best sellers at Barnes and Noble:

B&N Kindle Difference
 $   12.80  $    8.64  $      4.16
 $   14.36  $    9.99  $      4.37
 $   11.96  $    7.99  $      3.97
 $   14.99  $   16.50  $     (1.51)
 $   11.16  $    9.99  $      1.17
 $   19.96  $    9.99  $      9.97
 $   14.99  $   14.04  $      0.95
 $   12.00  $    9.75  $      2.25
 $   12.00  $    9.89  $      2.11
 $   14.39  $    9.99  $      4.40
 $ 138.61  $ 106.77  $     31.84

The bottom row is the totals.  So, getting those books at Amazon would save you $31.84, or about $3.18 average savings per book.

Here is the same comparison for the top ten bestselling fiction e-books at Amazon that are over ten dollars:

B&N Kindle Difference
 $   45.99  $   28.40  $     17.59
 $   28.99  $   29.58  $     (0.59)
 $    9.99  $   10.40  $     (0.41)
 $    9.99  $   12.78  $     (2.79)
 $   14.99  $   14.04  $      0.95
 $    9.99  $   14.29  $     (4.30)
 $    9.99  $   14.26  $     (4.27)
 $   21.56  $   11.99  $      9.57
 $    9.99  $   13.10  $     (3.11)
 $    9.99  $   13.07  $     (3.08)
 $ 171.47  $ 161.91  $      9.56

Now, as you can see here, a big impact is an expensive boxed set.  Taking that out, the Barnes and Noble books would be $8.03 cheaper…an average of about eighty-nine cents on nine titles.

Oh, and it wasn’t actually the top ten, because one of Amazon’s top ten wasn’t available at Barnes and Noble.

Those will tend to be popular bestsellers, I think.  I do think that a number of those at Amazon will come down to the $9.99 price point in the next couple of weeks, but I don’t know that for sure.

Books published before November 1999:

 $    7.99  $    6.39  $      1.60
 $    8.00  $    8.00  $          –  
 $    9.99  $    9.99  $          –  
 $    9.99  $    3.95  $      6.04
 $   11.20  $    9.75  $      1.45
 $   12.00  $    9.75  $      2.25
 $    7.20  $    5.99  $      1.21
 $   12.80  $    5.99  $      6.81
 $   12.00  $    9.99  $      2.01
 $    9.99  $    9.99  $          –  
 $ 101.16  $   79.79  $     21.37

This was actually a pretty tough one.  I could limit it the way I wanted on Amazon by using Jungle-Search.  I took the bestselling fiction books which said they were published before November 1999 (I was looking for books more than ten years old).  The Kindle books were, on the average, $2.14 cheaper.

Here’s why it was hard: the Kindle store had so many books that Barnes and Noble didn’t!  I was excluding ones I knew were public domain, because there are so many versions it’s hard to compare.  To get ten to compare, I had to look at about forty.

Here’s a list of some of the titles that Amazon had that I did not find at Barnes and Noble in an e-book:

1984 by George Orwell
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A Confederacy of Dunces by Toole & Percy
Mike Mulligan y su maquina maravillosa (Spanish Edition)
Curious George Goes Camping by H.A. Rey
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Curious George in the Snow by H.A. Rey
Curious George and the Dump Truck by H.A. Rey
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Nicolae by Lahaye & Jenkins
Soul Harvest by Lahaye and Jenkins

Books from other sources

Barnes and Noble has access to a million books…when you count the Google books.  As we saw above, if we don’t count those, Amazon has a lot more books.   You can convert those same books for the Kindle, but it takes a third party program…and is a bit more work (not that hard, though).  On the other hand, you can go to sites like FeedBooks.com on your Kindle, and get books directly there, as reader Al pointed out in a comment on this post.   I do that to get books…they have quite a few freebies, both public domain and newly-written books.  Since you can’t go anywhere on the web on your nook except for the Barnes and Noble store, you can’t get them directly.  Again, you can get around limitation with the nook: you download the books to your computer and then put them on your nook using a USB cord.

Customer Service

People tend to be very satisfied with Amazon’s Customer Service and it’s highly rated.   However, I do have to say that Barnes and Noble is doing some interesting things with this for the nook.  I’ve asked a couple of questions about the nook by e-mail, and gotten very quick answers.  If you go to the Barnes and Noble on-line community, they have administrators who are actually directly answering questions people are asking.  Amazon has a Customer Service Q and A forum, but they don’t directly answer questions, just post announcements.

That said, the Amazon Community is big and very helpful. 

Here’s a really big one, though: Amazon says you can “return” any Kindle book within seven days of purchase.  Barnes and Noble says no returns.  They might flex that, but that’s the policy.  They say:

“Once purchased, eBooks cannot be refunded”

I asked how many people had returned a book and how often in the Kindle forum.  I haven’t analyzed it yet, but many people had returned 1-5 times…sometimes from buying the wrong book, sometimes because of formatting issues. 

Personalizing

Within the system, the nook wins here.  It allows you to do personal images for sleep mode pictures.  You can only do that on the K1, and it is unsupported.   Kindle people want that, and many people use an “against the rules” hack to do it (which I don’t recommend).

The Exclusives

Things the nook has that the Kindle doesn’t:

The nook has that little touchscreen for selecting a book.

The nook allows very limited book lending.  The limitations are going to disappoint people:

  • You can only loan the book once…ever
  • You can only loan it to people who have the Barnes and Noble reader software (but that will be a lot of people, and they don’t have to have the nook)
  • While it is loaned, you do not have access to it
  • You can’t give the book away or donate it
  • You can only do it for fourteen days (I think you aren’t allowed returns)
  • You can only do this if the publisher allows it

I’m guessing a lot of publishers won’t allow it, but we’ll see.

The nook has a micro-SD slot.

You can browse some content in Barnes and Noble stores.  When I was talking to a demonstrator (who was quite nice, by the way) in a Barnes and Noble store, the point was made that you can browse any part of the book…for an hour. 

You can hypothetically see a nook in a store.  However, I went into a store, and that wasn’t all it might have been for me and for some other customers.  We couldn’t actually see the nook: what we saw was an inert, plastic mock-up.  I had hoped to use the touchscreen and try out the buttons, but it was like having the Little Tykes toy version of the nook.  It wasn’t the right weight…so the demonstrator would hand people about a 500 page paperback book to show us!   We could go watch a video in the DVD section: apparently, one that is also available on the website.  The B&N employee was nice, and actually wanted to see my Kindle: I thought that was fair.  I hadn’t pulled it out, because I didn’t want to interfere with what the store was doing, but the demonstrator wanted to see it. 

Things the Kindle has that the nook doesn’t:

The Kindle has text-to-speech.  However, it can be blocked by the publisher, and Random House and its imprints have done that.  Also, it doesn’t sound like an audiobook.  I use it, but a lot of people don’t like it.

The Kindle has general web-browsing, but again, it can be disappointing.  It’s quite slow.

Amazon also converts quite a few formats for you for free, although it charges you if you send it wirelessly to the Kindle.

The Kindle plays Audible audiobooks.

Formats

There are two sets of formats.  One is the formats with DRM (Digital Rights Mangement).  Those are the ones you are going to buy, usually.  The other question is non-DRM formats…those are the ones you will usually get for free from other sources.

DRM for the Kindle

Kindle formats only

DRM for the nook

eReader and Adobe Adept (basically, EPUB and PDF).  You’ll be getting stuff mostly from the Barnes and Noble store, but also from some other places.

non-DRM for the Kindle (without conversion)

mobi/prc, txt (lots of freebie sites use these, including Project Gutenberg, FeedBooks, and ManyBooks…but the latter two also offer pdfs)

Amazon will convert a number of other formats for you.

You could use Calibre to convert non-DRM files for either machine.

Battery life

Amazon says 14 days with the wireless off: the nook says 10.

They also have a lot of things in common.  For example, they both play MP3s, both companies back up your files for you, and so on.

Well, that’s not comprehensive, but it should give you a pretty good idea.  Oh, and you can see the nook in a Barnes and Noble store: I think that’s going to sell quite a few of them.

For more information

The nook at Barnes and Noble  

nook demo video at YouTube (view on PC)

The Kindle 2 at Amazon 

Amazon demo video at YouTube (view on PC)

Tech spec comparison at MobileRead Wiki 

Please feel free to let me know what you think, and if you have points you think I should add to this.

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

Round up #5: no nook for the holidays, Amazon announces…um…something

November 20, 2009

No nook for the holidays

Barnes and Noble announced on November 20 that orders for their e-book reader, the nook  (sic) that are placed now will not be shipped until January 4, 2010.  They are going to do a special certificate to give people instead.  That’s a bit like the 1977 holiday season, when Kenner didn’t have enough Star Wars toys, and shipped the certificates  instead.  Yeah, original Star Wars  action figure and the nook…that’s the same.  ;)  Just kidding.  This doesn’t say anything special about the nook, by the way.  Amazon also has run out of Kindles a couple of times.  It does possibly say something about the demand for e-readers.  I’m pretty comfortable with saying that e-books will be at least ten percent of the publishing market in the US by the end of 2010, and at least twenty-five percent by the end of 2011.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it was more than that, by the way, but I’m comfortable with that.  I think it will grow more quickly than that at Amazon itself, and Jeff Bezos has said it’s already at 48% when a book is available both in Kindle format and as a paperbook.  That doesn’t mean that e-book readers will have a matching growth rate.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  One is that people probably increase their e-book purchases some time after they get their devices.  At first, they may be tentative purchasers, but then switch over totally.  Another one is that other devices may integrate e-ink screens, or just take over some of the e-book market even with backlit screens. 

Barnes and Noble statement 

Amazon announces new organization method

Hold your horses there, Folder Boy!  ;)  They didn’t say folders and my guess is that it isn’t folders.  First, they’ve said its in the “first half of next year” (2010).  Secondly, the folder thing is far more complicated on a Kindle than it is on your computer.

I’ve written about this before in this earlier post.  I think it has to do with the “metadata” in the file.  Briefly, renaming one of your Kindle book files doesn’t change how it sorts on your homescreen, because the sorting isn’t based on the name.  It’s based on code that is put into the book file by the publisher, and users (and Amazon) aren’t allowed to mess with those files within the system.  My guess is that is what has been holding up the folders.

So, Amazon now says…something is going to be done about organizing your books, sometime next year.  It’s going to be done with a software update, and that’s nice…maybe we’ll get some other things at the same time, but I’m not going to be greedy.  :)  They also haven’t said if it affects the K1 or the Kindle for PC (K4PC) app. 

Amazon Announcement 

The Sony Reader Daily Edition is taking orders

Sony (remember them?) ;), the longest-running of the big three for e-book readers (although there are a lot of other brands out there) is now taking orders for its latest version.  I consider that an e-book reader has to have wireless and e-ink to be current generation, and this one will.  It’s almost $150 more than the K2, but it is a bit bigger.  It’s cheaper than the KDX (but it is smaller).  :)  The K2 is six inches for $259 at time of writing, the Sony Reader Daily Edition is 7.1 inches for $399, and the Kindle DX is 9.7 inches for $489.  That shows you that a lot of the cost may be in the screen.  The color technology (when it comes) may be quite a bit more. 

Sony Reader Daily Edition at Sony

Free Choose Your Own Adventure!

No saying how long this will last, but you can get book #6 in the Choose Your Own Adventure series for free right now!  For those of you who don’t know, these are books where you make a choice and go to a different part of the story based on your decision.  You won’t succeed if you don’t make the right choices.  They were a huge fad at one point, but are now out of print.  In fact, this is now a Kindle exclusive, bringing up that whole “ghost book” thing from  this earlier post.

House of Danger

Oh, and I think this an excellent book for the free Kindle for PC app.  It’s not long-form reading (probably), and you could definitely have youngish kids doing it (although it may be a tad scary, depending on how young).

Romanga!

Harlequin, well-known for series romance books, and SoftBank, known for manga (Japanese comic books, but not necessarily for kids), are making digital versions of their collaboration (I just called them “romanga” for “romance manga”) available for the Kindle.  These are going to look better on the Kindle DX, or on the free Kindle for PC.    There are only a few titles at this point, but we’ll get more later.

Romanga in the Kindle store 

Amazon adds a Kindle gift card

It’s no different from any of their other gift cards in the way it works, but it has a picture of a Kindle on it and says, “Happy Reading”!  You could give it to somebody for them to get the device, or books and such, or accessories.  You can get gift cards in odd amounts, like $9.99…since you can’t buy books for someone not on your Kindle account at this point (although that is supposedly coming soon), this is a great way to go.  You could even suggest a specific book for them, if you want. 

Amazon gift cards 

The Huffington Post has its own Kindle page!

This is one of the better (and better looking) sources of news on the Kindle.  Can we call the Huffington Post a mainstream news outlet? Ummm…are we there yet?  It’s definitely a really important one, though.  I haven’t dug through this all that much yet, but it is impressive to see.  You might want to take a look…

Huffington Post Kindle page 

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

A hundred books for ten bucks!

November 20, 2009

I’m known for recommending free books, so it might surprise you that I’m recommending books for which you actually…yuck…pay.  :)

Just kidding! 

I don’t mind paying for stuff…I do it all the time.  I think people deserve to be paid for their efforts.  I always feel like it’s a fair exchange. 

On the other hand, I like getting free stuff…if it’s all on the up and up.

So, what’s the story with these…stories?  ;)  They are public domain titles, but there is a little added value.  The publisher has added an ATOC (Active Table of Contents).  I think that’s important in a book that has a lot of contents (like multiple books or short stories).  Otherwise, it’s hard to jump to a specific one you want to read.  Oh, you can use the search feature on the Kindle (although not yet on the free Kindle for PC app).  That’s not as easy as just clicking on the title, though.

I’ve selected books by MobileReference.  They included an ATOC, and tend to be well formatted.

Can you get the books free other places?  Sure, but take into account the effort necessary to download a hundred books individually…and to find and select the best ones.

One other thing: MobileReference was in the news.  They were the company that put out the George Orwell collection that Amazon “repossessed”, and got Amazon a lot of bad publicity.

What happened there?  According to MobileReference, they had published the book for the Mobipocket site (which is also owned by Amazon).  They say that Amazon put it in the Kindle store without their permission.

Why would that be a problem?  In the Mobipocket site, you can specify countries.  The Orwell books are in the public domain in some countries, but not in the US.  What MR says is that it was legal in the country for which it was intended, and not for the US.

For awhile, Amazon took all the MR books out of the Kindle store…but they’ve been put back, so presumably, everything has been settled between the two entities.  I am not concerned about a book being taken back: and Amazon has said (even in a legal case) that they wouldn’t do that again in “the same circumstances”.

Interestingly, in a recent change, we now indicate countries for sale when we publish through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP).  We can give worldwide rights, or choose a specific country.   I’m all for options.  :)

These books are collections of previously published works.  The traditional publishing term is an “omnibus”.  If you ever bought a bargain book in a brick and mortar store that was, say, five Louis L’Amour books, that was an omnibus.  It was cheaper than the individual books, partially because they didn’t have to have all those covers, and partially because they tended to print them on cheaper paper.

The software term has been “bundle”, and since e-books are kind of a mix of a paperbook (p-book) and software, you’ll see both terms.  You could see them called an “anthology” or a “collection”.  An anthology is traditionally a themed collection of works by different authors, while a collection is a group of works by the same author.  That’s not always consistent, though.

So, without further ado, here are some of the collections of works I’d recommend from MobileReference in the Kindle store.  In some cases, they are literally dime novels (as in the first one), but in all of the cases, they’ll keep you busy for a long time.  Beat that, ten dollar movie!

Classic Mystery Collection

Classic Mystery Collection (illustrated) 

Over 100 books for $1.00 at time of writing! (UPDATED)

Yes, you get the complete Sherlock Holmes.  Yes, you get a couple of Agatha Christies (only a couple are in the public domain…but I enjoyed The Secret Adversary).  You get a Rex Stout, several Sax Rohmers (including Fu Manchu), and Mary Roberts Rinehart.  That last one may not be as well known a name now, but the play of The Bat (which is included) was one of the longest running Broadway plays.

NOTE: Period books sometimes contain elements that may be offensive to modern sensibilities.   

EDITED:  A reader pointed out the one dollar collection to me, which I don’t think was there when I first wrote this post.  It looks like the difference is that the more expensive one is illustrated ($7.99) and the file size is larger. 

Works of Charles Dickens 

Over 200 works (although many are short stories) for $4.79 at time of writing!

David Copperfield, Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers, A Tale of Two Cities…come on, that’s not worth five bucks?  :)

 Works of Jack London 

You wanna buy that latte?  Or get White Fang, The Sea Wolf…and even science fiction from old Jack?  Actually, you could get them both…I’m just sayin’ they could be the same price.  ;)

Complete Works of Shakespeare 

$2.79!  You get not only the big name stuff he wrote for somewhat commercial purposes, but the sonnets!  “All the world’s a stage…” and you couldn’t even get into your local high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet for $2.79!  Just kidding again…support your local theatre!

Works of Mark Twain 

Okay, Mister Smarty-pants!  You’ve read Tom Sawyer…how about Tom Sawyer, Detective?  And no, seeing the Bing Crosby version does not count as having read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court!  As for Martin Lawrence…

Works of Robert Louis Stevenson 

Pirates!  Dr. Jekyll!  and travel writing!  Seriously!  $4.79.

Works of Jane Austen 

Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice (sorry, no zombies) for ninety-nine cents?  Hmmm…daily newspaper, or timeless classics…

Now, it’s important to recognize that this is just a little slice.  I’ll admit to having gone mostly for the “usual suspects” in this post.  I read a bit more obscure stuff, and certainly more diverse material…but I did want to impress a bit with the big names.  :)  Dig through the MobileReference books yourself. 

Reader Mark Alexander left a comment for me about the $49.99 Best-Selling Classic Books Library at the MobileReference site.  I had considered mentioning it, but I was trying to keep it cheap.  :)  However, he’s right…that’s a great deal!  It’s 3000 works, including L. Frank Baum, both Brontes, Victor Hugo, Bram Stoker…for $50, challenge yourself to read them all or give them to someone with a Kindle: poof!  Instant library!  You can get it here.  For some reason, I don’t think it’s available at the Kindle site.

Don’t hold yourself to that publisher…I just find the formatting and such reliable from them, and that’s a good thing.  Formatting is not consistent throughout the Kindle store.

Finally, of course, you don’t have to pay anything at all.  You could get the free Kindle for PC app, and then get free books from the Kindle store

NOTE: THE KINDLE STORE FREE BOOKS ARE NOT FREE ALL OVER THE WORLD…THE SEARCH I LINKED SHOWS FREE BOOKS FOR US CUSTOMERS.

20,000 free books, almost, in the Kindle store.  If you read, oh, two books a week, that would last you…oh, almost two hundred years.  :)

If you can’t get them there, there are other legal sources, although they vary by country.  You can start here.

So, kid, here’s a sawbuck…get yourself a hundred books and keep out of trouble.  ;)

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

Slogging the web: using the Kindle’s experimental web browser

November 19, 2009

Imagine yourself on a surfboard, the powerful Pacific swelling beneath you, driving you forward, a tropical breeze ruffling your hair…

Now picture yourself in hip waders, dragging yourself through thigh deep sludge, the fetid smell assaulting your nostrils.  When you finally do get somewhere, you are so relieved you plop down, immediately sucked into a cesspool-like embrace.  You struggle to free yourself before it is too late, and begin exhaustedly moving towards the next destination.

You know that second one?  That’s what using the web browser on the Kindle is like.  That’s why I call it slogging the web.  ;)

Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  I just like to make it clear to people that it’s not like being on your laptop.  I have used it, and even for some practical purposes.  It’s just not pleasant.

Buying books

First, let’s separate out the Kindle store.  That’s pretty fast, actually.  You can download a book in under a minute, typically.  I’ve found it tends to be ten seconds or so for me.  The Wikipedia thing is also pretty fast.

Websites

It’s the websites where you will feel it.  It can take ten seconds just to load a site.  You can go pretty much anywhere you want (parents, that includes adult sites).  You won’t see motion, though, and you won’t hear sound.

E-mail

You can get your e-mail through the Kindle, but again, it’s very hard.  I’ll give you more detail later on in this post.  Let’s get to the practical points of using the browser.

Getting to a website

The standard way to get there is Menu-Experimental-Basic Web.  That works, but I find it easier to type in the basic name of the website (like Fandango), and flick right until I get to Google for the search.  That’s on a K2 or KDX: no flicking on the K1. 

It’s worth pointing out that all websites are not the same.  Some are optimized for “mobile devices”, and that is what the Kindle is.  In terms of getting on the web, it’s pretty much like a lot  of cell phones.

I like this as a portal to mobile-friendly websites:

Cantoni 

Definitely bookmark that on your Kindle. I’ll tell you how later. When you get to Cantoni, you’ll see a list of categories, including Entertainment, News, and Shopping.

As a general tip, you can look for the mobile version of websites by typing “m.website.com”  (m.google.com, for example), in your address bar on your computer It will convert that to the appropriate web address. It won’t work a lot of the time, though.

What makes something mobile friendly? Usually, fewer pictures, simpler page elements…that kind of thing.

Changing the settings

What if the site you visit isn’t mobile friendly?  While you are in browser mode, do Menu-Settings.

The first thing to try switching is between advanced and basic mode.  I usually use basic mode, in which I have trouble logging into something…then I’ll switch to advanced.  I’m not trying to enjoy a website the same way I would on a PC: I’m usually just trying to get to the information.

For the same reason, I usually have the images disabled.  Sometimes, you have to click on an image to make something happen, and it may be easier to have them enabled to see that.  Yes, every once in awhile, I do want to see the image.  :)  I was in the car once, and wanted to show somebody a picture on IMDB

The other one you can change is Javascript.  That’s a programming language, basically, and it’s used a lot.  I tend to keep it off, and it’s always off in Basic Mode.  Again, if something doesn’t work, try turning it back on.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear…or, um, three things ;)

While you are in that Menu-Settings thing, you probably noticed options to clear Cache, History, and Cookies.  It can be very important that you clear things.

Cache

The cache consists of locally stored copies of websites you’ve visited.  It’s the same thing on your computer.  I’m simplifying, but that’s pretty much it.  Why do computers and the Kindle do that?  To speed up you looking at a website again.  When you first visit a website, it make take a long time to load.  But you can go to another one on a computer, then hit back, and it pops right up.  That’s because it copied itself to your device.  The negative is that it isn’t pulling down on the current information.  Deleting the cache is one of the things you can do to troubleshoot.  If you can’t log into a website that you’ve tried before, definitely delete the cache and try again.  It appears to me that the Kindle may remember a time it failed…and just keep failing.  I know of people who do that too, ;) but the therapy on a Kindle is simpler.  :)  Also, your cache can be taking up a significant part of the memory on your Kindle.

History

The history is a a list of which websites you’ve visited.  It doesn’t take up anywhere near the memory that the cache does, but clearing it out can help.  The History can be helpful, though.  When you are in browser mode and hit Menu, one of the choices is History.  That can make it easier to revisit a site.  Still, if you are having problems, deleting the history might help.

Cookies

This one is a bit trickier, both on a computer and on a Kindle.  When you visit a site, it may put a “cookie” on your device.  It’s a small file that identifies you to the website when you return.  Have you ever gone away from Amazon, come back, and had it know who you are and make recommendations…even though you didn’t log in that time?  That’s probably through a cookie.  Cookies can be wrong, though, again particularly if you failed doing something before.  You may want to try clearing (not tossing ;) ) your cookies if you are having problems.   However, they may mean you will have to enter a password again, when it used to remember it.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks on the Kindle aren’t those cute little things you stick in a paperbook (p-book).   They are actually like your Favorites in your web browser on your computer.  If you go to Menu while you are in browser mode for your Kindle, you’ll get a choice to go to your bookmarks.  Some bookmarks come with it, but you can add more.  Again, that save you typing in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) every time you want to go somewhere.

When you are visiting a website, you can do Menu-Bookmark this page to add one.  This can be especially useful when you get into a page after several steps of navigation.  For example, I get into the flight status for a relative’s flight.  I bookmark that page, to make it easier to check up on it again.  I’ve actually done that at breakfast, and found out that the plane was running late.

When you are in the bookmark listing, you can flick left (on everything but a K1) to remove the bookmark, or flick right to edit it.  All you can do is change the name, though.

Other Menu choices

The other choices you have in Menu in browser mode are pretty simple.  You can Turn Wireless Off, Shop in Kindle store, Go to Top, or Enter URL. 

The Address Bar

Speaking of entering a URL, there is an “address bar” at the top of the screen, similar to what you would have in a browser on your computer.  When you enter an address, don’t use the http:// (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) part, but do use the www (Worldwide Web) part.  Remember, you can skip all this from the homepage of your Kindle if you type in the main part of the website, and then search on Google. 

You’ll see a choice to reload after you’ve gotten somewhere: that will pull down the new information.  That’s what I have to do with the flight information.  As you flick right (on anything but a K1), you’ll see a few more options, like Google or Wikipedia.

You have mail

People ask if you can get e-mail on your Kindle.  Yes, but it’s by going to the mobile version of your e-mail provider’s website.  I’ve used AOL and g-mail.   Again, I wouldn’t run my business by it, but it works in a pinch.  There’s some confusion because your Kindle has its own e-mail address, but that is for personal documents.  You can use that to send someone a message, but your e-mail address has to be authorized as a sender, and you are charged fifteen cents a megabyte (rounded up) in the US.

Power usage

Oh, it does eat up the power like mad, especially when it can’t find a connection.  Trying to find a connection seems to be a real strain…sort like dating.  ;)  I keep the wireless off when I’m not using it.

Well, that’s the main information for everything but a K1 (maybe I’ll add that later).  Again, it’s not pleasant, but doable.  The nook and the Sony won’t allow it, and I think people may miss that more who never had it.  I do use it, but it’s a struggle every time…and I’m a pretty darn patient person.  :)

If you have more questions, or want to tell stories about how it has helped you (or not), feel free to leave me a comment.

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

The nook Van Dyke Show: Neither a lender…

November 18, 2009

The nook Van Dyke Show

“Neither a lender…”

Scene 1: a suburban family room in New Rochelle, New York.  Seated around the room are: Buddy Kindell and Sony Rogers, writers on The Alex Brady Show: Jerry and Millie Iliad, a dentist and his wife.  Standing is Rob Flepia, the head writer of the show. 

Sony: So, why you’d call us all here, Rob?  I’ve got a date tonight.

Buddy: You’ve got a date?

Sony: Yes, Mr. Smarty-pants.  Herman’s taking me to the movies.

Buddy: Some date.

Rob: Sony, I thought you and Herman weren’t really getting along.

Sony: We’re not, but I can’t resist a man with popcorn.  You know what?  Take your time, I’m in no hurry.

Jerry: Come on, Rob, what’s up?

Rob: Well, Laura’s birthday is right around the corner, and I’m not sure what to get her. 

Buddy: Why don’t you get her what I gave my wife?  A headache!

Sony: Ha, ha.

Rob: I’m serious, fellas.  I want to get her something really special.

Buddy: Why, is it a big birthday?

Sony: If you’re a woman, every birthday’s a big birthday.

Rob: Oh boy, is it.  It’s big because she wasn’t crazy about what I got her last year.

Jerry: What’d you get her last year?

Rob: A mop.

Sony: You didn’t!

Millie: Ooh, I remember that mop!  That was the one that pushed itself around the room, right?

Rob: That’s right.  I’d seen it on TV and I thought she’d really like it.

Buddy: What happened?

Rob: Well, everything was fine, until Ritchie was playing on the kitchen floor, and it mopped him right into the backyard.

Sony: Oh, no!

Rob: Oh, yes!  When she heard him yelling and got out there, it was spinning around on his head.  I guess it was still trying to get the spot out.  She told me later he looked like Harpo Marx-on-a-stick!

Sony: You can’t get a lady something for cleaning anyway, Rob.  That’s not very romantic.  How about some jewelry?

Rob: Well, I was thinking about getting a ring for my wife–

Buddy: Hey, how can I get a deal like that?

Sony: Would you stop?

Rob: But I really want something unusual.

Jerry: Hey, Rob, what about one of those new e-books?

Millie: Ooh, that’s a good deal.   My husband is so smart!  Isn’t he smart, Rob?  You’re so smart!

Rob: That’s not a bad idea!  Laura does read a lot.

Buddy: Pickles loves to read!

Sony: She does?

Buddy: She once spent a whole weekend reading a cake recipe.

Rob: A…uh…a cake recipe?

Buddy: Sure!  The way she cooks, it was a bigger mystery than The Hound of the Baskervilles!

Sony: Just ignore him, Rob.  He wouldn’t know a book if it jumped up and bit him in the cello.  I think it’s a great idea!

Rob: So do I.  I don’t know much about them, though.  There are a couple of kinds, right?

Buddy: Hey, I’ve got a cousin that can get you a refurbished Kindle, cheap!

Rob: Is that the same cousin who sold me the mop?

Buddy: Yeah.  He’s got a big variety.

Sony: So does a pawn shop.

Buddy: How did you know he had a pawn shop?

Jerry: Rob, I was down in a Barnes and Noble the other day, and I saw that new nook they have.  It’s really snazzy, with that little color touchscreen and everything.

Buddy: What’s wrong with black and white?  Some of my favorite TV shows are in black and white. 

Sony: All of the TV shows are in black and white.

Buddy: See?  Those are my favorites.

Rob: That does sound interesting.

Jerry: Oh, and I saw you can loan books!  You get one for Laura, and I’ll get one for Millie, and they can trade!

Millie: Ooh, you big doll!   Isn’t he a big doll, Rob?  You’re a big doll!

Sony: But won’t she be jealous if Millie gets one, too?

Rob: I don’t think so.  She really likes to share stuff with Millie.  You should see how much fun they’ve had with a cup of sugar!  Besides, at least it isn’t a mop!

Millie: I think she’d love it, Rob.  We always like talking about the books we read.  What’s the worse that could happen?

Jerry: She divorces him and moves to Minneapolis.

Millie: You’re terrible!  Isn’t he terrible?  You’re just terrible!

Rob: Thanks, fellas!  I’m got to see a man about a nook!

Scene 2: in the writers’ office at the Alex Brady show.   Sony is at the typewriter, Buddy is laying on the couch, and Rob is doing jumping jacks.

Sony: And then Alex says, “That’s no armadillo, that’s my accountant!”

Buddy: Good, good, put that down.

Rob: That’s good, gang.  Let’s call it a night.  We can finish it up tomorrow.  I want to get home for dinner with Laura.

Buddy: Me, too.

Sony: You want to get home to Pickles’ cooking?

Buddy: No, Laura’s!

Rob: Well, you know you’re always welcome, Buddy, but I don’t think I dare ask Laura to do any extra cooking tonight.  She’s been really wrapped up in a book she’s reading.

Sony: Hey, how’s that nook working out?

Rob: She loves it!  I think she’s spending more time with it than she is with me and Ritchie. 

Sony: You sound like you’re jealous.

Rob: I am, a little, but I think it might be the best birthday gift I ever got her.

Buddy: I still think you should have gone with the Kindle.

Rob: I don’t know, Buddy, she really likes this.  She’s been reading that big biography everybody is talking about. 

Sony: The one by Jellybean?

Rob: That’s the one.  “On the Trail: the Story of America’s Sweetsnail“.

Sony: I still can’t believe a snail wrote a bestseller.

Buddy: Why not?  Alex has a top-rated TV show, and he’s a rat.

Sony: Say, didn’t you interview with him once?

Rob: Yes, I did.  It’s when we thought Alex was going to fire us all, remember that?  I just couldn’t see working for a ventriloquist show.

Mel Cool-er, the producer of the show, walks into the office.

Buddy: Speaking of dummies…

Mel (ignoring Buddy):  Rob, Alex wanted to know if he could borrow your copy of On the Trail.  He likes to keep up with the competition.

Rob: Sure, Mel.  I’ll e-mail it to him tonight.  Laura should be finished with it by then.  I’m kind of curious, though, why doesn’t he just get his own copy?

Mel: It turns out it’s been withdrawn by the publisher.  It seems someone sued Jellybean over revealing show secrets.

Rob: Who?

Mel: Claude Mentor.

Sony and Buddy together: The ventriloquist?!

Mel: That’s right, Sony, the ventriloquist.

Sony: Boy, that’s really got to hurt a guy’s feelers.

Rob (chuckles): Well, somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.  I always thought he was strange, but I never thought he’d sue himself!

Mel: Yes, well, just see that Alex gets that book tonight, won’t you?

Rob: Sure, Mel, sure.

Buddy: Hey, Rob, hand me that pencil!  (Buddy pulls a pen out from behind his ear and holds the pen and the pencil sticking straight out from Mel’s forehead)  See!  Our own talking snail!

Mel: Yeccchh. (Mel exits)

Rob: Okay, fellas, see you tomorrow.  Good night, Son.

Sony: Good night.

Buddy: Good night.  I’ve got to get home before Pickles tries to cook something and hurts herself.

 Scene 3: the Flepias’ kitchen.  Laura is making dinner.  Rob enters with his briefcase.

Rob: Hi, honey, I’m home!

Laura: Hello, darling!  (She kisses him)

Rob: What was that for?

Laura: Can’t a wife kiss her husband when he comes from work?

Rob: Yes, but not usually while you’re cooking. 

Laura: Well, if you’d rather I didn’t…

Rob: I didn’t say that.  (adopting an old man’s voice)  Give me another one, sweetlips!

Laura (pushing him away): Careful, grandpa, or you’ll ruin the steak.

Rob: We’re having steak tonight?  What’s the occasion?

Laura: No occasion, darling.  I’ve just saved so much money on books lately, I thought we’d splurge.

Rob: Oh, that reminds me.  Did you finish reading that book by Jellybean?

Laura: Yes, I did.  I have to say, I don’t quite see what all the fuss is about.

Rob: Well, it’s not every snail that writes an autobiography.

Laura: True.

Rob: Well, Alex Brady wants to read it, and I need to lend him our copy.

Laura: Why doesn’t he get his own copy?

Rob: That’s what I said…maybe he doesn’t want to give Jellybean any money.  Anyway, he can’t.  Claude Mentor sued Jellybean, and they’ve taken the book out of the store.

Laura: Claude Mentor?  The ventriloquist? 

Rob: Yes, I guess he thought Jellybean had gotten out of hand.  Hee, hee, hee.

Laura: But you can’t lend it to Alex!

Rob: Why not?

Laura (trying not to cry): Because (sob) I (sob) leant (sob) it (sob) to (sob) Miiiilllliiiieeee.

Rob: Honey, don’t cry!  We’ll just get Millie to give it back.

Laura: She can’t…not for fourteen days!

Rob: Why did you make it fourteen days?

Laura: I didn’t do it!  It’s just the way the nook does it!

Rob: Well, I’m not making my boss wait fourteen days!  Laura, get your nook.  I’ll just have to lend that to him.

Laura: But what am I going to read?

Rob: You’ll just have to read paper books, like you used to.

Laura: Ohh, Rob!  (Laura goes into the family room.  Jerry comes in the back door)

Jerry: Hiya, Rob!  I could smell the steak from our house!

Rob: Oh, hi, Jerry.  You…uh…you aren’t having steak?

Jerry: Chinese food.   Millie’s says we’ve been saving so much money on books, we could get take-out.

Laura (re-entering and slapping the nook into Rob’s hand): Here!

Jerry: Ouch!  What did you do, Rob?

Rob: Never mind, Jerry.  (he’s flipping through the covers on the touch screen).  Um…dear…I don’t see On the Trail on here.

Laura: Well, it was there this afternoon!

Jerry: On the Trail?  Millie’s got it.  You can’t both have it at the same time.

Rob: Then I guess there’s no use loaning the nook to Alex.  (sheepishly handing the nook back to Laura)  Here you are, dear.  Am I forgiven?

Laura (icily): Hmph.

Rob: Well, that’s it, then.  Alex is going to fire me.

Laura (concerned): He wouldn’t really fire you, would he?

Rob: No, but he’ll make me wish he had.  Oh boy, where am I going to get another copy of that book?

Jerry: Why don’t you loan him Millie’s?

Rob: Jerry, you can’t loan a copy of a copy…I think. 

Jerry: I’ll tell you what.  You loan Alex Millie’s nook and Laura can lend Millie her nook.

Rob: That’s a great idea!

Laura: Robert Bokeen Flepia!  I am not going to read paper books like some…some…cavewoman!

Rob: I don’t think cavewomen had books, dear.  Besides, you won’t have to.  I’ll go see Buddy’s cousin tonight and get you a Kindle.

Laura: The mop cousin?

Rob: That’s the one, but I’ll order you a brand new Kindle 2 tonight and have them ship it next day…and I’ll get you a nice Oberon cover to go with it.

 Laura (smiling): You’d better, mister.  (They kiss: we see smoke starting to come from the frying pan)

Jerry: I hate to interrupt a good husband and wife smooch, but do you smell something burning?

Laura: My steak!

Rob takes off his jacket, and in a bit of goofy slapstick, beats out the fire with it).

Laura: It’s ruined!

Jerry: Rob, maybe you’d better come over to my house and borrow that nook.

Rob: And I need to borrow one more thing.

Jerry: What’s that?

Rob: A big bowl of Egg Fu Yung!

Rob and Jerry exit.  Laura picks up Rob’s coat: we see a hole has burned through it.  She throws it out the door after them.

End credits

This was a fun one for me!  I’ve always liked The Dick Van Dyke Show, and I’ve been watching it again from the beginning on my Roku.  All of the names of characters here are related to e-books…except Jellybean (and Pickles).  There really was a Jellybean episode on the show, guest-starring Paul Winchell.  I think the rules on the nook lending are right as well.  It’s worth noting that even if Rob had waited the fourteen days, he couldn’t have loaned the book to Alex: you can only ever loan a book once, so Laura had used it up by lending it to Millie.   I was trying to work a line in there about “Benny the Mop” as a riff on “Benny the Dip”, but you can’t always make a good Dick Haymes reference fit.  ;)

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

 

Flash! Kindle available in Canada

November 17, 2009

Just getting the information now:

Reuters article 

It says there will access to over 300K books (the US store has over 375K, so that might be the same), and 90 periodicals.

It has been updated on the product page to show Canadian availability.  Web browser (except for the Kindle store and Wikipedia) not available.

Blogs not available (drat!).  ;)

Wireless delivery of personal documents not available (but the free method is).

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

Masters of the public domain

November 17, 2009

Have you noticed that there are a lot of older books available in the Kindle store…often for free?

For me, this is a lot of the good stuff…Doyle, Dickens, Dostoevsky. 

There’s an obvious question: why are these classics free?  Aren’t they arguably some of the most valuable books available?

It has a lot to do with an element of copyright law called public domain

Basically, it works like this.  Copyright has limitations.  While a book is under copyright, a publisher has to obtain the rights to sell the book.  They usually do that by paying the rightsholder, who will usually be the author initially (or the author’s estate).  The publisher had to pay for it, so it makes sense that the reader has to pay for it…otherwise, why would most companies do it?

There are other expenses for the publisher, of course, including paying an editor, proofreader, layout artist, and printing.

After awhile, the copyright term ends (more on that later).  At that point, the author (or the author’s estate) doesn’t need to be paid.  A publisher doesn’t need permission to publish it.  Anybody can do it.  All of the production team (the editor, the proofreader, and so on) have been paid.

With e-books, the production costs are very low.  Once the book has been converted into e-book form, it’s super-cheap to get it to a reader.

That’s why so many of the great old books are available for free.  The Kindle store alone has about 19,813 as I write this.

Their copyright terms have expired.  You don’t have to pay Mark Twain (or his descendants) if you want to publish Huckeberry Finn.  That’s the law.

I’m a great supporter of copyright law, and that includes supporting its limitations.

How long is copyright?

That’s kind of tricky, partially because it has changed over time, and paritially because it is different in different jurisdictions (typically, countries).

Let’s do the easy one first.  Books first published before 1923 in the United States are in the public domain…in the United States.   Public domain means that they are owned by the public.  You want to publish it?  Go ahead.  :)

Here’s another easy one: if the book was first published in the US after March 1, 1989, it is not in the public domain.  Want to publish it?  You’ll need to get the rights.

So, now we’ve got the books first published in the US between 1923 and March 1, 1989.  Those are harder, because there are a number of factors. 

Was the book published with a proper copyright notice?  After March 1, 1989, the copyright notice doesn’t matter.

Was the book renewed?  Books published between 1923 and 1963 had to renew their copyrights and have a proper copyright notice.

Confused?  Fortunately, there is a site out there that I really like for calculating when a book will fall into the public domain.  It’s called Public Domain Sherpa.   It has a  “calculator” that will ask you questions about a book, and will calculate the PD date for you based on the answers.

What about books in between 1923 and March 1, 1989?

Let’s assume all the rules were followed.  Books first published in the US between January 1, 1923 and December 31st, 1977 will enter the public domain after 95 years after they were published.  Let’s take To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was first published in the US in 1960.   1960+95=2055.  It would enter the public domain on January 1, 2056.

Does that mean we have to wait until 2056 to read To Kill a Mockingbird as an e-book?  Not necessarily…that’s the date that it can be published without getting permission.  The author, Harper Lee, presumably still has the e-book rights, and could grant permission.  If the author (who was born in 1926) passed on before granting the rights, the rights would pass on to the estate.

The next big wave of books falling into the public domain (under the current rules) will start on January 1, 2019.   That’s when books first published in the US in 1923 that had the proper copyright notice and were properly renewed will become public domain in the US.

What about books first published in the US after 1977 with a proper copyright notice (renewal doesn’t matter at that point)?  The term is seventy years after the death of the last surviving author of the book. 

What if the author isn’t known, or if the “author” is considered to be a company?   That can get pretty deep, but let’s just say it is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever runs out first.

That’s the basic situation for the US.

Each country sets its own copyright laws and terms.  For example, the last I saw, Afghanistan didn’t have a copyright law. 

There are also some international copyright treaties, but they certainly aren’t signed by everybody.

As e-books create worldwide distribution, I think a truly international standard may emerge.   Countries won’t want to be left out of this rapidly expanding market, generally.  That will take awhile, though.

For now, there are two pretty common terms (and a bunch of other options).

The US, Europe, and Latin America tend to be Life+70 (although in the US, that only starts with works after 1977).

Africa and Asia tend to be Life+50.  Oddly, Canada is also Life+50. 

That’s only a rule of thumb, but gives you a pretty good idea.

If you get a free book from FeedBooks.com, for example, it will usually tell you if the book is legal for countries in Life+50 or in Life+70.   It’s up to you to comply with your country’s laws, in that case.

So, that covers the need to pay the rights, and why you don’t have that on a lot of older books.   Not having to have the accounting for royalties saves some money as well.

The books were already edited, so that’s done.

What about converting the books from a p-book to an e-book?  Why aren’t we paying for somebody to do that?

That’s where we can largely thank Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg.  He is an undersung hero of the modern age.  It is thanks to him that Project Gutenberg distributes free, easily read e-books.  This is no small element in the advance of e-books.  Volunteers have been digitizing books, initially by typing them (as Hart himself did first with the Declaration of Independence).  Volunteers also proofread.

Note that digitizing is not considered creating a “derivative work”, like a new translation or making a movie out of a book.  No new copyright is created.  That means that Project Gutenberg does not own the text of the book, even if they wanted to do that.  They can’t control other people using the words.

That’s led to places like FeedBooks.  They don’t all just use Project Gutenberg, but it’s a big source of titles for places like that.  That’s all legal.  Gutenberg does have a policy about using their works…if you credit Gutenberg. 

One of the things they may do is make them more interactive…which can make them less vanilla, and therefore accessible to fewer devices.  That’s something Project Gutenberg wants to avoid with their versions.

That doesn’t mean Project Gutenberg is the only places that digitizes books.  I’ve done it, working with a non-profit.  It’s a lot more work than you might think. 

First, you determine the copyright status.

Then, you scan it.  If you just have a typical scanner, that can take quite awhile.  I found I had to figure on thirty seconds for two pages, roughly.  That includes (carefully) putting the book on the scanner, getting the scan, and the initial processing.

Next, I would use OCR software (Optical Character Recognition).  That’s a program that recognizes the letters in the image created (which is like a picture…like you would get from a photocopier.

Mistakes are very common with OCR, although I won’t say I have the fanciest version.  Spots on the paper and wrinkgles may be interpreted as characters, cl could be read as a d, and so on. 

Next up: export to a word processing program and spell check. 

Then comes the visual review, the human proof-reading. 

Then it has to get into a compatible version for your audience(s).

You might want to add an interactive table of contents, format bookmarks, and so on.

As you can see, it isn’t a matter of just saying, “let’s release this an an e-book”.  :) There are lots of books that can stil be converted before the next big wave in 2019.   Unfortunately, Amazon has said that independents can no longer put public domain books into the Kindle store.   I had more books I might digitize, but now…I like being available in the Kindle store.  Even though I haven’t seen those books in e-book form anywhere else, Amazon won’t take them now.  I’m hoping they change that policy: can you tell?  ;)

Regardless, the availability of free and super low cost public domain books is one of the best things about e-books!  You can read about additional sources in my Kindle store title, Free Books for Your Kindle.

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

Alice in Kindleland

November 16, 2009

Alice in Kindleland (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

Chapter 1: Downloading the Rabbit Hole

Alice was beginning to get very tired of waiting in line with her sister at the bank, and having nothing to do. She felt very cross with herself for having left her book at home. Once or twice she had peeped into the cellphone her sister was using, but it only had pictures on it, “and what use is a picture without conversations?”

Suddenly, a White Reader ran close by her. There was nothing so remarkable in that, nor was it so unusual to hear it say, “Oh, my e-books and Whispernet! I’m late!” Alice had heard talking e-book readers before, and had always found the mispronunciations off-putting, because she was very careful about “pronounciations” herself, as Alice said it.

However, when she looked closely at the Reader’s homescreen, she saw that one of the entries was in bright purple letters. “Oh my, ” thought Alice, “I have never seen color on an e-reader before.” The words said Click Me. Alice thought back over all of the Internet privacy lessons she had learned in school, and she could not recall anything about not clicking on purple letters.  Alice was so very bored, she clicked on it.

Download, download, download! Alice felt herself being pulled into the White Reader. As she passed through the screen, the e-ink lightly dusted her hair and clothes, like the pollen from an acacia tree she had once seen at the zoo. Thinking about the zoo made her think about animals, and thinking about animals made her think of her dog, Ellen Barking.

“I wonder if Ellen would like going into an e-book reader,” Alice thought. “I’m not sure that she would like this spinning around and around.” For Alice was still spinning slowly, as she had been since passing through the screen. Either this was a very large file, or a very slow network. “It has certainly been more than sixty seconds.  Ellen does like to spin herself around before laying
down, but I don’t know if I shall end up laying down or standing up. Perhaps she could catch a frog in here…that always makes her hoppy.” Somehow, hoppy did not sound like the right word, but Alice was getting quite jumbled with all the spinning.

“I wonder if there are frogs in an e-reader. She might catch a blog. But do dogs read blogs? Or do blogs eat dogs? Oh dear, I should not like my dog being eaten, I think.”

Alice found herself alighting gently in a net. As she looked ’round, she saw a most peculiar mouse some distance away in the net. Instead of ears it had two buttons. Instead of the usual tail, it had a long cable that trailed off so that Alice could not see the end of it, if it had one.

Alice tried to call to the mouse, but found that she could not yell. In fact, she could not even use her normal “indoor voice”.

“This must be the Whispernet the White Reader mentioned,” rasped Alice.

She determined to make her way to the odd creature, as it was the only thing of interest she could see. She wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish it: she was still a little dizzy from her download, and was afraid she could fall off the net.

She began walking, which is always a good idea when you want to get somewhere. She encountered the mouse’s tail. “Curious,” said Alice. “The tail isn’t a tail at all. It seems to be a wire. And what odd little twists and turns it is taking.”

As she walked along the tail, she noticed that the bumps were making letters.

“Wire A, Wire B…”

Alice had learned her alphabet well.  She followed along, repeating each of the letters, so she would not lose her way.

As she approached the mouse, she called out the letters, still in a whisper:

“Wire S, Wire T, Wire U…”

“Why am I?” whispered the mouse, sounding very indignant. “I never! That is a very impertinent and existential question to ask someone upon first meeting a person. Why are you?”

Alice was quite taken aback by this. “That really isn’t what I meant at all. I was just reading your tail.”

“Homonyms! I quite detest homonyms. They are so ambiguous.”

While Alice had almost always paid attention in school, she wasn’t quite sure what the mouse meant, but it didn’t sound at all pleasant.

“Please, Mr. Mouse,” said Alice, making a curtsey…which is not an easy thing to do on a net. “I didn’t mean to butt in…”

“Are you making fun of my ears? Or is that another homonym?”

Alice had quite forgotten that the mouse had buttons instead of ears. She thought to herself, “I wonder how it can hear me?”

“I wasn’t making fun of them. It is true they’re quite different from other mouse ears I have seen. I have never seen other mice with buttons on their heads, I’m sure.”

“They’re and their! Now you are doing it on purpose.”

“I am not!” said Alice, who although she knew to be polite to her betters, thought that might not apply to rodents, even ones with wire tails.

At this the Mouse turned away.

Alice was afraid she had offended it, and tried to answer the question.

“I was bored, so I wanted to find–“

“Bored or board?”

“I don’t think I can be ‘board’.”

“Are you saying you have never been on a ship?”

Alice was getting more and more confused. She had once been on a small ferry, but was afraid to mention it…she knew there were “fairies” and “ferries”, and though she wasn’t entirely sure of
the difference, she had begun to understand that it was two words that sounded alike that so bothered the Mouse.

“I have,” said Alice, feeling very clever that she did not mention the type of ship.

“Then you have been aboard.”

“Now you’re doing it.”

“Annoying and confusing, isn’t it?”

“I just wanted to find…”

At this the mouse pulled out a small pad of paper and furiously scribbled on it, then handed it to Alice with a flourish.

It read, “25 pence penalty for using homonyms”

Alice complained,”25 pence?”

The Mouse smugly replied, “You said you wanted to be fined. I have fined you.”

“But I didn’t! I said I wanted to find-“

“To, two, too! Hand it back!”

The Mouse scratched out the 25 pence, and wrote instead “2 pound penalty for using homonyms”.

“There,” said the Mouse, “you have been two fined. Happy?”

Alice was not feeling happy. However, she thought, at least I am not bored. Still, she had had quite enough of the mouse.

She set off on the net, to see what other interesting things she could find.

Chapter 2: The Mad e-Party

As Alice traveled along the Whispernet, she found it had begun to gently bounce higher and then lower, as though someone had grabbed it by a side and was moving it up and down, like she did when she was
making the bed.

“I think Ellen would enjoy this,” thought Alice, as the wind blew past her face.

“Who is Ellen?” said a voice. Since the voice was a whisper, Alice wasn’t quite sure where the source was. She looked around, and saw a giant rabbit, nearly twice as large as Alice herself.

The rabbit was standing on a board that seemed to coast up and down on the net.

“It must be a surf bunny,” thought Alice, “surfing the net.”

Out loud, she said, “Ellen is my dog.”

“Oh,” said the Surf Bunny, “I don’t like dogs.”

“Do you like homonyms?” asked Alice.

“What are those?”

Alice liked the Bunny much better than the Mouse. She felt much more comfortable asking a question.

“Please, Bunny, can you help me? I am trying to find something interesting.”

“I am a specialist at finding things. Climb in my ear.”

Alice thought this might be the strangest thing she had heard since going through the e-reader screen.

“I wouldn’t fit.”

“Just wait.”

Alice watched as the Surf Bunny’s ear began to grow. As it grew, it became red and smoke came out of it. Soon, it became a perfect train engine, with the Bunny trailing behind it like the rest of the train, its fuzzy tail serving as the caboose.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing!” said Alice.

“You’ve never heard of an Engine-ear?”

“I have heard of something like it,” said Alice doubtfully.

“Like it you will! And it is not just any engine…it is a search engine! What are you trying to find?”

“Well, I was looking for something interesting.”

“Interesting…a bank account? They have interest. One million bank accounts found.”

“No, like a party.”

“Oh, I have just the thing! All aboard! Toot-toot!”

Alice took a seat in the engine, and off they went.

As they went, the Surf Bunny sang this song:

“I won’t leave you in the lurch
You want results? Use my search
You might think it’s very funny
Searching with a surfing bunny”

Alice did find it quite amusing. Suddenly, she realized that the she could hear the bunny quite clearly.

“We must have gone off the Whispernet,” said Alice.

“Yep. We can’t stay on it all the time…we’d run out of energy. Here we are!”

Alice stepped out of the engine, and it began to turn back into a bunny ear.

“Thank you, Bunny!” said Alice. She went to scratch it behind the ear (for Ellen like that very much) when suddenly she got a tremendous electric shock.

“Oh, I forgot to warn you: I’m the Conductor, too. Enjoy the e-party!”

“What is an e-party?” said Alice.

“It won’t be boring!” said the Bunny, as it left with a wave. Surfers almost never go anywhere without a wave.

“I have heard of a tea party, but not an e-party,” thought Alice.

Alice saw a table with a curious collection of creatures around it. There was a large toad, a small animal who appeared to be snoring
loudly, and a very small man with a very large top hat. “He must be a magician and that must be the party,” thought Alice.

As she got near the table, the small man jumped up.

“I don’t like you!” screamed the man, and leaping as high in the air as he could, he took a gold star from his hat and slapped it on Alice’s forehead.

“Oh!” said Alice, quite taken aback.

“Terrible reply,” said the man. “Where was the development? Where was the wit! Don’t waste your money!”

“Don’t mind him,” croaked the toad. “That’s the Mad Rater. And this is the Dormant.”

“Not useful!” screamed the Mad Rater.

“No’ useful,” mumbled the Dormant.

Suddenly, Alice heard the sound of a brass band.

She turned to look, and saw two large balloons, shaped liked the numbers 1 and 2. She thought at first that the music was coming from them. However, she soon realized there was a deflated balloon on the ground in the shape of the number three.

“How curious,” said Alice.

“Our music all comes from the Empty Three. You should know that! One star!” said the Rater.

“Emp’ee Three,” mumbled the Dormant.

Alice looked around for the toad, but didn’t see it.

“I’m here,” came the toad’s voice. “Since they voted me not useful, you have to say you want to see me, or you won’t.”

“I do want to see you,” said Alice, who had taken somewhat of a liking to the creature.

“Then now you do.”

“I do. I know you are a toad…did you say that was a dormouse?”

“A dormant. We can’t get it out of sleep mode.”

“But it was talking.”

“Yes, it can talk when asleep.”

“How can it make any sense?”

“It wouldn’t make much difference either way, I’m afraid.”

“Five stars!” screamed the Mad Rater.

“Oh. I thought you had said Dormouse. What a large number of rodents I have seen today! A mouse, a bunny, and now a dormant.”

The toad swelled itself to many times its size, and slowly let out an answer that seemed to go on for a very long time.

“A mouse is, as you suggest, properly a rodent. It is a member of the genus Mus, subfamly Murinae, Family Muridae, Superfamily Muroidea, order Rodentia. The bunny is a lagomorph, from the Greek ‘Lagos’ or hare, and the Latin ‘morph’, for shape. Hares are part of the order Lagomorpha, along with the pikas. The dormouse, which it is not, but it it was, is indeed a member of the order Rodentia, and in the suborder of Sciuromorpha.”

“Not useful!” screamed the Mad Rater and the Dormant together.

The toad disappeared again.

“I want to see you,” said Alice, and the toad appeared again.

“Why do they keep doing that? It seems quite mad.”

“It is. Not crazy, mind you, but they are both angry.”

“Why do you come here, then?”

“I like parties.”

“So do I,” said Alice. “What is your name?”

“They call me the Much Air. I do know that I tend to ramble on some times, so I don’t mind it. It is a reasonable assessment of my contributions to the conversation. I can’t help it, I just don’t seem to be able to stop talking. I enjoy it, and it seems to me that other people like it as well.”

“Not useful!” cried the Rater and the Dormant.

“You really should stop saying that,” said Alice to the pair.

“I don’t like armadillos!” screamed the Mad Rater, pulling the star off Alice’s forehead and slapping on a new one.

“I’m not an armadillo!” said Alice, who wasn’t quite sure what that was, but was quite certain she wasn’t one.

The White Reader came up along side Alice. “Let us sit.”

“Where do we sit?” asked Alice, who had just noticed that there were no chairs at the table.

“There, on that rope.”

Alice noticed a tightrope like she had seen in the circus, about a foot off the ground.

“On that?”

“Of course. You can’t go to an e-party if you aren’t on-line.”

Alice noticed a very rigid line going all the way around the table.

“What is that?”

“Those are the Guidelines. No one follows them.”

“Then why have them at all?” asked Alice.

“Not useful!” screamed the Mad Rater, looking right at Alice.

“Not useful.” mumbled the Dormant.

“Not useful,” said the White Reader quietly.

Alice felt herself disappearing.

“Come on, sleepyhead. We’re next.” Alice’s sister nudged her as a voice said, “I can help you here.”

Alice saw that it was a large bald man. He rather reminded her of the Much Air.

“Who are you?” asked Alice quizzically.

“I’m the Teller…”

The End

This story was inspired by a comment by Nicolette Rivers.  A version of it originally appeared in this thread in the Amazon Kindle community on June 23, 2009.

This version originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! Revised Google settlement filed

November 15, 2009

Haven’t had a chance to read the Amended Settlement yet…

Publishers Weekly article

I’ll comment more when I’ve looked at it.  :)

Here’s a link to a zip file of the: Amended Settement.

They are also asking for approval of this: Supplemental Notice.

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

The Kindlejammer Kids: Kids and Kindles

November 15, 2009

Some of the best presents I ever got were books.  I think literacy is an incredible super-power…seriously, if you said I could have the power of flight if I agreed never to read anything again, I’d say no. 

As adults, don’t we wish our kids had the same experiences we had reading books?  Maybe it’s giving them a special book, or just wanting them to have the incredible connection to ideas, even if it’s something that wasn’t written when we had a flashlight under the blanket.

Naturally, then, people are thinking about giving Kindles to kids.  Lots of people have, but other people worry about it.  They express serious concerns. 

In this post, I’ll look at some of those issues.

Do kids read?

Yes!  Some of the bestsellers in the past few years have been at least partially aimed at children (although enthusiastically read by adults as well, in some cases).  Here are a few as I write this:

* Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days  (#8 book at Amazon) (ages 9-12)
* Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle  (#17 book at Amazon) (ages 4-8)
* Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas (#25 book at Amazon) (ages 4-8)

Notice that those ranking aren’t for Children’s Books or Kindle books…those are the rankings for any kind of books at Amazon.  Yes, kids today read.  :)

What about teenagers?

Hello!  Twilight?  I read tons of books as a teenager, and I’m sure that’s still true for a lot of teens.

Is a Kindle too fragile for kids?

That’s a good and important question.  A Kindle is more expensive than a paperback…and more fragile.   I was really careful with books when I was a kid…still am.  It’s often hard to tell I’ve even read a book.  I’m about as careful with my Kindle, but I have dropped it a couple of times.   It’s been okay, but I do have a cover (which I strongly recommend), and I know there is some luck with that.  From what I’ve read, it’s much worse for it to land on an edge than on the flat.

However, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give my kid a Kindle at, say, ten.  Even at eight, I think.  Kids are different.  A lot of kids also have more experience with expensive electronics than I did when I was a kid (although when I was a teenager, calculators did cost a hundred bucks, I think) ;) .

I’d say you want the kid to be more careful than average…and you’ll have to figure out what happens if it breaks.  You may want to consider the extended warranty.

Isn’t it an expensive item for a kid?

Not more expensive than many videogame systems.   If you buy a lot of books, the typically lower prices and free books can have it pay for itself…but don’t get it for that reason.

Are there a lot of books for kids?

There are a lot of books, but you definitely should look at the selection.  Kids can be very brand loyal, and it may not have the specific books they want.   There aren’t a lot of picture books, but that may change with the Kindle for PC application.  The pictures on the Kinde aren’t in color, and the screen is much smaller than, say, a Dr. Seuss book.    

What about older kids who read “chapter books”?

Then, you are in luck!  There are quite a few of those.  According to Amazon, they have 14,500 Children’s Chapter Books for the Kindle.  I also need to say, they aren’t very good at categorizing those, and there are probably many more that you would put into that category.

Will they have my favorite book when I was a kid?

Maybe yes, maybe no.  If you read a lot of books first published in the US before 1923, probably yes…and they may be free!  In addition to free, there may be very low priced versions…especially for books that were in a series.

Here are some examples:

However, if your favorite books were published in the 1950s, or 1970s…some time between 1923 and 2005, the odds are not as good.  It comes down to copyright.  Books first published before 1923 in the US?  In the public domain, anybody can publish them.  Books after that?  You need permission…and e-book rights probably weren’t negotiated before about 2005, so it’s back to buying the rights again for the publisher.

It’s happening, though.  Last I checked, about 800 books a day were being added to the Kindle store.  Not too long ago, I said that the Choose Your Own Adventure books weren’t available for the Kindle: they are now.

I think there will be a lot more books in the next year or two.

Does Amazon let parents choose which websites children can visit?

The Kindle does have a clunky web browser, and yes, you could visit adult sites with it.  Let me be clear, though…it’s really clunky.  I refer to using the web browser on the Kindle as “slogging the web”.  But you could use it.  Amazon does not let you choose which websites.  You can, however, stop the Kindle from visiting websites at all.  You can deregister it.

Deregistering

It may seem strange to give a kid a Kindle that isn’t registered to your account.  However, it can be one of the best tools parents/guardians have.  A deregistered Kindle can not access the internet, and you can not buy books directly from the device. 

How will you get books on the device for your child to read?  While the device is registered to your account, you can download the books on to it.  When it gets deregistered, they don’t go away…they can still be read on the device.  So, you could get it, register it, load up a thousand books or so, and then deregister it.  Later on, you can reregister it again and add more.  Is there a limit to that?  Not that I’ve ever heard about, and I’ve read about people registering and deregistering many times.

A Kindle is not really any safer registered than deregistered, by the way.  Since the Kindle can be deregistered from the device as well, a thief can do that easily.  Just have the serial number from the back of the device in case there is an ownership dispute.  See this earlier thread about lost or stolen Kindles.

Also, there are a lot of books that don’t have Digital Right Management (DRM)…although they will come from other sources.   Those can be put directly into the Kindle’s documents folder using the included USB cord.

Another tool would be to hold on to that USB cord.  :)  It’s kind of an unusual one, so without it, it’s harder to put things on it from a computer that you don’t authorize.  Could they borrow a friend’s Kindle cable?  Sure, I don’t think there is any 100 percent way to stop somebody (pretty much anybody) from getting to information, if they are really determined to do it.  Parenting comes into play here too, of course.

What if you do want your kid to be able to buy books from the Kindle store?

You can buy directly from the Kindle, so if you leave it registered, they can do that.  This  isn’t unsupervised, though.  Every time something is bought on your account, you get an e-mail notifying you.  You can typically “return” an item within seven days for a refund. 

If your kid buys something you didn’t want them to have, act quickly.  Amazon won’t be happy if there are a hundred returns in a month from your account.  Up to you how you handle it, but I’d deregister it right away and then talk about what your child needs to do to get it reregistered.

You can also apply gift certificates to the account, and remove the credit card in the mean time.  1-click (which is how you buy things from the Kindle) will draw from the gift certificate balance first.  You can’t not use it, though…anybody buying on your account will be burning that balance. 

What if your kid loses the Kindle or somebody steals it?

That’s a risk.  I’d definitely get a TrackItBack sticker.

What about setting up a separate account for my kid?

You could do that.  Some people don’t like that their children can see what books they’ve bought, and there may be some that aren’t appropriate.  A negative is that you can’t share the books you buy as easily, but that could work.  You could deregister from your child’s account, register to yours, put books on there, and deregister again, then re-register to your kid’s account.

We’re already getting an expensive gift: is there something besides a Kindle we can get for e-book-reading?

Yes.  If you child has a iPhone or on iPod Touch, they can get a free Kindle app.  You can download the free Kindle for PC software.  If your child has a laptop or netbook or equivalent, that could work well.  Younger people seem to be better able to tolerate backlighting than older people.   I do think the Kindle is a better experience, but this is another way to go.

So, overall, I think this could be a wonderful, life-changing gift for a lot of kids.  :)  If you’ve decided to get it, I have a gift catalogue in this earlier post.

Even though there will undoubtedly be improved e-book readers in the future, I think this would be a gift that would be remembered for a long, long time.

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


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