Archive for February, 2010

Round up #15: Calibre, UK Kindle?

February 23, 2010

Round up #15: Calibre, UK Kindle?

Does Calibre now correct author names in DRM files?

When you get a book from the Kindle store, it contains information called “Metadata”.  That information isn’t intended for the reader, and it doesn’t show up when you open the book.

It’s really intended for the device showing it.  It contains, among other things, the name of the author of the book, and the title of the book.

The way it is supposed to work, the reader doesn’t interact with the metadata at all. 

The problem with that is, well, you may want to change the metadata.  For example, some books in the Kindle store list the author by first name first, and some of them by last name first.  That leads to the weird sorting you see sometimes on your homescreen.

The same goes for titles…you’ll find some where the word “The” is in the beginning, and some where it is at the end…like this: “End, The”.  It would be also nice if you could identify series the way you wanted.

One popular program to edit metadata is called Calibre.  It’s free software, and it does a lot more than that (like convert files from one type to another and get you periodicals), but right now, let’s focus on the metadata.

The problem has been that DRM (Digital Rights Management) which is used in many book files to control the uses that can be made of that file, has prevented people from making these changes.

Recently, though, it has been reported that you can edit the author metadata, even if the file has DRM.

Amazon Kindle Community thread

I have not tested this out myself yet…I do have Calibre, but just haven’t had the chance.  Hmmm…on consideration, I wonder if this violates the Amazon Terms of Service?  You aren’t reverse-engineering anything…I’ll have to think about that one.   I’m reasonably comfortable that it doesn’t violate copyright.

UK Kindle

Right now, everybody shops for Kindle books from the same website (Amazon.com).  Based on your country as indicated in the

Manage Your Kindle page

you are told which books you can buy.  You may see others, by the way.

Those books vary considerably. 

Would it make a difference if people shopped from the Amazon site (Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, UK) closest to them?

Probably not, in terms of e-books.  That seems to be handled reasonably well by the main site.

However, Europeans (for example) are missing some of the best things from the US store: free books, and blogs like this one.  :)

In a recent article in The Scotsman

Amazon faces a fight in new chapter for e-book

there was an interesting statement attributed to Brian McBride, Amazon’s managing director for Amazon.co.uk since 2006.

The article said that McBride said “…there are plans to introduce a dedicated UK version of Kindle.”

Hmm…I wonder why that’s important? It certainly could make the device cheaper, if you could avoid import fees.  It wouldn’t really make much difference for the available books, though.

One interesting thing…it could come with a British English accented voice.   That may sound funny (not the voice, the idea).  ;)  British people hear American voices a lot in the media, just as the reverse is true.   Still, it may seem weird to them to listen to Alice in Wonderland and not hear British pronunciations.

“Ha!” you say.   “They wouldn’t develop a new voice just for that!”

They don’t need to develop anything.  Amazon didn’t develop the voice of the Kindle, they just licensed software from Nuance. 

Nuance already makes a British English voice…three of them, in fact.  They also have an Irish and Scottish one.

You can hear those voices, plus a wide variety of other voices, here:

Nuance demo voices

Does that need a whole new Kindle, though? 

I think we will likely get the ability to select a voice at some point.  Digital Text Platform publishers can now publish in a variety of languages, and to get the new seventy percent royalty structure that’s coming, they have to allow text-to-speech.  However, the American English voice of Tom just doesn’t do a good job with other languages.  That would be a lot to take away from people who bought non-English books.

Could it be that we’ll get the choice for other voices in the near future, to go along with the books in other languages? 

All of the authorized DTP languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish) have voices from Nuance…more than one, in several cases.  For instance, they have both Portuguese voices for both Brazil and Portugal.  We can currently switch between two genders for American English, so they could probably switch between the two.

I have suggested before that dedicated EBRs for certain language markets make sense…but that’s primarily ones with different alphabets.

It seems a bit silly to me to need a different device, but we can’t really help that with a physical keyboard.  People want Cyrillic and Asian languages, which I completely appreciate.  How are you going to enter search terms, though?

That’s one place where the iPad (and other devices that use a virtual keyboard) may have an advantage.  I assume you can just summon a keyboard with the appropriate character set.

By the way, I thought I’d see if Amazon is carrying the iPad yet.  When I searched for it, I did find a few accesories…and the Kindles came up as well.  :)

The Kindle Kandle

My birthday just went by (I was born on the same date as Lincoln, Darwin…and Arsenio Hall), and one of the things I got was the Kindle Kandle.  That’s a booklight specifically designed for the Kindle (any EBR, pretty much).  It’s quite different from most…it doesn’t have a big neck apparatus, but it’s more like one of those clips you would use to close a bag of potato chips. 

The light does work, as a light.  I can read the Kindle (I have the US only version of the six inch).  Depending on where I put the clip, though, there is quite a bit of overspill.

That’s one concern I have…where to put the clip.  I read with my Kindle inside an M-Edge platform cover.   That cover (which I really like) flips over the top rather than opening side to side.  I can get the clip on the top of the Kindle, but it’s kind of a squeeze and I’m concerned about stretching out the elastic that holds in the Kindle.  I can clip the light on the side of the cover…there is a lip there.  That works okay, but the lip is only on one side, so there is considerable spill on the other side.  I still need to play with how I’m going to adjust the light itself.

The bigger concern I had was getting into the battery compartment.  First, the instructions are tiny…I missed making the text size bigger!  They could maybe let us get to a text file…maybe they do on their website, I didn’t check.  That’s okay, I got by that.

The battery cabinet door, though, uses a micro screw…I don’t know if that’s the right term (I’m not a hardware person), but I needed a teeny tiny screwdriver to remove it (like you would use for glasses).  Fortunately, I had one where I could find it.  After I took the cover off, there were already batteries there…they had given me an extra set, which is nice.

 I also don’t know yet how long the batteries will last.

So, summing up, it is the best light solution I’ve had so far.  I like that it is a low profile, so it fits in a pocket more easily than the long-neck styles.  I don’t like the tiny screws, and the light does spill over.  However, I would say you might want to think about it.  It is $25, which is relatively expensive for a booklight.

Kindlelove has been recommending that people may want to wait to buy a light until the Octovo light is released, and other tech writers who have seen seem to agree that it is a good device.  Kindlelove’s

review

does a nice job of comparing the various lights.

The Measured Circle

You know what’s protecting you ILMK readers from articles on Avatar, corn-syrup filled action figures, and schools spying on students with webcams?  My new blog, The Measured Circle.  :)  If you enjoy the style of ILMK, you might want to give it a free trial for your Kindle.

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

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

February 22, 2010

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

Is being offended a choice?

When you read a book, you may run across something that would really offend you if somebody said it to you. 

However, somebody didn’t say it to you.  It wasn’t said to anybody in particular.  It might even have been said one hundred years ago.

Does that make a difference?

 Are you able to read a book, come across an epithet (racial or otherwise), a demeaning portrayal of a woman, a homophobic characterization, and just shrug it off?

That’s a question that has become particularly relevant in the world of e-books. 

I considered writing about this in my more general interest blog, The Measured Circle, but the issue is particularly acute in e-books.

In a way dissimilar to movies or TV, e-books have recently made available works from another time.  Since books first published in the US prior to 1923 are in the public domain, they are no longer under copyright protection.  Anyone can publish them, without getting (or paying for) permission from the author.

That means we see a lot of books that were written in another time, decades, even more than a century ago.

The culturally accepted norms were different then.   Cole Porter may have said in 1934 that Anything Goes, that wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.  What specifically goes changes.  While many people would suggest that violence and sexual content has become more graphic and more acceptable, derogatory treatement of women and minorities may have become less so.

While I like to think that’s because people have actually become more willing to think of others as equals, there may be a simple financial reason.  As minorities and women have gained more purchasing power (and more influcence over what purchases are being made), publishers may have become more sensitive to offending those possible customers.

So, one reason why you are seeing more things that may be offensive to modern sensibilities is that you are seeing more things from earlier times.

Another issue is the idea of “bundles”.  Since production and distribution costs are very different, it’s essentially as inexpensive (once you have the files) to distribute fifteen books in one file as it is to distribute a single book.  If you have to look at the costs of putting out each individual paperbook, you might not release a controversial title in a series.  The sales might be lower for that one, and that could affect your sales on the others.

The other issue with bundles is that you want to distinguish your version from other versions, and one way to do that is to make yours more inclusive. 

Let’s take a particular example.

I’m a big fan of the Land of Oz.  I’ve paid more than fifty dollars for a single volume.  I have copies in my collection that are more than one hundred years old.  The series was started by L. Frank Baum, but continued by others until there were forty books in the “canon”.

After the books fell into the public domain, other authors put their own spin on it…from Philip Jose Farmer’s A Barnstormer in Oz to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.

Many readers went took the journey through the land with a nice trade paperback reprint series which came out mostly in the 1980s.  It included titles which were (and are) still under copyright protection…it was an authorized set.

However…

That reprint series did not include an Oz book by L. Frank Baum.  The book features a popular character who appears in several other volumes, the punning and pompous professor, H.M. Wogglebug, T.E. 

Why did they leave it out?

It’s based on a stage play, but that’s not enough of a reason.  Stage plays were part of Oz from the beginning.

Presumably, it’s because it is largely based on ethnic humor.  The Wogglebug has come to the United States, and encounters a number of stereotyped characters.  Perhaps most significantly, it contains what we now call “the N word”.

That particular word is a good example of a real problem.  I can’t hear (or read) that word without being pulled up short.  In the case of The Woggle-Bug Book, it is used in a dehumanizing way, a way that we would clearly find objectionable today.

It struck me differently when used in Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley, which I was reading as part of The Classic Mystery Collection (which is more than 100 works for a dollar).   I was really impressed while I was going through that book…I thought the writing was very good. 

Then, it happened.  In a simple throwaway (one character recalling a song another character sang), the N word appears.  It isn’t used in a deliberately insulting manner.  There isn’t a context denigrating a group of people.

Yes, it still bothered me that it was there.  That is partially because of the associations I have with the word, of course…associations shaped by the time in which I live and the way it has been used in my lifetime.

Should I forgive the word being in that book because of the Chronological Cultural Context? 

I’m not completely sure.  I definitely would want anybody to know that it is in the book before they bought it.  I tend to be an all or nothing person…if that word is wrong in some contexts, I’ll tend to think it is wrong in all contexts.  If a young person read that book, they’d be desensitized to a potentially explosive word.

Should a book be banned because it has a particular word?  I’d say no.  I think if people want to read books that include insulting words or obscenities (I don’t use the F word myself, but many people do and find it acceptable in literature), I think that shouldn’t be a government decision.

I do think they should be made aware of it ahead of time, though.  Some may see that as a form of censorship…it would be pretty hard to do a stigma-free notification.  Look at the current movie rating system as an example.

It’s not just specific words, it’s the way groups of people may be portrayed.  I have a harder time with sexist material in science fiction written in the 1950s, for example, than I do with ethnic material from the 1880s.  Why is that?  I think because the political struggle for women’s equality is more a part of my time.   I am better able to “suspend my disgust” over a stereotypical performance of an ethnicity in an 1880s book than I am over a “helpless female” in the 1950s. 

Now, sci fi in the 1950s (and even earlier) did tend to portay women better (in some cases) than other literature.  That may be because they could set women’s political equailty (and in some cases, superiority) in a “fantasy” world. 

However, I remember watching The Creature from the Black Lagoon with a young female relative.  I like that movie: I like most of the Universal horror movies (even though this isn’t part of the original group of those).    Kay (Julie Adams) is not particularly portrayed as helpless.  When the gill-man attacks in one scene, though, my young relative was confused: “Why doesn’t she hit him?”  Good point…the otherwise capable Kay basically stands there while the males try to fight off the creature.

Do I excuse that as being consistent with the times?

I’m leaving this one open…I’ll welcome your comments.  Should a book be condemned because it is racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, if that was the cultural context in which the book was written?  What if the book has other positive elements? 

What do you think?

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

Freebie flash! Noir teddy bears, a clairvoyant bassett hound, and a megachurch…oh my!

February 21, 2010

Freebie flash!  Noir teddy bears, a clairvoyant bassett hound, and a megachurch…oh my!

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and they come from a company that is not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech.   As promotional titles, they may not be free for long.

My Name Is Russell Fink 
by Michael Snyder
Published by Zondervan (a faith-based publisher)

This one looks interesting.   It would be 368 pages in paper, so that’s a full novel.  It claims to have a “postmodern” style, similar to Nick Hornby.  There’s a mystery and it seems like it might be pretty wild.

Amberville
by Tim Davys
Published by HarperCollins

Woo-hoo!  I’m happy to see one that isn’t published by Zondervan…not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I do like variety.

So, apparently, this one has to deal with living stuffed animals…as in toys.  It’s also noir…I guess maybe like Roger Rabbit with a makeover by Steiff?  It’s translated, and seems to be pretty well known.  I’m looking forward to this one!

The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher: A Novel
by Rob Stennett
Published by Zondervan

This one is supposed to be a satire.   23 5-star ratings on Amazon (out of 28 total), that’s a pretty good sign. 

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

Focus on free #3: Internet Sacred Text Archive

February 21, 2010

Focus on #3: Internet Sacred Text Archive

This is the third in a series of posts that highlight a place to get free e-books.  You can find articles in that series here.

There are all kinds of specialty bookstores: mystery, science fiction, cookbooks, and so on.  The odds are pretty good that a large city will have at least one “occult” or “paranormal” bookstore.  Bible stores are also common.

The internet has a site like that for free e-books.  It’s called the Internet Sacred Text Archive.

It’s been online for over ten years.

Now, before you surf off to find another romance of teen vampire novel, let me point out that this site may be more diverse than you expect.

Sure, you can get the Bible here.  Yes, you can get the Bhagavad Gita (in English or Sanskrit).

As is pointed out in the intentionally amusing FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions),

“Not everything at this site is a sacred text in the strict sense.”

Um, yes.   For example, they have books on UFOs, the Iliad…even fiction, including the works of Lord Dunsany.  Some people may treat The Lord of the Rings like it’s a religion, and there is even a category for Tolkien.

That brings up an important point, though.  Almost everything here is in the public domain…Lord of the Rings is not.   They are clear about that…you won’t get something (probably) thinking it is something else.  The Tolkien section contains works that probably influenced Tolkien.

Here is their set of topics:

  • African
  • Age of Reason
  • Alchemy
  • Americana
  • Ancient Near East
  • Astrology
  • Asia
  • Atlantis
  • Australia
  • Basque
  • Baha’i
  • Bible
  • Book of Shadows
  • Buddhism
  • Celtic
  • Christianity
  • Classics
  • Comparative
  • Confucianism
  • DNA
  • Earth Mysteries
  • Egyptian
  • England
  • Esoteric/Occult
  • Evil
  • Fortean
  • Freemasonry
  • Gothic
  • Gnosticism
  • Grimoires
  • Hinduism
  • I Ching
  • Islam
  • Icelandic
  • Jainism
  • Journals
  • Judaism
  • Legends/Sagas
  • Legendary Creatures
  • LGBT
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mormonism
  • Mysticism
  • Native American
  • Necronomicon
  • New Thought
  • Neopaganism/Wicca
  • Nostradamus
  • Oahspe
  • Pacific
  • Paleolithic
  • Parapsychology
  • Philosophy
  • Piri Re’is Map
  • Prophecy
  • Roma
  • Sacred Books of the East
  • Sacred Sexuality
  • Shakespeare
  • Shamanism
  • Shinto
  • Symbolism
  • Sikhism
  • Sub Rosa
  • Swedenborg
  • Tantra
  • Taoism
  • Tarot
  • Thelema
  • Theosophy
  • Time
  • Tolkien
  • UFOs
  • Utopia
  • Women
  • Wisdom of the East
  • Zoroastrianism

Looking at that list, don’t you love that there is a “Miscellaneous” category?  ;)

There are a lot of interesting titles…some may be familiar to you, many won’t.  From Shakespeare, to J.B. Rhine, to Madame Blavatsky, to UFO classics by Edward Ruppelt and Donald Keyhoe, this practically defines eclectic. 

In a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore, some of these would be in Religion, some would be in Occult (or New Age), some would be in Philosophy, some would be in Fiction.

Here’s a key thing.

A lot of people sort of assume that all of the free e-books on the web were taken from Project Gutenberg.  Certainly, that site is the source of a lot of material…they’ve been digitizing e-books for a long time.  Since the books are in the public domain (generally, no longer under copyright protection), that’s legal to do.  It’s also sort of the point of Project Gutenberg…to make information available.

ISTA has a lot of books that aren’t at PG.  J.B. (John Bruno) Hare, who runs the site, can be credited for a lot of the work of digitizing the books, although the site nicely lists several volunteers who have contributed time and effort to making these texts available.

Some come from other internet sources as well, but if you are looking for something different, this site is a good bet.

Kindle friendliness

Unfortunately, this is not the most Kindle friendly site, although it can certainly be used effectively with your Kindle (I have).

Some of the books are available in the Kindle store, and there will be links to those.  When you get the books that way, though, they won’t be free…publishers using the Digital Text Platform (DTP) aren’t allowed to make them free.

You typically have a few choices. 

You can read the book online.  That’s nice at lunch at work, but it’s never really caught on.  When you don’t download a file, you don’t have that much control over it.  For technical reasons, they also break the online experience into separate pages for separate chapters.   That means you can’t search a book that easily (although the site does have a search).  If you know what you want, you can search through all the texts, and it’s quite quick. Limiting it to one book is harder.

More people may read books online with the advent of the iPad.  At least, that will make it simpler to carry around a fairly large web portal.

Another option is to download the book.  What you typically will download is a text file (no pictures, which you will have online).  Once you download the text, you can put it into your Kindle’s documents folder (see this earlier post).  However, and this is important, you will be downloading a zipped file, and you’ll need to unzip it first.  Many of you know about Winzip, but they use a different program called Gzip.  You can get a free unzipper here: 7-Zip at CNET.

A “zipped” file is one that has been compressed by removing things to make it smaller so you can download, share, and store it more easily.  While in the zipped form, it can’t be read easily by a human being.  The unzipper restores it its original format so a person can read it.  It’s sort of like condensed milk…just add water (but don’t actually use water). ;)

Once you unzip it, it will be a text file, which you can read on many EBRs, including the Kindle, nook (sic), and Sony.

The other big option is to buy a CD or DVD from the site, and then transfer those files.  That helps support the site, and makes things much easier.

Summary:

Overall, this is a good site, with a sense of humor and of the public good (both things of which I approve).  It’s nice to have books which aren’t available everywhere else.  It could be a bit technically easier to use, but isn’t beyond a somewhat sophisticated computer user.  The adventurous reader can find some real hidden treasures here.

I’m going to leave the last word to the the last line of the well-written FAQ:

Q: What about the quiz?
A: There is no quiz. Nor is there any cake.

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

IREX Digital Reader 800SG

February 20, 2010

IREX Digital Reader 800SG

While the name of this blog is I Love My Kindle, I do look at and write about other EBRs (E-Book Readers) as well. 

IREX has been in the EBR business for several years, but has recently (February 15th) released a new model.

Official Site

First, the basics:

It does download wirelessly, which I consider a minumum requirement for a modern EBR (as I also consider E Ink).  In the US, it will use Verizon 3G.   Many will consider that an advantage over the more recent Kindle models, which have switched to AT&T.  However, the switch to AT&T was precipitated by the desire to have wireless outside the US…the IREX says explicitly that 3G will only be available in the US.  You will be able to buy things using your computer and transferring with a cable…again, similar to the Kindle.   However, since the main content provider is the Barnes & Noble store, and the store is not available to nook (sic) users outside the US, I assume that’s the case here as well.

It has an 8.1 inch display (using the same Vizplex E Ink technology as the nook, Sony, and Kindle).   That’s between the Sony, nook, and basic Kindle (6″) and the Kindle DX (9.7 inches).  The iPad, which I don’t consider an EBR (although it will have the ability to read books on it…as computers do), is also 9.7″.

How is the cost?

It’s $399.99.  That’s the price at which it is available through the Best Buy website.  It’s reportedly not in stores yet, but only through the website.

That’s not too bad.  That’s $49.38 per inch of screen…that’s right in line with the Kindle DX. 

EBR Diagonal Dollars Dollars/inch
Kindle, nook 6  $ 259.00  $     43.17
Sony Daily 7.1  $ 399.00  $     56.20
IREX 800SG 8.1  $ 399.00  $     49.38
Kindle DX 9.7  $ 489.00  $     50.41

How you interact with it is a bit strange.  It does have a touchscreen, but you use a stylus for that.  That at least keeps the fingerprints off it, but it does mean that you have to keep track of that tool.   There is also a rocker bar kind of arrangement that you can use to change pages.

As to formats, this is where it gets interesting.  Once you get an EBR, I think the main concern is content…books and periodicals, mostly.

For books with Digital Rights Management (DRM), it supports EPUB, Adobe PDF, and Barnes and Noble’s Reader software.

No mobi, which is a bit odd, because I believe the previous two IREX EBR’s did support mobi.

The really strange thing is that it doesn’t say it supports any other non-DRM formats…no mobi, no text, no HTML…that’s going to cut out free books from a lot of third party sources.  It says you can read personal documents, but that seems to mean PDFs, mostly.

These are the file formats it says can be opened on your IREX:

PDF, ePub, PDB, NP, JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, BMP

The last five are all picture formats.

One of the big attractions of this device is going to be the available newspapers.  Users will be able to get content from

Newspaper Direct 

and

LibreDigital 

That’s supposed to be over 1000 titles…much, much more than the Kindle store (although Kindleers can use Press Display, those aren’t in the Kindle store).

Here’s another feature the Kindle doesn’t have…you can manually set the clock.  :)

It does not appear to have either the ability to play music or do text-to-speech.

It does allow for choosing different text sizes (there are four of them), and in a nice touch, it will remember the size you chose for a specific document.

You charge it through USB, which is one of my favorite things about my K2 (as opposed to my old K1).

You can change from landscape to portrait, similar to all Kindles except the K1.

It does have a micro SD memory card slot. 

There is a virtual keyboard that you can summon to the screen, and then use the stylus to click the keys.

It has an airplane mode, and it’s nice to call it that.  That means you’ll turn off the wireless while flying…may be more convincing to the flight crew to show them that it is in “airplane mode”. 

You can see a thumbnail of the cover in your Homescreen…you visually oriented folks will like that. 

You can sort by author, title, and recently read..similar to the Kindle.  However, you can also sort by recently added…it’s kind of nice to be able to separate those two.

No user-definable folders.

They did an interesting thing with page numbers.  If you increase the text size so that page 1 flows on to two pages, they will both be numbered Page 1.  Some people have suggested that for the Kindle as well. 

While they refer to the section as “Annotating”, it appears it is just bookmarking…not writing a note, such as can be done on the Kindle.

One of the clunky things seems to be setting up the device.  You need to have an Adobe account, a MYIREX account, and I think a Barnes and Noble account.  You may already have some of these, but if you don’t, they say you can register your device in under fifteen minutes.  That sounds like getting a bicycle for a birthday with “some assembly required”.  :) 

You can adjust the margins.

You can choose whether you turn pages from left to right or right to left.  That could be helpful, if you are reading the books in certain languages.

It appears to me that you only get one device license at a time.  In other words, if you have two devices in the family, you can’t read a DRM protected PDF or EPUB on both of them. 

The device comes with 128MB of onboard memory…that’s not much!  Even the Kindle 1 had 180MB.   However, since you can use an SD card, and you can’t play sound files (including audiobooks), you don’t need as much memory…onboard.

Here was a fascinating limitation buried in the FAQs:

I can’t open books from books.google.com 
 
This is due to the fact that the majority of the books on books.google.com are composed of scanned images which are converted into an A4 sized PDF. This means that the iLiad has to re-scale and render all these images for the smaller iLiad screen and this consumes a lot of memory which is not available on the iLiad. So the iLiad runs out of memory and stops the operation 

 

That’s something a lot of people don’t understand.  Having EPUB or PDF capability doesn’t mean you can read everything in those formats.

Summary

For people who mostly want to read newspapers and magazines, this may be a reasonable choice.  That’s also true for people who want to read the Barnes and Noble books on a larger screen. 

However, my guess is that people will find using the stylus a bother.  You want to look for a word in a document?  You need the stylus.  No web surfing, no music…not key reading functions, but fun to have.  More important for other people will be the lack of text-to-speech and no audiobooks. 

The bigger problem may be the competition that is coming.  The iPad is clearly going to compete with this, even with its lack of E Ink.  The iPad will actually have a larger screen.  A bigger head-to-head problem may be the Skiff.  11.5 inch E Ink screen, 4GB of memory, audio…they’d better sell as many iRexes as they can before the Skiff comes out later this year.

Further information

Knowledge Base 

Download the manual and the quickstart guide

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

Flash! Amazon expands languages for DTP publishers

February 19, 2010

Amazon has its DTP (Digital Text Platform), which enables independent publishing of works for the Kindle.

In this press release, dated February 19, they announce that they are allowing DTP books in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.  With books already able to be published in English, French, and German, that brings DTP languages up to six.

Why does Amazon limit the languages at all? Well, part of it has to do with the character sets on the Kindle.  However, since they are reviewing books before publication, I assume they have to have employees who can read the languages in question as well.

They also say that additional languages will be offered in the future.

The DTP is one of the things that can set Amazon apart from the other e-bookstores, and will be an alternative source of content for people who don’t like some of the policies employed by members of The Big Six traditional publishers.

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

You know you’ve made the switch to e-books when…

February 19, 2010

You know you’ve made the switch to e-books when…

  • You run your finger along the top of a paperback before you set it down to put it to sleep
  • You refer to Barnes & Noble as “that coffee shop”
  • You stare steadfastly at a word on a page in a hardback, willing it to give you its definition
  • You forget to put a bookmark in a paperback, assuming it will remember your page when you open it again
  • Your significant other asks you for the entertainment section in the newspaper, and you aren’t sure if it’s okay to share it
  • You go on a vacation and pack your Kindle in its own otherwise empty carry-on…just for old time’s sake
  • It bothers you that all the books on your bookshelf at home aren’t the same height
  • You hear that line in the old Patty Duke Show theme, “one pair of matching bookends”, and have no idea what it means
  • Your kid says the school needs some newspaper to make a paper mache swan…and you pay somebody ten bucks for an old one
  • You have no idea when the next library bag sale is
  • You try to teach your dog to fetch the welcome mat…because there’s nothing else interesting on the stoop
  • You had no idea the Winter Olympics were on…you thought Scott Hamilton was talking about Hans Brinker
  • You realize you misplaced your reading glasses…three weeks ago
  • You think a “bookworm” is a computer virus
  • You’ve forgotten that the Amazon is a river is South America
  • Somebody asks you what you are reading, and they walk away before you finish the list
  • You are afraid to read Thomas Wolfe, because you really want to go Home again
  • You’ve used the word backquote in conversation
  • You’ve stopped folding your laundry, because you figure if your Kindle can’t have folders, neither can your family
  • The coach asks you to line up by last name in your gym class…and you can’t decide which one is your last name
  • You open your menu in the restaurant expecting to see what time it is
  • You refuse to pay more than $9.99…for anything
  • You refer to your group of friends as a “bundle”
  • You don’t know who wrote the book you are reading
  • Your friend went on a blind date, and you ask if they 1-clicked with the other person
  • Your Significant Other says, “We need to talk” and you ask to hear a sample before deciding if you want to have the conversation
  • The color changes on the stoplight and you can’t remember which one is red
  • You start referring to your clothes as “covers”
  • You put a TrackItBack sticker on your kid
  • You refer to a night with your Sony as “going EPUB crawling”, so people will think you actually left the house
  • You go into a police station to file a “missing Harry Potter” report
  • Your very happy to not have to carry two books with you, in case you finish one…but you always have a booklight and headphones
  • Your Kindle has more outfits than a Barbie doll
  • You put a Kindle on your kid’s head when you mark the wall to show how much they’ve grown
  • Your Significant Other has forgotten what your nose looks like
  • You look at bookshelves at Ikea and think they might be too big.  Then, you wonder how they would look with flowers or canned goods on them
  • You know the difference between a curricle and a cabriolet
  • You’ve actually read for fun those books they made you read in high school
  • You can’t believe how thick paperbooks are
  • You put your finger on a chapter name in the table of contents in a paperbook…and when it doesn’t take you there, you close it, drive home, and try it again
  • You’ve read a book in your shower…inside a Ziploc bag
  • On the other hand, you once sat in your car for three hours waiting for the rain to stop…because you left your Ziploc in the trunk
  • You’ve stopped capitalizing proper nouns that start with “N”…since you got your nook
  • You really hope that attractive stranger doesn’t come and ask you a question, because you’d really like to just sit there and read
  • You choose your restaurants based on how the lighting is
  • You’ve actually used your booklight in a movie theatre waiting for the show to start
  • You lost weight, quit smoking, and started exercising because you figured out you can’t finish your to-be-read books until you are 98
  • You have a charger for your EBR in more than one room
  • The battery in your flashlight dies…and you mail it to Ray-O-Vac for a replacement
  • You bought a Solio solar charger for your EBR, in case an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all technology
  • You wonder why the Alexandrians didn’t just download the books again
  • You hope you get stuck on the tarmac for at least an hour
  • You’ve decided that the old saying, “The best things in life are free” must refer to books
  • You can name more people from an online forum than you can name coworkers
  • When you move, you don’t have to buy any of those extra sturdy boxes…and your friends who help you move still like you
  • You have ever called your Significant Other by the name you gave to your Kindle
  • You have tested out a new purse before buying it by slipping your EBR inside
  • You can close your eyes right now and put your hand on your EBR
  • You refer to hogging your TV remote control as “Digital Rights Management”
  • You wonder if it’s possible to get an expansion slot for your head
  • You think less of a friend because they bought a different EBR than the one you use
  • You are happy you broke your leg and are stuck in bed for a month
  • You won’t buy a house until you check how the 3G coverage is
  • You always pronounce the word “read” as “reed”
  • You actually “reed” through a thousand words of the ways that you know you made the switch to e-books ;)

Do you have any other good ones?  Let me know!

Disclosure: I am required to disclose that TrackItBack sent me some stickers after I mentioned them.  I did not know ahead of time that they were going to do that.

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

A little warning for the traditional publishers

February 18, 2010
Picture of Buggy Whip at Amazon sayng "not available"

They were once market leaders, too

Just kidding…

Thanks to reader (and author) David Derrico for making a comment that prompted this little unedited visual.  :)  One of his text-to-speech enabled novels is Right Ascension.  I have no other connection with him…but I am going to get a sample.  :)

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

Flash! Kindle for Blackberry now available!

February 18, 2010

You can now get the free

Kindle for Blackberry app!

People have been waiting for this for some time. 

This lets you read Kindle books on your Blackberry.  You can also get it by amazon.com/kindlebb on your Blackberry.

Here is the

press release

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

A Loss for Words

February 17, 2010

The bookstore has been locked.

There is a velvet rope, and a bouncer at the door.

You can wait in line, like everybody else.  Your money is good.  You have a lot to contribute.

When you get to the front, the one-headed Cerberus looks you up and down.  You are handed a piece of paper.

You look at it.  It’s in some language you don’t know.  It doesn’t make any sense to you.  You can’t read it. 

The guard’s face is impassive.  You aren’t told to leave.  You aren’t told anything.   Somehow, you know that asking a question is useless.  You search the eyes for some answer.  They aren’t cold, they aren’t hard…it’s as if you aren’t even there. 

The next person in line pushes past you.  It’s nothing personal.  You are just in the way.

You move away slowly and join a crowd of the rejected. 

You search the faces in your group for some clue….what was wrong with you?   It’s not obvious.  Certainly, a number of you are older…past fifty, anyway.   There are a couple of people with guide dogs.  There’s one person in a wheelchair with a mechanism holding a book in a clamp.  With others, you can’t see any common factor at all.

All you want to do is buy some books.  

You ask if anybody knows where else you can go to spend your money.

One person knows about a place you can order some books through the mail.

Another knows a little store that will sell you something…but they only have a few books.

There’s a charity that will give them to you.  You don’t really want charity, though.  You have the money!  You just want to buy a book, like everybody else!  You don’t want to use public resources.  You don’t want to be at the mercy of whatever books they happen to have. 

You look at all the bestsellers in the window.  The latest novel from your favorite author.  An important political book on an issue that was the source of hours of argument in your home last election.  Hey, there’s a stupid self help book you would never read…you can’t even buy that.

You start to walk away.  As you move further down the line, you notice that it’s starting to look more like your group as you get further away from the door.  The people who got there first aren’t like the people who got there later.

You wonder how the bookstore is going to stay in business if they keep turning people away.

Does the E in e-book stand for “Excluded”?

I went to bed sad last night, and woke up with this first on my mind.

Another major publisher has begun blocking text-to-speech in Kindle books.

I don’t know why this one is such a greater weight on my spirits.  I’ve never had such a hard time writing something.  I’m actually having a hard time writing anything this morning.  I’d started a humor piece, and I’ll finish it.  But I’m not feeling in a very joyful way.

It could be because this is number four of the Big Six to follow this business strategy.  Is it just because that makes it the majority?

Is it because I really enjoyed reading a recent novel which I see now that people who need the text-to-speech can’t do?

That might be it.  I listened to parts of that novel…sight-read other parts of it.  I don’t need the text-to-speech, it’s just fun and convenient for me. 

Other people do.  Yes, there are alternatives.  But going into the store, looking at that book, and seeing “Text-to-Speech: Not enabled” barrier…I felt bad for people who just want to buy the book.

I rarely get mad…that’s just not who I am.  I don’t think publishers are doing this because they want to hurt anybody.

I think it does hurt people, though.

Yes, there are alternatives…they are inconvenient and complicated. 

The text-to-speech on the Kindle was a huge breakthrough for those with print disabilities.  They could get books at the same place and at the same time  everybody else did…even share them with the family.    They didn’t need special equipment, or special editions.   They didn’t have to be different.

It’s important to understand that it didn’t cost the publishers anything to let people have it.  Amazon licensed software for the Kindle.  Nuance developed it, Amazon paid for it.   If publishers did nothing, it worked.

Publishers have done something though, in increasing numbers.  They’ve said you can’t have text-to-speech in Kindle books.  It doesn’t matter if you have a print disability…a vision issue, or a debilitating condition that makes it hard for you to hold books and turn the pages.  It doesn’t matter if you just want to keep reading in the car.

I think this restricts the market for e-books.  Look around you at your friends and family…how many of them are going to benefit from text-to-speech?  If not now, as their challenges increase with age?

Why would they refuse those customers?

They’ve said it’s to protect the audiobook market.  I don’t think the evidence is there that text-to-speech hurts the audiobook market.  My guess is that it may actually help audiobooks, by accustoming people to listening to books.  It was recently indicated to me that one publisher wants to keep audiobooks separate from e-books.

Text-to-speech is not an audiobook.   Not legally, not functionally.

You know what I think?

I think they don’t want to give you something for nothing.  I think, more than that, they want to delay the adoption of e-books.

E-books level the playing field.  Right now, the twin barriers of production and distribution make it hard for small publishers to get much of the market.  E-books remove those hurdles.

The longer the Big Six can stretch out the dominance of paper, the bigger advantage they’ll have.  That’s a business argument to raise the prices, delay the releases…block text-to-speech.

They’ll probably give you all of that back if they start losing marketshare to the independents.  It’s a free expansion of your market.  You can announce it with great fanfare. 

They can’t wait too long.  Over the next year or two, people’s loyalties will realign.  Market leaders get passed up when they overestimate loyalties. 

Amazon, by the way, is trying to encourage text-to-speech.  To get the new seventy percent royalty option that’s coming, that is one of the conditions.  You have to enable text-to-speech.

That’s something.  You may not be able to read that book that was on TV or on the radio or in a magazine.  You might not be able to read the book that everybody is talking about.  But you will have something to read.

That gives me some hope, and hope is the anti-venom for the poison of disappointment. 

I’ll smile later.  I don’t stay sad for long.   I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing.  It will still bother me, but it won’t stop me.  I think making people happy, increasing the amount of joy in the world is important.  I’ll still try and be funny.  :)

I’m going to miss buying and reading books from those publishers.  I’ll miss telling you about those books.  I’ll feel sad for the people who lose the benefit of text-to-speech.

But I’ll look forward to the future.  Things may get worse, but then they get better.   People shape society, and I believe that people want other people’s lives to improve.  Look at opportunities one hundred years ago, and look at them now.

You can’t stop progress.

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


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