Archive for November, 2009

Round Up #6: Welcome QVC shoppers, Cyber Monday

November 30, 2009

Welcome QVC shoppers

It’s kind of cool that I can see some of where people start out to get to this blog.  One of the highest referrers ever has been… QVC, the TV shopping channel!  Somebody asked about the Sony e-book reader on the QVC community, and i_speak_for_me linked them here (thanks, i!). 

Well, I haven’t really summed up the differences between the three in one quick spot…I’ve written a lot on the Kindles 😉 , and a post each on the nook (sic) and the Sony Reader Daily Edition.

In case you are coming here looking for that sort of top level comparison, I thought I’d do that in this post.  I’ll also link to the other two posts, which will give you a lot more detail and links to more.

I define a modern e-book reader (EBR) as having a wireless way to get books and an E Ink screen.  This is my ranking of the four that really fit that, top to bottom:

#4 The Kindle DX 

This is my bottom of the four…not that there’s anything wrong with it, and if you get one, you’ll probably love it.  It’s really a matter of cost and timing.  It’s currently $489.  The next one down is $399, and then $259 for the other two.  You are paying for a bigger screen.  The timing issue is that there is a new version of this model coming out next year (2010).  When it comes out, it will have international capability.  That may not matter to you, but in all likelihood, the Kindle DX will be reduced in price around that time.  I just don’t want you to have buyer’s remorse when a “better” version is released and this one gets cheaper.  I don’t normally say to wait for something that kinda sorta might develop in the future, but this is different.  We know this is coming…Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Director of Communication says so. 

Sony Reader Daily Edition
(detailed post)

If the Kindle DX wasn’t going to be replaced, this would be my least favorite.  It’s relatively expensive ($399 for a 7.1 inch screen), and it looks pretty much like the Kindle, but without the selection of the Kindle store.  I want to be clear, I think it would still be a good gift.  But if you are looking for the best reader from a practical viewpoint, I don’t personally think this is it.  It has a touchscreen where you read, which is a good concept, but people report that it reduces the sharpness of the letters…and you do have to keep it clean.  They have an arrangement with public libraries, but you still have to have a card and your local library may not have that much available.  For me, too expensive and not enough to separate it from the Kindle to make up for the lack of available books in their store.

The Barnes and Noble nook (sic)
(detailed post)

This one doesn’t look like a Kindle.  It’s got a little flashy color touchscreen, and looks a lot more high tech…more like an iPhone or something.  It has some features the Kindle doesn’t: a limited lending capability, the ability to browse books when you are in the Barnes and Noble store, customizable sleep mode pictures.   There are a couple of places where the Kindle beats it, though.  What do you really care about after you get an e-reader?  What books can you read and what do they cost?  The Amazon store beats the Barnes and Noble store on both of these, hands down.  You can get books from other sources, but I found a bunch of well-known titles that would be on the Kindle and not on the nook…and usually cheaper.   If you’ve got somebody on your list who thinks that two year old tech is old-fashioned, the nook is certainly more modern.  If it comes down to using it, the Kindle wins.

#1 The Kindle 2 International

Ta-dah-dah-DAH!  Right now, today, this is the winner, as far as I’m concerned.  Yes, the nook is flashier.  Yes, the Sony Reader Daily Edition is a little bigger.  This, though, is a good device with the best price and selection for books…and that’s the main thing that matters.  Text-to-speech can be a huge advantage…I use it for hours a week, even though a lot of people never use it.  Surfing the web means you can get books on your Kindle wirelessly from some other sites.  I’m not saying there won’t be something better in the future, but right now, I think this is the best buy.  Another important point: you can get it by the holidays!  The nook has been delayed until January.

Cyber Monday

I did an earlier post on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is the start of the holiday shopping season in the stores.  A much more recent tradition is Cyber Monday, the Monday that follows Black Friday.  The idea was that people went to work on the Monday after the big weekend, and shopped at work where they had a faster connection.  That’s not true for a lot of people any more: your home connection may be as good or better than the one you have at work.  Still, people who didn’t check off the list in the brick and mortar stores will probably be looking online.  Even if Monday is a made-up day, it’s like Mothers’ Day…you’re still going to buy flowers.  😉 

The websites will offer good deals…one of the main things you’ll see is free shipping with no minimum.  You may also see limited time deals…Amazon ran a countdown clock on its Black Friday deals…kind of like QVC.  🙂

So, how are you going find the deals? 

Here are some websites that might help you:

Price Grabber

I use this one all-year round.  It’s a search engine that lets you compare prices.

Coupon Mountain

Another great aggregator…this one will have the coupon codes to put into the other websites to get the special deals

Fat Wallet

Coupons, special deals, forums…this is another good site any time.  They have a Cyber Monday site here.



I think this one is nicely designed 

Can’t resist a site that uses the word “neologism”.  😉’s Cyber Monday section

Twitter’s Cyber Monday site 

The best deals…in 140 characters or fewer.  🙂  This is kind of cool…people will actually tweet in the stores.

Amazon’s Cyber Monday site

I love that you can switch between Available, Upcoming, Sold Out, and Expired.  Yes, I do like to know what I can’t get any more…I like to see what people are buying.  When you switch to Upcoming, you’ll see a countdown clock…you won’t see the prices, but you’ll know when to check back.

There you go…a few Cyber Monday resources to help you find what you need to surprise your friends and family…while sitting on the couch in the same room with them.  🙂

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


Are stores old-fashioned? Shopping with your Kindle

November 29, 2009

3:00 AM.  That’s when my SO (Significant Other) and I got up yesterday to go shopping.   I’m not a morning person (although I get up pretty early for work sometimes…I have some long commutes, depending on where I am teaching).  It’s quite funny to watch me stumbling around, so I hear.  😉

So, why do it?  Why get up that early to go to a store, hopelessly confusing our pets? 

It’s a family tradition for us to go out on Black Friday.  Believe it or not, we think it’s fun.  My SO gets the papers (yes, actual newspapers) on Thursday, and I tend to use .   We plot out a little bit about where we are going to go and spot some special deals we may want to get. 

We usually hit JC Penney first.  We go there because they give away an ornament…yep, we get up at 3:00 AM to get an ornament.  🙂  Again, that’s a tradition.  This year, our offspring is away at college.  We’re going to send one by mail (shhh….don’t tell).  😉 

We have fun waiting outside for the store to open.  It’s probably worth noting that we are in an area where it isn’t freezing or snowing…or usually, pouring rain.  It’s just kind of cold, but not terrible.  We enjoy chatting with people in line, and it is actually exciting when they open the doors.

I have to say, if we were really depending on Black Friday to get our shopping done, we’d find it a lot more stressful.   We do buy things that day, and do check people off the list.  But even if we didn’t get anything for friends and family, we’d still consider it a successful trip.

One of the things we plan to do is buy toys for Toys for Tots.  They want new, unwrapped toys.  We set a budget.  We tend to look for better-known brands, like Spider-Man, Star Wars, or Dora the Explorer.  We look a bit for the hot toys and special sales.  If you were disadvantaged, you would still be exposed to the same “fad-building” as other kids.  There’s nothing wrong with the classic red ball, but I think having the hot thing might make you feel a bit more mainstream.  We do look for sturdy toys that don’t require computer connection, and ideally, no batteries.  A lot of little pieces can be a problem, if they might change homes often.  My ideal Toys for Tot toy would also be hopeful and have a mythology behind it.

So, here’s what we did yesterday morning.  We got up at 3:00 and left about 3:30 AM.  We gave the pets snacks, but didn’t do the whole feeding thing (they were a bit confused).  We went to our first store, JCP.  There were already maybe ten to fifteen people in line when we got there.  We waited in line for about fifteen minutes, then they let us into the store.  It was an orderly entrance (that’s not always true).  We got our ornaments, and then started shopping. 

I don’t want to reveal what we got…it’s not that friends and family all read this regularly, 😉 but you never know.   I’ll say, though, that we got a couple of “doorbuster” type things, and others that were discounted.

We went from there to Kohls.  It was the same kind of shopping, although I do count on Kohls for some Toys for Tots items.  They usually have traditional games quite inexpensively that morning.  As regular readers know, I used to manage a bookstore…I also managed a game store.  🙂 

One thing at Kohls: wow, do you wait in line!  If we weren’t having fun shopping together, one of us would get right into line…guaranteed half hour, could be more.  We did shop together first, then I got in line, and my SO did some more shopping. 

That part of being together is a big reason we do Black Friday.  When I was a retail manager, forget my family seeing me much for the last couple of weeks.  I figured it out at one point: I did 120 hours in the store in one week.  I would leave at about one in the morning, get back by about eight…something like that.  It was kind of fun…like running a marathon is fun…you know, afterwards.  😉 

My SO even worked with me in the store some (on top of a regular job), so we could be together more.

This is a way we spend time together during the holidays, in what is actually less stress than when I was working retail. 

By the way, that’s an important point.  What’s the difference between stress and hard work?  It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t.  🙂  Stress is unresolved.  If you dig ditches all day, but you go home and the ditch digging is done, that’s hard work, not stress.  If you were supposed to call somebody from your office and you couldn’t reach them, that’s stress.  Stress keeps your body in a somewhat heightened state, a fight or flight kind of supercharging…and that’s hard on it.

Black Friday isn’t that stressful for us, because we don’t mind if we don’t find a particular item.  If we get them, great, but we know we’ll get things otherwise.  If you felt like you absolutely needed Mr. Squiggles, the zhu zhu pet hamster, and couldn’t get one, that would be stressful.

Our next stop was Target.  The biggest problem with our Target on Black Friday is that they run out of carts.  We saw a shopping cart in a cart return, and I hopped out and got it.  We got into the store and started shopping.  However, we saw the people in line to check out and started following it.  We got to the end of the store, where the line turned…and couldn’t see the end ot it.  We asked a family how long they had been in line: half an hour.  We figured there was still an hour to go for them in line.  Well, we plan to go out to breakfast, and then go back and feed the pets.  We have a bit of time pressure on that: one of the dogs is a diabetic, and he needs to get an insulin shot around when he eats and ideally around the same time each day.  So, we asked the family (who had several members with their arms full of stuff) if they wanted the cart.  🙂  They did, so we gave it to them and headed back to the car and out to breakfast.

What does all this have to with Kindles?

In other words, enough about me.  😉 

To some of you, shopping on Black Friday seems like going to a barn-raising in Amish country…amusingly quaint, but not very practical. 

There are two real questions here: how does a Kindle help us shop in the stores, and why not just shop online?

How a Kindle helps us shop

My family sends out “wish lists”.  There’s usually a bit of a narrative, and then things people might like…along with sizes and compatibilities (which video game console they might have, that kind of thing).  It can be hard to put together the list, but it’s great to read them.  This is, honestly, one of the few times in a year when we get a “what’s happening with me” with some family members…the rest of the year, other family members might report for them. 

So, I use Microsft Word and make a list of the people for whom we will be buying gifts as a table.  I paste in the gift lists (with active hyperlinks). 

When I send that to my free Kindle address (see this earlier post for how to do this), I get back a conversion for my Kindle.  No cost, and the table works fine.  That means that when we shop, we can make sure we don’t forget anybody.  We have sizes and compatibilities handy as well.

As we get things, I edit a note I’ve made in the document to say what we got for whom.  You add the note with Menu-Add a Note or Highlight.  To edit it, it’s Menu-My Notes & Marks, then hit enter (the bent arrow key, the lowest one in your furthest right column…at least on a K2) after you get to the one you want.

When we get home, I update the file in Word on the computer…and then send it for conversion again.  The conversion doesn’t cost anything, and usually takes a minute or so for me.   I commonly attach my Kindle to my computer to move files around (I do that for work, among other things), and that’s how I charge it.  I use a Kindle 2…all Kindles except the Kindle 1 can charge through a USB.  That means this is pretty convenient for me. 

What did it replace?  Carrying around several pieces  of paper and writing on that.  I really don’t like carrying pens around…yes, ballpoints were high tech in their day, but they still leak sometimes.  When someone asks me on the street if I have a pen, I jokingly say, “No, do you have a keyboard?  I have three of those.”  😉 

I also put a document on the Kindle that had the hours the stores were open…that can be helpful.

The other big thing about having the Kindle with us is the ability to “slog the web”, as I described in this earlier post.  It’s certainly slow, but I have used it to look up something.  For example, I might see a deal on something, and want to see the reviews about it. 

Are brick and mortar stores doomed?

Why not just shop online?  Why go into a store at all?  Certainly, the selection is broader online, and the prices can be better.  This is Black Friday…there is still time to order things online and get them for upcoming gift-giving occasions. 

The answer is that some of them are certainly going down.  That’s already happened to a lot of well-known stores, including bookstores.  There are no B. Dalton’s left, and pretty soon, only special WaldenBooks stores will be left.  Many retail stores don’t have much of a margin.  You know why it’s called Black Friday?  That’s the day many of the stores would “go into the black”…hit the point where they would make a profit for the year.  When I managed the game store, we made something like eighty percent of our sales for the year during the holiday season.  The rest of the year, we were really holding on for the holidays.

So, if stores don’t make it work this holiday season, a lot of them won’t make it through 2010.

However, we still like shopping in stores, and I think other people do.  It’s a social event, in some ways…some of the time.  It’s stumbling across things you never realized you might want, especially things on clearance.  Those may be sold out online as well…and then you can buy them as collector’s items for a premium. 

It’s kind of like doing out to see a movie in the theatres (we saw a couple of them on Thanksgiving…that’s sort of tradition as well).  It’s more convenient to watch it at home…and much cheaper.  But there is an experience in seeing a movie in a theatre.  I like that there are other people around, sharing the experience.  I like saying “Hi” to the popcorn seller, and bantering playfully with the people in the box office. 

Brick and mortar stores aren’t going to win on price or selection…they may win on convenience, but that’s only some times.  They are going to have to win on the experience of going…and some of them will figure out how to make that worth it. 

We had fun yesterday…sometimes, that’s the bottom line…not just the one on the balance sheet.  🙂

If you’d rather shop online, I did a Kindle gift guide in this earlier post.

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

Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: special software update 2.3 version

November 28, 2009

This is a special software update 2.3 edition of Frequently Asked Kindle Questions.

Q. What is the software update 2.3?

A. Amazon sends out software updates from time to time for the Kindle.  This is an update that was made available November 24, 2009.

Q. What does it do?

A. That depends on which Kindle you have:

Kindle 2 International 

  • Longer battery life when using Whispernet
  • Native PDF (and option to convert)
  • Manual screen rotation
  • Words per line adjustment

Kindle 2

  • Native PDF (and option to convert)
  • Manual screen rotation
  • Words per line adjustment

Kindle DX 

  • Better “cropping” (reducing the outer edge white space) for pdfs
  • Converting a pdf is now possible
  • Auto-time out to go to sleep mode extended to twenty minutes from five minutes

Kindle 1 

  • Unaffected by this update

All affected Kindles

  • New sleep mode pictures
  • Minor other changes, like a splash screen that says “opening”

Q. How do I know if I have it?

A. You can always check your software version by going to Home-Menu-Settings, and look in your right corner of the device.  If it starts with anything besides 2.3, you haven’t gotten it yet.

Q. Are there disadvantages in getting it?

A. The only thing I’ve heard is the Kindle running more slowly, but that has not been widely reported

Q. Will I get it automatically?

A. If you have Whispernet connection, eventually. 

Q. Can I get it manually?

A. Yes.  Go here.  You’ll find the appropriate file for your Kindle, and instructions.

Q. What might I do wrong installing it?

A.  Make sure you pick the right file for your device.  It’s not good to try and install the wrong version.  Make sure you put the file in the “root” directory of your Kindle.  That means you just put it on the Kindle, not into one of the folders.

Q. I’ve installed a hack…do I need to remove it first?

A. Yes.  The “hacks” that are out there (unauthorized modifications of the Kindle software…one popular one changes the fonts and another allows for personal sleep mode pictures on Kindles other than the Kindle 1) will block updates.   I do not recommend using them, because the violate your Amazon Kindle Terms of Service.  For more information, see this earlier post.

Q. How does it extend my battery life?

A. Currently, this is apparently only true for the Kindle 2 international.   What it does is manage the battery use better when using the Whispernet.  It supposedly has no impact when the Whispernet is not used.  This leads me to speculate that it limits its attempts to contact the network (which is part of what uses the battery).  It would attempt to connect when told to do that by you, but may not do so as much as it was doing before.

Q. Will that make it harder to connect to the internet?

A. This is only speculation, but it may make take a bit more time.  Once connected, it should be the same. 

Q. How much will it extend the battery?

A. Battery use is affected by a number of factors, including temperature.  With the Whispernet on, Amazon now says it is “up to seven days”.  The “up to two weeks” life without using the Whispernet remains the same.

Q. What does “native pdf” mean?

A. Portable Document Format (pdf) is a popular type of file from Adobe.  Native reading means that the device (the Kindle 2 and Kindle 2 international) will be able to read the file without having it converted to another format.

Q. Does mean that reading a pdf on a Kindle 2 international will be the same as reading it on a computer?

A. Not exactly, but it will be pretty close.

Q. What will be different?

A. The most obvious thing is screen size.  A six inch diagonal screen is pretty small for most pdfs.  You also won’t be able to select text, and a really complicated pdf may not look right (but most will look okay).

Q. How do I put the pdf on my Kindle?

A. You’ll attach the Kindle to your computer using the incuded pdf cable.  You’ll put the pdf into your Kindle’s documents folder.  For details, see this earlier post.

Q. Can I e-mail it to my Kindle?

A. Yes.  If you e-mail it directly to the Kindle, you’ll be charged fifteen cents a megabyte rounded up in the US, and ninety-nine cents a megabyte rounded up for US customers outside the US.  See that previous post for information.

Q. What is the conversion option?

A. Before this update, the Kindle 2 and Kindle 2 International could have the file converted by Amazon.  The Kindle DX could not have a pdf converted by Amazon.  Now, all three devices have the option to have the document read natively, or converted to AZW (the main Amazon Kindle format). 

Q. Why would I convert it?

A. A native pdf is treated pretty much like an image file.  This limits what you can do with it.  You can’t add notes or highlights, you can’t search, you can’t use the dictionary, you can’t increase the text size, and you can’t use text-to-speech.

Q. Why wouldn’t I convert it?

A. Tables and columns will look better in an unconverted pdf.  You’ll also get page numbers. 

Q. How do I convert it? 

A. When you e-mail it (either directly to your Kindle or to your free Kinde address), put


in the subject line.

Q. I heard there was a probem with the conversions not happening.

A. There was initially.  It’s working now.

Q. After I convert it, how do I find it?

A. It will say “pdf” to your left on the homescreen.  Some people are saying it does not appear at the top of the homescreen when first entered.  If this happens to you, try Home-flick up-flick left.  Change the filter to “Personal Documents”.  You’ll probably be able to find it then…open it.  Change the filter back to All Items.  It should be at the top.

Q. What about the manual rotation?

A. The Kindle DX has been able to change the way the screen display from “portrait” (taller than it is wide) to “landscape” (wider than it is tall).  This can help with reading smaller text.  It was able to do it with an inclinometer: it could sense when the Kindle was turned on its side.  With the update, the Kindle 2 and Kindle 2i can also do this.  Hit the Aa key: you’ll see options.  You can display the image four different ways.  Notice that the display will stay this way until you change it: if you go back to the homescreen when it is landscape, it will stay landscape.  The 5-way controller will react properly, but the menus may be sideways to your current orientation.

Q. What does “words per line” do?

A. When you hit Aa in a text document (not an unconverted pdf), you’ll get the option to change the margins.  You can leave it at default, make it lower, or lowest.  How many words  you get will depend on your text size setting.  This is similar to a feature in the Kindle for PC app.  If you choose fewer words per line, the margins will get bigger, and therefore fewer words will fit.

Q. Was the User’s Guide updated reflect these changes?

A.  Yes.  It should be in your archives, or you can read it online (and download it, if you like) here.

Q. Where can I get more information?

A. Amazon has created a help page here.

If you have additional questions or things you found, feel free to let me know.

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

The prodigal Sony

November 27, 2009

I recently did a post looking at the Barnes and Noble nook (sic).

In this post, I’ll be looking at the third big e-reader in the market for this holiday season, the Sony.

If the Kindle is the sensible Moe and the nook is the flashy Curly, the Sony is clearly the Larry in this trio.

Sony’s been in the e-book reader (EBR) business the longest…since way back in 2006 in the United States.  🙂  It wasn’t the first EBR: there were quite a few around, but it’s the longest running of this holiday’s big three.

They didn’t really ignite the market.  I think that’s because it was bit too techie for a lot of people, and because it didn’t have a well-known bookstore behind it.  I’d say it was more marketed towards the gadget crowd than traditional readers who enjoyed paperbooks (p-books).

I like Sony products.  I was enough of a videophile to prefer Beta to VHS, and we have a Playstation 1.  However, Sony moves a bit slowly, and appears to not understand the US market all that well.  Oh, they certainly can sell things here.  Beta should have won (and it continued to be used by high-end video folks).  It didn’t.  Sony had the Walkman…lost the portable music market.  The Playstation doesn’t clearly dominate the videogame market.

This season, Sony is the e-book come lately.  To be a current generation EBR, I think you need to have a wireless way to get books and an e-ink screen. There may come a time when we are looking at a dual-function screen as being modern, but not this year.

Well, although Sony has several models, the one that has wireless is called the Sony Reader Daily Edition.  It’s the latest model (PRS-900).

It was looking like they were going to have the advantage of being “the one in the stores”, but the nook scooped them on that.

Here’s the biggest problem: the price.

The Sony Reader Daily Edition has a suggested list price of $399.  The Kindle 2 international  has a list price of $259.  That’s $140 difference.  Does it have advantages that makes it worth half again as much?

I don’t see it.  One thing it has is a larger screen.   The screen uses the same technology (the Vizplex from E Ink) as the nook and the Kindles.  That’s clearly a big part of the cost of any e-ink reader.  Look at these prices:

6″ Kindle: $259

7.1″ Sony Reader Daily Edition: $399

9.7″ Kindle DX: $489

Those are diagonal measurements.

Is it a simple progression…an inch costs a certain amount?  Nope…take a look at this:

Diagonal Dollars Dollars/inch
6  $     259 43.17
7.1  $     399 56.20
9.7  $     489 50.41

The Sony costs a lot more per inch than the Kindles.

So, as may sometimes be the case with Sony,  you may be paying more for the name.

The Sony has some things in common with the Kindle:

  • Same screen technology
  • 16 grayscale
  • 6 font sizes
  • Built-in dictionary
  • Search

There are some significant differences, though.

Things the Sony has that the Kindle doesn’t:


Unlike the nook, the touchscreen is the part where you read.   I’ve heard people who have had the previous touchscreen Sony and the Kindle both say that the touchscreen makes the words a bit harder to see.  Obviously, you’ll also need to keep it clean.   However, it is kind of a cool thing that will appeal to some people.  You can use it with a finger or a stylus.

Library access

Sony has partnered with, which works with public libraries to check out e-books.  This is Sony’s special appeal to book readers, like lending on the nook.  However, also like lending, I think this may be disappointing for people in a simlar way.

It is a plus, no question.  You can get a lot of free books for the Kindle…but they won’t be the current bestsellers.  If you can check the New York Times bestsellers out of the library, that could save you a lot of money.

Can you check them out though?  There are a lot of ifs to that.  You can’t just check a book out of any library.  You still need to have a library card.  Before you decide based on this, go to the Overdrive site, put in your zip code, and see what is available.  My libary has 140 fiction titles, for example.  Honestly, there aren’t a higher percentage of them I would want to read…but my tastes, although eclectic, aren’t all that mainstream.

Second, and this is important, libraries have a limited number of licenses for books under copyright.  Let’s say your library has Under the Dome in its catalogue.  It may only have ten licenses.  Just like with a paperbook, you’d have to wait for somebody to “return” it before you could get it.

The other thing is that it wouldn’t be that hard for Amazon to enable people to get books from a library.  The main thing that is missing is that the Kindle doesn’t show you its PID (Personal Identity) which is what the library needs to keep track of the number of devices on which the book is being used.  If Amazon allowed that (and if they enabled direct EPUB reading), that’s all it would take.  If you make the decision based on that, it might not be a difference later.

Memory slots

The Sony Daily Reader Edition has an SD card slot and a memory stick slot. 

Things the Kindle has that the Sony doesn’t


Web browsing


There are two types of formats to consider.  When you buy books, you’ll normally be buying books with Digital Rights Management (DRM).  That’s code placed into a digital file by the rightsholder which is intended to control the uses of that file.

The Sony uses the following:

  • BBeB
  • EPUB
  • PDF

The Kindle uses the following two proprietary formats:

  • AZW
  • Topaz

As to non-DRM, it looks like this:


  • BBeB
  • PDF
  • TXT
  • RTF


  • PDF (except the Kindle 1)
  • TXT

Amazon also will convert a number of formats for you for free. 


If we look at the stores, it’s no competition.  The Kindle store has a lot more books than the eBook Store from Sony.


Sony: 30,812

Kindle: 125,917


Sony: 5,795

Kindle: 14,667


Both stores will tend to have bestsellers at $9.99. 

These were the ten most popular books in the Sony store that were not $9.99:

Sony Kindle Difference
 $   14.29  $   14.29  $        –  
 $    7.59  $    6.39  $    1.20
 $   11.99  $   13.42  $   (1.43)
 $    1.00  $    1.00  $        –  
 $    7.59  $    6.39  $    1.20
 $   39.99  $   33.20  $    6.79
 $    5.76  $    4.97  $    0.79
 $    7.59  $    6.39  $    1.20
 $    4.97  $    4.97  $        –  
 $    6.64  $    6.39  $    0.25
 $ 107.41  $   97.41  $   10.00

The bottom row is the totals.  So, on the average, you would save a dollar a title at the Kindle store.  Six were cheaper at Amazon, three were the same, and one was cheaper at Sony.

This looks to me like the Sony store may be closer to Amazon’s prices than Barnes and Noble, but that Amazon will generally be cheaper.

Overall, at this point, I think thast the Kindle is a better buy.  That may change in the future…

Sony Reader Daily Edition at Sony

Sony Reader Daily Edition press conference on YouTube 

The Kindle 2 at Amazon 

Amazon demo video at YouTube (view on PC)

Tech spec comparison at MobileRead Wiki 

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

Kindle spoken here

November 27, 2009

Amazon has continually made the point that selling the Kindle outside the US is intended to help their English-reading customers.

However, the question comes up frequently: what about other languages?

It’s clear that there would be a substantial market for Kindle books in languages other than English, both inside and outside the USA.  That’s certainly true for paperbooks (p-books).   The highest rated book in Spanish at Amazon is ranked #693…that’s out of 26,236,888 (not Kindle books…books).

There are a couple of issues involved in getting non-English books into the Kindle store (and using them on your Kindle).

Character sets

Not all languages use the same letters…it’s not as simple as ABC. 😉   When you are looking at text on a Kindle (or on a computer), the text is treated differently than an image is.  For example, you can find a particular word…but not if it’s in a picture of a wall with graffiti on it (usually). 

Your laptop and your Kindle both have “character sets” they can reproduce.  The character set for the Kindle is pretty limited, and you can’t add to it yourself (within the system…more on that a bit later).  It’s basically the Latin characters, which will let you do English, Spanish, French…that sort of thing.   They also have the Greek characters.

So, if you are a time-traveling ancient European, you are probably okay.  😉  Just kidding…

Awhile back, I got the actual lists from Amazon Customer Service.  This was after the one update we’ve gotten so far:

Here’s the list:

Basic Latin (U+0020-U+007F)
Latin-1 Supplement (U+00A0-U+00FF)
Latin Extended-A (U+0100-U+017F)
Latin Extended-B (first half, U+0180 – U+01FF)
Latin Extended-B (second half U+0200 – U+024F)
IPA Extensions (U+2050 – U+20AF)
Spacing Modifier Letters (U-02BO – U+02FF)
Greek and Coptic (U+0370 – U+03FF)
Latin Extended-Additional (U+1E00 – U+1EFF)
Greek Extended (U+1F00 – U+1FF)
General Punctuation (U+2000 – U+206F)
Superscripts and Subscripts (U+2070 – U+209F)
Currency Symbols (U+20A0 – U+20CF)
Letterlike Symbols (U+2100 – U+214F)
Number Forms (U+2150 – U+218F)
Arrows (U+2190 – U+21FF)
Mathematical Operators (U+2200 – U+22FF)
Miscellaneous Technical (U+2300 – U+23FF)
Enclosed Alphanumeric (U+2460 – U+24FF)
Geometric Shapes (U+25A0 – U+26FF)
Miscellaneous Symbols (U+2600 – U+26FF)
Dingbats (U+2700 – U+27BF)
Private Use (U+E000 – U+F8FF)
Alphabetic Presentation Forms (U-FB00 – U+FB3F)

You can actually check these out yourself by going to and putting in the numbers.

However, these character sets don’t cover Asian characters…or, what is probably the most common request I’ve seen, Cyrillic (for Russian).  It might seem odd to some people that Russian is that big a request, but of course, it has classic world literature and a lot of science that people may want to read in the original language. 

There are a couple of approaches to dealing with this limitation.

One is to use images instead of text.  This will work, but the resulting file is relatively huge and unsearchable.  Essentially, it’s as if you photocopy every single page in the book, and reproduce that.  That is what happens with pdfs on the Kindle DX (and now on the K2s). 

Second, there is a “font hack” out there.  It makes is possible to change the font and to install new fonts.  However, it also violates your Terms of Service with Amazon, as I explained in this previous post.  I do not recommend it.

I think it is inevitable that Amazon gives us some way to read these files, especially as Kindle books begin to sell in other parts of the world…although again, I think there is a market for books in Russian, Chinese, Tagalog, and so on, in the US. 

I think the least likely scenario is that they just let people install whatever they want.  That’s likely to lead to all sorts of Customer Service calls, which are expensive, and other possible problems.

They may just give us a wider set.  Of course, wider sets  do take up more memory, reducing the amount of memory you have for books and such.  I don’t think it would be a huge use, but that’s one issue.

Another thing would be for them to sell us character sets.  Maybe you pay five dollars, and you get the ability for your Kindle to display Hiragana.  They’d send you a file which might self-install, or it could be done in a manner similar to how you can do a software update without the wireless, which is described here.

Oh, one other solution is to use Topaz files, which I think might work (they allow publishers to embed fonts…a font is not the same as a character set, by the way, but that might work).  However, Topaz files have a lot of reported problems…see this earlier post.  That’s the Amazon side of things


Generally, Amazon doesn’t put the books into the Kindle store.  That’s up to the rightsholders…and really, since this is distribution to the public, to the publisher (if an author self-publishes, that author is the publisher). 

The motivation for publishers to put non-English books into the Kindle store has greatly increased with the arrival of international wireless, and Amazon’s decision to sell Kindle content outside the US.   That should mean that we’ll see a lot more books in non-English languages in the next couple of years.

Oh, and this is a bit tricky.  If a book is in the public domain in the US, and someone produces a new translation, that can be copyrighted (as a “derivative work”).  That complicates things a tad…if you translate Mark Twain in Mandinka, that gives you a new copyright.  Someone would have to negotiate with you for that, just like with a newly-written book.

Current state

There actually are quite a few books in non-English languages in the Kindle store right now.    Most of them are public domain (generally, older) books, but that is, I think, starting to change.

How do you find them?

Put in the name of the language followed by “edition” in the search box.  For example, put

Spanish edition

in the search box, and you’ll get them. 

 I just got 3,475 results.  There may be some “false positives” in there (like grammar books), but that’s probably pretty close.  Here’s that search:

Spanish edition Kindle store books

That’s most things like Cervantes, but there are current books as well.  For example, this is one of the most popular: Limites.  It’s Christian non-fiction.

Here are links for some other languages, and the count I’m getting right now:

Those are just a few.  I checked some others, and couldn’t get very convincing results. 

Oh, and there were a suprising number of Esperanto books.  🙂  They were mostly on learning Esperanto (a created language that was supposed to be universal), or about the language, rather than books in Esperanto.  Here’s a freebie: The Esperanto Teacher: A Simple Course for non-Grammarians. Yes, I have watched William Shatner in the Esperanto horror classic,  Incubus. 🙂

You can also get Marc Okrand’s Klingon Dictionary, but I didn’t see any books in Klingon. 


I’ve seen the question asked about using the text-to-speech to read something in a language other than English.  The two voices we have now are accented like American English, so they’ll really mangle other languages…not that you couldn’t possibly understand them.  Nuance, the company that makes RealSpeak (the voice of the K2s and KDX) does have a number of other accents available, but we don’t currently have them for our Kindles.

Other sources

It’s also worth noting that there are sources other than the Kindle store to get books for your Kindle, and those may have more.  However, you can’t just download a file with a different character set and read it.  There are places to get more books in French, Spanish, and so on.

“After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?”
–Russell Hoban

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

Thank you, Amazon!

November 26, 2009

Totally coincidence, and untied to anything on the calendar 😉 , I thought I’d thank Amazon for a few things.

Thank you for the adjustable text size

I’ll admit it: my eyes aren’t what they used to be.  Oh, they’re still eyes…they haven’t become toes or something.  That would be weird.  😉  But I used to have really good vision, and now, I do use those cheapo readers (I pay a buck for them at the dollar store).  That’s pretty much just for the laundry, though.  I mean seriously, who do they think does the laundry…Horus, the Egyptian hawk-headed god?   I mean, those tags are so tiny!  It would almost make sense to become Scott Carey and shrink down…then you could read them, right?  You know, if it wasn’t all for that having to worry about being eaten by the household cat thing.  The adjustable text size on the Kindle has made a huge difference.  I hadn’t even realized that reading some of my paperbacks was a strain.  Another thing is that I increase the text size so I can read better in darker situations.  For example, when I’m in a movie theatre before the movie, I can up the text size and be able to read without my booklight. 

Thank you for web-browsing and mobi compatibility

This is a great and little touted feature.  The Sony and the nook both do increased text size.  Neither of them do this.  Amazon lets us use the web browser  to get to sites other than Amazon.  They also allow us to read mobi/prc books on the Kindle (if they don’t have Digital Rights Management that prevents it).  That means we can go to sites like and right from the Kindle and get nicely formatted free books…directly from the Kindle!  I often see people incorrectly say that we can only get books from Amazon for the Kindle…simply not true.  We can get older public domain books, but we can also get contemporary books…the key thing is that we only get our books with Digital Rights Management from Amazon, basically (and even that’s not entirely true).   There are lots of other options…including the Baen Free Library.  You can get free books from Andre Norton, Keith Laumer, Fred Saberhagen…all authors where I paid for paperbook (p-book) versions years ago.

Thanks for continuing to innovate

Amazon doesn’t have to send out wireless updates (which probably costs them significant money).  They could just say, “You want  native pdf on a six inch?  Buy a new one!”  However, we just got another update.  We’ve gotten several updates: I thought it was cool when the K1 got an update that allowed easier management of titles from the homescreen (by using the back arrow to remove titles from the device).  They aren’t sitting on their laurels, and even though K1 owners didn’t get this update, they aren’t ignoring current owners.

Thank you for the one-week return policy on e-books

This is another thing they don’t have to do.  Sure, it’s probably good business…but Sony and Barnes and Noble don’t do it.  It’s possible you’ll order the wrong book, or just get one that’s poorly formatted (although they are working on that issue).   You can just tell Amazon you want to “return it” (within seven days of purchase), and they’ll credit you and remove the book.

Thank you for the Digital Text Platform

This has made a huge difference for me personally, obviously, but it is as important for readers as it is for authors.   Any US author with the rights for a book (within certain parameters) can publish through the DTP and get 35% royalty.  That’s much better than you would get with a traditional publisher (tradpub)…if you could get it published at all.   That means we have a lot of inexpensive things to read we wouldn’t have otherwise.  Some of those books will be great books…not most of them, probably, but some.  It’s also possible that important non-fiction will come out of that.

Thank you for the blog publishing

Again, this is important for both authors and readers.  Thousand of cheap reads, with convenient timely delivery. 

Thank you for the 14-day free trials on subscription items

This is another great feature!  Try out a blog, magazine, or newspaper for fourteen days!  With a blog, you can get a good idea in that time…that might not be true with a monthly magazine, but still, it’s really nice.

Thank you for free samples

Like a lot of Kindleers, I really like getting the free samples from books.  It lets you decide if you want to buy them, but it also means I have bite-size things to read at lunch sometimes.  That might be something I never intend to buy…and it’s still free

Thank you for the Universal Wish List button

You can install the Universal Wish List button, and put things on a wish list…that don’t even come from Amazon!  This is a way to put Kindle books on a wish list, true, but you can also put things from Think Geek, Wicked Cool Stuff…even competitors like Deep Discount.  I do like to buy from Amazon, and I do tend to do that.  However, Deep Discount has great deals on DVDs (and books and music) with no shipping.  Amazon lets me put those on a gift list that I can share with other people.  You can get the button here, and more information in this earlier post.

Thank you for the Amazon Kindle community

This has made a huge difference in my life.  Within reasonable limitations, Amazon lets people talk to each other about Kindles, and e-books, and quite a broad swath.  I’ve learned a lot there, had a lot of fun, helped some people.  Posters may show up and criticize Amazon repeatedly and in some cases, unmercifully (and even incorrectly).  If they do it respectfully, Amazon lets them.  I actually think they could be more strict with what they allow…they don’t enforce the rules as much as they could.  In particular, I’d like to see them pay more attention to ad hominem attacks.  However, the fact that they let people come on and say that the nook is better than the Kindle is simply amazing.  Yes, they get a business benefit out of it, but they take a lot of hits as well.  Amazon could have people censoring those posts, but they don’t.  It’s also a great community: I wouldn’t have “known” dog without it. I wouldn’t have had the laughs I’ve gotten, the tips I’ve learned, the opportunity to share. Take a look at it here…who knows what you’ll get out of it?

So, do I think Amazon is perfect?  Nope.  Do I think they do all this stuff without business benefit?  Nope.  I’m still thankful for it, though, and I can always look ahead and smile to wonder what they’ll give me next.

Thanks, Amazon!

Thanks also to you!  Whether you just read the blog online, subscribe to it through the Kindle store, or gotten the new collection, I really appreciate it!  Special thanks to those who have chosen items after following links, and to those who have commented on articles!   Thank you also to those who have directed others to I Love My Kindle and my other works!   I hope you all find things for which to be thankful in your life!

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

What I’d like to see in the Kindle in the future

November 25, 2009

I love my Kindle.  I am happy with it.  I thought the Kindle 1 was a great device, and I like my Kindle 2 better.  I fully expect that Amazon is going to give us continuing innovations in the future.

I want to be clear that I’m not dissatisfied with the Kindle.  I always find it odd when people won’t buy a device because a better one is coming in the future.  That’s almost always going to be true.  The question is, will you enjoy it in the meantime?  I always picture some person who didn’t buy a Model T in 1908…and is still waiting for them to perfect the car.  It’s not going to happen. After 100 years of walking, they are still not going to be ripped off by a car until it can drive itself.   I’m a big believer in enjoying the now.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with speculating about the future and what might come down the pike later. 

The first thing I’d always say is look at what defines the success of the Kindle.  Amazon has three basic tenets: convenience, selection, and price.  Those seem like good ideas to keep in mind.

Another thing is that I believe the Kindle opened the e-book market in an unprecedented way because it succeeded with people who just wanted to read books, and weren’t necessarily techies.  For another fifty years or so, there will probably be a large group of people who grew up with paperbooks, and want an experience that emulates that.   I wouldn’t move away from the simplicity of reading.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think devices that are dual screen in some way (backlit and not backlit) will do well.  I use my Kindle to read, yes.  I like the experience of reading on it.  However, if I could hit a switch and see video or animation, I’d be dishonest if I said I wouldn’t do that.  It’s not why I like the Kindle, but integrated devices like that are at least a ways off.  My guess is that is what will eventually take over the e-book market: devices that can give us the e-book reader experience…and do everything else we want as well.

That’s for later, though.  Let’s look at some less extreme changes.

More character sets

This is an obvious need.   Many people want to read books in Russian or Japanese on the Kindle.  We’ve had one update of character sets so far, and I’d like to see more.  The best thing, probably, would be to let people install their own character sets.  We know that can be done.  They could even charge us for them, and send us a file, if they are worried about the Customer Service calls that might happen otherwise.

Password protection

I can’t put some work files on my Kindle without violating my company polices (so I don’t do it).  That’s because the Kindle isn’t password protected.  I understand that it would complicate things and move it away from the book experience.  I think the best way to do this would be to make it an option in the Manage Your Kinde page. That way, people who were more techie could do it, and those that weren’t wouldn’t be bothered by it.  The simplest thing would be to make it a password to wake up the Kindle.

Deep archives

I understand why Amazon doesn’t want people to remove all of their records that they bought a particular book.  Again, this could be managed in the Manage Your Kindle page.  The idea here is to be able to move a book you bought into a place where it doesn’t show on the Kindle.  That way, when there are multiple devices on the same account, you don’t all have to see what has been purchased.  With the Kindle bookclubs I described in this earlier post, only Managers would have access to them…but could move them back into the main archives.

More sleep mode options

With the Kindle 1, we could add our own pictures to the sleep mode pictures, as I described in this earlier post. Barnes and Nobles’ nook allows people to customize the sleep mode pictures.  I think that allowing customizing is a good idea.  🙂  I also think they could allow us to buy sets of images.  For example, I’d pay buck for one hundred pulp covers.   Amazon could over sets like that, or allow other people to sell them.

Voice navigation

It’s frustrating that the Kindle is such a huge step forward for people with print disabilities, but they can’t select books easily.  I think voice navigation may be the best way to go.  I’m not looking at the cost or technology here, but it certainly exists on computers and cell phones.

Allowing independent publishers to publish public domain books to the Kindle store

This is something we used to be able to do.  I understand that there was a problem in having one hundred identical versions of Pride and Prejudice.  However, I think just wholesale blocking them all is a problem.  Content is going to be one of the things that differentiates e-book stores.  If independent publishers could put public domain books into the Kindle store, we’d get unprecedented digitizations.  I’m fine with them saying that the “first in wins” in that case.  They can always kick out a book that is poorly formatted or based on customer complaints, opening the way for another publisher.

External keyboard

I type well, but I don’t thumb-type well.  I’d love the option to have a full-size keyboard (maybe projection or roll-up) so I could take notes more effectively.  I don’t think that’s just me…

Giving Kindle books as gifts

I know Amazon has said this one is coming soon, but I can’t wait!  I’m sure there are millions of dollars waiting for Amazon when they get this one working.

Kindle book reviews in mainstream sources

Amazon doesn’t control that, of course, and it isn’t really “in the Kindle”, but I still want it.  🙂  They should also count in the bestseller lists.  I know that’s hard when Amazon won’t release sales figures, but I’d like to see Entertainment Weekly or the New York Times list bestsellers in paperback, hardback, and e-book.

This is just a starter list…I’ll do more in another post.  Feel free to leave me comments with what you would like (or not like) to see!

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

Flash! Amazon adds native pdf support, longer battery life to 6″ Kindle!

November 24, 2009

The Kindle 2 international, which Amazon simply refers to now as the Kindle (to differentiate from the Kindle DX, the larger version) will get longer battery life and native pdf support.

This news just broke, and I’ll have to look at it more later.

Amazon announcement

Part of what it says:

Amazon also announced today that previous purchasers of the new Kindle will also receive the 85 percent battery life improvements with wireless on, and native PDF support via a firmware update automatically delivered via Whispernet wireless. Native PDF support will also be available for some earlier versions of Kindle via an automatic Whispernet wireless firmware update.

EDIT: They are going to give the option to convert or not!  That’s great, and I would guess that will happen with the Kindle DX as well.  Why is that great?  A non-converted pdf doesn’t have the interactivity of a converted one…no text-to-speech, and you don’t have the same annotation abilities.

Amazon has posted additional information here .

These are the key points:

Kindle 2 International 

  • Longer battery life when using Whispernet
  • Native PDF (and option to convert)
  • Manual screen rotation

Kindle 2

  • Native PDF (and option to convert)
  • Manual screen rotation

Kindle DX 

  • Better “cropping” (reducing the outer edge white space) for pdfs
  • Converting a pdf is now possible!  Woo-hoo, that’s a big deal!
  • Auto-time out to go to sleep mode extended to twenty minutes from five minutes

Kindle 1 

  • Unaffected by this update

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

Extreme Kindle books!

November 24, 2009

This is just for fun.   I wanted to look for some atypical Kindle books.  🙂

Some of this research was conducted using…I just find it easier to manipulate than working directly in the Kindle store. 

Most expensive Kindle book:

Selected Nuclear Materials and Engineering Systems (Part 4) 

Price (at time of writing): $6270.42!  Don’t worry, though, you are saving $1768.58.  And that’s just the savings from the Digital List Price…Amazon price for the paper version is about $1500 more!  You really can save money with Kindle editions!  This is one of five Kindle books that are over $5000…gee, how much is that per pixel?  Interestingly, it’s ranked 51,689 in the Kindle store…out of over 375,000!

Most popular e-book of 2010 (so far)

We don’t tend to see a lot of pre-orders on Kindle books, but there are 450 books in the store scheduled for publication after 2009.  The most popular one right now is Fantasy in Death, by popular author J.D. Robb.  It’s due on February 23, 2010.  Note that this book has a pre-order price of $11.64, and has a very good chance to drop to $9.99 after release.  Least popular e-book of 2010 so far?  Stress, Mobbing und Burn-out am Arbeitsplatz (German Edition).

Longest pre-order wait

When Your Baby Cries: 10 Rules for Soothing Fretful Babies, due April 25, 2010.  Um…dude…I think you might want to figure something out before that if your baby is crying now.   I’m just sayin’…  😉

Most popular book in Swahili in the Kindle store

Kiti cha bosi (Hadithi za Uswahilini) (Swahili Edition) 

People ask about languages other than English in the Kindle store…there are five in Swahili.  I’d tell you what this one is about, but the description is also in Swahili, and I only know a few words.

Most popular book with avocado in the title

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two 

Actually, I was just looking for a funny word to use in this one, but this looks like an interesting book of pop etymology!

Most popular textbook over $100

Economics (by Sean M. Flynn) 

I was really just looking for the most popular textbook, but not everything that says it is a textbook actually is. 

Best-selling non-free Kindle store book

I, Alex Cross 

These are updated hourly, but as I write this, the top eleven “selling” books in the Kindle store are all free.  The first one for which people pay something is $9.99.

Least popular Shakespeare

Love’s Labour’s Lost, Neeland edition 

This is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, and I’ve rather enjoyed it.  There are about thirty versions of this in the Kindle store.  The most popular version in ranked 15,122…this version is ranked 232,168.  It would be interesting to figure out what they are doing “wrong”.  The “worst-selling” version is cheaper than the most popular ($1.99 versus $2.35…there are also a lot of free versions).  That’ll show the people who think all e-books should be cheaper!  😉  The more popular one does advertise an ATOC (Active Table of Contents)…

Least popular Agatha Christie

The Secret Adversary ($3.65) 

On the other hand, there is this one.  This is one of a couple of Agatha Christie books in the public domain, so you can get this one for free.  However, as we saw on the Shakespeare, that’s not the sole decider.  I enjoyed this book…pretty light, with a pair of young heroes.  By the way, I think this is the book that might have coined the phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson” for Sherlock Holmes.  Holmes didn’t say it in the works by Arthur Conan Doyle, and I always thought it was coined for the Basil Rathbone movies.  Apparently, it may have been used in the 1929 Clive Brook movie, The Return of Sherlock Holmes (written by Basil Dean).  While Holmes certainly said things similar to this, it’s one character sort of making fun of another character in The Secret Adversary (1922) that seems to have coined it.

Books with over 100 versions in the Kindle store

I found a couple…hard to say how many there are altogether.

  • Pride and Prejudice
  • A Christmas Carol

Least popular book for a penny

Circuit Rider August 

There are 28 books in the Kindle store for a penny…independent publishers who go through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform aren’t allowed to go this low.  Amazon does this, I think. 

This book is ranked 42,603 in the Kindle store.  There are about 20,000 free books…

Most popular MobileReference collection

Charles Dickens 

This one isn’t a big surprise, right?  There were a lot of contenders, though…I did the search for MobileReference as publisher and “collection” in the title.   There were 25 results, including Verne, Dumas, Chekhov..

Least popular MobileReference collection

 Kyne.  Never heard of Peter B. Kyne?  Actually, his works have apparently been made into over 100 movies, including The Three Godfathers with John Wayne.  However, this collection doesn’t include that classic.  No, this is for those people for whom one “Cappy Ricks” novel just wasn’t enough.  😉

Most recent CSI novel

The Killing Jar 

Missin’ Grissom?  This authorized novel by Donn Cortez can satisfy that Grissom itchin’. 

Geekiest use of a household appliance

Hacking Roomba: Extreme Tech by Tod E. Kurt

You’ve always wanted to use your Roomba as a mouse, right?  Or make it sing?  Yeah, I’m pretty geeky, but me neither.  😉

Least expensive book on how to be a blacksmith

Modern Blacksmithing by J. G. Holstrum

Somehow, it just seemed like two things that would go together…blacksmithing and reading a Kindle.  Picture a blacksmith.  Now, picture someone reading a Kindle: the people look the same, right?  🙂  Yours for a buck!  And if you aren’t sure if it’s worth that, there’s a video review…because nothing says “blacksmith” like digital video.  😉

Most expensive atlas

The Territories of the People’s Republic of China

You know, I’m just wondering how well this $208 book is going to look on a six-inch screen.  🙂  I tried getting the sample so I could try it on the Kindle for PC and my K2, but the sample wasn’t long enough to get me a map.

Most dangerous use of grayscale


Um, maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure I want people learning to identify the color coding on ammunition using a device that can’t display color…

Well, that’s a few of the extreme Kindle books I’ve found.  I expect I’ll do another edition at some point…if you have any suggestions, let me know! 

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

A book of business: why your boss should buy you a Kindle

November 23, 2009

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first: you probably don’t need a Kindle at work.

Heck, you don’t need a Kindle at home, right?

But that doesn’t mean it can’t make things better.

I’ve heard about a couple of work situations where I thought, “Wow, a Kindle would be a great solution for that!”  I’ve also heard (although rarely) about people actually using them for work. 

So, if I can make a convincing case, and your boss will buy you a Kindle, that’s a good thing, right?  😉

Kindles for document distribution

This seems like the most obvious application.  A Kindle is, after all, mostly for reading.  Whenever I look at a process, the first thing to determine is what are you doing now?  The next step is to look at what you would like to be doing, and the third is to figure out how to get there.

If you are giving your employees a lot of non-interactive paper, things that people just read, the Kindle can certainly help there.  The savings in paper and toner (or other ink), the ease of distribution and replacement…this is clearly a good way to get your handbooks or annual reports to people.

How does it work technically?

The first thing is to get the file into a file compatible with the Kindle, something it can read.  That’s not too hard.  Without conversion, the Kindle 2 can read text files and mobi/prc files.  Amazon will also convert a number of formats (Word, HTML, pdf) for you for free.  See this previous post for details.

One really important thing: once a personal file is converted into the Kindle format (azw), it is not keyed to a specific device.  You can e-mail the file to everybody on your team, or put it up on an a company website, and it iwll work on anybody’s Kindle.

There are two ways to get a file on your Kindle.  You can send it wirelessly, or you can connect the Kindle to a computer using an included USB cord, and put the file into the Kindle’s documents folder.

If your employees can connect to a computer to get the file, that’s easy.  You just send it to them or make it available to them.  No charge from Amazon.

However, you can also have Amazon send it wirelessly to a Kindle.  Amazon charges you for the use of the wireless.  A US customer sending a document wirelessly is charged fifteen cents a megabyte, rounded up.  If a US customer sends it to where it is retrieved using international wireless, it is ninety-nine cents a megabyte, rounded up.

That could still be really valuable, though.  You could send someone a proposal right on the spot.   One obvious question might be why you wouldn’t just use a laptop.  One advantage of a Kindle over a laptop is the long battery life.  Somebody could take a Kindle somewhere for, oh, a week, and then turn on the wireless and get the document.  I’m not saying you could do it on a houseboat on the Amazon…but it’s possible.  🙂

Another advantage is the simple convenience.  You could be in a conference room, paying rapt attention to your client.  It’s kind of tacky to pull out the laptop, use their network, and download your file.  On the other hand, the Kindle is cool.  🙂  Pull it out, get the material out of the air, and show it to them.  You can send pictures, not just text…might be very effective.

If you do send it wirelessly, there are some limitations.  Amazon says:

  • The file size of each attached personal document should be 50MB or less (before compression in a ZIP file).
  • The submitted e-mail should contain less than 100 attached personal documents.
  • The submitted e-mail should target less than 15 distinct Kindles.
  • Amazon on Personal Documents

    Commercial documents

    A lot of companies want people to read commericial books, those that will be under copyight.  For example, I had this book promoted to me at work: Managing Across the Generational Divide.  We’d seen a presentation on it: it’s intended to help different generations work better together.  For example, a lot of Boomers tend to think the “new millenials” are not as committed to the job as they are.  This book talks about what different groups value as motivation, how they see work, and so on.

    That’s a bit trickier.  Currently, you can only directly put Kindle books on to devices which are registered to your account.  The publisher limits the number of devices that can have the book simultaneously on your account.  To free up a license, you are supposed to deregister the device and delete the content. 

    You can give them gift certificates and let them buy them on their own accounts.  Giving that for a Kindle book can be a lot cheaper than getting them paperbooks.  For example, the book I cited above?  $15.72 in paper, $9.99 as a Kindle book.  Ten employees, you’d save about fifty dollars.

    I’ve read about somebody who planned to give Kindles to employees as a bonus.  Yes, that’s a lot of money, but some companies (no, not just banks), give those kind of bonuses.  In terms of giving them books on the Kindles…well, it might be better to do gift cards.  You could register the Kindles to your company’s account, then add books, then deregister them.  The books will stay on the Kindles.  However, I’m not quite sure how you could get a six-license book for more than six employees.  If you try to buy a book you’ve bought before, the Kindle store doesn’t let you do it.  I think, though, if you contacted Amazon Customer Service, they’d work something out so you could pay for it again for another set of licenses.

    One tip: have them authorize a company e-mail in their Manage Your Kindle pages.  That way, you can send things to their Kindles from that address (like company documents).

    Any other uses?

    I’ve used mine to take (very brief) notes during a meeting.  You just have to have a document open, and add a note.  I also use it for information about classes and meetings.  I like that a whole better than printing out a sheet of information, and then just tossing it afterwards.

    You can also use audio files on the Kindle.  If somebody makes an MP3 of a meeting, or the boss’s makes a recorded statement, you can put it into the Audible folder of the Kindle, and play it like an audiobook. 

    I could also see it being given to clients.  Again, the same idea: you could have them authorize one of your company’s e-mail addresses, so you could send them information.  Might be a nice way to send out catalogues, for example…and they can have active hyperlinks.

    So, did I convince you enough so you can convince your boss?  Maybe not…and I wouldn’t want to be you making the argument to the IRS that you needed a Kindle for your department store job.  Still, it could make work more fun…and that’s worth something!  🙂

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

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