Saturday, May 29, 2010

Penguin Publishing's hostility to e-book readers

Now that Amazon and Penguin have "settled," what is is they have settled for? Penguin is pricing some e-books way too high for most of us to buy them. For instance, the 3-year old Ken Follett book, World without End is $17.99. I am certainly glad that I bought the Kindle edition when it was $9.99. Two of Ayn Rand's books, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are $27.99 for the e-book, not that I want to read Ayn Rand anyway, but many do.

Tom Weldon, deputy chief executive of Penguin, said in the Financial Times: “The only way to fight piracy is to publish digital content across as many formats as possible, through as many channels, at a fair price. If we go for exclusive or proprietary formats, we’re completely screwed.”

So, Tom, what's up with that fair price in regard to the above books? Is this what we can expect in the future from Penguin? If so, it is pretty evident that Penguin does not want e-book readers, or plan to have fair e-book prices, but rather is trying to force us to buy their books in paper. I will buy no Penguin books in paper and only as e-books if the prices are reasonable. I do have an excellent public library from which I can borrow these books, if I need to. I've already put in a pre-reservation at the library for Fall of Giants, the first book in Ken Follett's new series, due out September 28th and unfortunately published by Penguin. I do want to read this as an e-book and hope that the price will be reasonable enough for me to do so, but in the meantime am hedging my bets.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Penguin is worried about piracy. What?

From a Financial Times article published on May 20, 2010:

Tom Weldon, deputy chief executive of Penguin (part of Pearson, which owns the Financial Times), said: “The only way to fight piracy is to publish digital content across as many formats as possible, through as many channels, at a fair price. If we go for exclusive or proprietary formats, we’re completely screwed.”

So then what is the hang-up between Penguin and Amazon? Does it occur to Penguin that people might be pirating Penguin books which are currently not available on their Kindles, like John Sandford's Storm Prey?

Click here for the full article. You need to be registered with them to read it. Sorry about that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kindle v. iPad: Can't we all just get along?

Ever since the announcement of the iPad, many seem to expect everyone to choose sides. If you want an iPad, you must not like your Kindle. If you have an iPad, you will not want a Kindle. If you have a Kindle, you will not want an iPad.

Hey, people, they are not the same type of device. Did Steve Jobs say it was an e-reader? No, he said you could read books on it—not the same thing, You can also watch movies and sports, get e-mail, play games and more. I am perishing for an iPad and have to wait till "late April," as Apple puts it, to get a 3G model, thus will not even be able to join the happy band of brothers and sisters on April 3rd in their delirious joy over the new toy.

On the other hand, I happily read on my Kindle and know that I will continue to do so long after I receive the iPad. To be without my Kindle for even one day would be sheer torture to me since, besides books, I read newspapers, magazines and blogs on it. One blog is the NY Times Latest News which is updated many times a day. I only care about the content and it doesn't matter that the pictures are in black and white. On the other hand, if it were National Geographic, with colored pictures, it would be best on the iPad—no contest. Technically I can read e-mail on my Kindle through the experimental web browser, but I don't, and do not know why any one would put themselves through the slow torture. E-mail is always with me on my phone and will be even better on the iPad.

Why do I love the Kindle for sustained reading? Because its e-ink screen is easy on my eyes and I literally read faster using it, possibly because it takes less time to click Next Page than it does to turn pages in a real book. Also, if the ambient light is a little dim, I can up the font size to make it easier. Backlit screens make my eyes burn after a short time, so I am unlikely to do much sustained reading on the iPad. Someone is bound to comment that a backlit screen does not bother HIS eyes. Well, good for him. I've been light sensitive all my life and it only gets worse.

The Kindle that I think is dead in the water when the iPad launches is the DX. It appears at this time that textbooks and college material in the form of pdfs will work much better on the iPad. The DX does not deal well with pdfs because it does not make them re-flowable. Since I can already re-flow a pdf on my iPhone, I know that it will be possible on the iPad.

To wrap up: my 6" Kindle and my iPad will co-exist just fine.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I don't understand e-book sales restrictions

We are hearing more and more from Kindle buyers outside the US that they are unable to purchase certain e-books and are given the message on Amazon that the book is not available in your country. I have run into this many times with print books from the UK which are not available here, so I just buy them at Amazon UK and they are sent to me. If I wanted a book published in France, I assume that I could do the same from a French site. Or any other country in the free world. If I can buy a print book which has not been published in the U.S., why not an e-book? Can anyone point me to the explanation of this?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hallelujah! You can now delete books from your Amazon account!

How great is that!

This ability has been rolled out quietly and to no fanfare despite the fact that not being able to do so is an issue which has engendered much anger and comments on this blog, in lists and on the Amazon forum.

There are lots of reasons to permanently delete books. Let me name a few:

You took advantage of a free book offer. The book was terrible.

You would like to share your Kindle account with your teenager or your grandmother and there are books in your account which might prove embarrassing or inappropriate.

You have read the book and will never read it again, nor will anyone in your family. Let it go.

The physical books I hang onto are those which, for whatever reason, I may refer to again—arts and crafts, computer manuals, poetry, spirituality, self-improvement, history, etc. This would include very little in the way of fiction. As one who reads well over 100 books a year, to keep everything I read, I would need to have a very big house and more bookshelves than I already do. And dusting them can become daunting. I don't have to dust the virtual books, but keeping titles I will never read again makes for a long and more confusing list to scroll through.

How to delete books permanently from your Kindle account:

Go to Amazon, click on My Account, sign in and scroll down to Manage Your Kindle. Toward the bottom of the page you will find a section called Your Orders. By default these will be listed chronologically with the latest order first. To change that to the earliest order first, click on the arrow under Order Date. Or you can sort them by title or author alphabetically with a few caveats: (1) It sorts by the author's first name (2) When sorting by title, it uses a, an, the as part of the title. Thus you will find The Blind Side with the Ts, not with the Bs. Nevertheless, you will be able to locate what you want to delete, one way or another.

Find the book you wish to delete and click on the plus sign before the title. This brings up a box with some options, one of which is Delete this Title. If you click that, it warns you that the deletion is permanent and should you want the book back, you will have to buy it again. If you still want to delete it, click OK. It takes a moment for the site to digest this and then you are back where you started with your latest purchase listed first. If you have a lot of books to delete this can become tedious, but liberating if this is something you have been wanting to do. For me it was.

While trying to delete books from their Kindle accounts, some have encountered problems which appear to be browser related. If you run into a problem, refresh your browser, or better yet, try Firefox. Many have said everything works fine for them with Firefox whereas it did not with Internet Explorer. Not a problem for me because I have a Mac.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Libraries and digital lending

The New York Times article, Libraries and Readers Wade into Digital Lending shows that libraries, at least some of them, are aware of their readers' changing needs. This is not true of all libraries, however, and many, perhaps most, have no e-book downloads available at all. Like everything else, libraries have to allocate their limited resources as best they can. If downloads are available, on what devices may they be read?

I live in a Chicago suburb whose library has no electronic books available for download, although it has many other outstanding resources, such as NewsBank which gives us archived editions of both Chicago newspapers as well as Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report and other magazines, including the current issues. A nearby library in another suburb has an unimpressive number of downloadable audiobooks available via Overdrive but no electronic books. As far as I know, Overdrive e-books, wherever they are available, are only downloadable to Sony e-readers leaving the rest of us out in the cold. Hardly an incentive to go out and buy a Sony, though, with only a few scattered books around. Anyone planning to buy a Sony thinking that they can download books from their library had best check first. Do you really want to read a book on your computer's backlit screen?

Monday, August 24, 2009

South of Broad

A train wreck of a book. Following all the excitement that after 14 years there would be a new novel by Pat Conroy, it has turned into a big disappointment. The book sits this week at #1 on the NY Times bestseller list. Of course it does: we all rushed out to buy it in one form or another, hardcover or digital. At least I only wasted $9.99 buying it for the Kindle instead of hard cover.

I did not really enjoy this book but wanted to give it a chance, so read it through to the end. Not something I normally do with one as off-putting as this. Pat Conroy has written better. His characters, for the most part, are cliches and have no depth. He strains credulity when his teenage protagonist meets in one day the 7 people who will turn out to be his best friends for life. Everything about it seems contrived. He jumps from 1969 to 1989 and we never find out much of what happened in between or why all of these disparate people are even friends. Why do they adore each other so much? Their conversations are pseudo-brilliant repartee, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The only characters nicely filled out are the protagonist himself, his father and Harrington Canon, the antique dealer. Why are the others so flat?

Some examples of his florid prose:

"It is the drawing that freezes my cells in all the dread of memory and history, in the secret mythology that forms the grotesque substrata that lies at the center of this search that has just turned deadly."

"His words soothe me and I taste their sweetness as they flow over me like the mountain laurel honey the wild bees make in the mountains where Starla was born."

"Nor do I have any idea when she started loving me, but the knowledge that her love is available in a boundless source had presented itself to me. I can use it as a sword on a pillow or a hermitage; a warm bath, a butterfly garden, or a flow of molten lava."

Did no one edit this book? Am I the only one who thinks it is way overblown?