Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon and the agency model

I got an email today telling me that several publishers are going to be sending me money to make up for screwing over me (their end customer), to try to stop Amazon’s Kindle editions from eating into their hardback prices. They did this by refusing to allow Amazon to sell the ebooks unless they did so at the publishers’ preferred price.

As a Kindle fanatic since the first day (and possibly sooner) I was astounded by this self-defeating business decision. Or I would have been had I not had past dealings with the publishing industry. (People in the publishing industry are lovely. The industry itself is a fairy tale princess resisting all attempts at rescue, because that might mean, you know, change). I wanted to buy more books than I ever had before and I DID until the prices went up by 50% overnight. I never bought hardbacks, and I was much more willing to buy any book after reading a kindle sample, but apparently that wasn’t good enough for certain publishing houses. They must have only wanted a wealthy elite to buy their titles, if you judge them by their actions. And now they have to apologize to the rest of us plebs for daring to want to read their books. With cash.

So while I’m sure my Twitter feed will be full of predictions of doom and scathing criticisms of Amazon, as a reader and a writer I say: ha! (Sorry).

Loan Kindle Books? Yes You Can!

So, One of the frustrations about the Kindle has been that you can’t share books with your friends and family.

Now, Amazon has at last announced that you can lend Kindle editions of ebooks

Usual caveat: Publishers have to allow this feature and most of the big ones won’t. Yet. 1

Loan Your Kindle Books : Details

  • The recipient does not have to own a Kindle or even have any Kindle apps installed. They will be prompted to download one of the free apps.
  • The recipient has a week to collect the book after you lend it to them, or the offer is cancelled
  • Your loaned book will be unavailable for 14 days
  • After 14 days, your book comes back to you automatically

So, you could be without access to your book for 3 weeks at most.

How To Lend Books From Your Kindle

Currently you have to do this from the Amazon website (though I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an in-Kindle option later)

From the Book’s Product Detail Page

Go to the product page and you’ll see a yellow bar above the title saying that yes, you did buy this and yes, you can loan it. Click the link.

Product Detail Page for Lending Kindle Ebooks

From The Manage Your Kindle Page

  • Log in to your account at Amazon.
  • To to Manage Your Kindle
  • Scroll down to “Your Orders”
  • Click the + next to the title you want to lend. If the publisher has enabled the ‘lend’ feature, you will see a “Loan this book” button.Loan a Kindle eBook from Manage Your Kindle Page at Amazon

The book will disappear from your available Kindle titles for a while.

What Happens After I Lend The Book?

You are taken to a page where you can fill in any email address.

Lending a Kindle eBook- Email Page image

Then you’ll see this confirmation page:

At this point, the book will still be in your library but you won’t be able to access it from your Kindle or Kindle apps.

Can I Lend To Someone Who Doesn’t Have A Kindle?

Yes. Anyone with a computer or other electronic device can receive the book and read it. There are Kindle apps for desktop, mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 and Mac.

(But no, they won’t be able to read it on their Nook or their Kobo or Sony eReader or other competing eReader device, as far as I can tell).

What About My Note and Highlights?

This is an extremely cool feature, I think:

  • The person who borrows the book won’t be able to see your notes (protecting your privacy).
  • They can make notes in the book and when it comes back to you, you won’t see their notes either.
  • BUT (and this is the cool part) if they then buy their own copy of the book, their notes magically appear in their edition.

(I know, I’m a geek, but this makes me smile)

What About International Loans?

This one is subject to international rights rules. You might try to lend a book to someone in another country and find it’s not going through because of licensing and rights rules. Sigh. There’s not much Amazon can do about this one.

More Cool Kindle Features You Might Have Missed

You can also give Kindle books as gifts and earn commissions on Kindle titles if you’re an Amazon Associate (see my Kindle store for examples).

So, what do you think of this feature? Will you use it? What books will you lend? And how long do you think it will take publishers to sort out this global rights thing (hint: it’s taken them this long to allow their titles to be in ebook format. It’s only in the past five years or so that editors have started using email. Seriously!)

  1. Currently NOTHING that I have bought from a major publisher has ‘loan this book’ available. A short story, some self-published stuff and, interestingly, some Christian titles are all I can lend. Smart move, proselytizers! ;)

iPad vs Kindle

So, iPad vs. Kindle. It was the first thing a lot of people mentioned and I’m not sure why.

It’s a bit like comparing a greetings card to a smart phone. Or my beloved blank notebook to my desktop computer.

One is designed to do one thing, and do it well, with all the limitations that implies (i.e. it can’t do anything other than the thing it was designed for, and must be used pretty much in the way the designer specified.) The other does lots and lots of things, with a few compromises that are usually made up for by the convenience factor.

My blank book is pretty much pants when it comes to helping me retrieve information or store photographs or connect with other people. But when I want to jot down an idea, or draw a diagram or entertain a cranky toddler on a train, or make an impromptu origami model, that notebook is my best friend.

Similarly, I LOVE my iPhone and I carry it with me everywhere (yes, everywhere. Don’t think too hard about that). I even read ebooks on it. It is good on the treadmill that lives in a dark and spidery corner of my basement. It’s great in bed, oh yes.

My iPhone ereader (and so, by extension, the iPad ereader) lets me look stuff up, dog-ear pages (not really) and make notes. The iPad will usher in the Apple eBook store.


I still love my Kindle.

When I want to settle down and read a book for hours (as if I get the chance!) I reach for my pencil-slim, un-backlit, black-on-grey eInk screened, phenomenally long-lived, free Internet access, zippy download, fingerprint-free screened, no-glare Kindle that looks better in daylight than the printed page with none of the ‘holding the book open’ inconvenience.

I love its little cotton socks. I really do.

Just as an email birthday greeting, while more convenient, lacks the appeal of a through-the-post physical card, and the Kindle itself lacks the paper-and-ink-smell tactile experience of reading a dead-tree edition, the iPad ebook reader will come with compromises. The convenience may outweigh those compromises for many people, but I really, really hope that Amazon and the publishers continue to support this device.

The Kindle was designed for people like me, who buy and read books voraciously. We are the ones who will read a book a week, or more. (I have two small children and last year I logged 40 books as ‘read’ in my WeRead profile. In one year! Most of them were bought and read on the Kindle. It’s the most I have read in years. Because it was always easy to find my book, find my place, and grab a new book. Only once did I pick up my Kindle and discover I had let the battery run down, and that was after a particularly busy couple of weeks when I had tossed it in the corner, wireless still connected.)

Dedicated readers appreciate a dedicated device. Casual readers would never have bought a Kindle anyway.

So I’m still not sure why everyone focused on the iPad as a Kindle killer. It might be, but there is so much more to the iPad than ebooks.

My hopes are that

a, the publishers realise that Amazon is trying to sell more books, and respond to their customers’ price sensitivities, not hurt publishers.

b, Amazon starts to support the ePub format so that books I buy from the Apple store will also be readable on my Kindle. I’m grateful to Amazon for the Kindle, but not so grateful that I’m going to forgo reading a book if it is published in the ‘wrong’ format.

And yeah, I still want an iPad…

Other People’s Opinions:
This one talks about iPad vs Kindle very differently

Kindle Software Update

[Updated 9/28/11: Want to read about the Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch? Click here.]

Now I’m sure that this is a coincidence, given that Barnes & Noble’s new ereader the Nook comes out today, but I just got an email from Amazon saying that my Kindle now supports PDFs. And you can rotate the screen, to give yourself more screen real estate, for those wider layouts.

(One of the glitzy selling points of Nook seems to be its color touch screen, for displaying book covers and controlling the machine, but another feature that people were excited about was the native support for PDFs. Up until now, with Kindle, you’ve had to email them to yourself and pay a fee, or convert them to Kindle format with third-party software, and lose the formatting.)

Amazon says that you can just wait and let your Kindle update over the wireless connection, but I was impatient. So I’ve downloaded the update, followed the instructions for manually installing it, and am about to play.Kindle Software Upgrade

OK, up and running.

I’ve dragged a PDF doc to my Kindle (via the USB cable) and am opening it.

First Impressions — and Hyperlinks

The first thing I notice is that it looks pretty good.

The second thing I notice is that there is a hyperlink right there on the first page. I wonder if it works… No. There five-way navigation button (that would usually pop a little hand onto the screen and allow me to annotate my document or click on things) does nothing. Since a PDF is essentially a photocopy of a page, I’m not entirely surprised. However, on my computer this document is a dynamic PDF, which does allow me to click on the hyperlinks, so it’s a bit of a shame that the Kindle, with its web access, doesn’t.

(To be fair, I put the same doc on my iPhone – with the GoodReads app – and couldn’t click on the hyperlink either. I suspect it may have something to do with how the hyperlink was originally created. Unless, at creation, you tell a PDF document to make your hyperlinks active, you’ll end up with a dumb document on your computer screen too.)

The third thing I notice? Oh, it’s still black and white. ;)

On To The Text

Native PDF as-isOK, so I scroll into the text. It’s pretty small, and this is a PDF, not a tagged text, so I can’t use the built-in font resizer (that’s a short-coming of PDFs, which were designed to preserve a set layout. Useful sometimes, but not so necessary for most books, I think).

However, I use the nifty new rotate function to turn the page.Kindle Rotate Function

Much better. 1

Rotated PDF on Kindle

Although now there’s three ‘next page’s to read one PDF page, which means three e-Ink flickers to read one PDF page. That might be a bit much.

However, when I go back to the menu, to open up a new document, the menu is in landscape mode too. And the five-way button automatically compensates (so “down” on the button, even in this orientation, is still “down” on the screen). That’s nice.

And you can read regular books in this format, which makes the largest font size more readable (you get more words to a line).

Oh, and there’s a new ‘words to a line’ function, where you can tell it to add fewer words to a line. it doesn’t seem to affect the kerning (spacing between characters) as much as make the margins bigger).

They also give you the option of which way you rotate the text. This means you can have the keypad on the left or on the right. It’s a little thing, but it might affect your comfort. (it’s also means you can now read upside down in portrait mode too, if that tickles your fancy!)

The PDF Problem

I think the PDF support will always be a little clunky, until PDFs go away, because the point of a PDF is to tie the text to one layout (and to stop the text from being scraped out of the document and changed or pirated). A large part of the point of an ereader is to allow you to customise the layout and play with the text to make it fit you. (If not, why aren’t they all just PDF-viewing machines?)

There is an existing problem with PDFs, and that is the way designers use them. Even reading a PDF on a computer screen annoys me, because they are almost always designed for a portrait, 8.5″x11″ printed page, which is absolutely wrong for every monitor I’ve ever met.

For documents with charts and graphs, and for poetry and art books, PDFs make sense (for now.

But for novels and informational plain non-fiction PDFs are a really dumb way to display information and I think they’ll go away in time. Or maybe evolve radically.

Until then, I’m willing to bet that Amazon is going to take the flack because designers are going to continue to design PDFs to fit on a 8.5×11″ piece of paper, and the Kindle is many things but it’s not that.

In short

It’s nice to be able to drag and drop PDFs to my Kindle, because sometimes PDFs are how the information comes. Designers, however, have not been designing their PDFs to be read on a monochrome, e-Ink page, and it shows. If the designer uses a font color other than black, or if they think in 8.5″x11″ pages (which, let’s face it, a lot of them do. That’s why they’re using PDFs: to make sure we plebeian readers don’t mess up their beautiful layout), then it’s never going to look great on a smaller e-Ink screen. But, for the most part, it’s workable.

  1. The book in these screenshots is Michael Stelzner’s excellent How To Write A White Paper.

Frustration-Free Packaging!


How did I miss this?!

For years I’ve been opening my online orders and rolling my eyes as I have to slit the thief-proofing on DVDs; cursing as I pry away the display-friendly plastic wrap around products that I have ordered (Hello!) online, untouched and straight from a warehouse; and calling into question the parentage of the people who invented those plastic clamshell case thingies. I will never forget the time I had to actually get a Phillips head screwdriver to detach a $3 car from the moulded plastic insert onto which it was screwed. Yes, really.

From time to time, standing in my kitchen wielding a blunt pair of scissors or doing the dangerous “Sabatier Knife Trick” on a reluctant package, I have gone off on my rant about how, come the revolution (mine, naturally), all manufacturers will be forced to wrap their products in plain sacks that can be reused (say, turned into pretty quilts, or dresses, or oh no wait, that was the American Frontier. How did we get so far away from that great idea, so quickly?). Stores can take one out for display and the rest will just be sitting in their biodegradable or recycled sacks, waiting for their new homes.

Well, apparently Amazon has read my mind. Again.  (That whole “Kindle” thing was just eerie…)

Look! They have introduced a Frustration-Free Packaging standard and are using their, er, influence to convince manufacturers to get with the program.

The standard says:

Certified Frustration-Free Packaging means:

  • Easy-to-open
  • Recyclable packaging
  • Ships in its own package without an additional shipping box

And behold! (As a mother of small children this picture really warms my heart.)

picture by Amazon.com and no, not by permission, but good grief it's an advertising image that I am taking viral to promote the company and their wonderful idea, so if anyone from the legal department wants to get in touch, then maybe they should check their temperature and take several deep breaths and reconsider their career. Thanks.

picture by Amazon.com

It’s not quite a burlap sack yet, but it’s one box and they ship it right to you in that one box. (Look at it there, in all its brown and black beauty). There are no pastic-wrapped wire ties, and no brown paper stuffed in the shipping box to make sure that stuff doesn’t slide around inside.

And they come like this right off the assembly line!

Be still my beating, green heart.

You can find a whole Frustration-Free section of their store here.

And no, it’s not the whole answer and yes, maybe we should just buy less plastic cr*p in the first place, but I really and truly believe that every little move helps. You can’t get many people to make big lifestyle changes quickly. But you can make lifestyle changes easy for a lot of people to make in small increments. This is one. And I LOVE it.

The only question is, how did I miss this until now?