Tag Archives: kindle

Kindle Short Fiction Experiment Begins

Inspired by Angela Booth and Sean Platt (among others), and by the fact that I can’t only submit my work to journals and have it rejected (that way quitting lies) I’ve started to experiment with writing and releasing short fiction on the Kindle platform.

I put out my first story last week because it was a historical anniversary. My plan is to have five stories ready (or nearly ready) to go in a given genre before launching the ‘series’. Then I’ll compile them into an ebook collection and offer them that way too. Then I’ll move on to another series (perhaps in a different genre/voice).

I have a mailing list set up and a plan of action and a bunch of writing done. I have a bunch more writing to do, and a whole lot of editing, but I’m enjoying having a concrete goal and multiple steps and an interesting hypothesis to test.

I love the elasticity of the publishing process these days. If I decide I don’t like some of these early efforts, I can just withdraw them. If some become popular, they can stay up there forever.

Only problem with this project: not enough hours in the day :)

Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch Released

Amazon has announced the first Kindle tablet PC and the first touch-screen Kindle e-Readers.

Highlights

  • Three new e-Ink Kindle models, two of which have a touch-screen
  • Larger screens, smaller bodies (no keyboards)
  • Lower prices – with optional on-screen ads. $79-$189
  • Kindle Fire – a color, touchscreen tablet device for $199
See more details and my comparison table to find out if its time to take the Kindle plunge, or upgrade to one of the new options.
AmazonKindleComparisonTable

Other Kindle Articles

StoryADay Blog in Amazon's Kindle Store screenshot

How To Publish Your Blog For Kindle

Kindles aren’t just for books. People also subscribe to blogs on their Kindles. It usually costs around $1.99 a month (the price is set by Amazon) and is a great way to offer your content to all those people who woke up to find Kindles under the Christmas Tree/Menorah/Festivus Pole. When they subscribe, every new post you make is delivered to their Kindle (no need for them to remember to check your blog!). You are paid 30% of the fee Amazon charges.

Register With Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Program

It is cost-free and simple to register with Amazon’s Kindle Publishing program. If you do not already have one, you will need to create a vendor account, which is different from your regular Amazon account.  Read through the terms, because you are agreeing to obligations on pricing, content, timing and termination details. You will agree to terms for both the US and European markets.

At the end of the registration process you will be given a Vendor ID and Amazon will have all your payment details. You’re in business!

Add A Blog

Amazon Kindle Publishing Dashboard Screenshot

When you have finished registering you will be taken to you dashboard. Click the “Add A Blog” link on the top right hand corner. This is where you fill in all the information that will let both Amazon find the posts from your blog and send them to your readers’ Kindles.

Filling In The “Add Blog” Page

Find Your Feed

If you aren’t familiar with RSS and feeds, don’t worry. Most blogging platforms (not to mention Twitter and Facebook) use feeds to distribute your content. It’s usually easy to findGo to your blog and look for the RSS symbol (possibly in the address bar of your browser) and click on it. It will take you to a page that has an address something like “http://yourdoman.com/feed”. Copy that, and paste it into the first box on the Add A Blog page. Click ‘validate feed’ to make sure Amazon is looking in the right place for your blog.

Enter Blog Information

If your blog didn’t have a snappy title before, now’s the time to give it one. Your blog is going to be competing with thousands of others for Kindle readers’ attention. Just calling it “Julie’s musings on writing” isn’t going to cut it. In fact, you might want to add a tag line too. (for example, the blog I listed is my Story A Day blog, aimed at creative writers. I use a tagline there that addresses a  ‘pain point’ for my potential readers — aspiring writers who wish the could write more: “Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”.

Blog Description

Make your description snappy and to the point. Tell the readers what they are going to get out of paying for your blog every month. What concerns are you addressing?

Screenshots & Logo

Upload a couple of pictures, one a screenshot of your blog and the other your ‘masthead’ or logo. People are extremely visual, but remember that most people reading on an actual Kindle device are only going to see these things in black and white. Try to keep the contrast high and the images clean.

Website Info

Very important: enter your website address! You want  your new fans to be able to find your website, don’t you? You’re not going to get rich selling Kindle blog subscriptions (unless you get insanely popular) so the whole point of publishing here is to expand your reach. Let people know where to find you!

Category & Keyword Information

Category and keywords are going to be very important in helping people find your blog.

If you don’t know what keywords to use: steal.

Go to a successful blog online that covers the same topics as you. From your browser’s toolbar select View / Page Source of View Source. A whole bunch of HTML will open up in a text window. Don’t worry too much about it. Just look for the line that says “meta name=”keywords” and then you’ll be able to see what that site is using. Take your inspiration from that (don’t actually steal. That was a joke.)

Language & Frequency

Select your language and tell Amazon how often you’re going to post. Be conservative (you can update it later). If you are new to blogging and/or the sole author on your site, don’t promise daily posts. Unless, of course, you have an airtight plan for how you are going to churn out seven awesome posts a week.

Almost Done

At this point you can save your work and generate a preview of how your blog will look in the Kindle store. (This takes a few minutes, and is optional)

If you’re happy with how everything looks, press “Publish” and wait the 48-72 hrs they say it’ll take to get you set up in the store (in reality it took less than 24 for mine to appear).

Tell People About Your Blog

Kindle blogs are listed by category. Within each category the default view is “most popular” blogs at the top.

Your blog, on its first day, is not going to be there. You’re going to have to tell people it’s there, so they can subscribe and help you move up the charts.

To find your blog: Go to the Amazon store and search for “Your Blog Name” and the word “Blog”. This should bring you to your blog’s sales page.

StoryADay Blog in Amazon's Kindle Store screenshot

Copy the address (use an affiliate link if you like) and then go forth and promote.

Good luck!

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! ;)

Kindle FAQs

With the release of better and less-expensive Kindles I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who know I love mine and are wondering if they should be getting one.

So here, I present my answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions I hear about eReaders like Kindle. If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll add answers.

Do I Have To Connect It To My Computer To Buy Book?

No, the Kindle has a built in wireless connection to the web that uses the cellular network to allow you to connect anywhere and slurp books from the Amazon Kindle store into your Kindle.

(The new, cheaper wi-fi only version will only do this in areas that have a wireless network connection to the web. If you can browse the web using your laptop, you’ll be able to connect using this wi-fi only Kindle)

Can I Get Any Book I Want?

No. You can get lots of books. But it’s up to the publishers if they want to allow their books to be available on the Kindle. Sometimes they do sometimes they don’t. But there are hundreds of thousands of books available, including most new releases and publishers are working to get their back catalogues into ereader formats, pretty well. There are also thousands of books from small and independent publishers and self-publishing authors as well as free books: everything from classic literature to business books.

I Hate Reading On Screens. Why Won’t I Hate This?

Reading on an eInk screen is nothing like reading on a backlit computer screen, or phone screen. It looks like paper, the text isn’t pixelly, the contrast doesn’t strain your eyes. It is no more taxing on the eyes than paper. I swear. There is no glare and you don’t have to dog-ear the pages to keep your place.

Will I Be Able To Read Outdoors?

Yes. In fact, the display is more crisp in sunlight than artificial light. Forget your digital camera’s LCD screen or your phone’s screen, even your iPad’s or laptop screen. This is like paper. The brighter the light, the better it likes it. No glare, either.

I haven’t taken my Kindle to a beach, it’s true, but reading in the garden, in parks, and, I dare say, beer gardens, are all very much on the menu.

What Is The Difference Between 3G and Wi-Fi?

Wi-fi is a way to connect to the internet via a wireless internet router. If you can walk around your house and use your laptop or tablet anywhere without plugging it in, you have wi-fi. If you connect to the internet in coffee shops, that’s over wi-fi.

3G is the cellular data network that your smart phone uses. Kindles with 3G connectivity allow you to shop, download and sync book wherever you are (as long as there’s a cell-phone network in range).

Is There A Monthly Fee, Contract or Plan?

Nope. Amazon takes care of the charges for connecting to their “Whispernet” network to download books, even if you’re using the 3G connection.

Can I Lend Books

No. The BN Nook has a lending feature: you can lend Nook editions to other Nook owners IF, and this is a big ‘if’, the publishers approve the feature. Kindle does not currently have this feature and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if the big publishers block this on their titles.

[Updated 9/2011]: YES. You can lend books to other Kindle users (in the same country/licence region) for 2 weeks. ALSO you can borrow books from your local library.

(There are some caveats: the borrower must be in the same country/licencing region as you; the publisher must have enabled lending and not all have; you must do the lending from the Amazon.com web interface; you cannot access the books you lend while they are away)

You can also share your notes and highlights and see what other people have been highlighting in the same books your reading. It can be amusing or annoying, depending on how you prefer to read (I mostly keep this feature turned off but sometimes use it. I have been known to send quotes directly from my Kindle to Twitter or Facebook, which is kinda cool).

How Much Do Books Cost?

There was a bit of a war going on between publishers and Amazon and readers earlier this year. Publishers wanted nothing to be below $14.99 and readers wanted nothing to be more than $9.99. As things stand now you can pay anything from $0.00 and up for books, but most newer titles are around the $9.99 mark. Things you could pick up in mass-market paperback are usually between $5.99 and $9.99 and some new releases come out around that $14.99 point.

Amazon is manoeuvering behind the scenes to find ways to pressure publishers to keep the prices down, so we’ll see.

How Many Books Does It Hold?

Enough. Seriously, the earlier Kindles hold over 2000 titles (of average size) and the newer ones say they can hold over 5000 titles. That’s plenty for me and probably you. But if you run out of space, you can simply archive titles at Amazon and download them again (no extra charge) whenever you want to access or re-read them).

What Is The Keyboard For?

The keyboard is there so you can type in titles, words, search terms, and even make notes directly on your Kindle.

Say you are reading some giant Russian tome and can’t remember the first time Ilya turned up or who he’s related to. Simply type ‘Ilya” and the Kindle will find all instances of his name, starting with the first. You can jump to that section, then press the ‘back’ button to return to where you were reading, secure in the knowledge that Ilya is, in fact, the farmer from Chapter 3.

If you like to make notes in your books, highlight a passage with the cursor then use the keyboard to make our comments in a little file. Next time you come back to this passage you’ll see the highlight and be able to bring up your note. Also, you can view all your notes and highlights on one screen and back them up at Amazon’s site so you never lose them.

[Updated 9/2011] The new ‘virtual keyboards’ on the newer Kindle models work in one of two ways: the lowest-end model does not have a touch screen. Instead, you use the five-way controller to highlight and select the letter you want, must like on a TV interface with your remote control. The touchscreen Kindles allow you to type directly onto a virtual, on-screen keyboard.

Does it have a dictionary/thesaurus?

Oh yes. As you’re reading, if you get stuck on a work, just move the cursor to the start of the word and a definition pops up, unobtrusively, at the bottom of the screen.

[Updated 9/2011]: The Kindle Touch models include X-Ray:  relevant Wikipedia entries downloaded with  each title and accessible from inside the book. For example, if your book mentions the Boer War, you will be able to highlight the term and have a Wikipedia explanation pop up on-screen.

Will It Read To Me

Yes, the Kindle can read to you. It’s no substitute for a great audio book recording (see my analysis here) but it’s nice if you’re in a pinch. Also, you can turn the volume down and let it just turn the pages for you while you read (great for knitters, crafters and moms with babies). It’s not available on all titles, again because the traditional publishing industry is scared by all this progress.

All models — except the $79 model — support audio content, so you can load your own mp3s or Audible content on to your Kindle and listen to it through built-in speakers or through headphones.

But I Love Real Books….

I do too. I love the feel, the smell, the heft of real books.

But what I love even more is reading them.

With my Kindle I can read them anywhere. There are smart-phone apps that sync with your Kindle account so you can read a few pages on your phone if you’re out and about and forgot to bring your Kindle. It starts up right where you left off, even on a different device.

I love never having to remember where I put my book down. never having to find scraps of paper for bookmarks, or cursing when I lose my place.

I love being able to hear an interview on the radio and buy the book while the author is still talking, all without leaving my house.

I love that I’m reducing my carbon footprint by not driving to a bookstore and buying a dead-tree book that has been processed and printed and shipped half way around the world (an awful lot of books are printed in Asia, you know)

What is WhisperSync?

Their ‘WhisperSync’ technology means that you can read your book on different devices and, as long as they are connected to the Internet, each device will remember what page you were on and automatically ‘open the book at the right point.

Should I Buy A Kindle Or A Nook?

I’m sentimental. I love the fact that Amazon did this because they believed it in. B&N did it because it made business sense so I’ll stick with Kindle as long as they make it and support it.

(the very savvy Chris Brogan has a compelling argument here for sticking with Amazon and Kindle.)

[NB This section compares only the original e-ink Nook and the e-ink Kindles] The Nook has a couple of features that aren’t part of Kindle. One is the color screen at the bottom that lets you browse by cover art. As a Kindle-lover, I see this as unecessary frippery that’ll probably drain the battery and cause the end of world civilization. But you might like it better than browsing the text-only list of titles on the Kindle.

That Nook Lend-To-A-Friend feature is appealing too. I’m just not convinced that a, the publishers will go along with it and b, that Kindle won’t implement it too. Kindle and Nook now allow for lending to a friend (as long as the publisher allows it). Kindle has partnered with libraries to allow you to borrow from your local library’s collection.

The selection of books is pretty much the same (why would publishers go with one device and not the other, and reduce their sales?).

Kindle does not support the ePub format, the open-source format that allows you to transfer books between different ereader platforms.

Kindle or Nook? I guess it comes down to whether you want to buy your books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

What If I Still Don’t Want An eReader?

You can still read ebooks – on your computer or smart phone. Amazon has created ‘apps’ (applications or programs) that allow you to access Kindle content on other devices.

If I Can Read On My Computer, Phone Or Tablet, Why Would I Buy A Kindle?

[Updated 9/2011]: Amazon now offers a Click here to buy through my affiliate link (I get a kickback) or here to buy with no links: http://amazon.com/kindle

Want To Know More?

Read my other articles:

Kindle Touch Screen eReaders and the Kindle Fire Tablet

Nook and Kindle Comparison, from when the Nook was released last year

How To Publish Your Book On Kindle

Kindle 3 – Should I Buy One Now?

Using the iPad as an eReader and how it stacks up to Kindle

Should I Buy A Kindle 3?

Another generation of Kindle is here, Kindle 3 and now you’re asking yourself,

“Should I buy a Kindle 3?”

With the new, wi-fi only Kindle 3 priced at only $139, how much longer are you going to be able to resist? (The Kindle 3 wireless version, with free 3G connectivity AND wi-fi, is still $189. The new version of the larger Kindle DX is $379)

What’s New With Kindle 3 And Do I Care?

Have you read my Kindle FAQ, yet? If you have basic questions, start here.

High-Contrast Screen

The big thing that caught my attention about the Kindle 3 were the words:

“All-New, High-Contrast E-Ink Screen, 50% better contrast than any other e-reader”

If I’m totally honest, I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed with the contrast on my Kindle 2. The page seemed a little greyer than on my original Kindle and I would have loved just a bit more contrast. It never bothers me when reading in natural light, but under poor light conditions it made a difference.

They’re touting ‘new, improved fonts’ too, which is always nice.

Faster Page Turns

You really do adjust to the flickery, eInk page turns, but making them “20% faster” is no bad thing.

Double The Storage Space

I’ve never had a problem with my Kindle becoming too full because I archive books (send them back to the Amazon server) once I’ve finished with them. Slurping them back into the Kindle is a matter of a minute or so.

Some people might like to have all their books right on the device all the time, however. With the new “wi-fi only” option, too, having your books on the device makes sense, in case you aren’t within wi-fi range when you feel a desperate urge to re-read last summer’s hot thriller.

Smaller Body, Same Screen Size

Anything than makes the Kindle easier to slip in to a pocket or handbag is a good thing.

Less body also means a lighter Kindle, although I already thing it’s a great weight.

I just hope the new, smaller body still leaves somewhere to grip onto without covering the screen in smudgy fingerprints.

Quieter Turn Buttons

This is a wonderful thing for those of us who like to read in bed while someone else is falling asleep next to us. I’ve been accused of something close to Chinese Water Torture while clicking my way through a book some evenings….

Enhanced PDF Reader

Kindle 2 had PDF support added as an after-thought. This one has an enhanced reader with dictionary look up and the ability to make notes and highlights.

PDFs are always going to be at war with progress, however, as they were created to fix a page-design to a certain format and new technological interfaces are all about reshaping content and delivering it how the reader (not the author) wants it presented.

However, if you do read PDFs on your Kindle, it’s certainly be nice to make notes and highlights.

New Web Browser

If you don’t have a smart-phone and you don’t have an iPad or another way to easily access the web while away from your desk, this might excite you. It certainly excited me when I got my Kindle…but then I got a smart-phone and never used this function on the Kindle again. Still, nice to see they’re working to improve it.

There are two versions of this new, dark-grey Kindle available:

The all-singing, all-dancing download-books-anywhere version for $189 and

The slightly less flamboyant Wi-Fi-only

Does “Wi-Fi Only” Mean And Will I Hate It?

So I’ve been talking about this “wi-fi only” feature on the cheapest Kindle.  What does that mean?

Well, on the other Kindles, you use the cell-phone network to download books directly to your Kindle. You don’t need a plan or anything: Amazon has a deal worked out with Sprint and they pick up the cost (or the publishers do…but that’s getting too far behind the scenes. All you need to know is is you get free access to the Amazon store wherever you are, as long as you are in range of a cell tower).

“Wi-fi only” is going to be more restrictive. Like the early iPads, these Kindles will only connect to the store if your home has a wireless network (can you browse the web from your laptop on the sofa? Then you probably do) or if are in a wi-fi hotspot (like a McDonalds or a Starbucks or one of the zillion other places that offer Wi-Fi to entice people to come and hang out there).

So, you won’t be able to download books as you stroll down the street.

You will have to find and  access an open wireless network

BUT

  • If you are doing most of your reading at home, or have easy access to lots of wi-fi hotspot
  • If you don’t care about downloading books wherever you are and can probably wait until you get home to do it
  • If you want to save $50 on the device and buy yourself five books instead…

This is a great deal. Buy it now!

Kindle screenshot

How To Become A Best-Selling Novelist on Kindle

As a reader I’m a big Kindle fan. As a writer I’m…also a big fan.

While the big publishing houses seem to be missing the point with Kindle, authors are not.

A whole host of authors – from traditionally published to newbies – are self-publishing their books on Kindle, climbing the best-seller charts and writing about how they’re doing it.

I’m researching the topic for a series of how-to articles. Before I get to the technical side of things I wanted to share some resources on the just-as-important side of sales, marketing and ‘what you can actually get from publishing on Kindle’.

So here’s some further reading for you, if you’re a novelist wondering if Kindle (and ebooks in general) are worth your time and attention.

(Hint: the answer is ‘yes’)

AUTHORS ON KINDLE

Yes, People Are Buying Kindle Books

JAKonrath on selling 16,000 copies of his ebook (this one sparked controversy in the traditional-publishing world when Publishers Weekly dismissed his success in a snooty — and inaccurate fashion — and Konrath jumped into the debate. Fun!).

How novelist Elisa Lorello’s first novel reached number 6 on the Kindle bestseller list (her second is up there now).

Aaron Ross Powell on selling a draft novel on Kindle (and landing a publishing deal).

What If I’m Not A Well-Known or Published Author?

JAKonrath again on authors whose books are selling better than his, even though he is a mid-list published author and they (as far as he can tell) are not.

Promoting  Your Kindle eBook

How to promote a Kindle ebook, featuring an interview with Boyd Morrison who landed a traditional publishing deal based in part on his Kindle sales numbers.

Pricing Your Kindle eBook

One more from JAKonrath, on the importance of pricing.


What questions do you have about publishing your work as an eBook? What do you need to know before you make the decision? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find you some concrete answers.


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iPad Review: Using the iPad as an eBook Reader

Let me be upfront right, er, up front: I love my Kindle (s). But I was intrigued by the iPad because it was so damned new and sexy and multifuction and did I mention new and sexy?

I had used my iPhone’s Kindle app as a portable ebook reader, for those times when I didn’t feel like lugging my Kindle along with me, and it was more than fine.So I was worried.

I was worried that the iPad was going to be really great and pretty and that my Kindle(s 1) were going to end up sitting on shelves looking like really expensive white bookends.

The iPad IS Really Sexy

There is no denying this. When you turn on the iPad and that gorgeous display lights up and things start whooshing, and the colours are crisp and the text looks good, it is hard to imagine how the Kindle stands a chance against it. I wasn’t sure I even wanted it to.

When I opened up the iBooks app and saw the truly gorgeous (colour) rendition of AA Milne’s The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh I was torn between admiration and regret. How could my beloved eInk compete? So does it?

Using the same rating system I used in my review of the Kindle 2, here are my thoughts on using the iPad (version 1) as an ebook reader:

THE REVIEW

KEY

:(  A Bad Thing

:|  No strong feeling either way

:)  A Good Thing

:D  A Very Good Thing

:( The Weight and Feel

From an eBook reader’s perspective: it’s quite heavy and hard to hold in one hand. There is no way to really hold it centered in one hand and not obscure some of the text. (Kindle 1 had a similar problem in that it was tough to hold it in one hand and not accidentally press the ‘next page’ button). And that rounded back has to go, but that’s a complaint for a different article.

After having used this for a week or so, I’m finding it increasingly hard to hold for long periods. If you are a voracious reader, like me, the last thing you want is something that makes you want to put the book down (it’s why I don’t like hardbacks, to0)

:| The Size

I am undecided on this one. On the one hand, you can see bigger and better books on the iPad, and you can turn it to the landscape view really easily2. But it’s big. It’s not as portable as either the Kindle or the iPhone, and it doesn’t sit easily in one hand.

:( Backlighting

I read computer screens all the time and I wasn’t sure I really bought the whole “backlighting strains your eyes” thing until I had my Kindle. It doesn’t really register as eyestrain, but after a (long)  while staring at a computer screen, iPhone screen or iPad screen I start feeling headachy and sick.

I simply find that I cannot read for as long on a backlit screen as I can with paper or my Kindle. I start wanting to put the book down. And that makes me sad.

:( Readability In Daylight

Aargh. One of the things that really wowed me about Kindle was that when you walk into a patch of sunlight, the text on the screen become EASIER to read. This had never happened on my phones or on my camera LCD screens, so I just wasn’t expecting it. But it is gorgeous in the daylight. Not so the iPad. It is a nice, bright screen in indirect light, but, like any other backlit screen it makes me squinty-eyed and frustrated in daylight. And the fingerprints? Oh, the fingerprints.

:( Touchscreen

Don’t get me wrong, for other applications, the touchscreen is a miracle of technology, a joy, an absolute delight and it warms the cockles of my little geeky heart.

But on an eBook reader?

No. Just no.

While turning pages feels a lot more natural when you can swipe them the way you might with a magazine page, the accumulation of fingerprints on the shiny screen drives me to distraction. I’ve bought a bunch of microfibre cloths and I’m working with my therapist 3 and maybe it’s just me, but I have to say:

A touchscreen on an eBook reader is not the go-to technology.

Unless you’re talking about…

:D Interactive Books

This is where the iPad is going to kick ass, change the world and spawn a new age of creativity and progress.

I know, I sound like an Apple fanboy, which I’m really not.  But the interactive books are new and intuitive and delightful. (And expensive, but you know what? A lot of work goes into them. And a lot of licensing fees!)

The free  Toy Story interactive book is gorgeous, and contains both audio and video clips from the movie, as well as video games (GAMES! In a Book! Heavens!). You can read it yourself or have it read to you. You can read it in your kid’s bedroom at night with no other lighting (This is where my objection to backlighting on an eReader falters. I love this. I’m always battling my urge to keep the lights low at bedtime, with my urge to be able to see what the hell I’m reading). You can give it to your kids who can’t even read yet and they can play, read, learn words. And OK, these interactive books have existed for a while, but usually tied to the computer. Interacting with them on the iPad is just about perfect.

This is, I think, where the real sea-change will happen. This is where the iPad will sing and book publishing will change. Books in the future will have all the interactivity, and none of the clunkiness of websites 4 It’s entirely possible that words-on-the-page only books will eventually go the way of silent films (still loved by a few devotees but regarded with tolerant bemusement by most).

:| The Various eReader Apps for iPad

You should go here to read actual reviews of the various iPad book apps, but always bear in mind that new apps will come and more books will be available and any opinions I voice here will be outdated by the time I push “publish”. I’ve only used the Kindle app and the iBooks built-in one.

:| Availability of Titles

For now, there isn’t a vast availability of titles outside the mainstream bestsellers list. Finding kids’ books and older books is almost impossible, but this will change. For now, the Kindle has, of course, a much better selection, but even that isn’t perfect. But if you’ve ever had anything to do with the publishing industry you’ll know that they’re still living in mourning for the Roarin’ 20s and it’s only in the past couple of years that some younger publishers and agents have started using that new-fangled thing they call email. The pressing need to capturing their backlists and convert them to readable, manipulable data files was met by the publishing industry ten years ago with the kind of uncomprehending indifference shown by the people of Pompeii as their friendly neighbourhood volcano began to seethe and rumble. Even now, I suspect it’s only because Google said, “to hell with you then, we’ll do it”, that the publishers have pulled out any stops at all. And when Amazon launched the Kindle, then B&N (who they all hate and fear) launched the Nook and Steve Jobs started sniffing around, things started to look serious.

The Bottom Line

For an avid reader 5, the Kindle is hands down the best device for now 6.

It is light, it is portable, it is easy on the eyes and the hands, you can annotate books AND share everything across various platforms. It is an absolute pleasure to read for hours and hours, in daylight or indoors. It emulates the traditional reading experience and improves upon it (inbuilt dictionaries, annotation, bookmarking and highlighting without destroying the book, hands-free page turning 7, on-the-fly indexing, searching and on and on). There are lots of titles available.

For whizz-bang and a taste of the future, get your paws on an iPad and have a look.

FURTHER READING

Debbie at Inkygirl.com has collected a bunch of iPad/vs eReaders reviews in this article.

I purposely did not read these reviews (apart from the apps one) until after I’d written mine. I’m off to see who agrees with me…

  1. Yes, I got versions 1 and 2! OK? But I don’t do manicures and expensive hair treatments or shop for clothes much, so gimme a break
  2. But not too easily. It has a hardware button on the side that you can flip if you don’t want the screen to rotate every time you shift in your chair. Nice feature!
  3. Not really
  4. Oh for a time-machine to go back and tell 1996-me that I would one day find hyperlinks on a super-fast fibre-optic connection ‘clunky’!
  5. who lives in the North America or Europe and doesn’t mind if the illustrations aren’t in colour
  6. This doesn’t mean it won’t go the way of Betamax and who-even-remembers-the-name-of-the-competitor-to-BluRay, of course. Sob!
  7. As long as the luddite publishers haven’t turned off the Text-To-Speech function in that title

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.

BUT

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

Open Letter to the Authors' Guild re: Text To Speech on the Kindle 2

I read that, in response to your complaint, Amazon is preparing to give authors and publishers the choice of whether to offer their books with text-to-speech.

Fine.

But I’m writing to ask you to encourage your members to tell their publishers to say ‘yes’.

I understand the contract issues and the rights issues. I understand the ‘slippery slope’ argument.

From my own experience I say: I love to read. I sometimes buy audio books, but I really love to read. In fact I hate to stop reading. With the text-to-speech function, I don’t have to. I’m getting through books faster than ever because I no longer have to put them down when I cook dinner; do dishes; drive to pick up my pre-schooler…etc. etc. I’m already buying more books because of this.

I would not buy the audio book of every printed book I buy. You are losing not sales and it is not decreasing demand for audio books (yet, yes, I know you’re arguing for the future. I’m arguing for people like me who will always want to read the majority of their books).

Please encourage your members to think of this as a ‘value added’ feature for readers, rather than a competitor to their audio book rights. Please encourage them to say ‘yes’. Please encourage them to give this a chance. If it does turn out to be A Bad Thing, then you have your clause from Amazon. But please let your members know this could be an exciting new technology that readers might (or might not) love. Let us find out.

In addition, please consider my friend, a mother of two young boys, who has been losing her sight for years now. I am taking my Kindle over to ‘meet’ her this week. I know she’s going to be excited about the variable text size (Large Print doesn’t have its own license, does it?), and thrilled by the text-to-speech. She might have bought one and become a reader again, but now I’m not so sure, since I can’t guarantee her that all the titles will be available.

Thank you for all the work you do to protect the livelihoods of the authors who add so much to my life. Now, go and assure them there are honest readers out there who just want to squeeze a little more reading time out of each day! (And you could refer them to Neil Gaiman’s experiment where his publisher offered “American Gods” free at their website and saw a resultant jump in sales as people used the freebie as a ‘try before you buy’. Giving readers choices and flexibility and freedom can be a good thing).

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