Friday, July 31, 2009

Student sues Amazon despite finding 1984 notes


Update to earlier articles (1)  and  (2) on the Amazon '1984' debacle

  Note that an interview with the "1984" student will be broadcast on The Kindle Chronicles podcast tonight (Friday).

When the student was last interviewed by The New York Times's Brad Stone about the sudden removal of his copy of '1984,' Stone reported:
' Whether or not people are bothered by these possibilities may in part be a function of their age, as a new generation grows up with an implicit understanding of the rules around these networked devices and learns to live with them.

“I’d like to live in a perfect world where I own this content and can do whatever I want with it,” said Justin Gawronski, a high school student whose copy of “1984” was erased by Amazon, but who recently declined when a lawyer asked him to join a class-action lawsuit over the incident. Mr. Gawronski said, “This is probably going to happen again and we just have to learn to live with it.” '”
That last thought was more relaxed than my own reaction as I feel that Amazon and other e-reader companies have seen that they'd best not do anything like this again, just for what it would do for their bottom line, as customers definitely don't want this done.  Amazon acknowledged this already by changing their systems, they said to Stone, so that this wouldn't happen again on even a book that was found to not be a legal edition, once it had been sold.

Yesterday, the Wall St. Journal reported that Justin has gone ahead with the lawsuit after all (no doubt with the help of some persuasive lawyers).

  Though other newspaper reports didn't mention this, there is another plaintiff name involved, "A. BRUGUIER," who wants another book to replace the one removed.  The lawsuit also focuses on what it calls "unfair and deceptive business acts and practices...as part of a pattern and generalized course of conduct."
  For most people I talk with on Amazon forums, this description just gives the suit less credibility, as Amazon's strong point has been the overall quality of its customer service in the last couple of years.  

Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles announced the other day that Friday night's podcast will include separate, unrelated interviews with Ian Freed of Amazon and with Justin Gawronski.

  The interview with the student came about because of the interesting, almost entertaining way in which he found out ("The rest of the story") that he still did have the notes after all, on his Kindle, after feeling his work had been stolen.  That can be read, with hyperlinks added by Edgerly.  It should be good to hear from Justin himself in the interview.  Len said, at the unsympathetic Amazon forum thread discussing this, that in his interview
' Justin comes across as a pretty good kid, trying to do the right thing in a situation that is getting pretty intense.  I agree this lawsuit doesn't look very good on paper, but hearing his side of the story in his own words puts the matter in a different light, IMO. '
  The notes were, by normal programming, put into a separate pure-text file ("My Clippings" file) which Kindle users can then copy or move to their computers for editing and printing.  Justin confirmed the notes are still in that file.
  About a day later, Justin received a used e-copy of the book that had been available at feedbooks.com some time ago.  It wasn't provided by Amazon though.

 The Lawsuit acknowledges that the notes were not lost (despite many current newspaper reports).  It states, instead, that Justin considers the notes "rendered...useless" because he no longer has the book for reference and that some notes, which give location numbers in the Kindle book, referred to items such as "this paragraph" in the book.


MY TAKE ON THE LEGAL TEAM'S POINTS
This includes the detail from TradingMarkets's story.

1. License for Life: Jay Edelson, of the firm of KamberEdelson uses the following rationale: his main point seems to be that “People are given license for life” (to an e-book), but I think the problem there is that Amazon found out from the copyright owner that Amazon didn’t have the "rights" to License the e-book at all as the book is still under copyright in the U.S., and Mobile Reference, who uploaded the book ‘1984? (as well as ‘Animal Farm’) didn’t have the right to offer it for sale.

  If Amazon didn’t have the right to license that book to anyone, can they license that book "for life" as Edelson puts it?

  I still feel that Amazon handled it poorly, even if giving refunds as they did, and really should not have removed the book(s) from customers' Kindles, but they have given two apologies, with the assurance (reported in The New York Times) that they’ve changed their systems so that it will not happen again despite illegal book uploads having been sold.

2. "Hacking" into peoples Kindles - TradingMarkets reporting Edelson's points).
  TradingMarkets reports, "The class action seeks injunctive relief barring Amazon.com from improperly accessing peoples Kindles in the future."

What is 'hacking' or 'improper' accessing in a network environment with ongoing interaction and file handling and backups?
  Amazon's normal network processes include ‘removal’ of a current daily blog to replace it with the most current daily blog subscribed to, and to ‘move’ customer-deleted books to the Kindle “Archives” area so that these deleted books can be re-downloadable via a click from the Amazon servers.  Also, older subscription issues are moved to a Periodicals folder, and all kinds of file handling (including back-ups of notes and notations on books with customer approval) are everyday file-handling.  In other words, deletions are part of the everyday processes.

 Ironically, a long-standing demand by some customers has been that they be allowed to have 'permanently removed,' from the Server logs forever, any books they thoroughly dislike and have deleted from their Kindles, so that they never have to see the title in their Kindle's Archives listing anymore, but Amazon has been reluctant to do this when the customer had bought it and when there is no legal issue involved that presses for permanent removal.  What if customers were to decide later we wanted a book again after all, for a second look, and called to say we had purchased it and should be able to download it?

3. Personal property / Network client device
  Another key point will be whether or not the Kindle doubles as personal property AND as a network client device, the latter covered by Title 17 of United States Code:
(c) Information Residing on Systems or Networks at Direction of Users
which is discussed in an earlier report.



To download a copy of the federal lawsuit, click here.
Photo Credit: KamberEdelson
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to save on college textbooks

An AP article carried by Cleveland Ohio Business News suggests "3 ways to save on college textbooks"

The article points out that publishers are now offering to rent books or are providing electronic versions at what AP says is a fraction of the cost and that, next summer, colleges will be required by federal law to "list the cost of required materials in online course schedules.  Publishers will also need to disclose book prices in marketing sent to professors who may not realize the costs"

Until then they suggest
1. Renting.  They give Chegg.com as an example - that site is renting Introductory Chemistry for a semester for $44 while the list price of the book is $140.  They have a catalog of 1.6 million titles and say they will try to track down books requested that are not in the catalog.  While the student pays for shipping, returns at the end of the semester are done with prepaid envelopes.
  BookRenter.com works similarly and there is an option to buy at the end of the rental period, with credit for the rental price.  Both places offer refunds if a class is dropped - within 30 days at Chegg.com and within 10 at BookRenter.

2. Buying Used.  The AP article states that used books cost almost as much as new ones, at campus bookstores, so they recommend going online to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Borders for better pricing, where the condition of a book is often described by the 3rd-party sellers (rated by users) and online coupons or special sales are offered in email by the bookstore chains.

3. Digital books.  Coursesmart.com offers about 7,000 titles and the company says that its e-textbooks are, on average, half the price of new print copies, and have the same layout so there's no confusion over what 'pages' are assigned.  Print copies are available too.  There is rather limited copy & paste allowed but students can print 10 copies "at a time" (whatever "a time" means).  Highlighting is also a feature.
  Cengage Learning makes its titles available electronically at iChapters.com.  Unlike e-books bought for the Kindle or Sony readers, the books at both companies can be kept for only the equivalent of a semester and can't be used later for referencing.  These are not bought but leased then.

 The Kindle DX and Sony Reader are also mentioned, but it's pointed out that some textbooks won't be available for them.  They add:
" Three textbook publishers -- Pearson PLC, Cengage Learning and John Wiley & Sons Inc. -- have agreed to make books available on the Kindle. But representatives for Kindle and Sony did not respond to questions about the breadth of their textbook selections or prices.

As an example, however, "An Introduction to the Standard Model of Particle Physics" cost $45.45 on the Kindle, compared to $75.11 for a new copy from third-party vendors. "
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Barnes & Noble offer free WiFi in stores

ZDNet reports that Barnes & Noble have teamed with AT&T to offer free WiFi access in their stores nation-wide.  They've done away with subscription fees at the stores and will not require a purchase to enjoy it there.

I've always enjoyed going to B&N and while it'll be nice to be able to take my old laptop there to enjoy the Wi-Fi , I've not needed it when I had my Kindle, with its own always available, albeit slowww (but free), cellular wireless access.  But it'll be another reason to visit there.  May B&N do well, always be available (unlike Borders) and keep Amazon on its toes. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Free 'Basic Html' e-book for bloggers

Basic HTML: An Introduction to HTML for Bloggers, written by Kevin Muldoon for Blogging Tips newsletter members (membership is free), is a 63 page e-book spanning 11 chapters, available for a free download by anyone who joins their Blogging Tips newsletter.

This very basic primer is written for readers with no prior knowledge of HTML, who want more control over how their blog posts are shown and to help them quickly identify basic coding errors on their blogs.  A Cheat Sheet can be downloaded too.  The author lives in Scotland, so this is written in UK English.  The short book is very nicely done and the price is right. :-)  For beginners. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rubin's $35 Bio of Lucas: 'Droidmaker' FREE download - Update

David Pogue tweets today: 'Michael Rubin's $35 biography of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, "Droidmaker," now available as a FREE download. What a deal!

While Rubin writes that he hopes that people will also want to buy the actual hard-copy book, here is the link to the free set of three PDFs that comprise this electronic version.
  Rubin hopes that if you don't feel like getting the hard copy that you will click on his "Donate" box for the e-copy.

  To reward Michael for this, people might consider (as he requests) getting the hard-copy also, as a gift for fans of Lucas or Rubin or filmmaking.

  Rubin doesn't know how long he will have this free version on the Net, so get it while it's there.  The book has received 25 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of '5' out of the max 5 Amazon uses.  There's no Kindle version yet, though.

  At that reviews area, Alvy Ray Smith, co-founder of Pixar writes:
' After years of reading mangled "histories" of Lucasfilm/Pixar, I am extremely pleased to read one by a guy who gets it right, including the arts, the technologies, the businesses, and the personalities.  Michael Rubin not only gets the gist correctly imparted, but also those pesky details. '


UPDATE - 7/25/09 - Can a Kindle guru help with making this happen?
  Original posting of entry 7/24/09 at 8:59PM
Michael Rubin has added a comment to this entry, and maybe someone can help him with his interest in getting the PDFs converted for the Kindle and making them "appropriately available that way.  I'm told it's possible, but I haven't figured out how to do it from my Mac..."

  I also think his publisher should make the book available as a Kindle edition and I clicked on the box at the Amazon book page to ask the publisher to do that.

  These PDFs will be fully readable on the Kindle DX, of course, as is.

  But for the Kindle 1 & 2 -- While I know Stanza and Calibre (both will work for Mac) might convert these from PDFs, these are fairly complex ones with double photographs on a line and lots of footnotes which are on both sides of the body of the text, something that I know MobiPocket Creator doesn't convert very well at all.

  I might ask at MobileRead forums.

SIDE NOTE:
Here is Rubin's response when asked why he was doing this.  I had wondered also, and from a creator's point of view, it makes a lot of sense.

He also welcomes any feedback any of you may have.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting Google directions with the Kindle on a trip - Update4

N O T E :   JULY 10, 2010 -- GOOGLE CHANGED SOMETHING AND THE PREVIOUS DIRECTIONS (BELOW) DON'T WORK ANYMORE -- See the NEWER VERSION dated July 11, 2010 -- this one is just part of the archives now and maybe in the future might work again.

UPDATE 7/25/09:  Shortcut for both Kindle 2 and DX, to go to a website, has been added at the bottom.

Web-browser tip.  Some Kindle owners take advantage of the free, included, 24/7 Sprint cellular wireless when in the car, without a GPS unit or suitable map, and wanting to find out how to get somewhere.

  This works for Kindle 2's and Kindle DX's, although any map that appears, while quite readable in the DX, is not particularly readable on the Kindle 2.  However, the text navigation directions are very readable on both, and you can enlarge the font for those.

  When you've been busy using the Kindle for a number of things, sometimes the first attempt at web-browsing will cause the Kindle to reboot to clear memory for a clean start.  After that, it should be fine.
1.   Press the Menu button to get the "Experimental" option.

2. Click on "Experimental" to choose/accept the "Basic Web."

You'll need to use the SYM key at bottom right of keyboard to get any unusual characters such as '@" sign as well as the question-mark symbol.  While slow and an irritation, it's still useful in a car if you don't have phone access to the web.

3. At the Web browser page (though it may take you to bookmarks page instead),
press Menu to choose "Go to Top"

That gets you to the top line to type a link or URL

4. TYPE:
maps.google.com/?output=html

5. Five-way to the right until you get "GoTo" and then press down on that.

That should fetch the Google map/directions page for you.

(SHORTCUT for Steps 1-5 is at the bottom of the page.)

6. Press the Menu button to BOOKMARK this page so you don't have to type this again.

Also, the screen should show "Advanced" or "Desktop" at top center as your browsing mode.  "Basic mode" won't work with this.  This is normally done automatically, but if not, then press Menu/Settings to choose "Advanced."

7. Then you can use your 5-way button/cursor to get, slowly, to the input boxes to enter city, state (or zip) for a Map of the area.

  If you want "Directions" - then add an address before city

8. If you check "Directions," you'll see the START-address input box and most of a small map.

9. TYPE the From: address that you want.

10. 5-way down slowly :-)

11. Then the screen shifts and gives you the rest of the map and the END-address input box.

12. TYPE in the To: address there.

Again, the text directions from Google are very readable on either Kindle screen, and you can increase the font size of that text with the Aa font-key.

You'll need to play around with this to get used to it.  On the DX, zooming-in on a map will make the street names clearer of course.

Let me know if you have any problems with this.


ADDENDUM for KINDLE 2 and KINDLE DX USERS: (added 7/25/09 at 2:59 AM)
There is a shortcut (Kindle 2/DX) for getting to a URL from the Home Screen.

  The traditional way was shown above.

INSTEAD of 1 through 5 above:
AT HOME SCREEN
1. Press Enter key (below the DEL key)

  This brings up the tubular text-input 'box' at the bottom.

2. TYPE in:
  maps.google.com/?output=html

3. Five-way to the right until you get "GoTo" and then press down on that.

  You'll be placed right on the Google map/directions page.

Then go to Step 6 (or to Step 7 if you've already bookmarked it previously).


ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE SHORTCUT to the one above.
AT HOME SCREEN
1. Press Enter key (below the DEL key)

  This birngs up the tubular text-input 'box' at the bottom.

2. TYPE in:
  @url maps.google.com/?output=html

3. Press merely Enter-key (below DEL key) to choose default "Search my items"

  You'll be placed right on the Google map/directions page.

The last alternative forces you to use the SYM key use for the "@" sign, which is a slowdown.

  But it also lets you just press Enter key instead of 5-waying several times to the right.


UPDATED 7/25/09
ONE MORE ALTERNATIVE SHORTCUT
  You can type in the URL while reading a book or article
    IF your cursor is NOT on the screen.
      Then start typing in the website url (no http://) and then
      5-way to "my items" and press down.

  After finishing with website, press 'Back' key to return to book page.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jeff Bezos - An Apology from Amazon

Jeff Bezos posted to the Kindle Community Discussions forum a simple but eloquently spare apology with no excuses for the remote deletions that understandably caused Amazon a tremendous loss of trust in one week for the clueless handling of a digital rights management situation which involved having inadvertently sold illegally-published books (uploaded by the trusted Mobile Reference folks who have done such good work on public domain works) and deciding to give refunds while erasing the files from servers and from network client Kindles without warning to customers who had paid for the books.

The wording is so effective, to my mind, that this will go a long way toward restoring a good bit of the trust they've had from long-time customers.

For my money, it was a classy statement, not put out to the world through a press release but directly to the Kindle community itself. Excellent move.

To check whether it was officially from Amazon, I saw that management had caused the two sticky topics at the top of that forum to become unsticky at the top - one was a Customer Service Announcement thread and the other was a Kindle FAQ given sticky status long ago for customers to help other customers.  Only management has the rights to change those placements and I think it was possibly inadvertent while placing his announcement post there:
" Initial post: Jul 23, 2009 12:16 PM PDT
Jeffrey P. Bezos says:
This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO
Amazon.com "
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iRex DR1000S 'Paper tiger?' - DX size $989 US

First, I ran across a few more interesting stories and they're linked at my Twitter page, so if you're interested in additional news items that I don't expand on here, you can get them at twitter.com/kindleworld where we're limited to 140-character alerts but can still link you to the full stories.

The iRex Digital Reader DR1000S is reviewed by Bill Ray, of Register Hardware, and he subtitled it "Paper tiger?" which sums up his appraisal, amplified by the 55% Rating he gave it.

  Expectations can be high when the suggested price of this unit, somewhat larger than the Kindle DX, is more than twice the cost of the DX -- at $989 US (£599) for the iRex DR1000S vs the DX's $489, often referred to as "too expensive."

  He says it's not exactly comfortable for reading books due to its size, but I thought I'd feel that way about the DX and have come to find the size just fine.

  The screen is 10.2 inches (in diameter, I assume) with the same 16 levels of gray as the DX, and he finds that it "excels at rendering an A4 page, ideally from a PDF file" and describes it "a joy" and slim enough so that it feels like a clipboard.

As with the iRex iLiad (reviewed by AlexOnLinux after a year of use), it uses a stylus which has slight lag time.  While calling the hardware "superb," Ray writes that the interface is a "mess" with "appallingly designed processes" and:
" Take this scenario: imagine one has finished reading a PDF document and wishes to close it and then delete it. Closing the document involves nine key presses, in the correct order switching between side and bottom buttons, deleting the same document takes another eight: get one wrong and you're back to the start. We've not seen interfacing this bad for a very long time..."
The battery is affected by the capacitive screen if not much by the e-ink display and "would rarely allow 10 hours of reading."  On the other hand he was "using complex PDF files. and taking lots of notes"

For e-books, it supports Mobipocket but he says the model is "not intended for reading books."
  What?  The iRex iLiad (normally $850) deals with all kinds of file formats, so I don't know what he means, unless he means the device is mainly for pdfs, excel sheets and office documents. He adds:
" The value of this class of device is in the ability to make a load of scribbled notes onto a PDF file and then merge those notes into the PDF file for viewing elsewhere. "
 The iLiad model is open and has encouraged hackers to create apps that strip out pages with no notes and which change all notes into red marker -- really useful for ultra long documents.  But this model won't do that, for now.

His "Verdict"
" Despite the disappointing software and outrageous price this is, quite simply, the most effective way to read and make notes on long documents.  If you have to do that regularly, then the RD1000S is the best tool for the job, but try to get the company to pay for it. "
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B & N and Plastic Logic 2010 - The Focus - Update


UPDATED 7/23/09 for a very interesting additional Plastic Logic quote, from May 28, placed at the bottom of the Plastic Logic section and to correct a couple of dates from '2009' to '2010' (thanks to Batman) - Original Post was made 7/22/09 at 2:17 AM.

Wall St. Journal reports that Barnes & Noble is partnering with Plastic Logic to power its bookstore when Plastic Logic releases its E-Reader "in early 2010," a date given in the VIDEO interview with Fox Business News by Plastic Logic's Vice President of Business Development, Daren Benzi.

  Commenters to the news site quote some of his responses:
" Our goal is to focus on the business professional. ...optimized for content for the business professional: newspapers, magazines, periodicals...we're targeting a different kind of a customer... the business professional..."
In a New York times piece, Brad Stone astutely points out that this
" typically suggests a higher price and the need to lure more affluent customers."

Reactions of website commenters (some of whom have been eagerly awaiting the Plastic Logic model) to yesterday's interview which once again had a Plastic Logic executive bringing an inactive model to a televised broadcast:
' It wasn't even a working model, just a mock up. It "displayed" a single, static page. No demonstration of the touchscreen, the refresh rate, or the supposed flexibility at all. '
  That was strange.  Here's another reaction which addressed the announcement that was well in advance of the release:
" A lot of people have a lot of hopes pinned to this device, and it doesn't even have a firm release date or price.  'Early 2010' could mean it might not be released for another 9 months. I'm supposed to start buying books from Barnes & Noble now and not plan to read them until next spring? "

However, two months ago, in May, there was a demo of the working model at that point, and the external appearance is the same, a heavily commented on, somewhat aging PC color, for the frame which has no buttons because everything is done via the touch screen and a virtual keyboard.  Here is the video for that by Gizmodo.  Gizmodo comments on the functioning that they saw in the demo.  Here's the larger video without Gizmodo comments.

The NY Times's Brad Stone adds
" The Mountain View, Calif., company declined to disclose any more information about the pricing, or whether it will charge consumers monthly for that wireless connectivity.  Amazon.com’s Kindle accesses content through Sprint Nextel’s wireless network, although users are not charged for the service and many probably do not even know their Kindle uses Sprint to download books and access the Web. "

At this point, please read details in the earlier reports here on statements by Plastic Logic executives when making presentations in late June, May, and mid April.  I'm summarizing here (but the details in earlier articles are better):
[ Daren Benzi ] - "Compared with a computer, one of the advantages of the device is that readers can focus entirely on consuming content, they will not be disturbed by emails, for example."

[Sarah Geata] - "It will have WiFi, USB connection and a Bluetooth. We support PDF, ePub and MS Office. We are targeting [the] business traveler, you can annotate documents on it... When plugged in, the device can upload email to it... [WiFi] will be built in. Kindle set the standard making it transparent."

[When asked if there would be a web browser, Geata's response was]
"Not right now. It's about not being interrupted.
  It's a reading device. There won't be email on this or a web browser ..."

In yesterday's video, it was mentioned that the content would be for the business professional - magazines, newspapers - whereas Amazon targets those whose main interests are books.

In a Fox Business News interview earlier (details in earlier stories), an executive said that wireless would be used to upload and download documents needed for work and that most books would be business oriented ones.

This all jibes with PC Magazine's opening statement in its article today by Mark Hachman:
" Plastic Logic said Wednesday [sic] that its upcoming e-reader device will connect to the AT&T 3G network for content updates when the device debuts next year. "
They intend to use the wireless and wifi capabilities for uploading and downloading documents needed for business.  Brad Stone describes the plans this way:
" 'Over time you can see a lot of potential to be connected back to your office or to your home base,' said Richard Archuleta, chief executive of Plastic Logic.  'Having that ability to get documents, books or trade journals over Wi-Fi or the 3G network is critical, especially for mobile business professionals.' "


UPDATE 7/23/09 - Added quotes from Plastic Logic - Original posting 7/22/09
From Christie Silk of Editors WebLog dated May 28, 2009, more information about publishers with whom Plastic Logic had already made arrangements and another interesting quote:
' Richard Archulet, the company's chief executive, emphasised that his company's project aimed to satisfy the demands of a different user base to the mainly leisure orientated market already dominated by Amazon:
"Everything is designed for the business user, and business users require a lot of different types of content. It's really not about books at all." '
And from an earlier report which cited an even earlier report
' Benzi explained that although the first device will not access the internet, consumers might well be able to click on an advertisement for additional information on products or offers . . .

Plastic Logic will be able to "track the information about what the customer is doing with the device," a system which would seem to offer benefits to both newspapers and advertisers. '



MY THOUGHTS ON THE ABOVE:
So, I am not at all confident that non-business-oriented customers should bank on the Plastic Logic unit if looking for the ideal consumer e-reader.  I don't even think the price will be attractive.  But the file formats that the Plastic Logic will handle are a very attractive draw and include the Microsoft Office suite, full PDF support, and ePub format, etc.   Since Barnes and Noble plans to support ePub at some point (not right now), the Plastic Logic unit could read books from that store.  Looking at B&N's e-book store, fictionwise.com (recently purchased by them), average pricing is above Amazon's.

In mid June, Jeff Bezos announced to a Wired Magazine sponsored conference:
"In the future, Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader will display more book formats beyond its own."
And I'd say they'll obviously need to.


BARNES AND NOBLE
Now, to the B&N side of the news, The Wall St. Journal reports that they will launch an e-bookstore with bestsellers priced at $9.99 and will offer 700,000 titles.  500,000 of those will be public-domain books written before 1923.

  Business Day adds that B&N "would be the only provider of books on Plastic Logic’s electronic reader when it starts selling next year."

  Although book formats that B&N support include iPod, iTouch, Blackberry smartphones, and most Windows and Mac computers, the President of B&N, William Lynch said that titles bought through B&N's bookstore won't be compatible with Sony Readers or the Kindle

Also, while B&N will support Plastic Logic, its contract does not prevent it from selling its books for other e-readers, maybe even one made by B&N.

They don't say whether they'll actually sell the Plastic Logic and there is no pricing information available during this fairly large announcement, which seems timed to cause a slowdown for the Kindle but without displaying anything noteworthy with the Plastic Logic reader while changing the expected release date from "January 2009 2010" to "early 2009 2010," which could be as late as April 2010.

Of interest to me also is that Fictionwise, Barnes and Noble's e-store currently, has sold books in formats directly downloadable to and readable by the Kindle for some time.  feedbooks.com and manybooks.net also sell or give books that are fully readable by the Kindle and, directly to the Kindle.

  Many are unaware of that, thinking the Kindle can deal only with Amazon books.  Now, B&N's future super e-book store will not provide books in compatible formats for the Kindle or the Sony.  I thought that was a little odd, when Fictionwise has (MOBI/PRC format) for so long.

But Barnes and Noble's challenge will serve to keep Amazon on its toes; I personally love using the Kindle, but I really want Amazon to 1) update the firmware in the Kindle 2 so that it provides native PDF support with manual rotation and 2) to update the firmware in the Kindle DX to fully support PDF editing and study tools, sooner than later, with the school sessions coming up very soon. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Sony-PRS700BC review & comparison w/ the Kindle

Computer Shopper's Matt Safford reviews the SonyReader PRS-700BC, with a touchscreen and with side-lighting, and compares its features, pro and con, with the Kindle (both the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX).  Good photos, in that they're large enough to get a good idea.   Best to read the review there, but for those reading this blog on a Kindle reader, the Kindles do fare better. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

A different 'rights' theory on Amazon '1984' action

This is an update to the Orwellian tale - Part 1 that has non-customers more angry than most Amazon customers posting on the forums (probably because Kindle customer service has been so responsive over the last year), though we are definitely watchful -- but Amazon took less than 8 hours to respond that they're changing their systems so that this doesn't happen again.

Note the still hilarious ongoing Amazon Kindle forum thread in which customers create new scenarios of Amazon dropping by, unannounced, to make various changes in their homes.  Yes, this was serious stuff but Amazon seems to know it stepped into a dark, deep spot it'll want to avoid in the future.

  When publishers have decided to withdraw a book from Amazon, actions haven't been done retroactively insofar as customer copies are concerned -- but if you finished reading and then deleted a book which is later withdrawn by the publisher, and you then want to re-download that book to take another look at it, the publisher's new wish takes precedence at that point and it's not re-downloadable.

  TIP:  Keep a back-up copy on your computer.

As an addendum to the earlier "Furor" story, I came across an unusual CNet article by Peter Glaskowsky which included, in its Comments area, a unique theory about this mess, by "Jaleth."  He wondered if Title 17 of United States Code:
(c) Information Residing on Systems or Networks at Direction of Users
could apply to Amazon affecting its predicament with the illegal edition of the book.

It's far-fetched except that a case could be made that Kindles are a part of a network within which Amazon regularly makes contact to add files, move them into folders, back up, record last-page read for synchronization with iphone apps, and replace once-a-day blogs with newer editions.

 And, while the Terms of Service say that Amazon grants the customer "the right to keep a 'permanent copy of the applicable digital content'," this right was not exactly assignable with a book edition that Amazon and Mobile Reference weren't entitled to sell at all.

It doesn't change the fact that Amazon should never have just deleted the book and they're not likely going to be doing that again, as they said.

The network-reach theory explanations by Jaleth (above) are an interesting read as are the arguments against his.  These are found in the bottom third of the final comments page.

I wrote a post in response about the way Kindle interacts with the Amazon servers, and I'll add it here (edited) in case some readers haven't read about that.
It also includes customer-approvable backups of highlighting and annotation in connection with the books on the Kindle - to two ends:

1) the customer has a web area on Amazon which holds all the highlighting and notes for viewing at any time by the customer, sorted in various ways -- and recently Amazon created the option to see all your notes for a book on one unbroken web page. This has been very well-received.

2) Once a customer finishes a book, they can delete it from their Kindles. At that point, it goes automatically into "Archives" -- meaning it is still held at your personal Kindle-management area at Amazon and can be re-downloaded if you want to look at the book again (no add'l fee of course) -- and this includes any highlighting and notes you made to the book, if you approved the backing up of annotations.
  For each user the notes-area is reviewable at kindle.amazon.com (a private page).  Amazon's servers need access to move subscriptions and periodicals into a periodicals folder, after a certain length of time, and non-Amazon papers into the Personal Docs folder.  They also need to be able to overwrite single daily issues of blogs as those are not accumulated for the customer, though each daily download will tend to include the last 25 blog entries, useful for searches and more leisurely reading.

That's all in connection with how this works as a network.  It's my own firm belief that Amazon shouldn't have deleted the illegal edition of the book once it was purchased.  At the least, they should have let the customer know the reasons the book should be deleted but they should have let the customer do it.

Apparently, they will do something like that in the future since a spokesman was quoted as saying that they are changing the systems so that this doesn't happen again in these circumstances (I suppose he means when they delete a book from their servers for copyright reasons).

For those concerned about the 17 year old student, Justin Gawronski, whose plight was described in Brad Stone's NY Times piece, a couple of us were able to contact him and let him know that Amazon replicates the highlights and notes of any book into a file called "My Clippings" and that this is kept separate, in straight-text format on the Kindle, and that his notes should still be there.  That is done so that the customer can edit and print the notes.

Justin confirmed they were still on his Kindle, in that file.

That doesn't mean Amazon was 'right' to delete the book -- only that they have a sometimes flexible and, in many ways, well-thought-out system for the study-use of books.  Since people voiced concern over how this affected a student's work on his notes, of course - I wanted to let any readers of this comment area know.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Amazon's sharing policies confuse its own reps - Update

UPDATES added near the bottom Original posting 7/17/09 - 10:16 AM - It was a system error, now being "fixed" per staff.

The Net has seen some heated writing about Amazon's DRM (Digital-Rights-Management) policies in that a first-tier customer service representative had told a customer-blogger that there was a limit as to how often we can re-download an Amazon-purchased book when the Amazon ads blare that a Kindle owner will be able to re-download a book at no added cost anytime the book is needed again when the customer has deleted it to save space.  Also re-downloaded with the book would be your highlighting and notes if you allowed Amazon to back them up.

The actual quantity limitation by Amazon is on the number of devices on which one Amazon-purchased book can be be simultaneously accessed under one person's account.  The limit that Kindle forum participants are used to mentioning to new members is "up to 6 devices," usually meaning Kindles or Kindle-compatible units like the iPhone and iPod that use the Kindle App.

Here's the Amazon FAQ statement in reply to the question: "How many Kindles can I use to access titles in my library?"

Most books and other non-subscription items you purchase from the Kindle store may be simultaneously accessed for your personal use on to [sic] up to six Kindles (or Kindle compatible devices) [emphasis mine] registered to your Amazon.com account.

If you reach the device limit and wish to replace one of your current devices with a new one, you must first deregister and delete the content from the device you wish to replace before you can access the content in question from your new device.  Please see the "Registering Your Kindle" section of our Managing Your Kindle Settings Help page to learn how to register/deregister your Kindle.  There is no limit on the number of times a title can be downloaded to a registered device.  [Emphasis mine.]

Subscription content can only be downloaded to one Kindle at a time, and only the seven most recent issues will be available for redownload from your Kindle or from the Manage Your Kindle page. '

There's now an Amazon forum thread about the finding that those who use Amazon's self-publishing books feature ('DTP' or Digital Text platform) have wording in their product-info areas that the number of digital devices able to share the book simultaneously is '5' rather than '6'... that's been confirmed by a few Kindle book authors.

It's possible that an error was made when placing this info with the DTP books and that someone meant to put "up to 5 other devices" (Bufo Calvin is asking Amazon about this), but maybe Amazon, which is the "Publisher" in those cases, wanted to have a lower device count for those, but that would be very strange and a confusing inconsistency it really doesn't need.

Karen of Books on the Knob also points out that Wiley had a limit of 4 devices months ago, apparently mentioned in the product description.

 She reminds forum readers that we can download a book "hundreds of times (costing Amazon 12 cents or more, each time)" so is puzzled (as are any of us) why Amazon, as 'Publisher' would choose 5 devices for authors who publish under Amazon's DTP publishing area.  Perplexing, but she also notes that it's been evident that most customers don't appear to care that much that they might be able to share books with only 4 other Kindles under their accounts.



UPDATE 7/18/09 - see Karen's update in her comment to this post.  This seemed to have been an error on the part of a staffer who may have posted the number without authorization.

UPDATE 7/18/09 #2 - Here is the forum page on which the Amazon staffer ("dtpadmin") responds to Bufo Calvin's question about the 5-device limit:
" Hello,

We have identified an error in our system. We are fixing the problem to remove the device limit for DTP titles. We apologize for this error.

Thanks!"


I find that most people just want to be able to read a book.  The ability of a family or very good friends to share books on the same account paid for by one of them is considered a nice feature.

But Amazon has to get clearer about the policies, if nothing else, and wiser about them if they would keep a better focus on the customer experience.  I enjoyed a description of the Kindle the other day as a "vending machine" for products Amazon needs to sell us.  The long-term relationship needs more clarity and less fear that the customers want to steal books.  Most of us have had very good experiences with Amazon's customer service but there needs to be a way to give all the customer service representatives the same policy information and to place in the online-support areas more detailed and consistent information.

Amazon is a company that seems to have a lot on the plate.

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Furor over Amazon's Deletion of Orwell's'1984' from Kindles - Update #2

Amazon, advised that the sale of illegal copies of the still U.S. copyrighted '1984' and 'Animal Farm' were taking place on their site, removed those editions from their servers and from users' Amazon-area "book shelves" which, during synchronized wireless sessions, caused the books to be deleted, remotely, from customers' Kindles, and Amazon refunded the 99c cost of the book to affected customers.

 However, there was no warning to customers, and the company's emailed explanation said only that there was a problem with the books.   This was experienced, understandably, as invasive after the purchases had been long completed.  Others point out that while physical stolen goods are taken away without payment made to buyers, Amazon is not a police dept. enforcing retrieval under a court of law.

Mobile Reference, it turns out, didn't have rights to upload and sell these copies, but since they specialize in specially formatted versions of public domain books (usually with a high level of care and on a volunteer basis) and the books are not in copyright in Australia currently, the inclusion of those books was surely inadvertent, as it's probably not widely known that the books are still under copyright in the U.S. until 2044, according to several articles online.

The most balanced and detailed story last night on the fiasco was by Nate Mook and Tim Conneally of betanews.  Give that a read if wondering what on earth happened.

The NY Times's Brad Stone posted an update quoting statements by Amazon:
' An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said. '
It has to be asked, under what circumstances might it still be done?


UPDATE - 7/18/09 Originally posted 7/18/09, 4:45 AM
Stone also quotes Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old who "was reading '1984' on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. 'They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,' he said."

Those notes should still be in his "My Clippings" file, which holds separate copies of highlighting and notes you make for a book.  I wonder if anyone's let Justin know he should look there.

UPDATE #2 - 7/18/09 Original posting 7/18/09, 4:45 AM
Justin Gawronski has been found via Ken Kennedy's Kenzoid's Autonomous Zone article in which he described Justin's plight as told by Brad Stone's NY Times piece and made a guide for backing up your Kindle's "My Clipping" file so that you can retain, edit, print your My Clippings file.  Also remember to check out TheProfessor's Word macro that will sort your My Clippings file by book.

Justin found Ken's story via a friend and now they're connecting to make sure his no-longer-lost notes are useable once a reasonably-priced copy of '1984' is found.
The Net is amazing.  I never reached Brad Stone though.

Justin verified he found his notes in the My Clippings file. I don't know if Justin can stand reading a book online, but at least it's free to do that, as I just found out, at the George Orwell site.  I sent Justin a quick note.

An Amazon customer discussion forum thread has some good pros and cons by members with some information on past deletions for copyright (Ayn Rand, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series) and the current situation with these two books in other parts of the world.

I've barely touched on the details, so do read the articles above if curious about the uproar.

It's not all nefarious deeds and high drama though.  There's a lighthearted send-up of the situation by Amazon customers in one entertaining forum thread.  Don't miss it.

UPDATE 7/18/09 - James Adcock makes one of his usual good points in the Amazon thread normally focused on the many ways to get books for your Kindle.  He uses the analogy of someone selling you a bike or camera but not realizing it was stolen.  I replied to his with another thought on that.

My own personal take on this, posted to the Amazon forums on 7/18/09 also, in connection with the above.

And here's another very good summary of the situation, by Ars Technica's Ken Fisher on "Why Amazon went Big Brother on some Kindle e-books." Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kindle finally on its way to the UK? Maybe so.


mobiletoday.com
('Mobile') reports that "Amazon is close to finalising a launch date for its ‘Kindle’ electronic book reader in the UK and is in advanced negotiations with a mobile operator for an MVNO [Mobile Virtual Network Operator], Mobile understands."

 Other points Mobile makes (and I'm quoting them due to the importance of wording on a not-finalized deal):
' Amazon is understood to have outsourced all aspects of manufacturing for the Kindle in the UK to Qualcomm, including securing ‘connectivity’ with a mobile operator in the UK.

' The retailer wants customers to be able to download books through PCs or over Wi-Fi, but also to have the option to regularly download newspapers, magazines and journals while on the move, via a mobile network.

'Amazon is understood to be frantically working on having the Kindle ready for launch before Christmas 2009 and has already secured agreements with book publishers.  It is also in the process of negotiating with news and magazine publishers... '

Mobile quotes an Amazon spokesman's response: "We have previously announced that we are looking to release the Kindle with our international customers.  At the moment we have no timeline." Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Mighty Bright Ultra Flex 2 'Kindle' light has added pad


Quick update to my earlier post about the Mighty Bright Ultra Flex 2 clip-on light.  I received the Mighty Bright Kindle edition light on Tuesday and it does have an added foam pad that's placed inside the upper clamp, to help prevent scratching the Kindle's (or any other e-reader's) bezel.  Using the DX w/o cover, that's important in my case.  For other aspects of the light, see the earlier post with fuller update. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Amazon's most-popular free books and "big deals"

For those new to the Kindle or thinking of getting one, here is Amazon's listing of
the most popular free books at Amazon, both classic and non-classic, and about 7,000 other free books that are available there.

Here are their free non-classics, sorted by most popular titles and the same free non-classics, sorted by most relevant.

Earlier I recommended a few that I've downloaded, including a few others that were not free but which are less than $1, and recommended a forum thread where you can find out how to get books from other sites.

Don't miss their "Big Deals" page that highlights the latest (and often temporarily) "Free on Kindle" books.
Random House is offering a "free library" of books to download at no charge until October to introduce new readers to popular and acclaimed science fiction and fantasy series, including John Birmingham's Weapons of Choice, and Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Stealer of Souls.
Amazon's also currently featuring 16 books in the "Romance" genre.

It's a page you should check often, as they change the featured items regularly.

Also note they are featuring elsewhere another free book that explains how Green initiatives actually are a great way to cut costs in this economy - Green Cost Cutting: Five Ways to Get Lean Now Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Kindle DX to ship in 2-3 weeks now (July 14)

Amazon changed its expected shipping date for the Kindle DX today, from 3-5 weeks to 2-3 weeks.

If it's something you know you want, I'd put in a pre-order considering how fast they go out of stock for awhile, and the fall session is due soon, when demand will likely be somewhat higher. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Apple 'netbook' due October. And, the CrunchPad?

Computerworld reports that the coming Apple netbook (others say tablet) will sell for about $800, with a 9.7" screen (the size of the Kindle DX) according to a Taiwanese news site [I linked a Google automated, though primitive, web-translation].

The expected price is high but Technology Business Research's Ezra Gottheil says "Apple has never been above squeezing early adopters."  As either a touchscreen notebook or Internet tablet, this would be the cost before adding on monthly wireless charges as Apple of course would need to do for Internet access outside the home or office, but for customers who want color and video, the $800 cost plus $720/year wireless access charges (or ~$1,520 for first year) would probably be worth it.  Computerworld says that, according to Infotimes,
' Apple has placed orders with three Taiwanese electronics manufacturers -- Dynapack International Technology, Foxconn and Wintek -- for components that will be assembled into a netbook. Wintek, said InfoTimes, will produce the 9.7-in. touch screens. Foxconn is a contract netbook and notebook maker, and it will be the primary manufacturer for Apple's netbook. '
Gottheil wonders what it will do about a keyboard, though I don't see anything indicating it wouldn't have either a physical or virtual one.  He is hoping for an external one.  Computerworld ends its report with
' But Gottheil was sticking to his "iPod on steroids" vision of whatever Apple introduces to fill the gap between the top-end iPhone and the low-end MacBook Pro.  "That's more likely, I think, than a traditional netbook," he said.  "Even outside of Apple, this has to happen.  PCs, even Macs, are a combination of a professional tool and a hobbyist's device." '

And then there's the announcement still expected, for July, of TechCrunch's CrunchPad, which is a 12" tablet web-browser expected to sell for $350 which will be dedicated to browsing the web in color with no internal storage but with a card slot for external storage.

  In the Chicago Sun-Times report by the always pragmatic Andy Ihnatko, he (unlike other columnists) mentions the need for either WiFi or 3G wireless access and wonders whether 3G capability will be included.

  As of now, no one has said publicly whether the capability is only WiFi (useable at home or office with your WiFi network or at hotspots when out) or also 3G wireless, but there have been hints from salespeople mentioning 3G when apologizing for some halting in the video.

 3G Wireless would be great but will be a capability that requires (except for the Kindles) that the customer buy the monthly wireless (usually $60/month).  However, the other option of WiFi access at home, while relaxing in your chair, and webbing that way, would be great.  I think they'll sell plenty of these for people with WiFi in the house, and WiFi is easy to set up for a total of $50 or less.

Neither of these are e-readers, but the Apple tablet would almost surely have Apple apps capability which means that one could read e-books even if with backlighting, which many would appreciate at night.  But for $800 it would be a luxury to get it for e-book reading.  And battery life would be shorter.  For Net access away from home/office networks, the Apple would cost about $1,520 for the first year and then about $720 plus taxes and fees in subsequent years.

This will be interesting to watch since the Apple tablet wouldn't be as capable as a Netbook with hard drive and normal apps and would be overkill for book-reading while not as easy on the eyes for pure-reading as is the otherwise more limited e-ink screen.  But Apple always makes devices that attract.
  Here are speculations on the form factor and operating system.

I think the CrunchPad will be an easier sell though.  Ihnatko's report includes a video of a demo of the CrunchPad in April. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Discover Mag: the Kindle as "next leap forward" w/ color in 2010


Discover Magazine's Eric Wolff
writes that "Wafer thin and with its low battery consumption and low-eye-strain reflective surface, [the Kindle] marks a huge leap toward blending the benefits of paper with those of computers.  But that’s only the beginning of what’s happening out there in Science Land."
'...the Kindle’s black-and-white E-Ink technology is already preparing to give way to color screens.

  ' Currently, each pixel in a Kindle is comprised of 60 tiny electronic balls, each with a black hemisphere and a white one. As described by New Scientist, in the color version, each ball will be replaced with four smaller balls of white, green, red, and blue, each of which is switched “on” or “off” by a single transistor.  Until recently, E-Ink couldn’t get transistors small enough to make this system work, but that changed last year. Now that the technology works, E-Ink expects to have color devices ready by the end of 2010.

  ' ... E-Ink devices start off with an advantage in power use, because the balls only require electricity to change from one state to the other. When the Kindle is simply displaying a single page, it uses no electricity at all. '
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Amazon refund / Is Imitation the highest form of flattery?

China's Founder Group, a major Chinese technology conglomerate, has just demonstrated (MobileRead forums reports) an e-book reader, apparently named the "WeFound," that certainly looks familiar!

  UPDATE: 6:58 AM - See the high-resolution version found by Kindle Zen.  Story for that, here.

Amazon's patent that protects the look and feel of the Kindle shell is not likely to have any effect in China.  TadW at the forum says that he's heard the device is operated with TD-SCDMA/3G and that Founder Group is currently evaluating it with the Guangming Daily newspaper and he wonders if this could be them.  Note the illustration at the bottom left.  Oddly enough the device has a QWERTY keyboard and "nathanb" describes how pinyin letters entered via that keyboard work to output in Chinese.

KINDLE 2  $60 REFUNDS FOR K2's BOUGHT 6/8/09 AND AFTER
As mentioned in the first report below:
'...people who just recently bought Kindle 2s (within the last 30 days ... are being given $60 refunds when they request one.

The phone number for Kindle customer service is 866-321-8851.'
Also, I received an email from a reader who was happy with Amazon's policy, reporting that
"Zak (the Amazon CS rep) asked me to tell anyone who might be in a similar situation that Amazon will extend that refund to anyone who has purchased a K2 within the last 30 days.  Just call."
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Friday, July 10, 2009

$299 Kindle 2 or $489 DX? plus How the Kindle works


I've been doing the forums to see what everyone thinks about the price drop for the Kindle 2.  Some feel they can finally buy one; others want to buy more for their families, and many still wonder whether to get the larger Kindle DX or the lighter and now $-lighter Kindle 2

Also, a few people have said that they haven't been able to get a good idea of how the Kindle works, so I thought I'd highlight here a web page review, by Kelly Hodgkins, that gives the best description of Kindle functioning that I've seen.  (Click on that last link to read it.)  The review is of the Kindle 2, but the Kindle DX navigation is exactly the same except that it can also rotate to landscape viewing if wanted.

PDF INFORMATION UPDATED
Both the DX and the Kindle 2 are able to read PDFs correctly, with layout unchanged and multi-columnar information where it should be.  The Kindle 2's smaller 6" screen makes it more difficult to see the text and text labels in complex PDFs (important in academic and business environments and often used for information offered by websites), although viewing them in Landscape mode (a recent software feature) enlarges the image quite effectively in some cases.

  Also, Amazon offers to convert a copy of any non-rights-protected PDF for us to Kindle's normal format or we can do it ourselves with free utilities.  This assumes a PDF that is not 100% image-based but which is, for the most, part text-oriented.

  A conversion from PDF is usually to Kindle's basic format (Mobi, Prc) , although the layout for charts, diagrams, and multi-column material can be confused during the conversion and thus hard to read.  PDFs that are primarily text will usually be fine.  Complicated PDF pages with words running across multiple columns or special labels in illustrations may not convert well.

Adding to the complexity of the choice is that PDF text on the Kindles are not indexed by the Kindle, so information inside those books or pamphlets doesn't show up in full-Kindle-device searches.
  Also, while highlighting and annotations can be done for any normal book or document, the Kindles don't have those features for PDFs.  And the text-to-speech feature cannot be used on original PDFs either.

BUT, even when the PDF itself is quite viewable as-is, I'll make a copy of a PDF I am working with, in order to convert it to use the Amazon Kindle features to highlight and add notes or to use the faster Kindle search routines and even text-to-speech when I can't sit down to read at the moment.

Kindle's coming software update v2.5 being delivered in stages allows panning and zooming of PDFs and that's espcially helpful with the Kindle 2's 6" device.

Again, there is the workaround in the meantime for this situation, in that if you want to use those standard Kindle study capabilities for PDFs, you can convert a copy of the PDF to a Kindle-compatible format with a free utility and then do annotations and text to speech on that copy while leaving the original PDF for reference viewing of charts, diagrams and multiple columns.

PDF books that are only images of each page of a large book can only be used for viewing, of course and are slow-to load on any e-reader.  Not worth the time.


KINDLE 2 OR KINDLE DX ?
In the forums, we've discussed this a lot.  Here are some questions I felt people should ask themselves when needing to clarify which Kindle would be best for their needs.

It really depends on how you want to use it.

1. Would you want to carry it in a pouch or purse everywhere, as I do?
    For me, it's the Kindle 2 if that's ultra important

2. Do you need native support for PDFs?
    These are displayed accurately and beautifully with the DX.  Many complex PDFs can't be viewed easily with the Kindle 2, as the screen is relatively small when most PDFs are made specifically with 8-1/2 x 11" paper in mind.
    Novels in PDF format will generally work fine. Any single column work that does not include diagrams with small text will be just as readable as any other book file on both the DX and the current Kindle 6" device.
  Sheet music online tends to come in PDF format too.

3. Do you care about the DX feature that allows you to display web pages or PDFs in landscape mode with auto rotation?
    The Kindle 6" offers a manual rotation option.

    The alternate landscape mode makes both webpages and PDFs much easier to use and more readable although the lack of color will bother some with either Kindle.  I have samples of these at PBase.

4. Is super clarity of text and screen contrast important to you?
    The DX has a beautifully clear, big display, but the smaller Kindle 2 also has a clear display with somewhat less contrast.

5. Do you need very large text?
    The Kindle 2 gives you a choice of 6 fonts, including rather large ones.  The DX makes very large text possible while still displaying many words at a time per page.

6. Is it important for you to read while holding the Kindle with only one hand because you need to use the other one for something else?
    Believe it not, this is important to quite a lot of people.  The Kindle 2 is better for that, of course.

7. Do you have weakness problems with the wrists or even shoulders?
    While more than a few have written in forums to say that although they have arthritis and other ailments the DX is not a problem for them, others prefer the lightness of the Kindle 2.

8. WHAT KIND of reading do you do?
    If it's almost entirely books and not large, technical documents, the Kindle 2 is an excellent choice.
    If you need to do a lot of technical reading or prefer magazine-size reading, then the DX is likely a better fit.

However:
SIZE can be all important.  I think it would draw too much attention if I were to slide the largish DX out from some jacket/holder when waiting in line somewhere.  But others are managing and use larger purses or pouches.  If you have a large purse or carrier and you don't care about the size, then the DX is probably a good choice.

It's not that heavy, but with a protective case it's more than most of us normally want to have for everyday purse contents.

To get an idea of how the Kindle 2 displays books or web pages, see the older screen comparison of the Kindle 1 with the Kindle 2.

And, as mentioned earlier, my recent DX screen-display samples are at PBase.

As for me, I use the DX at home and the Kindle 2 outside the home.
Feel free to ask any questions about this.  It's a tough decision. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
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Amazon Wireless Store launches, and other news

AMAZON WIRELESS STORE
GigaOm's Om Malik noticed that Amazon has launched its Amazon Wireless store, with free 2-day shipping on all phones.  They'd been offering mobile plans and special deals for some time but now they've made a dedicated shopping center for it.

Recently, Amazon had aunched Endless, a shoe store not unlike Zappos and bought Dpreview.com a camera review and forum site I visited a lot and was surprised had been bought by Amazon.  No ill effects reported -- they've let the previous owner run it, and they've done the same with IMDB, The Internet Movie Database.  Now, with the launch of the Wireless store, they're taking on "Let's Talk" of San Francisco though the latter has 10 years on Amazon.

Malik thinks the new store will do well citing its "clean and easy to use design, description of devices and the quality of reviews." Here's another report on it by Intomobile.  They say that only AT&T and Verizon are on board for now.  There are some good phones for "a penny" but we'd have to, of course, pay monthly for 181 days after activation to get that price and we can't change our plan to a lower monthly rate without additional charges.  Nothing unusual there though.  This is a mite off-topic but it's a wireless topic in a Kindle world! :-) and I thought some would want to hear about it.

MURDOCH NOT READYING KINDLE-LIKE READER AFTER ALL
GigaOm also reports that Murdoch, when asked if he was going to get into the hardware business with an e-reader, said,
' I don’t think that’s likely.  We’re looking and talking to a lot of laboratories and big companies around the world like Sony, Fujitsu, Samsung.  We’re all working on wireless readers for books or for newspapers or for magazines.

I think they’re a year or two away, being marketed in a mass way, high quality ones.  And we will be absolutely neutral.  We’re very happy to have our products distributed over any device provided it’s only going to subscribers who are paying for it. '
Other Murdoch statements (often contradicting) in earlier reports here.

BACK TO SCHOOL KINDLES?
Huffington Post's Giles Slade writes "Come September about 60% of American college textbooks -- including most freshman texts -- will be available from Amazon.com in cheaper, portable Kindle editions."  He doesn't source that percentage info though.

  But while he sees students carrying Kindle 2's, I don't think those are ideal for textbooks (although I do use Photoshop books on mine).  While he points out the Kindle DX is out of stock for another 3-5 weeks, they ought to be back in stock before Fall sessions.

AMAZON PATENTS FOR ADS IN E-BOOKS AND ON-DEMAND PRINTED CONTENT?
Alibaba reports that Amazon was granted patents for advertising and that they filed a trademark application for the word "Kindle" with indications that "social networking" is a possible use for the brand name.  Of note, since many are concerned about Amazon's plans, are the following thoughts:
If Amazon did go ahead and include ads in books, the filings imply that Amazon would make the books free or discount them—some consolation for those not used to seeing ads in their texts.

Cutting the price of e-book titles would contrast with the view among some analysts that Amazon will actually have to hike the price of its e-books in order to improve economics for both publishers and Amazon.  Maybe including ads could help offset that need.
Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
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Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is the Kindle only an E-Reader? Why $360259? Why $489379 for the DX?

[Updated for pricing change on July 8, 2009 - 11:48 PM] - Original posting was March 19, 2009 and this has been updated a few times.
New belated update for decreased prices, on November 12

It's a good time to take another look at what the Kindle 2 does for the price.

Many blog reviews and commenters have said that the Kindle is too pricey for "just an E-Reader."  But is that all it is?  Jeff Bezos has mentioned the high expense of the advanced 'radio modem' as well as the newest E-Ink screen, with its 16 shades of gray and a faster processor.

The 24/7 "always On" wireless access to the global net with no time charges for Kindle users would be one reason it's $360 $299 [price reduced July 8, 2009] $259 [price reduced October 6, 2009].

[Prices changed later but am not modifying the part below, written May 2009]
  UPDATED: May 2009 to cover the coming 9.7" screen Kindle DX which has a screen surface area 2.5" times the size of the Kindle 2, priced at $130 more ($489) and with native Adobe support for PDFs.  The other information below remains true for the larger DX.  Amazon is taking pre-orders now, for earlier shipping dates.  Note that the closest big-screen e-reader (Irex Iliad) is $860~ with wireless of some type.

UPDATED: 4/25/09 from original posting of March 19: I've been asked about any additional factors that might justify the cost of the Kindle.  Originally posted March 19, 2009 at 8:07 am upon starting 'A Kindle World' blog, this article now also includes notes on non-Internet-access (non-wireless) features that are missing on other e-readers or which aren't as well implemented on them.  The additional information is integrated with what was written earlier.

Sony's advanced model, PRS-700, has 8 shades but also a touch screen and side-lighting.  Unfortunately, the two hot features on this Sony have caused reviews (see NYT's David Pogue's) citing a loss of clarity as well as even lighting and glare.  While the Sony doesn't have the Kindle's cell-phone style wireless Net access, much less 24/7 access at no monthly (or hourly) cost, the Sony costs more.  It does handle more formats in native format (ePubs and PDFs -- although reviews can be scathing about the readability of its small PDF fonts at highest font setting vs the Kindle's conversion results, but Calibre allows us to convert pdfs, ePub and Lit files to Kindle format now, while MobiPocket Creator converts PDF (and other files) into Kindle format and PDFReader may do a better job with image-based ones.  Stanza is the one to use for those with Macs.  Savory is an experimental utility that converts PDFs ON your Kindle, offering both text- and image-based conversions.
UPDATE - 4/27/09: Amazon bought Stanza today.

Unlike searches for wi-fi hot spots (often with fees), Amazon's partnership with Sprint for use of its EV-DO cellphone network means that the Net is accessible almost anywhere a cell phone can be used, and with the Kindle there are no monthly data-charges as there must be for phones -- usually at least $30/mo for a limited plan, which at 12 months = $360.  An interesting figure, I thought!



From xkcd

The web access is somewhat klunky although less so with the Kindle 2.  There are 3 modes: Basic, Advanced, and Advanced with javascript - and we can turn images off or on depending on how eager we are for data vs images.  The mobile versions of many websites make access quicker and with better formatting.

I use the 24/7 Net access when outside my home, often at stores where I can decide whether to buy something by Googling the product's model number and adding the word "review" -- this has saved me from some bad buys and also confirmed some possible buys would be good ones.

See my Tips for using the Kindle's web browser more effectively.

I was wishing, one day, that I could go check an internet machine somewhere to get information on something I wasn't sure about buying and suddenly remembered I had one in my purse :-)  At cafes, I often check something on the web.  Though I obviously love using the wireless, I am not out that often, so I don't think it's a super drain on Jeff.   (Click for a larger photo of my earlier Kindle, webbing at a cafe.)
  And here's a photo of my Kindle 2, posting to a forum and Googling a product at Target.

New Amazon fees affect some Kindlefeeder options below.
I also use kindlefeeder.com to get feeds onto to my Kindle each day (a manual click must be done now, for the free service (as automated daily sends will now cost $20/yr), and this includes up to a dozen feeds in your downloaded set (one file with table of contents for each periodical).  but good labor goes into this great service, so Daniel Choi posted that donations are welcome and his users have been responsive.  My subscription at kindlefeeder includes Engadget, Gizmodo, full-feed HuffingtonPost, NY Times Most Emailed, etc.   The set of several daily publications comes as one item each day, with a table of contents listing of and links to each downloaded periodical.  No need, in this case, to use the wireless when reading -- outside of the quick download of the daily set -- unless a feed is mainly summaries with links to the full article online.

But I also subscribe to Amazon's Kindle subscriptions that I find timely and well-written -- those include The New Yorker (w/the cartoons) at $3/mo and the NY Times Latest News, at $2/mo. -- this latter comes 2 or 3 times a day, anytime there's a big headline, which means a meaty story and there are usually about a dozen articles each download.
  While I can and did get The New Yorker feed for free, I prefer the special Amazon formatting for periodicals, allowing fast navigations to sections or to articles within sections and the usual Previous and Next article movement with the 5-way button.  I also love getting the cartoons with it.

MANUALS AND GUIDES FOR PRODUCTS BOUGHT:
I just about always lose my guides or manuals for various electronics and have now gone online to get the pdf versions, which I send to my Amazon Kindle address for auto-conversion and then they're auto-sent to my Kindle, where I can always find them (and am able to search for specific words).  This won't work well with PDFs that are primarily image-scans, as they'd load slowly and be too small for clarity and readability.  (Updated: There's a 15c charge on those conversions and deliveries direct to the Kindle for files up to 1 megabyte in size and 15c per megabyte after, rounded up -- but you can instead choose Amazon's free conversion and delivery to your regular email instead and and you can then transfer the file to the Kindle via the USB cable that comes with it.)

WEB INFO to your Kindle:
If interested in website info you've found, you can highlight the info, copy it the usual way (Windows: Ctrl-c or Mac: Cmd-c) and paste it into Winword or to a basic text file, then e-mail it to your Kindle, at which point it becomes a file of its own readable on your Kindle.  As mentioned in other entries, there are several ways to convert any web info into a PDF file as well, which then can be sent to your Kindle for Kindle-izing, but normally these should not be complex multi-columned pages although the Savory utility can work around that also.  More detailed info on the special image-type conversion here.

SEARCHING A BOOK OR ENTIRE LIBRARY on your Kindle:
The Kindle 2 now searches, as a default, only the book you happen to have open and you have the choice of it searching your entire Kindle library, which will then pretty quickly bring up all the books and periodicals with the word or phrase in question, showing summaries of each, and links to the appropriate pages.
  It also offers a search of google, if you prefer, or the Wikipedia, but you'll be asked to turn on your wireless in those cases.

  A SEARCH TIP from MobileRead forum's "Hemipod":
    "If you use the 5-way control to highlight a phrase, but don't finish the highlight, but instead press a key as if you were starting a search, the highlighted text is copied and pasted into the search box. Very, very easy way to search, say, wiki, for a phrase that's in your book."

INLINE DICTIONARY
Unlike the fatiguing and convoluted inline dictionary process for the Kindle 1, the Kindle 2 has direct cursor access to any word on a book or periodical's page, and if placed on a word, a 2-line definition of the word shows at the bottom of the screen (if the Oxford American dictionary includes the word).  If interested in the full dictionary definition plus pronunciation, you can press the Enter key on the keyboard to get that.  I used to guess the meaning of words via my understanding of the context, and it's been instructive for me :-) to actually use this feature at times.

HIGHLIGHTING, ANNOTATIONS KEPT WITH EACH BOOK (with Amazon library-backups for books bought from Amazon)
  You can easily highlight passages now, including highlighting that goes over several pages if wanted.  You can also make notes with the keyboard.  These are all searchable also, as described above for searching words or phrases.

  If the book was purchased from Amazon, then the store keeps a backed-up copy of your notes and highlighting of any book (kept in your library area at Amazon) so that if you delete the book either for space or to exclude it from your display of current titles on the Kindle, you can later re-download the book at no charge, and your highlighting and notes will be with the book. Your annotations are also kept, for viewing by book, on a password-protected private webpage when you have not disabled backup of annotations to the Amazon servers.  Here's a sample.

CLIPPINGS
The Kindle 2 now allows you to clip an entire article from a subscription newspaper or magazine with the press of a menu option.  These will go to your "My Clippings" file which is pure text.  As with any other e-reader, you can transfer the file to your computer via a USB cable and then edit it, since it collects all the clippings you've been making, which includes an extra copy of all highlighting you've done on various books so that you can use them in your text documents.  That way you can share with friends, if you have a computer, any information that's interested you enough to note it on your Kindle.  If you decide to delete the current "My Clippings" file from your Kindle the unit will create a new one for you the next time you highlight or make notes about something or when you request a clipping of an article you're reading in a periodical.  Otherwise, the Kindle just appends new notes to the file.

FONT SIZING AND LINE SPACING OPTIONS
I often find when reading normal books or magazines now that I almost instinctively start to make a movement to enlarge or decrease the font size or the spacing between lines. While almost any e-reader will give you a choice of font-sizes, the Kindle offers 6 font sizes and furthermore offers 9 settings for the amount of spacing between lines. Less spacing distance will get more lines to read on your screen while more distance may make a paragraph easier to read.  Key combo for line-spacing changes: press shift-alt together and then press a number between 1 and 9 to decrease or increase the line spacing from whatever your current choice is.  Default is '3' which is also the default for font size.

COST OF THE KINDLE PARTS
I've been amused by the reaction to recent articles about the cost of Kindle components, the general reaction equating the cost of components for the Kindle to the cost of building a Kindle and deciding that the amount over $185, from the [original] $360 price, makes it a 'cash cow' for Amazon.

 Those writers don't factor in what happens after the builders buy the components -- the manufacturing expense and the expertise to make the many features (beyond the usual e-book) work together well.  After selecting the components and readying the hardware and software conditions for the desired functions (involving a lot of paid people), then there's the mass assembling, transportation, warehousing, marketing, distribution, and management of inventory, plus (in Amazon's case) extensive customer support that's almost instantly reachable and normally more responsive than the usual (the one exception being Amazon's non-response about the lighter font issue of the Kindle 2 vs the Kindle 1).

Then there's the prepaid Sprint wireless, always 'On,' global net access which normally costs $30/mo. to have (minimum limited services) when added to basic cell phone service. That alone can cost $360, though I'm sure Amazon has a very good deal on it as long as we don't overdo the accessing (I might).  As pointed out in several entries here, netbooks given 24/7 cellular network wireless capabilities cost $60/mo. for the unlimited acccess.  Yes, it's faster access, with color, but it's aosl $720/year more on top of a netbook's unit cost

TEXT-TO-SPEECH FEATURE:
While newspapers have duly noted publisher reluctance to allow their books to be read "out loud" by the Kindle 2's automated mechanical-reader voice (they consider this as 'competition' for the professional actors reading novels with human inflections!), most publishers are allowing it. (Some Amazon users and disability rights proponents are boycotting Random House for their clueless policies against this feature)  And of course the feature can be used for reading aloud personal docs or periodicals you've downloaded if you're busy doing something else such as cooking or driving at the moment.   (I want to do a separate section on "Tom," the male voice for the Kindle because that's an intereting story.)  At any rate, this is not a feature most of us would use for any length of time!  But it's useful for the times you want to keep "reading" but must get on to other things for a bit.
  You can speed up or slow down the voice, and it turns pages for you :-).
  See a fun videoclip using the Kindle voice to read a part for a screenplay.

MP3's AND AUDIBLE BOOKS
There is a feature that allows you to play mp3s placed on your Kindle by you but they play only in the order in which they've been put on the reader.  The focus has not been on the Kindle being a music-playing machine.  This allows you to hear some of your favorite music while reading a Kindle book but it's a battery drainer. You can also put mp3s under the 'Audible' folder (since the Kindle plays Audible books also) and play those on demand but cannot read on the Kindle at the same time with this choice.  You can play mp3-audiobooks also.

NON-AMAZON BOOKS:
By the way, Kindle users are not tied to the Amazon store, although it now holds 7,400  20,000+ free books -- mainly public domain classics.  The few free books at Amazon that are not public domain ones (and usually available briefly) are found here.

  Tip:  Here's a long Amazon-forum discussion thread with tips on a million Kindle books (mostly free) for your Kindle from other sites.

OTHER UNUSUAL FORUM DISCUSSIONS
  Tip:  Amazon forum users talk about the unusually creative ways in which they use their Kindles.  Definitely an interesting read.

  Tip:  4/28/09 - Another interesting thread about how watching History Channel (or The Daily Show) and other tv shows about events have caused some to look up Kindle books on the subject that kindled interest :-)

  Tip:  4/20/09 - I was amazed at how many Huffington Post readers apparently have Kindles. In the thread for an article by Danielle Crittenden, some explain to her how much the Kindle can do despite a posting that deems the Kindle good only for reading books and not an Internet-aware device. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle


(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

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