Monday, December 6, 2010

Oprah and the Kindle giveaway, Google Books Store launches - details

Google ebooks store (contemporary books as well as the free ones we've accessed) launched today, to challenge Amazon, B&N, Sony, Borders, Apple, et al.

They are not offering lower prices because they've signed Agency agreements with the usual large publishers and the prices are the same at all stores. They're apparently paying independent publishers 52% on a sale vs the 70% that Amazon and Apple offer.

In Google's case, a main feature is to read your books in the "Cloud" (on the Web), and each person's books will be stored there the way they are at Amazon, except that you read Amazon's own books on the Kindle or on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, BlackBerry, Android-based devices, PC, and Mac using the free Kindle reading apps.

  The advantage for Amazon customers has been the ability to sync the reading between one's various devices and this syncing has been relatively seamless.

  Google will sell the books with an emphasis on the ability to read them on the web from anywhere on any device that can browse the web -- and that means you'd be connected to the web while reading your book and there is then the ability for Google to use advertisements during the reading.

  Apparently, you'll also be able to download your purchased books to many devices for which the digital-rights mechanism used is covered, but they won't be compatible with the Kindle's digital-rights method.

  How they will cover sync'g for those books that go on individual devices is unclear but they're not offering this. If you read your books on the web, then your last page would always be noted on the web.

  Highlighting and annotations:  Haven't read anything on that yet.

  Customer service is probably also a new area for them to think about as I've never been able to reach Google support for anything.
  Amazon allows refunds within 7 days for e-books that have problems, badly formatted, unlinked table of contents, or when you felt you didn't mean to order it. B&N's general policy is no refunds even if the book has mssing pages (I read this on their forums).

Oprah thanked Amazon for providing each audience member a "3G Kindle"  (UK: K3) and said, while holding the physical books, that she still loves books but that if you travel, you've "gotta" love the Kindle.  Then they gave the audience both types of books :-).

  The audience reacted as if they had won expensive cars :-) but they did get the Kindle model that can download books and do web lookups from anywhere you are and does not depend on being at a WiFi hotspot.

  As mentioned before, the show featured author Jonathan Franzan.

OPRAH'S 65th BOOK CLUB PICK: Charles Dickens double-header -- A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations
  Amazon's PR says that the two Oprah-recommended books today (Charles Dickens special) are FREE at Amazon, although the Kindlestore top-right-corner ad leads to the "enriched" double-book for $7.99, which includes: "illustrations of 18th century fashion and culture in Dickens’s Victorian world, the early reception for both..., a filmography of Dickens’s novels, further reading about the author as well as what informed the thematic elements of these classic novels."

  If not interested in the special illustrations, filmography, and further reading, here is a quick way to find Dickens' free books on Amazon, and these are sorted by how well they have been selling -- the $7.99 Oprah double-book heads the list despite a request for only free Dickens books.

  As most Kindle owners know, Amazon has about 20,000 other free classics at Amazon, which one can sync between devices and also there are millions of free out-of-copyright-books available to read on the Kindle at the various sites mentioned in the ongoing Free Kindle Books blog article.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. 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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  1. I mentioned the lack of human contact customer service for the Google eBookstore. They do, however, provide a form to fill out if there are formatting problems, so that's better than nothing. I wish Amazon had a Report Formatting button too! It's a real pain complaining to a publisher to fix that.

  2. Hi, Mike -
    I agree re a report-formatting form -- however, you can call Amazon Kindle Support at 866-321-8851 or use the "Call me" form/phoneback feature to report it and they will refund your money if you report it within 7 days. One other thing.

    I had real formatting probs with one book and the customer rep I talked with promised to report this to the publisher (and the publisher rep actually wrote me back twice). I think it helped that I also reviewed the book for its formatting problems which affected navigation.

  3. Mike,
    I should add that it was a customer-review at Amazon that I did. Not here...

  4. Google's iPad app is a joke. Extreme lack of features, even for a 1.0 product. No landscape support!

  5. John,
    I read that about no landscape support. On a device known for its two-pager demo's :-)

  6. The K3 web browser lets you read your Google library. I find that it is really pretty okay for extended reading. (Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work with my K2's browser).

    I purchased Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" to try it out. The formatting is fine, there's a linked TOC and access to the NCX TOC, text search, choice of typefaces and sizes, justification etc. You can even read it as 'scanned pages' if you prefer. And you can download ePub or PDF format to use an offline reader or app. I even saved 46 cents over the Kindle Store edition. What's not to like?

    I will probably be purchasing more Google ebooks in the future. I like the more open ecosystem, I think ePub is 'better' for long term investment, and the fact that it is totally readable on my Kindle as well (with some compromises like no annotation, TTS etc.) lowers the barrier to doing so even more.

    It will be interesting to see Amazon's response.

  7. Note that you don't need to use Google's app to read their books on iPad. Any app that uses Adobe DRM will work (for example Bluefire reader).

  8. I've had serious problems with one book that'd been sitting on my Kindle unread for months and Amazon offered me a refund as well as contacting the publisher.
    Told them I'd keep it, just replace it with an updated version when and if it'd become available.

    As to Google's support, Google consider themselves to be perfect and beyond reproach, so clearly don't need a support department.
    After all, if you have a problem with perfection you're the problem and Google isn't responsible for your mental state.

  9. Anonymous,
    It turns out Google has a support form to fill out a requestion for a refund within 7 days if the book is not functioning as promised.

    With Amazon, if you just hate the layout (dangling word-wraps etc) they'll do a refund, within that 7 days.


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