Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
 
Ordered a Kindle

Most people on the internet are mainly consumers of content. They contribute very little beyond the occasional link or comment, but they read and listen and watch a lot. I attribute it to the genius of the late Steve Jobs that he realized that existing personal computer were built by content creators for content creators, enabling him to start a revolution of devices built for content consumption instead, which was closer to what the public wanted. This included the iPad, which instead of earlier, failed, attempts at making tablet computers did away with content creation features like handwriting recognition, concentrated on features to consume content.

Unfortunately I am more of a content creator than a content consumer. I don't listen to music much, nor do I spend a lot of time watching videos on the internet. Instead I spend a lot of time writing, mostly in the form of this blog. As a result I don't own a tablet computer (nor a smart phone), as these devices simply aren't all that suitable for content creation. You *can* send an e-mail from an iPhone, or write a blog entry on an iPad, but given the choice you'd rather do it on a regular PC.

But before I started writing, I did a lot of reading. And I still do. Thus a tablet computer mostly suitable for reading wouldn't be all that useless to me. Especially if it didn't cost quite as much as an iPad, and wouldn't demand a monthly fee for 3G mobile connectivity. Thus this weekend I ordered a Kindle from Amazon, the version with keyboard and free 3G (although I'm aware that it only has limited internet capabilities). Even with accessories and shipping that cost me only half of what an iPad would have cost me. And instead of having a monthly cost for 3G, I expect the Kindle to save me money, because in many European countries English language books are quite expensive, and a Kindle E-book version will be almost always much cheaper.

Nevertheless it is far too early to declare myself a Kindle fan, I'll have to receive it and test is thoroughly first (probably during my Christmas holidays). One weird first experience with the Kindle results from the fact that I live in a country without its own Amazon store. In case you aren't good at European geography, Belgium is a little country between Germany and France, across the Channel from England. All three of these neighbours have Amazon shops. But as I found out, I am not allowed to buy a Kindle in either of these countries. Oh no, I am an "international" customer and have to buy the Kindle directly at Amazon.com in the USA. After exchange rate, value added tax, and shipping, that cost me about 10% more than if I had been allowed to buy the thing in Europe.

I have already been looking into what books I would like to buy for the Kindle. 870,000 of the 1 million Kindle E-books appear to be available for "international" customers (Europe), not bad. And there are a lot of "classics" available for free, as well as books for prices like 99 cents. But in other respects the Kindle store is still very old-fashioned, and does not use all the possibilities of digital distribution: For example I would like to buy all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels; Amazon sells them as E-books, but doesn't offer them as a bundle. They aren't even much help in determining which books I would need to buy to have a complete collection, as a search for "pratchett discworld" gives 83 results for the 39 Discworld novels. I'll have to get a list somewhere else and buy the books one by one. And then I'll probably have to fiddle with the settings to get the books to show up in the right order on the Kindle. It appears that only for authors that have a "complete works" print edition, you can buy the books together. And I've already noticed that while the Jane Austen books are free individually, the complete works of Jane Austen costs money. I'd say Steam does digital distribution better than Amazon.

Comments:
Kindle also allows you to upload unprotected versions to the device, so you'll probably be able to find many out-of-copyright, freeware or Creative Commons books for free. Syncing between different devices and the Cloud Reader doesn't work with unprotected works, but that's only a minor annoyance.
 
Belgium = where the good beer comes from.
 
Not to forget good waffles, fries, chocolates, and cheese. Neither of which are useful for feeding a Kindle.
 
Watch out for some of the "classic" collections that are in the Kindle store. When researching what books would be available for the Kindle, I found numerous examples of books for sale in "inexpensive" bundles that were actually books that were now public domain and so could be downloaded elsewhere for free.

Yes, there may be some value in putting the books in Kindle format, but if you check out Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org), they have some books already in Kindle format. (And the Kindle seems to be designed to handle text format just fine.)

A little research may save you some money wasted on formatting.
 
Belgium is where you go when you want chocolate, I remember when I was working in Gent.... you can get good chocolate elsewhere, but at 2x the price. Considering you spend only +10% on the Kindle, it sounds like a win for you (if you eat chocolate).

My father has a Kindle, and it's very good for reading in bright light (the kind of environment which kills LCD contrast...). But for the moment I still prefer my books as physical objects. A cat destroys one book, it's one book lost, a cat destroys a Kindle, it's a lot more money lost....
 
I'd recommend checking out Baen books (webscription.net) and Angry Robot (http://angryrobotbooks.com/) if you're after sci-fi for your kindle. Mostly cheaper than Amazon and with no DRM, I prefer shopping directly from them

Of course, their selection is limited to (mostly) what they publish, and that again is limited to (mostly) sci-fi of the lighter variety. YMMV, I like it.
 
Since when is belgium famous for its cheese? And why are the Netherlands and Luxembourg dismissed as neighbours?
 
I have read a lot of ebooks last year but I don't have a dedicated reader yet. I use my smart phone and the main advantage to me is not having to carry a bulky book about because I do a lot of my reading on crowded buses and trams.

High points:
- Convenience and portability.
- large selection of titles available instantly.
- fit many books in your pocket

Low points:
- not as tactile as real paper
- Browsing though a book is more difficult than it should be.
- Lack of standard format is a major problem. Kindle vs. Adobe drm. Not every book is available in both formats.
- Price of ebooks is cheaper than paper but not much. It is still way too high. A good second hand bookshop still beats ebooks hands down.
 
You'll love your Kindle. Aside from my PC which is both work and play it's my most used and cherished device.

I'm suprised you couldn't buy your Kindle on teh high street - here in the UK a number of retailers stock thm at the same price as Amazon UK.

If you're a follower of specific authours be aware that the release price of many Kindle books is only nominally lower than that or the paperback - although you do get it at that price when only the expensive hardback is out so that's a win.

My main grumle is the lack of old books available but that's simple a supply-demand issue. I'm not sure how many people would buy the Hugh cook 'Chronicles of an Age of Darkness' series if it did was released other than me!
 
Sadly I haven't found it that Kindle books are cheaper than paperbacks from Amazon. Well at least on Amazon.co.uk.

Take a book at random. Joe Abercrombie's 'The Blade Itself'. I can buy a Kindle version for £4.99, however the paperback I can have delivered next day for £4.87 or I can buy a second hand copy for £3.83 inc p&p. It's small change but I find it annoying to pay a premium for a Kindle version, probably a convienience premium.

In the UK, and I think this is a European thing, VAT is charged on ebooks, whereas paperbacks escape this levy. You would have thought that variable costs for a paperback are higher than 20%, so the kindle versions would be much cheaper but not from the prices I see.

I understand that prices are set by publishers who, as you say, are far behind Amazon, let alone Steam, on how to best use this new income stream. It looks like publishers want to maintain parity between the different versions.

Enoy your kindle, throughly enjoying mine.
 
Sometimes, the shipping from Europe can be more expensive than overseas (e. g. Blizzard store) so maybe you're not losing that much by ordering from US.
 
Another interesting thing with Kindle is a lot of indie writers selling their books there. Found quite a few books that are good reads (although not having an editor in many cases means a few writing errors can be found :)).
 
Some early 1900s authors have bundles because they are in the public domain. Go grab Robert E. Howard's complete Conan and complete Solomon Kane.

There's also the 3.99 complete collection of HP Lovecraft!
 
The best way to get a list of an author's books I've found is wikipedia. For example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discworld#Bibliography

I'm also getting a Kindle soon. I must admit I hadn't really considered it a competitor to the ipad but rather a competitor to the book. I read a lot of novels from the public library. Occasionally I lose one or bring some back late and get fined. It may also be kinder on my wrists to read something lighter than say a Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson hardback.

As for Belgium it's a great place I've always enjoyed my visits there and meeting Belgians here in England.
 
Because of the iPad, I believe eReaders are kind of dying.

Just my two cents though.
 
Having been a Kindle 3G owner for a year I'm pretty confident in saying that you will come to love the device. The low weight, one handed page turning and excellent battery makes it easier to read anywhere and all the time. While I don't much like the text-to-audio option it has been useful a few times.

With four Kindles on my account I share access to all the ebooks purchased with three friends - buy once, read many with no limits on simultaneous reading is a nice upgrade from dead tree format where you were waiting for a friend to finish before you could borrow the book.

The browser isn't great but comes in useful in places like Japan where costs are high for data roaming (I'm on a UK phone contract, they do package deals for the EU but not elsewhere).
 
Since when is belgium famous for its cheese? And why are the Netherlands and Luxembourg dismissed as neighbours?

Luxembourg and the Netherlands don't have Amazon stores either, I was just listing neighbours having those.

About the cheese issue, there is a saying that Belgium has 100 great cheeses nobody knows about, while the Dutch only have 1 boring cheese, but that one is known world wide. This saying goes a long way to explain the difference between Belgium and the Netherlands, especially with regard to marketing. The Dutch are great marketeers.
 
Because of the iPad, I believe eReaders are kind of dying.

I do think the Kindle Fire will cause Apple quite some headaches, just like the Wii was a problem for the XBox and Playstation. Even if the Kindle *does* less, costing just a third of the iPad is shifting perceptions and market shares.
 
I live in Belgium too.

English books are WAY cheaper then Dutch ones. Just order them from bookdepository.co.uk. They give free shipping and the average price I pay is about 5 a 8 euros, shipping included. In comparison, Dutch books are at the price of 10 a 20 euros.

And you're spot on that an ipad is meant for content consumers which are people like my mom and dad. It's what makes me a bit uncomfortable. I enjoy reading blogs but I also like to comment. Something that is very hard with an ipad.
 
I have both a iPad 2 and Kindle 3. I much prefer to read books on eInk (kindle). Also batterylife of 1-2 months of reading on Kindle is really nice.
 
Love my Kindle. In fact, I am almost hesitant to buy books without a Kindle version. I'm spoiled by the instant access and the fact they don't take up any physical space.

It's nice I can access my Kindle books on my Xoom tablet and Droid phone, but I much prefer the eInk display.
 
"Because of the iPad, I believe eReaders are kind of dying."

Most of the world doesn't have an Apple computer of any kind, and many would have a preference for Windows (like me) or Android.
 
In fact Amazon are actually taking the war into Apple's territory with the new Kindle Fire which unlike the old Kindle is a tablet computer rather than simply an e-reader.

But it *is* expressly designed for content consumption (as per Tobold's theme). Like Apple it's limited. Unlike Apple, it's cheap. Apple better hope elegance keeps working for them.
 
I recently bought a Kobo (Canada based eReader) and it is awesome. The eInk technology blows a typical 'iPad' type device away when it comes to reading straight text.
 
Keep in mind that Amazon isn't contractually allowed to do bundles, much as they might like to (and in fact used to). You can thank Steve Jobs for this, along with an average 35% increase in ebook prices.

As a new Kindle owner, I highly recommend downloading a copy of calibre from calibre-ebook.com - it's a phenomenal (and free) tool for cataloguing, converting, and managing your e-book collection. I also recommend going to Apprentice Alf's blog and grabbing the latest Tools archive, which includes calibre plugins that will allow you to remove all three major ebook DRM formats (Adobe Classic, Adobe Barnes and Noble (really only relevant in the US), and Amazon); this not only means you get to keep your books when the DRM-provider shuts down its servers, it also means you can shop at any of the major bookstores without being tied down to one particular device/format, since once you remove the DRM you can convert the file to whatever format you wish to read on.
 
To me, Kindle is a service first and a device second. The latter will go absolute much faster and is harder to upgrade. And the former already supports things like device independence; I can read the same book with several devices during the day without losing my spot during transitions from desktop to mobile and vice versa.
 
@ Nate H.: I have tried reading books both on iPad and Kindle. If I had to choose to have just one of the devices (as long as I get to keep my smartphone and my PC) I'd want the Kindle. I find it to be a better book-replacer both due to preferring the screen for reading and due to that its one-use-only (not quite true but still) makes me less distracted.

I think for my uses, I'd be least willing to part with my PC, then my smartphone, then my kindle, and the iPad comes in last (which means it's the one device which is shared in the household, while we have personal phones, PCs and kindles).
 
Congrats. I was optimistic, but a little dubious, a lot like you sound, but I adapted to the device immediately because it feels like a book, not a widget.

In terms of non-copyright classics, a lot of these collections are nothing more than amateur profiteers who've grabbed them from Project Gutenberg and edited and conglomerated them. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I certainly don't pay for them, but I have spent a good amount of time editing Gutenberg files and if someone cleans them up and creates a nice linked table of contents, who's to say they shouldn't be paid?

For managing your kindle, I'd suggest the program "Calibre" quite strongly. It's very helpful in converting different formats, managing a large library, and will also, with a little tinkering, automatically pull feeds and move them to your kindle.

As to the ipad and the kindle, they are completely different devices. And while Amazon for whatever reason doesn't release kindle sales figures, there's every reason to believe they're extremely robust. Certainly kindle books sales are through the roof.
 
Another thing to check out when you get a Kindle is Calibre (calibre-ebook.com). It's a free program for managing ebooks. While I erratically use the management features the real reason I recommend it is that it's a great program for converting to .mobi (the kindle format). Very nice if you find an ebook on gutenberg.org that isn't in .mobi, or you have a document that you want to read that it's a wonky format. Calibre doesn't handle .docx very well, but it does convert .odt (and I think google docs can help you with that one?)
 
I bought my wife a Kindle last year for Christmas and she loves it. It certainly put a lid on the ever increasing amount of space taken up by books in my house!

Remember you can also get a Kindle reader for PCs and smartphones which you can link to your Amazon account.
 
As others have said, tablets aren't going to be replacing e-readers any time soon. Amazon is still selling many of them, and to boot they just announced two new hardware revisions, plus a tablet.

As to content, Steam gets off infinitely easier than Amazon WRT to digital distribution. The world of gaming has graduated to digitial distribution much, much better than older content distributors as we're seeing with movies, music and now books. Hopefully, in a few years all of them will come around and realize that paper books aren't going anywhere, and that they don't need to charge astronomical premiums for e-books, in addition to getting better at bundling them.

As for sorting books on the Kindle, right now it's not quite there and as near as I can tell, there's no way to rank them manually with any sort of ease.
 
I hope you'll post your impressions of the Kindle. I am on the fence about getting one myself, though the new batch they announced a few weeks back have me thinking about it again. My parents both have older models and love them, but I remain unconvinced.

Of course, I might also be a bit worried that such easy access to books will make me spend even more money on them.

As for chocolates, I recall once that my sister once gave me a box of "Belgian style" chocolates. They actually came from Canada and they were clearly some sort of insult by somebody looking to tarnish the Belgian reputation in such regard.
 
I inherited my dad's Kindle when he bought an iPad 2 and decided that was his new reading device. At first I was firmly against the idea of a Kindle. I loved owning books...

But holy cow, is the thing convenient. Book impulse buys anywhere anytime, with all of them in one place? The ability to read them on a very nice, comfortable e-ink screen, or on my computer (Cloud reader), or on my phone? Yes, please. Very much yes.

I am sad that my physical library will not grow as fast, but the truth is, most of the books I'm buying for my Kindle aren't books I would have bought physical copies of. They're impulse buys. And I'll still buy physical copies of books I absolutely adore.

Thinking of buying a Kindle Fire now.

And iPads/other tablets won't kill Kindles. The e-ink screen is MUCH better for long reading sessions than a back-lit screen. Trust me.
 
On iPads vs. Kindle: Honestly I don't see iPads vs. Kindles at all. They market to different users, do different things, and they market to vastly different price ranges. I don't foresee Apple ever trying to market an iPad at Kindle prices (and Amazon trying to market a fullblown Kindle at iPad prices). They just don't compete with each other.

The most they'll do to each other really is co-exist and hog up the lion's share of the tablet market. The losers here would be the Android tablets (even though Kindle Fire is based on Android, I would hardly say it identifies itself as an Android tablet).
 
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