Category Archives: eBooks

More Free E-books, Audiobooks and more

OpenCulture.com describes itself as the home of “the best free cultural & educational media on the web.” If you are a lifelong learner or an aspiring polymath, this site certainly holds a treasure trove of delights. Whether you are looking for free online courses, language lessons or business courses, this site has something that will pique your interest.

Just a few that are highlights:

Bookmark this one; there’s so much to explore!

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Managing Your Free Kindle Books, Part Two: Choosing Wisely and Pre-Organizing

This is the second in a three-part series. Part One is here. Most of the information in this series of posts is specific to the Kindle line of e-readers and the Amazon bookstore.

In Part One, we looked at an overview of some of the problems that can be caused by having too many books on your Kindle or Kindle Fire. The same is true of the Kindle for PC app for your computer or mobile device. While this is just as true for paid books as it is for free ones, the nature of free tends to tempt us to overload our Kindles.

It is also interesting to note that even if a Kindle is not actually malfunctioning due to too many books (freezing, inability to download or highlight,etc.), many people find that as they get more and more books on their Kindles, the device runs much more slowly (slower page turns, slower search, etc.).

So how do we deal with this? The answer is not to avoid free books! There are some great bargains in the free offerings and I have discovered some tremendously gifted authors through their free books, authors such as Hugh Howey, Keith C. Blackmore,and many others.

What we can do is choose more wisely what books to put on our Kindle.  Why is this important? Because the best way to organize is not to put books (paid or free) on the Kindle in the first place that you are ultimately not going to read.  Think of it as pre-organizing and a way cut down on the Kindle clutter.

Keep lists of the books you want to read:  This is as simple and as old-fashioned as it gets. Write down the name of the title and the author. You can make this as low tech (pen and paper) or as high-tech (MS Word, Evernote or even Notepad for the Kindle) as you are comfortable with. Personally, I use Evernote and have a TBR note where I jot down the title and author, a link to a buy page or the review that first caught my eye. That way, I don’t forget about the book, but don’t have to download the sample to remember it. I can then check the book out at my leisure.

Recommendations:  Nowadays, the free books offered on any given day normally number in the hundreds. There are a lot of websites that list free books (EreaderIQ, Kindle Nation Daily, Books on the Knob, Pixel of Ink and many, many others). An internet search for free Kindle books will bring up pages of blogs and curated lists that can help you find books that interest you. Most of these sites give you the ability to search for books in certain categories and genres. Amazon lists the top 100 sellers , both free and paid.

Don’t have time to search through hundreds of free books to find what you like? There are also a lot of places you can get recommendations for free books without having  to sort through the listings. Most genre groups on social networking sites like GoodReads and Shelfari have a place on the message boards that is dedicated to free books of that particular genre.  And if you are looking for a particular author, check their blog, website or Twitter account: Most authors who offer their books for free on the Kindle let their fans know.

Read the reviews:  This is especially important for people who like to find books, then wait to find them free. Good, honest reviews can help you make a decision about whether to download a book or not. Yet, given some of the recent controversies over fake and purchased reviews, it can be difficult to know whether to trust them or not. If you are unsure, click on the reviewer’s name and check out the other ones that they have written.  Look for warning signs: all reviews for the same author, all five-star reviews, or if tis is the only item the person has ever reviewed. Ultimately, remember that reviews are simply the opinion of the person writing the review.

Read the samples: Often, reading the sample of the book can give you a clearer idea about whether you will like the book or not. Do you like the writer’s style and syntax? Are there grammar and spelling errors? The sample can give you an actual feel for the book.

With free books, however, you do not have the opportunity to send a sample to your Kindle or your app.  However, you can still read the sample on your computer by clicking on the Look Inside feature. And, using the feature means that’s one less sample cluttering up your Kindle. Here what it looks like for the The Man Cave Cookbook, which is free periodically.

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Sometimes, however, samples can cause as many problems as they solve. Some people have pages and pages of samples on their Kindles. Those samples take up space and memory and must be indexed, just like books. In other words, too many samples can cause the same problems as too many actual books!

Fortunately, there are several ways to help organize your samples.  One method is to send all your samples to one place. That can be your Kindle app on your computer or phone. That way, you can read a sample when you have a spare moment to read, but not enough time to get immersed in an entire book. If you have more than one Kindle, you can designate one for all your samples.

If you want to keep your Kindle totally uncluttered by samples,  you can send them to the Cloud Reader instead of your Kindle. As seen in the picture below, samples on the Cloud Reader show their covers, which can give you a visual jog to help you remember the book.

Click=big

In Part Three, we will discuss organizing your TBR pile, including more ways to organize books you haven’t even downloaded yet.

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Filed under eBooks, Free, Kindle, Tips

Managing your Free Kindle Books, Part One: The Problem with Free

This is the first in a three-part series. Most of the information in this series of posts is specific to the Kindle line of e-readers and the Amazon bookstore.

A while back, I did a post on where to find free books for your Kindle. A few more are listed in this article on tips for the new Kindle Owner. When I bought my first Kindle in 2008, free books were very few and generally, offered by major publishers or their imprints. Back then, with few freebies and books going for an average of $9.99,  it made sense to grab every free book that was available. And there were some good ones: I got Tess Gerritsen’s The Surgeon (the first book in the Rizzoli and Isles series) and  Julia Spencer-Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter as just a couple of my early free books.

Now, it’s a different landscape. With Amazon’s KDP Select publishing, literally hundreds of free indie books are offered daily. The number of blogs, websites and newsletters letting you know the daily free books has multiplied exponentially. Even Amazon has made it easy with a list of the top 100 bestsellers, free and paid, on their website.

So now, the TBR pile (your stash of To-Be-Read books) has become a problem of its own.

This is where the difference between digital and physical books becomes quite clear. For a print book reader, the TBR pile was self-limiting. As some point you literally run out of room, your books fall off the nightstand, or the bookshelf simply will not hold anymore.

For book lovers, digital books didn’t have that problem. No cluttered piles of books. Promises of storage for 2000 to 3000 books on your Kindle.  And, with e-readers that had expandable storage options like the first generation Kindle, you could just keep adding more and more books.

Or so it seemed. Try finding a particular book when you can’t exactly remember the name of the title. What happens when you can’t even see all your books in your archives? What happens when your battery won’t last through a book because it is constantly indexing? What if your Kindle starts to malfunction because it is too full? (And yes, that actually happens!)

So now, it seems, the problem has reversed itself: Instead of asking where do I find free books, people are asking where do I find good free books and, more importantly, how do I organize them all? Who would have ever thought that managing free books for the Kindle could actually be considered a problem?

Are you tired of sorting through lists to find free books that are actually worth your time? Maybe you are one of those people who like an uncluttered Kindle home page. Maybe you have so many books on your Kindle that you can’t find or organize them all. Maybe you are tired of books that are badly written, unedited or badly formatted.  Or, perhaps, your Kindle is actually starting to slow down or malfunction because of the sheer volume of books you own.

Over the next few blog entries, we will try to address solutions to some of those problems.

Next time in Part Two: Choosing more wisely and finding sites that will help you do just that.

And in Part Three: Organizing your Digital TBR Pile.

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Filed under eBooks, Free, Kindle, The eReading Experience, Tips, Uncategorized

Kindle Serials (Part Three)

This is part three of a three part series. The series begins here.

There’s been a certain level of excitement about Amazon’s Kindle Serials announcement, including articles like this one from Jason Allen Ashlock on Digital Book World (in which, by the way, Moveable Type is announcing a serial of its own).

But, like the serial GAMELANDthat we spoke of in Part Two, in reality,  there are already many popular serials being published on Amazon–they are just being published one episode at a time: Look at Hugh Howey’s  Woolor Sean Platt and David Wright’s Yesterday’s Gone. Prices for the episodes usually range from 99 cents to $2.99 each and occasionally, even free. Generally, when these series are complete, they are published in either an omnibus edition or a boxed set.

But for the new Kindle Serials, Amazon is only charging $1.99 for the entire series! Right now, no one knows whether that  price point is only an introductory offer or a vision for the future.. In his article “Kindle’s Serial Killer,” writer Mike Cane viewpoint is that “Bezos has just lowered the floor for eBook prices again.” His advice to writers is to “pass on this.”

Kate Sullivan of Candlemark & Gleam notes:

It looks like the current Kindle Serials available are $1.99, which seems to be a standard Amazon tactic – it’s sort of a loss-leader, positioned exactly at the novel-selling sweet spot these days. From that point of view, it’s a great price – it’s cheap enough to make people willing to take the risk on an unknown author and/or a format they’re not familiar with. From the point of view of someone who likes to see creative types paid a fair wage for their work, though, I really despise the 99c and $1.99 price points for full novels. We charge $5 for a basic serial, with additional content and rewards available at other tier price points, and I think that’s fair. But promotional pricing can be anything you want, and I’m going to look at the current $1.99 pricing on the Kindle Serials as just that – a way to get market penetration through encouraging people to take a low-priced risk.

Authors like Saul Tanpepper express concern that “$1.99 is too restrictive, for both readers and writers.”

Compare the $1.99 price tag to the price for Baen Books’ Webscriptions, where for $15 a month, subscribers get serialized versions of upcoming new Baen titles.

But it is not only the price point that may be restrictive for authors: Like the Kindle Singles program, the Kindle Serials program is curated. Authors must submit samples of their serial and get accepted by Amazon in order to get published. The fact that three of the serials currently offered are from the same Studio hints that there are obviously some agreements already in place for serials material. Just how open the program is to new material remains to be seen.

Customers have some concerns as well. Many of those concerns have little to do with price. What if the author doesn’t finish the series? It is bad enough for a reader when an author doesn’t finish a series of books. (Consider Sterling E. Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey or Dean Koontz’s Moonlight Bay series or Anne Rice’s never-written sequel to The Mummy, among many, many others.) But an unfinished serial is actually an unfinished book! That’s certainly not a recipe for customer satisfaction!

And anticipation may not be for everyone! I read some disgruntled comments about Tor publishing the next book in the Old Man’s War series as a serial. Some fans would rather wait for the whole book to be available. (Personally, I’m one of those -  Remember how I said I bought The Green Mile and The Blackstone Chronicles serials in the 90s? I actually waited until I had bought them all so I could read them like a complete book!)

The serials market is clearly going to be an important ebook market, with content, availability, delivery and price all being dynamic issues going forward. And it may not just be the ebook market pushing the boundaries. I just stumbled on a website for a new print serial called Ora et Labora et Zombie. Written as an epistolary novel, the book consists of 4-6 page letters (on watermarked stationary and with a hand-printed cover sheet) that are actually mailed to your house.  With 72 episodes priced at $3 each, the total price of the book may actually make agency pricing look good.

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Filed under eBook formats, eBooks, The eReading Experience

Kindle Serials (Part Two)

In April, 2012, I purchased GAMELAND Episodes 1-8 for the Kindle. Designed to be an eight episode serial, the experience has proved to a lot different than what either author Saul Tanpepper or customers like myself expected it to be. Because of this, I asked him to comment on his early experiences trying to publish a serial on Amazon before Kindle Serials and his thoughts on the new program . I thought his comments were important and interesting enough to post in their entirety as a guest post.

At a press conference on Thursday to introduce the new Kindles, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos announced—almost as an afterthought—that their digital publishing arm Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), will be offering a new kind of ebook product. Kindle Serials are book-length stories delivered to customers’ Kindle reading devices over a period of time. A customer buys into the concept early, pays once, and gets future installments without having to dish out any additional cash.

I admit, I have mixed feelings hearing this.

First off, let me just say that I’m thrilled Amazon is exploring this approach. The serialized novel is not a new concept, but rather a format whose popularity has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout publishing history and which only recently had fallen into relative obscurity. What I am unhappy about is how long it took Amazon to recognize this opportunity and to offer this publishing option to authors in the first place. Six months ago would’ve been nice. A couple years, even better. After all, digital content has been delivered serially for years; and yet, for some reason, books have not been included.

 It’s about time.

 I approached KDP back in early April of this year (it may actually have been sooner; I can’t remember and I just can’t be bothered to wade through all my emails) with the idea of offering a book to customers as a serial. As I envisioned (and explained to them), the idea would be that customers would only have to pay once and would get a steady stream of reading material over some set future period of time. Sort of like a magazine subscription, only with books.

Sorry, they told me. Not doable.

Instead, I was told to consider using their Blogs and ePeriodicals publishing program. What is this option? Basically, anyone with a blog can deliver their content to subscribers’ Kindles when it becomes available. The caveat? It has to be published on-line. For reasons that aren’t relevant here, this wasn’t a viable option for me.

Despite this setback, I set out to publish a serialized novel anyway. Without Amazon’s blessing, I signed customers up. How could I deliver on this promise? By publishing an ebook and updating it monthly with new content. This workaround was available to me only because Amazon permits customers to receive (at no extra charge) any updates to an ebook they have already purchased. (Generally, an author might update for reasons of formatting or editing, for example.) Unfortunately, updates aren’t automatic, and customers aren’t automatically notified of their availability.

Why not?

 Amazon is extremely resistant to notifying customers about updates and instead requires an author request the notification as well as to provide extensive details outlining the changes in the request. Updates, they say, must be “significant” in order to warrant a notification. The vagueness of this standard essentially means Amazon can decide to notify customers or not at its discretion.

To some degree, I understand their hesitancy. I know many authors who constantly fiddle with their books, rendering tiny changes on a regular basis. Amazon would spend a lot of time just notifying customers, and customers’ email inboxes would constantly be flooded with notices.

 But there are other, more practical, reasons why updates and notifications aren’t automatic. First off, while sending electronic files is extremely cheap, it isn’t free, and Amazon foots the bill. (The initial “transfer” fee following a purchase is charged to the author in most cases, but updates aren’t).

 Additionally, Amazon hasn’t yet figured out a way to update an ebook without a customer losing bookmarks, notes, and highlights. Consequently, when they notify customers of the availability of an update, or when a customer requests to receive an update, the customer must acknowledge that they understand that these things will be lost. Amazon says they’re working on this, and maybe the launch of Kindle Serials means a fix is close to being implemented.

Despite all this, I was determined to offer my urban thriller novel, GAMELAND, as a serial, and to allow customers the option of buying into the entire project early, something I had never seen before for an Amazon ebook. To incentivize customers to buy into the experiment (and because I was a relative unknown), I offered the “subscription” at a huge discount (over eighty percent off the individual episode price). What those first customers received in April, the month before the first episode was even released, was essentially a cover, a welcome note and instructions for updating the file. With each new episode, I raised the price. For latecomers, the package is still cheaper, and will always be, compared with buying the individual episodes (or even multi-episode packages).

 But there has been a tradeoff for early adopters: along with the savings, they’ve had to deal with the monthly hassle of Amazon updating reluctantly and notifying sporadically. But the end of this grand experiment is now in sight, if only because there are just three episodes remaining. The launch of Kindle Serials hopefully bodes well for future projects.

Will customers buy serialized ebooks?

 If GAMELANDis any indication, I think they will. My sales are still relatively small to be attempting to make grandiose generalizations, but the feedback has been nothing but positive. I can also say this with confidence: if my readers get half as excited as I do engaging in discussions about a story while it’s still being written, then they will buy into the idea of the serialized novel. Just imagine how much more popular this format will become once the obstacles are removed!

So, yes, I’m thrilled that Amazon has finally developed a process that enables authors to publish this way. But for me and my fans, it’s a bittersweet moment, the culmination of an arduous journey while simultaneously a validation that the journey itself was worthwhile. I have been blessed with readers whose enthusiasm is matched by their patience. I like to think that our struggle—and our combined and unrelenting dedication to the serial format—has finally made Amazon see the light.

In Part Three, we’ll discuss pricing and customer expectations about the serial format.

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Filed under eBooks, News, The eReading Experience, Uncategorized

Hey, Muggles! Soon, you can borrow Harry Potter on your Kindle!

Amazon announced today that all 7 Harry Potter books would be available in the Kindles Owners Lending library as of June 19, 2012.

According to Amazon’s press release:

 Owning a Kindle just got a whole lot better for magic-loving Muggles. Starting June 19, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is adding all seven Harry Potter books (in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish) to the Kindle Owners’Lending Library (KOLL). Harry Potter is the all-time best-selling book series in history, andAmazon has purchased an exclusive license from J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore to make the addition of these titles possible. The Kindle Owners’Lending Library is a benefit of Amazon Prime membership—Prime members also enjoy free two-day shipping on millions of items and unlimited streaming of more than 17,000 movies and TV episodes. The Kindle Owners’Lending Libraryhas now grown to over 145,000 books that can be borrowed for free as frequently as once a month, with no due dates.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have reached this agreement with Pottermore. This is the kind of significant investment in the Kindle ecosystem that we’ll continue to make on behalf of Kindle owners,” saidJeff Bezos, founder and CEO ofAmazon.com. “Over a year, borrowing the Harry Potter books, plus a handful of additional titles, can alone be worth more than the$79cost of Prime or a Kindle. The Kindle Owners’Lending Libraryalso has an innovative feature that’s of great benefit for popular titles like Harry Potter – unlimited supply of each title – you never get put on a waiting list.

This is an exclusive deal between Amazon and Pottermore.

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Just the facts…

I just listened to an interesting podcast of the Kojo Nnadami Show on E-Books: Chosing a reading device and a bookseller.

While there were some interesting points to the broadcast, as an ebook aficionado, I found it a little disturbing that people considered experts in the field could be totally unaware of certain facts about the ebook industry.

Among the misstated facts:

  • Amazon deleted 1984 off customers’ Kindles last year. In fact, it was 2009.
  • It is unusual for someone to own more than one ereader.
  • Typos and scanning errors are no longer a problem with ebooks.
  • It seems that there is also some confusion about the program Calibre and its capabilities. Calibre can convert one ebook format to another; it does not strip DRM from ebooks. There are third-party plug-ins for the program, however, which are rumored to do that.

The broadcast does make some valid points about the ownership issues surrounding ebooks.

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Filed under DRM, eBook formats, eBook Rights, eBooks

Lois Lowry’s The Giver only 99 cents!

I am not sure if it is dystopia week on Amazon or not! But yesterday’s deal of the day featured The Handmaid’s Tale. Today’s Kindle Deal of the Day is the Newberry Medal winning The Giver by Lois Lowry, another dystopian classic. I bought this one last year at regular price, so only 99 cents is another amazing deal.

This great YA book is a favorite of teachers and librarians and has become a standard in middle school and high school English classes.  Check out some of the reviews from younger readers. It certainly provokes an intense reaction!

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The Handmaid’s Tale is Kindle Deal of the Day

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale is the Kindle Deal of the Day for today, Thursday, December 29th. The book is on sale for just $1.49.

Set in the not-to distant future, the book paints a chilling portrait on the role of women in society.

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Cyber Monday Sale on Kindle Books

There are more than 900 titles on sale in today’s Cyber Monday Kindle Daily Deal. The sale includes some gems by authors such as Robert McCammon, Iris Murdoch, and Patricia Wentworth.  I just picked up McCammon’s Swan Song and Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day for $2.99 each The books offered span a variety of genres and also a good selection of non-fiction books, including a variety of knitting books.

Today is the also the last day for the Kindle DX at the sale price of $259.

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