Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Ebooks (page 1 / 1)

The Kindle Screensaver Should Be a Book's Cover Art

Now that I've established my kindle owner bona fides, here's my primary complaint about the Kindle.

To: kindle-feedback@amazon.com Cc: jeff@amazon.com Subject: Kindle Voyage—Use book cover art as screensaver


Please give me an official way of allowing me to use my current book's cover art as my Kindle screensaver. If not that, give me a semi-supported way to use 3rd party modifications on my Kindle, so that I can install someone else’s code that will allow me to use my current book's cover art as my Kindle screensaver. I'd prefer a solution directly from Amazon, but if you're unwilling to provide it, I'm willing to look for a solution somewhere else.

Mostly, I love my Kindle Voyage. My biggest complaint is that the Kindle doesn’t have a feature allowing me to use my book’s cover art as the screensaver image. I read. A lot. I think the cover art of each book is an important part of my emotional connection to each book. But the Kindle almost never allows me to see that cover art. I see it when I’m selecting a book from the home screen, and that’s pretty much it. When my Kindle is on, I see the text of the book. When my Kindle is off, I see a random image from a collection of boring stock art screensavers.

In the past, I’ve jailbroken my Kindle devices, just so that I can install a hack that will use the cover art of my current book (or magazine, or personal document) as the screensaver for my device. The Lab126 team has gotten too good at preventing jailbreaks and now I can no longer see book cover art as my screensaver. This is very disappointing and is the biggest thing I don’t like about my new Kindle Voyage.

Thanks, ~Joe

About 24 hours later, I got a form response from the Kindle development team.

I'm sorry; currently the option to set the Kindle book’s cover art as the screensaver image isn't available on Kindle device. It is certainly not our intention for our customers to have anything but a pleasant experience using Kindle.

I completely understand that this feature (To set the Kindle book’s cover art as the screensaver image) definitely would be of great help to our customers. It's unfortunate that this feature is not available right now.

Although at this time there is no option for this, we'll be sure to consider your feedback as we plan for further improvements. Rest assured that I have passed along your comments to our developers. We definitely value your opinion and will continue to listen and respond to our customers' concerns. We will make every effort to evaluate the information you have provided, and try our level best to lead it to program changes or enhancements.

About 24 hours after that, I got a chiding response from one of Bezo's minions.

I'm Elizabeth King of Amazon.com's Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf. I'll be sure to include Jeff’s office with this correspondence.

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback on allowing Kindle users to download third party software to devices for custom screen savers.

Customer feedback is very important to us as it allows us to continue to improve the services we provide based on what our customers are looking for. I've forwarded your comments to the Kindle team. In the future, if you'd like to share any thoughts you have about Kindle with the Kindle team directly, please feel free to send them to kindle-feedback@amazon.com.

Please keep in mind we're unable to provide any troubleshooting for your Kindle devices if it appears the device has been rooted.

Please refer to the Kindle License Agreement and Terms of Use for information regarding the proper use of Kindle software:


This entry was tagged. Kindle Ebooks

My Kindle Owner Bona Fides

Because I almost exclusively read e-books, I occasionally offer criticsm of the Kindle and suggestions for enhancements. I'm not just offering drive-by criticisms. I've been a loyal Kindle owner for over 6 years now. My opinions are informed by my long experience using the devices and by my observations of what has—and hasn't—changed over the years.

Here's my experience as a Kindle owner.

  • Original Kindle: Purchased in August, 2008.
  • Kindle 2: Purchased in December, 2009, after my Kindle was stolen.
  • Kindle 3G: Purchased in December, 2010.
  • Kindle 3G Graphite: Purchased in January, 2012, on the promise of the higher quality eInk Pearl screen.
  • Kindle Paperwhite 3G: Purchased in September, 2012, on the promise of a brighter, whiter screen.
  • Kindle Voyage: Purchased in September, 2014, on the promise of a 300-dpi screen, better backlighting, and the return of physical page turn buttons.

With each edition, I've tried to buy the top-line model. Once the 3G wireless was available, I bought that with each new model. I always wanted to be able to get new books delivered, no matter where I was and whether or not I had WiFi. When Amazon introduced ad-supported models, I made sure to always buy the ad-free model. (Books are too important to be forced to look at an ad each time I want to read.)

This entry was tagged. Kindle Ebooks

I Read E-Books

I read e-books because I read. A lot. When I was in middle school, I'd bring home a stack of at least 20 different library books, which was usually enough to last the week until my next library visit. As I got older, I brought home fewer books but the number of pages per book increased. The height of the stacks stayed about the same, but each book was larger (and heavier!) than before.

Because I was homeschooled and did most of my reading at home, the size and weight of the books didn't bother me that much. Once I went to college and started carrying books around in a backpack, the size and weight of each book started to matter a lot more. I was fascinated when I first discovered e-books, looking at titles from Project Gutenberg and Baen Ebooks. E-Books offered the promise of carrying around as many books as I wanted, of any length at all, without any size or weight penalty.

I did my early reading on Palm devices. I believe the first was a Handspring Visor Pro, later followed by a Sony Clié. I read books using the original Mobipocket software. I started out with a 160x160 display, giving all of the books a pixelated, low-quality look. It didn't matter. I was happy just to be able to carry multiple books around in my pocket.

I first head of dedicated e-readers, based on the eInk technology, when I started hearing about the Sony Reader, called the Librie. The initial version was only available in Japan and the interface was Japanese only. But it was book sized, had longer battery life, and a better display. I wanted one so badly.

I still remember how surprised and excited I was when Amazon announced the first Kindle. It was announced in November, 2007, but sold out almost immediately and wasn't widely available until mid-2008. I finally bought one for myself in August, 2008. I've since owned almost all of the Kindle models.

From the Handspring Visor to the Kindle Voyage, I've seen a lot of change and improvements in e-books. From having almost nothing available as e-books to having millions of e-books available. It's been an expensive hobby, but one I've been utterly happy to indulge. I love reading and I love the fact that I can carry a multitude of large novels, several magazines, and a variety of non-fiction books around with me, everywhere I go. The future is here and it keeps getting better.

Coda: Aren't Physical Books Better?

There's a longstanding argument about whether or not e-books are as good (or better) than physical books. The argument goes that physical books are better because of the feel of the paper, the unique scent of books, the look of the text on the page, the memories associated with the physical object, etc. These arguments aren't wrong. Physical books do offer a lot of sentimental value that e-books may never be able to match.

I understand people that prefer physical books over e-books, but I don't feel the same way. Growing up, I read a prodigious amount but I didn't actually own many books. Almost everything I read came from either the Virginia Beach library system or the Norfolk library system. I didn't own them, so I couldn't dog-ear the pages, write notes in the margins, or develop an emotional attachment.

When I think of a book, I think of the ideas and people contained within the pages. I don't think of the pages themselves. "My" books were rentals. Someone else had them before me, I had them for a short while, then I gave them back, for someone else to have after me. The paper and ink were merely transient residents, passing through my life. An e-book carries the ideas and people just as well as paper and ink does. I sympathize with those who are attached to paper and ink, but I do it from a distance.

Throughout my reading life, I've loved stories and developed emotional attachments to various characters, places, and events, but I never loved the physical book itself. I don't miss what e-books don't offer, because I never really had it to begin with.

This entry was tagged. Ebooks Kindle

Charlie Stross: More on DRM and ebooks

Charlie Stross: More on DRM and ebooks →

SF author Charlie Stross.

Last week's blog entry on Amazon's ebook strategy went around the net like a dose of rotavirus. And, as we can now see from Tor's ground-breaking announcement I was only just ahead of the curve: people at executive level inside Macmillan were already asking whether dropping DRM would be a good move. Last week they asked me to explain, in detail, just why I thought abandoning DRM on ebooks was a sensible strategy for a publisher. Turns out my blog entry on Amazon's business strategy didn't actually explain my full reasoning on DRM, so here it is.

Note that I am not responsible for Macmillan's change of policy. An internal debate was already in progress; this move was already on the cards. I caught their attention and was given a chance to offer some input: that's all. The final decision to drop DRM on ebooks from Tor/Forge was taken by John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, who ultimately has to account for his actions to the shareholders.

Along the way, he explains why I may be shopping somewhere other than Amazon, for my SF reading material.

[C]urrently Amazon have swamped the midlist among ebooks in a sea of self-published rubbish. It's impossible to find anything worth reading in the Kindle store that isn't a very obvious bestseller. This offers an opportunity for specialist bookstores to offer a curatorial role. I believe the voracious genre consumers are picky enough about what they read that they dislike Amazon's slushpile approach, and will preferentially shop in better organized outlets.

I just hope he's wrong about e-ink readers disappearing within 5 years. I vastly prefer my non-backlit e-ink display to any backlit LCD display.

This entry was tagged. Ebooks

Tor Books Goes DRM Free

Yesterday, Tor Books announced that they were going to go entirely DRM-free, by early July, 2012. This is huge news and I'm excited to hear it. "Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen."

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the name for a software lock that publishers apply to movies and e-books that you've purchased. When something is "protected" by DRM, the publisher is protected from the risk that you'll copy it or use it in any way that they don't like.

DRM prohibits you from doing bad things, like distributing something to 1 million of your closest friends. It also prohibits you from doing good things, like copying your new DVD to your iPad or loading your Kindle e-book into your Barnes & Noble Nook.

It's worse than that though. It gives the publisher veto control over your devices—if you can't transfer your existing library to a new device, you'll be much less likely to buy it. With DRM, your e-books last only as long as the publisher does. If the publisher goes out of business (or leaves the market, as Wal-Mart did with digital music), you'll lose the ability to load your DRM files onto new devices. For the customer, there's absolutely nothing to like about a DRM lock.

With Tor's announcement, the e-book industry finally begins a move that I've been predicting for a couple of years now.

It's a move I've been predicting because of what I observed with digital music. In 2003, when the music publishers first made songs legally available through iTunes, they insisted that Apple wrap each track in a DRM lock. Their goal was to prevent widespread music piracy. Given the overwhelming popularity of the iPod, they succeeded in making Apple's store practically the only legal source of music for most customers.

For six years Apple gobbled up an increasing share of the music market. The music labels finally realized that their insistence on DRM was making them dangerously dependent on Apple. In January of 2009, the publishers agreed to let Apple—and other online retailers—sell music tracks without any DRM wrapper whatsoever.

For the first time, customers were able to legally buy digital music from Apple and play it on a non-Apple device. And, for the first time, Apple customers were able to legally buy digital music from Amazon and play it on their iPods. It took six years but the music labels finally realized that digital music without a DRM lock was better both for them and for their customers.

A similar situation has been playing out in the e-book market. Amazon was the first company to produce a mass-market e-book reader, introducing the Kindle in 2007. Publishers were slow to embrace the new platform but gradually began putting more of their catalog into Kindle format. As they released Kindle versions of each book, they insisted that Amazon wrap the e-books with a DRM lock.

The firs true competitor, the Nook from Barnes & Noble, wasn't introduced until 2009. At this point, digital music had already been DRM free for most of a year. E-books, however, were still DRM locked. As a result, Amazon was able to leverage their early start, large customer base, and solid hardware into a commanding market lead.

As Amazon grew, the publishers grew increasingly dependent on sales from Amazon. Each Kindle customer had a library that was locked to their Kindle device, through DRM. As long as those customers were locked to the Kindle hardware, they were also locked to the Kindle bookstore, making it hard to grow sales elsewhere. Amazon continued to grow Kindle and Kindle e-book sales, through aggressive pricing and discounting of e-books.

The publishers were aware of the trap that the music labels had fallen into with Apple. They were determined to avoid it but they were equally determined to ship e-books with DRM locks. The publishers decided to neuter some of Amazon's advantages by removing Amazon's ability to compete on price. In April, 2010 the publishers forced Amazon to purchase e-books through an "agency model". Amazon would no longer be free to price e-books as it saw fit. Instead, the publisher would set the price and Amazon would get to keep a flat 30% fee.

From now on, e-books would be priced at $7.99, $9.99, $12.99, $14.99, $16.99, or even $19.99, as the publisher dictated. These prices would apply identically across all stores (Apple iBooks, B&N; Nook, Amazon Kindle). The publishers hoped that by removing Amazon's price advantages, they could entice customers into other stores and prevent Amazon from gaining an effective monopoly over the e-book market.

It was an interesting tactic but one that I didn't expect to succeed, long term. Eventually one publisher would undercut another and the lock step pricing would fall apart. I continued to predict that publishers would eventually be forced to remove their DRM locks, if they wanted to have an open market with lots of sellers.

The agency model gambit hung together for 2 years and largely worked, until the publishers got sued. On April 12, the Department of Justice sued five publishers, under anti-trust law, alleging a conspiracy to fix prices. The DoJ sued HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Macmillan, and Penguin. All but Macmillan and Penguin immediately settled and agreed to stop using the agency model.

Macmillan, one of the two holdouts, is the parent to Tor Books. Tor publishes science fiction books. These books are written and purchased by tech-savvy people. Both groups have been begging for DRM free e-books for years. Tor has wanted to oblige them, but Macmillan has always set the rules and Macmillan has always said no.

Yesterday, watching the agency model go down in flames, Macmillan apparently relented, and Tor announced that, by early July, their entire catalog would be available DRM free. They'll continue to sell e-books through Amazon and B&N; but those e-books will now be DRM free. In addition, Tor will look to expand their reach by selling through additional retailers. (Until now, those other retailers have been off-limits because they only sell DRM free e-books.)

This policy shift will open up new opportunities for Tor. Because I believe it signals the beginning of an industry wide shift, it will also open up new opportunities for customers as well. No longer will you be locked into one e-book reader or one e-book store. You'll have the freedom to buy e-books from any store and read them on any reader. You'll have the freedom to switch readers, without needing the publishers to approve of your new device. You'll have the freedom to loan the e-book to a friend, without that friend needing to use the same device as you.

I'm excited about the shift and I'm excited about what it means for the future growth of the e-book industry.

Now, when is the movie industry going to finally going to catch up and quit putting DRM locks all over their DVD and Blu-Ray discs? Are we going to have to wait another 3 years for that shift to occur? Or another 10?

This entry was tagged. Ebooks

Publishers Gild Books With ‘Special Effects’ to Compete With E-Books

Publishers Gild Books With ‘Special Effects’ to Compete With E-Books →

Book publishers are starting to see the light.

“If we believe that convenience reading is moving at light speed over to e,” Mr. Schnittman said, using the industry shorthand for e-books, “then we need to think about what the physical qualities of a book might be that makes someone stop and say, ‘well there’s convenience reading, and then there’s book owning and reading.’ We realized what we wanted to create was a value package that would last.”

Martha K. Levin, the executive vice president and publisher of Free Press, the imprint of Simon & Schuster that published “The Iliad,” said the presentation sent “the message that even if you’re buying 90 percent of your books on your e-reader, this is the one that you want to have on your bookshelf.”

Exactly. There are books that I just want to read---and then there are books that I want to treasure and display.

This entry was tagged. Ebooks

My Haul from Amazon’s “Big Deal” eBook Sale

Amazon is running a Big Deal sale on Kindle books. It includes about 970 books and ends today.

Like most sales, there is quite a lot of dreck in there. But I waded through it all and I did manage to find a few good bargains.

Not a bad haul for $21.00.

Using E-Books to Sell More Print Versions?

The NYT’s Media Decoder blog reports that one publisher has decided that free (or low priced) eBook editions might be just the thing to get customers to buy books at local bookstores.

“We spend a lot of time lately trying to figure out how to sell books in this new world order,” said Elisabeth Scharlatt, the publisher of Algonquin, part of Workman Publishing. “And particularly to help booksellers to sell hardcover books, which seems increasingly difficult. So this seemed like one way of calling attention to a book by giving an incentive to the customer.”

Several publishers have experimented with bundling, whether by grouping several e-books together for one price or selling a print book paired with an e-book. “Consumers are starting to feel like, ‘If I’m buying the book, why do I have to buy it several times to have multiple formats?’ ” said Robert S. Miller, the group publisher of Workman.

This seems like a case of publishers coming late to the party. I was discussing this with friends and family when I bought my first Kindle, 3 years ago. We all agreed that it would just make sense for dead-tree books to come with a free (or very low cost) eBook edition.

I do question the publisher’s motivation though.

If physical bookstores continue to disappear, publishers worry, their books will not have an opportunity to be discovered by customers who wander into a store without knowing what they want to buy. Sales of print books have suffered in the last year, while e-book sales have soared.

First, I think eBook sales have soared because eBooks are far more convenient than dead-tree books. That certainly explains why my own eBook purchases have soared lately. The critical metric shouldn’t be one format versus another but rather total number of books sold. (Or, perhaps, total revenue.) By those metrics, I think my purchases are up compared to previous years.

Secondly, I think the model of browsing through book store shelves is dead. Growing up, I tried. Occasionally I found books to buy that way. But, more often, I found myself looking at books wondering “who buys this?”. I found my books through 2 primary routes: browsing the shelves of my local library and checking out what my friends were talking about. I think both of those models are easily transferred to the digital world.

My local library just started offering eBook loans earlier this year. All of the biographies and memoirs that I’ve read this year have come from the library. I enjoy browsing the website to see what’s new. It’s true that the library’s website isn’t as nice as it could be and that the browsing options could use some work. But those are issues that can be fixed. The basic model is sound.

I still get recommendations from friends too. But, today, my “friends” include the entire internet. I can easily get recommendations from Glenn Reynolds, Jerry Pournelle, Sarah Hoyt, and many, many others. Book stores are filled with books that I’ll never have an interest in, picked by no one in particular, and arranged with no particular care. Book publishers should focus less on mass market stores and more on communities organized around special interests. I’m far more likely to buy a book recommended by someone that I respect than I am to buy a book that I walk past on a store shelf.

Finally, publishers have an opportunity to become their own way for readers to discover books. Publishers, you have editors and your editors have taste (at least I hope they do). Use that taste. Market that taste. Tell readers that your imprint offers them a special flavor of reading. Then use your website to draw them, expose them to new authors and new works. Make it easy and convenient for them to buy directly from you. Make yourself a destination, for readers to find new books that they know they’ll enjoy because they know they’ve enjoyed other books that you’ve published.

I can think of three publishers that do this well: Baen Books, Tor, and Crossway. All three have a specific “voice” that the reader can rely on. All three feature recent books prominently on their home page. I can rely on all three to present books that I’m very likely to be interested in reading. If I’m bored and wondering what to read next, I know I can visit their sites and be assured of finding something interesting. That’s good for me, that’s good for the publisher’s bottom line, and it’s good for new authors that the publisher is featuring. More publishers should be like that.

Do we need bookstores to help readers discover new authors and new books? I don’t think so. I think we need publishers to realize that they’re living in 2011 not in 1950 and that bright, new opportunities are waiting for them as soon as they catch up to where their readers are.

This entry was tagged. Ebooks

Review: Embedded


Embedded by Dan Abnett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came to this book through a roundabout path. ClarkesWorld Magazine had an interview with Lauren Beukes, in Issue #56 (May 2011). Jeremy L. C. Jones was talking with Ms. Beukes about her new novel Zoo City. I got intrigued and checked out the publisher, Angry Robot.

As I browsed their catalog, I stumbled on Embedded. The description intrigued me right away.

When journalist Lex Falk gets himself chipped into the brain of a combat soldier, he thinks he has the ultimate scoop - a report from the forbidden front line of a distant planetary war, live to the living rooms of Earth. When the soldier is killed, however, Lex has to take over the body and somehow get himself back to safety once more... broadcasting all the way.

And, at only $4.79 for the Kindle edition, it seemed eminently worth taking a flyer on.

Now that I’ve finished it, I still think it was worth the money. But it wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been. I knew I was in trouble when I started to think about other books, only a quarter of my way through this one. While I can suffer from ADD while reading, getting distracted while reading a book is generally a good sign that I’m just not that into the book.

This book had several flaws, in my opinion. To begin with, the story dropped us onto a planet still undergoing colonization, without first giving us any reason to care about the world itself, the colonists, or the organizations overseeing the colonization. Then we get a main character, Lex Falk, that we again have very little reason to care about or be interested in. I had a very hard time connecting emotionally with anything (or anyone) in the story.

The story also fell prey to the SF temptation to introduce new lingo as a way of showing that the world of the story is different from our own world. It might have worked except that it felt like it took a lot of work in order to understand what was standing in for what. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t all bad. But parts were and I didn’t think that they really added much to the story as compensation.

Sadly, it took about two-thirds of the book before I really felt like I developed a bond with the characters and started to care about what happened. From there on out, for the final one-third of the book, I really enjoyed the read. There was some great action, some great investigation work, and a great reveal. It was a really great read and I enjoyed it a lot.

How do I rate a book like this? Well, 4 stars for concept and the execution of the last third of the book. And 2 stars for the execution of the first two-thirds of the book and the introduction of everything. I’ll average that out and call it 3 stars for the book as a whole.

I think this book can be a good read, if you’re willing to endure the setup necessary in order to get to the really good parts.

This entry was tagged. Book Review Ebooks

Review: The Salamander

Image Salamander by David D. Friedman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book through Jerry Pournelle's site, Chaos Manor. David Friedman had written in to say that he'd had his agent publish it as "a Kindle", just to see what would happen. After checking out the first two chapters (and seeing that it was priced at just $2.99), I decided to give it a shot.

I’m glad I did, as I really enjoyed the book. Friedman has constructed a magical system in which magic can be studied, experimented with, and controlled much as physics can be studied, experimented with, and controlled in our own world.

Magic spells and phrases are built up of smaller pieces, each with its own effect. By combining the sounds and words of the magical language, mages can create new spells with the desired effects. Although a mage may not be talented in one area, he can often achieve the desired result through a clever usage of an area of magic that he is talented in. It’s a very ingenious system and offers many possibilities for creativity—and for reflection about how science works in our own world.

The story centers around Magister Coeler and his efforts to create a new magical spell: the Cascade. He’s initially naïve, believing the spell will be used only for good. Eventually, through subsequent events and the arguments of his student Ellen, he realizes the terrible destructive power of his own spell. Together they struggle to protect their world from the spell and the power hungry mages who would seek to use the spell for evil. It’s true that a genie can’t be stuffed back into a bottle. But maybe he doesn’t need to be either.

I found the book to be entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking. Friedman uses the story to communicate the importance of thinking over brute force and to celebrate the triumph of those who are clever, realizing that victory doesn’t always have to go to the strongest. There are many clever uses of “small” magics and it’s fun to see the creative ways that a determined person can go to in order to resist coercion.

This entry was tagged. Book Review Ebooks

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

I didn't intend to read this. I really didn't. But, well, now I can't put it down.

"Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" is a fanfiction retelling of Harry Potter. It takes place in an alternate universe in which Harry Potter was raised by loving foster parents who instilled in him a great love for science, rationality, and continuously questioning everything around him. He attends Hogwarts, but attends determined to figure out what in the name of Isaac Newton is going on and how, exactly, magic fits into a rational, scientific universe. The results are rather hilarious.

I discovered the story while reading Eric S. Raymond and loved his capsule description.

Read it and laugh. Read it and learn. Eliezer re-invents Harry Potter as a skeptic genius who sets himself the task of figuring out just how all this “magic” stuff works. The science is real – it really would be a lot harder to explain transformation from a human into a cat than mere levitation, for example. When Harry, confronted with a magical time-travel device, is immediately terrified that he might be holding an antimatter bomb, this is actually a more justified fear than many readers may understand.

But the characters are not slighted. Eliezer is very good at giving them responses to the rather altered and powered-up Harry that are consistent with canon. The development of Minerva McGonagall is particularly fine.

Strongly recommended. And if you manage to learn about sources of cognitive bias like the Planning Fallacy and the Bystander Effect (among others) while your sides are hurting with laughter, so much the better.

I read the first few chapters and wasn't really getting into it. I put it down. Then I picked it up and read a few more pages. Now I'm hooked and I can't put it down.

Go, read it. Don't make me be the only one hooked on this. Grab it as an ePub or Mobi file for your favorite eReader. (Be aware that the story is still on-going and you'll need to periodically re-download the file to get the latest updates.)

This entry was tagged. Ebooks Humor

An Open Letter to Pat Rothfuss

So, I sent the following letter to Patrick Rothfuss a little bit ago.

Hi Pat,

I was thinking about the book tour today.

I loved The Name of the Wind. I have every expectation of loving The Wise Man's Fear. I live in Madison. So, of course I'd love to attend the Madison book signing and get your autograph. I'd love to. But I have a small problem. I intended to buy The Wise Man's Fear in Kindle edition, not hardcover edition. And I think it'd be kind of awkward to have you sign my Kindle.

I thought of a solution. I'd love to buy a print of the cover art for The Wise Man's Fear and bring that with me to the book signing. Then I could bring it home, frame it, and hanging it in my reading room. (I don't have one now but I definitely think I should plan for the future.)

I did see the latest blog post about ordering signed cover art prints from The Signed Page. And I may yet take advantage of that. It's not nothing, but it's not nearly the same as coming to the book signing and getting something signed in person.

I've Googled and I've searched your website and I don't see it anywhere. Is there any option for buying prints of your cover art? If not, do you think your publisher might be open to the option of making some? I'd love to buy them and I'd think (hope!) that other fans might want to too.

Thanks for reading,

I admit that I like physical books partly because I can show off what I've read and which authors and titles I really like. There was definitely a plan behind which books are upstairs and visible to guests and which books are relegated to the basement bookshelves. Buying eBooks is nice but I miss having something to display. I think I'd like to be able to buy the cover art to my favorite books, to display on my walls.

How about it, book lovers? What do you think of the idea of buying cover art prints, to supplement your eBook purchases?

Introducing the Kindle DX

Amazon introduced the Kindle DX at a press event this morning. It's the big screen Kindle everyone's been waiting for, but it comes with a big screen price: $489.00.

What do you get for that? Well, it's two inches taller and two inches wider than the normal Kindle, making it about an inch smaller than an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. This is important because it's the first Kindle to offer a native PDF viewer that displays full-size PDF pages without any modifications or unsightly wrapping. It's being pitched at anyone who wants to read rich, dense information: textbooks, scientific texts, computer manuals, etc. To make this even easier, it now supports auto-rotation. It will automatically sense whether you're holding the device in portrait mode or landscape mode and rotate the page to match.

What else do you get for your money? Well, it's pretty much the same as the small Kindle in all other respects. Same Whispernet wireless access, samme text-to-speech, same overall design. It does have enough memory for 3500 books, up from 1500 books. But the display is still 16 shades of gray (no color).

What do I think? I think this is one expensive gadget. The small Kindle, at $359, is pushing my willingness to spend. The DX, at $489, is way beyond it. Granted, it's a huge device. And I do think that size would allow me to read many books I'm unwilling to read on my small Kindle. But I'm not going to spend $500 for the privilege. Hopefully, for Amazon's sake, somebody else is.

This entry was tagged. Ebooks Innovation

Kindle: Textbook Edition

Amazon to Launch Kindle for Textbooks - WSJ.com:

Amazon.com Inc. on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers, according to people familiar with the matter.

... A larger-screen Kindle would enable textbook publishers to better display the charts and graphs that aren't particularly well suited to the current device, which has a screen that measures just six inches diagonally. But digitizing academic books could also hurt the thriving market for used textbooks on college campuses.

I think the schools consider that a feature not a bug. I also think the Kindle DRM will likely discourage a lot of students from buying digital textbooks. They'll almost surely cost more than the used books online and they can't be given away or resold at the end of the year. Sure, it'll save weight in backpacks, but it comes at the cost of a $359 device.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind after reading the full details of tomorrow's debut.

Update: I haven't changed my mind. The new Kindle DX is nearly $500. Several universities will be piloting them as textbooks, with the textbooks preloaded. That's a good deal for those students. But I'm not sure it's a good deal for other students who will have to buy both the Kindle and their textbooks.

This entry was tagged. Ebooks Innovation