Give the Gift of Kindle Books

In time for the holidays, Amazon has made it possible for people to give Kindle books to anyone with an email address. A Kindle isn’t required, as the Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iOS, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry and Android are available. And, if you prefer something else, Kindle books can be exchanged for Amazon Gift Cards.

Kindle is the most popular of the e-book readers, and has an estimated 725,000 books in its library. We predict it will not take long for the other stores to incorporate this feature.

PC World points out a few useful reasons to give the gift of Kindle book(as opposed to Kindle device. For one, books are often cheaper. Sending an e-book takes much less effort than sending a real book, gratification is instant, and shipping is free.

I conclude as PC World did. Give the gift of digital literature this holiday season.

Amazon Introduces Better Kindle Revenue for Magazine and Newspaper Publishers

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 05:  An old Onion news rac...
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Amazon is set to announce new revenue share terms for magazine and newspaper publishers that will give them a more favorable share of Kindle revenues. The terms for the new revenue sharing require the publication to be readable on all Kindle devices and applications, and in all geographies for which the publisher has rights. Amazon also announced the Beta release of the Kindle Publishing for Periodicals tool, which allows publishers to quickly and easily add their newspaper or magazine to the Kindle Store.

While reactions to newspapers and magazines on the Kindle have been generally positive, there have been some legitimate complaints about the Kindle editions. For one, some sections available in the print edition are not in the digital editions. There are complaints of formatting issues, etc.

Amazon requiring wider distribution and other improvements for these Kindle editions is something we can certainly get behind them on.

Kindle to Enable Lending

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The Kindle team announced in a forum post that they will be enabling lending functions in Kindle. Lending is a function that the Barnes and Noble Nook has had for some time.

Each book can be lent once for a period of two weeks and the lender cannot read the book during this period. Publishers will be able to decide whether or not a book can be lent. As one user commented on Techcrunch’s post on the subject:

The “laws of copyright” and fair use don’t seem to extend to the DMCA. Since Amazon’s ebooks are DRM’ed and locked to your account and device, “fair use” is whatever the publisher’s allow.

I tend to agree. I understand why publishers want to make sure you aren’t copying books and spreading them all over the place, but some of the restrictions are extremely disappointing. The lend feature is expanding our fair use rights, but by only allowing us to use it once, and by limiting it by publisher preference, I have to wonder how they think they will encourage more people to move to e-books, especially when they often cost more than paperbacks.

Reasons Not to Get an E-Reader

The front of the Amazon Kindle DX
Image via Wikipedia

Recently, I was reading David Carnoy of CNET, who wrote an article entitled, Why You Shouldn’t Get an E-Reader. I’m not sure I agree with Carnoy fully, but he makes some interesting points. He divides those who buy readers into three categories

  • Owners who rarely spend any time using their devices
  • Those who do some reading
  • Heavy Users who find the Kindle convenient for storing a lot of reading material

The issue with the Kindle, like many e-books is an emotional one of pricing. As I mentioned previously, it is not just the purchasers, but the writers and publishers trying to feel through this issue. You can get an older, used, perfectly wonderful book for pennies, but the same book in ebook format is at full list price. I have that sticker shock myself. It took me two weeks to pick my first book for that reason. But there was still plenty to read.

Teleread made the most useful response. Nothing about the points made are different than any other type of gadget. Some people always use a gadget more than others. E-Book sales are growing. The Kindle numbers are up, as are the numbers of other readers.

To rebut Carnoy, we have Steve O’Hear of TechCrunch, in his article of last month. He points out that an e-book reader like the Kindle, unlike the iPad or such, is a device that allows you to focus on the task of reading without the distractions of multitasking…multiple windows, etc. These devices have screens that are less prone to eye-strain and, while they have internet, are not designed as internet devices. The battery life is also measured in days or weeks,  as opposed to hours.

So, I will keep going back to both sides. Those who think an e-reader is obsolete in the age of the iPad, and those who see the benefit of a dedicated device. What do you think?

When E-Books Cost More than Hardcovers

NEW YORK - MAY 06:  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hold...
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I’m frugal. Frugal does not mean cheap. But, the price of an -book can be a bit surprising.

The New York Times reported recently on two Kindle editions that were more expensive than their hardcover counterparts. The differences were a dollar or less, but still. Publishers and writers deserve to make money off of their books, but if the goal is to encourage e-book adoptions, and factoring in the reduced distribution costs(although now, of course, the ebookstore gets a cut), then there should be at least some difference.

Publishers have argued that the problem isn’t that the ebooks are priced too high, it is that the hardcovers are priced too low. Amazon had set the price for the Kindle edition of a book out in hardcover at $9.99, but did raise it due to pressure from the publishers.

Kindle editions are outselling hardcover books on Amazon. E-books are estimated at 8& of total book sales, up from 3-5% a year ago. But paperbacks are still so inexpensive, it will likely be a while before electronic books outpace them. Amazon puts this milestone at perhaps a year away. Perhaps then we’ll get a price drop…or not. But then…will less books be published, or more? Does electronic publishing lower the bar or raise it?

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that e-books may be hurting writers. Many e-books generate less income for publishers, and thus publishers are approving fewer deals and signing fewer new writers, as well as offering smaller advances.

The problem, however, is for those new writers. Big-name authors and novels are doing well electronically. But sellers of e-books aren’t set up as well to help readers discover new authors. Perhaps that is where third-party sites would come in. But Amazon should have an interest in selling as many different books as possible.

What do you think?

The ePub Standard: A Brief Summary

Official ePub LogoePub is an open publishing standard for electronic books put out by the International Digital Publishing Forum(IDPF). It consists of three component standards:

  • Open Publication Structure(OPS)
  • Open Packaging Format(OPF)
  • Open Container Format(OCF).

It is XML(eXtensible Markup Language) based, and allows for reflowable digital books and publications.

The OPF defines the mechanism by which various components of an OPS publication are tied together.

  • It lists all markup files, images, navigation structure, etc.
  • It provides publication metadata.

The OPS is the standard for representing the content of electronic publications. Specifically, standards and guidelines that ensure fidelity, accuracy, and accessibility, and adequate presentation of the content on various reading platforms. Content will adjust itself depending on the type of device it is displayed on.

The OCF defines the rules for collecting a series of related files into a single file container. ePub publications are distributed as a single file archive which contains multiple files.

ePub supports, by design, Digital Rights Management(DRM), allowing it to prevent it being read on unauthorized devices. Whether or not DRM should be used on books is a topic for another day, but being as many publishers insist on it in order to release their materials electronically, for now, it is better than nothing. However, since it does not mandate a particular DRM scheme, different schemes may lead to device incompatibility with what is supposed to be a standard format. This is being discussed in committee.

The format, by allowing for reflowable text, does not necessarily factor in publications that require precise layout or specific formatting. There are also limitations on annotation in books, allowing easy transfer of attached notes.

Most major electronic readers, with the exception of the popular Amazon Kindle, support the format. It is hardly perfect, but as it continues to evolve, it is the best we have right now.

One Analyst Predicts the Kindle will Sell 5 Million Units this Year – Why?

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader
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Despite the popularity of the Amazon Kindle, Amazon has never provided any figures on how the item is actually selling. The most detailed bit of information they did provide was that “More new generation Kindles were ordered in the first four weeks of availability than in the same timeframe following any other Kindle launch. And Amazon customers are now ordering more Kindles than anything else in the store.

Analyst Douglas Anmuth estimates Amazon will sell about five million Kindles this year due to its more appealing prices and redesign. And Amazon offering apps for all major mobile and OS platforms means that the Kindle store has a good chance of being the top seller of eBooks, which is their bigger goal, we gather.

Believing that there is a market for cheaper, dedicated electronic readers and more expensive multifunction devices such as tablets is certainly a viable one. I have a smartphone. It does a lot. But I still bought a Kindle. And I have yet to get a tablet. But the differences between the three: smartphone, tablet, electronic reader is a topic for another article.

Back to Amazon and the Kindle, Amazon sells the Kindle and Kindle books in over 150 countries, and its cellular based Whispernet service in over a hundred of those. The new Kindle supports wi-fi, which means the Kindle becomes useful even without the 3G. It’s competitors have limited presence outside the U.S. Amazon has the distribution and power to make an international electronic bookstore work.

What the Kindle doesn’t offer, but could, and hopefully will, is support for the popular EPUB format, as well as library book support. But, ultimately, it is still the best combination of value and features in the market.