Tag Archives: kindle

Apple’s in-app purchase policy

I read today that Amazon finally caved to Apple’s in-app purchase policy. I can understand Apple’s desire to get its cut, but the desire to enforce this policy puts an unnecessary burden on customers and creates usability issues that are extremely annoying. For instance:

Right now, if I want to buy a book from the Kindle app on my iPad, I can click the Kindle Store button and it will open a web browser to the Amazon Kindle site so that I can make my purchase. If I decide to upgrade to the latest version of the tool, the button will no longer exist, meaning that I will have to navigate to Safari, and then navigate Amazon. This adds two additional steps to a process that was almost as efficient as you can get. Adding steps to a process? Really?

This might be good for Apple’s bottom line, but I have a question for Apple: how it this useful to consumers?

The Story of Civilization on Kindle

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I have a complete set (used) of Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization books. These books are some of the best histories I have ever read. Durant has a very engaging writing style, and part of the fun in reading these books is considering the time at which they were written. There are 11 books in the series. The first was published in 1935, the last in 1975. I have read the first three books in the series: Our Oriental Heritage (1935), The Life of Greece (1939), and Caesar and Christ (1944). Each has been a completely enjoyable (and educational) experience. But these are massive books, and while I would love to mark them up, I hesitate to write in the margins and make notes in them as I read because the books are so old.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been checking to see if these books (which I think are out of print in their hardcover editions) would be available on Kindle. But every time I’ve checked, there is only a link asking to “Tell the publisher you’d like to read this book on Kindle.” I clicked the link a long, long time ago and then pretty much forgot about it.

Last night, too hot to sleep at 2am, I started browsing Kindle books on Amazon–

(–and a minor digression here: how cool is it that at 2am on a very hot night, I can, from my iPad, wander around the virtual stacks of an enormous bookshelf, passing the time by browsing those virtual shelves and distracting myself from the heat. Instead of having to wait until a bookstore opens then next day.)

–and I decided to search for Durant’s Story of Civilization. But you are ahead of me. Sure enough, all 11 books are now available on Kindle. And if that wasn’t enough, when I checked the date that they became available, it was June 7, this past Tuesday. Had I checked on Monday and seen that they were not available, I might not have thought to check again for another year. I went ahead and purchased The Age of Faith, which is the 4th book in the series. Yes, I have it on my bookshelf, but it is also the longest book, being well over 1,000 pages and when I get around to reading it, it will be nice not to have to lug the extra weight around.

It will also be nice to highlight passages and take notes without having to worry about marking up that old first edition.

I highly recommend Durant’s series as an excellent introduction (or refresher) on world history. Those interested in the Kindle editions can find them here.

Learned Astronomer now available on Kindle

As I promised in the earlier post, I have also made my first published science fiction story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” available on the Kindle for people who want to read it there. You can find it in Amazon’s Kindle Store. It’ll cost you $0.99 there, but remember, the story is also freely available on my website.

This is the first thing that I’ve made publicly available on the Kindle so if you notice any formatting issues or other problems, let me know and I’ll try to correct them if I do this again in the future. I used Scrivener to do the conversion to Kindle format, and with the possible exception of a reference to a page header which I didn’t catch, it looks like it came out pretty good as far as I can tell.

InterGalactic Medicine Show now available on Kindle

Good news! Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show is now available on the Kindle. I have a soft spot for IGSM. Not only do they publish very good science fiction and fantasy, but they also published my first pro science fiction story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” back in July 2007. If you’ve never seen the magazine, I urge you to check it out.

Using the Kindle to read story drafts

My evolution of story draft reading has come a long way in the last year. A year ago, I’d print out my first drafts, mark them up in red ink and then head into my second draft. Then I tried reading the draft within Scrivener and that worked pretty well, too, but it was a little less portable than a paper manuscript, since I didn’t always have my laptop with me. Reading a draft is a convenient thing to do in those small scraps of time that one finds during the day, waiting for an elevator, sitting in a doctor office lobby, waiting for a meeting to start. So when I started my work on “Rescue”, I decided to try reading the draft on the Kindle and see how it felt.

As I’ve mentioned, “Rescue” is a novelette that I am writing by cannibalizing the first part of the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo. So in essence what I am doing is reading that first part, deciding what ideas and characters to keep and what to throw away, and then rewriting the whole thing from scratch as a self-contained story, cutting it from 35,000 words in it’s novel form down to 15-to-20,000 words in story form.

Scrivener makes it easy to export a story to Kindle format. Once the story was on the Kindle, I moved it to “My Fiction” collection and started reading. If I found something I wanted to cut, or change, I’d use the Kindle’s highlight feature to highlight the text, and then I’d use the Kindle’s notes/annotations feature to add a note. Since the keyboard on the Kindle is QWERTY, it’s easy to type and capture short notes like, “Cut this” or more extensive notes like, “I’m not sure if this character belongs in the story. Their viewpoint doesn’t add much and slows the pace down. It would also allow me to cut this scene…”

I’ve managed to get 63% through my reading and I’ve made well over 100 annotations and even more highlights. Here is a typical screenshot:

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I’ve found that I can work as easily as if I had a paper manuscript in my hands, and since I almost always have my Kindle with me, I can work on this just about anywhere. And best of all, the notes and annotations that I am making are stored on the device and can be opened as a text file, which I can then pull into my Scrivener project to use as a reference when I write the new story.

There is one downside that I have found so far:

Because I copied the story to my Kindle directly from my computer, as opposed to using Amazon’s service (which would have cost a buck or two), the story is only available on the Kindle device. It does not sync up to Amazon and therefore, for instance, I can’t pull it up on my iPhone.

Nevertheless, I am pleased with the overall feel of reading a draft on the Kindle and making my notes there, and it is likely the way I will handle all future drafts of stories. A story like this one would easily have consumed 150 manuscript pages. Add to that another draft, to say nothing of ten more stories this year, and this method also goes a long way toward my goal of becoming paperless at home, too.

More thoughts on the Kindle

Now that I have read about half a dozen books on my Kindle, I thought I’d offer a few more thoughts on the device and the experience:

  • I often read while I am eating my lunch.  With a traditional book, this has always been somewhat of a problem for me.  I am very careful with my books, even paperbacks, where I try to avoid breaking the spine for instance.  With hardcovers, there is the problem of keeping the pages open with one hand, while eating with the other.  With the Kindle, all of these problems go away.  I can set the Kindle flat on the table, and not touch it, except to tap the Next Page button.
  • With traditional books, I have always been hesitant to make notes in the margins.  With the Kindle, I have no problem doing this, and it’s actually very convenient to be able to mark the exact place I want to make a note, and have access to the notes file on my computer for additional edits, if I so choose.
  • Whenever I reached the halfway point in a book, I’d always toss the next book in my bag so that if I finished the current book, I wouldn’t be caught without something else to read.  With the Kindle, I don’t have this problem.  I can have many books “in my bag” at the same time, and no matter how many they are, or how big they are, they only take up the space and weight of the Kindle itself.

There are still some things that take some getting used to:

  • Footnotes can be awkward if they are not well-implemented.
  • It’s not as easy to skip ahead and see how much more of the current chapter is left (convenient for finding a good stopping point) as it is with a traditional book.  A future version of the Kindle OS might include an indicator that shows you how many “locations” remain before the next chapter.
  • I like the Kindle enough to want to read just about everything on it, so that it has become frustration (and disappointing) when I find that the book I’d like to read is not available for the Kindle.  (And clicking the “Tell the publisher you’d like to read this book on the Kindle” link that Amazon provides is of little help, especially since I have no idea what clicking that button actually does.
  • There are a few books that are listed for the Kindle, but when you go to the page, you find are “unavailable”.  The most frustrating of these is Will Durant’s Story of Civilization.

All told, I really like my Kindle.  I am surprised to find that it is just as easy and comfortable to read off the screen as it is the printed page, so long as it is done in a way that makes the screen feel like a printed page.