Reviewing Kindle samples

I purchased my Kindle because I liked the idea of my library of books being at my fingertip. I also liked the fact that ebooks are, typically, cheaper than paper books. What I didn’t expect was how much the Kindle opened up new avenues in reading for me, and it did so through the concept of Kindle samples.

As you’re browsing through books, either with the Kindle, or online at Amazon, if you find one that’s interesting but not sure whether you want to buy it or not, you can download a sample to your device for review. The sample is automatically sent to the Kindle, at no cost. At the end of the sample, you’re asked whether you want to buy the book, or read more about it at Amazon. If you decide you don’t want to buy the book, you can then use the Kindle’s Content Manager to delete the sample.

How big the Kindle samples are depends on the size of books. Some of the samples were quite large, others the briefest of introductions. The structure of the samples differed, too, probably based on the ebook structure as determined by the publisher. Many books started directly in the first chapter, without having to traverse any preliminary dedication or cover. Other books, though, led off with every last bit of paper that proceeded the book in hard format, including copyright pages, forwards, dedications, publisher contact information, and so on.

I have purchased, and enjoyed, several books via Kindle samples—books I probably wouldn’t have bought if it weren’t for the samples. I’ve also avoided many more books because the writing in the samples proved disappointing, or not what I expected.

What was it about each sample that led to the Buy, No Buy decision? In answering, I decided to review the Kindle samples I download, regardless of whether I bought the book based on the sample or not. If I buy the book, the review will then transition into a full book review. If not, then the review will be of the sample, only, including a discussion of why I did not buy the book.

I begin my new sample reviews with an author whose name might be familiar to some of you: Seth Godin’s Tribes.


Kindle Coupon

I imagine this will kick start Kindle sales: MobileRead reports that Oprah Winfrey calls the Kindle her favorite gadget. All due respect to the Big O, I could care less, except that there’s supposedly a $50.00 coupon associated with her favoritism, which you can use when you buy a Kindle. The coupon code is OPRAHWINFREY, lasting until November 1.

I haven’t been writing much about my Kindle, something I plan on changing at my newly updated Just Shelley site. In the meantime, the Kindle is not a bad gift idea, and $50.00 saved is $50.00 saved.

PS Rumor has it that the UK Kindle is on its way, but you know how rumors are.

PPS Perhaps Om Malik will buy a Kindle for Stacey now that he can get a $50.00 discount.

PPPS Oops, no go for the UK Kindle just yet.


Grumbles in Kindletown

I have written before about my satisfaction with my Kindle, and even hope to write a couple of book reviews on new discoveries. However, not all is well in Kindletown at the moment, and reason is prices for Kindle editions.

I’ve been wanting the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s Obsidian trilogy, but Amazon only offered the first and third books. A few days ago, I noticed that the second book, To Light a Candle was available…for $22.63, which was equivalent to about 300% the price of the paperback (currently at $7.99).

I was astonished and more than a little peeved at the price, and posted a note about it in the Kindle forums. Not long after my note, another reader noticed that another Tor book by Mercedes Lackey, The Phoenix Unchained was also set to a price more expensive than the paperback ($16.61 as compared to $7.99). What’s even more odd about The Phoenix Unchained, it was originally set to a discounted paperback price of $6.29, and the price only jumped in the last week or so.

Today, To Light a Candle was reduced to $7.19, which compared to $7.99 for the paperback was an acceptable value. However, The Phoenix Unchained is still set to $16.61, effectively 150% the cost of a paperback. Though incidental to this discussion on books prices, I also noticed that the third volume in the Obsidian trilogy has vanished from the Kindle lists, which is odd considering that it makes no sense to “sell out” a digital book.

What seems to be happening with The Phoenix Unchained is that the Kindle volume is being offered at a discounted value…discounted from the hard cover price, not the paperback. Not for all of the books, either, but enough to generate some concerns.

In addition, I noticed my own Painting the Web has a discount of about 9% for the Kindle version, which is different from O’Reilly’s 20% discount it offers for the eBook bundle at the O’Reilly site. However, my paper book is discounted by Amazon, while the Kindle book is given less of a discount, so again, we’re talking about difficult to understand variations in Kindle pricing.

Another reader mentioned wanting to read the Janis Ian Autobiography, but the Kindle price is $16.01, while the hard cover is $17.79. Both are discounted from the retail cost of the book, which is $26.95. However, what happens when the paperback of the book is offered? Will the Kindle then become discounted from the paperback cost? Or discounted from the original hard cover?

Chances are, the pricing issues we noticed with the Tor books are related to Amazon being a bit overwhelmed with trying to load books, and making mistakes in the pricing. I can’t see how a publisher would expect to charge more for a Kindle book than a paperback, though I’m not sure I should make this assumption. Without any understanding of how the pricing schemes work, with books appearing, disappearing, and then appearing again, as prices vary significantly between publishers, we readers have become the ebook version of a Wall Street trader: forced to continuously check book prices, and be ready to scream out “Buy!” when the books we want hit that sweet spot (as O’Reilly has defined it).

I never knew book buying could be such an adventure. Or so stressful.