Kindle and book freebies

In between accounts of the smog over Beijing, James Fallows at The Atlantic has been writing about his new Kindle and being able to use the device overseas. He also mentions a couple of free ebook download sites. I wanted to add to that list that the science fiction book publisher, Tor, is making several books available for free downloads through today (including PDFs for online reading). Hopefully this isn’t too late a notice for most of you.

I am still enamored with my Kindle, so much so that I’ve filled it up with free and purchased books, as well as samples, research reports, and other documents. I recently added an 8GB SDHC card, and am now happily trying to fill it up, too.

I do agree with one criticism of the Kindle in that it would be nice if there were a way to categorize the writings, as well as organize them into folders. However, you can search on any term, as well as display them by author, title, and status, so that will have to do for now.

Returning to using the Kindle overseas, Amazon is still not selling the device or Kindle books overseas and this decision isn’t because of Whispernet, it’s because of distribution rights and issues of copyright. Most publishers sell rights to distribution in foreign countries, an old practice that doesn’t live well with new ways of delivering content.

However, if you have a US-based address (in order to receive the Kindle) and credit card that works with Amazon purchases in the States, you could get the Kindle delivered and buy books. It’s just that instead of having them download via Whispernet, you download them to your computer and copy over using the USB cable. You can also use the same approach for updating your Kindle’s software.

It’s not as convenient as Whispernet, but it is workable. Perhaps we in the States should “adopt” our friends overseas, though there are other ebook readers that can be purchased regardless of country.

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to purchase books with Amazon. Many companies, like Tor, O’Reilly, and others are also selling ebooks direct, in formats that should work with a Kindle, a Sony ebook reader, and so on. It’s not as convenient, but other approaches may not be so locked in.

As for whether ebooks will replace the paper books, Fallows writes:

My theory: television didn’t eliminate radio, telephones didn’t eliminate personal conversations, eBooks won’t eliminate real books. People always find more ways to communicate, and this will be another way. Very good for some kinds of information, not so much for others. A welcome new addition to the mix.

Yes, but isn’t Twitter destroying our brains?

update A timely and interesting article on the internet’s impact on reading in the New York Times.

Books Technology

Amazon S3 and Kindle

It’s not just SmugMug and other client applications that aren’t working because of Amazon’s S3 failure. You can purchase a book on Amazon, and it shows among your books in Content Manager, but the book won’t download. The same holds for any subscriptions you try to download.

You don’t get an error or a message. You just don’t get the book. I’ve been back and forth with Amazon trying to figure out why my new purchases weren’t downloading, until I saw the posts about S3. I’m assuming that the book files are stored in S3 storage. Understandable. What’s less understandable is the absolute lack of communication about why a book is not downloading.

I have to wonder if this isn’t related to Amazon’s new video download service. If so, then we may be in for some interesting times.

Amazon also put out a Whispernet upgrade today, and several people have been told this is the problem. However, if the issue was networking, we wouldn’t be able to access the store. We can access the store, but we can’t get our purchases to download. That strikes me as a storage access problem, not a Whispernet problem. Since the timing on this is identical with the down time on S3, I would say these two items are related. Either that, or Amazon is having a system wide failure.

Just received from Amazon:

I apologize for the difficulties you have experienced while trying to download from the Amazon Kindle Store. We are currently performing upgrades on some of our systems that handle file downloads like yours and this is responsible for the error you encountered. Please retry your download again in a few hours and let us know if this problem persists.

That’s the first time I’ve heard a system failure called an upgrade. Amazon is not handling this incident well.

Amazon is all better now and we’re able to download our books. One of the books I purchased was my own, Painting the Web. I just couldn’t resist seeing the whole thing in Kindle.

However, you can forget the “enough room to store 300 books” if you buy my book on the Kindle. The largest book I’ve had to date was 6MB. Painting the Web took a whopping seventeen MB of space. I’m not sure if it’s the heaviest Kindle book there is, but it certainly has to be up there with any others.

Books Writing

PTW on Kindle

Painting the Web is now live on Kindle, and I downloaded a sample chapter. I ended up being pleasantly surprised at the figures. Though they are in grays, they’re large enough to be easily viewable, and nicely integrated into the text.

It’s fun seeing your work in a new medium. Reminds me of the thrill I felt when seeing my first book in print.

update The URLs I included in the book are also converted into working links, and if the wireless connection is turned on, clicking one of the links opens the page in Kindle’s built-in browser. Tough to do that with a paper book. The spacing for the code samples is off, but this isn’t too much of a problem since examples can be downloaded from O’Reilly.

PTW on Kindle