Kindle Tips

Now Audio and Text in the iOS Kindle App

Amazon released a big update to the iOS kindle apps (iphone, ipod touch and ipad) yesterday.  This brings it in line with the Kindle Fire apps.

The main new feature is the ability to listen to the audiobook directly in the kindle app.  Previously you could sync your location in the kindle app and the Audible.com app, but you had to alternate between the two apps.  Now you can do ‘immersion reading’ and listen to the audiobook while seeing the words.

For most people, it is just a good feature to keep your place while alternating, but Amazon markets the feature to help kids learn to read.

I do like the syncing feature (although it requires you own a copy of both the audiobook and the kindle edition).  I briefly tried it out the iOS kindle app last night and this morning and it seems to work well.

Any book that you own both versions (there is often a discount if you purchase the kindle edition first) has a headphone symbol in your library.

If you want to try the feature out without spending much money, there is a list of $0.99 classics, where the kindle edition is free and the audiobook is only $0.99.

EntitleChristian – A New eBook Subscription Service

Entitle ChristianLast year Oyster launched what I think was the first ebook subscription service.  For $9.99 a month you can read as many of their books as you want.  Bookwi.se Reviewed and thought the selection was fairly good and the price reasonable, but at the time it was iphone only.  It has since expanded to have iPad app and other subscription services have come to the market.

Personally, I just don’t like reading on my phone or tablet and very much prefer eink ereaders like the Kindle Paperwhite, but I know there are other opinions.

Entitle is one of the recent subscription services that is competing with Oyster.  Unlike Oyster’s all you can read model, Entitle is similar to the Audible subscription with $9.99 allowing you to purchase 2 books a month.  The advantage of this model is that you can keep the books when you leave the service (with Oyster, you get access to more books, but you lose access to the books when you end your subscription.)

I think these are both legitimate options depending on if you want to buy books or ‘stream’ them.

I would have missed Entitle as an option except that last week Entitle launched EntitleChristian (and three different news articles about it showed up in my RSS reader today.  Both Oyster and Entitle have about 100,000 books to choose from.  But EntitleChristian is a service that just has Christian books (about 10,000 right now).  It is the same price and same features as the regular Entitle service, just with the negative of having access to less book (or the bonus of having a curated system that excludes non-Christian books.)

I won’t be reviewing Entitle, but I would be glad to post a review of either Entitle or EntitleChristian if anyone is interested writing one up.  You can get a free trial with 2 books when you sign up.  Entitle works with iPads, iPhones and Android Tablets (including Google, Kobo, Nook and Kindle Fire).

Amazon Issues Credits for eBook Antitrust Settlement

aIn December 2013 the federal court approved the final settlements against the major publishers around their price fixing with the help of Apple.  Today is the day when you as a consumer figure out how much you get out of the sale.  As with all big settlements like this, it is disappointingly small for most people. (Mine was $26.78).

You can find your settlement amount at Amazon

h/t Kindle Chronicles and the Amazon email that I received as I was about to hit publish

Lendle.me – an updated review

LendleIt has been about 18 months since I last updated my review of Lendle.  And since I loaned my 350th book there yesterday it seemed like a good time to do that.

Lendle.me is a website that facilitates book lending between kindle owners.  Kindle owners can loan or borrow any books that publishers authorize as ‘lendable’.   In my library approximately 30 percent of books are lendable.

One of the problems of Lendle is that the publishers decide if there books are lendable or not.  So most independent authors make their books lendable, about half of Christian publishers.  Also Open Road Media, which has a lot of literary fiction authors like Susan Howatch, Octavia Butler and Dorothy Sayers, Oxford Press and several other decently well known smaller publishers make books lendable as well.

Many have suggested that Rick Riordan and Suzanne Collins (of Percy Jackson and Hunger Games fame) had such good word of mouth about their books because they both make there books lendable.

Lendle works on a give one get one system.  You earn borrowing credits by making your own books available to lend to others.  It can take a little work to determine what books you have that are lendable and then to add them to Lendle.  It would be nice if Amazon allowed Lendle to scan your library and do it automatically.  That used to be part of Amazon’s API, but Amazon removed it.

About a year ago the ownership of Lendle changed hands.  I think it has been well run since then, but one major feature (paying book owners to lend) has gone away.  I understand that it didn’t make financial sense in the long term to pay people to loan books as a free service.  Since then it does not appear that lending has dropped off.

Right now there are 161,000 books available (this is not different books, but 161,000 copies of books available to lend.)  One feature that it would be nice if there was a way to monitor users’ activity.  If a user has not participate in over a year, and they are the only owner of the book you want to borrow, you will probably not be able to borrow that book.  That being said, most of the time when I have requested a book, I get it within the hour, or at least within the next day.

Another complaint, which I do not know how much the owners of Lendle have control, is that on the main page (which shows recently added books) usually about half of the books covers are erotica.  For those that are not interested, I think it is off-putting. Personally I rarely go directly to the main page, instead I usually go to the Books Available Now or Books I Own to lend books.

If you notice a book you are interested in on Amazon and it is lendable, there is a Chrome extension that will take you directly to that book on Lendle to see if it is available to borrow.  But the book needs to be set up correctly on Amazon and it seems about half the time (especially with independent books) it is not set up correctly and you get an error.

For $25 you can become a patron member at Lendle.  This made a little more sense when patron members got a slightly higher payment rate.  But the main reason to do it now, is that you can create a wishlist of books you want to borrow eventually, but not right now.  Regular members can only request a book, and if the book becomes available, then you have 7 days to accept the book and 14 days to read it.  (Note: the way to get around the 14 day limit is to turn off the wifi or 3G on your kindle so it doesn’t know that it is expired.)

Overall, I am very happy with Lendle and I am an active member.  I have loaned 350 books.  I have borrowed 66 books.  I have put 452 books in my wishlist.  Right now of the 452 that I have in a wishlist, about 30 have available copies and I could request them. The remaining books are books that I would like to read, but no one on Lendle has made a copy of the book available.

There are also a couple minor layout and functionality issues I would like to suggest.  On your borrow request page, books that you have already borrowed stay in the list.  You can delete the book from the list before you borrow it, but not after you borrow it.  It is annoying to have to sort through books you already have borrowed while looking for the books you want to borrow.

But on the whole the site is functional, free to use (as long as you are willing to loan) and is a good way to get free books.

The earlier review of Lendle is here.

Overdrive Drops DRM on Audiobooks

English: Librarians against DRM

English: Librarians against DRM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said earlier, I have decided to not buy more than one book a month for the first six months of 2014.  This is to force me to read some of the books I have already purchased, catch up on books that I said I would review months ago and to save a little bit of money.

Included in that book buying fast is not renewing my subscription to Audible.com.  I have been a continuous member of Audible since 2003 until now.  I am still a big fan of Audible, especially their software.  But it is good to actually use some free options. (And I will sign up for Audible again later.)

Overdrive, the system that provides most libraries in the US with their ebooks and digital audiobooks announced today that they are moving to all MP3 formats and dropping the WMA.  This is good news not only because DRM is a pain in the neck.  But also because WMA is a windows only format.  So Mac users like myself were unable to access a significant portion of the audiobook library.

The timeline for the switch is not in the press release, and it sounds like at least part of the problem is that not all publishers have agreed to offer their audiobooks in MP3 format.  The problem from the publishers perspective is that it makes the audiobooks easier to copy and distribute.  But of course it is fairly easy to crack the WMA DRM if you want to.

Image representing Adobe Systems as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

At the same time Adobe announced it is doing the opposite and enhancing its DRM system for ebooks.  This system sounds like its DRM system requires nearly continuous contact with the internet.  My position has never been against DRM for being against DRM.  Instead I am against DRM because it doesn’t work.  People who want to share digital media still will break DRM and share digital media.  And people that do not know how to break DRM probably won’t be interested in sharing digital media any more now than they were before.  There have been a number of studies that show that moving to DRM free formats (as Apple and virtually all music has done) has not hindered sales.

h/t: goodereader, liliputing and boingboing

New Kindle Paperwhite Firmware

Amazon released new firmware for the 2nd Generation Kindle Paperwhite (5.4.2).  This firmware brings some promised features to the Paperwhite.

  • Kindle FreeTimeFreeTime lets you create personalized profiles for kids, and give them access to titles from your collection of books. Kids can keep track of their personal reading progress and earn achievement badges. To learn more, go to Kindle FreeTime.
  •  Goodreads on KindleConnect with the world’s largest community for readers from your Kindle Paperwhite. See what your friends are reading, share notes, and rate the books you read. To learn more, go to Find and Share Books with Goodreads on Kindle.
  •  Cloud CollectionsUse Cloud Collections to organize titles in custom categories and store your collections in the Cloud. To learn more, go to Organize Your Content with Cloud Collections.

If you are patient, the update will be pushed out to your paperwhite via wifi.  But that can take a couple weeks.  If you want to download and install yourself you can download the firmware here.  The official announcement is here.

Goodereader.com blog is reporting a bug in their initial tests, but they seem very minor and potentially the intended design, not a real bug.

This matches the previous firmware upgrades for the Kindle Fires earlier this week.

This update is not for the first generation paperwhite, but I would guess the firmware for first generation paperwhites will be released soon.

Amazon’s New Kindle Book Sale Page

Kindle Countdown DealsAmazon has a new Kindle Countdown Deals Page.

From reports it sounds like the page is supposed to tell you how long until the book is no longer on sale.  But that does not seem to be the case.

Instead it is just showing the book that are on sale.

This seems to be trying complete (in combination with changes to the wishlist) sites like ereaderiq.com and jungle-search.com that highlight sales or search for price drops.  Those external sites get a commission from links and if Amazon can move those users to Amazon generated deals then Amazon get more profit per sale.

But this Kindle Countdown Deals is only open to Kindle Direct Publishers.  So you have to have an agreement to only sell ebook through Amazon to be on this page (although I would not be surprised later if publishers negotiated directly with Amazon to be on the page.)

Right now there are 79 books on sale all for $0.99.

4 Kindle Tools You Should Use: Dictionary, Wikipedia, Translation, Content Errors

Obviously I am a fan of ebooks.  But I am a fan, not just because they are portable, are sometimes cheaper, or because they don’t take up shelf space.  I am a fan of ereaders because of the tools that they bring to reading.

There are three in particular that most ereaders have that everyone should use.

bDictionary – almost every ereader now has a built in dictionary.  For kindle all you need to do is touch the word (on touch screen kindles) or move the cursor to the word on non-touch screen kindles.  That will either pop up a dictionary or bring up an entry along the bottom of the page.  Everyone needs a dictionary at some point, so you might as well get used to using it.  The new Kindle Paperwhite also has a flashcard game that uses the words that use lookup in your dictionary to help teach vocabulary.

Wikipedia – Everyone knows that Wikipedia should not be used to write papers.  But it is a good enough system to give a good overview of almost anything.  On the new Kindles the wikipedia is a tab on the dictionary popup.  So if there is not a good definition in the dictionary then you should try wikipedia.  It is particularly helpful with names and places.

Kindle Matchbook – Discounted or free Ebooks with Purchase of Print

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Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook program was released overnight.  You can now check and see what print books that you have purchased in the past participate and what the discount is to also pick up the Kindle Edition of that book.

The discounts range from free to $2.99 to get the Kindle Edition.  When I looked, I only had 6 books that were participating.  But I also have not purchased a lot of print books from Amazon.

You can also search for print books that have Matchbook discounts (for instance if you are giving away a print book and then want to keep a copy of the kindle edition for yourself).  I did notice that many of the books that were marked as Kindle Matchbook compatible in the search were not showing up that way when I actually looked at the book.  So the rollout may be a bit slow.  Right now Amazon has just under 75,000 book that are Matchbook compatible according to the search.

Borrowing a Book from Amazon Prime Lending Library

On twitter I was asked about the likelihood of Amazon getting an Oyster-like feature (all you can read ebooks for a monthly fee.)  I think the ‘all you can read’ system, like Oyster, has a pretty low chance of ever being offered on Amazon.  But Amazon does have the Amazon Prime Lending Library. (Sometime referred to as the Kindle Lending Library or KLL).

Many people tried out the Kindle Lending Library when it was introduced and have ignored it since.  When it started you could not search from a computer for Lending Library Books, and it only had about 5000 books to choose from.

Now there are more than 450,000 book, you can search from your computer (although still have to borrow from your kindle) and the quality of the books has gotten much better.

Here are a few hints and tips that has made the Lending Library easier for me to use.

1) Searching on the computer - it is still far easier to look for a book on your computer than looking on your kindle.  You can see all of the Prime Eligible books from this link.  From there click on the broad area you are interested in. For instance the 49,423 books in the Religion and Spirituality area.  Many of these books have been offered for free.  The biggest contributors to the library are independent authors.  But there are a lot more than just independent authors.

2) Use a wishlist – once you find a book you want (or if you randomly see a book doing another search) save it in a wishlist that you just use for Prime Lending.  I try to always keep at least 5 or 10 Lending Library books in a wishlist so that I do not have to scramble on the last day of the month.