Kindle Tips

New Kindle Reviews (Kindle Voyager and Kindle Basic 2014)

This morning reviews for the new Kindle Voyager has starting popping up in the press. The Kindle Voyager is a new high end eink Kindle.*

The summary of the reviews that I have read so far, is that the Kindle Voyager is the best eink ereader available. It has a beautiful screen, with much higher resolution than anything else on the market. It is the only ereader with a light sensor so it automatically adjusts the frontlight based on the amount of light wherever you are reading. It has a new type of button that does not physically click (no more bothering your spouse when you are reading in bed) but senses the pressure when you push the bezel. And it has a new much higher price. It starts at $199 for the wifi only version with Ads. It is $20 extra to removed the Ads and $70 extra to get the version with free 3G.

I think Amazon and Apple are both having the same problem. People that want an ereader (or tablet) mostly have them. And both ereaders and tablets last a fairly long time. There is not a good reason for anyone to upgrade every year, or even every two years.

And for the most part the upgrades are incremental. A slightly better screen, even if it is the best screen, is only slightly better. Better buttons, even if more convenient are still only slightly better than a touch screen. A light sensor, even though useful, is hardly reason to spend $200. A flat screen (instead of a recessed one) is nice, as is a micro etched screen to make it even less reflective, but again, not a reason to upgrade.

Last week, I saw several reviews of the new Kindle Basic. The new Kindle Basic now has a touch screen and the exact same software as the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Voyager. The only real difference between the Kindle Basic and the and the more expensive Paperwhite is the lighted screen. In fact many of the reviews noted that the new Kindle Basic ($79) screen is actually clearer than the Kindle Paperwhite 2 ($119) that was released last year.

So at this point there are only three Kindles to choose from:

  • Kindle Basic – $79, touch screen, but no light (6.7 oz)
  • Kindle Paperwhite – $119, touch screen, lighted screen, no buttons (7.3 oz)
  • Kindle Voyager – $199, lighted touch screen, light sensor, sensor touch buttons on the bezel, flush screen to the bezel with micro etching to make it the most anti-reflective screen that Amazon makes. (6.3 oz)

My 3 Month Review of Kindle Unlimited

If you signed up for Kindle Unlimited when it first was announced your first three months is just about to end. I have been using Kindle Unlimited actively during that time and wanted to update my initial thoughts about the value of the service and who should think about using it. I am not going to pretend that I am an average reader, I read more than at least 95% of the public. But I do think that for at least some, Kindle Unlimited is valuable.

Kindle Unlimited allows the subscriber to borrow up to 10 books at a time from a library of more than 600,000 books (roughly 30% of the total Kindle books available.) None of the major 5 publishers participate, but several of the still good-sized smaller publishers do.

The first month of the trial is free, and each of the following months is $9.99. The first three months the subscriber also gets 1 Audiobook credit a month that can be used on any Audible book, not just those in the Kindle Unlimited library.

So how much did I use Kindle Unlimited? Quite a bit. During the last three months I read (including books that I did not complete):

Thoughts on KindleUnlimited

KindleUnlimited is a product that as a big reader I am interested in.  But I do not think this is a product for everyone.

After a day of playing with it and exploring the titles here are a few thoughts. (Here is my updated thought after 3 months).

1) Unlimited, but only ten titles at a time. I have not seen official documentation of this, but on the Amazon message boards many people are reporting that there is a limit of 10 titles at a time.  This is unlimited because you can check out as many titles a month as you want, but only 10 different titles at a time. Even as someone that likes to read several books at a time, a 10 book limit seems reasonable.

2) Do not miss the Audible Credits. In your welcome email there is a link about getting 3 free credits (one a month) from Audible.  I thought that it was only for new Audible members so I did not click it initially.  Later I learned that you have to click the link to get your free credits.  If you are currently a member of Audible you get a credit added to your account the first month and one addition the next two months.  If you are not a member, then you are being signed up for Audible and you need to quit Audible after three months.  Audible credits can be used for any book at Audible, not just the KindleUnlimited books.  The price of these credits, depending on your plan is $9.09 to $14.95.  So signing up for three months of KindleUnlimited is like getting 3 credits for $6.66 each (two months of $9.99 and one month free).

3) No major publishers, sort of. Initially I thought HarperCollins must have been a part because several of CS Lewis’ books were included.  But the ones includes are with Mariner Books.  I found two of Thomas Merton’s books are included. Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain is a Houghton Miffin Harcourt book (as is the heavily publicized Lord of the Rings books).  Houghton Miffin Harcourt is not a small publisher, but is not one of the big 5 and primarily focuses on textbooks.

Ebooks, especially of older books, are a gray area because they were not included in most publishing agreements so sometimes ebooks are self-published or have a different publisher even if the paper book is a regular publisher.

Open Road Media is a company that seems to specialize in larger name fiction and non-fiction that did not have ebook agreements and/or are out of print.  And all of the Open Road Media books that I have looked for are included.  So Dorothy Sayers, a number of Pat Conroy, older Susan Howatch, much of Octavia Butler, Pearl S Buck, John Jakes, some Michael Chabon, some Ann Patchett, etc.  So if you like 20th Century Literary Fiction, you will find a number of books worth reading.

4) Is it worth it? Time had an article that suggested that if you read 16 books a year from KindleUnlimited, then it is worth it.  That is based on $7.50 a book ($7.50 times 16 = $120).  But I think that is too generous. Many of the books that are included are less than $7.50 to start with.  And remember, this is rental not purchase.  Personally, I think that you should based your cost effectiveness calculation amount at $3-4 a book. So you would need to read 30-40 books a year from KindleUnlimited to make sense. ($3 times 40 = $120 or $4 times 30 = $120)

However, I think it is better to think about this as a per month cost benefit.  There is no reason that after the first 3 months (so you get your Audible benefit) you cannot stop, read some other things and then re-subscribe to KindleUnlimited later. ($4 times 3 books in a month is $12 which is more than the $9.99 cost)

5) Audiobook. Part of what makes KindleUnlimited different from Oyster or Scribd is the audiobook integration.  Initially it looked like there were about 7000 books with audiobooks.  But only about 2000 of those have free audiobooks.  The rest have discounts on the audiobooks, but they are not free.  I am sure I can find a few dozen or more audiobooks I want and for me that is worth the cost.  I did have a problem with one book that was marked as having the audio, but it did not show up in the kindle iphone app.  I contacted support and they suggested trying the iphone Audible app.  And it was there.

6) Eink Ereaders – The main reason I did not continue with Oyster after my initial trial and review was that I primarily read on my Kindle.  I believe that eink ereaders are far superior to reading on my iphone, ipad or computer (or android tablet if I had one of those).  KindleUnlimited is the only one of the ebook subscription plans that has an option to read on an eink ereader as far as I can tell.

Summary: Basically, I think if you are a reader, especially if you like audiobooks and use Audible, you should at least get the one month trial.  And probably pay for the first two months.  After that, you should have a good idea if you are going to use it.  But do not be afraid to cancel for a couple months, read something else and come back to it later.


Updated: I went through my fairly extensive  Amazon wishlist (if you look at it on your eink kindle, it says whether the book is KindleUnlimited or not, but looking at the wishlist on a computer does not.)  I moved my KindleUnlimited books to a separate wishlist and then added a few books that I ran across.  Right now I have 62 books on the KindleUnlimited wishlist.

I also went through the Reviews and found about 50 books that are in KindleUnlimited, roughly 1/3 (mostly public domain classics) have free audiobooks as well. I also tagged just the ones with Free Audiobooks if you are primarily interested in that.

I will in the future continue to tag books reviews that are KindleUnlimited or KindleUnlimited with Free Narration to make them easy to find.


1405689426_0.pngKindleUnlimited is now live.  I am not sure if Amazon moved up their release because of the leak or if it was always planned for release today.

Kindleunlimied is a ‘netflix for books’ plan.  For $9.99 a month you get access to more than 600,000 books.  And with about 7000 of those book, there is Audiobooks paired with the kindle book so you can switch back and forth between the audiobook and kindle book.  (It looks like some of the audiobooks you can buy the add-on, and some are free.)

There is a one month free trial and with the free trial you get a three month free trial to

I have signed up with the trial and I will post more after I am able to review the process.  But the quick look shows a number of good books that I have read and review and I am interested in reading.  The front pages shows, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Huger Games along with a number of other books.

Right now I don’t see anything about how it really works.  Can you have multiple books at a time? There is a brief FAQ, but I am going to have to explore it because my questions are not really answered.

The cost seems reasonable depending on how it works.  I often only read a book once, so book rental is ok with me.  My guess is that there is more than enough books for me to read for quite a while, but not every books I want to read.

Amazon Testing An All You Can Read Plan? KindleUnlimited

1405544162_0.pngAs has been reported in on LilliputingTechCruch, Goodereader, and several other places, Gigaom has a screen shot of an Amazon page that appears to be introducing KindleUnlimited, an all you can read book program for $9.99 a month.  This is similar to other services like Oyster and Scribd, but Amazon is by far the largest player in the ebook market.

According to the screen shot, more than 600,000 books and just over 7000 audiobooks would be available.

There has not been any response from Amazon publicly yet.  But unless someone is having fun with a mockup, this appears to be a mistake by Amazon and some of the pages went live before they were supposed to.

Right now Amazon has approximately 2.7 million books and about 120,000 audiobooks through Audible.  The big problem for Amazon will be getting publishers to participate.  Oyster has Simon & Schuester and HarperCollins, but I doubt either publisher will be quick to participate without some serious incentives from Amazon.

But given my review of Oyster, if this were available for kindle, I would subscribe.

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 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. 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 – 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. 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  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