Sep 28, 2010

E-book bonanza... or maybe not.

I may have mentioned that I recently received a Sony ereader, a PRS 505 to be specific.  It looks exactly like the one in the picture.  It has been welded to me arm for the last four days(no not really but close).

I will go on about the e-reader in another post.

Sell me e-books!
Though I got the reader to access the multitude of free books via the various Gutenberg sites, I did plan to take advantage of the cheaper e-book in the future. So with that in mind I decided to check out the Australian e-book suppliers Borders and Angus & Robertson.  These two booksellers have teamed up with Kobo, with it's readers and a dedicated backend for the sale of ebooks.  Borders is also selling the new sony readers (the PRS 650 and 350).

My plan was to download a free e-book to test the ease with which a purchase could be achieved.  This began a journey that was reminiscent of the labours of Hercules.

2 hours later
I spent two hours downloading software, adding ebooks to my account which didn't appear in my elibrary( the holding space for your e-books) or if they did, could not be downloaded. I scanned forums and help files that weren't that helpful. I sent two email requests outlining the software, reader and books I was looking at.  I received 2 automated emails with a promise of the matter being dealt with in at the most 2 days time.

No second chances
I am a former customer service trainer for an online multinational. First impressions in a competitive market are everything.  Customers expect that if you are selling something that they should be able to buy it, and get it instantly(as per the Instant Download advertising on the website).  When you are trying to get booklovers to use a new technology you need to make the implementation smooth and idiot proof.

The situation occurring at Borders and A&R appears to have been going on for the last 2 months( if you check the queries at the Borders forums) with some customers not receiving books they have paid for up to 2 weeks later(Mobile Read forums).

Book Depository to the rescue
Disgruntled after wasting my time on books I could have download from the Gutenberg Project in two clicks I decided to check out the Book Depository.  I recently purchased The Case of the Pope in paperback from them ($9 and 9 days to get to me - from the UK) so I was a happy return customer.

So I checked out their ebooks, the website was so intuitive that I ended up buying the Killing Floor by Lee Childs, paying via paypal, and having my file downloaded in 2 clicks.

What are they thinking?
I would be very concerned if I was in charge of this new Australian e-book venture.  Most people wouldn't have waited 10 seconds let alone spent 2 hours fiddling around.  Do the big booksellers think they can stuff this up, that they can live off customer loyalty, off their brand?  I think there is room here for small technically literate book selling companies to step in and provide fast, simple, service.

I will be shopping at Book Depository for my next e-book, I won't be returning to Borders or A&R unless its in my interest to do so.

Have you had similar experiences?  Have you got any favourite small publishers or book sellers who are providing top notch service on e-books?

Edit: Sometime this afternoon I was able to see the books I had selected my elibrary at Borders.  I can't download them however as they say they are Desktop only - presumably meaning that its only available to read through the Kobo desktop app(this despite being advertised as epub).  I also commenced a search for free ebooks under the mobile/epub category but each of the titles that came up did not include epub.  

Sep 26, 2010

Book hunting

Home is the Hunter

Friday I went book hunting in secondhand stores.  It's a hobby that I have taken up to help me through the mind numbing boredom that antiques shopping can sometimes be.  I generally find second hand bookstores in the same areas as antique shops.

The future of the book?

It struck me while browsing that this may be the future for books in the solid paper sense.  I imagined in 20 years time scouring high end antique stores for a paper versions of those classics of the 21st century.  Explaining to grand nephews or nieces that this was the way information used to be contained.

Then I wondered if this whole bound and covered paper container fad will die a new generations grow up with e-readers.

The quarry, the kill

So what did I get?.

  1. Far from the Madding Crowd -Thomas Hardy
  2. Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  3. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  4. The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
  5. The Aeneid - Virgil 
  6. A Doll's House and Other plays - Henrik Ibsen
  7. Kidnapped - R.L. Stevenson
  8. Bryant on Bowls - David Bryant
  9. Fundamentals of Lawn Bowls - Albert Newton
Those last two are real classics :)  And what did I pay? All up $10.50

Now I know I could get at least half of these titles for free as e-books - in fact since I was donated an e-reader, I have( thank you).  But I am one of those lovers of books, if I see a nicely bound copy of a classic, at $1 each I simply can't turn away.

How about you?  Do you enjoy hunting for old classics in dusty back rooms of secondhand stores?

Sep 24, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday- 24 September

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners.

Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

This week I went non-fiction.  I am reading Geoffrey Robertson's, The Case of the Pope.  It's been released as a penguin special in an all white cover - the first special since 1989.  Here is the opening paragraph of the preface:

I wrote a short comment for the Guardian and The Daily Beast at Easter 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI was expected to (but did not) address the crisis in his church caused by the revelations of worldwide clerical sex abuse.  I pointed out that the rape and molestation of children, committed on a widespread and systematic scale, could amount to a crime against humanity, and that the leader of any organisation that protects its perpetrators from justice might bear command responsibility under international law.
That's essentially the outline of the book, there.  It suggests a heavy topic but also a systematic presentation.  Indeed some 50 pages in and the book is a systematic, but not legalistic treatment and presentation of the facts.  

I would recommend this book to anyone with compassion for children, and a strong belief that natural justice should be done.  I especially recommend this book to catholics - it's a very fair treatment of an abominable situation.

A Book Abandoned - Bernard Cornwall's Rebel

Must finish book
I don't like not finishing a book.  I don't know if this is the result of good reading habits instilled at a young age or something peculiar to me.  The same goes for movies - I must finish the story unless it is spectacularly bad or boring.

So it is with a heavy heart that I abandoned  Rebel by Bernard Cornwell.  I had heard rave reviews about some of his other historical fictions but Rebel, a civil war story set in America lost any hold it had on me after 100 pages.

Niggling idiosyncrasies 
I wonder if it was one, or two of the small things that put me off. I small quirk of Cornwell's writing that got under my skin and began the rot of dissatisfaction.

The first thing that I noticed was Cornwell's habit of specifically naming places.  It was as if he was pointing out that he had done his research, he could tell you want particular business was on that particular street, at that time in history.  Perhaps I am being unfair, but the level of detail annoyed me and didn't, I think, contribute to the story.

Another niggle was his reference to "the Negro Teamster" why for the life of me he couldn't refer to him as the black teamster.  The book was written in the late 1990's.  Was Cornwell again trying to evoke a certain flavour?

In any case it was a thorn in my side.

Action then boredom
The book started well enough.  The protagonist is caught be a mob and is about to be tarred and feathered.  He is rescued in the nick of time but the reader is not.  No, we are left to watch the rest of the story unfold, slowly.

Have you abandoned any books? What were the reasons?

Sep 17, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday- 17 September

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners.

Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

This week, one of the books I am reading is Lee Child's  Persuader.  Now I don't mind the odd thriller, but its got to be believable, its got to be gritty.  I recently tried reading Eric Van Lustbader's continuation of the Bourne Series and found it a bit forced.  Not so with Lee Child.  I did find the style a bit stilted to begin with a bit too much use of the short sentence but Child's a deft hand at keeping the action moving.  Here' the first sentence of Persuader:
The cop climbed out of his car exactly four minutes before he got shot.
Always nice to get straight  to the action and this is a nice little foreshadowing of what's to follow.  The reader knows that there's going to be action, people are going to die and the story is going to be gritty and the grit is going to be high resolution. 

Sep 12, 2010

Interviews with Authors China Mieville and Kim Stanley Robinon

I always seem to forget or undervalue the great content that our ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) produces. Here's two interviews with international Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: 

China Mieville

KrakenFirst up is China Mieville, who had just won a Hugo for The City and the City and celebrated his 38th birthday.  His latest, Kraken strikes me as being Cthulhu-esque.

Interview download here 

Kim Stanley Robinson

Galileo's DreamSecond is Kim Stanley Robinson in Australia for the World Science Fiction Convention.  Kim talks about the climate change and catastrophe.

Interview download here

Guys Read - Encouraging Boys reading

A hat tip first to Amanda of Desert Book Chick for letting me know about this American site developed by the Author Jon Scieszka.

Guys Read is a initiative  designed to:

help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.

Jon hopes to achieve this goal through a number of avenues. He lists 6 target areas on the website in the mission statement:
Our mission is to motivate boys to read by connecting them with materials they will want to read, in ways they like to read.
1. Make some noise for boys.
We have literacy programs for adults and families. GUYS READ is our chance to call attention to boys’ literacy.
2. Expand our definition of reading.
Include boy-friendly nonfiction, humor, comics, graphic novels, action-adventure, magazines, websites, audiobooks, and newspapers in school reading. Let boys know that all these materials count as reading.
3. Give boys choice.
Motivate guys to want to read by letting them choose texts they will enjoy. Find out what they want. Let them choose from a new, wider range of reading.
4. Encourage male role models.
Men have to step up as role models of literacy. What we do is more important than all we might say.
5. Be realistic. Start small.
Boys aren’t believing that “Reading is wonderful.” Reading is often difficult and boring for them. Let’s start with “Here is one book/magazine/text you might like.”
6. Spread the GUYS READ word.
Encourage people to use the information and downloads on this site to set up their own chapters of GUYS READ, and get people thinking about boys and reading.
I love this idea, and the humour displayed in such documents as the Guys Read charter.

Sep 11, 2010

Kindle for PC–reading E-books without the reader

In last weeks e-book adventures post I gave my readers a quick overview of Adobe Digital Editions this week it's going to be the Kindle for PC software.

Like Adobe Digital Editions(ADE), Kindle for PC is free and allows the user to read e-books without shelling out for the expensive e-reader.

Kindle for PC

Kindle for PC is software that allows you to read Kindle and .mobi file formats on your computer.  Amazon have also released the software for the Mac and other devices.

You can read free books from places such as the Gutenberg Project or indeed purchase e-books off Amazon and synchronise them with a Kindle if you decided to buy one later on.

The Interface.

Kindle for PC is similar to ADE in that it has two main viewing modes; Library and Reading.

Reading Mode
Where Kindle for PC might lag in the library mode below it has some additional functionality compared to Adobe Digital Editions in the reading mode.

Kinde for PC allows the reader to

  • Increase the width of the page, increasing words per line and allowing the reader to adjust the width to their preference
  • Adjust the text size (though it doesn't split text into two page, or three column like ADE)
  • Adjust both text and page colour , white with black text, sepia with brown text, black with white text
  • Adjust the brightness
Like ADE it has a search mode (recently introduced) and allows for bookmarking, highlighting and note taking (see picture above).

Library Mode


The library screen for Kindle for PC is actually quite a bit simpler than Adobe Digital Editions.  For a start there's only one view, that which you see above.  Sure you can change the order in which the books are presented through the sort function, but there is no option to create your own bookshelves.

I have been using the software for some time now am not 100 percent sure how the archiving function works. From what I understand, you can remove the book from your device (pc in this case) and store it with amazon until you need it.  I haven't needed to do this yet.

Amazon lists in future improvements, the inclusion of a library management function in the software.

Which do I prefer?

I can't say that there is much between the two.  At this stage I haven't got enough e-books to manage to require rigorous use of the library function.  Both Kindle for PC and Adobe Digital Editions have enough functionality in the reading mode to allow me to configure them for my reading comfort.

In the end I use both depending on what text I can get from which provider, and what format it comes in.

E-book adventures is my weekly series post outlining my exploration of the e-book format. See other posts here and join in the discussion.

Sep 10, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday- 10 September

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners(Becky's taking a bit of a break at the moment, but head over and check out some of her older posts anyway)

Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

This week, one of the books I am reading is Bernard Cornwell's  Rebel.  I'd just finished reading Crane's Red Badge of Courage and was looking for a bit of a modern take on the American Civil War.  Here's the first sentence:
The young man was trapped at the top end of Shockoe Slip where a crowd had gathered in Cary Street.
It's a good enough start to a novel.  It gets straight to the action, though I am not sure why Cornwell uses 'young man' instead of Nathaniel Starbuck(the protagonists name).  If it's a literary device( like Crane's use of 'the Youth') then its done away with fairly quickly.

I am not enjoying Rebel, I am finding that Cornwell's style is grating on me.  The only real action happens in the first five or six pages and after that its beginng to feel drawn out.  I also find his referencing of particular streets and store names annoying as they don't appear to be important to the story - if it's for the sake of historical accuracy Bernie, it's not working for me and I love history.

Sep 6, 2010

Up Close an Personal with the Sony PRS 650

Ever since Sony have announced they are releasing readers in Australia I have been looking for a decent hands on review/ demonstration.  You can only glean so much from the marketing fluff.  Below is a vid from a German trade show (in English) which gives you a good idea of what to expect.

I love the handwritten  note feature but am somewhat nervous about the portability of the file back to a pc/laptop running digital editions.

Sep 4, 2010

Free Kindle e-book - Darkness on the Edge of Town

I am not sure how long this will free deal will last, but if you click the image to the left it will take you to the kindle store where you can download Darkness on the Edge of Town for free. Its horror from the author of Urban Gothic - which won the Bram Stoker Award.

One morning the residents of Walden, Virginia, woke to find themselves cut off from the rest of the world by an impenetrable wall of darkness.

I don't have a Kindle Damn it

Neither do I, so I am reading this on Kindle for PC which you can download for free and which will read not only books from the kindle store but any .mobi files downloaded from the Gutenberg project.

Deal valid as of September 4

Win a new Sony E-reader (Australian Comp)

Sony Reader Digital Book with touch screen - PRS700BCSony is about to release its new e-reader models and this time they will be including the Australian market as part of that release.

When can I get my hands on it?
There seems to have been some confusion about release dates but it looks like it will be the end of September before Australians see it at Borders or Myers stores

Win an E-reader
Random House Australia have a draw to win one of the two new models on offer.  Click here for the entry form.

The Models
The two new models are the PRS 350 and the PRS 650.  The PRS 350 is set to retail around the $ 230 mark, the PRS 650 at $300.  At those prices both units are more expensive than their rough kindle equivalents, the  distinct difference being the touch screen technology and Sony's ability to have the unit shipped to a store front where consumers can hold it in their hand and try before purchasing.

Sony had planned to release its readers in Australia earlier in the year( Aussies have been able to buy units from America) but decided to wait for the new touch screen units and an improvement in the Aussie e-book market.  So with this release lets hope choice, pricing and availability are improving for Australian consumers.

H/T to Book Thingo for giving me a heads up

Sep 3, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday- 3 September

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

This week, one of the books I am reading is John Marsden's The Dead of Night.  Its the second in the tomorrow series and I enjoyed the first so much that I had to get the next.   Below is the first sentence:

Damn this writing. I'd rather sleep. God how I'd love to sleep. But I can't. It's been a long time time since I had a peaceful night sleep.

Okay so that's more than a sentence but - Damn this writing - doesn't leave you with much for discussion.  The second book features the same narrator(Ellie) a the first and similarly we start with Ellie  continuing to write the story or chronicle of the freedom fighters from Wirrawee.

I think this opening does a good job of foreshadowing the rest of the book; reality has set in, the excitement (not sure if this is the right word), the newness of the experience, of being teenage freedom fighters is gone. 

Sep 1, 2010

Adobe Digital Editions–reading E-books without the reader

I mentioned in my last e-book adventures post that I would be discussing e-book reading software, free software that enables you to get a taste of the e-book experience without shelling out cash for the myriad devices on the market.

Adobe Digital Editions

As I mentioned Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) is free software available from the Adobe site here.  It’s built using Adobe Flash and can be used for managing and reading E-books, as well as other digital formats(though I have only used it to view pdf’s and epub files).  Apparently you will need this software registered(free and simple to do) if you intend to purchase any epub formatted books that are DRM(digital rights management) enabled and transfer them to your Nook or Sony e-reader.

However if you are just keen to read some free books in the epub format available from the various free e-book sites like Gutenberg, you needn’t worry about that.

The Interface

The ADE interface can be accessed from two views – one reading the other a library view.  I would describe it as a solid functional application.  It has slightly less customization available to it than Kindle for PC, but nothing that would rank it as significantly worse in terms of function.

The Reading View

Here’s a short video tour I constructed on the reading pane.

The Library View


The Library view is  used to organise your books, you can view your collection in thumbnail format(see above), though as your collection grows I suspect the list format will become more practical.

library bookshelves

You have bookshelves, some of which are automated and others which the user can define.  To place books on own bookshelves its a simple drag and drop operation.

If there was one difference between ADE and Kindle for PC it was that ADE sometimes required you to add books via windows explorer- those that you obtain from Gutenberg or that you create yourself.  Kindle for PC, if my memory serves me correctly synchronizes any kindle/mobi files upon startup.

Questions about Adobe Digital Editions

Is there anything else that you would have liked covered.  Do you use ADE? How do you find it ?  Are you tempted to try reading via ADE?

E-book adventures is my weekly series post outlining my exploration of the e-book format. See other posts here and join in the discussion.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...