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Showing posts with label Kindle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kindle. Show all posts

Thursday, March 05, 2015 2 comments


About a month ago, I dropped my Kindle going into work. It was in a case, but those eInk screens are fragile at the top:

Where’s the title bar?

Once screen rot sets in, it doesn’t get better… only worse. The grey crept down to obliterate half the top line of text, and picked up a few vertical lines down the right side, and I knew the old guy was due for… something. I have a Kindle 3, aka Kindle Keyboard, and I use the keyboard to take notes on stories I’m writing (and sometimes reading for other folks). It has 3G networking, which has come in handy on occasion, and it came out before that whole “Special Offers” stuff that you can pay to get rid of. A Kindle Paperwhite in similar trim (3G, no Special Offers) is north of $200. Yeesh.

But hey, I replaced the battery in my iPhone last summer. Maybe I could do this, too. Googling turned up repair instructions at iFixit—but unfortunately, they don’t carry replacement screens. More Googling turned up videos of the teardown procedure, and another set of instructions at Instructables. I finally found a source for a replacement screen at PowerBook Medic, which also had a Youtube video of the teardown procedure. The screen was used, but flaws were supposed to be cosmetic. It came to less than $30 including shipping, so I figured I’d take a chance. (I was happy in the end.)

Even with the cleanup from Winter #3 going on, the new screen arrived on Saturday as scheduled. After a few of the usual delays that are part of any weekend at FAR Manor, I grabbed my tools and got to work. I think the hardest part of the whole thing was getting the back cover off and on the Kindle. After that, it was a couple dozen itty-bitty screws and four cables. I used paper plates to keep everything as organized as anything gets around here:

How about a nice bowl of Shredded Kindle for breakfast?

That white smear toward the top of the screen is one of several cracks. It wasn’t, as I sort of hoped, just a matter of cables coming loose in the drop. That was an ex-screen. The instructions said I would have to remove the speaker assembly and ground clip, but they stayed attached to the mid-board without any hassle on my part. The iFixit instructions also say to leave the audio cable plugged in, but other instructions said it comes off without any trouble and that was true.

The second hard part was getting the screen off the adhesive. There's a strip on either side of the screen. The right side (from the front) turned loose easy enough, but the other side clung tight. Several of the online instructions warned about how thin the glass backing on the eInk screen is (which is why it broke, I suppose), so I was really careful and finally got it to pop loose.

OuchThe rot continued to advance…

The instructions said “it goes together a lot easier than it comes apart,” and that was mostly true. I continued to consult both step-by-step and video instructions, though, to make sure I got everything right. I had to back up at one point, since the power switch was binding. It turned out I hadn’t snapped in the “mid board” just right.

And my patience was rewarded, even before I got the back snapped all the way on:

It lives! (and I was living this chapter last week)

The rule is, you always end up with more parts than you started with. These things just kind of dropped in out of nowhere when I was reassembling.

Grommets? Standoffs?

Whatever they are, I couldn't figure out where they were supposed to go. The Kindle seems to be working fine without them right now. With any luck, it will continue to keep working.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 3 comments

Writing Wibbles: the Bloom Comes Off the Unlimited Rose

Back in July, I wrote about the new (at the time) Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. I said in part:

The per-borrow payout has been a [little] over $2 for months, now, slightly more than the royalty on a $3 eBook purchase. Amazon has offered a 30-day free trial, so I expect that August is going to push down that payout quite a bit (my guess: it will be around 50¢) despite Amazon increasing the fund by 66%. For some authors, the increased borrows will more than offset the depressed per-borrow payout. Others will hate it—perhaps enough to yank their books out of Select.

Amazon is walking a tightrope. At current payout levels, an average of four borrows per member per month (about one per week) will nearly wipe out the monthly subscription fee. But if the payout drops too far, authors will pull their most popular books, making the service much less attractive.

It’s interesting to see what I got wrong, and what little I got right. First off, the per-borrow payout never dropped to 50¢. It has gone down significantly, averaging $1.60 over the first few months, a bit lower more recently, and that has caused a lot of grief in some quarters. It didn’t affect me all that much personally—I only have one book in Select, Oddities, and it would get a borrow or two every other month. That changed little; November was the first month I got any borrows since KU started, but I got two. Woohoo. I also said things would be a little more clear by the end of September… it took a couple more months than that.

Okay, now to the last part, the part I got right: Amazon is walking a tightrope, and it’s wobbling. For some writers, including some top indie sellers, KU has been a disaster. The Bookseller blog, engaging in a little hyperbole, wonders if the honeymoon is over. H. M. Ward, a highly-popular romance writer, yanked her books out of KU saying, “I… lost approx 75% of my income [counting bonuses] … The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn’t complement each other, as expected.” Top borrowees like Ward got “All-Star” bonuses on top of the monthly pot, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the plunge in sales. (The Bookseller claims that Howey “expected to pull most of his work out of [KU]” but did not furnish a link. You toss a potential bomb like that, you ought to cite it.) Anyway, there’s a lot of good info in this very long article. If you feel the urge to TL;DR out of it, skip to the bottom for some meaty stuff.

Meanwhile, I’ve been seeing reports on the KDP forums about “writers” who throw together what amount to sales pamphlets, upload them by the dozens, then borrow them through sock-puppet accounts. At $1.40 per borrow, they need only borrow eight of these junk “books” to recoup their KU subscription fee, and they often have fifty or more books on offer. And who knows how many sock puppet accounts they have going? Some forum members estimate that the scammers are pulling down the per-borrow payout by 30¢ or more.

I don’t see a viable way forward for KU, defined as something Amazon, top authors, and subscribers can agree upon. If Amazon adjusts the pot enough to bring the payout back up to $2 per borrow, they stand to lose money as avid readers grab one book after another. But if they don’t, and the most popular authors continue to jump ship, KU subscribers will drop out as well. Some of the “name” authors suggest changing KU so members subscribe to authors, which translates to auto-purchasing books as they come out. I can see where mischief could be made there, though.

On the other hand, authors with $1 or $2 books, or first-of-series titles that they might otherwise try to make free, could still benefit from KU. A $2 book (like Oddities) under the current system earns about 70¢ per purchase—and around twice that per borrow. Instead of making the first book of a series free, put it in KU and encourage people to check it out. The author still gets a payday, and a potential new fan who buys the other books.

The question is still the same: come spring, will there be enough books in KU—and the right kinds of books—to keep enough people interested in subscribing? Floor’s open, tell me what you think!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 2 comments

Green Tuesday Sale!

Save a tree, buy an eBook: it’s Green Tuesday!

My co-op, Green Envy Press, is running the show. I’m happy to be one of ten authors (not all of whom are in the co-op, mind you) offering twenty Kindle books for 99¢ or (even better) free, today. Go check out the sale page: http://www.angelakulig.com/2013/12/the-green-tuesday-sale-is-here-many.html On Twitter, follow the hashtag #GreenTuesday to join the festivities.

The sale runs until midnight PST (3 a.m. EST, or 0800Z).

Go forth, and load up your Kindle!

Monday, September 23, 2013 3 comments

Pigments of My Imagination Blog Tour

All aboard!

When I first ran across Angela Kulig a few years ago, she had posted an excerpt to her novel in progress on her blog. A girl starting art school stumbles across a boy painting swans in a pond. But the water in his painting ripples, and the swans swim and fly. I was captivated by this sample, and figured (given a sufficient amount of justice) Pigments of My Imagination would be a hit.

Time went by. Angela got picked up by Red Iris, rewrote Pigments of My Imagination to suit the darker tone of their titles, split with the publisher, rewrote it back to something closer to the original. She founded a co-op, I was invited to join, and most of the other members fell away, leaving the two of us having each others’ backs. As she puts it, I make the insides look good (editing, formatting), she makes the outsides look good (cover art, marketing). We spend a lot of time IM’ing each other.

But Pigments of My Imagination was still “coming.” It went through yet another rewrite. I’d poke her about it every once in a while. Be careful what you ask for… she got me to edit and format it. I wasn’t the only one waiting for the finished product, and never expected that I would be a major part of it getting finished.

But it’s done. It’s out.

And it delivers. And I get to be the first stop on the blog tour!

Here’s the synopsis:

From the moment Lucia steps into Bayside Art Academy, she is fed a steady stream of lies, but it’s not until she meets William that she begins to question the people she trusts. Unraveling fact from fabrication seems impossible until Lucia finds her first painting, and discovers the dead do not lie—at least not to her.

A dozen lifetimes ago, Lucia started a war. Not a war with armies or guns, but a bloody war nonetheless. The path leading Lucia to the truth is hidden within lovely art that spans the ages. In this life, however, Lucia doesn’t know where to look. Lost, she turns to the one thing she knows with certainty—she is in love with Leo, and has been before.

Of the Green Envy Press titles, this is the first to have both eBook and paperback editions! To celebrate, Angela has a Goodreads giveaway of two paperback editions. Go forth and enter!

There’s also a Rafflecopter—win a Kindle Fire and other cool stuff:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want a better shot at winning the raffle, follow Angela so you can get to the next stop on the tour:
And if you can’t wait, you can grab an eBook (or paperback!) at Amazon, B&N, or Kobo.

Monday, May 20, 2013 5 comments


I appreciate all who came by to offer well-wishes, or even just to enter the raffle!

So who won?!

You really want to know? OK…

Kindle 4: Bessamy S.
$20 Amazon gift card: Chuck Allen
All my eBooks: EJ Hobbs
Pickups and Pestilence: Erin Albert

Congrats, everyone! I’ve emailed the winners using the addresses they left in the rafflecopter… so if you don’t get your email, check your spam filter or contact me here. I’ll get the prizes out as soon as I get confirmations.

Monday, July 18, 2011 11 comments

The "Disposable" Price Point

J.A. Konrath is back from vacation, and brought home an interesting insight. He shares it in One More Nail in the Coffin. The heart of it is:

Kindles have dropped in price to the point where they've become disposable, like cell phones and laptops and digital cameras. Ever notice that you buy a new cell (or computer, or camera) every few years, even if your old one still works?

"Disposable" as a price point seems to have a pretty wide window. To me, it’s a lot closer to $20 than $114 (for the ad-bearing Kindle). Of course, I’m not the people he’s talking about: I’ll use a cellphone or computer until it wears out, or just won’t do what I need it to do. For me, MacBooks have a five-year use life (if they endure the life of hard knocks that laptops are heir to). Since I live in a rural area, and am often doing outdoor kind of things, my cellphones get banged around even more than laptops — if they last three years, they’re limping across the finish line with multiple injuries.

Yes, I’m a cheap so-and-so, and eBook readers are (IMO) nowhere near the “disposable” price point. But fear not, they’re following the same curve as calculators. When I was gifted a Kindle a couple years ago, it was 1974 for eBook readers: $250+, limited functionality. It's now 1976, maybe 1977: prices approaching $99 for basic models, features considered “premium” last year (touch, color) are rapidly becoming standard in the mid-range.

Come “1980” (3–4 years from now), the price wars and standardization shakeout will come. Most of us will have to replace our eBook readers, but that won't matter because they’ll be $49–$79 and will have tablet-like functionality yet with amazing battery life. If what I’ve been hearing about solar panel developments is true, we could see the high-end ($119) sporting a solar panel on the back (again, like calculators except for placement). Lay your reader face-down near a sunny window to recharge it while you’re off doing something else. If you read outside a lot, you could have potentially infinite battery life.

The next step is “1984.” That’s when I had a calculator built into my watch. I don’t know how the equivalent would work for an eBook reader — maybe a goggle display with controls based on eye motion? The end-point is around 1990, where calculators (with solar cells and lots of features) ended up in supermarket checkout racks at $19. The thing is, I don’t think it will take 16 years to get to that point for eBook readers… it might happen by 2020 instead of 2025. Either way, that’s when paper books will finish dying out — when eBook readers are truly disposable.

Thursday, April 21, 2011 2 comments

Transferring eBooks to your Kindle

While Amazon is the primary source of eBooks for most Kindle owners, there are other sources out there: Smashwords and Project Gutenberg, just to name two; and even eBooks you or your friends create. If you’ve never done it, the process can be mysterious… but TFM is here to solve the mystery. I bring you instructions for both MacOSX and that Microsoft operating system. (If you use Linux, you know what you’re doing and you don’t need me to help you!)

If you’re using that Microsoft operating system, make sure you’re connected to the Internet because it may want to download a driver.

Plug It In, Plug It In

The first step is to connect your Kindle to your computer. In case you didn’t know, the Kindle’s charger cord detaches from the charger itself, giving you a convenient USB cable:

Plug the small connector into your Kindle, like you would to charge it, and the large connector into your computer:

USB connectors are where you usually plug in a keyboard, mouse, or “jump drive.” On laptops, they are usually on the left or right sides; some older laptops put everything around the back. On desktops, there are always USB connectors in back, but some have one or two up front — maybe behind a little panel. If you have a USB hub, you can use it, but plugging directly into your computer also lets you charge your Kindle.

The computer treats your Kindle as a detachable drive. On Macs, you’ll see Kindle in a Finder window below the primary hard drive. On that Microsoft OS, it makes a bunch of weird noises, maybe downloads a driver if this is the first time you plug it in, then displays it in the “removable storage” area. I’ve circled what to look for below.

Note: I used Windows 7 for the Microsoft side of things. XP is going to look a little different, but functionally it’s all the same. If your CD/DVD drive is D: the Kindle will likely be at E:.


Electric Slide

Now that you have your Kindle connected, and know where to find it, it’s just a matter of copying your eBooks into the right place. The “right place” is the documents folder inside the Kindle. To see it, click the Kindle in the Finder window (MacOS) or double-click the Kindle in the Computer window (Microsoft thing).

Now that you have the destination in mind, let’s start with the source. When you download an eBook on a Mac, it usually ends up in either the Desktop folder (OSX 10.4 and earlier) or the Downloads folder (10.5 and newer). On Windows, it goes to the Downloads folder. The Kindle can handle eBooks with either a .mobi (MOBIpocket) or .azw (Amazon) extension — so when you download an eBook from a non-Amazon source, make sure you get one of those two types! (Another very popular eBook type is .epub but Kindles don’t recognize them right now.)

So let’s use WhitePickups.mobi as an example file name. Go to the Downloads (or Desktop) folder as appropriate, find the file WhitePickups.mobi, then Ctrl-click (Mac) or right-click (Windows) and select Copy. Go back to the Kindle’s documents directory, Ctrl-click (or right-click), and select Paste. Repeat as necessary to copy more than one eBook.

Almost done!


Before you disconnect your Kindle from your computer, you need to eject it. This tidies everything up so you know your eBook is completely copied. To eject on OSX, click the little eject icon next to the Kindle in your Finder window. On Windows, go to the Computer (or My Computer) window, right-click on the Kindle, and select Eject.

Now you can enjoy your new eBook, knowing you’re not forced to use the Kindle Store if you don’t want to.

Other Ways

A program called Calibre is available to manage your eBook collection and simplify transferring eBooks from — and to — your computer. It runs on OSX, Linux… oh yeah, and on Windows too. It has several advantages: for one, it’s a lot easier than going through the steps I outlined above; it also works with multiple eBook readers and (if your eBooks aren’t copy-protected) converts between different formats. If I get a chance, I’ll run that by everyone next week. Until then… happy reading!

P.S. This post isn’t cast in stone, or even ink on paper. If I didn’t cover something throughly enough, leave me a comment. I can fix it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 9 comments

Off-the-Cuff: Apple vs. Amazon

I didn’t think they’d do it, but I was wrong. Apple is putting the screws to Amazon and other companies, who have used former loopholes to get around Apple’s onerous demand for a 30% commission on “in-app” purchases, for iPad applications. A lot of people have been asking variations on the same question, what does it mean to Amazon and the Kindle app?

That’s the wrong question. The real question is, how many people use an iPad (or iPhone) as their primary eBook reader? As someone who has both a Kindle and an iPad, the only times I have used the iPad to read a book were: 1) When the Kindle screen went Tango Uniform and I was waiting for the replacement; 2) To check the ePub version of my White Pickups draft.

Yes, part of that is because the iPad gets passed around from hand to hand pretty much all day long — if M.A.E.’s not using it to check Facebook or play Angry Birds, it’s Lobster doing the same thing, or it’s Mrs. Fetched playing Mahjongg solitaire. Once in a while, I’ll use it to check Twitter or blogs, or play a round of Angry Birds or solitaire, but I don’t do much reading on it. The Kindle is so much better for that — the screen is easier on the eyes, it’s lighter, and the battery life is better (even though the iPad is no slouch in the battery department itself). In the iPad’s favor, it’s largely format-agnostic, able to read Kindle, Nook, and pretty much everyone else’s eBooks.

I remember all the pronouncements about how the iPad was going to destroy the eBook reader market, but it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Kindle hardware sales are thriving, with B&N’s Nook line running a distant but respectable second, and Sony and Kobo fighting over who will challenge Nook for the #2 spot later on. Apple’s iBookstore is there, but it’s far behind the Kindle Store in sales and probably brings up the rear behind B&N.com and Smashwords. And I don’t think Apple cares all that much. If they did, they’d talk up the eBook reading aspect a lot more in their advertising.

So why is Apple demanding a 30% cut of everything? I can see it for apps — Apple maintains the App Store, paying for the server farms that run it, dealing with payments, and keeping the front end (i.e. the web site) running smoothly. But when we’re talking about buying eBooks through the Kindle and Nook apps, Apple isn’t out of pocket for any of that. There’s something else going on here.

Personally, I think it’s a negotiating position. There’s a popular school of thought that says to ask for the moon in the initial round of negotiations, so you can “compromise” a lot and still get what you really wanted to begin with. Google responded with OnePass, which takes “only” a 10% cut, and I expect that Apple will match it or even undercut it by their self-imposed June 30 deadline for app providers. Credit card companies take 2.5%, so I expect that everyone will head that way sooner or later. Competition or antitrust action, either way things will improve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 4 comments

Making a Virtue of Necessity

It’s Virtual Monday at FAR Manor, having come off a 3-day weekend. Mrs. Fetched has been working on a video (for a — wait for it — poultry convention!) and the client said they wanted widescreen after she showed them the first (standard screen) cut. Oops… we never did get around to upgrading her system (a G4 dualie “Quicksilver” that is only now showing its age after 7 years), but a copy of Final Cut Express 4 has been sitting around in an unopened box. Given the requirements, it had to go onto my MacBook. I plugged in my 1TB external drive, pulled all her stuff over, and let her get at it.

Of course, since we were starting with a standard (4:3) project, moving it to widescreen (16:9) involved more than opening the project and continuing. It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say the project fought us every step of the way, but Mrs. Fetched wanted to get it done so we did manage to wrassle it to the ground and hogtie it in the end. One of the hassles was that I had to install and run FCE as the admin user — a rather unpleasant surprise for a Mac user, especially when it’s one of Apple’s own products. We’re used to things not being so cranky. The upshot was, I was fenced off from my writing files for most of the weekend while Mrs. Fetched worked or left things for me to deal with.

Undaunted, I picked up my new replacement Kindle and finished reading Walden. Then I started on another book I transferred to the Kindle, one I hope you’re familiar with. I wanted to give it a once-over to note a few awkward passages, but then I remembered the note-taking capability…

This actually has worked pretty well so far, and I’m 2/3 of the way through the book. So not only did I make a virtue of necessity, it was a happy virtue. You don’t find many of those.

I’ve found that the AppleTV thing has been really helpful when Mason is tired but still fighting sleep. I can stream Groove Salad or Ambient Alternative, then the photos of the animals start a few minutes later. Mason watches them, gets still… and zzZZZzzzZZZzzz…

Sunday, January 16, 2011 4 comments

Rocks vs. Sucks: a Tale of Two Helpdesks

Bottom line up top: Amazon rocks, State Farm sucks.

As I wrote earlier, my Kindle screen went Tango Uniform early this month, a couple weeks after the warranty expired. Amazon was really helpful — after going through some troubleshooting measures that didn’t work, they agreed to replace it under warranty anyway. Very cool. They overnighted me a replacement — with a bum charging circuit. Back on the phone, Michael said I already tried all the stuff they would have walked me through anyway, and said they’d send a replacement for the replacement. But with the snow, the “overnight” delivery didn’t happen until Friday. Not Amazon’s fault, obviously, or even UPS’s. But I have the new Kindle, it works wonderfully, and I’m working on trying to keep up with the growth of my reading pile.

On to some less wonderful support. I took my car in to get the bumper fixed on Friday, then called State Farm (the other guy’s insurance) to let them know the car was in the shop and I needed a rental. Now earlier chats with the claims people led me to believe that was all I needed to do. Now I learned why State Farm can be anagrammed into Fart Steam, because that’s what I got: Kristen tells me “their policy” is that they don’t do a rental until the parts are in stock and the work is ready to be done. “That’s why we don’t recommend taking your car in on Friday, unless we can confirm your garage is working through the weekend.” Well, DUH… what with the snow, that was something else I was planning to do Monday that didn’t happen until Friday. And it would have been nice to hear about this “policy” before I took the car in. I barely managed not to take it out on Kristen; after all, she’s stuck having to deal with the idiot State Farm policies with no control over any of it.

And that’s the lesson for today: give your helpdesk people a way to chuck “The Book” in the trashcan and use their heads. Amazon obviously does that; their support staff can stretch a warranty and thus I have no regrets about having a Kindle or buying my mom one. State Farm just sucks… their rigid stances on stupid things is one reason we switched our car insurance to Progressive a few years ago after 20 years with State Farm.

Saturday, January 08, 2011 4 comments

Just Ahead of the Storm (Kindle version)

The forecast has Winter #3 bringing us 4–6 inches of snow tomorrow night and Monday. This forecast triggered a much easier prediction: widespread panic on Planet Georgia. So the story goes, the local Mal*Wart ran out of bread, the truck brought only a small supply, and that disappeared pretty quickly as well. For whatever reason, a weather emergency means people strip the shelves of bread and milk. I made a loaf of bread this morning, and some rolls, so we’re set there at least.

Of course, this was the perfect time for my Kindle to fail (look at the top of the screen):

As you can see, the top half-inch or so of the screen is goobered. I can’t see the battery charge icon or the signal strength meter. I had a look, and called Amazon, and (even though it’s a couple weeks past the warranty) they decided to replace it. Yay!!!!

So they sent out the new one overnight, I received it yesterday… and it doesn’t charge. I tried my old cable and the one they sent with the unit, on both the wall charger and the computer, no luck. On the phone again… and they quickly agreed they’d sent me a bum replacement. The third one (which I hope is the charm) would be here Monday, except that I doubt much of anything will go anywhere on Monday.

So I get to use the iPad as an eBook reader for a couple of days. It’s not as comfortable as the Kindle for reading, but it works.

Sunday, May 09, 2010 2 comments

Shiny Things! Mini-podcast #1: Kindle

Audioboo and its five-minute limit is a godsend for me… I can find the time it takes to record and edit a five-minute podcast without too much trouble. One reason I haven’t done the Podcast from FAR Manor for three years(!) is that I just can’t get an entire uninterrupted afternoon needed — “Shiny Things!”, of course, was one of the segments of the original podcast, so I already had the beds for it.

Give it a listen:


And the associated AudioBoo page, where you can see a picture of the Kindle (a familiar pic if you’ve been reading TFM), leave comments, follow me, and so forth.

Now to get the next White Pickups episode tuned up and ready to roll…

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 7 comments

Approaching the end…

… of the year, anyway. As I type, we’re getting the classic wintry mix: rain, sleet, rain, and (at the moment) sleet and snow.

I've been wanting to do this for a while, and here it is. The Boy on the left (scanned from a portrait in the hall), Mason on the right (one I took) — both about 3-½ months old, give or take:

The Boy and Mason

Yup, Mason is his dad’s kid awright. Just like his dad, he fights going to sleep and doesn’t like losing. There are differences, of course: The Boy’s happy place was the swing; Mason’s is getting walked around and he wants a lot more interaction than his dad did.

The refrigerator that came with the house definitely met its end yesterday morning. I was in the kitchen, fixing some coffee, when I heard a loud SPAT and saw sparks shoot out from the bottom of the fridge in my peripheral vision. The smell of burning electrical equipment made for a less than happy morning. After making sure the metal skin of the fridge wasn’t “hot,” I reached back and unplugged the sucker; Mrs. Fetched cleared it out while I was at work. Fortunately, we have (had) two refrigerators in the kitchen, side by side, so it’s not like we’ll have trouble keeping the formula cold or anything. I hope maybe we’ll be able to get along with one fridge and not worry about replacing it. If we have to have some extra cold storage, there’s a couple of small refrigerators in the studio and I’m not exactly keeping them both full of beer at the moment, unfortunately… we could move one into the kitchen as an overflow icebox.

I've been loading up my Kindle a little bit, and am getting to like this thing. I’m still not where I would have bought one myself, but I do like having it. One of the really nice features about buying a Kindle book from Amazon is that they send the book to the Kindle as soon as you buy it online, whether you’re buying it from the Kindle itself (not happening w/o a credit card) or your computer. The latter is a really nice convenience that Apple should adapt for iTunes customers; send a new track straight to your iPhone? Why not? OTOH, I’ve found a couple of glitches, only one of which is Amazon’s fault. It seems that Amazon wants you to have a credit card recorded with them to buy books straight from the Kindle — but if you’re buying from your computer, you can use gift cards and essentially run it as a pre-paid system. It’s only a minor hassle (like I said, once you buy a book it goes straight to your Kindle), but the rest of the purchasing system seems so well thought-out that this stands out.

The second problem is more of a publisher’s issue. I bought Maria Lima’s Blood Kin — third in the series, I have the first two in paperback — and it started right at Chapter One even though there was a Preface. I guess I should mention, Kindle books have a default starting point that isn’t necessarily the front cover… it could start with the Table of Contents, Preface, or wherever the publisher says. Juno (Maria’s publisher) might not quite get the whole e-book concept just yet. In addition to starting a little past (what I would consider) the most logical place to start, they include legal boilerplate about not buying books with the cover torn off. Somehow, i doubt that Amazon is going to sell e-books without the cover… that page could be eliminated entirely without hurting a thing.

On the freebie side, there’s two major places I’m going so far: Project Gutenberg, which digitizes as many books as they can find whose copyright has expired (so that the books are now public domain), is the place to go if (like me) you misspent your youth avoiding the classics. One title I thoroughly enjoyed was P.G. Wodehouse’s Love Among the Chickens, but I might be just a little biased for reasons well-known to longtime readers. Isaac Asimov spoke highly of Wodehouse, so I had to check out some of his titles. Of course, a sci-fi lover will go nutz just from the selection of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells titles.

Speaking of sci-fi, the Baen Free Library is another worthy link, and includes some more modern titles than Gutenberg. Baen’s evil plot is to get you hooked on the first books in a series so you’ll go out and buy the others… great idea, sez I.

I haven’t really had a chance to wander through the stacks of a third site, Manybooks, but some of the titles look like they’d be a good way to expand my horizons a bit.

Looking back at My predictions for 2009, I was a lot more pessimistic than the year actually turned out. Sure, I got a few things right, but I expected things to be a lot farther into the tank than they are now. Oh well, I’ll do a more detailed analysis tomorrow and maybe venture a few predictions for 2010.

If I miss you tomorrow night, Happy New Year, y’all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 5 comments

Hardware, Mason, Hardware

We had a holiday party at work yesterday afternoon — good excuse to knock off for a couple of hours and nosh on some horsey-doovers. In the past, the company would rent out a club and invite spouses along; with the economy the way it is, they decided to dial it back… only a little. The big pile of geek-compatible door prizes was still there, though (the smallest prize was an iPod nano, or maybe a digital photo frame). For the first time in like, ever, my name got pulled out of the hat! The way this works, you come up and draw a number out of a second bag; they match the number to your prize. I got a Kindle and a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

While I was aware the thing existed, I’d seen a Kindle in meatspace only once, in the hands of a co-worker taking a break outside. The second one I’ve seen is sitting next to my keyboard on the desk. I haven’t registered it yet, still going through the user manual. (Professional courtesy, don’t you know.) Amazon says it’s about the size of a paperback — which is true, if you’re talking trade size:

Kindle/paperback comparison

I found myself surprised at several things as I unpacked the Kindle and got it going: on the display is a brief set of instructions telling you to plug it in and turn it on (with illustrations). I assumed that there was a transparent overlay on the screen, and actually tried to peel it off with my thumbnail before I realized the display was showing it. They claim their “electronic paper” display doesn’t require much power once it’s showing the page. The display is 16-shade greyscale, and it looks really clear and sharp. It’s not backlit, which means you can’t read in the dark, but that’s what wind-up flashlights are for; they claim you can read in bright sunlight, and I’m not too skeptical about that claim. Other surprises include a rudimentary MP3 player, web browser, and data access over the Sprint cellular network (on Amazon’s dime)… Sprint’s signal out here at the manor is better than I expected; I usually get 3 or 4 (out of 5) bars. It’s supposed to hold about 1500 books, which would keep me busy for a long time were I stranded on a desert island with the Kindle (and a solar panel to recharge it). Sleep mode displays random woodcut-like graphics: portraits of classic authors, ancient manuscripts, and so forth.

Like the iPhone, Amazon has built an ecosystem around the Kindle. Unlike the iPhone, Amazon is providing other means to access that ecosystem: Kindle readers for iPhone, PC, (eventually) Mac, and so forth. This makes sense; Apple is about selling hardware and Amazon is about selling books. Both companies are using the ecosystem they’ve built to sell more of their product. One thing the Kindle store does that I wish the iTunes store did: keep a record of your purchases and let you re-download them if necessary.

Downsides? The Kindle doesn’t feel like something you’d spend $259 on. It’s light, almost airy, and (despite the brushed metal backside) doesn’t give me the impression that it’s rugged enough to live the hard life of a mobile device. The buttons are probably better than they feel, but I wonder how long it will be before the labels wear off. The Kindle is too big to fit in a pocket, even a cargo pants pocket, but it could go in a purse or briefcase (or courier bag). Finally, I have to wonder how long Amazon will allow free data access beyond the confines of their store, especially since it has a lightweight web browser.

The geeks are already hacking away at the device; it runs a version of Linux and some folks have managed to install software needed to make it a more general-purpose computer. Amazon has wisely taken a hands-off stance, although I suspect they would get rather exercised if people were to pound on the network too much. This is something I wouldn’t have bought for myself, but now that I have it I’m interested in seeing what it can do.

Mason was not in a wonderful mood much of yesterday. He woke up twice last night, maybe more… I got up with him twice anyway. Mrs. Fetched took him to the doctor today, and she suspects he has rotavirus, aka “baby flu.” Here’s hoping he gets over it soon. He tries really hard to be good-natured, and nothing brightens up a house like a baby laughing. Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest got the tree put up and strung some LED lights on it, and he loves looking at all the colors.

Since Mrs. Fetched needed the car to take Mason to the doc, I ended up on the motorcycle. It was one of those mornings where I put in all the linings in the jacket, added more layers underneath, cranked up the heated gloves, and only my feet froze. I’m working at the office all week since we have a new contractor in and I need to throw all the stuff I can’t get done on him (and help him get started doing it). He and I worked at the same place about 12 years ago, and dimly recognized each other at the interview… he likes his motorcycle too, and was glad to see mine.


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