Tag Archives: Kindle

Amazon Storyteller offers UK writers a £20,000 cash prize

Kindle Storyteller offers cash prize to UK writers

If you’re a UK writer and you’re about to release an ebook, great timing: Amazon’s Storyteller competition could see you win a cash prize of £20,000!

Naturally there are a few requirements:

  • you must publish between 20th February and 19th May 2017;
  • your story should be a minimum of 5,000, but there’s no upper limit (great news for writers of epic fantasy!);
  • your submission can’t have been previously published;
  • you must publish through the KDP Select programme.

This last is probably the entire reason the Storyteller competition exists; Amazon like to push KDP Select because it requires you to publish exclusively with Amazon. No Apple, no Kobo, Nook or anyone else. Your book can only be bought by Amazon customers.

But, on the flip side, there are a few benefits to the KDP Select programme, Kindle Unlimited being one of them. And you’re not tied in forever; once the entry period is over, you can opt out of KDP Select and publish on the other platforms.

And, hey, it’s a small price to pay for the potential of a £20,000 cash prize. So what are you going to submit to Amazon Storyteller?

A Kindle ereader leant against paperbacks

Amazon’s latest Kindle Paperwhite Promotion is a Little Odd

Amazon are running a promotion: buy a Kindle Paperwhite and get a free book. Sounds good, I thought. Perhaps they’ll offer a credit, or that the Kindle might even arrive with the book preloaded. But no. Bizarrely, the book that Amazon are offering to go alongside your shiny new ereader is a hardback.

Isn’t that a bit like giving you a free CD when you buy an iPod?

My Problem with Kindle Matchbook

Kindle Matchbook is a great idea: buy a paperback and get the ebook version at a discounted price (or even free). It’s a nice reward for a reader and it helps remove the format quandry (as ebooks are often cheaper but not as nice to own). There’s just one problem with Kindle Matchbook.

It’s not universal.

It’s not available in every country and, of course, you can’t make use of it if you have a non-Kindle ereader device or app. I enrolled The Fey Man in Matchbook but I’m painfully aware that my UK-based readers, for instance, can’t take advantage of it. And anyone reading their ebooks on a Kobo or iDevice are out in the cold too.

So here’s my solution: if you bought a copy of The Fey Man in paperback and you want a free copy of the ebook version, take a picture or yourself with it and post it to my Facebook Page or upload it to Twitter (be sure to mention me with @realjtk!) I’ll send you a copy of the ebook in your preferred format (and help you get it on your ereader as well).

(P.S. There’ll be no DRM in this ebook, either, so you’ll be free to share it with friends. Because I’m nice like that.)

Will Amazon Source ruin Independent Bookshops?

Amazon have recently announced their Source programme, which is designed to encourage independent bookshops to sell Kindle devices. Opinion is strongly decided over Source, with many booksellers calling Amazon Source a Trojan horse. But I’m not convinced.

First I need to say one thing: I am not an Amazon apologist. Yes, they’ve done great things. But there are too many indies blindly singing hosannas to the mighty Zon. Perhaps they’re scared their books will be pulled if they don’t or maybe they just love Amazon. I don’t know. But Amazon have made no secret of their desire to rule the world and they’ve stepped on little people to get to that goal. But, that being said, there are two reasons why I’m not sure this will devastate independent bookshops as much as some might think.

Ebooks don’t trump books

I got my first Kindle two years ago and I love it. It’s a fantastic little device and it’s worth it’s weight. Literally, because it saved my wrists from snapping under the weight of the Game of Thrones books. But I still buy tree-books. Quite a lot of them. And I’m not alone. I know only one Kindle owner who has entirely turned her back on tree-books and that’s only because she can’t physically lift them anymore.

Sure, an independent bookshop will want you to buy all your books in a physical format (despite the 10% commission Amazon will offer them on ebook sales). But a devoted reader is bound to pick up an ereader at some point. Why not have them do it at your own store? Which brings me to:

Service trumps price

There’s a comic shop in Norwich called Abstract Sprocket. It is, unsurprisingly, a little out of the way and it cannot compete with Amazon on price. Whilst I don’t buy comics anymore, I still buy graphic novels and collections. So where do I buy them?

At Abstract Sprocket. Because it’s a pleasure to shop there. The guys love their products, they recommend titles to me because they think I’ll like them, and they’re just fun to talk to. It costs more money to shop there, but it’s worth it. If an independent bookshop is a pleasure to visit, customers will keep coming back.

And I can guarantee they’d rather visit the bookshop that isn’t afraid to talk about and help them with ereaders and ebooks rather than the one that sneers at them and sprays them with holy water.

So am I saying independent bookshops should stock Kindles? I think I am. People want ereaders and ebooks. If the bookseller creates a welcoming environment and offers great recommendations, many customers will come back. And I’m pretty sure they’ll keep buying tree-books too.

Is the Kindle a Trojan horse or is it just another reading tool? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Buy an Ebook, Own an Ebook

I’m about to step in from a limb, open myself up to almost no criticism and pretty much snub controversy by stating the following: if you buy an ebook, you should own it.

I know, me with my crazy ideas. I’m not the only one who thinks so. In the wake of the news that Amazon wiped a Norwegian woman’s Kindle and denied her access to her paid-for ebooks, plenty of people have complained that we should own our ebooks. After all, Waterstones aren’t busting down your front door and stealing back your paperbacks. But this isn’t a one-off. In a move so beautiful it might collapse under its own irony, Amazon secretly deleted copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from hundreds of Kindles. You couldn’t write this stuff.

But I’m not writing this to complain or demand reform or justice or what-have-you. Amazon are a business. If we don’t like the way they do business, we can only vote with our wallets. The reason I’m writing this is to make a recommendation to you.

Download Calibre.

Calibre allows you to backup your ebooks to a computer. So if Amazon decide you’ve been naughty and wipes your Kindle, you have backups. You haven’t lost what you’ve legitimately paid for.

Calibre is also useful because you can convert ebooks into different formats. Kindles, for example, won’t let you read .epubs, the format Apple and Kobo and a lot others sell. But Calibre can convert an .epub into a .mobi which the Kindle can read. The conversion might violate some terms of service, however. (The ethics of those terms is for another day.) I’ve also heard that you can download some plugins that let Calibre strip out DRM. But, if they exist, that would definitely violate terms of service and I can’t recommend you do that.

But the backup thing? I can’t recommend that enough.

I’m still interested in hearing your thoughts on Amazon wiping Kindles, though. Are they stealing back paid-for property or are they within their rights?

Why is Waterstones Selling Kindles?

James Daunt, the man holding the Waterstones reins, has correctly identified the Kindle as the ereader that UK readers want. But is it really a good idea to sell them in his stores? After removing the Sony ereaders from their stock, I expected them to start selling at least the Nook and at best a Waterstones-branded ereader linked to their own ebook store. But the Kindle? Isn’t Daunt shooting himself in the foot?

I don’t think so.

Cards on the table: selling the Kindle is a massive short-term loss for Waterstones. It will actively disconnect readers from their own ebook store; those ebooks are sold in the open EPUB format, which isn’t supported by the Kindle. Rather than converting files and illegally stripping DRM, customers will buy from Amazon instead. But it will provide Waterstones will two very important things.

Revenue and reprieve.

The best scenario for Waterstones is to have its own ereader, one that can truly rival the Kindle and bring customers back into the fold. Daunt has admitted that Waterstones is late to the game and that an ereader couldn’t be ready until next Christmas.

But why wait until then to take advantage of the hardware revenue? Selling Kindles means they get a cut of Kindle sales. That’s more than they were getting before. And instead of wasting time on second best, they’ll be selling what everyone already wants. So Waterstones starts earning more revenue.

It also buys Daunt some breathing space. Instead of rushing an ereader to the market and playing catch-up, Waterstones can properly plan and execute a strategy. The lost ebook customers aren’t too much of a worry; technology has an expiry date by its nature. Customers will be quick to drop their Kindle when it’s overshadowed by a superior newcomer. Revenue and reprieve will allow Waterstones to build that shadow.

At first glance this deal looks a lot like a little white flag raised to Amazon. But I suspect that it’s part of a bigger, longer game.

Here’s hoping.

Hands-on with the Kindle 4

So amongst the usual stack of books I received this Christmas was a shiny new Kindle 4. I had reservations over ereaders for a long time and few who know me thought I would ever own, let alone enjoy, one. But were they right?

No.

I love my Kindle. It’s fab. Here’s why:

• It’s like reading a book; e-ink really is as good as the printed page. There’s no glare, no eyestrain, no headaches. Brilliant.

• It weighs less than a book; War and Peace will no longer break your wrists.

• It’s not a book; I don’t have to worry about breaking the spine (I’m the sort of person who makes a sound of agony when I see someone breaking the spine of a book. I figure it’s my way of helping the voiceless book express its pain.) It also means I can read with one hand and still turn the pages, allowing me to multi-task.

Downsides? I won’t lie, there are some. It is, of course, never going to be the same as reading a real book (for which I have a true love). If the book has a great cover, for instance, you don’t get to see it when you pick it up (this also means you can’t show off the oh-so-clever book you’re reading to your fellow commuters). You can’t flip back a hundred pages or so; flicking the pages involves finding a location (how the hell do I know what location the dining room scene was at?), and the real page numbers mean nothing on an ereader. And it’s a little hard to get attached to a digital file in the same way as a physical book. Although some might say I could do with a little less attachment to books.

But then an ereader shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for books any more than mp3s were a replacement for CDs. It’s an enhancement, and I’m thrilled to be able to expand my reading experience with a new tool.

A few tips for anyone thinking of picking up the Kindle 4:

• Registering is no picnic; the Kindle decided my username and password weren’t valid and forced me to register on the Amazon website using the serial number. If you need this, you can find it in Device Info, under Settings.

• The onscreen keyboard is pointless; you’ll use it if it’s an absolute necessity only. This makes buying ebooks on the Kindle itself a chore. I recommend using your computer or smartphone. If you’ve not got one or you want to buy books on the Kindle, pay extra for the Kindle Keyboard.

• The Kindle ships with a USB cable only. This means you can only charge it from your computer out of the box. If you want to charge it from a wall socket you’ll need to buy an adapter. You can use any USB adapter, though. I use the one for my iPhone.

Books to Buy for Your New Kindle

Hundreds If not thousands of people unwrapped an ereader yesterday and are no doubt asking themselves “what now?” How to fill this new toy with books without breaking the bank? With these three tips:

1. Download the classics

I know, I know. All too often “classic” is a byword for “the only people who like this are English teachers”. But some classics are good books as well, and best of all you can get nearly all of them for free on ereaders. Try:

Dracula – The first and best vampire novel.

Wuthering Heights – A tale of wild, passionate and destructive love.

Turn of the Screw – A perfect ghost story; short, taught and fraught with uncertainty. Is she mad or not?

2. Try the self-published

Self-publishing is coming of age; it’s no longer the preserve of those who aren’t good enough, it’s a home for many talented authors who just want to do it themselves. Best of all, because they haven’t the overheads of an expensive publishing house to pay for, their books are usually quite cheap. Try:

Legend Unleashed by M. Latimer-Ridley, a tale of a girl drawn into a war between werewolves and wizards. If you want to know more, you can check out my review here, but I can assure you of a good read.

Bad Blood by Ginny Lurcock is a paranormal romance about vampires, but don’t mistake it for a Twilight wannabe. Ginny has a style I defy you not to adore and this is a book that will make you laugh. Actually out loud. The book has more personality than some people I know. I urge you to check it out.

And, of course, I have a few stories of my own you could download. Fancy a horror story about a house that’s more than haunted? Or a story about a homeless superhero? Then just click here!

3. Watch out for deals

Amazon are running a 12 Days of Kindle promotion, heavily discounting ebooks for the next twelve days. Amazon do often offer discounts and deals. If you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow @AmazonKindle or @KindleUK. If you’re not on Twitter, check their site regularly.

4. Use the samples

Most ebooks will offer a short sample as a free download. Make the most of this tool to try before you buy.

Yes, that was four tips. But the fourth was too important to leave out.

There are plenty of great books out there and, now you don’t have to pay for all the paper and storage costs, you can afford to get more bang for your buck. Enjoy the digital revolution!

The Ereader Wars Are Already Over

With Christmas galloping its way towards us at a frightening pace, a gift that’s guaranteed to be popular this year is an ereader. Even for us poor Brits, though, there’s plenty of choice out there. But I’m here to tell that there is no choice at all.

You’re probably already scoffing at me now. There’s plenty of choice, you may cry. iPad, Kobo, Android tablets, Kindle, Sony, Nook and many more! All viable ereaders with similar technology. And whilst this is true there is, to mind, only two things that matter.

E-ink and content.

Tablet computers use LCD displays which produce glare and chew up battery life. E-ink is like reading a physical page and consume so little power a single charge can last a month. For ereaders, e-ink is the only way forward.

Content, you might think, would boil down to how many books you can get on a particular device. Tablets actually win on this score because of their ability to offer different bookstores through apps. But, on the dedicated ereader, Amazon has launched a torpedo that struck true.

The .AZW format.

This is the format that all Amazon ebooks are sold in. It’s also a format that isn’t supported by any ereader other than the Kindle; it’s owned by Amazon and they won’t let anyone else play with it. That means that anyone who buys an Amazon book must have a Kindle or Kindle app to read it on.

Sure, you could just buy all your books elsewhere. But Amazon have 152 million customers who have already been lured in by the fact that Amazon sell almost everything. You’re probably one of them. And the odds are that most of those customers won’t go somewhere else to buy ebooks. It’s too much of a bother. And once you’ve bought that .AZW ebook, you’re stuck with a Kindle. And, as previously discussed, there’s only one real choice in that department.

So don’t let people convince you there’s an ereader war. There isn’t. Until Amazon open up support for .AZW ebooks, or adopt a more open format, there’s only one ereader that matters at all: the Kindle 4.

Don’t agree? Feel free to put me in my place.

Where’s the Fire?

So unless you’ve been hiding under a log with your fingers in your ears this week, you’ll have heard that Amazon have announced a new bunch of Kindles. In fact, they announced three on Wednesday: the new Kindle, the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. The old Kindle has been rebranded the Kindle Keyboard, which means there are now four Kindles on sale. That’s a lot of Kindles.

This, for me, raises two questions: why so many, and which is the best one to go for? A lot of people have also been asking, will the Kindle Fire topple the iPad? That’s a question for another day, though.

Why so many? Because Amazon want to capture as much of the market as they can. The new Kindle is cheaper than any Kindle has ever been, meaning that those who didn’t want to shell out £100+ for an ereader can now be tempted into the fold. The Kindle Touch is a direct competitor to the Nook and a reaction to the unarguable success of touch devices; Amazon wants in on that. And the Kindle Fire is a reaction to the equally unarguable success of tablets. For a company that sells books, films and music, to not offer a tablet device is just daft.

Which is the best to go for? That depends on what you want to do. To read books you now have three options (or, if you live in the UK, two; the Kindle Touch is, oddly, not being released here until next year). The new Kindle is the cheapest because it’s effectively the old Kindle Keyboard without the keyboard. It’s smaller and lighter, but it’s actually a step backwards in terms of functionality. If you want to type something on the new Kindle (say, if you want to look for a book on the Kindle store), you have to use a five way selector to pick out letters from an onscreen keyboard. Ugh. But, then, you’re paying a lot less, so it’s hard to complain when you’re saving $20 (or, in the UK, £20). The Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch are the same price. The Keyboard is for those who don’t like touchscreens. Easy.

The Fire, though, is a different beast. It’s not a dedicated reading device. It’s a tablet. You can read on it, of course, but you can also read comics and illustrated books in colour, as well as watch movies, TV shows and listen to music. You can also do it for a very good price: just $199 (again, this won’t be available in the UK until next year, so the UK price is unknown). But, if you want to read books, this isn’t your best bet; the Fire has a colour LED screen, not an e-ink screen. This means it will be subject to screen glare, eye-strain and so on.

In the interests of disclosure, I think tablets are cool but haven’t yet been sold on their necessity, especially as I have an iPhone already (which is effectively a tiny tablet). So whilst the Fire is definitely cool, it’s still a tablet. If you want to read books, I would recommend looking at the e-ink models. And, amongst them, there’s really only two choices:

1) do I want an easy-to-use keyboard? If not, go for the new Kindle, otherwise go to choice 2.

2) Do I like touchscreens? If yes, go for the Kindle Touch (bad luck, UK). Otherwise, go for the Kindle Keyboard.

It’s that easy.