I was very fortunate to receive a nice review of The Twiller from the I Love My Kindle Blog, a very popular and well-respected blog about all things Kindle. Be sure to check it out to find Kindle tips and tricks, free / inexpensive book finds, reviews, and other news and information about the Kindle in particular and e-books in general.
The blog’s author, Bufo Calvin, starts by noting what type of book The Twiller is:
Science fiction can be profound, using a speculative framework to show us the deepest secrets in our collective psyche, and to perhaps serve as a warning of what our worst natures may bring, and an inspiration as to how the human imagination can bring about a better existence.
Or, you know, it can be silly and full of puns.
The Twiller, by David Derrico, is very solidly in the second camp.
His “first camp,” by the way, is what I was going for with my first two books, Right Ascension and Declination. I wanted to try something different for The Twiller, and “silly” and “whimsy” and funny were definitely what I was going for.
The review also notes that:
The Twiller is as error-free as any novel from a traditional publisher that I’ve read. The author also understands formatting for e-books: the clickable Table of Contents is in the back (and reachable through the menus), which is also where you’ll find the author bio. Why is that better? So you can get a better sample. You can also flick right (on any Kindle except a Kindle 1) to move forward through the parts of the book…a convenience many large publishers seem to ignore.
Since advanced Kindle formatting (like a clickable table of contents in the back, “flickable” waypoints, etc.) takes a fair amount of research and time and work, it’s especially rewarding to see someone appreciate it. Bufo Calvin is, of course, a Kindle connoisseur, but I do hope that readers like those extra touches. I think it’s worth spending the time and effort to put them in.
The review concludes with a pithy description I have to be pleased with:
So, if you are looking for a light and airy entertainment, a popcorn book with an intergalactic setting, The Twiller is a button-pusher that will keep you smiling.
Thanks, Bufo, for the review — I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the emerging digital future of books on this blog, as it’s a topic I’m passionate about as both a reader and an author. But I’ve also spoken before about how bookstores don’t need to die alongside the decline of printed books, they can evolve and remain relevant, useful, and even profitable. And I also mentioned how Barnes & Noble seems to “get it,” and is doing a good job focusing on e-books and e-book readers (like their Nook), and is even offering a number of generous promotions for free e-books, coffee, and cookies — and they just lowered the price of the Nook to $199 and the Nook Wi-Fi to just $149.
There’s also evidence that Borders, America’s #2 bookstore behind B&N, “gets” e-books and is serious about embracing the digital future. Borders partnered with Kobo, which makes a nice entry-level e-book reader for $149, and which offers a nice selection of e-book titles in its online store. Borders is also coming out with its own e-book reader and e-book store. Today, I read this article in Fortune magazine by Michael Edwards, CEO of Borders. He talks about how he sees the direction the market is heading and the growth of e-books — it’s good to see someone who doesn’t just stick their head in the sand — but argues that bookstores can remain relevant in the digital age. He claims that “There will always be plenty of people who welcome the opportunity to read words on paper rather than staring into yet another glowing screen.” (Of course, that’s what I like about my Kindle compared to an iPad — the e-Ink screen mimics paper and doesn’t glow.) He talks about how bookstores are still a place for social interaction, discussing books, sipping coffee, browsing magazines, going to author signings, and more. He ends with a surprisingly forward-thinking paragraph:
“Ultimately, there’s no reason traditional bookstores and digital booksellers can’t co-exist; for all their common ground, each offers a substantially different value proposition. Of course, the onus is on booksellers to prove their continued relevance in the digital age. If they continue to innovate in the services and experiences they offer and the ways they engage the community, consumers will continue to make bookstores a vital part of their lives. If they fail to adapt to changing market conditions and consumer needs, they’ll deserve the empty aisles — and cash registers — that result. The next chapter is up to them.”
While I’ve heard that Borders is in financial trouble, I’d like to see a company with such a forward-thinking attitude pull through the tough times and stick around. Contrast the realistic, modern, and customer-friendly words and actions of B&N and Borders with the “Big 6″ book publishers — who seek to “protect physical books as long as we can” by raising e-book prices, blocking lending and text-to-speech, delaying releases, and other anti-customer tactics.
Although I’ve gone over almost exclusively to reading e-books, I still enjoy bookstores and would like for them to continue to exist as places devoted to readers. It’s through forward-thinking and innovative ideas like developing their own e-book readers and e-book stores, and offering free e-books and other incentives to get people into bookstores, that bookstores can remain relevant long into the digital age.
A huge day today as Barnes & Noble lowered the cost of its Nook e-reader to $199 (from $259) and also introduced a Wi-Fi only model for only $149. The $199 version gives you Wi-Fi + unlimited 3G wireless coverage, while the $149 Wi-Fi only model comes with coverage at Wi-Fi hotspots including B&N stores, and is a great deal for a full-featured e-reader.
The Nook comes with a 6″ e-Ink screen, as well as a 3.5″ color LCD screen across the bottom, which can be used to show color book covers and surf the Internet. It has an expandable memory card slot, reads ePub books, and is connected to B&N’s e-book store.
In response, Amazon reduced the price of the Kindle 2 to $189, which is a $70 price cut and a great deal for the leading e-reader and unlimited 3G wireless coverage. (Note: Amazon will provide a $70 refund if you purchased one in the past 30 days.) The Kindle 2 has a 6″ e-Ink screen, 2-week battery life, and text-to-speech, among other features. It reads books in MOBI format, and is connected to Amazon’s e-book store, which has the greatest selection.
Any of these three options (Nook Wi-Fi at $149, Kindle 2 at $189, or Nook WiFi+3G at $199) is a great deal and great value. I had previously mentioned a couple of low-cost e-readers around $100-$150, but the Kindle and Nook have more features and are connected to larger e-book stores. While I was very impressed with the Kobo E-Reader for $149, at these lower prices, I’d recommend sticking with a Kindle or Nook.
I don’t normally comment on rumors, but there has been speculation of a Kindle 3 coming out in August with a slightly improved screen (better contrast and faster page turns), or perhaps the introduction of a Wi-Fi only model at that $149 price point. But it looks like B&N’s price drop has forced Amazon to lower prices sooner than they had planned. Personally, 3G wireless coverage isn’t a big deal for me, as I buy all my e-books through my computer and transfer them with the USB cable — I usually leave the 3G switched off on my K2. But, if you like the idea of wirelessly buying and downloading books right from your K2/Nook while away from home, then another $40 or $50 for lifetime, unlimited 3G coverage is a phenomenal deal (compare it to the iPad 3G, which costs an extra $130 + $30 / month!).
This is an exciting step for e-readers — being able to get the two most popular e-readers for under $200 should expand their audience dramatically. If you’re still on the fence, I’d recommend heading into a Target to see a K2 or a Barnes & Noble store to play with a Nook. If you like to read more than a few books a year, I think you’ll be very happy with an e-book reader, and the price cut means you might even pay for your new K2 in a year through the lower cost of e-books compared to paper books (not to mention all the free classics out there!).
I am extremely excited to announce that my third novel, The Twiller, is available now from Amazon for just $2.99!
I am hoping for a great launch that shoots it up into Amazon’s Top 100 overall bestseller list for Kindle books. I just hit #400, so I’d be extremely grateful for your support!
I’d also like to take the time to thank all my readers who have bought any of my three novels, and those of you who have posted reviews on Amazon or commented on this blog. Your support means a great deal to me, and my success is all thanks to you.
I am extremely excited to announce that my third novel, The Twiller, is complete and the e-book will be available from Amazon tomorrow for just 99 cents!
[Update: Available NOW! Click here!]
Unlike my first two novels, The Twiller is a comedy, a much more casual and fun read that I hope you’ll find entertaining. I drew inspiration for the book from my own experiences, so you may very well find a character you recognize (maybe even you!), a city that seems a bit familiar, or a scene at a law firm that you can relate to. A brief description:
The Twiller is a comedic novel that follows Ian, our hapless hero, as he’s whisked around the Universe after his abduction from Earth. His companion, the Twiller, is about the only alien being who treats humans better than toenail lint. Ian is faced with a series of humorous and bizarre experiences on the worlds he visits, utterly failing to realize the slight similarities to places here on Earth.
I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me in the past by buying my books or e-books, leaving a review on Amazon, or telling a friend. Thanks to you, my first novel broke the Top 500 (out of over 600,000 titles) in the Amazon Kindle store, and reached #1 in the “Technothriller” category.
Moving up the Amazon bestseller charts does a lot to increase a book’s visibility and sales, and I’d sincerely appreciate your help with my virtual e-book launch of The Twiller. Amazon’s rankings change hourly, and a good hour or two can shoot an e-book up the lists. So I will be eternally grateful to anyone who helps me out by purchasing The Twiller, for just $0.99. If possible, the closer each purchase is to the launch tomorrow (Jun 18) at 6 PM Eastern, the more it will help my ranking. Each sale really does make a big difference when they’re clustered together. I’ll update this post with a link tomorrow when the e-book is available.
If you’d like to read a few excerpts while you wait, please click here. And, if you need any help setting up an Amazon account or downloading the Kindle app for your computer, iPhone, or Blackberry, I’ve posted some instructions here (or just shoot me an email). Thanks again for your time, and thank you VERY much in advance for helping me out!
Amazon is far and away the #1 e-book seller, and it’s easy to see why: they have the largest selection (over 600,000 titles, plus millions of public domain works), generally have the best prices, the #1 e-book reader (the Kindle), and software that allows you to read their e-books on multiple devices including PCs, Macs, Kindles, iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads, Blackberries, and Android cell phones (coming soon).
To buy your first e-book from Amazon, it only takes 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Create an Amazon account. (Already have one? Great, proceed to step 2!) To create your Amazon account, simply visit www.amazon.com and click the link at the very top where it says, “Hello. Sign in to get personalized recommendations. New customer? Start here.” It will ask you to enter an email address and ask if you have a password. You’ll select “No, I am a new customer.” Then, simply enter the requested information and create your Amazon account.
Step 2: Download and activate the Kindle App on the device you’d like to read on. Visit this page and download the app for the computer or smartphone you’d like to read your e-book on. Once downloaded, you will need to run the application and “register” it to your Amazon account. Just enter the email address and password for the account you created in Step 1.
Step 3: Shop and buy your e-books! Amazon sells countless e-books, most costing far less than printed books. Just use the search function near the top of the page (select “Kindle Store” from the drop-down menu) to find what you want. Or, go straight to a particular book (perhaps my new novel, The Twiller, coming out June 18?). Click on the big orange button in the upper right that says “Buy now with 1-Click.” It will ask you which device you want to deliver your purchase to. Choose the device you registered in Step 2. Then, complete the checkout process.
That’s it! Enjoy your e-book! Just email me or leave a comment if you have any questions.
In addition to Barnes & Noble’s recent promotion offering a free $50 gift card with the purchase of a Nook e-book reader, they’re now offering a pair of new promotions: a different free e-book every week, and a free “tall” (which is Starbucks lingo for “small”) hot or iced coffee — just for showing them that you’re reading an e-book on your Nook or Barnes & Noble app for the PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
For the past few weeks, B&N has been offering a different free e-book each week. To qualify, just bring in your Nook or laptop / phone running the free B&N e-reader app. Show it to any B&N employee and they’ll give you a voucher to download a free e-book (which you can do right there in the store with their free Wi-Fi connection). This week’s book is Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, and next week’s book (starting June 14) is The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.
While you’re there, head over to the B&N Cafe (that looks like a Starbucks, but is technically not) and show them that same Nook or device running the B&N app, and they’ll hook you up with a free tall coffee. The fine print says you get a non-customized hot or iced coffee, and can only redeem it once. They also point out that this only works at B&N Cafes, not at Starbucks, or at any Starbucks Cafe inside a B&N store. Confusing? Yeah, I didn’t even know most cafes inside B&N stores were “B&N Cafes,” I just thought they were all Starbucks. So you may want to call and check your local B&N before you head over.
Anyway, that’s three pretty incredible deals from Barnes & Noble. A free $50 gift card is nothing to sneeze at, and the other two deals are even better since you don’t have to buy anything to qualify. You can just download the free B&N app to your laptop or phone, bring it in, and get a completely free e-book and free coffee. It’s a bold move by B&N to (a) get people into e-books and (b) drive foot traffic to their stores where they hope you browse and buy other stuff. It’s interesting that B&N is trying to increase business at its existing retail locations (that sell mostly paper books but increasingly sell gifts, cards, and accessories as well), but is also firmly committed to the future with the Nook and focus on e-books. I hope these moves pay off for them, because they seem well thought out, forward-thinking, and very customer-friendly.
So, download the free B&N e-reader app for your favorite portable device, maybe pick up an inexpensive e-book or two (this one is just $2.99, and get another free e-book and some free coffee on your next visit to a Barnes & Noble store.
A couple of days ago, Apple held its yearly conference and announced the new iPhone 4, to be released June 24. At the same time, modern iPhones will also be able to update to the new iPhone OS 4.0 (now called “iOS”). The new iOS offers multitasking and other new features, and also brings the iBooks e-book reading app and the iBooks Store to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Apple also announced that they have sold 2 million iPads in the first 65 days, and had 5 million e-book downloads in that time. Now, Apple is famous for hype and the “Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field,” and they like throwing out impressive numbers that may or may not mean what they seem. For example, Apple neglected to mention how many of those 5 million e-books were paid vs. free downloads. If they’ve sold 3 or 4 or 5 million e-books in their first 2 months, that’s a big deal. But if they sold 500,000 and gave away 4.5 million free downloads … not so much. Also, the numbers work out to 2.5 books per iPad — or only about one book a month, which suggests that iPad owners are not generally voracious readers.
Apple also announced that the publishers they work with claim Apple already accounted for a staggering 22% of their e-book sales, but this number also wasn’t explained and must be taken with a grain of salt. First, many publishers don’t release sales numbers, nor do big e-book sellers like Amazon. Second, Apple only has 5 of the 6 largest publishers’ titles in the iBook Store, but lack the largest (Random House) and most smaller publishers; the “Apple 5″ account for less than 50% of all e-book sales. The iBook Store currently has about 30,000 paid titles, whereas the Kindle Store has over 600,000 (20x more). Also, one of the “Big 6,” Penguin, had a disagreement with Amazon for much of the last 2 months and its new titles weren’t available in the Kindle Store. So maybe Penguin told Apple that they accounted for 22% of Penguin’s e-book sales (when its newest, most popular titles weren’t available on Amazon)? But I have a hard time believing that the iPad could do so well against Amazon (who had a 70%-90% e-book share), B&N, Sony, Kobo, and all the other established e-book retailers and jump out to a 22% share right out of the gate. Keep in mind that not only does Amazon have an estimated 3 million Kindles sold, but people can read Kindle titles on Kindle for PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone … and iPad. In any event, the numbers sound impressive, even if they are exaggerated a bit. I’m interested to see if people will really read much on the iPad. I’ve talked about reading on the iPad before, and concluded that I prefer the Kindle for pure reading, and that the iPad’s many distractions seem to appeal to a different demographic than serious readers.
Whether people will read or not on iDevices will soon become a huge question in the industry, because iOS 4.0 will bring the iBook reader app and iBook Store (where you can sample, purchase, and download e-books) to the iPhone and iPod Touch. I don’t know how many people read novels on their phones, although surveys always surprise me with how many people do it (personally, I prefer a larger, e-Ink screen to read on). But, even a relatively small percentage of iDevice owners could be huge, since there are nearly 100 million iPhones and iPod Touches out there, and Apple has 150 million credit cards in its 1-Click database.
In other news for the iBook app, a forthcoming update will add features that Kindle (and Kindle for iPhone/iPad app) users already have: bookmarking, highlighting, and syncing your position in your books across all your devices — so you can read to Chapter 4 on your iPad, then grab your iPhone and automatically pick up where you left off. Another cool feature is that the iBook app will also read PDFs and store them on a separate virtual bookshelf from your e-books.
In any event, it’s exciting news, since the reach of e-books has just expanded from a few million people (who owned Kindles, Nooks, and iPads) to 100 million iPhone users. With the ability to browse the iBook Store, make a 1-Click purchase (from a trusted source and without having to make a new account), and get instant wireless e-book downloads, will this be the tipping point for the wide-scale adoption of e-books? Time will tell….
“While supplies last,” receive a free $50 gift card with the purchase of a $259 Nook e-book reader. (Supplies of Nooks or gift cards? Can they run out of gift cards?)
The Nook is one of the most popular competitors to Amazon’s Kindle. Both sell for $259, and both include a 6″ e-Ink screen, free 3G wireless downloads, and the ability to store and read thousands of e-books.
The Nook comes with a small color LCD touchscreen below the main B&W e-Ink display. The color screen can show book covers, various menus, and an on-screen keyboard. On the plus side, it is helpful to see covers in color or browse the Internet. On the minus side, it can sometimes slow down the device and it drains the battery much more quickly than the e-Ink screen.
The Nook also comes with an SD memory card slot, and includes WiFi connectivity. Barnes & Noble gives you some freebies (cookies & e-books and such) when you bring your Nook into a B&N bookstore. The Nook reads the more-standard ePub format (along with PDFs and text files), and can borrow e-books from some libraries using the Overdrive system.
A large part in any Nook vs. Kindle decision might be whether you prefer shopping at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Amazon is known for having the largest selection and lowest prices for e-books, but B&N is probably a close second.
The $50 gift card gives the Nook a significant advantage, so it’s like getting the Nook for just $209. That’s a heck of a deal for a dual-screen e-reader with free lifetime 3G wireless coverage included.
UPDATE: The Nook is now priced at $149 for the Wi-Fi model and $199 for the 3G model.
At Clearwater High School (near Tampa, FL), students will receive a shiny new Kindle 2 instead of stacks of textbooks next school year. While other schools have dabbled with e-readers for specific classes or even started digitizing their libraries, Clearwater High will be the first to transition completely to electronic textbooks, providing one for each of its 100 teachers and 2,100 students.
The benefits of such a switch are obvious: a student can carry a single, 10-ounce Kindle instead of seven textbooks that each weigh a couple of pounds (or more) each. The Kindle could end up saving schools lots of money, considering that the K2 costs them $177.60 (the school apparently got a small bulk discount from Amazon) and typical textbooks cost about $80 each (7 books x $80 = $560). E-textbooks typically cost much less than the printed versions. Heck, students might not even need lockers any more (which could save money, time, and space for additional or larger classrooms).
Students can also use the convenient dictionary lookup feature (even more useful in a classroom setting than for fiction), which is like carrying seven textbooks plus a dictionary. The K2 also allows for highlighting, bookmarking, and note-taking … instead of having students mark up textbooks that will be re-used next year. Students can also use their Kindles to download free and lower-cost versions of all those books they need to read in English class: all of the classics (anything written before 1923) are free in e-book form. And they’ll probably be much more likely to do pleasure reading if their novels are already with them all day at school — why not read a few chapters of Harry Potter on the bus or at lunch?
Some things to consider, though, are the inevitable thefts and damage to the Kindles that the school hands out. The article linked above mentions that parents will be able to purchase insurance for damage that happens off school property. I guess parents/students can already be charged if they lose or damage textbooks, so maybe it’s not all that different. But still, students horsing around and breaking a $177 K2 wouldn’t be pleasant for the kid, parents, or school. On the plus side, all the e-textbooks can simply be re-loaded onto a new device.
Maybe the cost savings will even be enough to give each incoming student their own K2 (to last them all four years), and, if they keep it in good shape, it’s theirs to keep when they graduate (and only if they graduate!). If they lose it, they have to pay $177 (or put down a deposit) for a replacement, which they can either keep or turn back in when they leave school and have their money refunded.
There are certainly some issues to iron out, but I think the advantages and cost savings outweigh the concerns, and I hope the program is successful. I think schools will continue to follow suit in the future, as more and more reading is done on electronic devices.
UPDATE: This article says the Kindle experiment is going pretty well, with most students and teachers finding them to increase productivity. There have been a few glitches, but students have been using them to read textbooks, take notes, and look up information on the Internet.