May 212010
 

Get posts delivered wirelessly

I’ve recently made my blog available on Amazon, so Kindle users can subscribe and receive wireless updates that deliver new posts directly to their Kindles. Pretty cool stuff.

One of the big advantages of Amazon’s Kindle is that lifetime, unlimited wireless access is included, for free. (By comparison, an iPad 3G’s unlimited data plan will cost you $30 a month, which is enough to buy a $259 Kindle 2 in less than 9 months, and comes to $1,080 over 3 years.) The Kindle’s wireless access can be used to browse, buy, and download books; surf the Internet or check e-mail (slowly, in black and white); sync your bookmarks, notes, and your position in books you’re reading across multiple devices; or subscribe to newspapers or blogs and get daily issues or new posts sent to you throughout the day.

While Amazon provides the wireless access for free, they do charge for blog subscriptions. Interestingly, they choose the pricing of the blogs they offer (I have no say in the matter), and they’ve chosen to price mine at $1.99 a month. (I get 30% of that.) They also offer a free, 14-day trial subscription if you want to check out the functionality.

Anyway, I’m obviously happy to provide my blog through my website or RSS feed for free, but I figured this gives people another option — getting wireless updates throughout the day from blogs you subscribe to is a pretty cool feature. Even if you don’t have a Kindle, feel free to head over to my blog’s Amazon page and leave a review or just help click on the “tags” halfway down the page so people can find me. Thanks!

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Kindle Coming to Target Stores

 Posted by at 4:01 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Apr 222010
 

Target announced yesterday that Amazon’s Kindle 2 will arrive in select Target retail stores on April 25. This is big news for e-readers in general, and the Kindle in particular, since it was only previously available online through Amazon.com. E-readers are a new and still unfamiliar technology, and there are many people who would be wary of spending $259 on a device that they couldn’t see and touch before purchasing (even though Amazon offers a no-questions-asked 30-day return policy on Kindles). Everyone I’ve shown my Kindle to has been impressed, some even amazed by the technology, readability, and light weight. So I think getting the actual product in front of millions of customers will only be a good thing for Kindle sales.

Unfortunately, the “select stores” that will initially get the Kindle 2 are Target’s flagship store in Minneapolis, as well as 102 stores in South Florida … which is where I happen to live. 🙂 Hopefully they will expand the availability nationwide soon.

Another note: it is currently rumored that the Kindle may also be coming to Best Buy. That would be interesting, since Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Sony’s e-Readers are already available there. That would make Best Buy a great one-stop-shop to try out and compare the various e-readers available.

Of course, the Nook is already available at most Barnes & Noble stores, and is similar enough to the Kindle to give customers an idea — especially the 6″ e-Ink screen, which is identical on both devices.

Apr 182010
 

20/20 vision only beyond this point

I’d like to highlight an issue that has steadily become a bigger and bigger deal for me, and something that I think really exemplifies how several large print publishers are just taking the complete wrong tack when dealing with their readers. Instead of embracing readers (i.e., their customers) and thinking of ways to make their reading or purchasing experiences better, publishers have been raising e-book prices, delaying e-book releases, slapping on restrictive copy protection (DRM) that confuses and limits readers, blocking features like lending, and, perhaps most egregiously, blocking text-to-speech.

Text-to-speech (TTS) is a technology that allows printed words to be read aloud by a synthesized computer voice. While the quality of this artificial voice is acceptable to some but irritating to others, it as an option that Amazon spent time and money building into the Kindle 2. Amazon partnered with Nuance (makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking) to build TTS into the K2. That means that, in addition to all the other advantages of e-books–like adjustable font sizes that make it easier for those with poor vision to read–now your Kindle can read any e-book to you, which opens up the joy of books to the vision impaired, the elderly, or anyone else who can’t read printed words. While I’m fortunate enough to still have (relatively) good eyesight, I’m glad to see such technologies emerge to help those who aren’t as fortunate. And I’m in favor of anything that enables more people to read or enjoy the written word.

And what do I, as an author or publisher, have to do to enable this wonderful technology? Nothing. It’s already built into the K2 and turned on by default. Talk about a win-win-win. More people get to enjoy books, I can reach a whole new market, and Amazon can sell more e-books and Kindles.

Right up until the part where publishers demand that Amazon block text-to-speech on their titles.

This move just strikes me as so backwards-thinking, so antagonistic, and so wrong–considering which segment of the population will be harmed the most by the move: the disabled.

The publishers’ argument is essentially that TTS-enabled e-books will cut into their (expensive) audiobook sales. To me, it’s just another example of publishers alienating readers, and fighting instead of embracing technology. They’re so worried about e-books hurting their hardcover sales and audiobook sales, they’re forgetting that e-books are reaching new readers who are buying more e-books than they used to buy in print. They’re forgetting all the cost savings inherent in e-books, since they don’t have to print or ship or store books or accept returns or produce audio files. They’re forgetting that technology marches on, and they can march along or be trampled underfoot along with the typewriter manufacturers and buggy-whip makers. Most importantly, they’re forgetting the reason they exist: to provide literature to readers. Readers are not your enemies; please stop fighting them. How did it work out for the RIAA and the music industry?

In the meantime, all I can do (aside from posting about it here) is continue to try to embrace technology and provide value for my readers. To me, that means fair pricing, multiple formats, no restrictive DRM, and enabling text-to-speech on my novels.

Apr 132010
 

Now that we’ve had the iPad for 10 days, I can give a more thorough review than my first one. Probably the best thing I can say about it is that it has kept us up even later than usual on more than one night … and that we’ve started calling it the “CrackPad.” Downloading apps, playing games, watching videos, and surfing the ‘Net becomes more addictive on the touchscreen, hand-held device. Aside from games, some of the apps are really useful, like the excellent WeatherBug app (that auto-detects your location and gives hour-by-hour forecasts, moving radar images, and pictures from nearby cameras), talking to someone on Skype is more fun than on a computer (too bad there’s no webcam), Shazam listens to songs playing on the radio and identifies them, and NetNewsWire lets me read my blogs and RSS feeds on-the-go. And my wife will no doubt be well entertained on her next flight.

On the down side, the iPad’s 24-ounce (1.5-pound) weight becomes quickly apparent when holding it–it really needs to be rested on a knee or lap, which can necessitate a hunching posture. It gets even heavier when you add a sturdy case, a necessity for something so expensive, slick, and fragile.

Of special interest to me is the question: How good is the iPad as an e-reader? And the answer is a pretty good one, but with some important caveats. First of all, I find it better for shorter reading (under an hour), as the backlit LCD screen is simply not as easy on the eyes as e-Ink displays or actual paper. And the weight is quite noticeable when reading, especially compared to my Kindle 2. However, color covers look gorgeous, and the iBook reading app is very well done. The iBook app mimics the look and feel of a book, especially when turned sideways to display 2 pages at once. It is simple to purchase books, arrange them on your bookshelf, open them, change font sizes, look words up in the dictionary, and turn pages. One note: while the cool-looking page turns (you swipe your finger and the slightly see-through page will follow the movement of your finger) are fun to play with at first, I very quickly desired the Kindle’s one-handed button press for page turns, which I’m glad to say you can do by tapping your thumb in the iBook app. It’s funny: people talk about e-readers mimicking books, but I already find turning pages too “cumbersome” now that I’m used to one-handed operation!

As for where to buy books: while the iBook Store is not as well-organized as Amazon’s, and doesn’t have as many titles (30,000 to almost 500,000), this ironically becomes an iPad advantage because you can use the iBook store and/or read Amazon books through Amazon’s Kindle for iPad app, which is also excellent.

As for the inevitable comparison to the Kindle 2, I’ll go point-by-point, roughly in order of importance to me (iPad advantages in bold, K2 advantages in italics):

  1. The iPad’s backlit LCD is like a computer monitor, not as easy on the eyes for long reading as the K2’s e-Ink or paper.
  2. Reading is very simple and intuitive–I’d rate this one as a tie with the K2, both are excellent.
  3. Weight (24 ounces) makes the Kindle (only 10 ounces) feel like a feather.
  4. The iPad’s $499 starting price is almost double the K2 ($259).
  5. The K2’s 2-week battery life is in another league than the iPad’s 10-12 hours.
  6. The iPad’s color screen makes covers and your “bookshelf” look great.
  7. Although I’ve become used to the Kindle’s “locations,” the iPad’s page count (and # of pages left in a chapter) is more intuitive.
  8. The current Wi-Fi iPads lack the K2’s free 3G wireless coverage. The forthcoming 3G iPad will cost at least $629 + $30 per month.
  9. The iPad starts with 16 GB of storage, while the K2 only has 2 GB. But both are plenty for thousands of books (the iPad will undoubtedly get filled with other stuff).
  10. You can attach the K2 to your computer via USB and drag-and-drop e-books into it. The iPad requires fussing with iTunes, which is a huge hassle when trying to connect to computers other than your own.
  11. Being able to purchase books from Amazon or the iBook Store may give you more options; however, most books should be the same price in either place.

In summary, it all comes down to what you’re looking for, and how serious a “reader” you are. It’s clear to me that the Kindle 2 is a superior e-reader. It’s much lighter, the e-Ink display is better for long reading sessions, it costs a fraction of the price, and the battery lasts forever. But the iPad makes a fine device to do a little light reading with from time to time. And, of course, the iPad plays games and movies and all sorts of legitimately cool stuff. But those cool things actually become a distraction as your “book” starts beeping and pinging at you when you get an email or Facebook update–the Kindle doesn’t do that. And, if you’re settled on the couch trying to escape into a good book, the lack of distraction can actually be a good thing.

UPDATE: No wonder we had been staying up later — according to researchers, using the iPad late at night disrupts your ability to fall asleep. (Luckily, e-Ink displays like the Kindle’s are safe.)

Apr 052010
 

Kindle on the iPad

I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of nice mentions of my novels around the web today:

• Mark Coker, founder of the wonderful author service Smashwords, posted about Right Ascension as one of the first Smashwords books available on the iPad.

• Over at True/Slant, Roger Theriault gave his thoughts about the new iPad, and reading on it compared to his Kindle. He also expressed chagrin at some of the high prices traditional publishers are demanding for e-books. He said:

Publishers want readers to pay more – but the alternative is the library or a used bookstore. Or independent authors…

David Derrico’s sci-fi novels Right Ascension and Declination are both $0.99 in e-book format from Amazon or Apple. I’ve read the first and I’m working on the second novel. Both are excellent alternatives to expensive e-books. There are many self-published authors in various genres, both fiction and non-fiction, with affordable and highly readable e-books. I think established publishers are sinking their own ships (and their authors as well) with their pricing strategies.

Thanks for the mention, Roger, I’m glad you’re enjoying them!

Apr 042010
 

You need something to read on your new toy, right?Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and we somewhat spontaneously decided on her birthday present the night before: an iPad. We hadn’t pre-ordered, so we stayed up all night and went to stand in line at the Apple Store at 6:30 AM. All went well, and we came home with a new iPad (Wi-Fi model) yesterday.

Many have touted the iPad as a “Kindle-killer” and the next big thing in e-book reading. Others say it’s just a big, overpriced Apple iPhone / iPod Touch. Others consider it aimed at a totally different market than the Kindle. So, my early thoughts (after only using it for a day):

So far, I like it more than I thought I would. It’s a good size for web browsing, pics, and stuff. And gaming on it is really fun (we did not have an iPhone or iPod Touch before). Now, we didn’t leave the house yesterday, so the size and weight and lack of 3G connectivity has not been an issue. And it’s still new and “cool” … will we still use it as much in a few months?

One big reason I like it is because the battery is impressive. Reviews said it gets 11-12 hours of movie watching, and with heavy use yesterday it lasted all day, probably 12 hours or so before we recharged it. That’s very good — although not Kindle territory.

As for reading books, I poked around on the Apple iBook Store (and was pleased to see Right Ascension and Declination show up on there, for just 99 cents each, on the day of launch!). I haven’t tried reading on it for any length of time (I’ve mostly been setting it up, downloading apps, and playing games). The bigger screen is nice, and a good battery is a plus, and the navigation seems simple (like the Kindle). Things like page turns, going to your library and picking a book, dictionary lookups, and changing font sizes are all easy and intuitive. On the minus side, it’s heavier than a Kindle and 12 hour battery life is a far cry from 2-week battery life. Also, there is no text-to-speech, as there is on the Kindle. And I still think it will be much easier to read on the Kindle’s e-Ink display.

Also, to compare apples to Apples (as it were, capitalization intentional), you’d have to compare the Kindle 2 (at $259) with an iPad 3G with wireless built in ($629 + $720 for 2 years of service = $1,349). So it’s really not in the same ballpark as a reader. Yes, you may be able to find other uses to justify the price differential, but I don’t really see them as direct competitors, even though the media is obsessed with the comparison.

Now, will people read on the iPad? That remains to be seen. I don’t really think so, although even a small percentage if there are tons of iPads out there could add up to something. I still think real readers will get a K2. I will say one downside for independent authors: Amazon is great at helping people find stuff with their “people who bought this also bought,” their genre best-seller lists, etc. But on the iPad, unless you’re one of their 5 or 10 “featured” big-name books, you gotta search for what you want. So, I wouldn’t expect nearly as many sales through the iPad as Amazon, since no one can “stumble upon” me … they need to be looking specifically.

Anyway, those are my early thoughts. I’m gonna take it down to my family’s place for Easter dinner tonight and see how it works on-the-go. I’ll use it for a while longer and try reading a whole book on it and give you my further thoughts in a week or so.

What do you think? Is the iPad a “Kindle-killer”? An overpriced, but fun, diversion? A laptop replacement? The future of all things? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts….

E-Books: Gutenberg, You Had a Good Run

 Posted by at 11:14 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Apr 012010
 

Recently, I was shocked to receive a Kindle from a good friend for my birthday. This amazing device has impacted my life in multiple ways. First, I very quickly became an e-book reading convert: the reading experience on a Kindle is, IMO, superior to that of a printed book. Some of the advantages:

  • e-books are generally less expensive than printed books (they should be, since they cost nothing to print, ship, or store)
  • portability and convenience: I can download books instantly, wirelessly, and carry thousands around anywhere
  • the built-in dictionary is invaluable; I would miss the ability to look up or double-check words with a flick of my finger
  • I actually find it easier and more natural to hold the Kindle (which is lighter than a hardcover) and turn pages with one hand
  • I enjoy being able to set the font size to something more comfortable for my eyes

There are other advantages, but those are the main ones for me. After using the Kindle for a while, I do not at all miss the “feel” or “smell” of paper books. And I can see how a wide variety of people, once they give e-books a chance, will come to depend on these features. Not to mention that, in the next few years, I expect e-book readers to offer:

  • color screens that play video
  • perhaps flexible or foldable screens that are unbreakable and allow for larger screens that can fit into a pocket
  • even lighter weight and more memory
  • greater selection of e-books (essentially every book in or out of print)
  • improvements in text-to-speech
  • much easier lending capabilities: email a title to your friend to borrow, and it automatically reappears on your device in 2-4 weeks

I expect more and more people will fall in love with e-book reading. I spend a lot of time on e-book reader forums, and lots of people already love their e-book readers. Love. Most of them say they will never go back to printed books, and that they are reading more than ever before. Not to mention that the last of the paper book converts will die off and the newer generations will consume everything electronically.

e-book sales chart

Go, baby, go.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that the e-book market has tripled in 2009, after doubling in 2008. Or that it is on pace to double or triple again this year. Or that Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, sold more e-books than printed books last Christmas. E-books made up 3.31% of all book sales in 2009, and that number will likely increase to 6-10% this year. By 2015 or 2020, what will that percentage look like? 25%? 50%? 75%?

What does this mean for printed books, and the future of publishing? I’ll get more into that in my next post. But I fully expect the acceleration of e-book sales to continue. The reading experience is just too good, and they just make too much sense not to.

#1 Amazon Best-Seller!

 Posted by at 1:51 PM  Tagged with: , , , ,
Mar 272010
 

#1. Wow.

I am very excited to announce that Right Ascension has recently topped the charts as the #1 best-seller in Amazon’s Kindle Store “Technothriller” category.

The sequel, Declination, is also selling better and better, so I am gratified to see that people are enjoying my first novel enough to purchase and read the second one.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has read, bought, enjoyed, reviewed, or told a friend about my novels. None of this would be possible without you. Thank you!

– David

Jan 152010
 

As a new Kindle 2 owner, the first thing I did was research and pick out a case to protect it. About a week ago, I decided to try out the M-Edge Platform case and have used it since then. This case flips open from the top, and can be opened to serve as a platform to prop up your Kindle on a table for hands-free reading. I decided on it because (a) I wanted something that was rigid (as opposed to padded) to protect the screen, (b) I wanted something small and light, (c) I wanted enough room for a pen and small notepad, and (d) I like the hands-free reading idea. Oh, and I didn’t want to pay too much. I have to say the M-Edge Platform ($29.99) delivered what I was looking for.

First, a couple of pics from Amazon:

The case is essentially two rigid flaps hinged together at the top. When closed, a tab is slid into a hole to secure it. The tab takes a few seconds to insert or extract, but it closes the case securely and doesn’t seem like it would wear out like an elastic closure might. When you open the case, the top flap can be hinged backward and the tab can be inserted “in reverse” to create an A-shaped stand. This will hold your Kindle upright for hands-free reading (well, you still need to hit the next page button!). When opened and pressed flat, it doesn’t add too much thickness to the Kindle, so you can still hold it and read easily in the case, and you can reach the next page buttons on either side. I also appreciate that it doesn’t weigh too much, and I leave my Kindle in the case for reading.

The Kindle attaches with two leather (I elected the cheaper imitation leather model, but I am pleased with the feel of it) corner attachments at the bottom corners and two elastic attachments at the top. From pictures, I feared it wouldn’t hold the K2 securely, but it does, I have no worry of it slipping out. I don’t know if the elastic enclosures become less secure over time, however.

I also liked that there is a small pen loop at the top, and a business card pouch plus a thin pocket on the inside of the front cover. I like the idea of keeping a pen and small note pad to jot down writing ideas, but they add almost no bulk or thickness to the case. The inside covers are lined with a soft felt material.

There is also room along the left side of the K2 (and a pouch to slide the base into) designed to hold an M-Edge reading light (which I do not have). Some may not like that this causes the Kindle to be off-centered in the case, and it may be difficult for people with smaller hands to reach the left-side buttons, although I had no problems with it.

All in all, I have to say that the case exceeded my expectations, and I am actually a picky reviewer. The quality of the materials feels good (of course, it’s fake leather, but I’m fine with that… they do make a more expensive real leather version). It is about as thin and light as possible while still affording good protection, and it feels supple on the outside but there is a rigid core in the front and back covers that appears to protect the K2 well. The A-frame reading platform may come in handy, I’ve used it while eating lunch a couple of times, although I normally read with the case folded all the way back.

Essentially, the case did everything I hoped for it to do. Those of you who like to carry more than a pen, business card, note pad, and light with your Kindle (like if you want to bring the USB cord/power adapter or keys) may not like this device. And it does not fully enclose the Kindle, so it would not protect as well from dust or spills as the zippered cases. But, if your needs are like mine, I can heartily recommend this case and give it an A.

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Right Ascension in the Top 500!

 Posted by at 10:37 PM  Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 132010
 

I’d like to take a moment to sincerely thank my readers, who have helped propel Right Ascension and Declination to new heights. Right Ascension is now in the Top 5 in the “Adventure,” “War,” and “Technothrillers” sub-categories. It also rose into the Top 15 in the “Science Fiction” category, and up to #479 in the entire Kindle store!

Lowering the price to just 99 cents each has certainly allowed more people to find and hopefully enjoy my novels. Although I was hesitant to price the novels so low at first, I’m certainly glad that I did it.

To those of you buying and reading my novels, I would be eternally grateful if you could spare a few minutes to post a review on Amazon.com. Thoughtful reviews from readers can really help people decide if a book is right for them.

If you don’t have the time to write a review, perhaps you wouldn’t mind just helping to “tag” my novels with tags like “science fiction” and some of the other tags that show up about midway down the Amazon page for each book. It really helps!

Thanks again for your continuing support… and please feel free to let me know your thoughts on the novels or if there’s anything else on your mind!

– David

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