Tag Archives: Kindle

Got a new iPad 2. And my Kindle’s gettin’ dusty.

My husband got a great deal on an Apple iPad 2 for my birthday.  He used American Express points AND got a discount.  So it’s really not such a giant indulgence, even though I do have a Kindle.  And an iPhone.  And a MacBook. Or at least that’s what I tell myself!

But I will tell you, Amazon is fighting a losing battle.  I loved me some Kindle.  Super-great for storing dozens, even hundreds of books.  (Just like I can do on my iPad.)  I can shop online!  (Just like on my iPad.)  I can adjust the font size.  (Ditto.)

But the glare!  The glare!  That’s the big differentiator.  The Kindle’s more like the printed page, and it doesn’t have that pesky, eye-straining backlighting.  Except that I found the little thing that lets you adjust the brightness.  I have a Kindle app on my iPad, and I can use iBooks, too, as well as a nifty app called Newsstand.

So, while I’m not saying good-bye to the Kindle, it’s kind of like those leftovers in the fridge that you feel like you should get to, before they go bad.  And I had somebody ask me recently if I’d considered the Nook, and how did it stack up to the Kindle and to the iPad?

My answer:  who cares?  Why would I want to hitch my reading habit to a reader that’s hitched to Barnes and Noble?  Are Kobo users thrilled with their choice, now that Borders is defunct, I wonder.  I’ve seen the future, it’s the iPad, and it’s in my hand.

Greetings from Bouchercon!

I’m on a four-day literary extravaganza! Bouchercon is the annual fest for fans and writers of mystery, crime, thriller, suspense, and related subgenres (graphic novels, anyone?).  Mostly a fan event, numbers are not in for this year, but attendance in 2010 topped 1,600.

Although I know more writers than I did in the past, I’m still bowled over to be in the room with luminaries such as Val McDermid, Jan Burke, Parnell Hall, Jeremiah Healy, Charlaine Harris… the list goes on.  And on.

Yesterday began with a six a.m. pickup from my friend Addy, chauffeur and roommate extraordinaire.  (For which I am eternally grateful – she had to get up at 4:30 to make this happen!)  We drove to St. Louis, checked in to the super-lovely Renaissance Grand Hotel, and then walked over to the ever-so-opposite Holiday Inn Select, where Sisters in Crime was holding its pre-conference workshop for writers.  It’s the only event specifically for writers… so I was pumped to go.

The event was an incredible value for the $50 reg fee.  Speakers included:

  • David Wilk, CEO, Booktrix, on the state of publishing
  • Libby Fischer Hellmann, author (most recently, Set the Night on Fire, a standalone thriller), on comparing traditional and e-publishing
  • Cathy Pickens and Jim Huang (author and bookseller respectively) on getting your book into print
  • Marcia Talley and Ellen Hart, popular mystery authors with long backlists, on do-it-yourself publishing on Kindle

Most useful session for me?  Do-it-yourself publishing on Kindle.  Marcia and Ellen talked very knowledgeably about what to do, step by step.  For published authors with a backlist of out of print books, this means new life – and new money- with this new channel for introducing your fiction to new audiences.  (Get your rights back!)

Personally, I have a super-fun book that I have given up on pitching – it’s not a mystery.  I came away convinced that I can freshen this up (wrote it so many years ago that my popular references are sure to be dated), format it myself, get an ISBN number, get my ever-so-talented graphic designer husband to do me a cover, price it at $2.99 or $3.99, upload it to Amazon and let my employer know I’m about to retire. (Just kidding on that last one.)

The Sisters in Crime Event included a banquet with a very amusing after-dinner speech by author Meg Gardiner. Meg writes the Evan Delaney series about a Santa Barbara attorney and the Jo Beckett series about a forensic psychiatrist which were published worldwide, but not in the U.S., until Stephen King wrote an article about her books in Entertainment Weekly. Fourteen publishers called the next day.  I was drinking coffee and paper-and-penless during her speech, but I sent myself a series of emails so I could remember some key points.

Email #1:  Meg’s blog is called Lying for a Living.   She’s also on WordPress. Sister!

Email #2:  First published book was China Lake.  I bought it – and several others she authored – today in the Bouchercon book room because when she talked about China Lake, she commented that “a big, big story will expand your readership.”  Now I want to see a big, big story… I fear mine are tiny, itsy-bitsy stories…

Email #3:  “Left Behind in the E-book Rapture.”  Or at least that’s what my email was supposed to say, iPhone corrected it to “Left Behind in the Snook Rapture.” I love the phrase and the point she’s making – e-books are not going away. Not there?  It’s not too late.  And if you can focus on a big career, this is going to all come naturally.

So that’s it.  I have a giant list of cool blogs, websites, resources, and more… a bulging book bag full of new purchases and a Bouchercon tote bag full of books that I got FOR FREE repeat FOR FREE… several new friends and a few days to go.  More later.

E-Reader options laid out in Tribune – Update!

Bitten by the e-reader bug, but can’t make up your mind which option is best for you – especially now that the iPad is coming out?  Make haste to buy today’s Chicago Tribune, where the Trib has dedicated most of page 13 to giving you the details on the iPad, the Kindle (both versions), the Nook, and three versions of the Sony Reader.  Don’t try to find the article online – I already looked, it’s not there.


Information provided:  initial cost, size, display size, battery life, storage GB/MB, resolution, recurring costs, as well as who the option is best for.

Very compelling:  the iPad’s 9.7 in display size, the color screen, and 1024 X 762 resolution.  Downside to the iPad is the cost, the 1.5-1.6 lbs. weight, and recurring costs for access to the Internet.  The Tribune’s Amy Guth says the iPad is best for multimedia users, and that’s definitely true.  If you’re planning to use the iPad as a platform to read books, it’s like buying a Ducati when you need a Schwinn.  Still, it’s very sexy.  The Apple website says it’s the best way to experience the web, email, photos and video, and they make a great case.

Looking at the more vanilla options – Kindle(s), Nook, and Reader(s) – I breathe a sigh of relief to see that the Kindle 2 is the best choice for me.  Always good to see that you made the right decision!  The Kindle’s bottom line is “best for high-volume readers,” Barnes & Noble’s Nook is “best for social book lenders,” and the three Sony options are “best for news junkies,” “best for geek chic,” and “best for budget-minded casual readers.”  I appreciate the Kindle’s focus, it meets my needs.

One option that Ms. Guth missed is the iPhone.  I haven’t used it yet, but my techie husband found an app called Kindle for iPhone in the app store on his phone.  It’s free!  And it turns your tiny iPhone screen into an e-reader, you can purchase all Amazon Kindle titles to go to your iPhone.   The Kindle 2 was on his 2009 Christmas list, so now he can read on the Kindle while seated comfortably on our couch… and read the same book, synced to where he left off, while he’s sitting in the car waiting for me to get off the train or standing in line at the post office.  To me, the screen is just too small.

Happy shopping!

Time out from the Edgars, thanks to Amazon & the publishers

I’ve been on a roll lately, reading and blogging my picks for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar nominees for Best Novel.  At five of the six nominees read, I ran into a roadblock when the ever-so-accommodating Oak Park Public Library was not quite ready to lend me The Odds, by Kathleen George.  According to their online info, the book was in the “sorting system” and so even though I was #1 on the hold list, it was not going to be on the shelf when I went to the library to pick up my next trunkload of books.

Woe is me.  How can I start another book?  The Odds was it.  The next one.   Should I read magazines until it was ready?  Watch reality shows?  (Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is addictive, I don’t really want to start.)

My anxiety abated when it occurred to me that I could order The Odds on Amazon.com and have it delivered in moments, via Whispernet.  Plus the reviews for the book were stellar, so I wouldn’t mind owning it.  Heck, I’d probably read it over and over.

But the new price system on Amazon – augh!  $14.82 for the e-book.  That’s just 18 cents away from $15.00.  I could print out a Borders coupon, hie myself down to Harlem & Lake, and get a brand-new, pristine, hardback version for that much.

So – the publishing wars (where Macmillan and Amazon battled over pricing, and other publishing houses entered the fray) are pretty much over.  Amazon lost this battle.  And the publishers accomplished their goal… they made me think twice about the cost of an e-book compared to a hardback.  But what about the war?  Did they push me into printing out their coupon and buying the book?  Am I now sitting here, caressing the smooth book jacket, inhaling the tangy scent of freshly pressed pages?

Nope.   Amazon lost  and the publishers lost… because in a day or two, I’ll get my email that says “The following book is being held for you at the Main Branch of the Oak Park Public Library:  The Odds by Kathleen George.”  And I’ll go pick it up, read it, and get back on that lonely blogging road.

To those who are eagerly awaiting each blogging pearl on the Edgar necklace (how’s that for a convoluted metaphor), my apologies.

A literary Christmas morning

It’s Christmas and as usual there are DVDs, CDs, and books under the tree – even a Kindle.  (And the ubiquitous Borders gift cards, of course.)

For the older son: Stephen King‘s Under the Dome.  It was all I could do to keep him from buying it himself three days ago.  (He doesn’t get the “don’t buy anything until after Christmas” idea that was passed down to me from my parents!)

For the younger son (vocal performance major at Columbia College Chicago)- Performance Success:  Performing Your Best Under Pressure by Dr. Don Greene.

Arty progressive husband got Inside the Painter’s Studio from the Museum of Contemporary Art bookstore and Thom Hartmann’s book, Threshold.  Kindle-wise, he has loaded three Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly already on his device.

And I got Sue Grafton‘s U is for Undertow (I have owned everything from A is for Alibi on at one time or another, and the last few are arranged alphabetically on my bookshelves in hardcover).  Plus, PD James’ book, Talking About Detective Fiction, which is getting rave reviews and will help me motivate up for more writing!

I gifted a couple of books, too, including Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, which was the first book in a long time which made me say, “Wow, that was a good book,” when I closed the cover for the final time.  I read a copy from the library, so by purchasing the book and mailing it to my mom, I was both sharing the experience with her and making sure Ms. Moore got at least a little $$ for her work!   As Christmas morning is the time for gift-opening in the Branshaw family, I’m safe posting this because she’s already opened her present.

I also bought a really fun book (and one that I own personally) for my friend Nancy.  If you’ve seen the TLC Show, What Not to Wear, you’ve seen Clinton Kelly and Stacy London.  They co-wrote a book Dress Your Best which is just fabulous for helping you figure out your own fashion rules according to your body shape.  Read the book, and you will never again buy something that looks better on the hanger than on you.

Everyone has wandered off to delve into their various presents until lunchtime.  We’ll be continuing our “literary” theme this afternoon, when we head to Cinemark for the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are not exactly my mind’s eye vision of Holmes and Watson, but I’m betting they have the acting chops to convince me.  Happy Holidays!

Thumbs up for the Kindle

June 12th was my wedding anniversary, and my husband surprised me with a Kindle!   Available from Amazon.com, this second-generation device is amazing.  It comes well-packaged and attractively boxed, plugs into the wall to charge up, and has an extremely user-focused guide to getting started on the Kindle itself.  It is always connected to the Amazon store , which has over 300,000 titles available for download.  Downloading a book takes a minute or less!  It appears that books that are only available in hardback sell for $9.99 – I checked the price on Olive Kitteridge, which is now out on paperback, and it was less – about $8.50.  So, about the price of a movie.

I already had an Amazon account; all I needed to do was register my Kindle, connect it to my account, turn on one-click ordering.  I scanned the New York Times bestsellers available for download and chose Michael Connelly’s The Scarecrow for my first Kindle read.

I really like the feel of a nice book, tend to read very quickly and can scan and take in a sentence at a time, so I didn’t know whether I could take to the Kindle.  I wear reading glasses, so I set the text size on the Kindle at a larger size – no need for glasses!  But that means even fewer words on the page, and more frequent “page-turning.”

I found that within the first couple of chapters, “turning” the pages became completely automatic.  When you turn the pages of a book, you don’t think about doing so; you don’t even notice you are doing it. . . same on the Kindle.  And because there is a “next page” area under both the left and right thumb when you’re holding the Kindle two-handed, it’s always convenient.

I did notice that I paid more attention to the quality of the writing and the details of The Scarecrow– a book with a strong plot and interesting characters tends to pull me into digesting it in great gulps.   So in some ways, reading on the Kindle helped me enjoy the process of reading more.  It’s easy to put the Kindle to sleep, and when you wake it, it goes back to the page you were on (very convenient).  The battery lasts several days.

The Kindle has some features that I expect to get into more in the future – the ability to make notes, to upload your own documents, etc.  It’s very comfortable to hold, the type is opaque on the screen, and there is no glare.   From many years experience reading on a computer screen, I expected the Kindle screen to light up – it does not.  (So reading under the covers will still require your Little Bitty Booklight.)

The Kindle holds about 1,500 novel-size books, but Amazon knows that some readers will exceed that number.  So your purchases are permanently archived – you can choose the books you want on your Kindle and the rest will be stored for you – you can swap out as needed.  This is nice security in case your Kindle is ever lost, stolen, or damaged, too!   Business travel for me includes two trips of about a week – and I’m capable of reading five or more books during that time period, depending on my schedule.  Having all my reading material on the Kindle will make traveling much easier – on a recent trip to Miami, I actually abandoned three books because I had too much to carry home!  (Luckily they were used book store purchases.)

There is a downside: You can’t take the Kindle into the tub.  As someone who has been known to actually shower with a book, this is somewhat disappointing.  (Tutorial for those who wonder how it is done:  Hold a paperback book in your right hand away from the spray while you soap with the left hand, eyes fixed on the page.  Rinse while maintaining the book at a safe distance from the water.  When clean, be sure to switch book to your left hand so you can wash and rinse your right arm and hand.  Necessary page-turning is done very carefully, minimizing the contact between your damp hand and the page.)

The Kindle does not come with a cover or a case; there are many available.  I ordered a neoprene sleeve to keep the Kindle protected when I travel, rather than a notebook-cover type, as I very much like the feel of the “naked” Kindle in my hand when reading and did not want to add any bulk.  The sleeve fits well, is very lightweight, and will make carrying my Kindle with me a breeze.  It’s a delight when things are well-designed and work the way they’re supposed to.  The Kindle may not be as popular as the iPod, but it reminds me of it – something that is perfectly designed to do what it’s supposed to do.  Two thumbs up!