Browsing the archives for the kindle fire tag.
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We’re Giving Away a New Kindle Fire HD and 13 Engrossing eBooks

Luc's writing projects

I joined up with five other authors  (Judson Roberts, Ruth Nestvold, Del Law, William Hertling, and Annie Bellet) to start a contest that runs all this month. First prize is a brand spankin’ new Kindle Fire HD with 13 eBook novels and collections of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. There are also 10 second prizes of three eBooks from your choice of those 13.

You can enter the contest up to once each (so a total maximum of three entries) through Twitter, Facebook, and on our contest Web page by simply listing the three books that most interest you from the list. You can enter and get all the details here.

Contest books include my own Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories and my novel of Vermont backwoods magic, Family Skulls. Some of the other books are William Hertling’s two futuristic AI novels, Judson Roberts’ deeply researched and action-drive Viking trilogy, Del Law’s unique and engaging fantasy novel of humans and non-humans in overlapping worlds, Annie Bellet’s novel of crime in fantasy city called Pyrrh, and Ruth Nestvold’s Arthurian Romance-Adventure novels.

Winners will be announced on New Year’s Day, 2013. Enjoy, and good luck!


How Do I Preload Books onto a Kindle I’m Giving as a Gift?

eBooks and Publishing

I’m collaborating with a group of five other science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction authors on a contest that will give away a new Kindle Fire loaded with about a dozen great books. (More on that later, when the contest is ready to announce.) One of the questions we’re deciding on is how we want to give someone  a Kindle with books already on it.

This turns out to be kind of tricky. When someone receives a Kindle, they have to register it to an Amazon account. When this happens, according to Amazon, all previous content (whether purchased or manually loaded) is wiped from the device. This means that you can’t just order someone a Kindle and have it show up with the books you want on it, and it also means that if the person who’s getting the Kindle is going to register it, you can’t have it delivered to yourself, manually load up the books, and then give it to that person. This holds true regardless of whether you’re gifting a new or a used Kindle.

Fortunately, there are several workable approaches. Here are the ones I know of. Please note that in most cases, it’s helpful to indicate when ordering a new Kindle that it’s a gift so that it isn’t automatically registered to your account. With a used Kindle, the recipient just has to re-register, in most cases.

1. Amazon gift card
This is the least creative approach, but it’s also the easiest: just buy an Amazon gift card to go with the Kindle. This lets happy recipients choose and buy books on their own. It’s no good if you want to include specific books rather than just suggestions of what to buy, and it doesn’t help if you want to load books that don’t come from Amazon’s store (including, if you’re an author, your own–unless you want to pay Amazon to buy your own books, which considering you receive a 70% royalty in many cases might be a perfectly good option too).

2. Books delivered after the Kindle is registered
This one’s pretty easy as well. In addition to buying the Kindle for your gift recipient, you buy the books, but indicate that they’re gifts and specify who to. Once the new Kindle is registered, the recipient receives those gift books on the new Kindle. Again, this one’s no help if you’re not including books from Amazon itself.

3. Send files
Kindles read not only Amazon’s .AMZ files, but also other formats, including .MOBI and .PRC (general eBook formats that aren’t limited to Kindle books); .DOC and .RTF files from Microsoft Word and other word processors; text files; HTML files; graphics formats like .JPG, .GIF, .PNG and .BMP (not good for reading); and Adobe Acrobat .PDFs. (Regarding .PDFs, a warning: many are designed for 8.5″x11″ paper and have to be shrunk down to a painful and sometimes unreadable size to be shown on Kindle). Any of these non-Amazon file types can be sent or given to the new Kindle owner through e-mail, download, thumb drive, CD-ROM, file transfer, or any other means that you would normally use to send files.

Once received, the files will need to be transferred onto the Kindle, usually using the Kindle’s USB cable. (However, Kindle owners can also use my #4 option, below, to send books and documents to their own Kindles, providing they’ve “whitelisted” themselves as described.)

4. Email via
My favorite option for getting files onto a Kindle, because it doesn’t require plugging in a USB cable or even being physically present, is to use Amazon’s e-mail address. This is a free (no surprise there) e-mail address provided to every Kindle user by Amazon, and it delivers files and eBooks via a wireless connection. There’s also a address that works over 3G for 3G-capable Kindles as well as over wireless, but documents sent that way are sometimes subject to a small charge to the recipient, so I always stick with the free version.

The one limitation of this approach, which is a sensible one, is that the Kindle owner must pre-approve (“whitelist”) the sending e-mail address before anything can be received this way. All this does is approve the e-mail account being entered to send documents or books to the Kindle, so unless you’re worried about the sender sending a bunch of things you don’t want, there’s no real danger to it. Approved e-mail addresses can also be deleted at any time.

To whitelist a sender, the recipient needs to follow these steps after registering the new Kindle:

  1. Navigate to and log in if prompted
  2. Scroll down to near the bottom, where you’ll see a link that says “Add a new approved e-mail address.” Click this link
  3. In the dialog box that appears, enter the sender’s e-mail address.
  4. Click the “Add Address” button

Once this is done, the sender can forward books that will appear automatically on the recipient’s Kindle the next time it’s connected to a wireless network. Note that it takes a few minutes after starting and connecting to the wireless network for the Kindle to check for new items, find them, download them, and display them. Wireless connectivity has to be turned on through the Kindle settings for this to work, of course, but most users will already have it on.

Don’t send books or documents before the whitelisting is complete; they’ll just vanish into the void. Once this process is set up, though, it’s an easy way to get documents onto other people’s Kindles. This can be very handy not only for gift giving, but also for critique groups, work-related documents, sending articles for friends to read, etc. It’s one of my favorite underutilized Kindle features.

Of course, this approach doesn’t work for sending books purchased on Amazon; for that, try one of the earlier methods.

That’s all of the ways I can think of. Did I miss any?

Photo by sundaykofax


Why Amazon Studios Will Succeed, Part 2: Customers and Distribution

Society and culture

Last week I began talking a bit about Amazon Studios, Amazon’s 20-month-old initiative to find and produce new movie and series scripts. In that post I posted on the advantages and opportunities of crowdsourced material. Today’s post looks at the business advantages Amazon brings to bear.

Customer comprehension
In most of their efforts, judging by sales, Amazon seems to get where their customers are coming from and what they really want. They came to dominate the book market because they presented customers with the buying experience and advantages they wanted (huge selection, simple and effective searching, lower prices, affordable shipping). They became a sell-anything behemoth by applying the same principles they used to sell books to, well, practically everything.

Their original Kindle succeeded extravagantly; the Kindle Fire, a very different device, also took off, and among authors their eBook store is close to the only one that matters. It seems to me that Amazon’s principles here are to focus on wide selection, good search tools, and an affordable price point, and that formula has delivered for them again and again. I have no reason to believe they’ll do anything differently–or need to–as they start bringing out movies and series.

Well-suited distribution channels
We tend to think of series as things we watch on television and of movies as things we watch in movie theaters, but increasingly we’re watching these things on our computers, tablets, Rokus, and other devices.  Can Amazon get movies in theaters and series on TV channels? Absolutely. Much smaller and less well-funded production companies do it all the time. Will Amazon need to do this? Maybe not.

I don’t feel I can predict how much our viewing habits might migrate away from movie theaters and TV stations. After all, both of these industries have survived massive changes in the last few decades, and I don’t know that further changes will necessarily swamp the boat for either one. For instance, even though I’ll eventually be able to watch virtually any movie I want on DVD and/or through streaming, I still see movies in theaters sometimes because of the big screen experience, and because sometimes I want to see the film as soon as it’s released.

However, it’s clear that people are ready and willing to watch movies and series through streaming, and Amazon already has a successful streaming service that it could expand or build on in a number of ways. It’s also clear that streaming is getting more and more popular compared to other modes of watching, and while this upward trend may eventually plateau, it’s likely streaming is here to stay, at least until the next game-changing paradigm comes along.

Familiar with success
So unlike literally every other movie and TV studio in the world, Amazon has a massive, successful, existing distribution channel, not to mention their own device, the Kindle Fire, out in the world to stream to (along with many other non-Amazon viewing devices, of course). None of this is any guarantee of success, and there are any number of companies that have dropped the ball on opportunities that were just as promising–but Amazon isn’t just any company.

Compare them to Google, for instance, which often seems to be just trying anything that looks popular. “How about a virtual world (Google Lively)? No, I guess that didn’t work. Now let’s make something called Google Wave and see if anyone can fully understand it! Huh, I guess not that either. Well, let’s try to out-Facebook Facebook! Hmm, hard to tell whether that’s going to survive or not. Well, good thing some of our other core offerings, like search and maps, are so excellent, and that we drive the software behind some of the world’s best smartphones.”

Amazon, on the other hand, seems to succeed with virtually every major effort they undertake. I have every reason to think they’ll succeed in this one too, even though it’s as much of a stretch as the Kindle was–and maybe more of one. If anyone can make that stretch, it’s Amazon.

In my next Amazon Studios post, I’ll offer a look at the possibility’s from the writer’s point of view. Is Amazon Studios a golden opportunity, a one-way ticket to tooldom, or a little of both?

Photo by evadedave

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What Will Amazon’s New Kindle Format Mean for Writers (and Readers)?

eBooks and Publishing

A few days ago, Amazon announced their new Kindle 8 format, the format the Kindle Fire will use to show newer Amazon books. I’ve heard some questions arise about this–whether Kindle authors will have to re-convert books, whether the older Kindle devices will support the new format and what will happen if they don’t, etc. Fortunately, digging into Amazon’s information the new format answers these questions clearly. Here are the implications for Kindle authors and some answers for readers who use the Kindle.

You won’t have to convert your existing Kindle books
The Kindle Fire and other devices and apps that support the Kindle 8 format will continue to support older Kindle formats. If you have existing books available for Kindle, the only disadvantage they’ll have if you don’t do a Kindle 8 version is not taking advantage of the new Kindle 8 features, which most non-graphic-intensive books won’t have a use for. If you have complex layouts, lots of graphics, etc., you probably will want to come out with a new, improved version.

Apps and new Kindle devices will support Kindle 8; old Kindle devices won’t
The newest generation of Kindles–the Kindle Fire, the touchscreen Kindles, and the latest keyboard Kindle–will soon support the new format. So will Kindle reader apps for iPhone, Windows, the Web, etc. Older Kindles won’t.

Older Kindles downloading newer books will just get a Kindle 7 version
Amazon is rolling out new software for formatting and previewing Kindle books, KindleGen 2 and Kindle Previewer 2. This software will automatically generate both an older Kindle 7 version of the book and a newer Kindle 8 version. If you’re reading on a device or app that supports the Kindle 8 format, you’ll get that, including any enhanced content that may be included. If you’re reading on an older Kindle–that is, any Kindle device bought previous to the launch of the Kindle Fire generation–you’ll get the older format. Kindle Previewer 2 allows viewing how the book will look on various devices, so you’ll have ample opportunity to test and tweak the appearance of your book. The only real drawback to using an older Kindle device is that there will be some content in graphics-intensive eBooks that won’t translate well to the older, more limited format.

Newer Kindle devices and apps will support the old format
Just to be clear, nothing has to change about existing Kindle books for the newer devices to read them: Kindle 7 is just another format they support.

The new format will no longer be straight Mobi
Prior to Kindle 8, the only difference between Amazon’s Kindle format and the industry standard Mobi format was Amazon’s DRM, “digital rights management” encoding that helped prevent unauthorized copying of Amazon books. For books that don’t have DRM, the current Kindle 7 format is identical to Mobi, and in fact you can take a non-DRM-protected Kindle book off a Kindle, change the extension (the last part of the file name) from .azw to .mobi, and read it on any Mobi-compatible device. With Kindle 8, it appears this will end. Amazon appears to have decided that with the direction eBooks are going, Mobi alone is too restrictive. They do seem to be using other industry standard specifications, though, including HTML 5 (the newest, most dynamic, and most design-friendly format for Web pages, which is now supported by current browsers) and CSS (a way to specify text formatting and page layout that is also supported by current browsers).

Kindle 8 format books can have a lot more design to them
In Kindle 8 format, Kindle books can have colors, fonts, and complex layouts. Frankly, I’m not very enthusiastic about this for most books. For books where text and images need to be intermingled in a particular way or that require tables or vector graphics, it will be great. For the vast majority of books, it will be completely unnecessary, and unfortunately some of these books will be designed in a way that will make them harder to read. Oh well. Just please don’t be one of the people who takes a book that is just text and tries to pretty it up with special fonts and color. From my point of view, when I read, I want to be barely aware of the text so that I can focus on what’s being said. I’m willing to bet most readers have the same basic response to overfancified text.

Kindle 8 won’t support audio and video
Amazon’s information isn’t clear about this, but at least according to this gentleman, audio and video will not be included in this version of the Kindle format.  This surprises me, actually. It seems almost a no-brainer that the Kindle Fire should be able to read books with embedded audio and video–for instance, language courses that will pronounce words when you tap on them, or a book about the history of film with pertinent clips–not that any of that would work on my 3rd generation Kindle anyway. Oh well. Maybe in Kindle 9.

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Amazon Announces $200 Tablet, $80 Kindle, and Touchscreen Kindles

eBooks and Publishing

In just the past hour or so, Amazon announced the new Kindle Fire, a $200 Android-based tablet that prioritizes reading, music, and media; they also introduced new touchscreen Kindles and a new standard Kindle (with ads and with no keyboard; the version without ads goes for $109) for $79. Prices of existing Kindle models have also dropped substantially.

The tablet and touchscreen eReaders will be available November 21st, in time for the holidays, while the new standard Kindle is available immediately.

I would be very surprised if this didn’t mean a host of new eReader users and a rise in sales of Kindle eBooks that starts immediately and builds through Christmas and (if last year is any guide) beyond.

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