Five (Book-ish) Phone Apps I Use

After years of having a phone that took forever to start up, rebooted at random intervals, and required charging every few hours (okay, I exaggerate slightly, but not by much), I caved and got an all-singing all-dancing smartphone recently. I have now become one of those annoying people who whip out their phone whenever I’m waiting in a queue, waiting for the train, or really, waiting for anything.

One of the first things I did with my fancy phone was download all the apps.  And now I’ve gotten them configured to my satisfaction, I thought I’d talk about the reading/blogging-related ones I have.  (I’m totally going to lose my phone now, right?)

Note I’ve an Android phone, not an iPhone, so links here are to the Google Play store.  Also, they’re all free ones (at time of posting, anyway) – I’ve never felt the need to pay for an app (yet).

apps

Amazon Kindle

Kind of a no-brainer, seeing that I’m so hooked into the Amazon eco-system (don’t ask how many Kindles I have).  You need your Amazon account details to set this one up, and then it’s synced with your Kindle library.  And the Kindle app does what I expect it to do – it allows me to download any books I’ve purchased on Amazon or emailed to my Kindle.  Admittedly, I don’t need much from a phone reading app – just the ability to adjust the background (I find a sepia-ish tone easiest on my eyes), margins and font size.

Amazon Kindle for Samsung (link to Samsung website)

Why yes, I have a Samsung phone (and this one is only for Samsung phone owners).  And the reason why I have a Samsung-specific Kindle app?  Because it gives me a free book a month (from a selection of four).  It takes a bit of configuration (you need a Samsung account and an Amazon one, IIRC), but once you’re set up, it’s simple – I “buy” the free book from this app, and then can download the book from the cloud onto my Kindle Paperwhite (which is still my main ereader).  Functionality-wise, I don’t think there’s any difference between this one and the Kindle app – different skin, but that’s it as far as I can tell.

EverAfter

I can’t remember where I first saw this posted, but EverAfter Romance app offers various benefits, including a free book every now and then – I downloaded it a month or so ago, and have three free books so far (you have to use a code that they email you to redeem them).  As the name implies, it’s centred around romance books, so good if you’re a romance reader!  If you have a Adobe ID, you can use that as part of the installation process – I forgot mine, and so the app created a new one for me.  That may cause problems down the line, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it…

The range of books? I haven’t explored in detail, but it appears to have the same freebies as I see on Kindle, so probably down to which app you prefer.

Aldiko

I downloaded this to access the ebook collection at my local library.  I needed my Adobe ID (this time I managed to use my existing one) and my library logon credentials.  Once set up, it was really easy to browse my library’s catalogue and download books.  To be honest, I’m not noticing any difference between the reading experience on this app, EverAfter, and Kindle – it’s just that I’ve different ebooks accessible via each one.

Feedly

Not strictly a book-ish app, but I love Feedly.  I use this to catch up on blogs during my commute to and from work – it’s really user-friendly, and well, pretty!  I log on with my Google credentials, so really straightforward.  The Save for Later function is the one I use most often – either for posts that I want to go back and read in more detail or ones that I want to comment on (I need to figure out how to comment easily from my phone – Belle did a post on setting up phone shortcuts that I’ve been meaning to try).

So that’s me – tell me your must-have apps for your phone?  Preferably ones that are available on Android (I’ll get all envious if they’re iOS only) and they don’t have to be book-related!

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Bonus one for UK-based readers: WeBuyBooks.co.uk is a website that buys unwanted books (and computer games, DVDs etc).  They’ve an WeBuyBooks app that allows you to scan barcodes and immediately lets you know if they’re accepting the book, plus price.  I used it when I re-organised my bookshelves – slightly random acceptance criteria (they didn’t want a lot of my genre titles) and it didn’t exactly make me a fortune (the offer price for most paperbacks ranged from 5p-10p, with a surprising £2 for a M&B), but it helped me with the clearout of some books.

(And also, I played around with PicMonkey to make the button (banner?) above.  Tweaking the various elements is surprisingly addictive – I foresee many more wasted hours in my future.)

Free/Cheap Ebooks: An Update (Plus a Couple of Reviews)

reviewafreeebookA while back, I posted about my plan to run an irregular feature on free/cheap ebooks as a way of saying thanks to the authors/publishers for their promotional offers – a year on, I’ve posted a total of umm… one post.  Slow but steady, possibly. Or quality, not quantity.  Something along those lines.

A quick update on the original post where I covered sources for bargain-priced ebooks – the websites for the public domain books are still good, and I haven’t really ventured beyond them as I can pretty much source any PD books I want there (plus their ebooks are generally formatted beautifully):

As for newer releases, there are some changes:

Sadly, Fictionwise closed operations in December 2012 (though it feels like it was years ago now).  On a side note, while I did opt into transferring my books to a B&N Nook account, the ebooks never arrived in my new account – it wasn’t a real issue for me as I had all my ebooks saved locally, but the transfer debacle has not encouraged me to shop at the UK Nook store at all.

I rarely go to the Kindle forum nowadays – too many titles to wade through, but it’s probably still there if you have some time to kill.

Dear Author and the MobileRead forums are still excellent sources of deals – the latter also have dedicated monthly threads for romance, SFF, and mystery (amongst others), which is useful. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books also do daily deals – their posts are more romance-focused than DA’s (or that’s my impression anyway), there can be some overlap between SBTB and DA deals, and sometimes they have Australia/NZ-specific deals.

Also on MobileRead is a Kobo discount codes thread, which tracks current codes for Kobo – I always check there before making any Kobo purchases.  I’ve to say Kobo has come up trumps in the discount codes arena this year – there’s been a flood of 50% to 80% off codes over the past few months.  A couple of caveats – a lot of Kobo codes are one-time only, so use wisely (i.e. not on the $0.99 books!), and even with the discount, Kobo can prove to be more expensive than, say, Amazon (I’m not sure why that’s the case).

There are a couple of mailing lists I’ve joined – BookBub and Riffle Select specifically – that send you daily emails with free/cheap ebooks. They’re US-centric and I’ve not actually bought any books from them, but they’re out there if you’re interested.  I believe authors pay to be promoted on BookBub, but I’m not sure about the Riffle model.

But (obviously saving the best for the last) – my big find is eReaderIQ (I’ve linked to the Amazon UK site, but there is one for Amazon US and Canada too). Obviously, it’s a lot more useful if you have a Kindle, but would be applicable for any price drops mirrored across the different retailer sites.  Here’s what I use it for (and I’m not affiliated in them in any way, I just think it’s a great service!):

  • Tracking ebooks of the interested-but-not-entirely-sure-because-of-the-price variety – eReaderIQ sends you an email if the price drops for that book.  You can add a bookmarklet to your browser bar to make it even easier to add books to your tracker when you’re on the Amazon website (why yes, I’ve done that).
  • Tracking all ebooks for an author – again, eReaderIQ sends you an email if any of their books drop in price.  Useful if you’ve just discovered an author and want to explore his/her backlist without spending tons of money.
  • Checking the price history for ebooks – it lets you know if the publisher has a habit of dropping the price every now and again, so you don’t end up paying full price for a book that goes on sale the next weekend.
  • Browsing through recent freebies or price drops (I spent too much money on impulse buys due to the latter, so I’m trying to stop doing that!) – you can choose the genres you’re interested in and maximum price to limit the number of books shown.

Have I missed any free/cheap ebook sources that you use?

Note: Most of the sites I’ve linked to above use affiliate links (i.e. they get a % of your purchase (the price you pay stays the same) for any purchases you make at the relevant retailer while the link is active) except for MobileRead, who are pretty vigilant about no affiliate links unless explicitly stated.  I don’t mind using the affiliate links as I appreciate the time/effort in curating the deals, but YMMV.  You can remove the affiliate tags before clicking through if you prefer (or clear your browser cache).

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And a couple of quick reviews for recent freebies (cross-posted from Goodreads, additional comments in italics):

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The Girl With the Cat Tattoo (Cool Cat Trilogy, #1)The Girl With the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir (contemporary romance)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a freebie with good reviews – I obviously had to give it a go. For a story narrated from a cat’s POV, this avoided the cute-sy trap and turned out to have more emotional punch (and plot) than I expected. And I loved the ending.

I kept on seeing this reviewed on various sites, and while it isn’t a re-read for me, I’m certainly interested in checking out more of Weir’s backlist.

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Shadow Unit 1Shadow Unit 1 by Emma Bull (UF)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kindle freebie on Amazon, IIRC. Each contribution is written like a TV episode (which I believe is the intention – more at www.shadowunit.org), and I found it easy to dip in and out. I connected the most with Will Shetterly’s and Sarah Monette’s contributions – would be open to reading more in this universe.

I believe all stories are free at the Shadow Unit website (there’s also a Paypal Donate button there).  I already knew I loved Sarah Monette’s writing (new book out next year under a pseudonym – I’m excited!), but I’ve to check out Will Shetterly’s writing now.  Emma Bull and Elizabeth Bear were the other two contributors in this one.

Quick Links

Manga CoverI’ve never quite got the hang of reading manga (or any kind of graphic novel, come to that), but this Harlequin post about how they translate their HQNs into manga form fascinated me, especially the comments from the artists themselves.  The article features novels by Gena Showalter and Lynne Graham – the latter’s OTT romances used to be my guilty pleasure and I’m quite tempted to order the manga version of THE DESERT SHEIKH’S CAPTIVE WIFE now.

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Library Journal published their Best Ebook Romances list for 2013. I normally feel a bit out of step with the various “Best of” lists (and can’t believe it’s that time of the year already!), but I quite liked this list, possibly because of the ebook focus. I’m not sure what the differences in criteria were for this v. the LJ Best Romances list – possibly digital-only releases?

I’ve read the first Lindsay Buroker, and certainly plan on continuing the series at some point, and I’ve always wanted to read Zoë Archer.  Plus the Jeanette Grey NA book sounds interesting, as does the Jane Kindred fantasy romance (primarily due to the Jacqueline Carey Kushiel comparison).  I know that there are many Ruthie Knox fans out there (I’ve only read her BIG BOY novella, which I did like and plan on checking out her other books), and I’ve the Mary Ann Rivers novella in my e-TBR after the entire romance blogosphere (or what felt like it) went crazy for THE STORY GUY earlier this year.

So basically – I want to read all the books on the Best Ebook Romances list (well, most of it, I read my first Jessica Scott some time back and wasn’t blown away), while the books on the Best Romances list don’t tempt me at all.  To be fair, there is also a lot of historical romance on the latter, and I’ve not been reading much of that this year.

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World Fantasy Con 2013 was held in Brighton this year, and while there appears to be a bit of post-con fallout around anti-harassment fail on the part of the organisers, I did like this post @ The Writer’s Greenhouse detailing the unfortunately-titled panel “Broads with Swords” (uh, can’t believe I actually typed that out on my blog), which was thankfully subverted by the panelists. Apart from notes about the panel discussion, the post includes a list of women authors writing martial fantasy recommended by the panel and their audience – it’s a great list, IMO, probably because I totally agree with the recs for the authors I recognised (Kate Elliott, Martha Wells, Lois McMaster Bujold, to name but a few…) and have made mental notes to check out the rest!

Shorts & E-Publishing

I drafted this post a couple of months ago, and then promptly forgot about it.  I stumbled upon it earlier this month, but figured it was slightly out-of-date as both the serials I talk about have finished.  And then John Scalzi posted today that the two extra short stories in the hardcover of THE HUMAN DIVISION was now available for free on Tor.com, which kind of makes this post relevant again.

So with some minor edits, here are my thoughts on serials – or rather, e-publishing experiments, because that’s what they really are – and some updates below on my current position now that both the John Scalzi and Eloisa James serials have been completed.

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I’m a sucker for short stories and anthologies.  The number of themed anthologies I have is well into double digits (I blame the editors for coming up with amazing ideas and tossing in a few must-read contributors – they know me so well), and yet, the “theme-iness” of anthologies sometimes doesn’t work for me. I’m still halfway through Jonathan Strachan’s UNDER MY HAT anthology because I can’t read too many witch stories at one go without thinking “oh no, not another witch”.

With the advent of e-publishing, it gets a lot easier to release single short stories, but yet I don’t find myself hitting that Buy button for very many standalone shorts.  I’ve been pondering the reasons, and here are some rather rambly thoughts on what short stories work for me, pricing, and whether the serial format would work in any other genre.

15698479On the first, you may have seen some of my mentions of John Scalzi‘s THE HUMAN DIVISION serialisation – we’re now up to week 7 (update: the last episode was released April 9) and I’m still eagerly turning on my Kindle every Tuesday evening to get the latest episode.  Reasons why this set of shorts is working well (and specifically) for me:

  • Each episode is self-contained enough for me to feel entertained and satisfied when I turn off my Kindle.  There aren’t any cliffhangers – sure, there are points to speculate about in each episode, but there is no “To Be Continued…” kind of ending.   
  • The weekly gap between episodes feels right.  I’ll caveat that by saying this may be due to the fact I’m not invested enough in the overall story or characters to the extent that I feel I *must* know what happens next. I do like the recurring characters, especially Harry Wilson and Hart Schmidt, but I don’t feel short-changed if they don’t show up in an episode.
  • The time commitment works.  They’re not ultra-short stories (though the length varies), but I know I don’t have to find a spare hour in my day to finish the story.  
  • Most importantly, the price feels right – £0.63 (or £0.64 for the latter ones (I’ve no idea why the 1p increase but I’m guessing the exchange rate, boo). 

Which brings me to the price point question. The good old “coffee v an ebook” price debate made its rounds a couple of months ago, but we won’t go into that.  I think the not-very-helpful answer is that the “right” price point for me as a reader is the point at which I feel I get value for money, which in turn is tied to how much enjoyment I get out from the story (and I have some thoughts on that and recent self-pubbed releases by auto-buy authors… but that would be another post).  That’s a rather vague answer – talking specifics, why am I happy to pay £0.63 for each Scalzi episode?

I can’t help comparing the price of a short story to that of an anthology – take John Joseph Adams’ THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION anthology for example.  It retails on Amazon UK for £7.20 and has 22 short stories in it – I make that 33p each.  Jonathan Strachan’s UNDER MY HAT, which I mentioned above, is £7 for 18 stories, so again approximately 38p each.  So each story is half the price of the Scalzi series, but on the other hand, I know I’ll have hits and misses with an anthology. I’m not going to love every story in this book; heck, I may not even like any of them.

With the Scalzi shorts, I know I like his writing and he’s been consistent.  For 13 episodes, I’m paying around £8.30* – that’s more expensive than a mass-market paperback, but probably what I would pay for a hardcover (including discounts).  And THE HUMAN DIVISION is being released as a hardcover at the end of the serial run, so I don’t feel short-changed, even for the shorter episodes.  If it was £0.99 an episode, I think I would hesitate because of cost – that’s 3x the cost of a short story in an anthology.

The other point I was thinking about was if an SF serial works for me, would it would work for another genre, such as romance? 

17660428I find it hard to imagine a romance novel published serially in such a way that would leave me feeling satisfied after each installment, yet with a HEA that I would believe in.   I did notice Eloisa James is doing an online serial for her new novella(?) WITH THIS KISS – it looks as though it’s £0.99 for each installment (three in total) or £4.49 for the entire book AS YOU WISH, which will also include a previously-published e-short.  I’m hesitating – partly because I’m not sure if the length will be right for £0.99, but also because I’m thinking cliffhanger-type endings based on the descriptions.  I’m looking forward to seeing how successful it is, though.

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Update 28 May:

  • I still haven’t bought Eloisa James’ serialised story, and that’s really due to pricing.  As much as I love her writing,  I’m balking at the price for three short stories, which (based on Goodreads reviews) aren’t complete stories in themselves – it sounds like one story split into three, which is slightly different to the Scalzi serialisation. I’m not saying never – I may feel like an EJ fix one day, and decide to splash out on it, but it’d be a special occasion kind of purchase.
  • I finished THE HUMAN DIVISION and liked it well enough (I rated the majority of the shorts 3 stars on GRs, with a couple of 4s, IIRC) – would I buy the second “season”?  It’s interesting, because I don’t think I would have bought the hardcover of THD (John Scalzi’s more of a wait-for-the-paperback-release kind of author for me), but that’s essentially what I ended up doing by signing up to the serialised version.  I probably would buy the next serialisation, just because I thought it was good value for money.  However, I would have answered differently if you had asked me the same question back in April – see next (and final) point.  
  • I was annoyed when it was announced that the hardback version of THE HUMAN DIVISION would have exclusive extras not available to the purchasers of the online serial, but held my peace.  Obviously I didn’t feel strongly enough about THD to blog about it, though I have posted previously about my feelings when “extras” are only available in either hardcover or mass market paperback (hint: it really annoys me).  However, the fact that Tor is now offering the additional shorts for free a couple of months after the hardcover release makes me a lot happier – I would have voted with my cash otherwise (as I’ve done when publishers have offered exclusive content specific to certain formats) and not bought the sequel.

So, your thoughts – do serialised releases work for you or not?  Did you buy either (or both) of the John Scalzi or Eloisa James serials?  

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*One could also argue we get 13 pieces of cover art for the serialised version. Or that editing 20 short stories written by 20 different authors is more overhead than editing 20 short stories by a single author. I don’t know.

One SF, One (Almost) Fantasy

reviewafreeebookI posted a while back about my plan to start talking about free (or bargain-priced) ebooks.  And then that kind of fell by the wayside, as many of my grand(-ish) blogging plans do.  But new year, new start, so here are a couple.

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16180352Firstly, you may have heard about John Scalzi‘s THE HUMAN DIVISION, which is a serialised novel being released in 13 parts on a weekly basis from around now onwards. Once all installments have been released, it’ll also go on sale as a single book (both hardcover and e), but at a price point comparable to buying each individual short.  I like John Scalzi’s writing – I’ve read his debut novel, OLD MAN’S WAR, and its immediate sequel, and I have ZOE’S TALE sitting in my TBR pile somewhere.  He writes accessible and entertaining SF – and while that may sound like damning with faint praise, it’s not.  It may not be ground-breaking SF, but it’s good storytelling of the sort that keeps you turning the pages.  And I like his blog – which counts for quite a bit too!

So I pre-ordered the first installment, THE B-TEAM – my thinking being that if I liked the story, I would order the next in the series.  If not, well, £0.63 (or $0.99, I believe) wasn’t going to break the bank.  And then last week, I had an email come through from Tor – apparently, I had signed up on some sort of mailing list, and as a result, I got a free copy of THE B-TEAM a week in advance of the on-sale date.  Win.

And I really enjoyed THE B-TEAM.  I liked that it was a standalone short with quite a bit of story packed in (Scalzi does note that it is one of the longer stories in this serial). I also liked that I was caught somewhat off-guard after the first chapter – I thought the story was going to go one direction, but it ended up going down another route, and that certainly caught my attention.  I didn’t find the setting confusing, though having said that, it is set in the OMW universe, so I do have the benefit of having read previous books set in the same world.  All in all, it’s a great introduction to a bigger story and I’m looking forward to following the characters on their next adventure (or at least, I’m assuming it’s the same cast of characters), and if you’re in the mood for some SF, I’d certainly suggest you give the first story a go.

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462421Hilcia @ Impressions of an Reader is taking part in the 2013 Science Fiction Experience and she’s been reviewing a few Andre Nortons.  While I’ve read a few Nortons, they’ve not been a big part of my SFF reading past.  So inspired by Hils, I “dusted off” an Andre Norton that was in my e-TBR – THE PRINCE COMMANDS was offered as a freebie a while back and so I had it sitting on my Kindle.

So first off, this is not an SF.  In fact, it barely qualifies as a fantasy – the only fantastical element being the setting, it being one of those made-up Eastern European kingdoms.  I did some research (i.e. Googling) when I finished the novel, and it turns out that this is actually Andre Norton’s first book.  I know – fail on the SFF history front.

Anyway, once I figured out what I was getting into, this turned out to be a very fun, very Ruritanian adventure.  Michael Karl, the young protagonist, finds out that he is the heir to the kingdom of Morvania, and reluctantly sets out to be crowned king.  But it’s obviously not going to be smooth sailing, and well, hi-jinks ensue with escapes and near-escapes, conspiracies, hidden identities, secret passages, passwords… It has some unexpectedly touching moments, and ended up being slightly more than just a straightforward adventure.

While I enjoyed the story, something struck me as being slightly off, and it was only after I finished reading THE PRINCE COMMANDS that I pinpointed what was missing.  And it was that there was no women or POC playing any significant parts in this novel – from memory, the only female character with a couple of cameos played a vaguely mother-ish capacity.  This made me realise how far we have come in around eight decades (THE PRINCE COMMANDS was published in 1934), and the diversity that I tend to take for granted in the YA fantasy books on the market nowadays.  So yes, this book came with an unexpected social history realisation.

My Latest Toy (and Other Links)

I got a Kindle Paperwhite!

I was going to wait on a new ereader until the Nook made an appearance in the UK, especially as I wasn’t that keen on the Kindle Fire.  But when Amazon announced that they were also launching the Paperwhite this month, I couldn’t resist.  I was pretty happy with my Kindle, but the screen contrast meant that I struggled to use it in not-so-well-lit conditions, and the Paperwhite with its improved display sounded like an ideal option.  Of course, after I placed my order, I checked the online forums and found some complaints on the screen quality…

Fast-forward a couple of weeks or so, and the Amazon package arrived on my doorstep.  The excitement!  Quick thoughts:

  • I’ve no issues with the screen – the display is definitely an improvement over the previous version.  Some people have reported a degradation over time, so that may change, but for now, I’m really happy.
  • I’m having some minor issues adjusting to the touch screen – I’m more used to pressing a button to change pages instead of tapping or swiping.  I wish there was an option to switch the tap zones around (I think that’s what you call them?).  Also, there’s no quick way to skip to the next chapter apart from going via the menu (unless I haven’t found that feature yet).
  • It helps having had a Kindle before, because I found it pretty easy to navigate and figure out how to do things.
  • I don’t think it’s significantly heavier than the previous version, but I find it a bit more difficult to hold in one hand (I think it’s to do with the taps/swipes than the actual weight actually).
  • I still need to figure out how I’m going to transfer all my old books and collections across from my old Kindle (any tips, anyone?) – in the meantime, I’ve been downloading the ones I want to read from the Amazon cloud.

So initial verdict is a definite yes.  That may change once I see the Nook IRL…

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Possibly tied in to the new Kindle launches – Amazon UK is having an Autumn Book Harvest sale until Nov 7.  Probably only for UK readers, but there are some good bargains.  I snapped up e-versions of the first four Amelia Peabody books for £1.19 (for the set!).  Other bargains that caught my eye (but I refrained from buying):

  • Nora RobertsTAMING NATASHA – £1.09 (Estara and I were just discussing the Stanislaskis family books the other day)
  • Ree Drummond‘s PIONEER WOMAN – £0.99 (I like the Pioneer Woman blog, so was tempted)
  • Jim Butcher‘s STORM FRONT – £1.99 (first in his Dresden Files series – not his best, IMO, but introduces the whole series)
  • HOME IMPROVEMENT edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner – £1.69 (UF anthology with contributors including Patricia Briggs – I borrowed this from the library as I was only interested in a couple of stories, IIRC, but it’s probably worth buying at that price)

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And a couple of links:

The Flood of Free Ebooks

I’ve been slightly alarmed at how the number of ebooks on my Kindle appears to be growing exponentially over time.  And because I swear I’ve been keeping to a book budget (ahem), the cause is probably the number of free (or bargain-priced) ebooks that are available nowadays.

Remember those days when freebies (especially if you were in a country outside the US) were a rarity?  That’s no longer the case – instead of grabbing every single free ebook on offer, I find myself being rather selective about the books I actually download.  But despite this new-found selectiveness, I still find my virtual TBR pile increasing by leaps and bounds.

It’s not just free ebooks though.  If it’s priced low enough, I have a bad habit of clicking that Buy Now button. My tipping point for impulse purchases (usually new-to-me indie authors) tends to be £1.50 or below.

Part of me is feeling slightly guilty that you know, I download all these freebies and never post about them* when I’m guessing the author/publisher views the promotion as, well, promotion spend.  So I’ve been pondering whether I should start a sporadic feature here where I actually Review a Free Ebook now and again (technically Review a Free (or Cheap) Ebook, I suppose).

And because I was bored (and this post lacked pictures), I made a little button**.

I thought the best way to kick this feature off was to share where I get my free*** and/or cheap ebooks.  So that your TBR piles can also spiral out of control.  You’re welcome.

Starting with the obvious – there’s always public domain books, i.e. books out of copyright, though be aware that copyright laws vary depending on where you live, and what may be legal in one country may not be in another. Project Gutenberg is probably the primary source for PD ebooks, but I like ManyBooks.net (who use the Project Gutenberg texts) because of their ebook formatting.  MobileRead is also a great source of beautifully-formatted ebooks. Public domain books I love:

  • DADDY-LONG-LEGS by Jean Webster: I have a soft spot for this charming epistolary-style novel about an orphan whose college education is made possible by a mysterious benefactor.  And I really liked her JUST PATTY and WHEN PATTY WENT TO COLLEGE books too.
  • Anything by LM Montgomery: Everyone’s heard of Anne of Green Gables, but I have a personal preference for LM Montgomery’s Emily trilogy (which doesn’t appear to be PD, alas). As much as I liked Anne-with-an-e, there is something about Emily Starr’s vivid imagination and quiet pride that spoke to me when I first read these books.

Not one for the classics?  There are various places where you can find new(er) releases on offer:

  • I’ve found some bargains (free or otherwise) via the Daily Deals posted by Dear Author.  I like that these are targeted towards the genres I read, and also the quick commentary offered on the books.
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  • Back at MobileRead, they also have a pretty active Deals, Freebies & Resources forum where people post offers (including audiobooks, if that’s your thing).  The posters also sometimes comment on the books in question, so you know they’re not duds.
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  • Willing to pay a bit more?  Fictionwise, which is mostly used by small publishers nowadays, has weekly codes that offer x% off their books and this can be pretty good deals – last week’s was 55% off and this week is 45%. The MobileRead forum tends to have the most recent code, else you can make a guess – it’s normally the date of the Friday (mmddyy American-style).  I like the fact that E-Reads and Belgrave House (author backlist re-releases generally) books are available there – I probably wouldn’t pay full list price for these books, but they’re worth it if there’s a good coupon code.
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  • The Amazon Kindle forums usually have a daily thread (or at least the Amazon UK website has) where people post free Kindle ebooks.  It’s a bit more of a slush pile and covers all genres, but worth flicking through if you’ve a spare few minutes.
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  • Mills & Boon has free ebooks on Everyone’s Reading – they refresh these periodically.  Needless to say, I recommend the Kelly Hunter that’s currently available – MISBEHAVING WITH THE MAGNATE (I know, ignore the title).

So those are my main sources for free/cheap ebooks – do you have others? What’s your e-TBR pile like – do you succumb to cheap ebooks too?

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*Though to be fair, (a) I don’t post that often and (b) there are some books that you really don’t need to know about.

**My very first attempt at some sort of button in five-plus years of blogging.  The pretty font is Clipper Script courtesy of mawn.com.

***I hate the fact that I feel I have to state this, but just to be totally clear – I don’t condone ebook piracy.  Can’t afford books?  See above for sources for free AND legal ebooks.  Need to read a recent release?  Use your local library.

Feeding the Kindle

I’ve spent a couple of days transferring books onto my Kindle and I (still!) have not finished.  It’s partly due to the fact I just have too many books, but also, well, let’s just say I’ve not been too organised and have no single comprehensive list of what’s on my ereader (except of course, by actually going through the books on my ereader).  This is probably the last time I’m changing my ereader.  It’s just too much hassle (until, of course, the next latest ereader comes out and I cave).

But this inspired me to think about my ebook shopping habits, specifically now I have my Kindle – beware, random musings ahead:

I’ve spent so much more at Amazon than before I bought my Kindle.  I can’t swear to it, but I think the selection of books for UK customers has expanded over the past few months.  I was looking up the January releases I wanted to get and all – okay, both – of them were available on the Kindle, which made me very happy (and yes, I’ve pre-ordered them).

The one publisher that really needs to get its books onto Amazon UK would be Tor – the number of Tor books I’ve passed on because they’re not available in e-format…

ETA: I’ve recently signed up to jungle-search.com’s free Kindle books alert (via Teleread) and am finding it very useful.  The link is to Amazon UK, but they also have Kindle alerts for the other Amazon sites Amazon US.

I like that epublishers are releasing their books for Kindle on Amazon UK as it makes it so much easier for me to purchase their books.  The main ones I’ve noticed are Carina Press, Samhain, and Loose ID.  I think the first two do simultaneous releases on their own sites and Amazon, but I’m not sure about Loose ID.

I also love the fact that authors are starting to self-publish their backlists on Amazon – I’ve bought Sherwood Smith and Julie Hyzy‘s out-of-print backlist books at very reasonable prices.

The Amazon shopping experience is scarily user-friendly – I find myself sending samples to my Kindle all the time, using this functionality partly as a wishlist and partly to remind myself that I’m interested in a book.  And then using one-click to purchase directly from the Kindle… I sometimes think I should disable that functionality.

And what price convenience?  That actually isn’t a rhetorical question as I’ve discovered it’s probably around 30p for me – if the price difference between Amazon and other sites (be it publishers’ own sites or Smashwords in the case of self-published backlists) is around that, I just buy from Amazon.  More than that, I become a bit of a cheapskate and spend time pondering whether I should buy from a different site and email the file to my Kindle…

It’s not all Amazon though – I still buy at other ebookstores and the ones I frequent:

Baen’s Webscriptions: Baen makes it almost as easy as shopping on Amazon – you can enter your Kindle email address on their site, and they’ll email the book to your Kindle.  And I am in love with their pricing policy.

Fictionwise: Although their selection has decreased massively and they only have the latest releases in eReader format, I still get ebooks from smaller publishers there when they offer discounts (which are usually publicised on Mobileread).

Kobo: The main drawback is that they only sell books in epub format.  However, I’ve discovered they sometimes sell ebooks not available elsewhere, so it remains on my list and they do offer discounts on non-agency books pretty regularly.

I used to shop at WH Smiths, Waterstones, and BooksonBoard as well – not so much now because I can usually get the same books on Amazon…

Any other ebookstores I should add to my list?

Second Impressions…

So, I may have done a mini-squee over my new Kindle when it arrived a couple of weeks ago.  Now that I’ve actually read some books on it, here are my thoughts (obviously with comparison to my Sony Reader, which is the second-generation PRS-505).

 

The Good

Refresh rate

I know I went on and on about this in my first post, but the novelty hasn’t worn off.  And when I adjust the font size and spacing?  Pretty much instantaneous refresh.  My Sony would think about it for a minute or so before actually updating, so this is excellent.  And yes, I’m still loving the screen and the contrast as well. 

 

That wireless thing

Umm.  I’ve previously said that wireless connectivity was an optional when it came to ebook readers.  And I still hold that view.  But.  It is just so convenient NOT to have to hook your reader up to the PC when you want to transfer a book.  The sheer ease of emailing a book to your Kindle account and watching it pop up automatically.  Very nice.

 

The “experimental” features

Okay, this falls under what I’ve previously considered optional as well.  I tried out the web browser the other day and it was actually pretty good (see Refresh Rate).  I was expecting something really slow, but it was decent.  I’m never going to use my Kindle as my main internet device, but I like that I have it.  Fickle = me.

 

The Bad

Navigation within a book

With my Sony, I can hold down the page turn buttons, and jump forwards or backwards 10 pages at a time.  There’s no way of doing so with the Kindle (if I’m wrong, please tell me!).  So I either tap the page turn button multiple times or key in the location (see below for my next gripe) until I reach the passage I want, or just pass on the whole thing. 

I never noticed how much I re-read passages until I started reading ebooks.  My Sony Reader changed my habits somewhat, but I could still flip back and forth.  With the Kindle, it’s almost impossible.

And maybe a hangover from the Sony Reader, but I have found myself accidentally using the 5-way controller to turn pages.  Except it doesn’t work that way on the Kindle – that brings you to the next chapter break.  If you’re not reading a document with no chapter breaks.  Because if you are, you go straight to the end, and this leads me to…

 

Locations!

Arrghh.  Okay, I get that ordinary page numbering doesn’t work for ebooks if you change font size etc, but I am having so much trouble figuring out what 10627 locations mean in actual book length.  And if you’re on location 10346-10355, how many more pages do you have until you hit the end of the story???

Also, it’s not easy to remember you’re on location 6782-6791 in a book.  And if you – ahem – accidentally lose your place in a book (i.e. see above), I’ve found it massively difficult to get back.  The Sony kept the last 100 pages or so in history, so I could always get back eventually, but it’s a lot harder on the Kindle.

 

Organising your books

The Sony wasn’t perfect, but neither is the Kindle.  You have Collections, but it’s a bit of a faff adding books to a collection using the 5-way controller.  I’ve figured out the easiest way is to select the book and add the collection from there, as opposed to selecting the collection and adding the book.  I’m slightly obsessed with ensuring every book is in a collection at present, which means painfully tagging every newly-acquired book.

 

The dictionary

Well, this isn’t a Bad really.  It’s more of a “what’s the point”.  But then, I very rarely ever consult a dictionary when I read – if I do come across an unknown word, I make a guess based on context.  Which has led to some interesting interpretations – for ages, I thought laconic meant sort of lazy and drawling, hence all the heroes speaking laconically in historicals.  When I realised it meant terse, I had to do a mental readjustment.

But I digress.  The dictionary isn’t something I use and because definitions flash up automatically when you use the 5-way controller, it’s sort of distracting. 

 

So that’s it – my current thoughts on my Kindle.  Even though I’ve gone on a bit about the downsides, I’m still liking it very much and planning on moving all my ebooks to it at some point, but it’s not the perfect ebook reader.  Yet.

 

Oh, and before I forget, Jane @ Dear Author did an excellent post about converting PDFs so that they’re legible on ebook readers.  I don’t get why PDF is even sold as a ebook format, but I’m going to give her tutorial a go and see if it works.

Breaking Radio Silence… (and Something New!)

You would not believe the week I have had.  I was planning on taking part in the BBAW festivities, but the work events of this week completely put paid to that.  Probably my previous worst-ever week multiplied by ten.  Gah.

BUT.

I have a KINDLE 3!!!

Yeah, I caved and ordered one a few weeks back.  It was meant to arrive next week, so it landing on my doorstep this morning was a pleasant surprise.

It almost makes up for the week I have had.  Almost. 

Anyway, my first impressions of the Kindle (bear in mind my current ereader is a Sony PRS505 and is one I’ve had since January 2008 and is responsible for turning me into an ebook convert):

  • It’s slim.  Slightly tapered sides, so it looks a lot slimmer than my Sony (just done a side-by-side comparison and the Kindle is actually slimmer).
     
  • I like the colour (graphite, i.e. grey) a lot.  There wasn’t an option to get the white version (maybe that’s a US-only colour), but I think I would have chosen graphite anyway.  It’s also a matt plastic, which makes it prettier IMO.
     
  • It’s light.  I may get a cover for it.  Not sure if I should go for the official Kindle covers they’re selling on Amazon or something else.  Anyone have recs?
     
  • The refresh rate is so much faster than my Sony (which, admittedly, is two generations behind the current model).  But when I flip pages, or type, the refresh rate is pretty amazing.  Or have I just been stuck in the dark ages?
     
  • I said type.  Yes, the mini keyboard.  The Kindle is actually only ever so slightly longer than my Sony (which doesn’t have a keyboard), because the Sony has all the space under the screen for buttons.  I’ve logged on to my home wifi network and had no problems using the keyboard.  But then, I’m used to a Blackberry keyboard as well.
     
  • Good user experience.  Packaging very easy to open and tells you exactly what to do first, i.e. plug it into your PC (or wall outlet) and charge.  I was slightly taken aback when the instructions disappeared after I plugged it into my USB port, before realising that they were actually displayed on the eink screen – I thought they were on a plastic insert over the screen!
     
  • Which brings me to the excellent screen quality.  Very crisp and clear, and I’m sitting in a sunlit room at the moment.  Though I haven’t read a book yet nor done a direct comparison to my Sony, it all looks good. 
     
  • Very intuitive design.  I haven’t had to refer to the user guide for anything (though I did flip through because I’m obsessive like that).  So far, I’ve synced it up to my Amazon Kindle account, downloaded a free book, and connected to my home wifi without having to use the guide.  Though I am fairly techie and obviously have a ereader already.

So there you have it – my immediate thoughts on my oh-so-pretty Kindle. 

I’m slightly worried at the moment, as the Kindle appears to be going through an update and start-up cycle.  For the second time.  In the time it’s taken me to write this post.  If it heads into a third cycle, I may panic.

But I’m very pleased with it.

Now I need some good Kindle blogs – does anyone have any recs?