It’s promotion time in the UK at the moment. With the launch of my new Amsterdam series little more than a month away you can find some big discounts on the Kindle edition of the first two books in my earlier Nic Costa Italian series.
It’s almost two years now since I first put out my experimental ebook Writing A Novel with Scrivener for Kindle. I’d no idea whether anyone wanted such a book. I’d just enjoyed using Scrivener so much — and got such feedback from my posts on it here — I felt like putting my feelings together in one place. Oh, and seeing what it was like to create an ebook from within the app, of course.
How did it do? Very well, I think. Amazon’s statistics don’t let you add up total sales very easily unless you’re extremely handy with spreadsheets. So there’s no way to get a quick global figure. But I keep getting feedback, and cheques too much to my surprise (I never wrote it for the money).
And today someone pointed this out to me.
I’m pleased some of you found it useful. I’m even more pleased that Scrivener, an incredible tool especially for beginning writers, has found such a wide audience over the past few years. The team at Literature and Latte deserve their success fully, and I’m sure it’s Scrivener’s increasing inroads into the writing software market that explain why my little ebook keeps on selling.
I bought a new Kindle over Xmas: the Fire HD. It replaces the original e-ink Kindle, the one with the little keyboard I could never get the hang of.
As a piece of techno-kit the Fire HD is pretty impressive and, at £159 for 16gb, good value too. The screen looks as high-definition as the latest iPad to me, which means text is crisp and clear. I did wonder whether I shouldn’t go for the cheaper e-ink paperwhite Kindle instead. That looks a more ‘bookish’ device, and it’s lighter with a longer battery life.
But the Fire does a lot more – you can catch up with TV on iPlayer for one thing. I’ve rather come to the conclusion that I prefer high-def LCD text to high-def e-ink. Not sure why, and many people will feel differently. But I’m happier with that brighter text and I don’t want to read outdoors in the sun.
The main reason I wanted something new was to deal with some reference work on a couple of projects I have coming up. In other words I want to go through some books I’ve bought and simply highlight relevant passages, then see those same passages come up in the same Kindle book in an app on the PC. Amazon’s systems do this brilliantly. You can sit in an armchair with a touch device like the Fire and simply hold down on the screen at the relevant point then highlight the passage in question. By the time I’m back at the desk those highlights are already there, pointing me back to the places I want to be.
One major omission though: you can’t do this with your own documents. In other words you can’t send a Word manuscript to your Kindle, mark it up, and have the markup appear on a desktop Kindle app. Personal documents only work with specific Kindle hardware, not the Kindle apps than run on computers, phones and iPads. Damn.
Still, it’s a very useful function for someone with reference needs, particularly if you’re as bad at filing physical paper as I am. If I tried this using sticky notes and a pen something would surely get lost along the way.
Do I intend to read this way generally?
Good question. Kindle hardware comes with an offer of one free book a month from the Kindle Lending Library. So I casually downloaded one of the first to catch my eye, Mark Forsyth’s The Etymologicon. Quite why I don’t know since it was only 99p to buy the book in the first place.
It looks a great piece of work, an entertaining runaround a good few oddities of the English language written with great wit, enthusiasm and clarity. But the truth is… the more I read, the more I wanted to feel it in my hands as a printed paper title.
There’s absolutely no visible logic in the statements I’m about to make. But here, for what they’re worth, is how I feel about reading an ebook now, after a couple of years using the medium.
- It’s fine for linear fiction, particularly shorter works.
- Anything of substantial length, especially if it pushes the envelope by flitting backwards and forwards through time or engaging in a few metafiction tricks, is quite hard to follow on a single electronic screen.
- You can’t make written notes — it’s just too fiddly, whether it’s a touch device or one with a keyboard.
- Non-fiction only succeeds for me if I’m using it for reference and doing that swipe-highlight trick that works so well. If I’m reading non-fiction for pure pleasure ebooks just feel well… wrong.
- Anything that has illustrations feels wrong too, no matter how clear or high res the screen. It lacks the feel of illustration in print, which is not simply two-dimensional. There are practical issues too. Because readers can choose font and font size themselves graphics can bounce around the place on smaller reader screens. I discovered this very directly when I published Writing A Novel with Scrivener. Someone emailed me to say the illustrations kept appearing on pages of their own. It turned out the reader had upped the font size to the biggest available and was using one of the oldest, smallest ereaders available. Nothing I could do…
That still makes ebooks very useful. But talking to people over Christmas I did get the impression that a good deal of the gee-whizz factor has gone out of the market. Yes they’re handy, yes they’re cheap and yes they can save you taking a stack of paper books on holiday.
In truth though they’re simply another way to read. Not the only way. And an awful lot of people who a year ago were saying they’d given up on print seem to me to be having second thoughts. Who can blame them? Convenience is one thing, but it’s the whole story.
All things being equal – which of course they’re not – wouldn’t you prefer a paper book?
I’m not a Luddite. Far from it. But without a good reason — such as reference work or the need to take a large number of volumes on the road — give me real ink on real paper any day.
I’m leaving the comments turned off on this one because frankly I don’t want to spend the rest of a beautiful Sunday moderating a stream of increasingly furious messages, most of which have nothing to do with this piece. If you’re so minded the links below will give you plenty of places to express your opinion.
As the headline says… is anybody out there not angry about something in the world of digital books? There’s an incredibly furious argument going on right now about the closure of a site called Lendink. A stream of authors, most of them self publishing as far as I can see, turned on Lendink when they saw their works listed there for lending. Some of them accused the site — wrongly — of piracy. And an irate Twitter stream followed, some of which you can see here LendInk taken down by asshole indie authors.
Here’s one of the authors who went for Lendink putting forward her case, LendInk: why I was angry, and why I am sorry.
For a pro-Lendink argument you should read LendInk taken down by asshole indie authors by a blogger whose position is summarised in another post, ‘Proving My Point: Copyright is shit’. The same chap is selling a tee-shirt backing Lendink – yours for a bargain $7. You can also read Disabled military veteran’s eBook lending site shuttered by TwitMob. No. I’m not sure what the relevance of ’disabled military veteran’ is here either.
In between the yelling here’s what this is about. Both Kindle and Barnes & Noble allow the legal lending of ebooks. This was originally designed to be a way ebook titles could be shared between people who know each other. But the net never misses an opportunity, does it? Quite a few sites, not just Lendink, then came up with the idea of putting complete strangers together so they could swap ebooks rather than buy them.
Nothing illegal even if it’s not what the original lending idea was meant for. And yes, these ebook matchmaking sites usually hope to make a bit along the way by getting a cut of any ebook sales that go through their links (though since this is primarily about avoiding buying things you wonder if there’s much money to be made there).
Two things strike me about this furore. Aren’t people angry in this closed little world? I mean, not just grumpy. But spitting, cursing, fist-flying furious. Is it because the bright sparks who come up with schemes like Lendink somehow always try to portray themselves as an author’s friend (which is a stretch frankly)? I don’t know. But if you’re inside this fire storm please get out. It’s not a state of mind in which to write.
Second, the books being loaned through these kinds of scheme are often at the 99 cent end of the price scale. So people are going through all this hassle to save themselves pennies and get a dirt cheap book for free. Which rather kills the old and utterly unbelievable argument that everyone would behave impeccably when it comes to acquiring digital books if only the price came down.
Great, eh? Does any of this sound in the least bit sustainable for anyone?