I’m ba-a-a-ack

Life got in the way of optional things like blogging for awhile. I’m going to try to start posting again on what will likely still be an irregular basis, but at least hopefully more frequently than not at all.

In order to make life a bit easier on me if perhaps a bit more confusing for you, dear reader, I have merged in the content from another blog of mine which concentrated on web development with PHP. To that end, I’ll be seeing if I can come up with a way to make it easily apparent whether a given post is about e-books and Kindles, PHP and web development, and perhaps a neither one or the other category.

Enjoy, and if you run across any broken links or missing images, please let me know.

I Survived Frankenstorm

Unless you’re living the life of a hermit in a cave (and if so, how are you reading this?), you know that Hurricane Sandy just head-butted New Jersey and threw a round-house right hook at New York. I watched a raging torrent flow up my street Monday evening, but fortunately my apartment complex’s foundation is high enough that no apartments got flooded (as far as I know), and I’m on the 3rd floor in any case. However, I was without power from then until early this evening (Thursday), as was my place of work, too.

The good news: I own a Paperwhite Kindle, so reading in the dark was a breeze, and the battery life was excellent. (I used my old Kindle 3 during the daylight hours to distribute the battery load, plus I have a few games on it I could play as a change of pace.) Between that and having some time on my hands, I got a fair bit of reading done, so I hope to post at least a couple reviews here this weekend.

I sincerely hope all my readers who also were in Sandy’s path have come through as well as I have — though I suspect at least a few must have suffered much worse, and my heart goes out to you.

Looks Like ‘Agency Model’ Pricing Is On the Way Out — I Hope

As noted by an observant member in a KindleBoards.com post, it appears that Harper/Collins is no longer using the dreaded ‘agency model’ for selling books through Amazon. In case that means nothing to you, five of the “big 6” publishers had adopted this model whereby Amazon was purely a distribution agent of their e-books, and as such Amazon had no discretion as to what price could be charged. You can tell when this is the case when the details about a Kindle book on the Amazon site include text to the effect that “this price is set by the publisher.” Poking around Amazon.com now, it seems that verbiage is no longer there for Harper/Collins titles, and I see books where the sale price is less than the list price, implying Amazon now has the freedom to decide how much they want to make (or even lose) on each title.

Presumably this is all largely a result of the collusion talks/settlement/judgment/whatever that the US DoJ had with Apple and those 5 publishers; and ideally in the long run it will mean lower prices in general for us readers.

No Audio on “PaperWhite” Kindle?

From the ffeature list and comparison chart for the new PaperWhite Kindle, you can see that it does not support audio of any sort (no speakers, no headphone jack), the same as the bottom-of-the-line Kindle.

Since I do not use my Kindle for anything but (visual) reading, this does not matter to me. However, if you like to listen to the occasional audio book or use the text-to-speech feature available on other models, then you may want to wait and see if the PaperWhite display technology will make it into any audio-enable Kindles.

On a side note, I find this audio omission a bit surprising, based on the lengths Amazon went to a couple years (?) ago to get Kindles accepted by educational institutions, eventually leading Amazon to include an audio option for the Kindle’s menu system as an accessibility feature. Perhaps they are no longer courting that market, or maybe only with the Kindle Keyboard — or the Fire?

Good News, Bad News

Good news: I’m ready to start updating this blog again. Now that I’m moved into my new apartment a few long stone throws from The Big Apple and feeling settled in, I once again have time to read. (Before the move, I was spending 5-6 hours every day commuting!)

Bad news: I just started reading Infinite Jest, which is something like 1,000 print pages long, so it may be quite awhile yet before I’m prepared to write a review. At this point I’m only 3% into it, and while finding the writing rather captivating, I have no idea where it’s going (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Good news: Amazon has announced a new lineup of Kindles and Kindle Fires that look pretty nice at first glance.

Bad news: They already sucked me into pre-ordering the Kindle “Paperwhite,” 6-inch High Resolution Display with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi

Good news: I decided to update the theme/layout of this blog, and I think I like the cleaner look. I removed a bit of the clutter and reduced the ads (not like I made much money off them anyway, mind you).

Bad news: Noggin the (late) wonder dog does not appear in this theme, but I’ll figure out some place to sneak him in here before too long. Until then:

Noggin, 1998-2011

Fifty Books in Fifty(ish) Weeks?

As a means of trying to motivate myself to get more reading done than I have been for the last several months, I’ve made a commitment to reading fifty books this year. There was a time in my life when it probably would not have taken me much more than half a year to read that many. Then again, it seems that books are longer now, so maybe not.

I’m already behind schedule, in part due to reading three books at once right now, plus the fact that one of them, Code Complete, is really long: 960 pages in paperback. I’m hoping, though, that if I can get settled back into a regular reading schedule after all the recent disruptions and changes in my life, maybe I can get back to a reasonably regular schedule of posting e-book reviews here.

Or not.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Charles has

read 2 books toward his goal of 50 books.


E-Book E-Clubs

Computer technology has not only started the evolution of paper books into e-books, but has also provided the means — via the Internet — for readers to participate in book e-clubs. Instead of getting together periodically with other readers in someone’s living room to discuss a book, you can now meet virtually on-line. While you lose out on the advantages of face-to-face communication and socialization — not to mention the munchies — you have the ability to create groups tailored to specific genres, authors, or whatever suits your fancy.

Web sites such as Goodreads.com have all sorts of groups. I’ve been a fairly active member there in the SciFi and Fantasy eBook club, where we choose one science fiction and one fantasy e-book for each month (i.e. two books per month), then share our thoughts about them. I was on the hook to come up with candidate titles for the April science fiction selection, and so far we’ve had over 100 people vote on them, which would seem to indicate the group is growing, perhaps with people who received e-readers over the past holidays.

A different sort of e-book e-club I’ve participated in from time to time is the Quasi-Official Book Game Klub at KindleBoards.com. In this online club, each monthly participant is given another participant for whom they are to select an e-book, while another participant will pick one for them to read. The idea here is to get you to try something a bit outside of your usual comfort zone. Sometimes it works great for me, and other times it has reinforced why I don’t read certain types of books.

If any of you loyal (or even disloyal) readers participate in e-book clubs and/or book e-clubs, how about sharing a link in the comments here?

SciFi & Fantasy eBook Club

Kindle Fire: Not an iPad Killer, But…

First off, I have not had my hands on a Kindle Fire. On the other hand, I’ve not had them on an iPad, either. On the gripping hand (bonus points to those who recognize that reference), I feel obligated to post something about it now that the first units have been in the early adopters’ hands (gripping or otherwise) for a whole day.

The first professional review I saw was at PCWorld online, rather unpromisingly entitled “Amazon Kindle Fire Misfires.” Upon reading the review, I think the title is overly pessimistic relative to the actual contents. The last couple paragraphs summarize things as:

The Kindle Fire: Bottom Line

The Amazon Kindle Fire makes trade-offs to achieve a $200 price. It’s easy to dismiss some of the compromises and weaknesses of the Kindle Fire as the sacrifices necessary to achieve a price point, but the reality is that the Fire may not meet your expectations if you’re looking for an Apple iPad 2-like tablet.

For those people who go in knowing what they’re getting, and who want an inexpensive tablet that capably–though not spectacularly–handles their Amazon books, music, and video, the Kindle Fire’s limitations may be acceptable. However, the Fire falls far short of providing a full and satisfying tablet experience.

I think the reviewer made the same mistake many did when comparing the Kindle e-book readers to the Apple iPad: the idea that the two devices were direct competitors. I assumed from the moment Amazon announced a two-hundred-dollar tablet that it would not be in the same technical ball-park as the much more expensive Apple product. The real question then becomes: is there a market for a tablet (or e-reader on steroids) that can provide a rewarding means to consume all sorts of digital content while not being an all-round personal computer replacement?

To judge by the first responses at KindleBoards.com, the answer would seem to be, arguably, yes. The general theme I have seen there so far is that many of the Day 1 buyers did, in fact, “go in knowing what they’re getting, and…want an inexpensive tablet that capably — though not spectacularly — handles their Amazon books, music, and video.” At least a couple of them appear to be happy with owning a Kindle Fire as well as an iPad, each for different purposes; again highlighting the idea that the two devices are not necessarily direct competitors (though undoubtedly there will be a significant overlap where the decision could be difficult for those who cannot rationalize owning one of each).

I, for one, have not yet felt compelled to own any tablet computer. I have no desire to watch movies on a 7-inch (or even 10-inch) screen, and I am more than content with reading books on my e-ink screen, dedicated e-reader. However, in another week or so, I should be getting my Kindle Touch (WiFi) to replace my Kindle 3, at which time I’ll be ready to give you my own hands-on review.

Larger Kindle Tablet in the Future?

PCWorld is reporting that it appears there will be an 8.9-inch Kindle tablet in addition to the soon-to-ship 7-inch Kindle Fire.

“According to [Digitimes], panel suppliers Chunghwa Picture Tubes and LG Display have begun to prepare production capacities for 8.9-inch displays. However, there may be even larger models — between 9.7-inch and 10.1-inch — coming at some stage in 2012, possibly as part of a third wave.”

This is interesting to me, as I had already decided to pass on the Kindle Fire, at least until a 3G or 4G model is available. If I could get mobile connectivity along with a larger screen, it would be just about impossible for me to resist, as long as the pricing is as competitive as the WiFi-only Kindle Fire.