Posts Tagged ‘ebooks’

Ereading still causes a lot of confusion.  I thought it might be useful to put together a post of some common questions regarding ereading and to do my best to answer them.

What is eReading?
Simply put, ereading is reading a book, comic, magazine or other similar content on an electronic device rather than in hard copy.

Why should I give up my paperback and switch to ereading?
Like many things, ereading is not an either/or activity.  There is no reason why you cannot read books in both hard copy and ebook formats.  It is very much a personal choice.

Having said that, there are pros and cons to ereading.  I have listed some here to help you decide if ereading is right for you.

Pros:
Convenience
.  With ereading you can carry your entire library around with you on your eReader, smartphone or tablet.   Can you imagine carrying around all 14 hardback books in the Wheel of Time series?  With ereading that is no issue. Likewise, if you’re living in a small space, an ereader takes up much less room than forty shelves of books.

Accessibility.  Most ereaders and ereading applications allow you to adjust the font size to suit your eyesight.  This is a real lifesaver if your eyesight isn’t what it was.

Never lose your place.  Most eReaders and devices keep your place for you, and some automatically synchronise over multiple devices.  Amazon even synchronises between the Amazon Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook.

Additional cool features.  eReading gives you lots of extra features.  These range from such inbuilt dictionaries (if you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, click or tap on it and the definition will pop up) to additional background information and references and social sharing of your reading.

24-hour bookstore.  Imagine the scenario.  You finish a real page turner of a book at 2am and you really can’t wait to see what happens next.  With eReading, a few clicks later you can be reading the sequel, often by 2.01am.  Also, if you’re anxiously waiting for that hot, new release by your favourite author, most new release books are released at 12am PST (in Canada) and delivered automatically to your device at that time if you pre-order.  Of course, if you’re trying to watch your book budget, that Buy Now button can be more of a con…

Millions of free books.  That’s correct.  Thanks to efforts like Project Gutenberg, there are millions of legally available free ebooks for your ereading pleasure.   

Free ebooks on Amazon
Free ebooks on Kobo 
Free ebooks on Sony 

Your books are backed up by the store.  If anything happens to your eReader, you can rest assured that you have not lost your entire library.  Simply log back into the store and redownload them.

Cons;
You’re renting not buying.  When you “buy” an ebook, you’re actually buying a licence to read that ebook on your devices, not an actual ebook.  This means that, in theory, it’s easier to lose access to your entire library if, say, your ebook provider goes out of business.

Read eBooks cannot be resold, donated or regifted.  Linked to the above, the licence you buy cannot be resold, donated or regifted to another person, at least not at this point.  This may be a deal breaker for some of you who like to share your reading material with others.  Amazon Kindle customers in the United States do have limited options to lend Kindle books to others, but this is highly restricted by the publishers and usually allows only one loan per ebook, and on very select titles.

DRM is a pain in the neck.  DRM – or digital rights management –  is software applied to ebooks to prevent your illegally sharing them or changing their format.  It locks the ebook to a specific format and sometimes account and device.  It means, for example, that you cannot read a Kindle book on a Kobo eReader and vice versa.  There is no way to legally convert the ebook to make this possible.  

eReaders and devices are more fragile than paperbacks.  If you drop a paperback in the bath, you’re only out $7 or so.  That cost is considerably more if you drop your eReader…

These are what I see as the pros and cons.  It is really your personal preference if any of these are deallbreakers for you.

I like to borrow my books from a library.  I can’t do that with eBooks, can I?
Certainly you can!  Let me refer you to my post on borrowing eBooks.

I need a specialised eReader, don’t I?
Not at all.  If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet you can get started on eReading.  You would need to download an application.  Many are linked to a specific eBook store.  Here are some of the most popular.

AmazonKoboSonyBarnes & NobleApple

There are other, more general applications, but if you are new to eReading, I would recommend you begin with one of the major providers.

You may also prefer to start off with a free application to see if ereading is for you before investing in a dedicated eReader.

OK, I’m interested.  How do I get started with eReading?
Excellent!  The first thing you would need to do is choose an ebook provider.  I would recommend you try some of the free ebooks from one or two providers to see which one best suits your needs and is best for you.  

Here are links to the main stores (for Canada):

AmazonKoboSony 

In each case the steps are very much the same.

  1. go to the site for your preferred ebook store
  2. register for an account if you don’t already have one (look for a sign in or register link)
  3. download the application for your computer, smartphone and/or tablet
  4. sign in to the application with the store account
  5. browse the store for a book you’d like to buy
  6. add to cart and go through the payment process.  
  7. in the ereading application look for a “sync” function to have the book downloaded to the application if it doesn’t appear there automatically

And there you have it – your first ebook.  Congratulations!

Which dedicated eReader should I go for?
This is a very personal decision.  It really depends on what you want and what is important to you.  Please check out my eReader reviews for some suggestions or please feel free to get in touch with me if you have more specific questions. 

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I've had my hands on the Kobo Glo for a few days now, and it is a very nice device. I took some pictures to compare it with my Kobo Touch and Kindle Touch.

Here is a picture of the three devices with the Kobo Glo unlit
Kindle Touch, Kobo Touch and Kobo Glo unlit

To my eyes, the Kobo Glo's screen is noticeably lighter than the Kobo Touch's and on a par with that of the Kindle Touch, making more of a contrast between the screen and text. With its 1GHz processor, page turns on the new Glo are considerably faster than on the Kobo Touch and the Kindle Touch.

You may notice from the images that the Kobo Glo has dropped the physical home button. Personally, I'd have preferred that they keep it. Access to the Home screen is now via on-screen menus.

The Kobo Glo comes with a slightly updated UI, which, according to the forums, and my own experience, is still rather buggy. Once or twice I noticed that the device got stuck on a page and I had to turn it off to get back to reading. I imagine a firmware update will be coming soon to fix this. It's annoying, but not a deal breaker for me.

The big selling point of the Glo is of course the in-built lighting. "Comfort light" as Kobo markets it. Here is an image of the Kobo Touch vs the Kobo Glo with the screen lit

Glo lit

On my device at least the light is not perfectly evenly distributed. There is shadowing at the bottom of the screen. Kobo has quite cleverly got around this by reversing the menu bar at the bottom so it is white on black to disguise that somewhat. I understand from the forums that some people find the shadowing too irritating. My own feeling is that it doesn't bother me at all, and that the Comfort Light is a great improvement over book lights or less than ideal ambient lighting.

One thing on which I am undecided – whether or not to leave the Glo light on in all lighting conditions. Amazon recommends that you do so on their Paperwhite, whereas Kobo suggests only when you need it. In any case I've had it on a lot and noticed no significant drain on battery power.

All in all the Kobo Glo is a great upgrade to the Kobo line. If you're buying a first Kobo, the extra $30 for the Kobo Glo over the Kobo Touch is worth the expense in my opinion. Of course, as an entry level ereader, for $79 you can also get the Kobo Mini which looks so cute. If you already have a Touch and are thinking of upgrading that's probably more a case of personal preference. If you read a lot in less than ideal lighting conditions it might be a great purchase for you.

So in the last 48 hours both Kobo and Amazon have released details of the next iterations of their ereader products. Full details can be found at the Kindle and Kobo websites. It should be noted that I watched the Amazon press conference, but all I know of the new Kobo offerings is what Kobo has put on their website.

At the lower price point end of the scale, Amazon has refreshed the screen and reduced the price of their base model Kindle – it now costs just $69. It doesn’t have a touch interface. The Kobo base end model is now touch based, but reduced in size to a 5 inch screen. It costs just $79 dollars. As an advocate of e-reading it’s great to see that the entry level models are so reasonably priced.

Naturally, I was most interested in the touch readers. The big selling feature of both the new Kobo and Kindle touch devices is the front lighting to allow you to read when in a darkened environment. I often like to read in bed in the morning when I wake up, and don’t like to disturb my husband sleeping next to me, so this is something to which I was looking forward. I have had the lighted Kindle cover, but that adds a lot of bulk and weight to the device.

For once Amazon and Kobo were playing catchup to Barnes and Noble who launched their Nook with Glowlight six months ago. It remains to be seen if Amazon and Kobo do it better.

Both new touch devices are offering enhanced displays. Kobo is offering the 6″ Pearl E Ink touch screen, Plus XGA High Resolution with 16 levels of grey scale. The new Amazon Paperwhite offers 25% more contrast compared to the current edition with a 6″ Paperwhite display, 212 ppi, optimized font technology and 16-level gray scale.

In terms of battery life, Amazon appears to have taken the lead here. Amazon states that a single charge lasts up to eight weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10. Battery life will vary based on light and wireless usage. Kobo states one month per charge… with the footnote that that is with the light turned off. With the light on, you can only expect 55 hours of reading. That’s probably not much more than I would expect from my Nexus 7 tablet.

Two other things jumped out at me regarding the new Kindle Paperwhite. The touch screen is capacitive (like the iPad or Nexus) rather than the infrared of the current Kindle Touch. Capacitive allows for faster response than infrared and does away with the need for a large bevel, making the device thinner. I found an interesting info graphic regarding the differences. When typing on my eInk infrared touch devices I’ve grown used to typing a letter – breathe – type the next letter – breathe – next letter. It will be interesting to see how much better that is on a new Kindle capacitive touch device.

The second thing to jump out at me was that Amazon has FINALLY updated the UI for the Touch. All I can say is Halle-frickin’-lujah. It was about time. Lines of text as a navigation system are so last millennium. They’re finally switching to using book covers. I hope that with the faster touch response time this will make a wonderful experience.

Oh yes, one other new feature that Amazon has added is a guide as to how much time it will take you to finish the current chapter. That may be a gimmick, but it could be useful. I imagine I’ll just have to try for myself.

Both these devices look great, and I hope to add them to my collection. I had planned to purchase the Kindle Paperwhite first, but Amazon’s US centric focus foiled me: “this product is not available in your country”. So I went ahead and placed my order for the Kobo Glo. It should be with me on or around the first of October. I will certainly do a full review.

With regard to the tablets, I’m going to direct you to the Kindle Fire and Kobo Arc product pages. With my disappointment in the Kobo Vox, and the Kindle Fire’s lack of availability and content in Canada, I’m hard pressed to recommend either of these devices over a more open tablet such as the Google Nexus. Of course, your mileage may vary, as they say.

One other thing from the Amazon press conference which did absolutely blow me away was Whispersync for Voice. Amazon owns Audible, one of the main suppliers of audiobooks and now through Whispersync the two media are tightly integrated. You can listen to the audiobook in the car, then pick up the book on your Kindle when you get home and, get this, it will track your progress, so you will never lose your place. That just blows me away. Also, Amazon is now offering audiobooks of some of the books you own at a fraction of the normal price: when browsing Amazon’s site today I came across this:

Whispersync for Voice

Now you can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook.

Because you own this Kindle book, you can add the professional narration of Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time) for the reduced price of $8.99. Normal price would be around $50 if I remember correctly.

I’m not big audiobook fan, but that could convert me.

And on that note, I’ll sign off.

Next week my blog is hosting Tricia Stuart Shiu ’s Moa whirlwind tour.  Stay tuned for more information.  

I would love to say I loved this book, and indeed there was much I did enjoy about it.  I found the main characters to be engaging and well written.  The world building I thought was excellent. I enjoyed reading it and will certainly read the sequel, Bitterblue. 

What really let the novel down in my opinion was the poor pacing.  I felt too much time was spent on the wrong things.  For example we seem to spend several chapters wandering around in the snow with Katsa and Bitterblue and yet the final confrontation with Leck, to which the entire book has been leading, is over within half a page or so.  This left me feeling somewhat cheated.  In addition, this confrontation occurs still some way from the end of the novel; I kept expecting another twist, not setup for the next novel.

I also felt the author missed some golden opportunities to explore some interesting themes, such as how do those who have grown used to power cope when they are powerless?  It is touched upon briefly, but I would have welcomed a deeper exploration of these.  

Having said that, I think these are things the novelist will become more adept at handling (this is her debut novel, after all) and I imagine a bright future for her.  

I've had a day to play around with this now, and at this point I'm unlikely to keep it.  As I mentioned in my initial post, my main use for this would have been as a multi-platform e-reading tablet.  From what I've seen, it's going to struggle to fulfill that purpose, for me at least.

What I liked

The inbuilt functions seemed to work fairly well.  The main Kobo app is almost identical to the one on the iPad and works in much the same fashion.  I tested the Email, YouTube and Zinio apps, and again, all of them worked reasonably well.  My existing content downloaded to the machine with no trouble.  I also found the capacitive touchscreen to be reasonably responsive, which was a criticism I'd read in other reviews.

I particularly liked the Kobo widget which brings your currently being read content right to your home screen.

Being used to iOS, it took me a little time to get used to Android, but it wasn't that difficult.  

You also can't really argue about the price – $169 is a pretty good deal – if you're prepared to accept the limitations.  

I also really liked the 7 inch size.   I found it a comfortable size and weight for one handed reading – something I cannot do with my 10inch iPad.  

What I didn't like

The performance.  The 800 Mhz processor and 512 RAM really do show their lack of power.  It's not so noticeable if all you're doing is reading, but if, for example, you switch the orientation of the device you can expect 3-5 seconds of white screen, spinning circle while it catches up.  

Battery life.  This can't really compare to the eInk Kobo and Kindle, but I fully charged the device last night and got in about four hours of mainly reading before it requested a recharge.  For me this is not really acceptable on a device I intend to use primarily for reading.

Difficulty installing non Kobo approved apps.  As a dedicated multi-platform eReading device there were a few apps I wished to install on it: the Kindle app, Overdrive (for library books) and Goodreads.  None of these apps were available on the Kobo app store.  I downloaded the Amazon App Store, but as I'm not in the US I was unable to download even free apps.  Likewise the Kobo blocks apps from Google Play.  In the end it took a great deal of internet searching and fiddling to be able to get them installed.  At least, once they were installed they were functional.  

In summary then, I will try the Kobo Vox a little longer, but I will likely not be keeping it.  It just doesn't have the power to do what I need.  The power aside, there are other Android tablets coming on the market with similar specs which allow more freedom with installed applications.

As I received a nice tax rebate today, I decided to check out the Kobo Vox 7 inch e-reader Android tablet.  For the Canadians amongst you, FutureShop is offering $10 discount. Now, it's possible I will return it before the return period expires; the reviews I've read and seen on YouTube have been rather negative – sluggish, unresponsive machine, poor quality build – but I will see for myself.

I am not expecting it to be comparable to the iPad – Apple's tablet has a dual-core Apple A5X custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip with quad-core graphics and 1GB of RAM compared to the Vox's 800 Mhz processor and 512 RAM – and of course with at least $400 difference in price, you wouldn't expect them to compare.  I intend using them for different purposes.  I expect my iPad to remain my go to tablet of choice, and the Kobo to be purely e-reading based.  The main advantage I'm hoping to get from the Vox is that I will be able to read books from all three of my main sources – Amazon, Kobo and the local library – on one e-reader sized device.  

This will also be my first experience with Android.  As most of you know, I'm an iOS girl through and through, so it will be interesting to see what I make of it.  I will let you know how I get on!

The genre of political thriller is not one I read particularly often, and it usually has to have a very interesting premise for me to pick it up in the first place.  This one did catch my attention: what could happen if wealthy and influential individuals lost a loved one in a terrorist attack and had the means, motive and opportunity to take personal revenge?

The first half of the novel introduces the protagonists, describes the initial terrorist incident which sparked the titular revenge, while the second half follows its setup and first stages of execution.  One thing I found detracted from the novel slightly was the abrupt end.  I understand this is the first in a two book series, and it felt as though the ending was neither a tied up ending nor a lead in to book two. 

I found the characters to be well developed and in general sympathetic – at times it was all too easy to forget that what they are planning will cost the lives of many innocents in the name of personal revenge.  The author does very well though in the way he describes their grief to gain the reader's empathy.

The descriptions of the political and practical discussions was also very well done – it was intelligently written and easily accessible to someone who doesn't move in the exalted circles of the protagonists. That said, I would have welcomed a more moderate religious viewpoint to balance the fanaticism on both sides of the Islamic/Christian divide.

I will certainly be checking out book two when it it is published and look forward to it.  I gave The Serpent's Head: Revenge four stars.

This last couple of months I've got through a few good books, and rather than reviewing each individually, I decided to write a post discussing all of them.  On the fourth of May no fewer than four new releases were downloaded to my Kindle, so I am happy I had a week off work to read them all.

Fair Game – Patricia Briggs
This is the next book in the Alpha and Omega series, and it was the usual enjoyable Briggs fare.  Anna and Charles are interesting characters and it's fun to see their development.  I was particularly interested in the end game changer – I understand it's impacting the Mercy Thompson series, too.  I had been surprised that Briggs was planning a new Mercy book.  I'd felt the character had come to the end of her story, but this will add a new dimension.  I look forward to Frost Bitten next year

I gave Fair Game four stars.

The Iron King – Julie Kanawa.
This is an ebook I borrowed from the library.  A Young Adult novel, it is the usual tale of modern teen finds she has an undiscovered past and hidden powers, finds herself in a fantasy world.  It's been done before, and better executed, but the storyline and characters were engaging enough for me to want to borrow the sequels from the library.

I gave The Iron King three stars

Unholy Night – Seth Grahame-Smith
This is Grahame-Smith's take on the three Magi of the Nativity.  As the Magi are only mentioned briefly in the Gospels, the author has created a whole storyline for them.  Personally, I did not enjoy this nearly as much as his previous Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  I missed Jane Austen's wit from the former and the genuinely interesting real life story of the American President from the latter.

I gave Unholy Night two stars

Orange as Marmalade – Fran Stewart
I confess I'm a sucker for gentle mysteries where the cat helps to solve the crime, With this one I particularly enjoyed that it was written mainly from the cat owner's point of view, with regular snarky comments from the cat as she tries to make her owner see the clues she herself has found.  I will certainly be adding this series to my "to follow" list.

I gave Orange as Marmalade four stars

Les Dragons de l'Empereur Noir – Anne Robillard
I don't often read in French, preferring to read in my native English, but I couldn't call myself a self-respecting fantasy lit fan living in Quebec and not read Robillard's popular series. I've been meaning to read them ever since I arrived in Quebec nearly seven years ago, but it took publisher Welland's decision to finally publish them as ebooks for me to read them.  This is the second in the series and I adored both this and the first one.  Robillard's writing reminds me in many ways of Patricia Briggs or George R.R. Martin.  All of these writers have a very keen understanding of character.  Whether Robillard is writing from young Kira's point of view or that of the older, experienced knight Wellan, it is easy to understand and empathize with them.  I can't wait for book three to be published in ebook format.

I gave Les Dragons de l'Empereur Noir five stars

The Alchemyst – Michael Scott
It is not very often that I am beaten by a book and do not finish it, but this is one of those cases.  The premise sounded intriguing – a book involving the ancient alchemist Nicolas Flamel – but I had real problems with the execution.  The biggest issue I had was that the author plunged straight into the action without really introducing the characters.  I really found myself thinking why should I care about these people?  In the end I found I didn't care enough to finish the book.

I gave The Alchemyst one star

Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch
This is the second in the Gentlemen Bastards series of books.  I knew I was going to enjoy it when five minutes in I was giggling out loud at the banter between Locke and Jean.  This book reminded me more of a buddy road movie than an epic fantasy novel; it hangs on the relationship between these two characters – and Lynch describes it beautifully.

I gave Red Seas Under Red Skies five stars

Insurgent – Veronica Roth
Roth's Divergent series is tipped by some to be the next Hunger Games, and it is easy to see why.  The post apocalyptic world Roth creates feels real – and scary – and her characters are engaging and multi dimensional.  This is the second of the series, and while I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first one, it is still an excellent read.

I gave Insurgent four stars

The Serpent's Shadow – Rick Riordan
This is the third and final book in Riordan's Kane Chronicles series dealing with Egyptian mythology.  I have not enjoyed this series as much as the Heroes of Olympus one based on Greek/Roman mythology, but it's still a fun read.  The series is lifted from the banal by the banter and wit sprinkled throughout the pages, but still it is fairly predictable. 

I gave The Serpent's Shadow three stars

Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris
Some reviews on Goodreads criticized the novel for being bloated with too many of the minutiae of Sookie's everyday life.  That wasn't a problem for me personally.  I enjoyed reading about easygoing Southern life.  The mystery was fun if not a page-turner, and Sookie was as annoying as ever with her boyfriend angst and her insistence on proceeding despite multiple flashing, neon warning signs.  I enjoyed the book in spite of these faults.  It felt like meeting up again with old friends.

I gave Deadlocked five stars

What next?
My Kobo reader is away for servicing, so I'm unable to read the next two ebooks I have in mind as they're non-Kindle compatible ePubs.  These are Anne Robillard's A.N.G.E. and the next in Julie Kanawa's Iron series.  In the meantime I'm reading Burned, the next in the House of Night series.

What an absolutely wonderful surprise I had on reading my Twitter feed this morning (thanks @Elmblade43!) to find that the Harry Potter ebooks are now available for purchase through the Pottermore store.  This was unexpected to me as I'd not seen any prior announcements that the store was due to open; I'd expected it to be delayed until after the opening of the Pottermore site to the general public given how the original beta launch of the Pottermore site was launched.

I had many misgivings about the Pottermore store given how poorly the beta site was handled.  However, from the moment I went to the store it was clear I was in much safer hands.  The first step in the process was to create a Pottermore shop account (not the same as your Pottermore account, meaning that non Beta Pottermore fans can still purchase the books.)  This was all pretty straightforward.  The rest of the purchase process was too; select the books (I opted for the bundle of all seven for a 10% discount) – and it has to be noted that they are very reasonably priced – $7.99 – $9.99.

The next stage was the one which caused me the most anxiety – how would I get these books to my Kindle?  Would it be a pain in the arse as it is to borrow library books?  I needn't have worried.  On the My Books page, where you go to download the books, one of the options was for Kindle.  I was asked to link my Amazon account and the books immediately appeared in my Kindle archive library and started to sync to my devices.  

 Moreover, the books come with Amazon's Whispersync which keeps you on the same page if you're reading across multiple devices, and on the Kindle Touch it has X-Ray – the feature which helps you keep track of who is who and where in the book they appear.  That is a real blessing for those long series like Harry Potter or George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. In short, once the books are purchased they are no different from any other book I have on my Kindle.

The whole process is well thought out at least if you buy via a web browser.  Well done Pottermore store.