Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: Kindle

Readin’ and Writin’

Five or so years ago, I wandered into an online discussion where a wannabe writer was doing a perfect imitation of a stubborn two-year-old. You could see this person stomping his foot, arms folded across his chest and all but threatening to hold his breath until he turned blue. The reason wasn’t because he’d gotten a bad critique. It was much more basic. This wanna be was pitching a fit because he didn’t understand why others were telling him it was important to read.

Yes, a writer didn’t understand why it was important to read.

But it gets better. This writer, and I use that term loosely, didn’t understand that it’s important to read the genre you want to write. Now, on the surface, the excuse might seem reasonable. According to this person, they were afraid their “unique” voice would be contaminated by anything they might read. We tried explaining that the voice wouldn’t be, not if it was solidly entrenched in the writer’s mind. We explained how a writer needed to know what current trends and tropes were. There was more and none of it got through to this wanna be. He kicked and he stomped and he pitched a fit before gathering up his toys and going home, figuratively. What he did was leave the group and not return.

It isn’t the only time I’ve encountered writers who truly believe they don’t need to read in the genre they write. When asked, some give similar answers to the writer above. Others will say they don’t like reading that genre. That last answer always throws me. How can you write a genre you don’t like to read? I guess some folks can but not me.

And I do read. Mind you, I don’t always read the genre I’m writing WHILE I’m writing. That’s one of the nice things about writing in several different genres. While writing sf, I can read mysteries. While writing mysteries, I can read sf. You get the picture.

It is rare to find me without reading material close at hand. I love e-books for that reason. I can read on my phone, my tablet or my laptop. Six or eight months ago, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader. I had always loved my e-ink Kindles but they had the drawback of not being lit. It meant I had to have an external light source at night or in ill-lit areas. Friends had suggested a Paperwhite and, when it went on sale, I splurged.

I’ll be honest, I loved the lit screen. What I had problems with was the touchscreen. I missed the page turn buttons and it wasn’t always easy to get the control bar to come up. It was me, not the device. But it kept me from using it as much as I would have. So I continued reading more often than not on my tablet — and getting the accompanying eye strain. (More on that later)

Earlier this week, I was wandering through Amazon and saw they had the Kindle Oasis E-reader with Leather Charging Cover for sale where you could pay it out over several months. I hesitated. The price of the Oasis was still much more than I wanted to pay for a dedicated e-book reader. I could buy a cheap Chromebook or a decent tablet for it. But, the pull to buy it was there. It was the reader in me. I wanted to read a book — and, yes, and e-book is a book — without the distractions offered by tablets or laptops or phones.

So I did some research and talked to some friends who already owned the Oasis. Finally, after a couple of days of back-and-forth, I ordered it. I knew I could return it if I decided I didn’t like it. So I waited for the delivery to arrive, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

All I can say is, “WOW!”

Even though the screen is the same size as the Paperwhite — or near enough to make no difference — the actual footprint of the Oasis is much smaller. With the leather charging case, included in the cost of the reader, it feels more like a “real” reading experience. Better yet, the case has navigation buttons. Actual buttons.

But there is more to set it apart from the Paperwhite. Like its predecessor, the Oasis has screen lights. What makes it better is the number of lights on the Oasis number more than on the Paperwhite. Coupled with the glass screen instead of paper, it helps make the text appear sharper. The overall lighting of the entire screen seems to be more uniform than on the Paperwhite. Better yet, because of the smaller size and weight, I find myself taking the Oasis with me everywhere and I am reading more than I had been.

And that brings me back to my previous comment about eye strain. Like most writers — heck, like most anyone who works in an office — my days is spent looking at computer screens. A couple of years ago, my mother’s retinologist talked with her about how the flickering of screens (admittedly much better now than in years past) as well as reflection off of a computer or tablet screen, is a prime cause of eye strain and headaches. He preferred she read using an e-ink display. He preferred e-ink over print as well.

While working on my last book, I realized something. I wasn’t reading as much after I finished writing for the day. It didn’t take long to realize a big part of it was eye strain. After hours at the laptop, my eyes hurt and my head hurt. Changing the lighting or where I worked helped a little but the source of the problem was still there — the screen.

Since getting the Oasis, I’m back to reading. So I’m keeping the Oasis and going to give the Paperwhite to my mother. And I highly recommend for anyone who finds themselves not wanting to read e-books after a long day at the computer to consider one of the e-ink readers. Amazon has a line of them as do other merchants. Besides not having the reflection problem tablets have they have the added benefit of no distraction. No email. No games. No internet. You simply get lost in your book.

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

A Cautionary Tale

(Reposted from Mad Genius Club.)

Update at the bottom of the post.

Yesterday probably had to be the worst day in my life as an indie author. Release days are always nerve-wracking. Will people buy your book? Will they like your book? Or will they say your baby is ugly and laugh like mean girls? All of that paled into nothingness when I woke to find an email from Amazon telling me they had pulled Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) and it would not be on sale until I fixed the issue(s) reported by customers.

Gulp! The book had only been out for hours when the email had been sent. What was wrong?

I scoured the email for an explanation and the only thing it told me was “Metadata & cover image are of “Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)”, but the ASIN contains “Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2).”

What?

So, at 0730 I was trying to figure out how in the hell I had managed to upload the wrong file — except nothing I found showed that I had. The only possible explanation I could find was that I had forgotten to do one thing when I copied the legal page from Duty from Ashes to the Honor from Ashes file was change the AISN. The rest of the text was correct — in my upload file but not in the file that was being sent to those kind folks who had pre-ordered my book.

So, I did what any reasonable author would do in that situation: I panicked. I cursed. I even cried a little. But then I pulled up the base file, changed the AISN and re-uploaded it to my account. I also sent an email to Amazon at 0806 to let them know I had done as they asked. Then I blogged over at Nocturnal Lives to let folks know what was going on.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

And still Honor from Ashes was removed from sale. At one point, you could hit the buy or read for free buttons but you would get an error message. Then the dreaded “this item is under review” language hit the product page.

And the returns continued.

At 1022, I sent another email to KDP to find out what was going on. As with the earlier message, there was silence. Around noon, I went to my dashboard for KDP and sent a message to the help desk, asking for an update, noting that I was losing money and all I could do was tell those who were hitting my boards on Amazon that I had done what had been asked of me but was as much in the dark right now as were they.

I spent the day, gritting my teeth, unable to work, as I watched the returns continue. Fortunately, those who checked the boards, saw what was happening and they, in turn, took to the two one-star reviews to explain what was going on. But the damage has been done. There are now reviews for Honor from Ashes, claiming it is nothing more than a reprint of Duty from Ashes under a different title. Any new readers who might consider buying the book may be run off because of that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I did finally hear from Amazon at 2238 hrs last night, almost 20 hours after their initial email to me. Again, they alleged I uploaded the wrong file — but did not include the file so I could check it myself. Okay, I can live with that. I don’t like it, but I can live with it. However, there was nothing said about how long it would be until the book was once more available for purchase. (Note, too, that after I uploaded the new file a little after 0800, I received an email from them saying it was “live” at 1242 hrs. It showed on my dashboard as being live. The preview of the book on the product page showed the new file almost instantly. And yet it was still not available for purchase.)

I asked again, how long. So far, I have had no response.

I kept busy on the Amazon boards that deal with the book, answering questions, assuring readers that I had done everything I could and it was in Amazon’s hands. Their frustration over the delay matched my own — and I will be in contact with them when I figure out how to thank them for their patience.

Sleep was fitful last night as a result. Would I wake up this morning to find the book still unavailable? Even if it was finally available, how deep would the damage be? Returns had been taking place all day. Negative reviews were coming in. How would all that impact the first “day”/week sales?

So, when I finally rolled out of bed this morning, I very hesitantly checked email. Sigh. Nothing from Amazon. So I went to the product page, fully expecting to find it still reflecting the fact it was “under review”. Fortunately, it is now “live”. You can buy it or borrow it under the Kindle Unlimited program. Unfortunately, there are now two 1-star reviews. The only saving grace is the 4-star review (leaving an average of 2-stars — GULP!) and comments from those who had been following the boards to the reviewers that they needed to wait until Amazon made the correct file available. I thank each and every one of those fans who responded to those reviews. I hope those reviewers go back and edit their reviews but I’m afraid the damage has been done.

This entire affair has shown the one real fault in the KDP program, whether you are in KDP or KDP select/Unlimited. There is no way to pick up the phone and call them when you first see a problem. You are limited to e-mail. Sure, if the emails go on long enough, they may call you but that doesn’t help in situations like the one I faced where time is of the essence. It has left a sour taste in my mouth, as well as in the mouths of my fans.

Does this mean I will look for an alternative to KDP? No. It is the big dog in the game and moving away from it would be more than counter-productive. It does mean I will be even more careful about my uploads. It means I will continue trying to find out exactly what happened and how to avoid it in the future. Most of all, it means I need to those who read the book and enjoyed it to post positive reviews to counter the negative ones.

In the meantime, I will edit the product description to note that the previous download problems have been corrected. Hopefully, after a week, that will stem the damage that has already occurred. I don’t know.

All I can say is “damn it” and censor myself from saying anything else.

In the meantime, here is the link to the NOW live product page:

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

UPDATE: If you downloaded the book as a result of pre-ordering it, please confirm that you have the corrected version. It appears that some people have not automatically received it. Check your settings (Manage My Devices and Content/Settings) to see if you have automatic updates turned on. If not, you may need to delete the file from your device — NOT your account — and re-download. If that doesn’t work, contact Amazon and let me know. Amazon should respond quickly and get you the correct file. If not, I need to know. Thanks!

Thursday update

For the record, I am alive. I’m not sure I want to be, but I am. No, nothing serious just high level of pain and that cuts into the ability to think, much less work. Who knew an injured foot could cause so much disruption in my life.  Anyway, with the boot, I can at least sit at the desk a little more each day than I had been able to and each day gets better. Hopefully that means life can finally start returning to normal.

On the Amazon front, they did send me a new Kindle Fire. So far, none of the issues I had with the one it is replacing have manifested in the new one. Of course, there are a few other quirks I don’t remember from the old one, things I need to check on my mother’s Fire. So, I am happy, with qualifications until I see how things go today with it.

I also replaced the iPad Air that, despite the very expensive and highly recommended protective cover, has a shattered screen after a very short drop. No, I didn’t get another iPad. Much as I liked it, I couldn’t justify the cost of the replacement, not when I could get a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro for $200. Yes, it is a factory recertified model but so was my iPad Air. Now I am getting used to an unadulterated version of Android (the Fire uses a modified version of it) but I am loving having a larger screen that I have with the Fire.

What does this mean for the Fire? It means that it will once more be relegated to mainly a reading device. I can turn off the wifi on it and not worry about updating until Amazon does something about new “improvements” in version 4.5.5 of their OS. Until then, I can sideload my e-books and documents onto it as needed. I will admit, I’d worried about turning off the wifi because it took a bit of searching for a workaround to be able to watch Prime videos on the Galaxy Tab Pro but all it wound up taking in the end was downloading the Dolphin browser.

While we are on tech stuff, last night the Windows 10 update became available for my laptop and my Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro is the one piece of equipment I always take with me. Larger than a standard tablet, I like the screen for working. Plus, the keyboard is one of the most responsive I have seen for any tablet. The laptop is my main work machine and my gaming machine. So, to say I was a bit doubtful about upgrading either or both is putting it mildly.

So, before doing anything, I made back up images of both hard drives. Then I said a few prayers to the gods of tech. Then I crossed my fingers. Taking a deep, bracing breath, I hit the button to upgrade the laptop.

It took about an hour for the download and installation to work its way through the system. That said, it was probably the easiest upgrade I have ever done, not matter what the OS. The only thing I had to do when it was finished was reinstall and update my Nvidia GeForce Experience and video drivers. Everything else, at least so far, works as close to perfect as I could want. I even checked the games I play most and they all seemed to work. So, fingers crossed, all continues to go well.

I will admit, however, that I’m not sold on the changes to the home screen. I know folks moaned and groaned over the loss of the Start button. It really didn’t bother me. Maybe that’s because I was first exposed to Windows 8 and then 8.1 on the Surface Pro 3. I used the OS there for some time before the Asus was upgraded. Sure, there were times when I’d reach out to touch the screen on the laptop only to remember that it wasn’t the tablet, but was the only issue I had. I liked having certain things pinned to the desktop and others on the second “home” screen for apps.

Or it could be that I’m just weird.

Now you start back up to the familiar home screen and not the app screen. Your start menu is a hybrid of programs and app tiles. My biggest issue is that when you want to see all your programs, you get this long list of apps and programs combined and, if you are like me and have a lot of both, that becomes almost unwieldy. But that is a minor issue. Of course, I’m also waiting for my mother’s reaction when she winds up accidentally activating Cortana on her laptop once I update it and Cortana answers.

Yes, I’m evil.  😉

One thing I am going to look at very closely is the difference between Windows 10 Home and Pro. The laptop updated to the former. Right now, the biggest drawback that I can see if that the Home version does not allow you, the user, to turn off automatic updates. I learned long ago that I didn’t want all the updates Microsoft thought I needed. So, this new “feature” is bothersome to me.

That is not the case with the Pro version, and that is what has been downloaded onto the Surface Pro 3. That was also a very quick, relatively speaking, and painless upgrade. I haven’t played with it as much as I have the Asus laptop but, so far at least, it seems to be working as well as the Asus does post-update. Yes, it is a bit unnerving to have new images at start up. But after that, most everything else looks the same, save for the fact it now automatically opens to the old desktop instead of the app page.

I’ll post updates as I play more with Win 1o and I’ll let you guys know what I decide about upgrading the laptop to Pro or not. For now, it’s time for breakfast so I can finally take something to ease the pain in the ankle. Later!

Edited to add: if you update to Windows 10 and decide you don’t like it, you have the option of going back to Windows 8.1. To do so, go to Settings, Update & Security, Recovery. You should see an option there for the rollback. Now, I do not know if that will void any future free downloads of Windows 10 so you might want to look into that before doing a rollback. And, no, I am not doing so. Just thought I’d pass on the info since I just found it.

 

Some Discworld Bargains

I am going to be spending some hours sitting in waiting rooms today, so I was trolling Amazon for something to read. I came across these books by Sir Terry Pratchett at prices that surprised me. Now, these aren’t necessarily the best of his Discworld series, but I have yet to read anything by PTerry that I haven’t enjoyed. Anyway, I thought I would share my finds.

Guards! Guards! (Discworld Book 8) — $1.99

Thief of Time (Discworld Book 26) — $1.40

Sourcery (Discworld Book 5) — $1.99

Unseen Academicals (Discworld Book 37) — $1.12

 

Don’t You Just Love . . .

how folks are so quick to jump on the “Amazon is evil bandwagon” without knowing all the facts? In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, the internet was alive yesterday with a story about how evil Amazon had wiped a woman’s kindle without warning or explanation. How dare they!

The basic story, as it was initially described, runs something like this: Linn, a woman who lives in Norway, owns a kindle. She loved her kindle because, since she travels a lot, she had lots of books on it. One day, she tried to read on it and, gee, her kindle content was gone and her account was blocked. So, she emails Amazon to find out what happened and, in a series of e-mails, learns her account has been associated with another that was closed for fraud and no, Amazon can’t tell her anything more. So sorry, your books are gone and your account closed and there’s nothing you can do. Bye-bye.

Now, I’ll admit, if that happened to me, I’d be furious. My first reaction upon reading the article was to wonder “what in the world?” Something just didn’t ring right to me. So I went back and reread the article and the questions starting building.

The first thing I noted was that the blogger reporting the story said that Linn lived in Norway. But, if you look at the supposed e-mails from Amazon, they are from amazon.uk. So, why is she using a U.K. account? Assuming Amazon UK has the same rules as Amazon US, you have to have an address and bank account in that country to be able to have an account there. So, was Linn using someone else’s address? If so, she was in violation of their terms of service.

The second thing I wondered was why she was using e-mail to try to figure out what had happened. On an associated thought was to wonder if she was contacting the general Amazon UK customer support email address or the one associated only with kindle support. The problem with the information given in the reporting blog is that we don’t see the email address used for Amazon, so we don’t know. Then, frankly, I wondered why she wasn’t on the phone to customer support because that’s the first thing I’d done. (I’ll admit, here I’m assuming Amazon UK has a “call me now” option like the US kindle support does.)

There were so many questions raised as I reread the article, that I knew there had to be more to the story than we were getting. The problem was that the internet had picked up the story and was running with it — and all the Amazon haters were coming out and blaming Amazon without knowing the whole story.

My very first reaction, after one of general disbelief, was to wonder if Linn had backed up her purchases and, if not, why. When I’d poised this question on one of the conferences I follow, an author who should know better but who has shown that they are in the general Amazon is evil ilk responded with how there were a lot of reasons why: it was a pain to do, she might not know how, she might not have time, it doesn’t matter.

After I stopped laughing, all I could do was shake my head. Backing up your digital purchases, no matter where they’re from, is only smart. I’ve lost too many e-books to count over the years (actually early on in the e-book revolution) because they were in an early Adobe format that Adobe no longer supports and I don’t have the keys because I’ve changed computers, hard drives have crashed, etc. I’m not alone in that. So even those books I have that include DRM, are now backed up on multiple media formats. If I want, I can take a few minutes to strip the DRM — not that I’m saying you should do that because that can and is a violation of law in some countries. But it is possible to do and easily so. All you have to do is a quick google search to find out how.

Now, before you start condemning me as an Amazon lover, I’m not saying that I think Amazon is fully correct in the action it too — assuming it did as has been alleged. The kindle owner should have probably been contacted and asked to confirm or disprove the so-called accusations against her. However, I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon to condemn Amazon without knowing all the fact.

And I will ask questions and point out possible inconsistencies with the story — and with the conclusions others are reaching.

The general tenor of the articles reporting this story yesterday was that it was a cautionary tale in how bad DRM is. If Amazon didn’t add DRM, then Linn wouldn’t have any problem.

The problem with this is multi-fold. First, we don’t know if any of the books she had on her kindle came from major publishers, or indies. Most major publishers — basically all of them except TOR and that’s a new development — add DRM as part of their business model. Remember, their point of view is that customers are inherently crooked and will do all sorts of evil things with their e-books without DRM being added to prevent it. That’s not Amazon’s call. With regard to smaller publishers and authors who use the KDP platform to put their work on Amazon, we’re asked if we want to include DRM. It’s not added automatically.

The second problem I saw is that folks are forgetting that publishers limit books, and this includes e-books, are sold. If Linn had set up an account in the UK in violation of Amazon’s terms of service and the books she bought weren’t available from those publishers in Norway where she does live, then Amazon is faced with a problem. This territorial limit is a remnant from a time when publishing was only print, but it’s there and it will rear its ugly head from time to time.

The third problem I have is with the assumption that Amazon won’t recompense Linn for her purchases. First of all, we don’t know if the books she had on her kindle were books she’d purchased from Amazon or if she had it loaded with books that had been offered for free. It is possible that she had few, if any, books on it that she’d actually paid for.  For Amazon to basically brick a kindle and deny access to an account — and not give a refund for purchases made on that account — I’d assume it would have a pretty strong case that the account holder had been doing something fraudulent such as using someone else’s credit card. Otherwise, Amazon would be opening itself up to not only a storm of negative publicity like we saw yesterday but also to a law suit.

Note, too, that Amazon is within its rights to delete her account and her kindle content as laid out in its terms of service. Now, it would be nice if it had been more forthcoming with Linn to explain why the action was taken.

Note also the fact that there has been little coverage of two additional “facts” in the story. According to Boing Boing, Linn bought her kindle used, not from Amazon. Also, it is noted in an update that Linn’s account has now been reactivated.

Regarding buying the kindle used, that is inherently problematical for any device that has to log into an account to get online content. If you buy a kindle second hand you run the risk of buying a unit that has been linked with an account that violates
Amazon’s TOS. It’s the same sort of risk you run in buying a used XBOX 360 or other latest gen gaming system. If the unit has been red flagged, then you are SOL.

As for Linn’s account being reactivated, I hope it’s true and I hope we will eventually get an explanation of what happened and why. My guess is that it is a combination of issues and that she got caught in the middle of actually being in violation of Amazon’s TOS and possibly buying a kindle that had been used by someone who had been blocked by Amazon. But none of that really deals with the issue at the heart of this matter.

The bloggers who have been so quick to pillory Amazon are right. This story points out the problem with e-books: that we are buying a license only when we buy an e-book. But they are wrong when they say this is something that Amazon does. Sorry, but for the major publishers — you know, those publishers who are being sued by the Department of Justice for price fixing  and for others who have followed in their footsteps and have implemented agency model pricing — they don’t want to sell the e-book. They will proudly and loudly tell you that they are selling only a license to read the book. Why? For the same reason they add DRM. They are afraid you might go out and give the e-book away or sell it and they might lose a sale.

Is this something that needs to be fixed? Hell yeah. If we allow our readers, our customers, to buy a hard copy of a book and then give it away or sell it, we should allow them to do the same with e-b0oks. Frankly, if we did that, we’d be helping ourselves. Publishers should look at such gifts and second sales as loss leaders because that’s what they are. They can help encourage readers to find new authors and buy new books. The problem is that publishers don’t think that something you can’t hold in your hands is real. But then, those same publishers tend to believe authors are only a small part of the process that makes a book. Otherwise, authors would get a fairer percentage of the sales.

So, instead of pillorying Amazon over something about which we don’t know all the details, focus instead on the real issue — the fact that publishers are only selling us a license to read their books. Licenses can be revoked — and not just by Amazon or any other e-tailer. And, if you don’t believe me, go read their terms of service.  You’ll find there is very little difference between the TOS for Apple, Amazon, BN, Kobo and the Sony Store when it comes to the “appropriate” use of e-books and your duties as the purchaser.

(Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club.)

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