Announcing the KindlesforKids Scholarship Program!

As the first step in its mission to provide e-books for everyone, Connect2Books is pleased to announce that we are sponsoring a scholarship program to donate Kindles to deserving students who are in financially challenging circumstances. Successful candidates will be awarded a Kindle along with a credit for $100 worth of e-books from Amazon’s Kindle store. If you know of any students in 6th to 12th grade in the United States who love to read and learn but lack ready access to books, please send an email, outlining their circumstances and achievements to the address below.

The usual legal statements (Supplies are limited; terms and conditions apply) are in effect.

emailto: gordon@connect2books.org

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One Million Books available for Kindle??

Since many readers are under the impression that the only content that can be obtained in Kindle format is that which is purchased from Amazon, the thread from the Kindle discussion board below sheds some light on the subject. The original post was made on Dec 20, and there’s been a fair number of replies since then, but the basic premise remains: Amazon is only one source for content, and the majority of non-Amazon content is free, or close to it. Link to original post:

http://www.amazon.com/Million-Kindle-books-available-now/forum/FxBVKST06PWP9B/Tx15UAKRX5252A/1/ref=cm_cd_pg_newest?%5Fencoding=UTF8&asin=B000FI73MA&store=fiona-hardware&cdSort=oldest

T. Beck says:  
Some have expressed a lack of content for the Kindle, here is what I have tried, and works (make sure you check the footnotes at the bottom):

http://www.amazon.com 95,000 or so titles, instant download, easy.

http://www.gutenberg.org 20,000 or so titles – mostly classics or things that no longer have copywrite. Multiple languages. Three are links to other sites that boast a total of 100k titles. ***, ****

http://www.worldlibrary.net 400,000 titles – classics, modern, government, multiple languages, all the ones I tried were free. Requires $8.95 yearly subscription fee, consider it the cost of a library card.*, ***, ****

http://www.fictionwise.com offers both unencrypted and encrypted .mobi files. Full range of reading and many free books as well. *, **, ****

http://www.mobipocket.com lots of titles, most you can find on amazon.com in the Kindle section for less.

http://www.webscriptions.net This is Baen books and mostly SiFi. None are encrypted, many are free, and can be transferred directly to your Kindle. Choose Kindle compatible for the download. ****

http://www.wowio.com uses .pdf format. **, You will need to register and can download up to three books a day, free. Only available to people in the US, due to copyright and licensing restrictions.

http://www.fictionpress.com 900,000 Mostly original works, as in unknown, normally unpublished authors. Some good, some not, take your chances, you may discover the next JK Rowling. Displays in text. Cut, paste and email to yourself, or save in .txt file and upload.

http://www.manybooks.net 20,000 titles or so. Has a Kindle format. ***, ****

http://www.mnybks.net – an extension of Manybooks above, but if you access it through the basic WebBrowser in Kindle, you can download directly to your Kindle, the way you would an Amazon book. Choose the Mobipocket format.

http://www.feedbooks.com Share books, self published books and a make it yourself newspaper. With a little manipulation of the tools below, you can get your own newspaper, you could probably even directly email it to your Kindle in the morning if you allow that site to send you stuff. You will need to register, but there is no cost. There is now a “Kindle Download Guide” from http://www.feedbooks.com includes links to many classics, including many in foreign languages.

http://www.ccel.org Christian centered works. Available in pdf, word, and text, all readily transferable to your Kindle.

* They save as .pdf files that you can email to your Kindle. It sees the .pdf as a file of words, not pictures of words, so it can be resized and adjusted just as any other ebook. Download the book to your PC, and email that file to your Kendle, or freekendle@kendle and load through the USB cable if you want to save the 10 cent conversion charge.

** For the encrypted ones in .mobi, a tool can be used to allow the kindle to see it. This tool does not make a copy of the book, merely adds a flag so that the Kendle can display it (it would be hard to call this a violation of copywrite or use conditions since both formats are amazon’s). The tool and directions on how to use it are at: http://igorsk.blogspot.com/2007/12/mobipocket-books-on-kindle.html

*** Site runs on donations

**** Can be downloaded directly to your Kindle when it is plugged in as an external storeage device, simply specify the Kindle folder when selecting where to put your book.

E-Books everywhere: Read maps and books on the same device

More driver distractions:

Engadget reports today that MD Sound introduced a Personal Navigation Device (PND) that allows the user to listen to mp3 files, view pictures, view videos, navigate the continental United States and read e-books, all on a 4.3 inch touch screen. As if yakking and texting on cell phones wasn’t enough of a distraction, now you’ll be able to find your way to Peoria and then read up on the attractions, all on the same gizmo. (Assuming you don’t drive off the road while checking out the restaurant reviews.)

http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/24/md-sounds-ko-gps4-navigator-includes-e-book-reader

The Weight: Whoopi raves about the Kindle

Not being a regular viewer of ABC’s morning talk show, The View, I missed the episode on February 13, in which Whoopi Goldberg did essentially a two minute promo for the Kindle (which probably only exacerbated the backorder problem). What was noteworthy however, was not that she was such a believer in the product, but that she made repeated appeals to the publishers of educational textbooks to create Kindle editions of their books. Her pleas centered around the damage that carrying heavy textbooks back and forth to school was doing to young childrens’ backs. She also remarked that it would likely cause kids to read more, a hypothesis that still needs to be validated in the field. Barbara Walters asked if kids would be able to afford one, and of course, between owning iPods and cellphones, purchasing a Kindle will not be a major obstacle for many in The View’s audience. For the rest, there’s Connect2Books. Maybe we can convince Whoopi Goldberg to be our spokesperson…

Click below to watch the clip:

http://video.aol.com/partner/abcshort/the-view-hot-topics-213-the-kindle/20817-81407

Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias…NY Times

A piece in Sunday’s New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/weekinreview/16ncohen.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=weekinreview

hints that the veritable leather-bound sets of encyclopedias that lined the bookshelves of many families (and libraries) for generations may be going the way of the Viewmaster and the Fuller Brush Man. One statistic that brings the trend home is that sales of Encyclopedia Britannica, the Rolls Royce of encyclopedias, have dropped by 90% since 1990, and their 2000 strong sales force is no more. (Apparently, the demand for door-to-door salesmen approaches zero when your only customers are schools and libraries. However, despite being a shell of its former size, company is still profitable. )

Britannica is not the only one forced to adapt to the migration to the online world. The Encyclopedia Americana has also hinted that there will not be a print edition in 2009. Several European publishers, including Brockhause, have moved their contents entirely online, for free (albeit ad-supported). The NYT piece goes on to trace the development of the various web-based offerings, including of course, Wikipedia (consistently in the top ten most visited sites) as well as the more recent Encyclopedia of Life, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, among others.

This article quotes a number of nostalgic encyclopedia users who are lamenting the loss of a set of bound books that you can thumb through. It seems to me that the void that some fear is being created by the online world can be filled to some degree by e-book readers such as the Kindle. Sure, it has already includes easy access to Wikipedia, but look at the value proposition if you’re an encyclopedia publisher: if you’re seeking new channels for your high-valued content, and are already able to charge a subscription for access it online, making it available via a wireless device like the Kindle could present an incremental revenue stream.

The Kindle also can act as a bridge for those tactile readers who prefer to hold their reference books in their hands. The article offers an ideal metaphor in the following paragraph, which quotes Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard professor and chairman of the Encyclopedia of Life project:

Asked about his own experience with encyclopedias, Professor Wilson said, “I grew up in Alabama — we didn’t have things like the Encyclopaedia Britannica in our home.” What he did have were field guides. “All the field guides — for snakes, butterflies, turtles. Back in the 40s, I had my butterfly nets, and I was right up to date through my guides,” Professor Wilson said.

He added: “There are nerds that say we will have something the size of a field guide, and punch in something. Maybe I am hopelessly old fashioned, but a kid with a knapsack, and a Boy Scout or Girl Scout manual, printed, a field guide on snakes or butterflies, printed, is the best combination in the world.”

It’s not a huge leap to imagine the Kindle as a portable “field guide to the world”. New species could be incorporated within days of discovery.

Comments?

Chicken/Egg dilemma: Textbook publishers rejected by the digital world?

In an article appearing in the March 10 issue of  the Michigan State U student paper, the author quotes a couple of publishing industry executives with diverging observations on the future of e-textbooks on college campuses:

Some of the weight of textbooks and course packets could be lifted off the backs of students if some textbook publishers have their way. Electronic or digital books, known as eBooks, could eradicate the need for students to carry around textbooks and, in turn, put texts into a slim device or laptop computer. Tom Stanton, director of communications for McGraw-Hill Education, said his company offers more than 1,000 digital textbooks — most at half the cost of traditional print counterparts. “Today’s eBooks offer a variety of features that enhance the learning experience,” he said. “For example, many of our eBooks are fully interactive, with audio, video, full search and note-taking capabilities.” Despite the extra features of digital books, they are not being adopted everywhere. Evan Schnittman, vice president of business development for Oxford University Press, said the textbook world has tried to reach out to the digital age, but has been rejected. The resistance is partially attributed to professors choosing books, Schnittman said, but it could be because of publishers trying to pass off eBooks on a group without a standard eBook reader.  “Textbooks have been a real challenge as an industry,” Schnittman said. “You would think that the most wired group in the world (students), would be the first to adapt (to eBooks).”   He said e-readers available now aren’t as multifunctional as publishers would like. “There’s no interactivity,” Schnittman said. “If you highlight a word, you can’t get a definition or get a video explaining the subject.”

http://www.statenews.com/index.php/article/2008/03/screen_reading#comment12093

It seems from these comments that the lack of a standard reader provides the publishers with a convenient explanation justifying their reluctance to migrate to a digital world. Why should they do anything to hasten the arrival of a day when their monopolistic pricing practices are threatened by the open-source community? (or at least the world of digital content, which generally carries lower margins than hard copies.) One is reminded of the effect the development of the standard gauge in the railroad industry had on interstate commerce back in the middle of the 19th century (which is when the current publishing industry got its start). Prior to a common railroad gauge being adopted by the dozens of different railway companies around the country, goods could only be moved a short distance before they needed to be transferred to a different size freight car. Once the standard gauge was adopted, a single freight car could be transported across the continent without its contents having to be transferred, thus bringing shipping costs down.  The development of the standard gauge railroad is recognized as one of the catalysts underlying the USA’s rise to the world’s largest economy by the end of the 19th century.

Maybe Amazon should be giving Kindles away to every high school and college student for the next five years…(or at least do volume license deals with every college in the nation). Why let the publishers dictate, (or inhibit) the standard? Let the market speak!

Cracks in the (UK’s) Publishing Industry’s Armor…

There are some signs that the publishing industry is slowly beginning to get one foot out of the 19th century and into the 21st century. In an item under the headline “Fiction for Free from Penguin”, theBookseller.com reports:

Penguin is to offer free downloads of the first chapter of every fiction title it publishes.The publisher has been trialling its “Penguin Tasters”, making PDF downloads available from selected novels via its website, for the past six months. It currently has the first chapters of over 50 titles available for download onto computer screens, iPhones, Palms and Blackberrys. The publisher says the decision to include all fiction in the scheme as of next week is “a 21st century version of what Allen Lane set out to do when he started Penguin-making good quality contemporary fiction available to everyone”.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/54558-fiction-for-free-from-penguin.html

In a similar vein, the same site posted this item:

Random House chair and c.e.o. Gail Rebuck last night welcomed digitisation as a liberating force for books—but said it was inevitable that it would transform the book publishing industry. Rebuck compared current digital developments to the advent of moveable type in the 15th century, and argued that book publishing faces a time of great challenge but also “unprecedented opportunity” which will free the book to reach new audiences in new ways. Rebuck warned against complacency around e-books, describing them as a phenomenon that traditional publishers must take seriously. She also stressed the need for vigilance over copyright, not just in the interests of publishers but most especially for writers. However, she said that ultimately it did not matter if, in 2050, a writer is read in a traditional paperback or a hand-held device. “As a publisher, I am happy to supply either to customers, and the essence of what I am selling will be the same, whatever the technology transmitting it. I think there is an irreducible quality to reading that means the book will never die.”

And in a hint that the Kindle and Sony’s reader are coming to the UK, theBookseller reports:

The two biggest publishers in Britain are to offer dozens of likely bestsellers to read on a hand-held screen this autumn in a sign that, after many false dawns, the electronic “ebook” may finally have arrived, reports the Sunday Times. Two rival devices due to come on sale in Britain over the next few months – Sony’s Reader and Amazon’s Kindle. Random House and Hachette, which together control just over 30% of the British book market, are to offer downloadable versions of titles by authors ranging from Delia Smith to Ian McEwan and Michael Parkinson. Every other major publisher is drawing up plans to follow suit, pitching the books at just below the price of a hardback, according to the piece.

But in this article describing Penguin’s decision to sell its audiobooks DRM-free, it’s apparent that the suits at the big publishing houses are starting to pay some attention to the digital revolution. Quoted in the Guardian, the CEO of Pearson, Marjorie Scardino, said last week:

“I don’t think we can be worried about every incursion from electronic selling and electronic use. We have got to think about what the future is going to be and look at how to experiment with it”. Scardino admitted that another potential electronic version of literature – digital books or e-books – has yet to take off because there is still no attractive digital book-reading device. Last year Amazon tried to revitalise the market with the Kindle, but Scardino reckons it “is not quite there yet, and I think we are still waiting for that piece of kit. It’s like downloadable music – iTunes came first but without the iPod I think that would not have really mattered.”

OK, it’s time for a short history lesson here. The iPod was introduced in 2001, although there were other MP3 players on the market at that time. Music sales peaked at $16.7B in 2000 and fell by over 30% by 2006. Whether or not Amazon’s Kindle will turn out to be the iPod of ebooks is unknown at this stage, but one thing is clear: the traditional model of publishing using dead trees and glue is going to crumble over time. Ever hear of of a company called Harms, Witmark & Remick? They were the largest sheet music publisher in the US in the early 20th century. In 1929, they were bought by a “new media” company, Warner Brothers, because the introduction of the grammophone led to a decline in sheet music sales. Can you spell Deja Vu?