I think there’s been a certain expectation that the emergence of Apple’s iPad would herald the beginnings of a cross-platform e-Reader war in the vein of the great PC vs. Mac battles of the last several decades or, if you’re especially nerdy, similar to the wars waged between competing video game consoles. Instead, the imminent release of the Apple tablet has stimulated a showdown between Amazon and several of the nation’s most influential publishers that is finally coming to a head. What does this e-Reader Cold War mean for your book-buying habits?

It could mean a lot, as it turns out. The major publishers have signed deals with Apple that say, in essence, that they’re allowed to price their eBook offerings however they like on the iBookstore, provided they don’t allow another retailer (read: Amazon) access to that same content for a lower price. Amazon seems to have backed off their insistence on the $9.99 price point, but want to lock publishers into a three-year contract if they’re going to insist on releasing most of their new titles at $12.99 and above. Publishers are reluctant to do that.

Amazon is not without recourse in this situation. In addition to holding over 90 percent of the eBook market share in their grasp, they’re also a major player in the print world, with some estimates pegging their print sales at something like 19% of the market, including new and used book sales. If they’re sufficiently provoked by the publishers, they could push through a repeat of the stand-off strategy they used against the publisher Macmillan, by removing the “Buy” buttons on the print and digital versions of these delinquent publishers. It would be a blow to Amazon’s reputation as a bookseller and their customers’ ability to purchase the books they want, but they seem confident the lost revenue would make any publisher buckle.

I suppose one’s outlook on this situation depends heavily on where you’re standing. For Amazon, raising the prices of eBooks is a blatant attempt to hold back the switch from print to digital versions, a trend that would slow the sales of their Kindle. For publishers, the whole process is frightening and fraught with danger, and the increase in eBook prices is a comforting hedge for when they have to report to stockholders. Apple, meanwhile, is happy to stand on the sidelines and play the good guy, as it automatically raises their standing in this nascent market in which they’ve just entered.

As a frequent consumer of eBooks, my reflex is to stand in Amazon’s corner. The $9.99 price point represents a value you never really see in other areas of the economy these days. For the same price as a movie ticket on a Saturday night, you get hours of entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Buying a book at $12.99 isn’t much worse, true, but it raises the price of a book just out of “impulse buy” territory into something I’m more inclined to budget. I definitely see Amazon’s logic.

Having said that, it seems clear to me that Amazon has little recourse in this situation but to back down. By the end of the year, Apple will have expanded the potential market for eBook buyers by several orders of magnitude, and Google is still lurking out in the shadows somewhere. Amazon’s ability to bully publishers into submission is still there, but it’s going to wane fairly rapidly. They may soon find themselves not only outmatched but with a sullied reputation.

As customers, we can still vote with our wallets. So if you’d rather not pay $14.99 for books, just have some patience and wait until they drop to a price that seems more reasonable. It’s not much, but what else can we do?


As we’ve often noted, publishers are not big fans of the Amazon Kindle. Amazon’s strident efforts to keep the standard price of a Kindle Book at $9.99 has ruffled a lot of feathers amongst the big publishers, who are reluctant to do away with the existing print dichotomy, where they get to sell hardcover books at $30 a pop for four months until they release an affordable paperback version of average shmoes like you and me. Publishers claim they need that hardcover money to cover their expenses, while e-Reader users have long assumed the lack of printing and distribution costs should make up the difference.

A recent article out of the New York Times sought to illuminate the costs involved in producing a book so we could see which side is closer to the truth. The difference in the take for publishers after distribution and before costs from a hardcover to an eBook is only about $4, but that is made up almost entirely by the difference in printing, storing, shipping, and marketing the hardcover edition. Indeed, eBooks leave publishers with around $5 when all is said and done, where print leaves them with just $4. Oddly enough, eBook seem to somehow result in a lower cut for the author, as they only haul in $2-3 on an eBook but come out with nearly $4 on the hardcover edition.

So what does that really leave publishers to complain about? The next in their list of complaints is that if eBooks start to become too big a share of the market (they’re at less than five percent right now), publishers will have to spread the costs of the print version over fewer copies, making them more expensive per book to get to stores. And those stores will suffer as well, because once people start moving to eReaders in larger numbers, the big box book store is going to go the way of the dodo. I like getting coffee and relaxing with a book at Borders as much as anybody, but I’m not going to be too broken up if their numbers are culled a bit.

If anything, seeing the numbers broken down like this, it becomes apparent that the easiest part of a book’s production cost to remove is the part going to the publisher. Nobody wants to lower the share of the profits going to the author, and the marketing, editing, and typesetting are fixed costs that you can’t get rid of if you want a mainstream success. The money that is there waiting to be reclaimed is that being collected by the owners and shareholders of the major corporations with their tentacles wrapped around the publishing industry.

What’s to stop popular authors from skipping the whole step of talking to the publisher and instead publish independently, or at the very least, talk directly to Amazon, Apple, and Barnes and Noble themselves? All it would take is a big mainstream name like Stephen King to do this before the whole publishing edifice comes crashing down.

And perhaps that’s exactly why the publishers are so keen on keeping the cost of eBooks high. The higher the prices go, the slower the transition to eBooks happens. The slower the transition happens, the more time they have to squeeze a penny out of the system. In short, I’m not falling for it, and neither should you.


One of our most popular posts here at KindleChat is an old one we did over two years ago on the state of the Bible on Amazon’s e-Reader. As it turns out, there are loads of people out there who see their Kindle as a way to keep in close contact with scripture on top of their favorite classics and best-sellers. Things have changed for the better since then, so we thought we’d give you a long-overdue update!

What has always made Bible-reading on the Kindle particularly prickly is that most people don’t approach it like a Dan Patterson best-seller. One doesn’t read it straight through – you need to jump quickly to a particular verse when it comes up in a sermon or in a reading, and most people seem to find the table of contents method most versions employ to be overly cumbersome for that task. So how have things changed? Let’s look at some of the most popular versions available and see.

Holy Bible, New International Version – $6.99

The top version of the Bible on Amazon, at least as it concerns sales, is the New International Version. I won’t get into the specifics of the translation, because that’s a whole different argument, but it handles navigation with a linked Table of Contents system. You select the book of your choice from the table of contents, then the chapter, then the verse. You can then go back to the table of contents either by clicking one of the linked chapter or verse numbers, or just hitting back button. This is still a good deal too slow for my taste, and the inability to search for a specific chapter or verse from any page slows things down. Very little thought seems to have been put into this one, and it’s a bit of a joke that it actually costs more than other superior versions. Is there any surprise that it’s only got 3.5/5 stars? I’d skip it.

ESV Study Bible – $9.99

This is the nerd’s version of the Bible, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. The ESV Study Bible goes beyond the text to give you all the history and context for fully understanding those same old passages. It’s got 20,000 notes sprinkled within the text itself, easily accessible by links. It’s also got scores of articles, charts, maps, and specially-formatted illustrations to really stimulate your imagination. Unfortunately, like the NIV, it uses the Table of Contents as its principal form of navigation. I still think it’s the most useful version, all told, but it could make better use of the Kindle itself.

King James Bible – $4.99

A labor of love, this version of the King James Bible makes use of what its authors call Direct Verse Jump navigation. By utilizing their easy shorthand, you can jump straight to a verse by typing it into the search field. Looking up the ubiquitous John 3:16? Type in jn.3.16, hit enter, and boom, you’re there in just one click! They’ve even gone so far as to include a version that’s text-to-speech friendly. By removing the verse numbers, it sidesteps the problem where the text-to-speech would break up the text by throwing in numbers as well. I’ve always thought the KJV was a little vanilla for my taste, but you can’t beat the job they’ve done making this Kindle-friendly.

NET Bible First Edition – $4.99

Done by the same guy that did the aforementioned King James Bible, this version takes the NET version of the good book, which features more than 60,000 footnotes straight from the translators themselves, and utilizes the Direct Verse Jump feature for navigation. For those who are interested in getting as close as possible to the original translation, this is the definitive version. Every version should have Direct Verse Jump!

King James Bible – FREE

Just because there are versions of the Bible you can buy doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Project Gutenberg, for instance, provides a perfectly passable version of the King James Bible. Unfortunately, the price you pay for going with their version is an almost total lack of formatting or indexing. A KindleChat commenter by the name of Thomas posted a link to a free version of the KJV that does actually feature indexing, so perhaps that will serve as a helpful halfway point for the budget-conscious.

Got a version you love that we don’t mention here? Found an especially easy way to read the scripture on your Kindle? Let us know in the comments!

Amazon makes it so easy to find the books you’re looking for in the Kindle Store that I think a lot of people simply fail to realize that there is a wealth of free reading material at their finger tips, provided they just know where to look.

In truth, there are literally hundreds of ways to get free eBooks, both legal and otherwise. I’m assuming you’re like I am though, and prefer the simplest and quickest methods so you can get back to your reading as fast as possible. So here are my top 3 free eBook destinations:

Feedbooks
Feedbooks is my favorite option because not only do they have thousands of free and public domain titles ready for your perusal, but they also offer a seamless method for downloading titles to your Kindle without ever touching the computer.

  1. Navigate to the web browser on your Kindle. On the home screen, go to Menu > Experimental > Basic Web.
  2. Once in the browser, hit Menu > Enter URL and type in feedbooks.com/kindleguide
  3. When prompted, simply hit the OK button and it will download a file. This file will appear in your list of books as “Kindle Download Guide.”
  4. Open the Kindle Download Guide, go to the Table of Contents, and find your book by first letter. (Note: There are tons of titles on Feedbooks, so I find switching the font to the smallest available allows you to scan pages much more quickly.)
  5. Simply hit the Download link, hit OK at the prompt, and you’ll have a brand new title waiting on your home page.

Project Gutenberg
When people think “free eBooks,” generally they think Project Gutenberg. Having been around for years and with over 30,000 titles in their library, it’s not hard to see why. Finding books on Project Gutenberg is fairly straightforward, but there are some extra steps.

  1. Find your title by searching for it on your computer at Gutenberg.org
  2. At the bottom of the screen on a book’s page, you’ll note several file types. Download the plain text file version with no compression, if it’s offered. Plain text is always your preferred file type, but the Kindle CAN also read most kind of .mobi files as well.
  3. Once you’ve saved the title to your PC, connect your Kindle to the computer via the USB cable.
  4. Simply drag the new file you’ve downloaded into the documents folder on your Kindle, and you’ve done it. (Note: Make sure to change the file name so the title is first, because once it shows up on your Kindle home screen, the file name will be displayed as the title.)

Amazon
Yes, believe it or not, Amazon actually does feature a number of free Kindle books for you to gorge on. These are particularly handy when your checking account is still smarting from making that initial $259 investment.

Simply go to the Kindle Store, pick a genre, and once it gives you a list of results, change the “Sort by” box to “Price: Low to High.” All your free titles will float to the top. I can’t speak to the quality of the selection on there, but there always appear to be at least 1 or 2 quasi-new free titles in the list of Kindle bestsellers. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

You can also accomplish this by going to the Kindle Store through your Kindle itself, but I’ve always found that method more cumbersome when you had the choice.

So there you have it! Three very easy, very quick ways to make sure your Kindle is always stuffed with quality reading material.

This is it.

So far, this is by far the best portable Bible app I have used. I used to use a version for the Palm, then for the Windows CE device (several), I thought had found the perfect device in the Kindle but it was a huge disappointment in the implementation of the electronic Bible. It wasn’t the Kindles fault as much as it was the fact that none of the Bible publishers knew how to implement a good index that allowed you to get to a book and chapter quickly.
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digitaltextplatform

What Amazon has created is nothing short of extraordinary and as of yet I have heard virtually nothing about it. The new Digital Text Platform site that they have prepared is astounding in that any individual or organization or company can register and receive assistance in the creation of a Kindle version of their work. Registering is easy and somewhat exciting when you realize you are also registering where for them to send the money when someone has purchased your work. Currently the terms under which you would operate once you have published can be seen here and it would appear that as the author you will receive 35% of the cover price. I am looking into the terms and conditions document and will probably see many things I will initially not like, but on first blush it still seems extremely easy to get a work published and into the largest electronic bookstore around.

If you have access to anyone that knows the print industry and can comment on these conditions please send me an email as I would be very interested in interviewing them perhaps for their thoughts on the agreement. Apparently it is a modification of the self publishing that was available for mobipocket books, but it seems to me having your work available at amazon.com would be a much larger incentive to electronically publish than a site that I head never heard of before the Kindle.

If you Hate the terms or Love them pop over to the discussion forums and leave your feedback. I have been toying with a book for almost a year now and can see myself plunging into it with a bit more enthusiasm now that I can really see it getting published. Self publishing is always an option but it was too expensive and I suspect that getting a self published book onto Barnes and Nobles shelves would be quite hard much less having the funds to front the creation of sufficient copies to get any momentum nationally. This format offers a new hope for people that would love to get their work out there, and if it is any good then it may actually prosper and see physical print publishing. For some reason that still seems like my ultimate goal as I am prejudiced to think that an e-Book is somehow less permanent than a true printed one. What do you think? Will that ever change?

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