Amazon’s Kindle will make it easier to find a good book

Sounds like a good update — I’m always trying to find the next book — or the next dozen books — I want to read. And the Kindle home screen could use some personalization options.

“Kindle owners will find browsing, buying and sharing books easier when a software update arrives this month, according to Amazon. An Amazon page details the features and refinements coming to Kindle e-book readers. The update will enable you to personalize the home screen, for example, so your most recent books appear at the upper left of the screen. All of your books can be retrieved by clicking on My Library. A new section dubbed “My Reading Lists” shows all the books on your wish list as well as any samples you’ve downloaded. The bottom of the home screen will change to show you recommendations, best-selling titles and books that your Goodreads friends are reading.”

An upcoming update to Kindle e-book readers promises a faster way to check your existing library and track down your next read.

(Source: Amazon Kindle wants to ease your hunt for a good book)

The article goes on to talk about why sales of ebooks and Kindles have lagged lately, but they completely miss what I’m sure is the actual reason: the quick jump in ebook prices that happened last year, which may or may not have been a result of Amazon being forced to settle their dispute with major publishing houses.

I think consumers lost out on that one, because whereas I used to be able to purchase ebooks at a reasonable rate, now I’m being asked, often, to pay more for the electronic version than for the paperback copy. Grumble. Maybe with newer books I can understand it, but $8.99 for an old scifi novel published in 1987, that I already own in paperback, or could buy as such for $5.99? No thanks.

Is it really a question of free speech? Amazon removes pedophilia guide but defends selling book

A self-published guide giving advice to pedophiles that was on sale through online retailer Amazon stirred up controversy, with some threatening to boycott the website. The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct has now been removed from sale, but Amazon initially defended the listing, saying the company does not promote criminal acts but also avoids censorship. The book has since been removed, but not without first creating a cloud storm of controversy.

Was this really a question of free speech, though? The author of this book had every right to write it, I suppose, though the very idea turns one’s stomach. But does Amazon have a responsibility to carry every piece of published material it is asked to? No, and nor does it — in fact, Amazon has a “no porn” policy for the Kindle store.It’s not as if the company doesn’t already pick and choose what material they are willing to carry for sale. I question, though, where they’re drawing the lines.

Amazon won’t carry pornography, which is perfectly legal. That’s a moralistic decision on their part. Amazon will carry books that tout hate-mongering, such as those written by Holocaust deniers — and Amazon says that’s because they believe in free speech. (But not orgies or role-playing, apparently.) Well, it’s legal to be a hateful idiot as well. Amazon also apparently will carry instructional manuals for pedophilia, which last time I checked, is a crime. Free speech trumps aiding and abetting criminal activity, I gather.

But is it really about free speech, or just about profit? Amazon isn’t a publicly funded institution supported with tax dollars. They do not have a library’s mission to uphold free speech, nor do they have a governing body with the public’s best interest in mind. Amazon is a business, a profit-making business, and their decision to sell the ebook in question was a business decision, nothing more. They don’t apply ethics or morals in any consistent way, nor is their policy especially logical. Hey, it’s their party, and they can sell what they want to — but we have every right (possibly every responsibility) to complain.

And object the Internet did, almost en masse — something you don’t see every day. Amazon initially defended the book’s sale, then removed it, then reinstated it, and then finally removed it again. In the end, they caved to the web’s pressure, but not especially gracefully, and not in a way that is likely to earn them any public good will.

5 places to download free e-books

From Tonic.com, this list of five places to download free e-books:

1. Project Gutenberg — The granddaddy of all e-book sites, Gutenberg contains the text of thousands of public-domain titles. From the Bible to the Kama Sutra and everything in between, they’re all there. And you can read their titles just about anywhere, be it your computer, your Kindle, your iPad, or your phone.

2. ManyBooks — Like Project Gutenberg but a little bit prettier, ManyBooks has about 26,000 free e-books just waiting to be downloaded. The site started out with e-book version of Project Gutenberg titles, but has expanded to include many additional public domain and Creative Commons titles from additional sources.

3.Tor.com — Tor is one of the world’s biggest Science Fiction publishers and they took the steps to embrace e-books years ago. Their website is packed with free books and stories from their best-known authors. Their logic is that if you read a book for free, you might also want to buy it in print. Your mileage may vary on that logic, but it’s still a great source for some good reads.

4. Amazon and Barnes & Noble — If you bought Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook, you may as well keep shopping with them. Each of their sites offers hundreds of free books. They’re often the same books you’d find at the sites above, but you might also luck out and find that a publisher is offering its commercial e-books for free as a special deal through one of the online stores.

5. Your local library — What’s that, you didn’t know that your library has free e-books? Well, it all depends on how quickly your state’s library system is adapting to the electronic world. Some libraries have actual Kindles you can borrow, with e-books loaded on them, while others let you visit a special library site and download e-books to your reader for a week or two. (My library hasn’t gotten that far yet, but I can download audiobooks to my iPod any time I want.) Does your library offer this? You don’t know unless you ask.

I like Tor’s attitude a lot, because I think it’s valid — if I read an ebook for free, I actually just might want it in print, or more to the point, want more from from that author. And I have nothing but terrific things to say about Project Gutenberg. While Google Books are poorly scanned and horribly OCRd, PG books have been carefully proofread by teams of volunteers. Much better quality.