End the week with 7 good kindle book deals

7 kindle book deals to pick out your weekend’s reading from –

  1. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. Not exactly a deal but at $7.99 it’s a good price for a book that won the 2009 Nebula and shared the 2010 Hugo.

    Publishers Weekly:
    Starred Review. Noted short story writer Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) proves equally adept at novel length in this grim but beautifully written tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation.

    Capt. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai of the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. Factory manager Anderson Lake covertly searches for new and useful mutations for a hated Western agribusiness.

  2. Not What She Seems by Victorine E. Lieske. Rated 4.5 stars on 26 reviews. Described as a ‘sweet’ romantic suspense. Just $1.

    When billionaire Steven Ashton couldn’t stand his high society social life anymore, he left the stress of New York on a vacation for his soul. The need to meet real down to earth people lead him to a small Nebraska town he remembered visiting as a child.

    Emily could have easily fallen in love with Steven, under different circumstances, but her past was catching up with her and she needed a new life. If the authorities found out about her, she could lose the one thing that meant everything, …

  3. A Touch of Deceit by Gary Ponzo. Rated 5 stars on 22 reviews. $1.99.

    Winner of the Southwest Writers Novel Contest, Thriller category!

    FBI agent Nick Bracco can’t stop a Kurdish terrorist from firing missiles at random homes across the country. The police can’t stand watch over every household, so Bracco recruits his cousin Tommy to help track down this terrorist. Tommy is in the Mafia. Oh yeah, it gets messy fast. As fast as you can turn the pages.

  4. Take the Monkeys and Run by Karen Cantwell. Have mentioned this before but it has a lot more reviews now – 4.5 stars on 28 reviews. Just $1. 

    Film lover Barbara Marr is a typical suburban mom living the typical suburban life in her sleepy little town of Rustic Woods, Virginia. Typical, that is until she sets out to find the missing link between a bizarre monkey sighting in her yard and the bone chilling middle-of-the-night fright fest at the strangely vacant house next door.

    When Barb talks her two friends into some seemingly innocent Charlie’s Angels-like sleuthing, they stumble upon way more than they bargained for and uncover a piece of neighborhood history that certain people would kill to keep on the cutting room floor.

  5. Ransom X by I. B. Holder. Rated 4.5 stars on 9 reviews. $1.

    Martin Legace is a former special ops standout, once recognized as the top field interrogator in the American military complex. His study of the human mind was carried out in make-shift tents on the edge of the battlefield; he didn’t write or read the book on how to break a prisoner, he simply followed his instincts, dissecting human behavior in a way that verges on autism.

    He had a reputation for getting anything out of anyone – “had” being the operative word. Five years ago, a random crime shattered Legace’s world. Withdrawing inside himself, he built his life around the only family he had left, his teenage daughter.

    His life was verging on stable when a young female agent from Washington walked into his office with an opportunity, an obligation and a threat.

  6. Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Cruise. Rated 3.5 stars on 39 reviews. $1.61.

    Tess Newhart knows her ex-boyfriend Nick Jamieson isn’t the right guy for her. He’s caviar and champagne; she’s take-out Chinese pot stickers. He’s an uptight Republican lawyer; she was raised in a commune. He wants to get ahead in business; she just wants…him.

    Yet somehow she finds herself agreeing to play his fiancée on a weekend business trip that could make or break Nick’s career. And while he’s trying to convince Tess that he needs her in his respectable world, Tess is doing her best to keep her opinions to herself and her hands off Nick.

  7. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. Rated 4.5 stars on 125 reviews. Think it’s fascinating to contrast the pull of the American Dream with the pull of religion – any religion. $5.24 and was doing very well a week back – is still at #232.

    “In his compelling new book, Radical, David Platt delivers a powerful picture of the church in America today that, on key points, stands in sharp contrast to what the Bible shows us about the person and purpose of Jesus Christ. David challenges Christians to wake up, trade in false values rooted in the American dream, and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose—to make Christ’s glory known to all the nations! This is a must-read for every believer!”

    —Wess Stafford, president and CEO, Compassion Intl.

Looking at all the reviews and the patterns in the reviews always makes me wonder.

Patterns in Reviews and Ratings?

There’s obviously a lot of randomness but 4 key patterns often show up –

  1. Lots of 5 star reviews and 4 star reviews and little else.   
  2. Almost evenly divided reviews.  
  3. Lots of 5 star reviews and 4 star reviews and very few 3 star and 2 star reviews and lots of 1 star reviews.  
  4. Clustering around the 3 star and 4 star mark with very few 5 star reviews and very few 1 star or 2 star reviews.

The 1st and 3rd are usually the most promising. With the 3rd the 1 star reviews are often a protest against a belief the book espouses rather than a protest against the book’s quality. The 2nd and 4th are my least favorites – a book that doesn’t evoke strong reactions is often a waste of time.

Simplicity, Free Book, Blio thoughts

First, the free kindle book –

  1. First Things First by Kurt Warner. Rated 4.5 stars on 21 reviews. Have a lot of respect for Kurt Warner and hopefully can find the time to read his book.

    Kurt Warner is the two-time NFL MVP–winning quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. Brenda Warner is an ex-Marine turned stay-at-home mom who collects coats for low-income kids and rocks babies to sleep at a hospital for chronically-ill infants.

    Together they’re the parents of seven, going into their 12th year of marriage, and founders of a foundation that helps disadvantaged children and families. Their formula for success? They put First Things First—family, faith, and giving to others—it’s their family motto, and it drives everything they do. First Things First is an honest, insightful, and entertaining look at life inside the Warner household.

Before we jump into Blio a quick tangent.

Simple is Beautiful

Here’s an interesting article from Wikipedia – Processing fluency theory of aesthetic pleasure. It claims that ‘Simple is beautiful’ isn’t just a design theory it’s fact and depends on these 4 assumptions (which they claim to be true) –

  1. Different objects have different fluency i.e. the ease with which our minds can process them differs.
  2. High fluency is experienced as positive.
  3. If the process of evaluating something is positive we tend to attribute the pleasantness to the object. Things that are easily processed become pleasurable because of the ease of experiencing them.
  4. We value complex things that are made simple to process more than simple things that are simple to process.

It’s basically saying that if something is simple to process we’re likelier to consider it beautiful. It makes you wonder about the importance of simplicity when designing things like the Kindle, PCs, the iPhone, and other devices.

At one level it seems common sense – People will find things that are simply understood more attractive than things they don’t understand.

At another level it seems paradoxical – The most ‘artistic’ products that people consider ‘beautiful’ might simply be the very simplest. That we are interpreting simplicity as beauty.

Thoughts on Blio

First, some quick context (courtesy Tim Carmody at Wired) –

  1. Blio is produced by K-NFB Reading Technology Inc. which is a joint venture between Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation for the Blind.
  2. Blio launched today. The ‘Search’ for free books isn’t working. The store is.
  3. Toshiba announced it will sell ebooks. It’s actually a partnership with K-NFB and it will use Blio (though it’ll be renamed Toshiba Book Place) as its eBook Reader.
  4. Blio is introducing a new format, XPS, that allows embedding of audio and video. It also supports ePub. Do we really need another eBook format?

The first point throws up a lot of issues – Could the NFB’s legal cases against the Kindle be considered attempts to give Blio an advantage?  What share of profits does the NFB get and how does it affect their attitude towards other eReaders? Are NFB and Amazon and Apple now competitors when it comes to textbooks and enhanced ebooks?

If NFB starts any more legal challenges what moral ground would they have to stand on given that they are now competing against pretty much every single eReader company?

Well, let’s move on to the Blio Reader.

Blio Reader Software Review

Please note that this is a quick review. Time was short and it wouldn’t accept a US credit card with a Canadian address so the 3 included free books are the only books reviewed and they are all very short, picture-heavy, book-pretenders.

What the Blio Store is like –

  1. The book prices are quite high.  
  2. There’s a reasonable interface – It’s all book covers.
  3. There aren’t reviews. Reviews are pulled in from GoodReads but are sometimes not available.  For some books Good Reads has a lot of reviews.
  4. There’s the option to link your Good Reads account to Blio.
  5. The Application takes a long time to load each page – It’s surprising that they manage to be so slow. It’s also a bit annoying.  
  6. You can’t really sort books by price or review rating.
  7. It’s very visual.  
  8. The connection to Google for Free Books doesn’t work. Perhaps it’s because of me being in Montreal.
  9. There aren’t enough categories. There’s nothing for Fantasy and some categories are lumped together (Business & Computers).
  10. You don’t get free books until you create an account. That’s a bit mean.

It’s a pretty store and a pretty unimpressive one.

Wasn’t able to get any of the free books to show up. A lot of the books on my ‘To Be Read’ list weren’t available. Ended up checking out Amazon to find a book to read.

Basically, be prepared to find a book to read outside of Blio – the store does little to help you find your next read.

What reading on the Blio eReader software is like –

  1. They have the iBooks style ‘just like a paper book’ page turning.  
  2. There’s zoom and pan so you can zoom into any part of a page. 
  3. There’s a full-page view mode that’s called ‘Expanded Book’ for some reason.
  4. You can hide your notes.
  5. There are 6 book ‘views’ – Double Page (two pages at a time), Full-Width Page, Thumbnails (which is very helpful), Text reflow (which is pretty strange), ReadLogic (which is a section by section style of reading), 3D book view (which is quite fun). This is one of the strong points.   
  6. You can adjust the screen brightness.
  7. You can add notes and highlights easily and also search for a word or phrase using the included browser.

The thing that is really disconcerting is that it’s nothing like reading a physical book. Whereas the Kindle and Nook try their best to re-create the book reading experience, Blip simply tries to create a completely new experience.

The really good things – color, lots of different ‘views’, the ability to read two pages at a time, the in-built browser.

Reviewing Blio’s Features Hitlist

A quick look at the features Blio is touting with my thoughts in Italics –

  1. Full color with fonts, pictures, and layout as Publisher intended. Definitely an advantage.  
  2. Sync up to 5 devices. Matches what most other ebook reading options offer. 
  3. BookVault. The equivalent of Kindle’s Archive. 
  4. ReadLogic mode zooms to next logical text block. It’s a feature that makes no sense to me.  
  5. Multiple reading views including 3D “book view”. If you’re a page-turn fetishist you’ll probably fall in love with the page turns in 3D view.
  6. Included browser. This is a good feature to have. This is perhaps the best feature – the built-in web browser.
  7. Reads book to you. This is quite a good feature – the voice is pretty mechanical but that’s understandable.  
  8. Supports Touch on touch enabled devices.

The tagline for Blio is ‘more than words’. That rubs me the wrong way. It’s quite a good effort but it’s hard to see it being able to take on Kindle and Nook when the latter have both dedicated reading devices and software for various platforms. They also have stores that are better and much easier to navigate.

Blio is quite beautiful but it’s a work in progress. In its current form it’s little more than an ornate, ceremonial knife brought to a gun fight.

3 free kindle books, Kobo WiFi eReader announced

First, the three free kindle books (two of which were free in August 2009, thanks to Happy Reader Joyce for the update) –

  1. Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb. Rated 4 stars on 9 reviews.

    They say you can’t get to Heaven without passing through the Eternal Rest Funeral Home.

    And no one gets into Eternal Rest without passing muster with Elvis-the basset hound who’s convinced he’s the reincarnation of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Brewing up a big ol’ pitcher of Mississippi mystery, Peggy Webb’s delightful new series is as intoxicating as the Delta breeze.

  2. According to Jane by Marilyn Brant. 4 stars on 60 reviews. 

    In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart. . .

    It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

  3. Raising Jake by Charlie Carillo. 4.5 stars on 80 reviews.

    Sammy Sullivan, a crusty old rewrite man at a New York City tabloid, and his teenage son embark on a weekend of male bonding in Carillo’s witty, insightful second novel. After rough-edged Sammy is fired and his son, Jake, gets expelled from his elite private school, father and son, who’ve grown apart, decide to spend the weekend revisiting places that hold the key to Sammy’s past and may shed light on Jake’s future.

    Along the way, Sammy confronts painful memories of his religiously obsessive mother and introduces Jake to the boy’s long-estranged grandfather while both try to figure out what’s next.

All 3 of these are very highly rated books with some solid reviews.

Let’s turn to the news of a new Kobo Reader.

Kobo WiFi attempts to take on Kindle WiFi

The arrival of Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi completely destroyed Kobo’s chances in the eReader market. Thankfully, it’s countered with the Kobo 2. Will leave the Kindle WiFi vs Kobo 2 comparison for a later post. The following is just a general discussion of the Kobo’s strengths and weaknesses.

The strengths of the Kobo 2 –

  1. It has WiFi now.  
  2. A choice of 3 colors – black, porcelain with a silver back, porcelain with a lavender back. 
  3. The firmware supposedly works well now. Engadget thinks so and mentions that Kobo 2 has a faster processor. Engadget also includes some photos and the Press Release. 
  4. It’s just 0.4″ thick and weighs just 7.8 grams. That might be a mistake because 7.8 grams is 0.275 ounces. So it’s probably 7.8 ounces.
  5. Priced at $139.
  6. ePub support and hence support for Library books.
  7. SD Card slot.
  8. If you’re a Borders Rewards member you get bonus points or something.
  9. Kobo is making an effort and has an eReader Bill of Rights. Here are a few snippets –

    If the company you’re buying ebooks from got hit by a meteorite tomorrow, what would happen to your library?

    If the device you read on was eaten, burned or broken, can you get your purchased books back?

If either Amazon or B&N gets hit by a meteorite our ebooks would be the least of our concerns.

The drawbacks of the Kobo 2 –

  1. Doesn’t arrive until November 1st.
  2. Kobo Store isn’t as good as Kindle Store.
  3. No physical keyboard. 
  4. The porcelain versions still look awkward with that big blue button.  The black version looks pretty good.
  5. It might not have eInk Pearl. Not sure why Borders hasn’t mentioned eInk Pearl if it’s present – If it isn’t present why release a model without the latest screen technology. 

At this stage a lot of information is missing – What exactly is the extent of PDF support? Is there text to speech? What other features do we have? Will there be a browser?

Overall, it’s a nice attempt by Borders and Kobo to claw their way back into the eReader race but announcing a month early and without revealing details seems a bit weak. It suggests they were doing really badly and were forced to prepone the announcement of the Kobo 2. Also, it gives Amazon and B&N a month to add-on more features and increase the gap between Kindle/Nook and Kobo 2.