Get a $10 Amazon Gift Card for $5

Thanks to The Verge for this deal. It is TODAY (Tuesday) ONLY.

Update: Sold Out!

Amazon Local is offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card for $5 today. Well worth a look – Get $10 of Kindle Books for $5.

The Standard Disclaimers:

  1. Gift Card is only valid at Amazon.com.
  2. It does not expire (at least that’s what they say).
  3. Limited Quantities so you might want to rush. Already we have 990,000+ people who’ve bought it.
  4. Due to the rush it might be hours until you get an email confirmation.
  5. One Gift Card per household limit.
  6. Can not be used on Amazon Local. Can only be used with allowed items at Amazon.
  7. For US-based customers only.

Please read all the rules and disclaimers.

How will people look back at the Kindle & Nook era in 100 years?

Let’s start with a little snippet about Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press:

…probably introduced movable type to Europe, and is likely to have developed the earliest European printing press.

He is sometimes said to have started the Printing Revolution, regarded as the most important event of the modern period.

It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation and the Scientific Revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

So we have a pretty intimidating frame of reference to compare eReaders and eBooks to – The Gutenberg Press played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. The Gutenberg Press laid the basis for the knowledge economy and brought learning to the masses.

Here’s a quote talking about the impact of Gutenberg’s Printing Press  -

As early as 1620, the English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon could write that typographical printing has “changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world” 

The first question that comes up is – Will eReaders and eBooks have similar impact?

eReaders & eBooks are unlikely to have the scale of impact of the Printing Press

The primary reason is that books already exist and they aren’t really very expensive. We aren’t going through a big jump from ‘books only being affordable to the top few percent of the population’ to ‘books being available to a huge percentage of the population’.

That opportunity doesn’t exist because Gutenberg and his Press already took it.

The secondary reason (and this is a really big one too) is that the Internet already exists and it’s already done a lot of what ebooks possibly could have. The barriers are already gone. Information is already spreading wildly and freely.

There might not be a big, huge oppportunity for ebooks to make pivotal impact. Because they arrive after Gutenberg and after the Internet.

Which brings us to our second question – What big positive impact are eReaders and eBooks having?

Are eReaders & eBooks making books more accessible?

Yes. We can definitely point to a few things here -

  1. Anyone can read all public domain books for free now.
  2. Books are available instantly.
  3. Books are slowly becoming cheaper.
  4. People who had limited access to books earlier – now have more access.
  5. More people are able to offer books so the choice available is increasing.

There is, however, a twist.

When absolutely anyone can publish books, and lots of people are, we run into a signal versus noise problem.

Have eReaders & eBooks made it too easy to publish and spread books?

You have to wonder.

  1. If there is no barrier to publishing a book – Is that really a good thing?
  2. If the amount of noise keeps increasing – Is that going to scare people away from books?
  3. If there is no real barrier to the spread of a book – Are there any dangers?
  4. Since the lack of barriers also applies to things like stealing books – Is this going to reduce money earned by authors and publishers to the point that it starts affecting quality?
  5. Are we getting too much of a good thing?

I think the Law of Unintended Consequences is going to do a real number on everyone in books (including readers and authors).

The Law of Unintended Consequences & Books

There are two separate things:

  1. Letting anyone who wants to publish, publish.
  2. Making it easy to publish – even if you shouldn’t be publishing.

These are intertwined and have opposing effects. 

  1. The first is good. It’s about freedom and the democratization of publishing.
  2. The second is bad. It’s about a lack of quality control and about terrible books drowning out the good ones.

Kindle and Nook and eBooks were supposed to allow people to publish. To let deserving authors bypass the Gatekeepers and go straight to readers. To let authors take 90% of the earnings instead of 10%.

The Law of Unintended Consequences says:

  1. In parallel with X deserving authors, we’ll have 10X undeserving authors who will also publish. ‘Undeserving’ is a very loaded term – interpret it as people who haven’t worked on the craft of writing enough to be worth readers’ time.
  2. Authors will get a larger share of earnings. At the same time the amount of earnings will start to plummet.
  3. There will be so much competition and such little defensibility that books as an industry will begin to disappear.

You can’t stop people from having free access to your books. You can’t stop authors and semi-authors and pretend-authors from publishing books. Readers can’t handle the sheer volume of published books. It’s spinning out of control.

eReaders and eBooks might mark the ‘Public Domain’ization of ALL books (new or old)

What has happened is that the minute you release an eBook, or for that matter a printed book, you leave it up to readers to decide what they will pay for it.

Readers don’t fully understand this. Authors don’t understand that readers have the option to pay zero. No one is willing to admit that sooner or later people will choose to buy a $4 cup of coffee and read the latest bestseller for free (as opposed to paying for the bestseller).

As soon as readers get a reason that satisfies their need to ‘not be the bad person’, they will gladly switch over to reading books without paying for them. They just need a reason – ads, price too high, restrictions, anything – and they will gladly switch to a model where they don’t pay or where they pay a ridiculously low amount.

In effect, your book is ‘public domain’ the minute it gets converted into ebook format. You can come up with ways to try to get people to pay for them. However, it’s going to be difficult – particularly as more and more kids trained to get everything (music, movies, games) free online grow up and expect the same from books. What makes books and authors special? Why aren’t books free like everything else?

The Legacy of eReaders and eBooks might be the conversion of books to works of charity

Think back to the ‘value perception of books’ in 2007. Now consider what the current value perception of books is. It’s changed a lot.

Can you imagine someone walking into a bookstore in 2007 and asking for the latest bestseller to be $3 or even $1? Yet, that is routinely what people are now asking for ebooks to be priced at. These are the same people who have all the power – they can just download the book for free.

eReaders and eBooks are building up two legacies -

  1. Anyone can get a book without paying the author of the book anything.
  2. Anyone can publish and dilute the average quality of books.

Both of these play into each other. More books = more competition = lower prices. Lower prices = lower quality = less differentiation. The net result is that eReaders and eBooks might end up doing a lot more bad than good.

Perhaps it isn’t the best thing in the world to remove all barriers and let people do whatever they want. Pay whatever they want. Publish whatever they want.

My prediction is that people will look back at the Kindle & Nook era in 100 years as the ‘dark age of books’. That what happens in books in the next 10 to 30 years due to eReaders and eBooks and human nature being left unchecked is going to be very damaging for books. This is no Guternberg’s Press. This is more like a storm that uproots the very foundation of a business model that, despite its faults, has some redeeming qualities. A storm that leaves behind a world where books are everyone’s property and the incentive and resources for crafting great books are diminished significantly.

Kindle Science Fiction (10 Award Winning Science Fiction Books)

Science Fiction is a genre that has swept the entertainment industry. We are provided with a constant stream of Sci-Fi themed films, television, magazines, podcasts, books, and so on. There is no shortage of fans for the genre either, with events such as Comic-Con and Fan Expo garnering enormous attendance. The books produced in this genre are some of the longest lived and most critically acclaimed works ever written. A list of award-winning Kindle Science Fiction eBooks are listed below:

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark. Price: $2.99. This, the 2005 Hugo award winner for Best Novel and a Nebula nominee, is a book full of the fantastic that embodies Sci-Fi. Rife with period-related witticisms and magic, this novel is perfect for grown-up fans of the Harry Potter series.

“Coraline” by Neil Gaiman. Price: $6.99. This short and fabulous piece of short fiction won the Hugo award for Best Novella in 2003. Fanciful, yet dark occurrences haunt the life of a young girl who finds a different world through a small door in her home. Like all Gaiman work, this piece will delight all readers with an ensnaring plot and engaging characters.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Price: $7.99. The 1999 winner of the Hugo award for Best Novel and a Nebula nominee, this novel is an epic of epochs. With romance, comedy, and time travel all interwoven within the plot, this is truly an amazing and intriguing story.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Price: $11.99. This novel won the 1996 Hugo award for Best Novel and was also a Nebula award nominee. It is the story of a device derived from nano-technology that was intended to free one young girls thinking and ends up in the hands of another girl. Despite its high-tech feel, this novel is appropriate for all readers who enjoy a well-told story.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Price: $7.99. This winner of the 1990 Best Novel Hugo award is a tale of Armageddon. In another time, there is a galactic war raging. A pilgrimage to Hyperion is humanity’s last hope. This is a fantastic read for lovers of classic Science Fiction.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan. Price: $6.39. The winner of the Best Non-Fiction Hugo award in 1981 spawned a television show which was the inspiration for nearly every related TV show that followed. This is a great book to start or end your space education.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Price: $4.95. The 1976 winner of both a Nebula and a Hugo award was mildly controversial. It was published with parts omitted by the publisher, but those parts have been included in this version. It is the story of a soldier in a galactic war. The soldier faces difficulties re-adjusting to life on Earth after years away and returns to war. This book is ideal for fans of classic war stories.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. Price: $7.99. This story won both the Nebula and Hugo awards in 1975. Like many Sci-Fi stories, it deeply explores the nature of humanity. Le Guin addresses issues involving choice, segregation, socialization, and so on. This is both an entertaining and important read for all Sci-Fi fans.

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. Price: $7.99. Asimov is a definitive name amongst Science Fiction readers and this 1973 Hugo and Nebula award winner shows just cause for his popularity. It is a story of fear and truth and paranoia. Like all work by Asimov, it will make the reader ponder about his own reactions to the proposed situations.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Price: $7.99. The winner of 1962’s Best Novel Hugo and Nebula awards is a great example of Sci-Fi standing the test of time. It explores the nature of humanity through interaction with Martians and is relevant to today as well. This is a great eBook for any fan of explorative fiction.

Ten Edgar Award Winners for Under $10

The Edgar Awards, named for the classic American poet and mystery writer, Edgar Allan Poe, are presented to the best mystery writers of the year. Short stories, novels, and so on are all recognized and celebrated at the annual gala held by the Mystery Writers of America. Over time, some of the best and most intriguing mystery novels have been honoured. The following is a list of some of the best books that have won Edgars in the past and are available from Amazon for under ten dollars:

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. Price: $8.99. This 1955 winner of the Edgar for best novel focuses on Chandler’s famous character, Philip Marlowe. While criticisms are split, Chandler considered this his own best work. It is a thrilling novel that is perfect for fans of film noir.

In the Heat of the Night by John Ball. Price: $4.49. This book won the best first novel by an American author category in 1966. This book inspired a film and television spin-off because of its potent civil rights commentary.

Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke. Price: $7.99. This 1990 best novel Edgar award winner takes the detective novel to new heights with exciting twists and gruesome turns. Like In the Heat of the Night, it explores racial issues in a mystery format.

The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook. Price: $6.39. The 1997 winner of the Edgar’s best novel is a 1920’s period piece. This novel is an exciting tale full of murder, mystery, and madness. Readers will find this work equally exciting and disturbing.

Los Alamos by Joseph Kanon. Price: $6.39. The 1998 winner of the Edgar for best first novel by an American author is a classic thriller. Centred around the atomic bomb and its creation, this story brings the murder mystery to a topical and intriguing place.

Mr White’s Confession by Robert Clark. Price: $4.95. This 1999 winner of the Edgar for best novel is Clark’s second work. After the murder of several people, the seemingly open and shut case becomes much more complicated than expected. The expected murderer has a memory disorder and is incapable of remembering or confessing to the murder. This unique story is as engulfing as a mystery novel can be.

Bones by Jan Burke. Price: $9.99. The 2000 winner of best novel is one of a number of novels written by Burke about her crime-writing character, Irene Kelly. Kelly becomes involved in the life of a serial killer who targets women just like her, leading her on a shocking adventure.

Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan. Price: $8.96. This book won the 2003 best novel Edgar award and is another on this list that is a part of a detective series. It focuses on the lives of two New York City detectives and the mystery that surrounds one detective’s sister and her son. Unexpected and tragic events unfold as the mystery is explored.

Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin. Price: $7.59. The 2004 best novel winner explores the experiences of several police officers sent back to school for re-training. The lead character, John Rebus, discovers corruption in the ranks. A fantastic story for those who prefer less gruesome and more mysterious work.

Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel. Price: $9.49. The 2004 winner for best first novel by an American author takes place in Madrid in the 1930’s. This novel takes a more stoic approach to mystery, incorporating emotion and tragedy in a way that the other books on this list may have missed. A great read for history buffs who enjoy the occasional mystery novel.

3 reasons full-length books are a better experience than short stories

Reading a book is an experience and a journey.

We take the story the author has laid down for us, and the context and framework she has created, and fill it out with our imaginations.

This is one of the key differentiators – why even a ‘frivolous’ thriller or ‘flaky’ romance novel is better than nearly any other type of entertainment. We are actively constructing the world in our heads. It’s our creation, our masterpiece – built on the framework and story the author provides.

The author might paint an exquisite framework – a lonely alley in 1865 London with a Vampire possibly hiding in the shadows. However, it’s just a framework. It’s we the readers who fill it out. What the alley looks like. What it feels like. The sights and sounds and smells. The feeling of fear. The Vampire.

This is why no movie based on a book ever measures up to our expectation of the book. The best director in the world can’t compare to the worlds we have created for ourselves. All the limitations he faces – just don’t exist in our imaginations.

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Which brings us to why full-length novels are much better than short stories and novellas.

A full-length novel does three things – it gives us enough time to fully flesh out the story in our heads, it allows us to fully connect with and feel for the characters (to develop an attachment to them), it allows us to step fully into the world of the book.

The first is all about submodalities and the fineness of the story-painting in our heads. With a short story we have ended before we have formed the images fully in our heads. The protagonist is a paper cutout instead of a person, the city is a movie-set instead of a living, breathing city. A full-length book allows us to create the world fully and fill it with the submodalities we like and imagine.

The second is about the characters. Over the course of a full-length novel we develop an attachment to the main characters. We understand them better. We think about their motivations and worry about them or hope they get their just desserts. They start morphing into people – people we wonder about and people we want to read more about.

The third is the experience of stepping out of our world and stepping into the world of the book. With a short story, by the time you begin to step from the cold, foggy street into the warm comfort of the house – the house has vanished. You’re left in the void between your own world and the beautiful, compelling world you were creating while reading. A full-length book lets you go further and further into the world. This is why we don’t want to leave a good book in the middle. It’s a world and a story that we are creating/building – one that literally draws us in.

This act of creating worlds in our heads. The passion and skill and actual effort involved in fleshing out all the details and creating something of our own. It’s Participation. Life is a Participation sport.

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