What Tools and Apps for Kindle Owners should we make?

Over the years my team and me have been making various tools and apps for Kindle owners. Of course, we’ve made a lot of mistakes and sometimes not stuck with things. That means we have a few things that are well done i.e.

  1. Notepad for Kindle. Not for Kindle Touch (working on it) or Kindle Fire (completely different development ecosystem, not working on it).
  2. Calendar for Kindle. Same as above.
  3. Other Kindle Apps like Calculator and Address Book.
  4. This Blog (hopefully, it’s well done and not medium rare).
  5. Kindle App Review Blog. Maurine is doing a great job here and she has nearly every single Kindle App reviewed.

We also just released a Kindle Game based on Alice on Wonderland. It’s called Alice in Crossed Up Land. You have to match objects from Alice’s World and you can play Match-3 or Match-4 or Match-5 (match either 3 objects or 4 objects or 5 objects).

We also have lots of things that are at various stages of completion i.e.

  1. Book Summit. A Social Network for Kindle Owners (lots of authors for some reason).
  2. Book Monk. A Kindle Book Search Tool. It’s fallen into a bit of disarray at the moment. However, it’s something I’d be interested in working on if there’s interest from all of you.
  3. The Kindle Start Page Maker. Which lets you create a ‘book of links/favorites’ that you can keep on your Kindle Home Page.
  4. Kindle Page Number Tool. A tool that lets you convert (approximately) from page numbers to locations.
  5. Various projects that haven’t seen the light of day.

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Perhaps all of you can help me/us in deciding what would be most valuable for all of you in 2012. The things that are interesting to us as a team are:

  1. Curation Engine. Enter in criteria + get a list of books that you can sort and arrange.
  2. Crowd-sourced Curation Engine. Here we would give all of you some way of triggering what’s best.
  3. Recommendation Engine. Enter in one or more books you like and get suggestions.
  4. A site that only features indie author books.
  5. Filtering Engine for Free Books. So you could say – I only want to see books that are by published authors and rated 4 stars and longer than 300 pages. The Filtering Engine would bring up all such books.
  6. Something Else. 

I will be continuing the blog (and also writing about good free books to the extent possible) but it’s just not possible to manually go through 500 to 700 free books a day. The added issue of there not being any simple way to even look at today’s free books makes it all rather difficult. On top of everything we have the problem of some offers being for 1 day only.

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Please enter your thoughts for this Poll, and I’ll let you know which 1 or 2 projects we decide to focus on in 2012.

Thank you for your time and ideas.

Giving Thanks, Being Forthright, and Changing Direction of the Blog

Firstly, for Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank all of you.

It’s a pleasure writing for you.

Thank you very much for reading the blog. And for sharing it with your friends and family.

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Secondly, thinking about the future of books has made me realize that the blog’s actions and aims are pretty deluded at this stage. Reality has a way of punishing us for our delusions and perhaps it’s time for me to be super forthright with myself and everyone else – before the punishment arrives.

  1. This blog needs to focus 100% on what’s best for readers. That means you’ll see a few changes – links to Nook Touch and Nook Tablet on every page (which I make no money from, though I do from Kindles). Honestly think they are (along with Kindle Fire and Kindle Keyboard) the best eReader and Tablet choices – so not linking to them all this time was being dishonest.
  2. Removing links to Kindles that are not 9 stars out of 10. Kindle Touch and new Kindle are good but they aren’t the very best. So the multiple links to them on every page are now gone. Might go through various review posts and make updates in the posts themselves too – However, there are 3,000+ posts on this blog so it’s probably not going to happen soon. A $99 Nook Touch with physical page turn buttons and no ads is better than Kindle Touch – so it gets the link on every page.
  3. This blog needs to switch to either – Link to all eReaders (to avoid financial bias to one company) OR Link to all eReaders without associate links.

I think money always leads to a loss of purity and the hope is that we can make our apps business big enough to end all the associate earnings from this blog and focus it purely on books and readers and authors.

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Thirdly, as far as the focus on free books – it’s a difficult choice. There is value to readers. At the same time, the tons of free book offers are definitely destroying the value of books. In the short-term, they benefit readers and hurt authors. In the long-term, they hurt everyone.

There’s also some fundamental flaw in me linking to free books that make authors nothing but make me a commission (due to other things bought at Amazon). It’s treating books as loss leaders and goes against my love for books and the desire to see them valued for what they are.

By January 1st, 2012 I’ll make a decision (and will let you know) between:

  1. Option 1: Only mention free books that are (ironically) from Publishers and rated 3.5 stars and above OR are indie but rated 4 stars and above. Not mention short stories.
  2. Option 2: End the free book updates. There are lots of good options like eReaderIQ and Kindle World so it’s not a big loss.

In either case, I will stop using associate links with free books – If the author is not making money, then I don’t want to either. This whole concept of giving away books for free for the imaginary carrot of future sales is a delusion. There are no future sales – only tons of hungry authors willing to be the next group of idiots giving away their work for free.

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Fourthly, disclosing all conflicts of interest.

I’m part of two companies and together we cover:

  1. This Blog.
  2. Apps for Kindle.
  3. Apps for Kindle Fire.
  4. Apps for Nook Color. Pretty much equivalent to 3. since both use Android and have the same screen. When we have our apps polished enough for Kindle Fire, I’ll let you know.
  5. Blogs for Kindle Apps (more than one). We can’t really compete with companies like EA unless we reach customers directly and that’s why the blogs.
  6. Blogs for Nook Apps (one). Same motivation – to reach customers directly.

As small companies we have very little control over things. Hence the need for direct channels to our customers.

When you come to the blog you should be aware that every Kindle sold and every Nook sold and so forth has a benefit and thus introduces bias.

The various conflicts of interest probably cancel each other out in Kindle and Nook Land but are probably HUGE when it comes to Kindle+Nook vs iPad.

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Fifthly, the blog’s aim of helping readers and books has devolved into helping Kindle sales. That’s sad and it’s far less than what the blog could achieve. It would be a pity to have a chance to do something good for the future of books and not take opportunity of that.

So it’s time to change direction of the blog.

What is the new direction of this blog?

Well, actually, it’s what the original direction and aim was. Before it got thrown off by getting too attached to Kindles and forgetting the larger issues and getting distracted by financial considerations.

To Help Readers and Authors and play whatever positive part possible in the Democratization of Publishing. To help positively in some way to build a better future for books and for readers and authors.

The Old Man and the Wasteland (in a good sense) and The Hunger Games (in both a good sense and a bad sense) are the two books which motivated me to rethink what this blog is doing and the net conclusion was that it’s not really doing a net positive for books.

If the authors of these and other good books have to still struggle with gatekeepers. If they still have to struggle to earn what they deserve. Then as readers we should be sad at the missed opportunity.

We are in danger of ending up in a world where authors exist (yet again) at the mercy of a gatekeeper and where books are devalued to almost nothing – and it’s time for this blog (and hopefully all of us) to join the resistance.

The one real good that has come out of all of that has happened with eReaders and eBooks is that readers own their Kindles and Nooks and Tablets. Readers are very smart people. So the only thing missing is an intelligent, social crowdsourcing engine. That, along with old Publishers and new Publishers and platforms, would form a really good basis for a healthy Publishing world.

Now I’m going to figure out a way to focus this blog on the only three things that matter in Publishing: readers, authors, books. And to keep that focus and act in the best interests of these three parties.

Kindle Review Email Subscriptions

The underlying platform made some changes to the Email Format and it’s causing some problems for some of us.

Here are the options:

Standard WordPress Subscriptions

The best option if the new email format is working for you: Use the Email Subscription option that comes with WordPress.

Kindle Review WordPress Email Subscription (Click on the button that says ‘Free Email Updates’).

If that link doesn’t take you to the button – There is a link to the right of any of the pages at the blog that says: Email Updates. And there is a ‘Free Email Updates’ button.

You can choose whether you want ‘instant’ emails or daily or weekly.

If emails are not working for you

You can either wait until WordPress fixes the Email Errors (which depends on them, not on me – so no ETA). Or you can switch to one of the below options.

New Subscription Options

I’ve added two new options. Please be patient as I’m new at this. Just send me an email at booksummit at ymail dot com or leave a comment if it doesn’t work for you.

Option 1: Kindle Review Free Book Emails.

Get Instant Emails whenever there is a post about New $0 Books. You can enter your email at this page and it will subscribe you. You will have to confirm the email subscription. Then you can unsubscribe from WordPress.

The Format etc. are under work so leave a comment if something doesn’t work for you.

Option 2: Kindle Review All Post Emails.

Get Instant Emails whenever there is any new post (includes Free Book Posts). Again, you enter your email and it will subscribe you. You will have to confirm and after that you can end your WordPress subscription.

Currently, there is no option for Daily or Weekly Posts (as opposed to one email per post).

Which of these side projects would add the most value for you?

So over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different things related to the Kindle – a search site, a social network, little tools, Apps, and this blog.

At the core my ideal situation would be to make things for Kindle owners and/or people who read and provide value to them, and get value back. Basically, to make money by providing value to Kindle owners and people who read books.

Here are the different side projects (in addition to the blog) and it’d be great to get your thoughts on which of these you personally would get the most value from -

  1. A site like BookMonk.com which allows searching of the Kindle Store.
  2. Small tools like the Page Number Guesser Tool and the Kindle Start Page tool. These could be expanded with things like a tool to manage your Clippings File on your PC or managing Collections on Your PC (there’s already a tool called Kindleabra for the latter).
  3. A site like BookSummit.com which is a Kindle Social Network. It’s accessible from the Kindle. However, the underying platform went through a period where they closed down code changes so I stopped working on this. It does have over 2,000 members. Probably more authors than readers.
  4. Kindle Apps. We have two games so far. But the other apps are nearly all NOT games. 
  5. A blog on Kindle Apps – KAppReview.com. 
  6. [Possible Projects] A site or blog on Kindle Book Deals. 
  7. [Possible Projects] A site listing indie authors’ books.
  8. A lending site?

It might take a while to get some of these up to speed. However, If there’s enough interest will definitely pick one or two and put solid effort into them.

What should I focus on for side projects?

Thank you for your feedback. Do leave a comment if you have any other ideas or any thoughts in general.

Adding on Kindle 3, iPad to the title

The blog is still called the Kindle Review – However, there is a little change. You’ll notice Kindle 3 and iPad in the title of the blog now – instead of Kindle 2 and Books.

Mostly for two reasons -

  1. 2010 seems like it’s no longer The Year of the eReader – It’s morphed into The Year of Kindle Vs iPad and The Year of Dedicated eReaders vs Multi-purpose devices. To me it seems that the two most important releases of this year are the iPad and the Kindle 3 (if it releases in 2010). 
  2. Amazon has started putting up iPad pages – which means that I can get commissions from iPad sales. Given the popularity of certain iPad related posts on the blog that’s not a bad option.

The blog is going to remain a Kindle Blog – 70% or more Kindle. For the record there are multiple Kindle Apps I’m working on and no iPad apps (well, perhaps 1). So there is no shift to the dark side (and by dark side we do mean ‘cool, sexy, looks so enticing, doesn’t care much about reading’ side).  

B&N adds commissions for the Nook

A few days ago Barnes & Noble sent out a missive saying they now give commissions on the Nook. That’s an interesting change and it shows that they feel the need to get websites and blogs writing about the Nook. It probably means that some Nook focused blogs will emerge and that’d be a good thing for eReaders in general.

It also means that now Kindle, iPad, Sony Reader, and Nook all have commissions on sales.  

What side is this blog on?

That’s an interesting question.

It’s on the side of reading and books. It’s on the side of customers and helping them make the best decision. It’s about reviews and decision points and helping people make the right decision for them.

Basically, readers come in to the blog and figure out what eReader is best for them and that’s always the focus – finding the best eReader for the blog’s users. Even if it is not an eReader and is a does-everything, pretends to be an eReader, iPad.

There’s still going to be 70% Kindle coverage and lots of stuff on how to get the most out of the Kindle and there’s a Kindle App or two up my sleeve that will also help with that. Do let me know your thoughts.

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