The Path is Now FREE on KOBO!

My short story, The Path is now available for free on the KOBO platform.  Since you are not able to permanently list books for free on Amazon kindle, and I have exhausted my 5 promotional days, I was looking for a new way to share my story.

It has been on KOBO for a few months now, and will be available for free from now on!  If you have a KOBO reader or have the app installed on your PC or any devices, please check it out!

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Path/book-hvhoLxbtKUyCEXShZ0japw/page1.html?s=vcEsWJuvEUiozd3ZfGOULg&r=1

My other book, The Science of Getting Rich (Wallace D. Wattles) is also available for KOBO at the following link:

http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Science-of-Getting-Rich/book-ycy5AZTcWUuSMQQSEGvxzQ/page1.html

Look for details on my upcoming book project, tentatively entitled The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Small Business very soon!

My E-Books Are Now on KOBO!

Tonight I uploaded my books to the Kobo e-reader platform using Kobo WritingLife!  Now both The Path and The Science of Getting Rich are available for Kobo at and for Amazon Kindle.  Check them out!

Kindle Book Promotion – Part 2

In my previous post on Kindle promotion I discussed the first day of my short story promotion on KDP Select (Kindle Direct Publishing).  To review, prior to the promotions I had sold 4 units at $0.99.  My promotion (free Kindle story) began on a Friday and through various posts and tweets, I was able to manage 106 downloads in the first day.  It may not sound like a lot, but I was quite pleased with this.

On day two, I utilized similar tactics (4-5) Twitter posts and 1 post on Facebook and LinkedIn.  On Twitter I used some new hash tags such as #ShortStorySaturday, #authors, and a few others.  According to the Amazon.com page for “The Path”, the ranking for my story actually reached as high as 1,341 out of over a million books!  I decided to use this little tidbit for my post on Facebook and LinkedIn.  It got some great responses from friends!  Overall I was able to get another 46 downloads on day 2 — for a grand total of 152 downloads!

I even got a 5 star review!  I am pretty happy with the results.  It is hard to say if readers stumbled upon my story via Amazon or if they were directed to the site straight from a tweet, retweet or Facebook.  But it does show that these “free” promotions work.  If I had been trying to give away a full novel I am positive the numbers would have been much higher.

I will continue to learn from my fellow writers/authors on Twitter — looking for promotional ideas that work.  And I will continue to work on my material.

I will repeat my belief in what John Locke noted in his book,How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months.  If you have other books available for sale, when a customer reads and enjoys your free book, there is a good chance they will buy your other books.  I hope to benefit from this strategy in the future.  I intend on promoting additional short stories (they will all be longer than “The Path”) and also hope to one day soon have a full novel for sale, as well as other non-fiction books.

And I hope to one day be able to call myself an author, and perhaps even make a living out of it!

What has your experience been like promoting your ebooks on Amazon, B & N, Kobo or iBooks?

 

Kindle Book Promotion

Day one of my very first Kindle promotion for my short story “The Path” just ended.  When you sign up on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select you are given up to five days during the 90 day period where you can offer your book for free to Kindle users.  This allows you to (potentially) gain a significant number of new readers who may not have heard of you or your book before.  The ultimate goal is to gain positive book reviews and create word-of-mouth buzz to boost your book sales.  Also, as John Locke noted in his book, How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months, if you have other books available for sale, when a customer reads and enjoys your free book, there is a good chance they will buy your other books.

I don’t mind sharing specific details, as this whole experience is an experiment to learn the best approach to promoting ebooks on Amazon.com.  Because I do not have a novel to sell yet, I am relying on a short story to carry out the research.  This already puts me at a disadvantage because when faced with getting a free novel or a free short story, I’m sure most would go with the former.  However, they can also download both — so there is hope yet :).

My story has been available on Amazon.com since April 4, 2012 — approximately two weeks.  I did some promotion of the story on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn — first focusing on letting my friends and followers know that my story was available.  And then promoting the fact that the story was free for Amazon Prime members.  As I mentioned in a previous post, because I am not able to offer the story for free at all times, it normally has a cost of $0.99.  Do I expect to sell a lot of units at $0.99?  Definitely not.  Since this effort is really about getting some exposure, and learning the ins and outs of promoting a book/story I really just want downloads, whether I get paid or not!  This is why the promotional days are so important.

So let’s get to the results.  In the two weeks prior to the “free” promotion I actually sold four units!  It doesn’t sound like much, but I was happy that four people were willing to pay $0.99 for my story!  This meant that some of the elements of my promotion worked — be it the cover graphic, or its description, or simply curiosity from one of my tweets or posts.  What ever it was, I sold four copies!  In just one day of the “free” promotion I had an additional 106 downloads!

That is quite a difference in exposure!  Now potentially 110 people have read my story on a Kindle, and hopefully most of them will check out my future stories and novels!  I am pretty excited about the potential here.  To put it in perspective I had previously posted the story on my website and invited friends and social media contacts to check it out.  If I had to guess I would say I got about 40-50 views.  I also posted the story to Wattpad and got another 85 views over the course of a couple months.  When I signed up with KDP Select I removed the story for both of the other sites.

In order to promote my Kindle story this time, I came up with 4 or 5 tweets that I could post throughout the day which would let my followers know that my story was available free for a limited time.  I also used tags such as RT to ask for a retweet,   #Thriller to classify the story genre and allow people searching for thrillers to find my posts.  I used #Kindle and #Amazon for the same reason, as well as some others like #authorssupportingauthors which helps to rally the writing community to support you.  I used HootSuite to schedule the postings at specific times throughout the day, as I work full-time and would not necessarily have time to manually do this myself.

I have been observing my fellow authors and writers on Twitter for several months now, and there are definitely techniques and best practices for promoting your books on Twitter.  Because of the nature of Twitter, a post can get lost almost immediately, so it is necessary to post many times throughout the day.  I often notice this practice on my Twitter feed and although it seems like overkill or even borderline spam sometimes, it would be difficult to capture enough attention without this practice.  I highly recommend not doing this with some other social media platforms, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, however as those feeds have a much longer life and this would definitely come across as spamming your “friends” and colleagues.

There is definitely a fine line.  I posted two of the five tweets to my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts as well.  Even that felt like too much, but from past experience, I have gotten much more response from Facebook than other platforms as there is a personal connection and my Facebook friends are often truly interested in what I am up to.

Tomorrow is day two of my “free” promotion and I look forward to many more downloads.  I will be utilizing 4-5 different posts again on Twitter and perhaps one on Facebook and LinkedIn.  I will be recording the results, and refining my methods as I go along.  Then I will have three days remaining, over the next few months to repeat what I have learned.

I am currently working on more short stories which I hope to complete in the next few weeks, and a non-fiction project that I will be discussing soon enough.  I hope that each time through the process will become easier, and more successful.

Please check back to read more about my experiences publishing and promoting ebooks on Kindle and other platforms including Nook, Apple iBooks, KOBO and others.  I look forward to comments and suggestions!

Publishing Kindle E-books

As an update to my ebook saga, I did manage to produce my two ebooks — the reprint of The Science of Getting Rich, and my short story, The Path. Using PagePlus X6 I was able to import the Word Docs and then re-edit them for conversion into the Kindle format (.mobi) and ePub format used by others like Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple iBooks. I finally found software which actually mimicked the ebook text flowing through the entire book. This made it much easier.

After becoming frustrated with editing the 60+ page The Science of Getting Rich, I decided to take a different approach and convert my eight page short story first — so I could finish and see the final product — to make sure everything worked alright. At first I imported the Word version, and things went well. I made a few edits and then converted it to Kindle, choosing my cover graphic and entering some details such as author, publisher etc. along the way. I previewed the finished product using my PC Kindle program — it looked fine. Next I emailed the file to my iPad and viewed it using my Kindle App. Again it looked great! I was excited. But there was one nagging issue…the file size was almost 4 MB. I new something was up — most ebooks, full novels even, aren’t even 1 MB in size.

I decided to worry about the file size later. I moved onto re-editing the book. I made it 5-10 pages in, and decided to convert it to see how it looked. Most of the re-edit was working ok, but some things were still out of whack…especially when new chapters started. I quickly learned that I had to insert page breaks after each chapter, to ensure that the next chapter would start on a new page. Somewhere along in the process I decided to start over. This time I converted the Word version to plain text before importing into PagePlus. This removed all of the formatting…I had to completely re-format once in PagePlus anyway…so I wondered if this was a better approach.

Once again I began editing and formatting the book, every so often, converting it to check the progress. Things were going well, except for some table of content issues, and the title page which I had the title of the book in large font. After conversion, it basically ignored my large font and printed almost regular size (12 point). What now, I thought to myself. I went back to edit the title page…this time I used the “Heading” tag from within PagePlus…most of the other text was “Body”. I noticed that this somewhat fixed the font size issue, and gave me more control over the document. Another bonus? The file size of the whole book was in the 400 KB range — that was more like it.

I discovered several things through the process of editing and converting my book to Kindle and other formats. First, it is best to start with plain text, and fully edit and format within the program you are using to create your ebook. This is kind of a pain, especially since you most likely have your book already looking great in your word processor. But the truth is, using the text version you can “correctly” format within the software so that it will turn out right once converted…and the file size will be much smaller (Word inserts tons of its own tags which increases the file size immensely).

Armed with this new knowledge I repeated the process again for The Path, and the file size came in at about 100 KB.

Now I had both ebooks and they looked great on my PC and on my iPad. I was ready to upload them to Amazon. I signed up as an author, and then proceeded to add the books to my author “bookshelf”. During this process, you must enter information about your book, provide a description, choose a selling price, upload your cover image, and choose whether you want to lock it down using DRM (copy protection) or not. I clicked save and then publish…and my book was uploaded. I was surprised to see that it was re-converting it to Kindle format. I wondered to myself if that might screw up some of the formatting (again!)

Now the book was in a que for review by Amazon staff before it would show up on the site, for sale. I somehow missed the option to preview the book. I would have to wait until it was live on Amazon.com to see if there were any issues with the formatting.

My short story was live within 12 hours, while the book took about 18 hours. I now had books for sale on Amazon.com! How exciting. There were a few formatting issues with the book, by the way. I had to do some fixes and resubmit it. Another issue with the whole experience was, that you have to charge a minimum of $0.99 for your book. I was hoping to have my short story as a free book. I just wanted to post it for exposure. But alas, it is $0.99 to purchase…so I doubt I will be selling many copies considering it is only 8 pages long. Turns out the only way to offer something for free is to sign up for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). By signing up you agree to publish exclusively to Kindle for 90 days. Within those 90 days you can offer a promotional price price of $0.00 for up to 5 days.

I decided to wait and see. So I will keep monitoring sales (if there are any!) and make the decision on KDP in a few weeks. In the meantime, this has been a very challenging experience, but one I learned many things from along the way. I now know how to properly format and convert my documents to ebooks, and how to post them to Amazon for sale.

The next time will be much easier…and there will be a next time!

Creating Kindle eBooks

Making ebooks can be frustrating! I have spent the last several days messing around with different ebook converter software, and importing combinations of file formats such as Word Docs, PDFs, RTF, and ODT documents into Amazon Kindle’s converter software. Everytime I get an ebook output in which the document’s formatting is all messed up.

I can’t believe how many hours I have spent messing around with this! I even started to consider using one of those online companies which will do the formatting for you…for a fee of course. But maybe it would be worth it. Especially if the product was perfect!

But before I went that route I decided to try one last thing. I have been getting blasted with email solicitations to upgrade my Serif PagePlus X4 desktop publishing software, and I remembered seeing something about creating ebooks in the last email. So I did a search for Serif in my email and voila, the last email I received from Serif was three days ago!

Sure enough one of the many new features of version X6 is to create ebooks from your documents. Success! I watched the demo and it looked incredibly easy. So I have decided to upgrade. If this weekend was any indication, I will need to produce a number of ebooks in the near future and beyond…and I need an easy way to do it! I prefer to keep control, as opposed to relying on someone else or a company to do the conversions and formatting.

So I am currently downloading the update, and should know within the hour whether or not PagePlus X6 will do the job! I will keep you posted on the results!

What tools do you use to create ebooks?

BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Review

By Nevin Buconjic
For www.digitaladventures.ca 

With the recent launch of RIM’s Blackberry PlayBook 2.0 software update, the device now has integrated/improved email, calendar and contacts, Android support and other features.  Were the improvements enough to make the PlayBook a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the NOOK Tablet, and all the other Android tablets on the market?

Since I already own an iPad 2, and a Barnes & Noble NOOK Color (7″ e-reader/tablet) I wanted to compare the PlayBook to my experiences with them.

First Impressions

The PlayBook is sturdy in your hands, and seems to be a good build.  It definitely feels different than the iPad 2 (which I am used to handling).  The PlayBook feels slightly heavier, even though it is a 7″ tablet versus the 9.8″ iPad 2, but the rubber backing allows for a comfortable grip.

While powering on the unit, I noticed it took several minutes to boot up.  I was not sure  if this was a normal occurrence, but I definitely did not expect it.  Being a tablet, I would not expect to have to wait over a minute to boot up — it reminded me of my Windows PC.  After additional tests, I have confirmed that the PlayBook takes over 2 1/2 minutes to boot up.  Compared to the 43 seconds it takes to boot my iPad, this is completely unacceptable.  If this is somehow an anomaly, and not common for other users, please let me know!

The first thing I did upon boot up was entered my email, and social media account information.  This was all accessible from one screen, and I quickly had signed up with each of my accounts.  I found this to be unique, as typically you would login to these accounts through their particular apps or websites.  In this case, the PlayBook used my information to pull in contact info from all of my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

I opened the Contacts application and it was already full of contacts — all from my social media accounts.  I clicked on a few to see what information it had pulled.  It was really quite amazing.  The PlayBook had filled in the email, phone numbers, and birth date, as well as providing a brief bio of each person — including job title, and employer.  There were several icons to the right, which when pressed displayed more information pulled from the social media accounts — including recent status updates, shared meetings and common contacts.

It was both interesting and useful to have all of this information at my finger tips — without having to look for it online.  My only reservation was, the application had pulled in ALL contacts from the various social media services.  The problem clearly being — the majority our social media contacts are friends or acquaintances, whom we do not regularly communicate with, and do not even want to.  I did not want most of these “contacts” on my PlayBook.  I hope there is a way to mass delete or filter out many of the contacts — without having to simply delete the connection to Facebook or Twitter.  I will have to investigate this.

Next I tested out the integrated email.  I quickly drafted a test email and sent it to my other account.  No problems here, and the keyboard was decent — it seemed to display all the necessary characters, including numbers — all on one screen.  I did not have to hit the shift key in order to enter numbers, like I do on my iPad.  This was helpful.  I then set up a few meetings in the calendar for good measure.  Within minutes, the appointment reminder popped up on screen to warn me of an upcoming meeting.

My verdict on the newly integrated email/calendar/contacts applications?  I had no complaints other than that all of them could only be viewed in landscape mode — which I guess made sense here…but I am used to being able to choose either landscape or portrait view.  When receiving a new email, the PlayBook beeped, and a red LED flashed as a notification.  This works well, in case you walk away and miss the beep, when you return you will know there is an email or calendar notification waiting to be checked.

Games and Apps

Next I moved onto the BlackBerry AppWorld.  Like many of you, I have already heard that there are not a lot of apps for the PlayBook.  I was anxious to see exactly what was available.  After briefly reviewing the “featured apps” I clicked on the Games tab.  The first thing I noticed was there were three great games being offered for free!  These were Asphalt 6, Modern Combat 2, and Need for Speed Undercover.  I downloaded each one by one.  With an average size of about 450 MB the games took a while to download over Wi-Fi.  While I waited I began writing this review.

I’m not sure how these game downloads compare to my other devices, as I normally download large apps to my computer (wired Ethernet) which was faster , and then sync to my iPad.  It definitely seemed to take a long time, but this could be related to my relatively slow Internet service.

All three games provided excellent gaming experiences.  The 7″ screen provided enough room for decent game play, the graphics were solid and sound from the unit was also high quality.

I then moved onto free apps.  Since Facebook had already been installed, I moved on down the list.  Not a lot looked familiar.  There is definitely a smaller pool of apps to choose from.  But at the end of the day, of the hundreds of apps on my iPhone and iPad, I only use a handful of them.  So is a huge selection of useless apps really necessary?  I think most apps are a novelty, but there are definitely more useful, creative and fun apps available for other platforms, and part of the fun is finding these new apps.  I think this excitement is currently missing in the BlackBerry AppWorld.  This could change, however, as more Android apps get ported over, and more native apps are developed.

Social Media

Everyone knows that social media is very important to mobile users.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube apps are taken for granted.   And new services like Pinterest are popping up each week.  The PlayBook does have a Facebook and YouTube app available.  I could not however, find a native Twitter app or a LinkedIn app.  No problem right?  Both have mobile sites, easily accessible on the Internet.  I fired up the browser and pointed it at Twitter.com — it would not load!  LinkedIn did work fine, however.

Eventually I did get Twitter to load properly.  I’m not sure if it was a Twitter or a PlayBook problem, but the browser did seem finicky — I seemed to have issues loading certain websites every once in a while.

Perhaps it is unfair to judge the PlayBook for not having native apps for all of the social media services, as I am used to with my iPad.  Hopefully as the number of PlayBook/Blackberry 10 users increase in the future, many of these companies will see the need to develop for the QNX platform.

Ebooks

Reading ebooks and other things is one of my iPad’s main functions.  I have apps for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks as well as other reading apps on my iPad.  I love the variety, and ability to buy books from any of these services (plus I can price shop).  The only official e-reading app for the PlayBook is Kobo (a spin-off of Canadian bookseller Chapters-Indigo).  According to their website, Kobo has over 2.2 million books, newspapers and magazines and because I have purchased books from Kobo before, I know that it is a good service.

But how does the reading experience compare?  I prefer Kobo on my iPad because of the bigger screen, and the page animations — which the PlayBook version does not have.  However, one major advantage of the PlayBook version is the ability to buy books from within the Kobo app.  Apple forced all iOS e-reader apps to pay a percentage of ebook sales to Apple, if purchased within the app — so essentially every company removed their ebook stores from their apps.  Now iPad users must purchase ebooks from each company’s website and then download or sync the to the iPad.  This is somewhat of an inconvenience.

I have already purchased a number of ebooks from Amazon Kindle.  I can read these books on my iPhone, iPad or on my PC.  I assumed I could also read them on the PlayBook, as Amazon offers the ability to read your digital books right on their website.  This should be possible right from the browser on the PlayBook.  Unfortunately, I got an error each time I tried to open a Kindle book!  Not good.

Getting Work Done

The BlackBerry PlayBook is first and foremost geared to the enterprise user, so how well does it do for getting work done?  Well the PlayBook has some advanced features for using it directly with your existing BlackBerry phone — the Blackberry Bridge program allows you to link the devices, share information, use BlackBerry Messenger, and even use your phone as a wireless mouse and keyboard.

With the included Documents-To-Go I was able to create spreadsheets, presentations and Microsoft Word-compatible documents.  You can also edit existing Microsoft Office files.  Adobe Reader allowed me to read PDF files, including books in PDF format.  There were also many work and business type applications available on AppWorld.  I think the PlayBook works as a decent extension of the Blackberry phone, which will be helpful to existing BlackBerry clients.

Overall Impression

So after playing around with the PlayBook for a couple of days, I do think it is a decent tablet.  It is really good at some things, but just ok at others.  I don’t really see it as a fun consumer device.  But then it was initially built for and geared towards existing BlackBerry customers, and mostly business ones at that.

Does it compare to the iPad 2?  Not in my opinion.  There is just so much about the iPad that is better, easier or more fun.  But I think that at current prices — $199 for 16 GB and $249 for 32GB models, the PlayBook is in a different category.  At these prices, the fair comparison should be made to e-readers like the Nook Tablet, Nook Color, Kobo Vox or Kindle Fire.

I can say one thing for sure…the PlayBook blows away my Nook Color.  I got the Nook for Christmas 2010 — just over a year ago.  At the time it was the first affordable color tablet/e-reader — retailing for $250.  You can read my review of the Nook Color here.

The Nook Color, while fun at the time, is quite slow and not very user friendly as a tablet.  A recent OS update for the Nook Color allowed it to use Netflix and other Android apps — but it is still very clunky.  it is simply just really good at being an e-reader.  The Nook Tablet may be another story, but I have not tried one.  My wife now uses our Nook Color exclusively for reading books, and the price has been lowered to $169.

While all of these e-reader competitors are Android-based tablets with 7″ color screens, I think the real difference when compared to the PlayBook is that they are consumer devices made for reading ebooks, and accessing other multimedia like videos, movies and music.  They each have custom interfaces and controlled environments, including limited access to apps.  The PlayBook, on the other hand, is a true tablet — putting work and productivity first, together with media and fun stuff as a bonus.

If ebooks are your thing, you might want to look at the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, and even Kobo Vox before considering the PlayBook.  But if you are looking for a device which you can use for some work and some play, the PlayBook is a solid choice.  If you are already a BlackBerry user, then this is a no brainer.

On the other hand, if you have $500-700 to spend on a tablet, then the Apple iPad should be your choice.  While there are some limitations with the iPad, I simply can’t think of one  reason other than cost that would make you choose another tablet at this time.

The BlackBerry PlayBook cannot compete against the iPad, but neither can any of the other tablets on the market.  I think RIM realized this almost immediately (as HP did), but have persevered as the PlayBook is more than just a product — it represents  RIM’s future OS platform.

While the PlayBook’s discounted prices may not continue forever, I don’t think any 7″ tablets can be priced at more than $300, to compete.  Consumers have overwhelmingly shown that $200 is the sweet spot for any tablet, unless it is an Apple iPad.

Final Verdict

The Good

  • Compact device -easy to handle
  • Decent battery life
  • Great for multitasking
  • Plays music and video files and music/video store
  • New Android support — I will assume the number and variety of apps will increase in the future
  • Current low pricing makes it a good investment
  • Built-in HDMI for connection to your HDTV
  • Integration of social media services

The Bad

  • Not use to the different user interface, it was not always intuitive navigation
  • Browser issues — problems loading Twitter and could not read Kindle books online
  • Very slow boot-up time — over 2 1/2 minutes!
  • Touch screen response slow — sometimes did not register tapping
  • Smaller selection of apps

Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor E-reader Review

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
March 15, 2011

I am a big fan of ebooks — I have been for a long time. Although I’ve never been a fan of reading books on my computer screen, now that e-readers have evolved and the iPad has single handedly created a tablet market, the options today are greater than ever.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, consumers spent $1 billion on ebooks in 2010, and that is expected to triple by 2015. The number of e-readers increased from 3.7 million in 2009 to over 10 million in 2010.

I have been wanting an e-reader for a while now, but the grey-scale versions just didn’t have enough appeal for me. When the KOBO e-reader (from Chapters) came out last summer for under $150 I was really tempted, but then Barnes & Noble announced that a color version of their NOOK e-reader would be out by year end!

The NOOKcolor was released on November 19, 2010 and received good initial reviews. Not only was it a full-coIor e-reader running on Google’s Android operating system, but it promised users the ability to play music and video, surf the Internet and lots of other extras — this was basically a tablet optimized for reading. I had to have one.

I received a NOOKcolor for Christmas and after using it for a few months I wanted to share my experiences. In just the short time since Christmas, the market has been flooded with over 100 new tablets and in March 2011, Apple released the iPad 2. I think it will become harder and harder for dedicated e-readers (like KOBO, Kindle and Nook) to compete in the future, but for now, they continue to sell very well.

From all appearances, the Nookcolor looks like a 7-inch tablet computer — it has a sleek and stylish design. But when you power it on, you immediately see that it was designed and optimized first and foremost as an e-reader. Barnes & Noble has done a good job of designing the menus and screen layout to focus on quickly picking up where you left of in your latest book, magazine or newspaper. You can easily find everything in your library, including other files such as PDFs, music, videos or Microsoft Office files. You can customize your home page, personalize your bookshelves, and even share passages, recommend books or update your reading status directly to Facebook or
Twitter.

Through the integrated NOOKbooks online store, you can choose from over 2 million books, 125 magazines, and several dozen newspapers. After setting up my account (requires a credit card), the buying process was fast and efficient. Upon clicking the “Buy Now” button, your book or other item downloads in seconds.

I decided to purchase George W. Bush’s new biography entitled Decision Points. The price was $9.99 US. Not bad, considering I had recently seen the hardcover in a bookstore for well over $20.00. I have purchased several other books and magazines since. Magazine subscriptions are substantially cheaper than normal as well.

Of course, I have read ebooks before both on my PC and iPhone, but this was a different experience all together. It actually felt like reading a real book. I had purchased a leather case for the Nook which not only protects it from scratches, but, adds to the “real book” effect. I will admit, the unit does feel quite heavy compared to an average sized book. So heavy in fact, that I chose to read by placing the unit on my leg or knee and just holding the top of the case for support. I have also tried reading without the case which lowers the weight quite a bit and makes things a bit more comfortable.

The reading experience itself takes a bit of practice. You are able to make adjustments to the page brightness, font and text size, which comes in handy and helps the eyes as well. The unit has an LCD screen similar to that of a laptop, so I don’t think it’s quite as easy on the eyes as a regular book. So far I haven’t had any problems, but if you are a voracious reader and spend hours at a time, you might need to take breaks.

Pages are turned by swiping your finger or simply pressing on the side of the screen. Page turning is quick — much quicker than the grey scale e-ink units such as the Amazon Kindle, where the pagemust refresh each time. The advantage of e-ink, however, is that they require much less power, so the battery charge lasts a lot longer.

Which brings up the issue of battery life. I have found that with steady reading and use the NOOKcolor lasts me several days before it needs a charge (6-7 hours of battery life). It really depends on how you are using it. The NOOKcolor has built-in Wi-Fi, a browser to surf the Internet, as well as some extra features such as a picture gallery for your favorite photos, a music and video player, games such as chess and Sudoko, as well as a Pandora streamingmusic app (which only works in the US). WithWi-Fi on and regular browsing, the battery is used up much more quickly. Placing the device in standby mode — the NOOKcolor lasts up to a couple of weeks (with occasional reading), and with the device shut off completely it can last considerably longer.

The NOOKcolor can read Microsoft Office files so it can come in handy if you want to review anyWord, Excel or PowerPoint files — perhaps on the commute to work. I really like the device’s ability to read PDF files as I already had several PDF books from over the years — which I was quickly able to transfer by connecting the NOOKcolor to my PC via the included USB cable.

The NOOKcolor can also read Adobe Digital Editions formatted books, which I quickly learned was the format of choice for digital books you can borrow from your local library. The format prevents books from being copied, but also has a built in lending feature — which is obviously the main attraction for libraries.

Using services like the Ontario Library Service, via your local library, you can download free ebooks and audiobooks for up to two weeks at a time. All you need is your library card number to sign up! Although I found the selection was somewhat limited, it was nice to have the ability to “borrow” up to three books at a time, right from home. The service, which uses technology by Overdrive, is also available for your iPhone, iPad and Android device. I was able to download books directly to my iPhone, because it has an Overdrive app, but with the NOOKcolor I had to download first to my PC and then transfer over — a simple step once you figure it out.

I really like the online Ontario Library Service, because it presents an affordable way to load up your device — especially in the beginning, when you are most anxious to try it out! And with Barnes & Noble’s own LendMe function, you can lend your own books to your friends and vice versa (there are some restrictions).

So what is the verdict? Well, I definitely found the device to be compact, convenient, and fun to use. The fact that I can have a considerable sized library in the palm of my hand, the ability to borrow digital books from the library for free, surf the Internet, check email and buy books right on the device is great. Some of the functionality I found to be quite quirky though — I had trouble playing some music files, the video player was a great added bonus, but is quite limited in the formats it will play, the Pandora streaming music service does not work in Canada, and the built in games got boring fast.

Although I still enjoy using the NOOKcolor for reading ebooks (although I use much less than even a month ago), I find myself wishing for more andmore of the Android functionality it has promised. I see so much potential for this device, once there are more apps available from Barnes & Noble. I hope that it will someday have access to the Android market (tens of thousands of apps) as well — which is probably unlikely.

I don’t think I would recommend the NOOKcolor to someone who is looking for a tablet experience. The NOOKcolor is first and foremost an e-reader, but both the iPad and its Android tablet competitors do a good job of e-reading and a better job at everything else.

If you are a dedicated reader, and would be satisfied with the more “book-like” experience of grey-scale readers, then the Amazon Kindle might be a better buy at just $139 CAN. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have excellent online ebook selections (millions of books), and prices are similar. It is definitely cheaper to buy ebooks instead of paper books, and might save you some space as well.

If you are seeking a great tablet experience then I think there are better options out there, with much greater features and capabilities. So that leaves the NOOKcolor somewhere in the middle. It is an excellent device, and provides a solid reading experience, with the added functionality of a tablet for a pretty good price. With the selection of options on the market I don’t think you can go wrong with any choice. Both e-book readers and tablets have finally hit the mainstream, after years of false starts and I think this will only lead to more and more choices in the future.

Are Books as We Know Them Dead?

By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine, June 2010

The printed book is an amazing thing. Between those two covers, are thoughts, facts, knowledge and imagination. Books have represented the power of ideas and wisdom of humans for thousands of years.

Knowledge was once passed along through writings on stone, papyrus and even animal skins.

When Gutenberg invented the printing press around the year 1440, mass printings of books were finally possible, and authors could share their writings with more and more people.

For me, books represent many things. Fantasy, mystery, adventure, experience, and knowledge. And to me knowledge is power. I have quite a few books – over 800 in fact, enough to form a small library. Some people might think that is a little excessive…but to me books have always been a source of inspiration, imagination, and wisdom.

I may not have read all of the books that I own – not even close, in fact. But I know they are on the shelf, should I need to look something up, or if I am in the mood to read up on the history of tech companies like Intel, Microsoft or Google (ok I did read that one), then they are at my disposal. I’d like to read a lot more of my books – but honestly, I just don’t have the time. Oh and did I mention I am trying to write a novel of my own? Well that’s another story…

So why would I ask if books as we know them are dead? By this I mean traditional books…books printed on paper, and available at your favorite bookstore.

With the increasing popularity of digital ebooks, and the vast amount of information available on the Internet, will the printed book soon be relegated to libraries and private collections? Ebooks are cheaper and more portable than paper books. Today’s eReaders can hold thousands of books – and these books are always at your fingertips.

Amazon’s Kindle is perhaps the most popular device, having sold several million units over the last couple of years, and Amazon has a digital library of over 500,000 books available for download – most at lower prices than the paper copies. In fact, most best sellers are just $9.99, a definite selling point!

Numerous other eReaders are on the market as well, including those from Sony, Barne’s & Noble’s Nook, Chapters/Borders’ new Kobo eReader, and even Apple’s iPad or iPhone.

And now Google itself is getting into the business. With the upcoming Google Editions, according to PCWorld, “E-books will be universal in that users can access them from anyWeb-connected device, and roughly 500,000 titles will be available at launch. Online books are cached once you’ve loaded them, so they can also be viewed offline.”

I have my own opinions, but I thought that I would ask someone who actually works in the field, and would have some insights on the subject. Ken Hernden, the Library Director at Algoma University was kind enough to share his thoughts:

Q. As the Internet has developed and become a daily tool for many people, have you noticed any impact on library use or traffic? If so, what age groups?

A. As more resources have migrated to electronic, networked formats, we’ve noticed an increase in traffic and use virtually and physically in the library. Despite the fact that most resources are available from home or anywhere through the library’s proxy server, the library still seems to serve as a space for people to focus their efforts.

Q. What are your thoughts on digital books?

A. I like them; they have enormous potential…the main challenge (for librarians) will be preventing information overload, letting people know about these resources, and teaching them how to be informed users of so much information.

Q. Do you think that books retain their “essence” if they are not on printed paper?

A. In some ways, the ebooks offer more “essence”: you can rapidly keyword search the content and they often offer features like chapter annotations not in the hard copy version and linking to related or cited articles, books, images and audio files that enhance the core content. The danger again is that the reader is led away from the book’s content and becomes overwhelmed by the enhancements. I liken learning ebook literacy to showing a non comic book reader a graphic novel or comic book – it takes time for them to learn to be literate in that format and consider the words, images, layout and spaces in between the elements.

Q. What do books mean to you?

A. I think books are critical to maintaining the health of a society. They transmit wisdom knowledge across time and are available to anyone with the inclination to open them up.

Q. Do you see digital books replacing written books some day? If so, when?

A. Possibly, but I think it would take at least a couple of generations of readers and it depends on the ubiquity of readers and networked content. There are many parts of the world where this is not true yet. Much will also depend on reader tastes and the marketplace as well.

Q. With the digitizing of so much information, growing popularity of ebooks, and convenience of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, do you think that traditional printed books will decline in importance?

A. Hard-copy editions might eventually fill a role that vinyl does for high-end audiophiles. Also, preservation of information remains a conundrum and PH neutral paper lasts hundreds of years, whereas digital formats and hardware do not. At the very least the printed codex may remain our permanent archival format.

So what do you think? Will you continue to buy traditional books, or are you planning to buy more and more digital ebooks for your mobile phone, eReader or even your computer? How long do you think it will be before digital overtakes the printed word?

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