Tag Archives: Kindle

3 hours to enter a great sci-fi competition

I don’t normally enter competitions because I never win anything. No, seriously. Nevertheless, the thought of winning a new Kindle as well as a stack of new books made me change my mind.

 

Click the link below to go to the competition page being promoted by Andy McKell, one of the sci-fi authors participating in the competition:

https://booksweeps.com/enter-win-space-opera-science-fiction-novels-july-17/

Best of luck everyone!

Meeks

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A phone I could get excited about

After years of rumors and false starts, both Samsung and LG are preparing to unveil portable devices with folding screens later this year, according to a report in the Korea Herald (via XDA). Samsung is likely to produce 100,000 of the smartphone-cum-tablets in the third quarter, the Herald claims, while LG may manufacture the same…

via Samsung and LG both reportedly launching foldable phones in second half of 2017 — VentureBeat

I currently have a Kindle Fire for ‘reading’ and an old, Samsung Galaxy SII for ‘communicating’. I have checked the internet on the phone – once or twice – but the screen is much too small for comfortable reading. As a result, I use it almost exclusively for calls, EmergencyAus alerts, and as a camera.

If Samsung can give me the convenient size of a phone with the screen realestate of a tablet, I might just jump ship from the Kindle.


How to fix the scamming of #Kindle Unlimited

Since I first read about the scammers undermining the Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription service, [here] I’ve read a lot of comments about what’s wrong with the system and how it should be fixed.

Some people think Kindle Unlimited was broken from the start and should be killed off entirely. Others believe Amazon will make incremental changes to the system until it finally gets things right.

I believe the ‘system’ cannot be fixed until the Kindle itself is changed. So yes, I see this as mostly a hardware problem. At the moment, Amazon cannot gauge page reads by page ‘turns’ – i.e. that moment when a real reader flips the page over. Because of that hardware limitation, Amazon has to fudge page reads and that allows scammers to game the system as well.

Imagine, however, if Amazon could detect actual page turns, and only counted them when it came to payments…

-imagines a scammer sitting there, manually turning page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page….-

cat eye spinning kindle

cross-eyed cat courtesy of http://www.leelofland.com

My Kinde Fire sometimes ‘loses’ my place in a novel, forcing me to manually page through until I find my spot again. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, so anyone desperate enough to do that for a living deserves every cent they get.

So my solution? Innovate the hardware. Make it possible for Amazon’s gremlins to count actual page turns, and pay on the basis of those ‘pages read’.

No system is perfect, and there will always be what we gamers call gold farmers – players paid to farm terribly boring things over and over again so their employers can sell said things to real players too lazy to farm for themselves. But in the case of the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, scammers want to make big money in the fastest, easiest way possible. They don’t want to become readers, they just want to simulate reading, so let’s not make things too easy for them.

Unfortunately, the rankings scam cannot be fixed by hardware. You can read about how the Amazon rankings and bestseller lists have been scammed here. Even if Amazon managed to create a software algorithm that scanned each and every sentence of a book for grammatical errors, for example, I doubt that any algorithm could scan for ‘sense’ so the scammers could still fill these books with perfectly grammatical nonsense.

The problem with Amazon rankings is that they are determined by software, and anything one software program can do, another software program, or a clever human, can scam. It’s as simple as that.

But if you take away the automation you’re left with just humans, and how would that work?

Amazon’s review system is already notorious for being gamed by account holders with an axe to grin, or who just enjoy being trolls. They may not be gaming the system for profit, but they are ruining it for normal customers, so basing rankings, bestseller lists, and most importantly recommendations on reviews won’t work, unless…those reviewers are vetted somehow.

Unfortunately, if you vet reviewers then you are simply returning to the old system of so-called professionals gatekeeping the system.

The worst consequence of having professional reviewers, however, would be in the backlash from normal customers. I enjoy having my say when a book or some other product is either very good or very bad, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. I would not be happy if I could not read genuine reviews of the books I want to read.

-throws hands up in the air-

So…I haven’t got a clue how to fix the bigger problem of rankings, but I do believe the page turn idea will happen, one day. Until then, we’ll just have to sit back and watch this grand experiment in democracy unfold.

cheers

Meeks


My review of The Remnant and #Amazon’s new review format

Click to go to the Amazon page

Click on the cover to go to the Amazon page

I’ve just discovered a new, fresh, wonderful voice in sci-fi! The author is Paul B. Spence and the book is The Remnant, book 1 of The Awakening series. Better still, books 2 and 3 have already been published so I have reading material for a couple of weeks at least. 🙂

This is the review I just left on Amazon:

I don’t normally enjoy so-called ‘military’ sci-fi because it often reads like a boys own fantasy with impossible Star Wars type space battles that are completely unrealistic, and woefully unscientific. But /this/, this story seems to be built on real science and real possibilities, no matter how remote. It is also a finely balanced blend of politics, archaeology and psychology where all the elements work together to create a very compelling story. From my point of view, the most compelling part is that the main character is both heroic and damaged. I like him as a hero, but I care for him as a person. This is how all sci-fi should be.

The only negative thing I will say is that the editing could have been better, not in terms of the prose – the prose is crisp, clean and at times almost lyrical – but in terms of the odd missing word, the odd typo. I noted them as I read them, but immediately dismissed them as the story drew me on.

Paul B Spence is a new voice in sci-fi [at least to me] but not for long. This is a storyteller who deserves recognition. Very highly recommended.

Seriously, I wasn’t exaggerating. This man knows how to write. 🙂

Now, to the second part of this post, Amazon’s new review format. It’s quite a departure from the past and has some good points, but also some strange ones. The following is a pic of the review screen as I was writing the review for The Remnant:

amazon new review format The Remnant

You can click on the pic to see an enlarged version, but the main features should be readable even in this one. The main innovation is the multiple choice meta reviewing now available. You can select options in four major categories – plot, mood, pace and character – to give a kind of snapshot of the book, presumably for people who don’t want to wade through reams of prose.

As an attempt to make the reviewing process less prone to abuse*, I have no issue with the multiple choice categories because they:

  • require at least some thought on the part of the reviewer, and
  • are not all polarized options ranging from ‘good’ to ‘bad’.

To illustrate the second point, let’s say I have some axe to grind with Amazon, or sci-fi in general, or Paul B. Spence in particular. To make my displeasure felt, I can still give The Remnant a one star ranking, but now I also have to provide a less black and white response via the multiple choice questions.

Under plot I could probably select ‘predictable’ as the most negative option, but some readers look for predictability in their reading material. Similarly, selecting ‘slow’ for the pace and ‘one dimensional’ for the character would be construed as negative by some readers but not all. Finally, under mood, I have no ‘bad’ choices at all.

So, all in all, I see the new format as a fairer way of leaving a review, however the lack of real choice in the answers kind of defeats the purpose of a real review. For example, I found the mood of The Remnant to be both ‘suspenseful’ and ‘thoughtful’, but I could only choose one option so therefore that element of the review is already inaccurate.

To be fair, the designers of the new format would have sweated blood getting the multiple choice questions to be as effective as they are. Nevertheless, I would love to have multiple choices per category rather than just one – e.g. ‘select the words that most closely reflect how you feel about…’

All in all, however, I give Amazon a big 3/5 [see the *update below] for the new review format, and Paul B. Spence gets a glowing 5/5.

Man, I love discovering great new authors, especially when they’re Indies**. Please give this man some love. My review brought his total up to just 10. He is obviously as good at marketing as I am. 😦

cheers

Meeks

  • * Carrie Rubin just let me know that you can leave a review without selecting any of the multiple choice options, which kind of ruins the idea that this will help reduce review-abuse. Ah well…:(
  • ** -sigh- I really should do my research before I hit the Publish button. The paperback of the Remnant was actually published by Asura. The Kindle edition, however, may be Indie published as it sells for $2.99. I read the Kindle version so… 😦

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 6″ – a review

Fire 6 picOkay, I am not an early adopter when it comes to hardware. If anything, I tend to wait until the inevitable bugs have been discovered, and ironed out before I give a new device a try. That is why I have never owned a tablet, and that is why buying a newly launched Fire HD 6″ is so out of character for me. That said, however, I love my baby Fire. 🙂

As I have never touched a Fire 7, I can’t compare the two. The best I can do is compare the Fire 6 to my old, very ordinary Kindle. Physically, the Fire 6 is the same length as my Kindle e-reader, but about an inch narrower, making it an even better fit in my small shoulder bag. Unfortunately, it is also noticeably heavier than the old e-reader. Given how much more it does, however, I’m prepared to forgive the added drag on my shoulder.

So what does the baby Fire do?

Well first and foremost, it displays everything in glorious colour. After two years of looking at the grey-on-grey of my e-reader, just turning the Fire on and looking at its colourful home screen makes me smile.

Now colour may not mean much to you out there, but it’s going to make all the difference to the e-cookbook I’m working on! Words may be a writer’s weapon of choice, but when it comes to cooking and recipes, one picture is literally worth a thousand words.

Of course it is possible to view pictures on an ordinary e-reader, but the effect is less than stellar. Have a look at the pictures below :

Fire 6 pics 2nd attempt grey sml

Fire 6 pics 2nd attempt colour sml

 

The first photo is from my old Kindle e-reader. The second is from my new Fire 6. Despite my lack of talent as a photographer  [I was battling flash glare and lost], you must admit the colour pic is easier on the eye!

The next huge difference between my e-reader and the Fire 6 is …playing as I type. 🙂 Yes, you guessed it, I’m listening to music! [Jo Blankenburg’s beautiful track, ‘The Realm of Levitation]

The sound quality is nowhere as good as what I get through the speakers attached to my PC, but I can listen to my music without ear-plugs [which I hate] on a mobile device that can do almost everything except cook dinner!

Apart from books and music, the Fire 6 can also download and play apps [but not Google apps], videos [haven’t tried, newspapers and magazines [haven’t tried], audiobooks, photos, documents [sideloaded from my PC], and surf the web [haven’t tried].

In case you’re wondering, the reason I haven’t tried so many functions is because I don’t have WI FI at home. To access any of the online content, I have to go to McDonalds and use their free hotspot. Given what I think of McDonald’s food, I don’t think I’ll be doing much online surfing until my current modem finally dies and I have to get a new one. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of sideloading.

“But what is this sideloading?” you ask.

Sideloading is the ability to download content from the internet to your PC and then copy that content to your digital device. It’s not as convenient as using wi-fi, but it actually works quite seamlessly when you know how. I sideloaded a Word file to my Fire, as well as the working copy of my ecookbook, AND the Jo Blankenburg music track. I’m sure I could sideload a video as well if I wanted to.

Until I take screenshots of sideloading on the Fire, you can find detailed instructions on how to sideload content to a Kindle e-reader here :

http://wp.me/P25AFu-1ga

The pictures will look different but the process is essentially the same on both devices –

– connect the micro USB cable to the Fire

– connect the USB end to the PC

– open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder containing the file[s] you want to copy to the Fire

– copy/paste the file to the appropriate Fire folder [or drag and drop it there]. In My Computer, the Fire shows up as an external drive, complete with all of its internal folders such as ‘Books’, ‘Music’ etc.

Once you’ve copied the file to your Fire, disconnect the device, open to the relevant folder, and your book/song/document etc should be accessible via a simple tap of your finger. Not bad for a tablet that cost just $149.00 AUD!

Oh, wait! Did I forget to mention how incredibly CHEAP this baby Fire is? Well it is, and the $149 AUD price tag was a huge factor in my decision to finally buy a tablet. Yes, I wanted one to test out my ecookbook, but there was no way known I was going to pay through the nose for the privilege. With the Fire 6, I really feel as if I’ve got value for money.

So was there anything about my new Fire 6 I didn’t like?

I can’t really say there was anything I actively disliked, but there were a couple of small niggles.

1. Despite having learned the  ‘swipe’ technique on my smart phone, I did not find the Fire as easy to use as it was cracked up to be. The main menu items worked as advertised, but once I went deeper, finding my way back was hard.

For example, opening up a book and reading it is quite simple on the Fire, but once I finish reading and want to do something else, I’m in strife because all the navigation icons have disappeared. I have to tap blindly across the top of the Fire until I finally hit the right spot and the menu/navigation icons become visible again.

If you are having the same problem, try tapping just below the front camera. The camera is that very small circle just visible on the top frame of the Fire :

Fire tap spot

2. Another niggle is the size of the battery icon. At 61, my eyesight is just not up to such a miniscule icon, and I have to put my reading glasses on to see how much charge I have left. As being able to adjust the font size is a huge selling point for me [so I don’t have to wear my glasses], this kind of defeats the purpose just a tad.

3. Last but not least is the lack of a true user manual. The Fire 6 did come with documentation, in multiple languages, but the instructions boiled down to one small page on how to connect and charge the device. If you need to know more, they provide the url for a support page. Not exactly great for Baby Boomers like me.

I did, in fact discover a handy youtube video that walked me through the main features of the Fire 7 [similar enough to make no difference] but I would have preferred a user manual I could keep on hand.

Aside from those 3 niggles, I have to say that I am 95% happy with my baby Fire. The features are great, the colour display is lovely and the price is spot on. These may not be important reasons for someone from the techie generation, but I think many people from my generation will find the Fire 6 just right for their needs. Highly recommended!

Meeks

 

 


Kindle Loudmouth – whatever will Jeff Bezos think of next?

I love my Kindle, but I have to say right now that I don’t think I’ll be getting the latest version. Called ‘Flare’, this new Kindle’s claim to fame is that it broadcasts the title of the book you’re reading… out loud!

Apparently this is meant to show the world how smart you are? Or something. Watch this video to see for yourself :

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/07/2014/new-kindle-feature/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ThePassiveVoice+%28The+Passive+Voice%29

I particularly liked the bit about the guy and girl sitting at separate tables in a restaurant, checking out what the other is reading. Cute. Although I do wonder what message you’d be sending if your Kindle blurted out “Fifty Shades of Grey!”

Okay, that was my bit of fun for the day.

cheers

Meeks


Tic [toc] – A clickable Table of Contents!

It’s almost midnight but I finally did it! Vokhtah now has a proper Table of Contents right at the front – and you don’t have to use the awkward Kindle Go-to function to see it or use it. 😀

To explain why this is making me so happy I have to backtrack a little to a comment Metan made last week about moving the Vokhtan dictionary to the front so people could see it.

Given the extreme ‘otherness’ issues of Vokhtah, and the fact that so much is explained in the dictionary, I finally pulled my finger out and re-arranged the layout to have the dictionary right at the front.

Unfortunately, when I transferred the new file to my Kindle so I could check it out, I discovered to my horror that the dictionary went on for pages and pages – literally about 20 odd. Sci-fi or not, I couldn’t see people patiently paging through so much just to get to the start of the actual story. 😦

That was when I realised the problem was not so much that the dictionary was at the back, but that no one knew it was there.

My next experiment was to type up a manual Table of Contents showing the dictionary, and insert it into the book. I put the new page at the front, where it would be nice and visible. It looked good, but was like a politician’s promise – not worth the pixels it was written in because it had no functionality. To look something up in the dictionary you still had to get to the end of the book, or fiddle with the Kindle Go-to function.

By this point I was literally pulling chunks of hair out. In desperation I emailed the wonderful Mark Fassett [the developer of StoryBox, the writing software I use].

Was there someway of setting up a clickable Table of Contents in the actual ebook, I asked.

[toc] Mark replied. He actually said a few more things as well, but the nub of it was that lovely little command.

Of course my implementation managed to screw things up the first time around, but now I know how to do it – and it works like an absolute dream! Ta dah!

table of contents 015

What you see in that pic is an actual page of the book. It’s not the Go-to function. Each chapter heading is a link that will take you straight to the relevant chapter. I wish I’d known how to do this back when I first published Vokhtah. Oh well…

And now, in case there are other StoryBox users out there wanting to do the same thing, this is what I did :

Step 1 Add a new document [not chapter or scene] to your story.

Step 2 Move that document to the exact position where you want the Table of Contents to appear.

Step 3 Type [toc] in the new document.

Step 4 In the Properties pane, be sure to tick the boxes for ‘Include in Manuscript’ and ‘Page Break before’.

storybox properties

Step 5 Select Export, make sure the output format is set to mobi, and be sure to untick the box that says ‘Start at first text’.

storybox open to first text

And that’s it, except for one more little thing. If, like me, you use Calibre to convert your mobi file to Kindle format, do NOT mess with any of the Calibre settings for Table of Contents. That was my big mistake. I messed. None of those settings are needed because that lovely, wonderful [toc] command has already done all the work.

StoryBox truly is an amazing writing tool. I’ve loved it all along, but today I’m just in awe of how powerful it is. If you write, and you’re an indie, then you need StoryBox. I’m serious.

Good night all!

Meeks


Stepping outside my comfort zone #2 with My Gentleman Vampire

canstockphoto8443816In Stepping Outside my Comfort Zone #1, I dipped into First Chapters, and found a sophisticated YA novel. This time round, I overcame my dislike of all things sparkly to read the first chapter of a vampire novel like no other.

Imagine you come home one day and find a gorgeous man in your kitchen. He’s barefoot and wearing a pink apron. And, he’s just done the dishes.

I know if that were me I’d be pinching myself. Unfortunately there’s a catch, in fact a whole series of them. First he’s gay – isn’t it always the way? Second, he thinks your cat, Arabella, is really a human who was bewitched for sleeping with the wrong guy. Third, he thinks he can read your mind. And fourth, well …

“There’s one more, teensy thing I need to tell you. Have some wine.”

I did as I was told, took a big swig of wine, and swallowed hard. His tone suggested this was about to get even weirder.

“There’s just no easy way to say this. I am a vampire.”

gentleman vampire coverI can’t lie. After learning that this gorgeous man is living in the heroine’s basement, the big reveal wasn’t exactly a surprise, but I laughed anyway because it was the perfect ending to a delicious chapter. In fact, I was so taken with that chapter I bought the book.  Yes, I bought a vampire book, and I’m urging you to buy it too. 🙂

Which book? My Gentleman Vampire, by Lois Lewandowski. This little gem will set you back all of 99 cents if you have a Kindle.

But the point of this post is not to recommend one specific book. The point is to show what an amazing smorgasbord of writing talent you’ll find in First Chapters, the book of samples.  And guess what? First Chapters is free for the next two days.

Honestly, what have you got to lose?

Happy reading,

Meeks


When one door closes another opens

I received another email from Amazon support this morning :

“We’ll contact you with more information by the end of the day on Friday, August the 2nd.”

-sigh-

Assuming Amazon tech support do find the problem, and fix it in that time frame, the Egg will now be released on the Kindle two days after I start my new course [the Cert IV in Training]. That means my marketing campaign for the Egg is up in smoke. Ass I’m a serial monogamist – i.e. I can only focus on one major thing at a time – once the course begins, everything else will take a backseat.

I will do some marketing of course, but most of my spare time and energy will be devoted to keeping my blog alive, and continuing with my writing.

Is fate trying to tell me something?

-shrug-

If it is, I can’t seem to decode the message.

But all is not gloom and doom. As The Daughter is away, and I’m at a loose end this weekend, I’ve decided to spend my time working out how to publish to the Kobo. If I’m successful, the Egg may start its life in Canada. [The Kobo e-reader is manufactured by a Canadian company, and is very popular there].

The reason I chose the Kobo for my next foray into e-readers was because I’ve been reading some good things about its development, and I think it will be an interesting player in the market once the Nook is phased out [plus I found a very detailed how-to guide which always helps].

If the Kobo experiment works, I may bite the bullet and set my sights on The Meatgrinder next.

For the non-Indies out there, The Meatgrinder is the quasi affectionate name given to the Smashwords program. It’s reputed to be a beast, and I’ve circled it warily for over a year, never quite daring to give it a go.

So there you have it – a disappointing outcome with positive highlights. Wish me luck!

Meeks

p.s. This is my 341st post. Just 24 more and I’ll have 365! It’s taken me almost two years to get to this point, but I’m going to celebrate anyway. More on that later.


I promised you a reminder, so here it is!

vokhtah new promoTimezones aside, Vokhtah will be free  on the Kindle from March 1 – 5.

I know that not many of you are into science fiction, but if you’re the tiniest bit curious, or know someone who might be, please help me make Vokhtah more ‘visible’.

Every person who downloads a free copy will be like a pebble thrown into a still pond; you will make ripples. One day those ripples may even push Vokhtah high enough in the rankings that complete strangers will give it a go.

The same applies to feedback. You don’t have to write a review, although I would love it if you did. No, by feedback I mean just a one-liner saying whether you liked Vokhtah, or loathed it.

Okay, that’s the end of the begging. Now I have to go make a couple of chocolate mousse cakes for my niece’s wedding tomorrow. I’ll try and take a couple of photos before it’s all eaten. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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