Category Archives: eBooks

Kindle Paperwhite 2: first impressions

I always loved the idea of having an ereader with build in light. When Amazon announced their first Paperwhite I was very excited and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Luckily, Amazon release their Kindle first in the US before the rest of the world because after reading the reviews I decided not to get one. There were a lot of problems with the screen; pinholes (holes in one of the layers, resulting in bright light shining out) and colour blobs (green, blue, yellow and pink patches on the screen). In 2013 Amazon released the second version of the Paperwhite (PW2), but again there were problems with the

In September Amazon announced the Kindle Voyage. Which didn’t only have a build in light, it also came with page turn sensors (which all the previous touch screen Kindle didn’t have) and some other nice options but it had a very hefty price;  €199. This time I decided to wait for the reviews. Again there seemed to be screen problems, this time the top is yellow whilst the bottom is blue-ish. But also there are a lot of reports of Kindle Voyages freezing and having to be exchanged. The reports on the updated PW2 were good. Amazon secretly upped the storage from 2gb to 4gb and the screen problems seem to be mostly in the past.

When Amazon opened their disappointing Dutch webstore it also resulted in us being able to order Kindles from Germany or the UK, a lot cheaper than having to order it from the US. That same week I was on vacation and the apartment didn’t have very good lighting. At night I had to move a floor lamp next to the sofa so I could read on my Kindle 4. After seeing that Amazon.de had the PW2 on offer for €99 I decided to get that one instead of a Voyage. Last week I ordered it and on Friday it arrived. And I love it.

Screen & lighting
One of the most important things on an ereader is the screen. You don’t want any pinholes, dust between the layers, uneven lighting or colour blobs that distract you from your reading. The text is very sharp and mine doesn’t have any colour blobs or pinholes. If I look very carefully I can see a bit of spotlighting at the bottom of the screen when I have the light on. You can see cones of light where the LEDs are at the bottom of the screen, resulting in slightly darker triangles between the LEDs. I had expected this and I only see if if I have the light at a certain level, turning it up or down helps reduce it. I can live with this.
The screen of my PW2 is also a lot whiter than that of my Kindle 4, which was more sepia toned. When the light is on at a level you can see it it has a cooler hue (this differs from Kindle to Kindle).

Font
Whereas my Kindle 4 only had three different fonts to choose from the PW2 has six options, but the same three settings for line spacing and margins and eight for font size. Although I love Kobo’s options when it comes to font settings after setting it up the first time I hardly ever changed it. I don’t want the text to fill the full screen, like many people do. I find it much more readable with margins (I use the widest margins) and a bit of space between the line (middle setting).

Touch screen
Although I haven’t used my Kobo Aura HD since May I still have to get used to the Kindle touch screen, where to touch to go back (on the left side of the screen, the area is narrower than on the Aura HD) and to pull up the menu. But everything is in a very logical place. It’s also a lot faster than the Aura HD, selecting a word to look it up in the dictionary is easy, as is selecting text to save it. It’s a lot more precise. The Aura HD had an IR touch screen, so it will respond to anything that touches the screen. The PW2 has a capacitive touch screen, which means that if you got some dust or crumbs on your screen you want to get rid off you can swipe it off with a bit of cloth without have a menu pop-up or a page turn. I also  love the feel of the screen, which is very paper-like and seems less sensitive to fingerprints than the screen of the Aura HD.

Software
So far my PW2 has been as stable as my other Kindles. No crashes, reboots or freezes. Besides the dictionary you can now also look up words in Wikipedia (wifi must be on) and if it’s enabled on the book you’re reading there is a feature called X-Ray. Where you can look up names, see how often this person is mentioned in the book. But also places and other things. With the latest update Wordwise is introduced. When switched on it gives short definitions of difficult words between the lines over the word. I have this switched off. Also new is the Family Library, where you can link different accounts and share your books. There is also GoodReads for those living in the US and Canada.
What I do use, often is Page Flip. You have to open the menu by tapping at the top of the screen, then on the bottom, above the chapter title is an arrow upwards. If you press that a new window pops up where you can scroll through the book without losing your place. It’s great to look up a map or drawing. I also discovered that when you choose the Go To option in the menu there are now page numbers next to the chapter titles. This makes it easy to check how many pages you have to read to finish your chapter.
At the bottom of the screen you can see how far you are in the book. By tapping the lower left corner you can select different views: page number, time left in chapter, time left in book, location and nothing. The first four options also display the percentage of pages read in the lower right corner.

Miscelaneous
Although the PW2 weighs more than the Kindle 4 it isn’t too heavy and feels like a good quality device. The Kobo Aura HD always felt a little too plasticy to me. The on and off button has a nice clicky feel to it. The one on my Kindle 4 never really clicked and is, at times, unresponsive. However, if you buy the right case you hardly ever need to use the power button because the PW2 can be switched on and off by the case if there’s a little magnet in it (like many tablets and other ereaders).
I bought the official Amazon case for the PW2, in black. It’s an okay case, but I would have like the front to be thicker to protect the screen better. I think I’ll end up ordering an Oberon case for it. Which is a lot heavier and bulkier than the official case but, in my opinion, offers more protection and is a lot prettier.

All in all I’m very happy with my PW2 and I’m glad I waited for so long to buy it. The lighting makes up for the absence of page turn buttons. Now, if only Amazon improves their Dutch webstore (wishlist, payment by iDeal, etc) I would happily switch my account to it.

Amazon.nl is finally here

Amazon has finally opened their Dutch webstore. Other Dutch webstores were afraid of this, the current sale many webstore have at the moment is reportedly because of Amazon being about to open their Dutch webstore. This opening turns out to be a bit of a disappointment (in my opinion) and many webstores shouldn’t be afraid, yet.

Only Bol.com should be afraid because Amazon.nl is currently only selling Kindles and ebooks. And even then Bol has the advantage of accepting payment by iDeal (a Dutch online payment method for debit cards) and Amazon.nl only accepts credit cards. A lot of Dutch people don’t have a credit card and iDeal is the standard method of online payment in the Netherlands. Hopefully giftcards will be available soon so people can use that to pay for their purchases.

A big disappoint for me personally is that there is no option to put ebooks you want on a wishlist. On Amazon.com I have a long wishlist of ebooks I find interesting.

Also, they only sell Kindles and ebooks. Not even accessories for the Kindle, such as chargers and cases can be ordered.

Because I read only (e)books in English I’ll be staying with Amazon.com for now, if it’s possible. I will be ordering a new Kindle soon (I know I said it was going to be a Paperwhite but I’m now again leaning towards getting the Voyage), but I’ll be registering it at the US website.

Selective reading

In the past when I started a book series and I even remotely liked it I would continue and unless the series became really bad I would finish it, at least all the books that were released up until I started the series.

Ebooks has given me easy access to books; instead of waiting days, or even weeks, to get the book I want to read I can now order it and have it on my ereader within minutes. With the help of forums and recommendations from Amazon and Goodreads I’ve discovered a lot of series I (might) like. And there is the problem, not only have I discovered a lot of series I want to try but there are also the stand alone books I want to read.

Over the past year or so I’ve noticed I’ve become much more picky when it comes to series. Instead of giving it at least two or three book to see if I like it I usually decide after the first book if I want to continue or not. Unless I’m told by several posts/people/reviews that it gets a lot better after after the first book. I’m also not forcing myself to keep reading a series if I lose interest or the story goes into a direction I don’t like.

So far this year I’ve started 15 new series. Most of them were okay, a couple were a complete waste of time (for me), but I only decided to continue with six of them. There are also several series I do like but I know I’ll only read a book if I’m really in the mood, so I’ve taken those series off my “ongoing series” list.

I’m currently reading the first book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Although it isn’t a fast read it’s enjoyable, but I’m not sure if I want to continue with it. This might be one of those rare cases I will give the second book a try and decide then.

My perfect ereader

I’ve had my Kobo Aura HD for just over a week now, before that I had a Sony PRS605, Kindle Keyboard and a Kindle 4 non-touch. Each had it’s pros and cons and it’s got me thinking about what my perfect ereader would be.

Screen
The size should be between 6 and 7 inches, the Sony and Kindles were around 6 inches and my new Kobo is 6.7 inches, any bigger and it would become too unwieldy and probably too heavy for easy portability. It also should be eInk as opposed to LCD, the battery lasts longer with eInk and my eyes prefer it over a backlit screen when reading for longer periods of time.

There shouldn’t be any possibility of dust becoming trapped between the screen layers. After a while some dust particles had worked its way between the layers of the Sony, my first ereader, after moving around for a while they became stuck almost in the middle of the screen. That was very distracting when reading.

The screen also should be lighted. I like the relatively even lighting of the Kobo Aura HD, only at the bottom there is a very, very faint darker shadow. I prefer a warm lighting over a cool, blueish or greenish light. Also, the lowest setting should be low enough to be able to read by in total dark.

Controls
The Sony had both a touch screen and buttons, though the page turn buttons weren’t in a very practical location. The Kindles had a page forward and page back buttons on both side of screen, which was ideal. The way I usually hold my ereader is with my thumb on the side of the screen, where the Kindles buttons were, I just had to press the button to go to the next page. Most ereaders with a touch screen nowadays seem to have no buttons at all. My ideal reader would have the page turn buttons of the Kindles but also a touch screen. The touch screen should be adjustable so you can decide which area to press to page forward, back and open the menu.

Library Management
Most importantly it should work with Calibre, which is so much better than any of the software developed by ereader manufacturers.

I wish it would be easier to manage shelves/collections. For the Kindles I used the Collection Manager plug-in, but found it bothersome and with the newer Kindles it won’t work at all. Both the Sony and my Kobo can create shelves automatically if you set up Calibre just right. I have it now set up to shelf books according to series, but you can also choose to set it up to make shelves for genres or authors.

My ideal method would be that I would be able to make shelves/collection manually on the reader when it’s connected to Calibre and I could drag books over it. It should also have the possibility to add books to multiple shelves.

Storage
A lot of people are upset that Amazon has chosen to reduce the storage space of newer Kindles from 4GB to 2GB. I personally didn’t care, I don’t keep my entire ebook library on my reader. However, 2GB would be my minimum. Many manufacturers have started working with a cloud, if you buy a book in their store it will be added to your cloud and you can easily download it to your reader. I wouldn’t like to be dependant on that system, I often buy books from stores other than that of current ereader I’m reading and convert it to the good format. I would never buy an ereader where I can’t sideload an ebook with Calibre.

I like it that the Kobo has got a slot for a micro SD card, I think the Sony also had the possibility to use a SD card. I probably won’t use it, but I love that I have the possibility to just copy all my books to an SD card and my reader being able to read it.

Format
My ideal reader would be able to read all formats, epubs, kepubs, mobi, azw3, etc. With and without DRM. No matter what format all options would be available; my current Kobo’s got nice features when using kepubs, but not when using epubs.

Flexibility
I love the flexibility of my Kobo, it’s got a lot more font than my Kindles or Sony plus I can load my own fonts. Like all readers you can change the font size, but also distance between lines (I prefer reading with a bit more space between the lines) and how much white space you want around the text. You can also set the weight of the text (how bold) and it’s sharpness.

Other
I love the Kindle’s option of emailing an ebook to your reader. So, my ideal ereader’s got to have wifi, also to receive updates. I would be able to shop at any ebook store and have them send my purchases to my reader.

I’m pretty happy about battery life. Most manufacturers promise 2 months when you read half an hour a day, for me that means I have to recharge ever week to two weeks. Longer battery life would, of course, be welcome.

Most important of all, something that really isn’t part of my ideal ereader is that all books would be available as ebooks and done well.

Review: Kindle 4

I’ve had my Kindle 4 now for just over two weeks and I’m very glad I bought it. Although there was nothing wrong with my Kindle Keyboard the Kindle 4 (K4) is smaller and lighter and thus easier to carry around. When it was announced I had planned on buying the Kindle Paperwhite as soon as it was available in the Netherlands, either through Amazon.com or, when it opened, Amazon.nl. I was glad I wasn’t able to pre-order because of the “colour blob” problem. Depending on you level of colour blindness you might see pinkish, greenish or blueish blobs on the screen of your Paperwhite and Amazon doesn’t seem to be able to solve the problem. I like the idea of a build in light but I know I would be very annoyed if my Kindle had the colour blobs.

However, I did want to get a new Kindle and the choices that were left were the Kindle Touch and the Kindle 4. Although I like the idea of a touch screen I had read that the screen of the Kindle Touch was less sharp, probably because of the touch screen layer, plus I like to have physical page turn buttons (even with a touch screen). Around the time of the Paperwhite’s release Amazon also released a black version of their Kindle 4, although they deny that there was a hardware update people noticed that the screen is a lot better than the older Kindle 4 in silver. This made the choice easy to go for the Kindle 4.

Screen
As I said before, I was very happy with my choice. The screen of the K4 is clearer than the screen of my Kindle Keyboard (KK). I think it’s partially due to the screen of the K4 having a lighter, colder hue than the brownish hue the screen of the KK’s got.

Keyboard and buttons
One of the attractions of the KK is the keyboard, which is very handy when you make a lot of notes. It does, however, add to the size of the KK. The K4’s got an onscreen keyboard and you have the 4-way buttons to select the letter/number/symbol you need which can be cumbersome if you use it to make notes. Since I only used the keyboard to type in the names of the catagories I make to sort my books I can live with a somewhat cumbersome onscreen keyboard. If you regularly make notes I would advice to get one of the Kindles with a touch screen, that should make it a lot easier than using the 4-way button.

One thing I did have to used to was the page turn buttons on the left and right side of the Kindle. I was used to the wider buttons of the KK and found the narrower ones on the K4 hard to press when I first got it.

The KK had a slider to switch the Kindle on and off. The K4 has a button you have to press. I like this better since it seems to me to be a lot more durable than a sliding switch.

System
Compared to my KK the K4 is also a lot quicker, not only with page turns but also loading books, starting up/restarting the Kindle and switching screens in the home screen.

One thing that does annoy me is the implementation of switching wifi on and off. I don’t care that they’ve renamed it to “airplane mode” but it’s much harder to switch it on and off than with previous Kindles (the Touch and Paperwhite also have this problem). Before you could switch wifi on and off wherever you were; inside a book, on the home screen, etc. Now you have to go to the settings page, by going to the home page, using the menu button to go to the settings page where you can switch airplane mode on and off. Not very practical when you just want to switch on wifi to download a book.

Compared to the KK has half the space to put books on, 2GB instead of 4GB. Amazon likes you to use their cloud system. I don’t use the cloud system but I never put all my books on my Kindle and delete when I’ve finished one.

Interestingly Amazon contradicts itself when it comes to battery life of the K4. On the international order page of the K4 it lists up to 8 weeks with wifi off and on the page of the Paperwhite and the American page of the K4 it lists battery life as 4 weeks. The KK is listed as up to 8 weeks, as is the Paperwhite. To me it the K4 seems to have a better battery life than my KK, which is probably due to the older battery of the KK not holding it’s charge as well as a new battery. But even if the battery life is shorter than of other Kindles I can live with that, it’s easy enough to charge it overnight.

Weight and casing

I love how small and light the K4 is. The difference is also due of the different cases. For my KK I had an Oberon case, which are beautiful but add quite some weight to the Kindle. For the K4 I ordered Amazon’s case for it (the non-lighted one) and although it doesn’t add much size and weight I don’t like it because after two weeks it already has scuff marks on it (and I haven’t carried it around much in my handbag) and there isn’t a system to keep the case close in my bag. I use an elastic band to keep it closed in my bag so nothing can come in between the flap and the screen, damaging the screen. Eventhough an Oberon case is expensive and adds size and weight to the Kindle I’ve ordered one for my K4, I’d rather have a heavier and slightly bigger Kindle than a damaged screen. I like the K4 enough to invest $64 plus $35 shipping in a good case.

Changed reading

It’s been just over three years since I bought my first dedicated eReader, a Sony PRS-605, before that I read ebooks on PDAs. When reading on a PDA I only read free classics found on Project Gutenberg.

Before I got an ereader I read both stand alone books and series equally I think. With series I didn’t care to read them in publication order, I bought what was available, cheapest, thickest, most interesting or the one (when ordering online) which would ship fastest. When searching for new books I often judged the book both by its cover and the description on the back.

Since getting an ereader I think I now read more series than stand alone books. Which is partly due to participating in forums as Mobile Read and book sites such as GoodReads. When buying a book now I don’t go by the description or the cover but by the reviews, especially the two and three star reviews. With series I now compulsively read them in the right order. I’ve learned there are series which haven’t got all books released as ebooks (yet) and those I try to avoid. I also read more since getting an ereader, not just by participating in reading challenges, which I did for the first time last year, but in general. It’s just so much easier to get books, I don’t have to go to the store or wait for shipping.

I’ve also noticed I read more books by unknown authors. I was never someone who read all the Top 10 books, but I was dependant on what was available in the store or would ship quickly. Now I can buy almost anything I want and have it on my reader within minutes (especially with my Kindle which downloads new purchases automatically). Ereading also made me take chances more when buying books, which is both due to online communities recommending books and the availability. I’ve discovered The Dresden Files, for instance, I don’t think I would have every bought those in paperback. I am also less hesitant to buy long books because my Kindle won’t get any heavier and more uncomfortable to hold.

For me ereading has been a great success. Because of easy access to books and a bigger selection available but also because an ereader is often easier to take with you than a paper book.

Kindle Paperwhite

Ever since Amazon announced the release of the Kindle Paperwhite I’ve been looking forward to it. Especially since Amazon is set to open their Dutch website this month. The specs and pictures looked great and the reviews of the big tech sites were raving. I was ready to order one as soon as Amazon.nl was online.

That was until the reviews of users started coming in….

There seems to be several types of problems that the Kindle Paperwhite (PW) can suffer from.
The first isn’t a real technical problem as much as they’ve misinformed people. On all the promo pictures the PW has a beautiful evenly white screen. In reality you can see where the four LEDs are in the bottom of the bezel; there are diamond shadows and brighter streaks of light at the bottom of the screen. Amazon has now added a page, with a link to pictures showing this is normal. I think they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if the pictures released beforehand would have showed reality and weren’t photoshopped.

The second problem is that screens have different coloured hues; blueish, pinkish or tan are the three mentioned most. Personally I think this is a problem with the LEDs. We sell LED lamps that are replacements for the old fashioned incandescent lightbulb and we’ve noticed that manufacturers can’t make the colour of the LEDs consistent. They differ per batch, some have a pinkish tone, others blue or green, despite the manufacturer listing the colour temperature as the same. Another LED problem is that some Kindles have one (or more) LED that are brighter than the other LEDs, or they may be angled differently, resulting in an annoying spotlight effect.

Another problem is caused by the various layers of the PW, they’ve now introduced a capacitive touch screen, the Kindle Touch used IR, which meant that there isn’t an extra layer on top of the eInk screen, with a capacitive touch screen there is. Also, there is a second, “light guide”, layer. The problem with layers is that dust can come between them. I had dust work itself between the eInk screen and touch layer of my Sony PRS600 and I found it very annoying. Some people received a PW which have “pinpricks of lights” which many suspect are dust particles trapped between layers against which light bounces and causing the particles to light up. I hope Amazon has sealed the layers so that no dust can work its way in over time.

The most troubling problem are the colour blobs. A lot of people have green or pink coloured stains on their screen. Some report that the severity varies; sometimes they are hardly noticeable other times they are blindingly obvious and distracting. There is some speculation what is causing these problems, some remembered an iPhone or iPad having a colourblob problem when first release. The blobs in that case turned out to be glue between the screenlayers that hadn’t dried yet and the blobs disappeared within a week. This doesn’t seem to be the problem with the PW, it’s been out for two and a half weeks now and some people have reported the problem to be getting worse.

Getting a good replacement is proving hard. Some people have had multiple replacements and each had something wrong with it. Amazon is aware of this problem and is looking into it, or so some Kindle service reps have said over the phone, some even advice people to return their PW for a refund and order a new one when the problem is solved. It does make you wonder at all those glowing reviews on tech websites. Did they get PWs from the first batch that was good and did quality control slip after that, did they just didn’t pay attention, or something else.

For now I’ve decided that when the Dutch Amazon store opens I’m going to order the updated Kindle 4 of €79, which is a non-touch ereader. My Kindle Keyboard is still working great but I’d like a smaller device and since I hardly ever use the keyboard I don’t think I’ll miss it much. I’ll buy a simple cover to go with it. The K4 is a nice and not too expensive device to carry around, if it breaks or gets stolen it isn’t the end of the world. When Amazon gets their act together with the PW I’ll get one of those too for indoor and low light reading and I’ll be getting an pretty Oberon case for it and keep the K4 for in my purse.

Reading challenge 2013: September

It’s half way through September, which means that I’m almost three quarters through my reading challenge for this year. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a set number of books, pages or words set for this year, I just want to document how much I read.

I’m still going strong: I’m now reading my 80th book of the year. However, in the last four weeks or so I have slowed down. I think it’s a combination of books that read slow and having a bit of a reading slump. A week ago I got a tv for in my bedroom and that hasn’t been very good for my reading either. But I still read more than before 2011 (when I started with my first challenge). Last year I read 120 book and I guestimate they had a total of 30000 to 35000 pages in total. At the moment my page count totals just over 28000 so I think that although I’ll probably read less books I still will end up around the same number of pages as last year.

It’s fun to look back at my list and see that I go though genre phases. From crime thrillers to urban fantasy to historical mysteries and then horrors. Sure, I will mix it up; when I’m in a historical mystery phase I’ll throw in a horror or a cozy mystery to keep things interesting but I will predominantly read one genre for a couple of books before switching to another genre.

It’s also time to start thinking what to do next year. I think I’ll keep going with my series challenge (not starting a new series until I’ve finished one that I’m currently reading) and besides counting books and pages I might also count words, at least for the ebooks I read. I also want to pick up writing reviews again, probably not for all the books I read but maybe one or two a month.

Samples

I’m still getting used to the concept of ebook samples that are available for most ebooks on Amazon. I usually buy a book that seems interesting, only with more expensive books I download the sample first when I think of it.

Even with paper books I usually buy them after reading the blurb on the back. Even when I bought books in a brick and mortar store instead of online I never read a bit to see if I would like it. But since I’ve decided that I won’t continue reading books I don’t like (which I always did before) I decided that even with cheaper books I’m going to try to read the sample before buying it. Only books from writers I know I like and the blurb gets me interested in the book I will buy it without sampling.

I’ve also added another goal to my reading challenge this year; to read 12 classics. In January I read one of the Sherlock Holmes short story collections but defining “classic” will be a bit hard. Sherlock Holmes definitely qualifies, but what about “modern classics”? This month I haven’t read a classic yet and I probably won’t be able to since I’m currently reading George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, after a break of two months, and I’m almost 25% in but I don’t think I’ll be able to finish it before the end of the month.

Never Judge a Book By It’s Cover

They say that you should never judge a book by it’s cover, but I think most readers do. When I first started e-reading I had a Sony ereader which can read the ePub format. Soon I noticed that the publisher often provided a generic cover or not a cover at all to display in the webshop. I soon found out that when searching for new ebooks to read I would skip the ones with a generic cover or a cover made by the webshop itself (both usually displaying a simple graphic with the author’s name and the title of the ebook on it). I know that it often has to do with the copyright of the image that wasn’t obtained for the e-version but it just looks like the publisher couldn’t be bothered.

Now I that I have a Kindle and mostly shop at Amazon this isn’t much of problem any more. What I did notice is that many paranormal books feature half clothes women on the cover and that just puts me right off. Through recommendations on forums I discovered several series or books I liked that I would have otherwise avoided because of the cover. It’s a shame publishers/authors think the only way to their books read is to put half naked women on the cover because I think I’m not the only one put off by those type of covers.