Thursday, April 12, 2012

Adventures of an Amazon ebook buyer

I finally managed to get the Kindle app to cooperate with me. From which I have discovered:
  • I have some sort of obsessive personality (okay, I already knew this) that makes me want to download every single free ebook available.

  • That is, not those copyright-expired free books like the ones you can get from Project Gutenberg, but those that are limited-time free offers before they go back up in price. (eReaderIQ is your friend -- it tracks prices of Kindle books and updates the free list hourly).

  • Therefore, not only am I obsessive, I am also kiasu. Oh well... proof I am Malaysian? :p

  • Even after culling those with bad reviews and ignoring the genres I don't generally read, I still have almost 1,000 books in my library. Eek!

  • Which makes it annoying that I can't search my library by genre. Stanza has spoilt me.

  • I can't even search for books by title keyword or 'recently read'! I forgot the title of the one I was reading and had to scroll through the entire list before finding it again. *grumbles*

  • And then I can't properly delete a book from my library on the Kindle app. I can only "archive" books; to delete them, I've to go to Amazon's homepage and log into my account from there.

  • I'm deleting books? *gasp* But you never give or throw away physical books, Sunflower! Well, I choose my physical books carefully, but I'm allowing myself to experiment with free ebooks. After all, never try, never know, right?

  • Now you see how I ended up with 1,000 titles...

  • Oh, most riveting title I've seen so far: Vanishing Penis Mysteries. *snicker*

  • (I didn't buy it. Really, I didn't! It only had one star!)

  • Yes, I rely heavily on reviews and a good synopsis to influence my purchasing decisions. I don't really care about the cover of the book.

  • For people who are supposedly good with words, many authors are hopeless at providing a sypnosis or interesting product description. See this one, for instance:
      Short... Sharp... Surprising.  :0)
    Yes, very informative, thank you very much.

  • On the other hand, there are the wonderfully complex synopses that make my head spin and cause me to think, "This book sounds WAY too complicated for me!"

  • Then there are the ones with grammatical or spelling errors, which I always take to be a Very Bad Sign and a Portent of Things To Come.

  • I have to say the best and most hilarious sypnosis I've read so far has been this one. If the synopsis is that funny, how much more amazing must be the book be?!?

  • One thing I really don't understand, though: what's all the fixation with stating wordcounts in the product description? Are you writing essays for fifth grade or something?

  • When the product description doesn't help, thank God for reviews: many longish positive reviews give a much more useful and detailed synopsis of the story than the authors themselves.

  • And the one- or two-star reviews are usually illuminating. Any review that says "bad grammar" has me closing the browser page immediately. I already see enough bad grammar from students every day!

  • Even with all the careful choosing, I have to say I've ended up with some doozies, and have discovered that there is a lot of crap in the Kindle store :(

  • But at the end of it all, this is what I really want to know: Who the heck is Fiona?!? (After purchasing an ebook, this is the URL you get:


Caedmon Michael said...

I don't know if I love you or hate you right now.


Sunflower said...

Because now you've gone and downloaded the Kindle app from the iTunes app store too? :D

Ted Mahsun said...

So Amazon finally unblocked you? yay!!

The reason why people put wordcounts in their synopsis is because a lot of people complain about book length.

Sometimes authors might charge $2.99 (the minimum amount to get the 70% royalty) but readers might complain the book is waaaaaaaaay too short for the price they paid

So in response, the authors like to put the wordcount in and let readers make their own judgement for whether they want to cough up $2.99 for a 25,000 word ebook.

Sunflower said...

Hey Ted! Yup, I left things alone for a few weeks and when I tried again, I didn't get flagged anymore :D

The problem about wordcounts is, the wordcount really tells me nothing. I don't have the first idea of how long a 5,000-word story is compared to a 25,000-word story, and what's more important, it might be 25,000 words, but that could be 25,000 words of pure drivel :p I always tell my students not to bother trying to count how many words they have in their essays but to focus on delivering content.

Ted Mahsun said...

Told you you'd have to wait a few weeks. Amazon's way of weeding out the non-serious buyers? Welcome to the club, Sunflower. Best place to be for a book buyer.

The wordcount thing is stupid, but some readers actually care about that sort of thing. To each their own, I guess.

Sunflower said...

The best place might well be the most dangerous place. I can't imagine how I'm going to find time to read all these books, and I keep adding to them! About 80% of my physical library remains unread as well, and on Wednesday I just bought 37 more books from the Payless warehouse sale (at RM1 per paperback, they were a steal... I couldn't resist!).

Sunflower said...

Oh, and Ted -- I got both your books on Kindle :D

Caedmon Michael said...

I've had the kindle app as long as there's been one. I didn't know about the nifty website for finding free books, though!

I'm more discriminating. I only downloaded 10.

Wordcount is often used in the US publishing world to delineate the difference between novel, novella, short story, etc.. Also, as page count becomes meaningless on devices, word count is a quick way to know how long a read I'm getting. Those of us who grew up with books don't get it, but that's because we're old. My guess is down the road instead of flipping to the end of a book to see how long it is, we'll all know word count.

And I do pay attention to the length of a book. Yes, it has to be good, but I read fiction at 50-100 pages an hour (depending on the writing). A 200-page book isn't going to be enough for a 6-hour flight. On the other hand, if I only have a week before a big work project, I don't want to get started into a 1000-pg book with complex sentences that read slower.

I don't care what anyone says; length does matter!

Sunflower said...

A 200-page book might not be enough for a 6-hour flight, but 3 of them will! After thinking about it, I guess the thing with ebooks is that you can have any length in an ebook, whereas a published paper-bound book is usually a full-length novel, or an anthology of short stories. You don't get a single short story being published as a book. I suppose that's why readers sometimes feel cheated - they don't expect to receive only a single short story in their ebook, since that would never happen if you were to buy a physical book...

I still like physical books much better - it's easier to page through them to find earlier references, for one thing. And to skim to see whether they're worth reading or not.

Caedmon Michael said...

I think if I had a larger device (an iPhone really isn't big enough), I would become a bigger fan of the eBook, particularly for the ease of carrying multiple books. I'm thinking of getting an older-model kindle for this, evn though it means yet another device (until I can afford the iPad).

Short little books can be bought here. The difference with a physical book, though, is you can see right away that it's all you're getting. Also, some publishers like to use different weights of paper and font size, so just looking at the physical size of the book isn't always true to length of book. Word count seems the only way in e-format to tell. And since some books are /only/ being published in e-format, now, page count doesn't always apply.

I don't think books are going away, but the world's definitely changing around us, Irene. Even the local library is starting to check out electronic books instead of physical copies.

Sunflower said...

Yeah, I agree the iPhone/iPod Touch screen is a tad small for ebook reading. On the other hand, I know I won't be bringing an iPad out and about with me (for one thing, I always carry small purses/handbags so it wouldn't fit :p). So I'd still read on the iPod Touch on the go, but at home I'd use the iPad... darn, I really want one!!

I know the world's changing. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Ebooks have enabled self-publishing so it's easier for a new author to get their works out there; but at the same time it means having to wade through a lot of low-quality, poorly edited stuff (like on Amazon) since the manuscripts don't go through the rigorous selection & editing process of a publishing house.

Caedmon Michael said...

**shhhh** I sold a couple guitars (needed to free up space in tiny apartment and I had more guitars than I needed) and bought an iPad. Kindle on iPad is great!!

I have a backpack I carry with me everywhere. It's the American man's equivalent to a purse, these days. It's strong enough that no one will accuse me of carrying a purse, and really handy for carrying what I need. It also has a padded compartment with a separate side-zip that's perfect for the iPad. No one has to know I have it unless I pull it out.

Caedmon Michael said...

Oh. And I know what you mean about editing. In fact, I have a good friend with three books out, all of which contain great ideas, but are quite poorly written. They need both grammar editing and chapter/section flow editing. He has something to say that is worth saying, but it isn't being heard, no matter how many words he writes because of the lack of editing.

Sunflower said...

*pouts* The iPad is RM1,500 here. That's like... half my monthly salary. I don't think selling two guitars would cover the cost -- also, I don't have two guitars :p

Perhaps you could offer to help your friend with editing? Although writers who are just starting out may be very protective of their work. It's hard to see your work "chopped up", but I got used to that while I was a journalist!

Caedmon Michael said...

I don't think he'd go for it. He's the sort who believes in being "true to his voice." Meh.

I may have another opportunity, though. Another friend with a doctorate who wants to write but knows he isn't a strong writer has asked me to consider co-writing a book with him. It's still in the "think about it" stages, but exciting, nonetheless!

Sunflower said...

Oooh very exciting indeed! I guess you can't tell anyone the topic, but it sounds like a great collaboration, if he's the kind of person who can take writing criticism/advice :D