Posts Tagged 'Kindle'

Simplicity, Productivity Boosting, and My Kindle

I'll be covering this topic.

I’m challenging myself to cover three huge topics and do it in as short a post as possible because I want you to actually read the whole thing.

Ready?

Go.

Simplicity has always been a thing for me. I have an entire site set up dedicated to seeking elegant simplicity in the things I own (though it’s been neglected for a while). Then, I read a book by Joshua Becker called Simplify. After reading it, I knew what I had to do. I had a vision of what I wanted my home to look like.

It was clean. It was orderly. We only had the things we absolutely needed or really, really wanted. No junk. No perpetual messes. No clutter.

But I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it alone. So I had my wife read the book on my Kindle. She agreed that it would be good for us to change the way we view our stuff, and we began.

That was back in January. So far we’ve de-cluttered over a third of the rooms and spaces in our home, and the areas we have cleared out are still immaculate. It feels great. I am a little less stressed even. I can’t wait to be done, but I suspect it will be less of a destination and more of a mentality, a lesson for our children, and a process. We will forever be questioning what we own, what we need, and what we use. It is a beautiful thing.

Along those lines, and before I move on to the second topic, I have to mention the simplification of my digital life (which began before even reading Simplify).

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you’ll know that I have gone back and forth with Facebook for a long time. My last post on the subject mentioned that I had divided my Facebook existence into two accounts as an experiment to see if I really needed or wanted it.

Well, the experiment ended about four months ago. I realized that I just didn’t really need or want Facebook, so I shut down my accounts entirely.

Hurray for scientific experimentation.

On to topic number two: Productivity Boosting.

So last week I stumbled upon this article about fixing procrastination. Being the procrastinator that I am, I bookmarked the article and decided to read it later.

Then, the next day, I realized the irony of that approach with that sort of an article, and I printed the article, thinking that if I carried it around long enough I’d feel more pressure to read it than if it sat in my inhumanely long list of bookmarks in the To Do folder.

An iron, because I said irony.

So I carried it around in my book bag and even kept it on my nightstand for another couple of days, hoping I would read it.

Eventually, when I was about to condemn myself to a life of expert-level procrastination, I read the article.

I liked it. It was simple. I like simple. I could start immediately. Well, sort of… OK. I started the next day.

I highly recommend you read the article, but here’s what you need to know in order to follow along: The idea is that you pick three or four broad-ish goals to accomplish every single day, and if you meet your goals you put a big, fat, gratuitously gratifying “X” for the day on a special calendar reserved for this process. If you miss a day, you break the chain of X’s, which is bad, and you… um, you… well, you just allow yourself to feel horrible about breaking your chain, then you renew your resolve and go at it again the next day, or something like that.

In the end I wound up having to adapt the idea a little, since some of the specifics wouldn’t work for me and I kind of got lost on a couple of the ideas since my printer had an issue with figuring how images and text interact.

So I drafted up my Productivity Plan (the four goals), and decided that I would only hold myself to completing three of the four goals each day.

My goals are to exercise, simplify, write, and relax. I don’t want to expect myself to do all four every day because I don’t believe in exercising every single day (I have to have at least Sunday off, RIGHT?), and some days I just don’t have time to simplify something, or maybe I just can’t work up the energy required to do any writing because my soul has been drained by my sadistic government employer… I wanted some leeway to account for non-perfect days.

Vacation time, sick time, and other extraneous circumstances can be explained in the calendar by, instead of marking an “X,” marking an “S” for “sick,” a “V” for “super rad vacation that was totally too awesome to afford me any time to be productive,” or an “E” for “END OF THE WORLD, FORGET MY GOALS.”

Mostly, I anticipate a string of X’s.

So I printed off some pages of calendars. I wanted all of the days in the year to be on one sheet of paper, so I went with this calendar. I printed three years’ worth to keep me busy for a while. Then I got a super cheap-o folder from Target, and picked up these fat markers for $3.50 while I was there (sometimes Amazon prices are awesome, other times they are scary dangerous – as of this writing those same markers are selling for over $8 on Amazon).

You can't tell me this isn't an awesome hat.

To help with the exercise thing, I got a nice pedometer a few weeks ago. I also got a really awesome hat, but that’s completely unrelated.

Then I stapled the current year sheet to the front of the folder, put the extra year calendars inside with the article printout and my Productivity Plan, and started marking X’s the next day. Today is the second day of working under this slave-driver. So far, I’ve been quite productive and I like it. I also really like my hat.

Because one of my goals (the relax goal) deals with reading, it’s now time to mention my Kindle.

I decided to get a Kindle a while ago, and I did. And I’m very glad I did.

I didn’t promise a review, but here it is: I really love my Kindle and if you are on the fence between nook and Kindle, do your stinking homework. Don’t just ask me what to get. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the decision is yours because we live in a free country where choices are awesome. Embrace the choice.

The only “problem” is that now I have way too many books to read. I already had a pile a mile high (closer to three feet wide, in the bookshelf) of physical books to read (though those are very lazy-making since I think I have a paper allergy or something). Now I have over a hundred books on my Kindle that are waiting to be read.

It’s just too easy to add books to your Kindle library. They have this Kindle Daily Deal thing where books are put on super-sale. I know I picked up at least one $14 e-book for just $1.99 (a great book that I wanted to read – don’t judge me; I know you’re thinking back to my spat about simplification). I also picked up one of my favorite titles, which normally lists for $11.95 (but currently sells for &7.81), for just ninety nine cents! You can see how books can start to pile up. Some of the daily deals are free books, and I regularly catch wind of book promotions through Google+ where authors are giving their books away for free.

So I’m in the middle of reading the Hunger Games trilogy (almost done with book 2), but when I finish I’m going to have a reading list that puts all of my other “to do” lists to shame.

Oh, and they have this Kindle Owner’s Lending Library where many of the best-sellers can be borrowed for free. Indefinitely. You can only have one borrowed at a time, and you can’t borrow more than one per month, but that gives me easy, free access to so many good books it makes my head spin. That’s how I’m currently reading the Hunger Games. All of the books in that trilogy are free for me to borrow, for as long as it takes me to read them.

Crazy.

Alright. That’s enough for this post. I sure would like some comments from you brave, intrepid souls who made it to the end of my post. What are you currently reading? Do you use an e-reader? Do you have any productivity tricks? Do you like hats?

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Nook vs Kindle: The Story of My Personal Decision

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

Ever since before we pre-ordered my wife’s first generation Barnes and Noble nook two years ago (probably even two years ago today since it first shipped November 30, 2009), I knew that I wanted an ebook reader that did not use a back-lit screen.

Back then I was aware that Sony and a few other companies already had expensive devices on the market that made use of the e-ink screen technologies I had read about a few years prior in Popular Science, and I had followed the release of the Amazon Kindle closely. This was a technology I knew I would use because I love to read, I love using gadgets, and I can’t read from a back-lit screen for too long before my eyes grow tired. As much as I love reading real books, the fact is that I get lazy about carrying around a whole book. I worry about tearing or creasing pages. And oddly enough, I have a sensitivity issue with paper.

Every once in a while, physical contact with paper is somehow registered as pain on my skin. I always loved to write, but my writing didn’t flourish until I could abandon the pain of resting my palm on paper and take up the keyboard. I have tried using gloves, lotion, petroleum jelly… You name it. Paper hurts my skin. Not all the time, but sometimes it’s so bad it becomes unbearable.

So I knew I needed an ebook reader.

I tend to shun products that quickly dominate a market and garner an almost cult following (ehem: iProducts).  I try to promote “the other guys” when it comes to making technology purchases, especially when the difference between the less popular product and the insanely popular product is negligible. And the Kindle had just about become such a product in the months leading up to the release of the nook.

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

Image via Wikipedia

And so when Barnes and Noble announced the nook, I poured over the facts and decided that the  nook was a worthy competitor for the Kindle. When my wife expressed an interest in getting a nook or a Kindle, I helped her look at both as objectively as possible. In the end, she liked the openness of the Android platform, the fact that the nook would take the EPUB format, and she even liked that the nook offered competition for the Kindle. She opted for the nook, and we haven’t at any point in time regretted that decision.

So I guess a part of me always assumed I would get a nook. And recently, my desire to read and my desire to avoid touching paper books collided again and I found myself in a Barnes and Noble store holding the newest nook Simple Touch ereader. I loved it. Dark bevel (I heard once that the darker finish helped increase the perceived contrast of the e-ink screen). Slim profile. Compact design. Touch screen. And the price wasn’t bad at $150 (this was a month ago or so, before all the price changes).

I made the decision to get it. I knew that as the holidays got closer prices might go down, and I knew that some of my relatives might send money. I was too poor to just take the thing to the checkout then and there, but I knew I had a nook Simple Touch in my reading future.

It was just a matter of time.

Then Amazon did something crazy. They released an extremely similar product, at a lower price, with an ugly silver bevel. No worries. I still wanted the nook. But the Kindle was cheaper. But the nook had the dark bevel, and I was sure Barnes and Noble would match Amazon’s price soon enough (and I was right). So I stuck with my determination to get the nook.

Then Amazon did something else. They announced the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Essentially, it meant that I, as an Amazon Prime member, would have access to hundreds of bestselling books for free. Sure, it’s only one at a time, once a month. But these are not books that can be read for free on the nook. Most of them won’t even be on the library network where you can borrow books for free. And as a slow reader, I appreciate that the new Amazon service doesn’t have a due date. I can borrow the book indefinitely. This is a big deal for me.

But is it worth reading on a device with an ugly silver bevel?

Maybe.

So at this point my decision to purchase a nook wasn’t quite as solid. I had doubts. Also, somewhere in there I realized that the Kindle no longer held a firm, ridiculously popular grip in the ereader market. I realized that I wouldn’t have to feel like buying a Kindle was really just a pitiful cry for social help.

It was time to do what I do best: crunch some numbers.

I have used spreadsheets to analyze many things, and I knew that a spreadsheet could help me resolve this conflict. So I went to my bookshelves at home and wrote down the titles of almost forty of my favorite books that I already own (shamefully, a few of which remain unread). Then I went to my Amazon wishlist full of hundreds of books that have been recommended to me, or that I had planned on purchasing and reading in the future. All in all, I assembled a list of 103 books that were all relevant to my interests.

I decided that whichever service provided the greatest selection of books that I would be interested in reading would win. I put the list of books into the spreadsheet, then began pulling prices from Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the ebook versions.

Keep in mind that I put the spreadsheet together quickly, without doing a bunch of digging around. I went with the price for the first version that popped up, I didn’t do searches for variations or special editions or anything of the sort. I searched, I clicked, I got the price. That was it.

Oh, and I didn’t include expensive ebooks in my average price calculations. To me, any ebook that costs more than $20 should be ignored. If it’s that expensive but you just have to read it, find the hard copy in a library or check ebay.

Behold: MY SPREADSHEET.

I found out a couple of things right away. First, I have spent so much time on Amazon making music, movie, game, and grocery  purchases that I am way more comfortable with Amazon than I am with Barnes and Noble. I love going to a Barnes and Noble store in person, but I found their website nearly offensive in some cases. I can’t pinpoint exactly what I found so distasteful, but navigating it felt like trying to ride a bike through a rock garden, even after searching for 103 titles.

Second, and this one is important, I realized that Amazon does digital distribution better than Barnes and Noble. Amazon makes the entire process easier for me. Finding the books I wanted was easier and faster on Amazon, and since I already have an intimate relationship with them, the process for purchasing a book from them was easier (I found this out while trying to get free ebooks as a test of the system).

The results of the spreadsheet war? Amazon had 72 of my target titles in their Kindle library (69.9%) at an average price of $9.35 per title. Barnes and Noble had 63 of my target titles in their nook library (61.2%) at an average price of $9.32 per title. I found one book in the nook library that was less expensive than the version I found on Amazon. There were nine books that I found on Amazon that were not available for the nook. Not a single book from my list was only available for the nook.

All this meant that owning a Kindle would mean having access to all of the books I wanted to read in the nook library, plus some that I wanted to read that I couldn’t read on a nook, and it meant that I would have access to a constantly changing list of bestsellers that I could borrow for free indefinitely, in addition to all of the free books nook and Kindle can access equally (Project Gutenberg, the OverDrive library loaning network, and others).

Even with only a difference of 9 books between the services, a clear winner had emerged for me.

And since aesthetics are never a primary factor in my decision-making process, the Kindle Touch won by a landslide based on the Amazon architecture.

Plus, if the silver bevel does become a problem, I can always get a darker skin decal or a rubberized cover.

So last week I placed my pre-order, and today Amazon began shipping the devices, a whole week early.

I am very happy with my decision. I would promise a full review after I get it in the mail, but I’m afraid that I will be doing a lot more reading than writing.

Update: A Kindle for Authors

My Kindle for AuthorsMy Kindle for Authors

Alas, there is still no Kindle for authors in the sense of a low cost, feature rich, power sipping device dedicated to the act of writing. For now, my favorite writing implement is my Logitech Classic Keyboard 200. It is a simple plug-and-play USB keyboard that supports everything from Mac to Windows – Linux and even my Wii included. It’s extremely comfortable to type on, and I use it on my old desktop replacement laptop (a once powerful machine that is now on the verge of death) and on my EEE PC. I love the EEE for its portability, but being a first generation model, it lacks some of the refinement most of the newer netbooks have (a slightly larger screen/keyboard, for example).

However, some netbooks are losing their identity and so I am proud to own a true netbook. I do not like the trend to put traditional hard drives in netbooks. A netbook should have solid state memory, even if only a little bit of it (mine has 4 gigs, and that’s plenty for writing and browsing the Internet). Companies are trying to dress the netbook up like a laptop – making them larger, more powerful, able to do things that a laptop should do. If I want a laptop, I will buy a laptop. Laptops should cost $500 – $2,000, depending on what I’ll use it for. Netbooks should cost $200 – $400.

My Asus EEE PC 4G Surf

My Asus EEE PC 4G Surf

 

Now people are trying to sell you laptops that cost $450 and do little more than a netbook, and netbooks that cost $500 – $600 and do everything a laptop should do. Personally, I don’t even think a netbook should be running Windows. I’ve heard that Microsoft is aiming to make Windows 7 able to run on netbooks (less of a RAM monger than XP and Vista, maybe), and in that case I might consider Windows an option. Until then, though, Linux works just fine on my little Asus. Sure, it’s not as user friendly as Microsoft’s OS (Linux has too many different Kernal versions for software installation to be user friendly, among other little problems), but it gets the job done just fine. I’m personally a huge fan of OpenOffice.org, and all of their applications run great on my Asus EEE.

You could always use this...

You could always use this...

If you’re really, really interested in something portable, that lets you write stuff and transfer it to a computer later, has good battery life and doesn’t do much more than that, the AlphaSmart products might work for you. I’m considering the act of sharing this with you my good deed for the day, since I was looking for something like this for almost a year before I stumbled upon it. Maybe I’m just bad at looking for things, but these devices don’t seem very prominent on the Internet. I discovered the AlphaSmart only months after I purchased my EEE. I’m still glad I bought the EEE instead of an AlphaSmart, but I intend to add an AlphaSmart to my writer’s toolbox in the future simply because it’s not a computer.

I hope you found something here to help you find what you are looking for. If you have any additional questions, or actually wanted me to go into more detail about any of this, leave your comment and I’ll get back to you.

A Kindle for Authors

Where is the Kindle’s sister product?

Despite valid criticism of the Kindle’s obtrusive page flipping buttons and other seemingly thrown-together hardware features, the Kindle is a great product for avid readers, and I am looking forward to purchasing the next generation Kindle (if there are sufficient improvements and a good drop in price).

What I want to know is, where is the Kindle for authors, not just readers?

I have been an aspiring author for quite some time now, and one of the challenges I struggle with is the hardware I use for writing my material. I tried an old typewriter, but most of the writing I was doing needed to be prepared to go digital, so paper was out. Then I tried using my laptop, but that is far too expensive and heavy a tool to be practical on the run, with strict requirements for ventilation and a heavy drain on the battery while the screen is lit up.

I looked far and wide on the internet, and found that NOBODY is producing an inexpensive, digitally oriented word processor for authors who need a portable, digital writing tool. There is a new generation of UMPCs and Linux laptops that range in price from $200 to $400, and I am thinking of going with one of them, but their battery life is still only three hours or so, they still require a back light for the LCD screen, and they are so compact that the keyboard is useless for long periods of typing.

Part of my specialty is my familiarity with current technologies. I learned of digital e-ink long before the first products began popping up with the technology. I am familiar with its numerous benefits (especially for products like the Kindle) as well as some of its drawbacks (like a frustratingly slow refresh rate). It’s main strength, though, is the fact that it only requires a charge to change the display, not to display content. I have also been an avid follower of OLED technology, which will one day replace all portable device screens because it offers all of the advantages of our current LCD screen technology, without the need for a back light, so it draws considerably less power, and displays crisper, more vibrant images.

I bring this up because I think bloggers and authors of all kinds in our digital world would benefit from a power-sipping device like the Kindle for use in a variety of environments and situations without fear of having to quit writing in three hours because the batteries will die, or fear of overheating the processor because it’s sitting in their lap.

The main features an author would look for in such a product would be:

* battery life (the screen technology would play the largest role in such a product)

* portability (full sized keyboard, but smaller than an average laptop, and well built)

* simplicity of use (no 30 second boot up time, not too many complicated features)

* cost (less than a full laptop – the cost of the Kindle, $400, would be permissible)

Obviously, the product would need to have a well developed word processor on board (check with the folks at http://www.openoffice.org for a free, Microsoft Office compatible office suite with a very good word processor and other tools, or a partnership with GoogleDocs could be considered), with a built in and extensive dictionary and thesaurus. Some additional features could include:

* access to and compatibility with Amazon’s CreateSpace and Digital Text Platform for formatting and publishing completed works directly

* access to Wikipedia.org and other research sites

* access to popular blogging sites to post to the users’ blogs directly

* ability to receive images/text from an e-mail account and/or SD card for inclusion in the document

* ability to send to an e-mail account or save to SD cards for transfer to another computer for further editing/formatting

* Whispernet AND WiFi compatibility, for ensured connectivity and enhanced features in WiFi hotspots (like connecting directly to another WiFi device to transfer documents)

* ability to run on battery for extended use or run while charging, plugged in

* USB connection to computer for file transfers, charging, and perhaps even to become a peripheral component (it could become an external keyboard with an external display to search dictionaries and other resources thus freeing up screen real estate on the computer)

I understand that these are lofty expectations, but even at its most basic form, the digital, portable, simple word processor is an untapped market. There is no product currently meeting the unique needs of those of us who simply want to type on the go, anywhere anytime.

Amazon embodies everything there is about books and media. The CreateSpace service is a wonderful tool for authors, just as digital books are a wonderful feature of the digital, internet world for readers. Amazon stepped up and brought readers a simple, direct, unique and innovative product for taking their hobby on the road in an “anywhere anytime” kind of way. If Amazon were to deliver a similar tool for authors, both the reader and the author could rejoice. There would be a surge in content for the readers, and increased sales for Amazon.

If such a product were to become available, you can bet that I would buy it. I might even buy two. And I’d probably give them as Christmas gifts to my writing friends and family.

Just an idea.


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