Editorial

Sideloading eBooks Onto The Kindle Reader

kindle_paperwhiteThere are a couple of reasons why Amazon grew to dominate the e-book market early in the game.  First, the store’s selection is first-rate.  A ton of content is key.  But the real brilliance on the part of Amazon was the way the store tied into the Kindle Reader.  Buy a book online and the Amazon website makes it very easy to pop that new book onto a Kindle compatible reading device.  It doesn’t matter if that reading devices is a Kindle branded reader, iPad, iPhone, Android device, or even a laptop/desktop Mac or PC.  Just click the buy button on Amazon.com and select your destination device (assuming you have more than one device registered in your Amazon account).  Amazon’s backend infrastructure takes care of the rest.  Just buy the book and start reading… very easy.

But what if you buy a book from Smashwords or you download it directly from an author’s website?  If that book wasn’t purchased through the Amazon store, getting it onto your device suddenly becomes a lot less intuitive.  Actually, it can be a down right painful experience… Until you know the tricks.  But there is good news.  There are a number of ways to get those books onto your Kindle compatible device.
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Kindle Automatic Book Update Feature

kindle_iconI just noticed something interesting in the Manage Your Kindle section of the Amazon Store:

Automatic Book Update
Opt in for automatic book updates to receive new versions of your books when we have confirmed that improvements were made. In order to retain your notes, highlights, bookmarks and furthest reading locations, ensure that all your Kindle devices and reading apps have the “Annotation Back Up” setting turned on.

This new feature (or feature that is new to me) would then automatically grab the latest updated copy of any book you have bought through the Kindle store. It’s an optional feature that is turned off by default. Still, you might be wondering why it is off by default when it seems like an amazing and useful feature.

First and foremost, some folks don’t like the idea that their precious books could be changing without their knowledge. So it’s best to let people opt into the feature. Secondly, and most important to me, is that any notes, highlights, or bookmarks I’ve made to the book can’t carry over to the updated copy when it downloads. It’s an understandable limitation of the technology. If the books were updating on their own, that novel you spent hours annotating for your thesis, or even this months Group Read could suddenly see all of your hard work literally disappear overnight.
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Amazon is Great, But is it Leading Us Toward an Economic Collapse?

Photo courtesy of fastcodesign.com

Photo courtesy of fastcodesign.com

Fastcodesign.com has a great post that takes a very interesting look inside an Amazon fulfillment center in the U.K.  The story includes a vivid pictorial showing the inside of an Amazon warehouse while the story goes on to describe working conditions and what Amazon brought to the defunct mining community.  The photos are fascinating.  The scope of Amazon’s operation is breathtaking.  But the questions I have concerning the future of Amazon have been mounting in recent years and they becoming alarming.

Take a look at fastcodesign.com’s look inside Amazon’s massive fulfillment center in the English Midlands.  Then consider this…

I’m strangely conflicted after reading Fastcodesign.com’s article.  The sterile, organized, refined nature of the facility and operation appeals to me on one level.  The dehumanizing quality troubles me at the same time.  Plus, Amazon operates on a shockingly small profit margin.  Especially for an entity its size.  With that in mind, on some level it still feels like a house of cards being built ever higher without a solid, maintainable business model to support it once the prevailing wind changes.  Certainly Amazon has done great things in the area of cloud computing with its web infrastructure development and, maybe even more amazing things for traditional publishing when it comes to proliferation of ebooks.  A solid case could be made to credit Amazon for bring ebooks to the main stream.  That’s no small feat.
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Redeeming Visa Gift/Check Cards Without the Pain

I have a small stack of Visa check cards that have been collecting on my desk over the last year an a half.  I buy a fair amount of tech gear online throughout the year.  I get hardware when I find a good deal, and in many cases that involves a rebate from the manufacturer.  But recent trends have the rebates coming back in the form of Visa check cards.  No more rebate checks.  Everyone issues the rebate on a check/debit card.  I’m not sure of the upside for the company issuing the rebate, but when you want to redeem the gift card it can be a pain in the ass.

For example, say you want to use the gift card to pay for a meal.  If its a $20 gift card, you can’t actually spent the $20 on the meal.  15% or more is held back from the available limit to allow room for gratuity on the purchase.  On top of that, the total for the bill will never equal that of the check card, so you either split the payment between the check card and a credit card, or you make up the difference in cash.  And not knowing if the gratuity hold back is 15%, 20% or 25%, its impossible to spend the balance of the card without a lot of screwing around and hassling the already overworked waiter/waitress.  Using a gift card for payment at a restaurant is a fail.
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Apple Sells Virus to Windows Users?

In a disappointing turn of events, it seems that a number of iPods that rolled off of Apple’s assembly line were infected with a virus known as RavMonE.exe.  As the name implies, it one effects Windows based PCs.  This incident is a major black-eye for Apple and only stands to worry a good portion of the iPods customer base.  Like them or not, Windows users shouldn’t have to worry about their latest gadget infecting their computer when it ships from the factory.  That being said, Windows users have a lot of things to worry about that should simply be non-issues.

Mac users will likely find humor in the incident.  After all, they are immune to the infection.  But one day, the shoe may be on the other foot.  Simply put, we expect more from Apple.

According to this post on Apple’s site, less than 1% “of the Video iPods available for purchase after September 12, 2006, left our contract manufacturer carrying the Windows RavMonE.exe virus.”  It would be amusing to provide a real world statistic on that.  Are we talking 10 iPods, 100, or 10,000?  Apple intentionally made the information vague, but no doubt someone will start publishing best guess equations that may or may not be on the mark.

Reportedly the mishap is the result of an infection traced back to a system running on Apple’s production line.  But history shows us that Apple isn’t the first company to accidentally ship a virus with their product.  Some years ago, Microsoft actually managed to ship a virus on the install CD of a version of MS Office.  I wish I could find a story detailing the particulars, but it was big news in its day.  Some believed it to be the mother ships ultimate irony.


Steve

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