The Kindle Update

So 2011 represents my second year of Kindle use, and it’s been quite an eventful year. In 2011 I adopted a policy of not buying dead-tree books any more. And, while I had intended to sustain my use of the Nook, it didn’t really work out and I’m not even sure where my Nook is any more. I still like the Nook’s business model better than the Kindle’s, but my momentum is with the Kindle.

I bought 60 books for the Kindle in 2011 and, as before, read some but not all. I have been reading my Kindle library on a wide range of devices: on my Kindle, of course, as well as on Kindle software for our iPad, our two Android tablets, my Android cellphone, my wife’s iPhone, on all of our Macs, and on the Chrome browser. This really makes it much more attractive for me to continue to acquire books for the Kindle than for any other medium because my library is available to essentially any device I end up using.

Title Author Read
Fight Club: A Novel Palahniuk, Chuck Yes
Loyal Character Dancer Xiaolong, Qiu Yes
Using Google App Engine Severance, Charles Some
Programming Google App Engine Sanderson, Dan Some
The Next 100 Years Friedman, George Yes
The Devil in the White City Larson, Erik
The Gun Chivers, C. J. Yes
The Innocents Abroad Twain, Mark Some
Unless It Moves the Human Heart Rosenblatt, Roger
Practical Chess Exercises Cheng, Ray Some
They Are Us Hamill, Pete Some
Alone Together Turkle, Sherry Some
The Second Self Turkle, Sherry
Anathem Stephenson, Neal Yes
The Mao Case Xiaolong, Qiu Yes
American Gods Gaiman, Neil
Real-time Control of Walking Donner, M.D.
A Short History of Nearly Everything Bryson, Bill Some
The Fifth Servant: A Novel Wishnia, Kenneth
All Your Base Are Belong to Us Goldberg, Harold
Quo Vadis Sienkiewicz, Henryk Yes
Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr | Summary & Study Guide BookRags.com Some
The Flaw of Averages Savage, Sam L. Some
The Age of Wonder Holmes, Richard
Drive Pink, Daniel H.
Nemesis Roth, Philip
The Quiet War McAuley, Paul J.
Symposium Plato
The Republic Plato
Among Others Walton, Jo Yes
Altered Carbon Morgan, Richard K.
Bullfighting: Stories Doyle, Roddy
Consider Phlebas Banks, Iain M. Yes
Germinal Zola, Emile
JavaScript: The Definitive Guide Flanagan, David Some
JavaScript: The Good Parts Crockford, Douglas Some
Onward Schultz, Howard, Joanne Gordon
Rule 34 (Halting State) Stross, Charles
Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick Dick, Philip K. Some
The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh Waugh, Evelyn
The Player of Games Banks, Iain M. Yes
The Quantum Story : A history in 40 moments Baggott, Jim Some
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Stowe, Harriet Beecher
Wireless Stross, Charles
Works of James Joyce Joyce, James Some
jQuery Cookbook (Animal Guide) Lindley, Cody Some
Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata Odell, Michelle Le Blanc Colin Some
Francis Galton: Pioneer of Heredity and Biometry Bulmer, Michael Some
The Great Stagnation Cowen, Tyler Yes
In the Garden of Beasts Larson, Erik Some
Debt: The First 5,000 Years Graeber, David Yes
Use of Weapons BANKS, Iain M. Yes
Exploring Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed Systems Hoglund, Greg, McGraw, Gary
The Children of the Sky Vinge, Vernor
Ready Player One Cline, Ernest
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual Pollan, Michael
Embers Marai, Sandor
Reamde: A Novel Stephenson, Neal
The Unlikely Spy Silva, Daniel
Berlin Noir Kerr, Philip Yes

I had several interesting adventures with my kindle library this year, some of which I’ll summarize here.

Earlier in the year my brother-in-law recommended the book “Berlin Noir” to me. It is a trio of meticulously researched police procedurals set in Berlin. The first two are set in the early years of the Nazi era, while the third is set a few years after the end of the war. They all feature Bernie Gunther, a German ex-policeman turned private detective. Bernie quit the police force in disgust when the Nazis took over. Bernie isn’t a holier-than-thou boy scout – he’s not above the odd bit of vigilante justice and he is definitely looking out for himself whenever he can. But he has standards went out on his own when it became clear what was going on.

But I digress. After Gary told me about the books I went to the Kindle Store on my Kindle and ordered the book. It was delivered, at which point I realized that I’d been fooled. What I had bought was a study guide, like Cliff Notes, from a company called BookRags. I then looked for a Kindle edition of the book but did not find it. Some time later I did discover a Kindle edition and bought it. The Kindle edition is hard to find, however, and the obvious searches do not turn it up. And on the Kindle Store on the Kindle it was very easy to think I was buying the book when I was not. By the way, after finishing two of the three novels I browsed the study guide, which I found to be truly abominable. The glossary was full of inaccuracies and errors that indicated that the person who wrote it probably hadn’t read the book or had not read it carefully. Oh well.

Another adventure involved the reasons that I am now on my third Kindle device. The first Kindle, which was given to me as a Christmas present at the end of 2009, became a fixture of my life after a while. One day in 2010 I was flying to California on business. My seat, in coach, was close to the bathroom. At one point I got up to use the bathroom, leaving the Kindle on my seat. When I got back from the bathroom I found that the glass was cracked. Obviously someone waiting to use the bathroom had sat down on it and broken it. Oh well, when I got to California I got a new one at Best Buy and was reading again.

That Kindle lasted until March of 2011 when my wife and son and I went to Chile on vacation. My wife had taken to reading the New York Times on my Kindle while we traveled because it was the only way she could get the paper. She was walking with my son back from the lounge one day and accidentally dropped the Kindle into a decorative fountain in one of the lobbies. So I ordered a new one from Amazon and it was waiting at my apartment when we returned to New York. I was a bit crippled by the loss, but was able to keep reading on my laptop for the rest of the vacation.

The third, and most odd, adventure involved my own book. I have written a number of reviews of products on Amazon.com over the years and at one point in 2011 I wanted to find one to forward to a friend, so I searched for my own name. To my surprise I discovered that my book, which has been out of print since 1997 and only shows up as available used from non-Amazon sources, was listed as available as a Kindle book for an absurd price, over $80. Just to verify that it was my book, I bought a copy. It was, in fact. It looks like someone took the scan of the book that is available on Google Books and made a very low quality Kindle book out of it.

I wrote an email to Amazon protesting the offer of my book, whose copyright had reverted to me after the book went out of print. They sent me a form page instructing me to write them a paper letter asserting my claim to the copyright. I did so and after several weeks I got an email from one of their lawyers informing me that they had taken the book down and that they had fulfilled their obligations to me.

I checked, and they had not taken the book down, so I wrote her back and said that the book was not gone and reiterating my request for an accounting for all of the sales they had made of my book. I’m sure that at $80+ the only sale they had made was to me, but I wanted to see the accounting. They didn’t answer. A friend, who is a senior partner at a law firm specializing in intellectual property matters, wrote them a letter demanding an accounting, but they ignored this letter as well.

Sort of sad, since this behavior really trashed my admiration for Amazon dating back over ten years.

[Update: Since first writing this entry and putting it up on my blog, my lawyer friend got a response from Amazon to his letter about my book. It seems that the content was submitted to them in error by Springer. They made only one sale, according to their response. So everything is cleared up and I am very happy to restore Amazon’s good guy status in my heart.]

Anyway, this year I gave a Kindle Fire to a good friend and he loves it. And at the holidays all of the parental generation of the extended family conspired together and gave Kindles to all of the children, a total of six shiny new Kindle Touch devices. My son loves his … I see him reading it regularly now, which encourages me that he may yet become a reader by choice.

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