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KIndle MatchbookSo Amazon have announced Kindle Matchbook, initially for the US, but hopefully like Autorip it will come to the UK sometime later.  The Amazon press release is here, BBC News have also picked up the story.

The idea seems to be that if you’ve bought a printed book from Amazon you can get a copy of the ebook version for a discounted price or maybe even free.  The scheme will apply to books bought as far back as 1995, but as it stands there’s currently just 10,000 eligible titles.  Although as with Autorip you’d expect that to expand as Amazon negotiates with more publishers.  Presumably making this available in the UK will depend on which UK publishers come on board.

It’s easy to see this as an obvious step following on from Autorip (where you can get a free MP3 version of CDs you’ve bought through Amazon).  Amazon may see this as a way to grow their ebook customer base by encouraging people who’ve bought the book to try the ebook.    Whereas with CDs/MP3 I can see how useful it is to have both formats, for many people their CDs are going to turn into MP3s at some stage (although your autorip MP3s only seem to be playable from Amazon Cloud Player).

For books/ebooks I’m not quite so sure that I’d want ebook versions of everything I’d bought as a printed book.  If you are someone who reads and re-reads your books then I can see it being a selling point.  But I don’t often go back and re-read fiction that I’ve bought, or even some of the lighter non-fiction.  So it’s not too much of a benefit.  It’s interesting though if you’ve bought books as a present for people, in that you could get a free or cheap ebook version.  Where I think it would be particularly useful is for non-fiction/reference-type books that you go back to.  It will be interesting to see the mix of books that are made available through Matchbook.

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Alice in Wonderland Google Play books bookplate

Alice in Wonderland Google Play books Harvard College Library bookplate

I’ve now got used to being able to read a book on an ebook reader across several platforms whenever I want.  Counting up the platforms I’ve realised that I’ve got several ebook systems setup with Kindle, Google Play books, ibooks and Calibre.  I’ve also got Kindle reading apps on a couple of PCs, an ipad and a phone, and I’ve a Kindle ebook reader.

So over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to keep track of when I’m reading ebooks, to help to understand what my patterns of reading are, and particularly what devices I am using, what I’m doing and where I am.  I’m also been trying to think about what the reasons might be for me using a particular device at that time.

Patterns of use
I’m reading ebooks largely at certain times of the day.  Mainly either at lunchtimes or in the evenings.  There is occasional use during the day at weekends.  I also find that at evenings and weekends I’m splitting my reading between ebooks and print books.  The only difference to that pattern is if I happen to be travelling by train or as a car passenger.

Lengths of time spent reading.
In the main I’m tending to read for short periods of time of 10-15 minutes with breaks.  When travelling I tend to spend longer periods of time reading of 30 minutes to an hour.  Interesting to me is that I tend to read print books for longer (and that may be down to where I am when I’m reading print books).  Occasionally I’m reading just a few pages for five minutes when I’m out and about.

Device use
When I’m out and about and reading ebooks on my phone it’s just for short periods of time, while I’m waiting for something.  Occasionally I’ll read ebooks on the phone for longer periods when travelling, but that seems mainly due to having the phone to hand, rather than the Kindle or tablet.  I’m always aware that power usage on the phone means that it won’t last a full day without recharging, so if there’s an alternative to the phone I’ll use that.  Reading ebooks on the phone as an experience is actually fine.

On journeys I’m tending to use the Kindle and I think that this is mainly because the power on the Kindle lasts for longer that phone or tablet, so even if I have both I’ll use the Kindle if I have it with me.  But I’ve noticed that I’ve started to take the Kindle with me less and less, if I know I’m going to be somewhere I can recharge the tablet.  The key consideration is that I can do other things with the phone/tablet so will want to save them for phone calls/text/internet.

At home I’m tending to use the tablet for ebook reading.  Mainly I think for convenience as I can recharge it when I want and switch between ebooks and browsing/looking things up.  A true multi-window tablet experience would be good though.  At lunchtimes I’m mainly using the ebook app on the laptop which is my main device at work.  If I’m sat at my desk it’s the easiest device to use.

Summary
I’m using the phone for mainly short periods of time, reading just a handful of pages.  For longer periods of time of say 30-60 minutes I’m reading the tablet or laptop.  For longer periods of time than that I’m using the Kindle generally.   What I find interesting is that I’ll use whatever device is to hand, but if I’ve more than one device with me then I’m thinking about how much power is left in the device and how easy is it to switch the device on.

Update
What I meant to add at the end of the post (and completely forgot), was why I titled this blog post ‘ebooks and analytics’.  Amazon clearly collect data about what devices you are using, when you are using them and what you are reading on them.  So wouldn’t it be good for you as an individual to have access to that data?

Well, I’ve had my Kindle for about six months now and the use of an ipad for slightly less. So, time for a bit of reflection on how I’m using them, pros and cons and likes and dislikes, and whether it has changed my behaviour.

Kindle
I’ve bought about a dozen books for the Kindle.  I’m still buying print books, but actually I think I’m buying less print books from Amazon, although I still buy books in the high street, driven by the ubiquitous 3 for 2 or half price hardbacks.  I do try to see which is cheapest as the Kindle version isn’t always the cheapest option.  I like the fact that if you do buy books on the Kindle they appear really quickly, so maybe that is why I’m not ordering print books online and waiting for delivery?

Although I’ve got the 3G version of the Kindle I find I rarely use the browser.  It’s OK if you’ve no option but not a great user experience as navigation is clumsy and speed slow.  I’m tending to use the Kindle on the bus, or if I’m going somewhere out of reach of wifi.  Then I might use the browser for something like www.kintweet.com  But the keyboard is really too small and clumsy to use with having to use the SYM for anything that isn’t a letter of the alphabet.  Now I’m using an ipad I find I’m rarely using the Kindle at home as I’m tending to use the ipad.

I’m glad I got the 3G version though as it does mean that books you are reading sync to the latest point if you’ve been reading them on another device.  I’ve got the Kindle software loaded on the ipad and PC to sync all the books in my collection so I can read them wherever I am and whatever device is to hand.   So I’ve settled down to largely use the ebook reader to read ebooks, hmm.. no great surprise then, but I think my use is affected by having access to an ipad.

ipad
I’m using an ipad provided through work.  It’s the first Apple device I’ve used for any length of time and I’m pretty impressed with it as a day to day tool.  Whereas I used to take my laptop around with me at work I now tend to take the ipad.  There are some limitations and frustrations, mainly to do with not being able to get into our main document mangement system on the ipad (although theorectically it might be possible to browse the folders with one of the network apps you can get).  Not being able to edit MS Office documents is a bit limiting.  I find I generally end up putting documents into dropbox and taking notes in the notes feature and then emailing them.

I find that the ipad connects to wifi networks at both work and home fine.  The speed the device starts up is impressive and the ease of setting up email account access make it an easier tool to access email.  Much quicker then Outlook Web Access.

It’s obviously a good web browser platform although not sure why it seems to have a limit of 9 browser “tabs”.  I don’t much like the itunes and apps store lists of apps tools they seem to have a really poor user interface which seems designed to make if difficult to find anything in a logical way.  Typing on the device itself isn’t the best experience but is OK.   Using the ipad for web browsing does point out quite how many sites either don’t work well on this type of tablet or force you to go to a mobile version of the site with limited functionality or rely heavily on flash.

Would I buy an ipad myself?  Probably not at the current price.  If I’d bought an original ipad I’m not sure I’d want to buy an ipad2.   But a tablet that could edit MS Office documents without having to go through converting them with different packages, that was multiuser, multitasking and could access networks would be a pretty useful tool.

Ebooks and ebook readers
Although I’m pretty convinced about the value of ebooks (with the usual provisos about the annoyance of the variety of proprietary formats and rights restrictions) I’ve generally been a bit sceptical about ebook readers in the past and haven’t been all that impressed with some of the early versions.  But, I’ve finally decided to commit to one, partly down to coming to realise that the piles of already read books in the backroom were starting to act as effective wifi insulation for my desk and masking the signal, and partly because it would be convenient to carry more than one book around to be read on bus or train or whatever.  I also wanted a device that could get internet access with a screen that was larger than a mobile phone and more portable (and cheaper) than an ipad/netbook-type device.  So just before Christmas I ordered an Amazon Kindle.

First Impressions
I went for the 3G version rather than the wifi only version.  The 3G version lets you continue to receive downloaded content even when you are away from a wifi connection.  Kindle CaseIt’s certainly been in my mind to see if I can use it as a device when I’m away from the office but I’m not yet sold on the idea that the 3G version offers a lot more value as I’m only likely to be sending content to it from a laptop or some other internet-connected device (whether I’m buying content online or directly connected to transfer content).

I also bought a cover with it to protect the device, and that seems to work really well.  A leather cover with a grey soft inner.  The Kindle clicks into the cover with a couple of hooks and there is an elasticated strap to secure the cover closed.  It’s about the size of a slim paperback, like an early Penguin and it weighs about as much as a hardback book.  It feels fairly solid and robust but is small and light enough to fit into a bag.

On the Kindle itself there are a few buttons and conections on the bottom (volume control, headphone socket, socket for USB connection and on/off slider).  Otherwise there are forward and back buttons repeated on each side and a qwerty keyboard taking up the bottom quarter of the device.

Kindle in caseAs well as the standard keys there are shift and Alt keys, a key (Aa) that lets you change the text size and orientation, a Home, Menu, Del and Back key and a five way navigation tool.   The keyboard seems very small to me, but then again it is larger than a mobile phone keyboard or iphone pop-up keypad, and seems designed to be used in two hands with your thumbs pressing the keys.  That is probably easier if you have smaller hands and as a first impression I think I’d like the five-way navigation button to be bigger.  As an observation there’s a good 1cm between the top row of letters and the bottom of the screen so maybe there’s space for slightly larger keys.

There’s also a SYM key that you press to get numbers and the variety of symbols essential for email and internet (although numbers can be typed in from the top row of letters and Alt).

Kindle keyboardTesting out the keyboard for typing I’m finding that it is possible for me to type with it although I wouldn’t want to use it for anything lengthy.  But if you are someone that is used to texting on a phone then I’m sure you’d find it pretty easy.

The start page for the device is accessed from the Home button and once you are on the home page the menu button gets you into the various settings of the device.

Getting started
I’ve been really impressed with how easy it was to get setup with it.  It came already registered against my Amazon account and was quite straightforward to get the home wifi configured.  It’s pretty easy to setup collections to organise your content and I’ve played around with a few ebooks now.  Ones you order from Amazon arrive pretty quickly electronically and yKindle screenou can also plug the device into a laptop to transfer files (PDFs and some ebook formats for example).  All those features seem to work well.  Reading ebooks on the device is fine, it’s easy to page through the books, the screen is sharp and easy to read.  Obviously everything is in greyscale (although interestingly the ebooks themselves seem to have colour in them judging by the samples I’ve looked at on the Kindle for PC reader).  It’s possible to add annotations to the text of ebooks.

Experimental features
One of the experimental features (accessed from the menu button when on the home page) is an internet browser.  This works when you have wifi connected (a version that works on 3G would be nice but maybe not very commercial).   It works better than I expected, most pages display OK, you can navigate around the page and it seems to pick up on screenreader-type approaches by jumping from link to link.  It’s possible to use it to access general internet sites, and it’s usuable for web-based email, outlook web access and even editing blogs.  There are features such as zooming into sections and article displays to make it easier to use and it looks like Amazons developers have put a fair bit of effort into thinking about how to make a browser work on the Kindle.    You do need to use the features such as zooming and orientation to get about the web but you can do so pretty well.

Tweeting from theKindle browser Kindle
There’s even a twitter version that is designed for the Kindle. www.kintweet.com lets you login to your twitter account and then uses letters to show the latest tweet (L) or Direct messages (D).  This works pretty well although there seem to be some limitations about the browser remembering your account details.  There is also some social networking built into the kindle commenting features that I haven’t yet explored.

Overall first impressions and what next
In general I’m pretty impressed with the device, it’s easy to setup and get started, easy to get new content and even some of the experimental features seem to work well.  I still need to play around with exploring the tools to convert ebook and other content so it can be used on the Kindle.   I certainly want to try it to see how useful it will be as a device to use at work, maybe see how easy it is to take copies of papers for meetings and store and retrieve it from the Kindle.  Although there’s a Software Developers Kit (SDK) it isn’t obvious that there are a large number of Kindle ‘apps’ out there, but if the Kindle really has been Amazon’s top selling product over Christmas then maybe there is a big market.  So things like a Kindle Calendar tool, a better note making tool (i.e. one that isn’t linked to notes on a book), password restrictions at a collection or feature level (you might want to allow your child to read childrens books on it but not browse the internet or read your thrillers, for example) would be useful features.  So I’m off to start building up my collection of ebooks and click that button on Amazon to prompt publishers of new books that I’d like to read them on the Kindle.

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