Mysterious Marvel Kindle Sale

From Bleeding Cool:

A few days ago, unpromoted and for no apparent reason, Marvel titles on Amazon Kindle dropped. Really dropped. To between 70% to 97.5% off.

Very weird. Comics bought from Amazon for the Kindle can also be read through the Comixology app, and I’ve noticed in the past that the Amazon/Kindle price for a given book is often synced to the Comixology price. That’s definitely not the case here as, for instance, Comixology is running a one-day Spectacular Spider-Man sale, where most of their sale prices are more than the current Amazon prices.

I’m not sure what Amazon’s motive is here. It’s not an advertised sale, and the prices are so low, they can’t be making much money off it. Maybe they’re just trying to get more people interested in reading comics on the Kindle?

I bought twelve books on Friday, for a grand total of around $25. (I wasn’t going to buy any more, but I broke down and bought two more today.)

I’ve been trying to control my spending on digital comics. I buy a lot of stuff from Comixology (and Humble and Dark Horse Digital) when it’s on sale, then I just keep a running list in Evernote of what I’ve bought and what I’ve read. My Comixology unread list is at 99 items right now. Most of those entries are collections or runs of single issues, so it’s not 99 comics; it’s more like 999 comics.

But hey, as Dennis the Menace once said, “One thing I’ve learned in life is you can never have too many comic books!”

Amazon Prime Reading

Amazon seems to be rolling out a bunch of random stuff to Prime members lately. I blogged about Audible Channels last week. Now, they’ve started up something called Amazon Prime Reading. This is a service that lets Prime members read a variety of books, comics, and magazines for free.

This is distinct from the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which is available only to Kindle owners, and doesn’t require Prime membership. And from Kindle Unlimited, which lets you read an unlimited number of books (from a broad but still somewhat limited selection) for $10 per month (including audiobooks). And also from Kindle First, which lets Prime members “buy” one book per month for free from a selection of six or so new releases. It’s all very confusing.

I’ve used the Kindle “lending library” once or twice. It’s not easy to find books that are part of that program, and there’s not really much of a selection. I’ve been getting a book from Kindle First every month since the program launched, but, until recently, had just been letting them pile up. I decided to read a few recently, and I was pleasantly surprised. There are some pretty good books in there. (There’s probably a lot of dreck too, but I haven’t hit any yet.) I’ve never been tempted to sign up for Kindle Unlimited. I already “own” plenty of ebooks that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, so there’s no reason to pay a subscription fee to get access to more.

So I guess it’s a good thing that there are more and more ways to get access to free reading material. But I’ve got plenty to read, regardless. Looking at Goodreads, I see that I’ve got 179 books currently tagged as “to read.” That ought to be enough to keep me busy for quite a while.

John Ashbery

I’ve been reading old issues of the New Yorker at lunch time recently. (I’m still working through the backlog of issues from the last time I had a subscription.) Earlier this week, I came across a poem by John Ashbery. I first read his poetry back when I was in college, for a class, and remember enjoying it. I don’t usually like most of the poetry in the New Yorker, but once in a while something clicks. So it got me thinking about Ashbery and maybe picking up a book of his work. I checked Amazon, and was surprised to see that the first few I looked at weren’t available for the Kindle.

I didn’t think too much about it, but I stumbled across this old article from the NY Times today, which explains a few things. It makes sense, and it’s good to know that I can pick up a number of his books in ebook format, though they’re kind of expensive. The 100-page Three Poems is $15 on Kindle, while the 1000-page hardcover Collected Poems is just under $30. So you can get the complete text of his first dozen books in a nice hardcover for $30, or an ebook of just one for $15. That doesn’t make much sense to me, but I guess I shouldn’t look for sense in the pricing of poetry books and ebooks.

I don’t understand nearly enough about poetry to tell you why John Ashbery is good, and why I like his work. But I’ve been thinking lately that poetry acts on the brain in a way that’s different from other prose, and perhaps it’s beneficial to read some, now and then.

Kindle Oasis

I’ve been thinking about buying a new Kindle for a while now. Since the rumors of a new Kindle surfaced, I decided to hold off and wait to see what they came out with. Well, they just came out with the Kindle Oasis, which is pretty cool, and I want one, but it costs almost $300. So I think I’m going to wait until the next time the Paperwhite goes on sale, and get one of those.

Thinking about a new Kindle

I resisted buying a new Kindle Paperwhite when they were on sale for $99 a few weeks ago. (The regular price is $119.) But now they’re on sale for $89, and I have a $50 gift certificate that my brother gave me for my birthday last month. So that’s tempting.

But I’m glad I held out, since it looks like a new Kindle is coming next week. Details are sketchy, but it’s probably worth waiting until the new one is announced before buying a Paperwhite. Of course, if the new one is a new high-end Kindle like the Voyage, I’ll probably want a Paperwhite rather than that anyway.

The thing that really motivated me to start thinking about a new Kindle, by the way, was reading a book with a bunch of footnotes recently. My old Kindle doesn’t handle that well, but the newer ones, including the Paperwhite and Voyage, show footnotes in a popup window.

old Kindle

When looking back at some old blog posts today, I realized that my Kindle is five years old. I’m still using it regularly, and it’s still working fine. (I just finished reading The City & The City, and just started reading The Windup Girl. Both books are highly recommended.) After five years, you’d think the battery would be dead, but nope, it still holds a charge. (Probably not as much of a charge as when it was new, but still enough to get by.)

Amazon has the Paperwhite on sale today, for $20 off. I’m occasionally tempted to buy one of those, but as long as the old one is working well, I don’t see much point.

 

iBooks on the Mac

I have a few things I want to write up and post today, and, taken together, I think they’re going to make me look like a cranky old man. But that’s ok.

I bought a couple of Microsoft Press ebooks from O’Reilly today, since they’re having a “Farewell MS Press” 60% off sale right now, so I thought I’d snag a couple while they were cheap and still DRM-free. It looks like MS Press is moving to Pearson for distribution, starting April 1. It’s unclear as to whether or not they’ll continue to offer DRM-free ebooks, but (being a pessimistic and cranky old man), I’m guessing no.

So, after downloading them, I wanted to drag them into iTunes so I could read them on my iPad with iBooks. (That’s a lot of iProducts, huh?) Well, I hadn’t done that in a while, so, for some reason, I launched iBooks on my Mac. I don’t think I’d ever actually done that before, as I don’t really read books on the MacBook. It prompted me to import my books from iTunes, so I went ahead and did that. Now I’m cranky.

Having a dedicated app to read books on the Mac seems like a good idea. There’s no particularly good reason books should be kept in iTunes. But, after going through that import process, I’m not entirely happy with the result. iTunes kept books in a nicely-organized folder, with sub-folders by author name, and files named (sensibly) according to the book title. And (of course) if you pulled in a book with bad metadata, you could press Command-I on it in iTunes and edit the metadata.

iBooks, on the other hand, stores all the books in one folder, no sub-folders, with names that appear to be randomly-assigned GUIDs. And there’s no right-clck “View in Finder” option in iBooks, so there’s really no telling which one is which. And there’s no way to edit metadata in iBooks, so if you import a book with bad metadata, it’s quite a task to change it. (There’s some more help with that here.) Or I could switch back to iTunes, but that’s pretty darn complicated.

I’m starting to wonder if I should switch to a third-party reader app (much as I did with podcasts last week) and give up on iTunes. Almost all of the ebooks I want access to on my iPad are DRM-free ones from O’Reilly and Packt. I already have a few apps on my iPad that might do the trick, including GoodReader, the Kindle app, and OverDrive. Maybe I need to pick one that works well with DRM-free epubs or mobi files, and stick with it.

Harry Potter ebooks

So Pottermore finally started selling the Harry Potter books in ebook format this week. (And they’re selling the audiobooks too.) I signed up for an account there a couple of days ago, and I just went in and bought the bundle of all seven books.

Some things I like about this:

  1. They offer the books in multiple formats, including DRM-free (but watermarked) ePub.
  2. You can link your Pottermore account to your Amazon account, and push the books right out to your Kindle.
  3. You can download the books multiple times.
  4. The audiobooks are in DRM-free MP3 format.

And some things I don’t:

  1. Their web site forms are screwy. On most fields, you can’t use copy & paste, for some insane reason.
  2. Every time you log in, you need to enter a CAPTCHA. I can understand needing to enter one to create an account, but on every login? Overkill.
  3. It’s easy enough to transfer a book over to your Amazon account, but there’s no (obvious) way to transfer all your books at once. You have to do them one at a time.
  4. Similarly, when downloading the books in ePub format, you need to download them one at a time, and it takes a few seconds to “prepare” the download. I’m guessing that it’s creating a watermarked ePub file on the fly there, but why can’t they just have a background process that does that right after purchase, so the files are ready right away?
  5. For the audiobooks, they show both the US (Jim Dale) and UK (Stephen Fry) versions, and even show a price if you select the UK version, but you can only buy the US version. (I was hopeful that I’d be able to buy the Stephen Fry versions.)

So, a few quibbles, but nothing that bothers me that much. I actually haven’t read any prose fiction at all yet this year, so I think I’m going to sit down with my Kindle and start into the first book. I haven’t re-read any of the Potter books since I first read them, with maybe one exception. I feel a little guilty that I’m going to re-read these relatively easy-to-read “YA” books, when I have plenty of unread “adult” novels lying around, but hey, they’re great books!

45th birthday

Yesterday was my 45th birthday. It was a pretty low-key birthday. I strayed from my diet and had a couple of slices of pizza for dinner, and I allowed myself a buttered roll in the morning, but I didn’t go overboard with anything. I had the idea today to look back on what I might have been doing on and around my birthday, since I started this blog. So here’s a pretty random list of stuff, assembled by looking back at my Blogger archives.

2003

  • I went to Comic-Con that year. (I was making reservations in March. I’m going again this year, after skipping it for a few years.)
  • I was reading Sinfest, which I haven’t been following lately, but is apparently still around (and still funny).

2004

  • I was reading “His Dark Materials“, and listening to Rum Diary.
  • I had just gotten the 90,000 mile service done on my 97 Civic. (I got my 2008 Accord inspected yesterday. It’s got about 45k miles on it.)

2005

  • Windows XP was giving me grief.
  • I was listening to Warren Ellis’ “Superburst Mixtape” podcast. (That’s long gone. He has a new one named SPEKTRMODULE now, which I’ve been listening to recently, and is quite good.)

2006

  • I was watching Samurai Champloo on Cartoon Network. (I have it on Blu-Ray now, but I haven’t gotten around to re-watching it.)

2007

2008

  • I got my first Kindle. I’ve since traded that in for a new one, but I still haven’t read some of the books I loaded onto that first one (and later transferred to the second).

And that’s about where I feel like I should end this. I’m feeling weirder than usual about my birthday this year, for various reasons. But I can’t complain. I’ve been able to spend time with several really good friends over the last couple of weeks, and I think I’ll likely enjoy this coming weekend too, so that’s all I can really ask for.

Kindle e-book lending

Interesting to see that Amazon is now letting Prime members borrow e-books. Only one at a time, and from a limited selection, but it’s a start. I bought four e-books yesterday from Amazon, all $1.99 or $2.99, and I probably have 30 or 40 unread books on my Kindle right now anyway, so I don’t have much need for this program at this point. But I like where they’re going with Amazon Prime.