A GUIDE TO BUYING AND READING KINDLE BOOKS
Understandably, many people don’t like ‘Kindle reading’ because they can only enjoy a story if holding a ‘real book’ in their hands. Others are suspicious of the whole kindle business, especially if required to engage in on-line financial transactions with companies like Amazon.
As a purveyor of kindle books I have an interest in encouraging their usage, not least because a kindle book is considerably cheaper to buy than its paperback counterpart, with exactly the same words contained therein. For people contemplating their first venture into the world of kindles, therefore, the following notes are intended to clarify the process of purchasing and using a kindle book, hopefully overcoming any doubts and misgivings that might exist.
1. The ‘Kindle Reader’ – I have heard individuals say “I can’t buy a kindle book, because I don’t have a ‘kindle reader’, yet those same people amongst them have other electronic devices, including desk top PCs, lap-tops, tablets, I-pads and smart mobile phones.
Fact: It is true that one can buy a stand-alone item of hardware called a ‘kindle reader’, but it is very easy also to download a piece of identical kindle reader software on to any of the above-mentioned devices, absolutely free. Granted, reading a book on your desktop screen is not as comfortable as using a proper kindle reader, but using a tablet or I-pad is no different.
2. Losing a kindle book – There is a fear that if one pays out good money for a kindle book and it is downloaded on to one’s device, then there is a risk of losing it (and one’s investment!) by (say) accidentally deleting it.
Fact: When a kindle book is downloaded by a new user for the first time, a personal ‘library’ is created, into which all purchased books are placed and can there be accessed at any time, guaranteed for life, or as long as needed. A book can be deleted from the library if the owner wishes, but only if strictly intended and by following very specific instructions.
3. Finding a kindle book to buy – If going to an Amazon website (which one depends on your geographical location) you simply find ‘Books’ in the menu, then select the category and a range of selections will appear. Click on one that interests you and you will see in which formats it is available.
Fact: If you are on the main US website (amazon.com) then if kindle format is available it will show page left. If you are on any other regional Amazon web-site (UK, IND, AU etc), look to the right of the page and if kindle is available you will be directed to click a link that will take you to amazon.com. The point is that kindle books can only be downloaded from the main US site, whereas orders for paperbacks can be processed on any Amazon web-site for printing in the USA or UK.
4. Do I have to sign up for an Amazon account? Does it cost me extra? Can Amazon be trusted?
Fact: I have had an account for several years and not yet had a problem. No extras, hidden or otherwise. They keep your credit/debit card account open and if you buy a kindle it starts downloading immediately and the advertised price is automatically debited, at current exchange rates. Furthermore, if you are not immediately satisfied with your purchase for some reason, you have the option of obtaining a refund (no argument within 24 hours) and your card is credited without penalty, other than possibly a few cents lost on the interim exchange rate’s fluctuation. I have done this on occasions when I wanted to see more of what a book contained than given by ‘Look inside’ or ‘free sample’.
5. Are ‘free’ book downloads really free? No hidden costs? – Yup!
Fact: Sellers of kindle books are given an option by Amazon of giving away their books on a limited basis for promotional purposes. Amazon & seller lose out. Win-win for the prospective buyer. No limit on time for keeping such a book.
6. What are the pros & cons of reading kindles versus reading paperbacks?
6.1. Reading comfort – If you have plenty of ‘elbow room’ and can carry your book conveniently in a bag of some sort, then a paperback is probably best at home and while travelling. Otherwise a kindle reader, I-pad or tablet is best, taking minimum space and easy to carry.
6.2. Page layouts – Kindle books are not always as ‘tidy’ as in the matching paperback, but are always easy to read.
6.3. Fonts – The text in some paperbacks can be too small for some ‘eyes’, whereas with a kindle reader the text can be enlarged with the sweeping movement of forefinger and thumb.
6.4. Maintenance – A paperback can get dog-eared, torn, wet and generally battered looking, whereas the kindle book needs no maintenance at all.
6.5. Links – A kindle book can be ‘streets ahead’ of a paperback by having words linked to passages/pictures in web sites and a table of contents and/or an index which is totally interactive. Links can also include video and/or audio clips.
6.6. Pictures – A kindle book can carry the same pictures as its paperback counterpart, but not have exactly the same layout.
6.7. Delivery – Buyer pays the advertised price, including wireless delivery, whereas a paperback incurs additional costs of delivery, which for countries other than the USA or UK can be significant (eg Courier).
7. Where does the money go?
The cost of a kindle book is naturally geared to the size of its file (Mb), with Amazon taking the lion’s share. Author’s royalty is usually 30%, which in turn
has to be defrayed against the costs of creating the book, for example computing hardware & software.
A paperback is significantly more expensive, because of Amazon’s printing and handling costs, given that a book gets printed only when an order is received. (No stocks of a book are held by Amazon). For example an averaged sized book can incur Amazon costs in excess of $15.00 before a royalty can be added, leaving the author with the decision either to be satisfied with (say) a nominal dollar royalty, or risk pricing the book out of the market.
8. How does one know whether an author is ‘genuine’ and competent to have written the book that one is about to spend good money on? Is he/she a ‘professional
writer’ whose book has been accepted by a major publishing house and pre-printed for distribution to book shops around the country, or world-wide? Or is the author a ‘self-publisher’, being
someone who has an idea for a book, fancies their chances as a writer and uses Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing software to undertake the whole process personally.
Fact: As everyone knows, many books have been written over the centuries and offered to reputable publishers, many very good, but never making it into print. Publishers are notoriously picky and as a consequence many good stories, fiction and non-fiction have been lost. With the advent of self publishing many such books are seeing the light of day and although few will ever become best-sellers, at least the reading public gets a wider choice. Of course there is a risk of getting a ‘dud’, but the potential buyer has an opportunity to “Look Inside” or download a sample before committing, thereby checking that content looks reasonably credible and that spelling, grammar, punctuation etc is acceptable. Furthermore, as pointed out in Item 4, a kindle book can be flicked through when first downloaded and ‘returned’ (money back guaranteed) if the buyer doesn’t like the contents!
9. Can a kindle book be shared around?
Fact: There is an Amazon system for lending (see web-site), but within a household one person’s library can be shared between at least three devices. We read the same books on a lap-top, I-pad and Android phone.
Please note that I am not being paid by Amazon to promote their book stall! Furthermore these notes simply represent personal viewpoints
and do not cover all aspects of kindle book purchasing and reading. No doubt other people have had varying experiences. Comments welcomed.