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.

Fight Club: A NovelPalahniuk, ChuckYes
Loyal Character DancerXiaolong, QiuYes
Using Google App EngineSeverance, CharlesSome
Programming Google App EngineSanderson, DanSome
The Next 100 YearsFriedman, GeorgeYes
The Devil in the White CityLarson, Erik
The GunChivers, C. J.Yes
The Innocents AbroadTwain, MarkSome
Unless It Moves the Human HeartRosenblatt, Roger
Practical Chess ExercisesCheng, RaySome
They Are UsHamill, PeteSome
Alone TogetherTurkle, SherrySome
The Second SelfTurkle, Sherry
AnathemStephenson, NealYes
The Mao CaseXiaolong, QiuYes
American GodsGaiman, Neil
Real-time Control of WalkingDonner, M.D.
A Short History of Nearly EverythingBryson, BillSome
The Fifth Servant: A NovelWishnia, Kenneth
All Your Base Are Belong to UsGoldberg, Harold
Quo VadisSienkiewicz, HenrykYes
Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr | Summary & Study GuideBookRags.comSome
The Flaw of AveragesSavage, Sam L.Some
The Age of WonderHolmes, Richard
DrivePink, Daniel H.
NemesisRoth, Philip
The Quiet WarMcAuley, Paul J.
The RepublicPlato
Among OthersWalton, JoYes
Altered CarbonMorgan, Richard K.
Bullfighting: StoriesDoyle, Roddy
Consider PhlebasBanks, Iain M.Yes
GerminalZola, Emile
JavaScript: The Definitive GuideFlanagan, DavidSome
JavaScript: The Good PartsCrockford, DouglasSome
OnwardSchultz, Howard, Joanne Gordon
Rule 34 (Halting State)Stross, Charles
Selected Stories of Philip K. DickDick, Philip K.Some
The Complete Stories of Evelyn WaughWaugh, Evelyn
The Player of GamesBanks, Iain M.Yes
The Quantum Story : A history in 40 momentsBaggott, JimSome
Uncle Tom's CabinStowe, Harriet Beecher
WirelessStross, Charles
Works of James JoyceJoyce, JamesSome
jQuery Cookbook (Animal Guide)Lindley, CodySome
Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao TakahataOdell, Michelle Le Blanc ColinSome
Francis Galton: Pioneer of Heredity and BiometryBulmer, MichaelSome
The Great StagnationCowen, TylerYes
In the Garden of BeastsLarson, ErikSome
Debt: The First 5,000 YearsGraeber, DavidYes
Use of WeaponsBANKS, Iain M.Yes
Exploring Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed SystemsHoglund, Greg, McGraw, Gary
The Children of the SkyVinge, Vernor
Ready Player OneCline, Ernest
Food Rules: An Eater's ManualPollan, Michael
EmbersMarai, Sandor
Reamde: A NovelStephenson, Neal
The Unlikely SpySilva, Daniel
Berlin NoirKerr, PhilipYes

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 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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