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All stories relating to Kindle

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Book links roundup: Rushdie accuses U.S. government of wanting to destroy “world of books,” two million Kindle Singles sold, and more

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Book links roundup: the Kindle Single sweet spot, Margaret Atwood’s new digital short story, and more

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Amazon, the iPad, and the culture of reading in an age of distraction

“It’s like trying to cook when there are little children around.” That’s the assessment of one David Myers, a 53-year-old system administrator in Atlanta, regarding the experience of reading a book on the Kindle Fire. Myers is quoted in a New York Times article about the qualitative aspects of reading on multimedia, Internet-enabled devices. The article finds, unsurprisingly, that devices such as the iPad or the Kindle Fire, which are capable of surfing the Internet or streaming video, promote heightened distractibility among readers.

People who read ebooks on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

Email lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

The argument is not a new one, having been well rehearsed in volumes such as Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry. Nor is it likely to gain much traction with technophiles who envision a not-so-distant future in which even dedicated e-readers will feature enhanced books that link to external multimedia content.

And there is something to be said for the devices’ insistence that a book hold a reader’s attention. As Erin Faulk says in the NYT piece: “Recently, I gravitate to books that make me forget I have a world of entertainment at my fingertips. If the book’s not good enough to do that, I guess my time is better spent.”

Still, what Cory Doctorow referred to as an “ecosystem of interruption technologies” embedded in devices such as the iPad may be partly to blame for the reason Carr is able to quote Clay Shirky as writing, “No one reads War and Peace.… It’s too long and not so interesting.” Or maybe the lure of YouTube is just too great.

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Book links roundup: Transgender children’s books, famous gay writers, and more

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Investigating the dirty business of plagiarized erotica on Amazon

Fast Company has a fascinating article about the volume of plagiarized erotica on Amazon’s Kindle Select self-publishing platform.

According to the story, small press owner and erotica author Sharazade, suspicious of another top-selling author, Maria Cruz, began googling passages from Cruz’s books and discovered most of them were lifted directly from books such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But it’s not just well-known authors being copied. Free erotica-publishing websites such as Literotica are regularly pillaged for content. In fact, Fast Company journalist Adam Penenberg did a “down-and-dirty textual analysis” of author Robin Scott’s 31 titles in the Kindle store, and concluded that all were plagiarized from other sources.

Amazon doesn’t vet its self-published books, putting the onus on the aggrieved author to make claims of copyright infringement. But, as the article notes, it’s not just erotica, or Amazon, that is facing major problems with copyright and plagiarism. Canadian author S.K.S. Perry discovered someone else was selling his fantasy novel Darkside for $2.99 as a Kindle ebook, and several plagiarized titles from various sources have been removed from the Apple iBookstore. Penenberg says we shouldn’t be surprised:

Self-publishing has become the latest vehicle for spammers and content farms, with the sheer volume of self-published books making it difficult, if not impossible, for e-stores like Amazon to vet works before they go on sale. In 2006, 51,000 self-published titles were released; last year there were 133,036 self-published books, and that number is destined to climb. 

Writing a book is hard. All those torturous hours an author has to spend creating, crafting, culling until nonsensical words are transformed into engaging prose. It’s a whole lot easier to copy and paste someone else’s work, slap your name on top, and wait for the money to roll in. This creates a strong economic incentive, with fake authors.

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Kobo to be acquired by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten

Kobo announced Tuesday it has entered into a definite agreement under which it will be acquired by the Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten. The deal is expected to close in early 2012.

According to a press release, Rakuten intends to “acquire 100 per cent of total issued and outstanding shares of Kobo for US$315 million in cash.” As part of the agreement, the e-reading platform will continue as a stand-alone operation, maintaining its Toronto headquarters and employees under the leadership of Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis.

In the press release, Serbinis said:

“From a business and cultural perspective this is a perfect match….We share a common vision of creating a content experience that is both global and social. Rakuten is already one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, while Kobo is the most social e-book service on the market and one of the world’s largest e-book stores with over 2.5 million titles. This transaction will greatly strengthen our position in our current markets and allow us to diversify quickly into other countries and e-commerce categories.”

Kobo was founded in 2009 by Indigo Books & Music before it was spun off into a separate company 10 months later, with Indigo remaining as the majority shareholder. Indigo will receive approximately $140 million to $150 million in the Rakuten deal. In a separate press release, Indigo CEO and chair of Kobo Heather Reisman said:

“Notwithstanding the sale, Indigo will maintain a very strong relationship with Kobo, supporting the products and the services both in-store and online…. The success of Kobo confirms that Indigo is a great brand and a strong platform on which we can continue to innovate and grow.”

In October, Kobo announced it would be offering self-publishing services and launched the Kobo Vox, a tablet to compete against the Kindle Fire and iPad.

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What if the Kindle were free?

What would happen to print and e-book sales if the Kindle e-reader were distributed for free? The idea that e-readers could come with no cost in the near future isn’t out of the question, given that Kindle prices are dropping precipitously – today, the cheapest (ad-supported) Kindle costs only $79 in the U.S., down from $359 in 2009.

Bloggers and tech sites have speculated about free Kindles from the beginning, some pegging the date for the change as early as next month. This week, San Francisco Web 2.0 blog GigaOM suggested that free Kindles could be a good thing for writers.

For example, content like Kindle Singles – “not-quite-books [that] can be written and uploaded by anyone” – could get greater exposure if more people owned a Kindle. From GigaOM:

Offering a free – or ad-supported – Kindle would presumably just provide even more of an avenue for these kinds of books to reach readers, and that in turn could (theoretically at least) make it possible for more writers to make a living from their writing.

There’s also the argument that free Kindles could boost the use of new apps and services – for a price. GigaOM writes:

A free Kindle could be just the beginning of an explosion of book-like content from Amazon and others: The company is already talking about a “Netflix for books” that would offer content for a monthly fee. Why not offer a subscription to an author, so I can automatically get whatever he or she writes, regardless of length or format? … I’d be willing to bet more people would read more as a result.

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Book links round-up: Mistry wins Neustadt Prize, a wordless book, and more

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Amazon launches new family of Kindles

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a new lineup of four Kindle e-readers this morning at a press conference in New York City. All will streamline the process of buying and reading books, with the capstone device being the WiFi-only tablet, Kindle Fire.

The Kindle Fire ($199) provides access to books, movies, TV shows, magazines, newspapers, games, and more with a colour touch screen. It uses a new browser called Amazon Silk, designed to load Web content rapidly, and provides free data storage in the Amazon Cloud. Kindle Fire also costs less than the iPad.

Other devices unveiled today include:

  • The latest generation Kindle ($79), weighing under 6 ounces and designed to fit in your pocket.
  • The Kindle Touch ($99), with a touch screen for turning pages or interacting with the new X-Ray feature, which instantly pulls up pre-downloaded reference material such as Wikipedia entries.
  • The Kindle Touch 3G ($149), with all the elements of the current model as well as free wireless Internet access in 100 countries without a monthly fee or contract.

Prices are in U.S. dollars, with no word yet on what the new Kindles will cost or when they will be released in Canada.

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In the September 2011 issue of Q&Q: Guy Vanderhaeghe completes his iconic Western trilogy

Q&Q speaks to Governor General’s Literary Award–winning Saskatoon author Guy Vanderhaeghe about the final book in his Western trilogy, the ambitious A Good Man.

Also in September, rekindling interest in history with high-profile political biographies, a look at independent U.S. bookstore e-book sales, and touring the country with Doug Gibson. Plus reviews of new books by Brian Francis, David Gilmour, Marina Endicott, and more.

FEATURES
A good guy

After nearly two decades, Guy Vanderhaeghe has completed his iconic Western trilogy – and now he’s ready to move on

Raising the dead white men
Can a handful of high-profile political biographies rekindle interest in Canadian history?

E-reading’s awkward embrace
If the experience of U.S. indies is anything to go by, Canadian booksellers gearing up to begin selling e-books should expect some bumps along the road

FRONTMATTER
Orphaned Key Porter authors take back control of their work
How digital technology has put audiobooks within reach of small presses
In memoriam: Robert Kroetsch
Montreal violin-maker Tom Wilder turns publisher
Snapshot: Knopf Random Canada executive vice-president and publisher Louise Dennys
Cover to cover: R.T. Naylor’s Crass Struggle
Touring the country with Doug Gibson
Guest opinion: Rolf Maurer on rethinking the role of the arts

REVIEWS
Natural Order by Brian Francis
The Perfect Order of Things by David Gilmour
The Little Shadows
by Marina Endicott
Our Daily Bread by Lauren B. Davis
Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill

PLUS more fiction, non-fiction, and poetry

BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Starfall by Diana Kolpak; Kathleen Finlay, photog.
No Ordinary Day by Deborah Ellis
First Descent by Pam Withers
The Busy Beaver by Nicholas Oldland
Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston

PLUS more fiction, non-fiction, and picture books

Q&Q/BOOKNET CANADA BESTSELLERS

THE LAST WORD
Greenpeace International’s Tzeporah Berman on finding a balance between her own voice and that of the organization she represents

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

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