Starting the Kindle – things to remember

Things to remember when starting up your Kindle 3 for the first time.

1) When the Wi-Fi Connection asks for a password, what it really means is the “wireless key” number that’s printed on the back of your hardware wi-fi router. You may also need to tell the Kindle what type of encryption your wi-fi router uses (e.g.: WEP).

2) The mini-USB to USB cable is the same as the mains connection cable. The desktop USB connection fits up inside the mains electricity plug.

3) There doesn’t seem to be any “auto-copy/sync” from your desktop Kindle for PC application to the Kindle. You need to manually copy and paste your library of ebook files to the Kindle using Windows Explorer, after connecting the required cable. Or you can use the free Calibre ebook management software. [Update, Jan 2012: Amazon now offer a free Send to Kindle service for any file on your PC]

Free audio books for the Kindle 3

Many of the Kindle 3 reviews overlook the fact that the Kindle is also an audio-book player. It plays MP3 files in the order you add them, which solves the “filename sorting” problem prevalent on desktop PC media players when the book comes without a playlist. And with 3Gb of storage to play with, storing a 600Mb audio book shouldn’t be a problem. Although battery life might be — I’ve yet to see a good battery test review where they look at life during audio playing + screen reading.

Want to test the Kindle 3’s audio book capabilities? There’s Librivox of course, which has a growing bank of free amateur-read audio books. I might recommend the classic short-story “The Cats of Ulthar” as a first “test my Kindle” download (although the reading on Archive.org is much better). Librivox’s search and site navigation leaves something to be desired, but the combined audio book search-engine Librophile searches their site and many more. Also have a look at Project Gutenberg’s human-read audio books pages.

For a more ambitious test, Amazon is currently offering you two free audio book downloads, if you sign up for your free 14-day Audible.com trial. Watch out though, as they want your credit card details and the fine print allows auto-renew unless you cancel before the trial ends (not after). Also be aware that there’s no preview of which books are available for the free download — it might be limited to popular fiction, for instance — which won’t interest non-fiction readers.

There will also be spoken-word podcasts for whatever your specialist niche interest is, although you no doubt know better than I what those might be. You might also check to see if your favorite authors have released any free ‘taster’ audio stories on their websites. There are also some quirky genre sites — or instance, the car maker BMW offers free classic stories in the crime/thriller genre. The fans at Old World Radio offers public-domain radio dramatizations from the 1950s, including classic science-fiction stories from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Asimov, and Simak. The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast offers free full readings of classic Lovecraft stories, by proper actors.

Also have a look at the JURN Earworm search-engine, which lets you search just for intelligent speech radio (BBC, NPR, etc), intellectual podcasts, open courseware and the like. Some of these stream, some can be downloaded.


Book cover
Read the amazing sequel to H.G. Wells’s famous science fiction novella! Buy for the Amazon Kindle on Amazon U.S. or in paperback on lulu.com.

Kindle user statistics

Lots of interesting new statistics and graphs about iPad and Kindle 3 users, over at Nielsen.

Broadly, Kindle owners are older, affluent, and educated — while iPad owners are younger, 65% are male, and they have less education and are more susceptible to advertising. Typical Apple fan-boys, by the sound of it. I wonder if very many iPad users are regularly using it as an ebook reader? Not many, I’d guess — tiring backlit screen, heavy to hold, hot, short battery life, etc. iBooks sales are dire for contemporary fiction, apparently. I’d guess the iPad is skewing to a younger demographic because it’s more useful for “rich media” consumption on the move (I’ve actually heard it called the PornPad, in jest, although only once).

I’m currently formatting my books for the Kindle 3 and the Amazon store, now that they’ve finally opened a UK version, so I’m interested in the demographics and who’s actually buying. No doubt Amazon has the statistics, but it’s not telling. There are hints that they might be looking sell 50-60 million ebooks in 2010 as a whole. So it’s useful to hear some basic facts from Nielsen, such as…

“Forty-four percent of [Kindle users] make more than $80,000/year” […] “27% having Master’s degrees or doctorates” […] “47% of Kindle owners [are under the age of 35]”

I guess we could always crowdsource some author sales, since the indie sellers must know how much they’re selling? Joe Konrath has recently breached the wall of secrecy, for instance…

“Konrath has just passed the 100,000 eBooks sold mark, and he has shared his numbers as to on which platforms the books were sold. To put the most important number up first, Konrath sold 78,412 of the 100,000 eBooks on Kindle.”

In the next few months, if Amazon can ship enough Kindle 3s into the key UK market to meet the pre-Christmas demand (I predict the Kindle being the No.1 most-wanted adult Xmas prezzie), then according to quotes in The Bookseller we’re about to see a…

“game-changing autumn” for the UK high street, with the possibility that “this autumn is going to be carnage”.

Now high street bookshops lost me many years ago to Amazon used, Addall used, Google Books, the library, and audio books — bookshops selling new books are completely irrelevant to me — but if the predictions are correct then I won’t take pleasure in seeing a national bookshop chain shuttered by next Spring.

National markets will no doubt become more important for ebooks, since Amazon is locking UK customers out of its U.S. Kindle store, and allowing sellers to set per-territory prices. I’m used to buying used print books from the USA, often cheaper even when the cost of Air Mail is added. That’s one of the “lock-in” factors that I don’t like about the Kindle. On the other hand, the ease of publishing straight onto Amazon and the 70% royalties are amazing (even after the dumb U.S. Tax Dept. cuts royalties to 50%, on the wrong-headed assumption that that all UK citizens need to pay U.S. taxes on their earnings).

Looking out to the 18-month horizon, Quercus recently reported that their ebook sales currently bring in “less than 2% of group revenue”, but the head of Quercus is quoted as saying that…

“I would be surprised if e-books weren’t 7.5% to 10% [of their revenue] in 18 months”.

And don’t think that piracy won’t be a factor. Oxford University Press recently had a huge leak of their PDF books onto Demonoid, for instance. We may even see the Kindle DRM being cracked.

Lastly, I see that Amazon has launched Kindle for the Web into beta status. Basically, embed a sample of a book into your blog, just like YouTube. Nice. And get a slice of referral commission if someone buys the full version. Not a bad idea, given that the Kindle screen is about the same as a wide blog column.