Dumbwatch #3

Newb journo is shocked (“shocked, I tell you!”) to discover that Amazon passes on to the publisher the cost of delivery of bandwidth-heavy magazines and newspapers over 3G. Why wouldn’t they do that? Does the paper edition not need a fleet of trucks, the news-stand space, all of which gets paid for and passed on to the reader or absorbed by advertisers? Does the hugely expensive mobile broadband network not need financing?

Time to learn about optimisation for the Kindle, rather than just throwing an InDesign file at the Kindle and hoping the conversion sticks, I’d say. How about partnering with Instapaper, PC Pro, to offer a buffet style (and thus a lighter bandwidth) approach for readers? I mean, really, I don’t need the section on business networking devices and many other sections.

Toward a Kindle zine aesthetic

Here’s my concept page for a Kindle ‘zine page, made directly in Photoshop, and trying to blend the best pixel art fonts with an echo of the old-school Xerox look…

For those who absolutely need searchability in their fanzine for some reason, this could be easily catered for by embedding a half-dozen keyword tags in small-sized type at the foot of each HTML page that holds the images, and then greying out the font colour.

Dumbwatch #2

There’s a lot of scope for those old-style Xeroxed fanzines on the Kindle…

“All it requires is the zine in a pdf file format”

Hmmm, really? Maybe for a straight text old-school sci-fi zine, at a pinch. Not for much else.

Perhaps we need to develop a Kindle-specific zine aesthetic, via the pixel art look? It should be possible to emulate the classic old b&w Xerox look if you’re making the original page-images in Photoshop. You’d work directly to 550 x 450 pixels | 16 shades of grey | 167dpi, and save at around 58kb for each page image. Then you’d make a simple hand-coded ebook with the page images embedded. If the zine is planned from the start to look good at that size, then it would be able to convey something of the old b&w ‘zine aesthetic. What about readable text blocks at that size? It could work, for small 100 word blocks. The pixel art fonts are designed to work crisply at small sizes, and should look great on a Kindle…

Snoot’s Pixel10 looks like an especially good choice for body text.

New statistics on the UK eReader market

New research on UK eReader sales, from the Publishers Association. We already know that 2010 eBook sales accounted for just 0.4% of the UK book market. So what changed at Christmas? The Publishers Association polled 2,000 people recently, and found that 7% of British adults had some kind of eReader (smartphone, iPad or ereader) for Christmas.

The key finding, for those who want to sell long-form fiction eBooks, is that only 61% of those who had a dedicated eReader device (mostly likely a Kindle) have yet actually purchased an eBook.

I’m sure the methodology is sound, and the sample size seems sufficient. But I’d be a little wary if they’re using terms such as “downloaded paid for material” in their survey questions. Many people, especially young men, may confuse that with “downloaded material that should be paid for (but actually I pirated it)”. This may be a factor in the surprising gender skew…

“12% of men have downloaded paid for material since Christmas, compared to only 6% of women”

But the main factor in this skew must be the conflation of ‘readers of news’ and ‘readers of fiction books’. iPhone RSS-based news apps seem to have been classed as “paid for material”, since…

“The iPhone is revealed as playing an important role in the ereading market: 19% of downloaders use one to read digital content, with 13% saying that it is the device they use most often.

Kindle 3.1 available for download

Amazon is preparing a Kindle 3.1 software update to Kindle owners. Available for manual download now (if you’re currently running any Kindle hacks, they won’t work with this new version).


* Real page numbers matching those in the printed book (if there is a physical book). Very useful for academics and students, book reviewers, and reading clubs whose membership mixes print with Kindles. You also get the ISBN of the edition Amazon scanned to get your page numbers. Kindle apps will also support this “in the coming months”. Amazon has to sync all your books for this feature, so it won’t work immediately after installing v.3.1. Pressing “Menu” when reading a book shows your location, and page numbers if the book supports them.

* Better navigation/layout abilities for newspapers and magazines.

* A ‘Before You Go…’ feature that will appear after the reader reaches “The End” of a book. This will invite an Amazon review / a five-star rating / Facebook-ing / and will also offer “you may also like…” recommendation engine suggestions.

* Public Notes. Make your “notes in the margin” and highlighted snippets available to other Kindle users.

Tutorial: PDF to Kindle for academic journal articles

This tutorial shows you how to convert PDF ejournal articles and book chapters to read on your Amazon Kindle. I’m assuming that you are converting relatively simple arts and humanities articles of the sort found via JURN, and not fiendishly formatted articles from maths, medicine or science. There is no reliable way of converting PDFs for the Kindle, and your results will only be “good enough”, not perfect. Do not use this method for converting PDF content you wish to sell commercially.

The software: The freeware conversion software Mobipocket Creator 4.2 Publisher Edition works quickly and speedily, and produces a “good enough” .prc ebook file, of a type supported by the Kindle. The MobiPocket Creator Software is wholly free software and is not timebombed, crippled, ad-supported, or subject to a “trial period”. MobiPocket is the company that Amazon purchased in 2005 to use for the Kindle, but MobiPocket’s excellent software is still freely available. In my experience, Mobipocket Creator appears to convert a simple academic PDF article in a more acceptable manner that the freeware Calibre software does.

1. Download and install Mobipocket Creator Publisher Edition. Load a PDF file…

2. Select and highlight the loaded PDF file.

3. Click to have Mobipocket Creator convert the PDF…

4. Open the Windows folder where the resulting files have been deposited…

5. The folder will contain the files used during the conversion process, and the final .prc conversion. The Kindle can load/view the .prc format without any problem. If you have installed Amazon’s Kindle for PC software on your desktop PC or laptop, then Windows will already have identified .prc files as “belonging” to the Kindle. Just double-click the file to open it. If you’re satisfied, then drag it over to your Kindle via the USB connection, for reading.

Note that there is also the HTML file used during the conversion, which can be edited for errors with a good HTML editor such as HomeSite. You can then email the corrected HTML page to your Kindle.

6. If the starting PDF file is made up of “hard” page scans (i.e.: has no text to copy and paste), then it will need to be opened in the powerful Adobe Acrobat Pro suite (not the Acrobat Reader) and be subject to an OCR scan, during which Acrobat Pro will inspect each letter and attempt to convert it to editable text. Acrobat Pro will then overlay this editable and copyable text over the page image. When this process is complete, save the file…

Book cover: sequel to The Time Machine
  The new sequel to H.G. Wells’s famous novella! 
Available now in paperback and on the Amazon Kindle!