Use a Handy Flowchart to Choose Your Next Book

I read a lot of books, but choosing a new one is plenty hard. With traditional bookstores vanishing, I can’t simply stroll through the aisles and pluck titles up as I fancy. This flowchart details how to navigate book titles in the ebook world. Keep  in mind, these are catered to my quirky taste. However, maybe there are some elements that relate to you.

Book Read Flow Chard

Tim Kane

Why I Need Two Copies of Certain Books

Sometimes I need more than one copy of a book. Usually fiction. Almost always when it’s an amazing read.

AN E-READER ANNOTATION MINI-MANIFESTO

I start everything now as an ebook, though back in the days of long commutes, the audiobook ruled. When the narrative is crisp and alluring, I need to mark it up. Dissect it and see how it ticks. It’s the analytical mind in me. Sure, my Nook lets me highlight words and phrases, but it’s not the same. I need to dog ear pages. Scribble in the margins. Basically mess with it.

That’s when I purchase a second copy. I’ll zip around to spots I remember. My goal is almost always: “How did this writer pull this off?” Was it a subtle nuance of the narrator’s voice? Verb choice? Sentence length? I need to know. I circle and scribble all over the thing.

I recall once (and this will date me) when I had the notion to write a screenplay for The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells. This was about a year before the Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando version hit theaters (they beat me to the punch). I had taken a pencil (because this was a treasured version of the story) and went to work blocking scenes. Now I wish I hadn’t because I have plenty of erasing to do.

The one book I have in nearly every form is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. I started with an audiobook. Then bought the paperback (to mark up for a college paper). Finally, I chanced upon a hard bound copy heavily discounted. All I need now is an ebook and my collection is complete.

Am I alone in this? Does anyone else out there snap up multiple copies of books?

Tim Kane

Gift Wrap the Wrapping?

I recently bought a Nook for my mom on Mother’s Day. I was pleased with the product, so I thought, why not. Mom’s an avid reader. This could bring her into the 21st century. As an impulse, I opted to also purchase the gift bag. It was a whopping one cent.

The green bag on the left was the one I ordered. It was gift wrapped, not the actual Nook.

You should know that Mom loves gift bags. It’s her wrapping of choice. Every Xmas as a kid, I was tasked with wrapping all the gifts (except my own) because I was mathematically minded about the wrapping paper. I could literally wrap anything. Mom isn’t as spatially inclined. When she wraps, it’s in a bag with tissue paper.

Now, back to the Nook. As I was checking out, I clicked the “gift wrapping” option. It cost only $3.50 and I figured it might look nice and save some time.

So get the Nook in the mail a few days later. No wrapping, but honestly I was too excited about setting it up, I hardly noticed. Then the gift bag arrived later and, you guessed it, it was gift wrapped. Really Barnes and Noble? That’s what you thought I meant by gift wrapping?

It bugged me enough that I emailed the complaint department, asking for a refund on the price of the gift wrapping. Here is their standard response.

Thanks for contacting us. You should receive a response within 12 to 24 
hours, and we appreciate your patience.

A week went by. I sent an email back asking, facetiously, if they meant 12-24 hours or days. This got an email back:

Thank you for contacting Barnes & Noble regarding the order #XXXXXXXXX. 

The order was shipped on 05/07/2012. The carrier's tracking detail shows
that it was delivered as follows: 

Delivered On:
Wednesday,  05/09/2012 at 5:36 P.M. 
Left At:
Front Door

Of course it was delivered. How else would I know that you gift wrapped the bag? Seriously. If not for the meagerness of the cost in question, I’d pursue this farther. Though being a big corporation, I doubt I’d make any traction. This is where I have to give Amazon props. A few years ago, I was given two of the same gift. I was able to successfully return one to Amazon and get a credit.

I’m still waiting for my $3.50 back on the botched gift wrap.

Tim Kane

The Nook Makes Me A Better Reader

While attending a young adult workshop at the SDSU Writer’s Conference, I gleaned an interesting tidbit. Someone in the audience brought up the idea of a protagonist in his early twenties at college. Our presenter nixed it. College bound folk are inundated with textbooks and studies. Often, they don’t have time to read.

That was the case for me. College killed my reading instincts. Before that, I read like a fiend. Afterward, I hardly picked up a book. Magazines drew me in, mostly because of the brevity of the articles. I remember distinctly my first serious novel that I read form cover to cover: The Alientist.

I continued to write, yet my reading suffered. Finally audiobooks came to my rescue. I read, or listened, while commuting. This worked well, but I yearned for that actual visual experience. (Try writing down a clever quote from a spoken text. Not as easy as it seems.)

Then my wife purchased an iPad for my last birthday. I checked out the ebook options. There were limitless. Trouble was, the iPad as so heavy. (I have and iPad 1, but even the iPad 2 is weighty.) Meanwhile, my reading had picked up. I am addicted to several young adult series. My latest favorite is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

Much like other YA books, this one is a tome. Reading it makes my arms hurt. I tend to read in bed with the book held above me. So my mind drifted back to ereaders. I checked the whole spectrum. I didn’t need all the fancy web-browsing and apps. (I have an iPad, after all). What I wanted was a basic ereader that was very light. Enter the Nook.

I adore this product. The eink is amazing. It reads just like my paper book. The buttons make page turning easy and my arms never grow tired. Finally, it’s created a renaissance in reading for me. Just as the iPod revitalized my love of music, so has the Nook spurned me to be a more voracious reader.

Long live the ereader.

Tim Kane

Life Without Amazon

My New Years’ resolution is to shop, as often as possible, away from Amazon. Why? As an author, I’ve noticed some less than savory practices from this corporate giant lately. It seems that the fellas over at the longest river bookstore are leveraging their power to crush and manipulate consumers and authors.

Amazon launched its KDP Select program for authors selling ebooks through its site. They threw out offers like a $500,000 pool of cash. Also a monthly income of $7,500. It all sounds great until you read the fine print. By signing up, the author cannot sell his/her book anywhere else (including a personal website). Also this pool of cash is based on the percentage of sales of all ebooks that month. So, unless you’re a top ten author, your take could easily be pennies. Plus, you’ve cut off any sales from other websites. Add to that the fact that Amazon has moved the link to opt out and you’ve got a massive ebook collection for them and a lot of starving writers.

Now, let’s look at Amazon’s price check app. This little goodie was a one day rollout where customers were encouraged to enter a brick and mortar store, take a picture of a product, and then buy it through Amazon. The incentive…?  Amazon gave customers a $5 price break.

As both a customer and a writer I was maddened. Yet, why did I continue to shop Amazon? Mostly, it boiled down to laziness. Amazon’s site was just so easy to use. I made it a priority to branch out. Inconvenience myself a little bit.

Fist off, books. I admit, I had already downloaded some ebooks through the kindle app. Loved it. But it turns out there are plenty of other sites out there willing to sell an ebook. I just bought a Nook and I have to say, the reading experience is superior. For dead-tree-books, I have to rely on the Barnes and Noble chain (as it’s the only bookstore in my city).

Then came the wish list. Now I tried other sites like wishlistr. Frankly they sucked. Amazon simply has the best wish list. Even Barnes and Noble was cumbersome to use. So I decided to work in reverse. I’ll keep my lists up in Amazon, but buy from other stores. I use the wish list mostly as a bookmark anyway.

So if you’re trying to quit Amazon, it is possible. Yeah, you might pay a bit more. Plus you’ll have to say toodle loo to the $25 free shipping. No one said supporting authors would be easy.

Tim Kane