In which my Kindle goes back to the USA for magazines

August 5, 2013

Not physically. Let’s see… I was at Williams by the Pier in Hamilton with Elizabeth Twist, catching up and doing our Evensies (even Sundays,) write-in thing, and happened to mention my frustration with Amazon.ca and magazines. Elizabeth’s immediate reaction was that I should send out angry customer support emails until they got my Kindle account switched back to amazon.com, as the best part of having the Kindle, in her experience, was for the magazines.

I don’t tend to default to ‘angry’ with my customer support emails, but I sent out a plea for help to Amazon.com right there in the cafe, and also read her the email I’d sent to Amazon.ca last week and their completely unhelpful brush-off form letter.

Somewhat to my surprise, an Amazon customer support person by the name of Naveen replied within four hours, including very helpful instructions on how to navigate the Amazon.ca website to migrate my account back to Amazon.com – thank you very much Naveen! I have brand new issues of Analog and F&SF on my Kindle, and I’ll be starting a subscription to Asimov’s as soon as they get a new issue out. (The issue that’s currently up on Amazon.com is the same one that Sheila was handing out for free back at Odyssey, so I thought I could read that in print and wait a month.)

Thank you very much for pushing me to try again Elizabeth!

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Some random Ebook musings.

May 10, 2012

I was a fairly early adopter when it came to the idea of ebooks. In the winter of 2003 I ordered a Palm PDA off the Dell Canada website, and it came pre-loaded with Palm Reader and a link to their website. I checked it out, and ordered my first few books – copies of fantasy novels that I’d read from the library but didn’t have print copies of, and installments of spinoff paperbacks like Roswell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

That site, and other digital gadgets that I added to my collection, led me to other ebook vendor sites – the Simon & Schuster online webstore, Fictionwise.com, and ebooks.com . I heard about the Kindle and other dedicated ebook readers with lots of great features and bigger selections of books, but for a while those didn’t appear to be available in Canada. Finally, I got my Kindle delivered once Amazon started offering some kind of international sales and service for Kindle ebooks, and I haven’t regretted it.

Over the past few years, readers like Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and smartphones and tablets have changed the ebook marketplace a lot. Some vendors have kept up reasonably well. Ebooks.com has their own iphone app that lets me download and read books that I originally ordered in mobipocket or Microsoft reader format, and read them anywhere I have the phone.

Palm reader is now Ereader.com, and they didn’t have much trouble adding iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others to the list of devices supporting their own proprietary format. Though I wasn’t impressed by their attempt to make a native linux version, probably because it was badly back-ported from the iphone version to devices that need a very different user interface. Fictionwise is still making a priority of selling books and stories DRM-free and offering as many different formats as humanly possible, which is a great approach.

But some formats have failed, and some vendors have had issues in keeping up with the technology. The Simon and Schuster e-store, unfortunately, seems to be in this category. I bought a lot of ebooks from them, mostly ‘Pocket Books’ paperbacks from franchises like Star Trek, Charmed, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and some of them were bought in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Reader format – with digital rights management technology to prevent piracy.

Yes, some will say, I should have known better.

The Adobe PDF DRM authentication servers appear to have been offlined years ago, as they moved on towards ‘Adobe Digital Editions’ and their ePub standard – though I still have a few devices that have kept their authentication codes and can read the books. Microsoft has said that it will discontinue support of Microsoft Reader in August of this year – but when I had to hard-reset my HP pocket PC a month and a half ago, I found no way to re-authenticate it again.

Simon and Schuster still has my account active, and apparently tried to migrate my books to Adobe Digital Editions, but apparently couldn’t get them all in that format for whatever reasons, and some of the books that they say they have are still stuck in technical difficulties – a few won’t download at all, and more than a dozen of the ones that I downloaded can’t be transferred to another device with the same Adobe ID – which means I can’t read them on the iPhone through Bluefire, (which is a nifty little ADE-compliant ePub reader program.)

I don’t have a problem with DRM in the concept. But when a failure in the system means that I’m not able to read the books that I bought, then the theory isn’t working out in practice. It makes me want to go out and crack the DRM files just out of spite.


A rewrite too big for June

June 14, 2011

Createspace, an on-demand publishing website owned by Amazon, is one of the big corporate sponsors of National Novel Writing Month. For the past few years, they’ve run a promotion whereby all recognized winners of the 100-page Nanowrimo challenge get a coupon code free for one free printed ‘proof book’, including shipping.

I’ve gotten two of my manuscripts printed out for free with Createspace, and it’s really cool to see my own words professionally bound and all that. I’ve been planning for what to do with the coupon code I got with last year’s Nano win, and I was planning to do a quick rewrite of my 2009 Nano-manuscript, “Won’t somebody think of the children?” and send it off before the June 30th deadline.

There’s just one problem with that. As I get into ‘Children’, I get the sense that I won’t be at all satisfied with a quick rewrite. There’s some great material in the current draft, but also one big problem that keeps coming up, and it’s an old problem for writers.

My main character, Tom, is telling the readers about a lot of stuff that’s happened. I’m not showing the reader enough. (I told you it was an old problem.)

So, after thinking about this a bit, I don’t think I’m going to send in anything ‘Children’-related for Createspace this year. I’m leaning towards putting together a collection of shorter fiction.

It’s a bit disappointing that I won’t have ‘Children’ in proof copy this summer, but that’s probably better than getting a printed bound copy that I look at and think “This isn’t nearly as good as what I did with it next” or worse, “This isn’t nearly as good as what I want to do with it.”


So many great storytellers…

December 24, 2010

This isn’t a particularly uplifting holiday thought for Christmas eve, but – sometimes doing critiques for other writers can be very personally discouraging. Because most of them are so good.

I keep thinking that I shouldn’t feel that way, that it should be incredible how many interesting stories are being told, but… in terms of my goals of becoming a famous, published, or notable author, it can be depressing to stand in a huge crowd, and not be able to turn in any direction without seeing somebody who looks just about as talented as me, as far as I can tell. There can’t be enough room for all of us in the bookstores, can there? There just might be enough room on Amazon for all of us, but how many people would keep searching that long?

I’m going to stop this ramble early, or I’ll just bum myself out even more. Happy Christmas to us all, and goodnight! May whoever you believe in provide good loot under the Christmas tree.


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