The Fire This Time

My place of work recently ordered some new e-readers and tablets for staff to use. I had the opportunity to take a Kindle Fire home for the weekend to play around with it and see how it works. After a couple of days using it, here are my impressions.

As an e-reader, it’s pretty sweet. It’s got a nice interface with really fast, accurate touch response. As long as backlit reading doesn’t bother you, e-books and PDFs look really nice and crisp. The 7″ size is comfortable and handy, and with a case on it, it feels like you’re carrying a book or Moleskine journal around, which I like a lot. I was disappointed when calibre wouldn’t recognize it, although I assume it’s because the Fire is so new. On the other hand, it was easy to connect the Fire to my laptop through a USB cord and transfer e-books and PDFs from my laptop to the Fire.

But the Fire isn’t just being promoted as an e-reader, it’s Amazon’s entry into the tablet field, and as a tablet, it falls short of what I would want. There’s no camera, for one thing. Also, while it’s an Android tablet, Amazon does it’s level best to push you to the Amazon App Store instead of the Android App Store. I was only able to get to the Android App store by going through the web browser, but when I tried to search the Android App Store, the Fire would instead search the Amazon App Store. Obvious it’s an Amazon product, so it’s no surprise they want you to use the Amazon App Store, but…it’s still frustrating for what’s essentially an Android tablet. The web browser, Silk, isn’t bad. It’s no Dolphin (or Chrome or Firefox), but it’s perfectly serviceable.

If you want an amped-up e-reader, I think the Kindle Fire is pretty cool. But as a fully functioning tablet, it think it leaves a lot to be desired.

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The e-Book User’s Bill of Rights

After last week’s announcement that publisher HarperCollins is putting a cap on the number of times their e-books can be checked out from OverDrive, I’ve been even angrier than I usually am about the way publishers and distributors screw consumers and users of the rights they have with non-digital content. One of the main reasons why I don’t think e-books will make bound books obsolete any time soon is because bound books are so much freer in use than e-books. You can’t use e-books on whatever device you want without using some third-party software (and sometimes circumventing DRM). You can’t lend e-books for however long you’d like. You can’t resell or donate e-books. In many cases, you don’t even really own e-books, you just pay for the licensing to read them.

So I was very happy to read Sarah Houghton-Jan‘s post this morning of an e-book user’s bill of rights she created with Andy Woodward. I don’t think this bill of rights is the end of the discussion, but the beginning. Luckily, she’s released it into the public domain, so I’ll reprint the entire blog post (as she’s asked people to) and hope the discussion continues. Libraries and e-book users can’t just shut up and take what corporations are offering. We have to fight against this money-grubbing insanity.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

 

Kindling

My mother bought herself a new Kindle for Christmas and passed her Kindle 2 along to me. I have some pretty major problems with e-books, but I’m generally not one to turn down a gift, so here I am with a Kindle.

I read my first book on the Kindle recently. I have to admit, it was a pretty great experience all around. The Kindle is lightweight and small enough that it’s really nice to carry around. It’s also nice having a device with a bunch of books on it. It’s nice to be able to hold the Kindle and turn pages with one hand. The text size and display is really good, too. Overall, I’m glad to use the Kindle.

That being said, there are things I can’t do with the Kindle that I often do with books, like quickly flip back and forth between widely-separated pages. There’s also the question of DRM. I absolutely refuse to put anything with DRM on my Kindle. I can remove DRM from books I buy from the Kindle store, but I’m not very happy giving Amazon money for products with DRM, even if I end up removing it. Still, there are a lot of free (and DRM-free) books out there to keep me reading for a while.

So it turns out I’m pro-electronic reading device and pro-digital book, although I think we’re a long, long way off from e-books actually replacing bound books.