Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Virtual Library

I recently mentioned on  my blog that on holiday I loaned my wife my Kindle to use as a reading device (in lieu of her trusty iPad) while I used my new Google Nexus 7 for reading on.  I carried both devices plus a netbook in the ancillary pouch of my camera backpack as my carry on baggage - the compact size of both devices plus the PC meant I could carry all the tech gear on the flight.

Just before the holiday I downloaded a pile of books for my wife - our reading habits sometimes overlap, but  often we prefer to read different genres, just like any normal married couple, I guess.  It was this activity that made me think about the Amazon method of working, although it seems that Apple and probably all other digital content sellers share the method in some way.

If you've read my blog previously you'll probably recognise that I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. One one hand I'm incredibly grateful Amazon made self publishing a reality.  Even if I hadn't had a trio of novels that I'd written when I got my Kindle, the whole eBook reading thing they opened up to me was a truly revealing road trip I'm enjoying enormously.  So much for the love part.

The hate part is probably too strong a word.  I realised very quickly that Amazon don't actually give a stuff about the books they upload - they insist on some low level formatting standards and do provide assistance in the creation of the books, but hang around Amazon long enough and you soon realise that they exist only to make money.  More than that, they don't care if your books sell or not - I guess most authors who upload to Amazon will pay to download a copy to their Kindle if only to confirm it works but more likely as a mini ego trip.  Been there, done that.  Smashwords, on the other hand, let you download your eBooks for free so you can check how it looks in the real world.  In fact, they encourage it.

Why would Amazon not care if they are all about making money?  Well, in reality, the storage of your book is trivial in cost terms and for every thousand eBooks that never sell a copy there's always going to be the odd Fifty Shades to compensate.  Plus, as Kindle ownership broadens, there's the impact on friends and family downloading books of their nearest and dearest out of loyalty.  By the way, unless the author sets a relatively high price for his or her book ($2.99 or higher) then Amazon hang on to 65% of your payment.  Compare that to the likes of Sony, Apple, B&N etc who typically pass 60% of the purchase price back to the author, regardless of the price.  If you really want the author to benefit from your purchase (and don't forget that in the self publication world, it is the author who will have done virtually all of the work or would have paid someone themselves) then consider buying from Smashwords, who pass 85% to the author.

But this is all an aside, really.  Because one thing that Amazon do really well (and yes, I do know other eBook sellers do this too) is that they allow you to have multiple devices linked to your account.  For that you need one email address and one credit card.  Actually, they'll take any number of credit cards to be fair, it's money after all.  But one unique email address. I personally have two Kindles lodged to my account (because we sent one back), an android phone, my Nexus and two laptops.  I can select which books to download to each device so the list I see is different on each device. I bet if you polled a number of couples with Amazon accounts you'll find that they have their own personal accounts lodged with Amazon, and that seems a very natural thing to do.  Until you look around your own home.

Most of us still have legacy bookshelves.  We'll have them for years, long after we've bought our last print book, probably until we remodel the rooms they're stacked up in.  And I guess that's what Amazon want.

What hit me on the holiday is that in the apartment we stayed in, an apartment owned by friends, is that they had left bookshelves of books for visitors to read.  Hard to do with Amazon's business model.  But here's an alternative method.  It probably isn't of use to anyone who has been sucked into Amazon's Kindle model, unless anyone out there knows how to use multiple accounts on Amazon.  But it may be worth thinking about by those people about to dip their toes in the Amazon eBook pool.

Instead of linking to your existing Amazon account, which is the most logical, sensible thing to most of us, but instead create a new account, using an email account that is shared by your family and using a credit or debit card that isn't currently used by Amazon. Obviously there needs to be a personal evaluation of the integrity of the people you share this information with (so the kids are out) and it almost certainly breaches Amazon's policies (which I don't care about) and probably the credit/debit card provider's policies (which I care about if I get caught/burned).  An alternative is to buy Amazon gift vouchers and lodge them with this family account - no abuse of the shared credit card there.  What you end up with is a family bookshelf, one you can share in the same way you can share print books with your family.  Like a bookshelf, really.

It may seem to be a little convoluted way to buy and read books, but probably is the way forward until we all have cloud spaces all the family can access where we can upload eBooks to, which is the place I suspect we'll be at sooner than we realise.


Why not take a look at my books and read up on my Biog here

Want to see what B L O'Feld is up to?  Take a look at his website here

Worried/Interested in the secretive world of DLFs?  Take a look at this website dedicated to DLFs here, if you dare!

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