Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Kindle for the Aspiring Romance Author

It was with trembling hands and huge excitement that I unwrapped my a large square Christmas present three days ago to find the graphite beauty that is my very own Kindle lying inside. I have long been curious about the Kindle and desirous of possessing one so it is arrival coincided with an avalanche of brownie points for my husband for his good taste. I immediately got stuck into browsing the Kindle Store and quickly downloaded my first Kindle book (Mary Jo Putney's The Wild Child).

Now, I am not a tech-head so I won't go into detail on how comfortable Kindle is to hold, or how it is easy on the eye and downloads at the speed of light. There are lots of places on the internet where reviews of that nature can be found.

I am more interested in working out how Kindle slots into my life and more importantly, my library. Will I be filling it with Georgette Heyer's (like my book shelves) and downloading the whole of my amazon wishlist?

The answer is... no. My amazon wishlist comprises books such as The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson and Sisters of Fortune - in other words, lots of biographies of 18th and 19th century women, explorers and adventurers. Sadly the Kindle Store seems rather thin on that sort of content. Furthermore, there aren't huge cost savings on the type of fiction I like to read. A Dorothy Dunnett for example, will set you back £14.99 on Kindle but can be picked up for £3.50 in the Amazon marketplace.

I pondered and scratched my head and then stumbled across the beauty that is free books. The Kindle Store has a ton of free books available for download. Pretty much any classic you care to think of - the Complete Works of Jane Austen; the Brontes. Those that aren't free are offered at negligible cost - £0.74 in many cases. Furthermore, once they are on your Kindle they are searchable. Want to find a reference to - for example - gold? You can search your world, browsing all your library in an instant.

The real gem for me, though, has been in the sheer volume of primary source material available online in Kindle compatible format. The truly genius idea that is Project Gutenberg (hats off to the volunteers there) offers more than 33,000 volumes online, much of which is 18th or 19th century literature and primary source material. Memoirs and observations from the likes of Charles Greville, Captain Gronow and the Marquise de Montespan can all be downloaded in an instant and for free, making for the most wonderful repository of material for anyone interested in that period. Some of the titles which can be found in the Kindle store or on other Kindle compatible sites are out of print, making them all the more precious. Another great site is The Internet Archive on which I did actually find The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson. One word of caution though - many books which are free on Amazon USA store are not on the UK store, which is somewhat disappointing.

I have also fallen in love with the opportunity Kindle provides to sample books before I buy them. Instead of having to assess whether I want a book from the synposis and the opinion of other reviewers, I can try a couple of chapters and see whether it is actually what I'm looking for. Lots of books are offered by Amazon for free (often on a time limited basis), which means it is possible to sample new authors allowing for a lot more experimentation and potentially some interesting avenues of reading. I've just finished one such freebie which was the first novel by Cheryl Brooks, which I enjoyed enough for me to keep an eye out for her in the future.

I also love Kindle's integration with the world of forums, blogging and twitter. It's interesting to see what's hovering up the bestseller lists with huge numbers of downloads - often not what you would expect. I was interested to see just how popular the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is: more than 5,000 downloads from Project Gutenberg to date. Clearly I am not the only one interested in knowing an addlepate from an arbor vitae.

I am looking forward to many more adventures with my Kindle - a complement rather than a replacement for my print library, but no less wondrous for all of that.

Useful Links:

Kindle Users Forum: for tips, discussions and a heads up on the latest freebies from Amazon

Project Gutenberg: for more than 33,000 free books and other resources. The website is supported by donations.

The Internet Archive: for a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form, free for researchers, scholars and the general public. The website is a registered charity.

Feedbooks: for original books and free public domain books. This is a reviewed site on the Kindle User Forum.

E-books re-write bookselling: an article on the Wall Street Journal on the impact of e-books and readers like Kindle on publishing companies.

Idea Logical: a blog on the future of the e-publishing industry

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