Friday, June 19, 2015

"Free" Books on Readers: Not Such a Deal for Me

Recently, I managed to wrack up a $30 Kindle book bill one month buying books priced at $3 or less. Now, $30 isn't huge in the grand scheme of things — I can spend that on a single printed book (sans latte) at a full-price bookstore. However, I am always looking for a great deal, so I reviewed my Kindle and Amazon reading and borrowing privileges.

I noticed some of my recent inexpensive buys were Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Prime books, which meant I could read them for free (with some restrictions).

Kindle Prime members are Kindle owners who may borrow a single book each month from a select list. Kindle Unlimited permitted readers to borrow, for a fee, an unlimited number of books each month from a select list. Between the two, I could read for three months on what I spent in a single month.

But was it really a deal? Were the books I wanted to read Unlimited to me?

The short answer: no.

The long answer: none of the 130 books on my Amazon book wish list are Unlimited.

My wish list skews toward popular fiction and non-fiction (at least, that's where I found them when I listed them). If I was paying a monthly fee to read e-books, I'd want access to books I would buy to read.

I checked for Kindle Prime books on my wish list and found the same: not a single one.

Now, to be fair, Kindle Prime borrowing books don't always display on non-Kindle devices, and I searched on a laptop computer browser. Perhaps the same is true of Unlimited books as well.

Typically, I do not shop on my Kindle, so it's not helpful to me if books are accurately tagged as Unlimited or Prime only when viewed on Kindle. I would prefer Amazon tantalize me with Prime and Unlimited books across all platforms — and perhaps lure e-reader enthusiasts to purchase a Kindle reader. (Amazon, please take note.)

Long story short, I am not subscribing or investing in Kindle book borrowing or subscription programs beyond what I already have. I have been spending a lot of time reading e-books lately, and I am weary of a few Kindle features that highlight an e-reader's limitations. I am tired of my Kindle telling me it's low on power. (That's my job, to be low on power.) I don't like having to use a sliding bar to skip around a book, and I haven't mastered the "jump to bookmark" feature. "Added features" such as first chapters of new books show as part of the book I'm reading, so I can finish a book but still show a few percent of the book left to read.

Having said that, I am not going to abandon e-readers completely: my Kindle gives me more than a hundred books at my fingertips, and I am grateful for that, especially when I travel.

However, I would prefer Amazon expand its subscription programs to include more of the books I want to read. I'd consider a subscription if the catalog was worthy.

What do you read on? Have you traveled cross-platform, and do you have a preference?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Station Eleven

It comes out of nowhere and takes the world by surprise, a new virus with a near-total mortality rate. What it does to humanity is devastating. What humanity does in its aftermath is fascinating.
In Station Eleven, watch the world through the eyes of people with connection to a single person: the world-famous Arthur Leland. Each has experiences that, when woven together, tell a fascinating, riveting story about hope and loss, love and fear.

This isn't a "science fiction" book beyond the idea that it's futuristic and involves the end of the world as we know it. It's the story of people trying to live in a world that is strange, cruel and beautiful. Emily St. John Mandel chooses an interesting, comprehensive cast of characters through which to see this new world, and it was amazing to watch the threads slowly create one of the most interesting, gorgeous designs I've seen in a while.

Much like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Mandel doesn’t try to tell the story of the plague on society beyond what the characters can tell us. I prefer it that way: the omnipotent narrator isn’t always welcome when a story can be told better in small ways. It’s the “a-ha” moments, the hints and ideas that slowly take shape, that are the strength of books told in such individualistic ways. I thought the connections wrought for the title were too thin, but it didn’t change the quality of the story or the value of the characters.

After you finish the book, be ready to spend an inordinate amount of time examining how you use the tools of your life and whether you could thrive in the post-flu world. And become determined that in the future, you will dedicate yourself to print media. Just sayin'.

This beats Alanis Morrisette's definition of irony: I read Station Eleven on my Kindle.