January 6, 2012

More Kindled Excitement

(Click for larger)
Buon giorno. In our last exciting episode, I was going on about how excited I was to have a Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display e-book reader. I must repeat, however, that I have no experience with any of the other readers on the market. They're probably just fine. Another thing I should repeat is that I am getting nothing, in any way, for endorsing products and services. This is just another public service from Stormbringer Productions, capice?

Speaking of public service, I wanted to make my Weblogs available for Kindle. It turns out that I cannot just give them away on there, people will have to pay to subscribe to them (just like with other Weblogs sent to Amazon). Not much, but my content is to remain free. So no, you have to read them in the usual ways.

Amazon is somewhat proprietary in that they sell books primarily in their own AMZ format rather than the much more popular ePub format. It also reads PDF to some extent, and also Mobi. They may add ePub functionality in the future. All of these formats have computer reader software available (most likely, you already have Adobe Acrobat Reader for those PDF files floating around all over the place), and it is free. There are also apps available for "smart phones" and things to read these files.

Electronic products (as well as software) change rapidly. At this writing, however, Kindle is the most friendly to Wi-Fi document delivery.

Here is where I found things to get exciting. The two fun bits I'm about to discuss are not difficult to do. They make more sense and are a bit easier if you pay attention, are familiar with your Kindle account, and are willing to follow directions (unlike some people I can name). One fundamental instruction common to both involves adding the names to the "Approved" list your Kindle's "Personal Document" settings.

I am writing this as a Firefox user, though you can go to the sites (linked below) to get instructions for other browsers.

The first item that I found was "Kindle It". This simple add-on gives you the options of firing off a Web page straight to your Kindle, or directly saving the Web page as ePub or Mobi. You can share these documents with other people, Kindle users or not, since they can download readers for their computers and things. The junk is stripped out, so you only have the real article. Just for giggles, I made my previous Kindle article available for e-book download, Mobi (for Kindle) is here and ePub is here. I'm thinking of adding a download section to Piltdown Superman so people can grab the articles I've linked, since they have URLs and full attribution.
Just before sending. Note the download options. No, your copy is not reversed out. Original here. (Click for larger image)

The second fun add-on that I found is "SENDtoREADER". Yeah, obnoxious looking writing, I know, but it really stands out on your toolbar. Also, their site is far more attractive that these words imply. There are several services available, but I'm focusing on just one of the free ones now (you can check out sending material from Google Reader and subscribing to  RSS feeds for yourself). Once you sign up for a free account there, you tell Kindle to accept e-mail from them (like I explained for the "Kindle It" add-on, above) and get a "bookmarklet" for your browser. Or, you can get an add-on, if you dislike bookmarklets. My test run with the bookmarklet went exceptionally well, with the content actually showing up on my Kindle before Amazon sent me an e-mail saying it was on its way! Like "Kindle It", the junk is pretty much stripped away, and you only get the article you want. (Check the bottom of this article for screen shots.)

One of the main reasons I got the Kindle was to reduce eye strain, since I spend a great deal of time in front of monitors every day. Sending a Web page or an article to the Kindle is a great thing! Sure, some of the formatting suffers, but I don't care.

By the way, the Web page articles are not space hogs. For that matter, books themselves are not likely to clutter your storage. I have a Bible that is 12 megs, but Ben-Hur is less than half a meg. Another Bible is about a half a meg, too.

And now...

How about a way to manage and convert (non-DRM) books between formats — for free? I highly recommend Calibre. It's Open Source, too. If you watch the introductory video, and you're at all like me, you'll be chomping at the bit to get it downloaded and running. (NOTE: Calibre is not just for Kindle!)

Like I said, Calibre will manage your e-books, and convert between formats (as long as they're not "protected"). You can also subscribe to various periodicals, find e-books, share your (unprotected) content, e-mail your books and things to your Kindle, arrange your library in many ways, transfer your content directly to your e-book reader when it's connected to your computer, get DRM-free e-books — all sorts of fun things. I have scratched the surface on Calibre's capabilities, but I'm pleased with what I've learned. 

Speaking of learning, there are forums for that, and plug-ins for the technologically inclined.

Although I bought the Kindle for reduced eye strain, portability, accessibility and the like, these other items make it into an invaluable tool. And I feel like I have some control over it.

Now I should check out how to make and self-publish my own e-book. Stormbringer's Thunder, the Digital Edition has a nice ring to it. Arrivederci, baby! Oh, and the screen shot I promised earlier:


SENDtoREADER, sent to Kindle, moved to Calibre Reader. (Click for larger)

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