Tuesday 28 May 2019

Want to Read/Listen to Unlimited Books/Audiobooks, Free for 60 Days?

If you can't get Kindle Unlimited where you live, or you find Audible too expensive, you might be interested to know that Scribd lets you read/listen to as many books/audiobooks as you want for $8.99 per month.

Normally, you'd get 30 days to try it out, but if you use my affiliate link, you'll get 60 days instead (and I'll get 30 days for referring you, whether you end up paying or not, so help a fella out, will ya?)

What is Scribd?

In case you didn't know, Scribd is a subscription reading service. It's similar to Kindle Unlimited, only it's available in more regions, and unlike Amazon's counterpart, it doesn't require authors/publishers to make their books exclusive to Scribd (if you want to know more about that, read my post on Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited).

What is Kindle Unlimited?

If you don't know what Kindle Unlimited is, either, it's very similar to something like Netflix for movies and TV shows, or a music streaming service like Spotify or Google Play Music: you pay a flat monthly fee, and you can read as much as you like. There's no time limit for reading a book, and there's no limit to how many books you can be reading at a time. And you can stop reading a book if you decide it's not for you, and start a new one, etc. Authors/publishers earn royalties when you read their books.

You can read the books on their website, and/or you can install their app on your phone and/or tablet, and everything will sync up, so if you read a bit on the website, then switch to your phone, you'll be able to pick up exactly where you left off on the other device.

Tell Me More...

Scribd costs $8.99 per month, and normally they give you 30 days free to try it out. But if you use the link I put in this blog post, you get 60 days free instead (and I get a free month for referring you).

Sadly, you do need to put in your credit card details to sign up, but I can tell you they really don't charge your card before your trial is up. And you can cancel before then, and it'll never be charged.

By the way, if you're into audiobooks, they've got those, too.

Note: It is very important that you use my affiliate link to sign up. If you just go to the website and click the "Sign up" link, you'll get a 30-day trial, but using my link, you'll get 60 instead.

Psst! My books are all available on Scribd, so please read them if you do decide to sign up. ;-)

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Significant Changes on my Website. Go Take a Look!

I took some time over the past few weeks to work on my website a little. I fixed some niggly issues that have been bothering me for a while now, and also added a cool scrolling books "carousel" on the top of most pages.

Being a software developer, I find it really freeing that I can code my website completely from scratch. Most authors just use a Content Management System like Wordpress, but the advantages of doing it my way are that a) I don't have to fight with what's available in Wordpress to achieve what I want, and b) there's no code on my site that I didn't put there.

If you've never visited my website, I urge you to take a look. Here are the changes (I'm specifically not including screenshots - you'll have to go look for yourself):

Collapsible Menu on Mobile

If you browse the site from your desktop computer, there's a menu bar at the top. It has few enough items that they all fit on a screen. However, if you'd visited it from a mobile phone before, you would have noticed that this menu was always displayed, and "wrapped down" to take up half of your vertical screen.

This has now been fixed - you now see the traditional "Hamburger" button at the top-right of the screen, and you can click it on your mobile phone to expand or collapse the menu.

Link to Privacy Policy on Mobile

Another thing you've undoubtedly noticed, if you've ever browsed the site from a mobile device, is that the "Sharing Buttons" are docked to the bottom of the screen. But at the very end of all pages, there's a link to read the Privacy Policy. The problem was, on mobile, you could never see that link because the sharing buttons covered it.

Also fixed: the sharing buttons are still docked to the bottom, but now there's enough space after the last paragraph for you to be able to read it on mobile.

Scrolling Books "Carousel"

This one's a little different. If you've ever browsed the site from a tablet, or your desktop or laptop, you would have noticed a scrolling "slideshow" of my books docked to the top of every page.  It wasn't visible on a mobile phone, because the slides were too big to be practical on such a small screen.

I completely ripped it out. Aside from it not being visible on a mobile phone, each slide only showed a single book, so there was a lot of wasted space.

It's been replaced with a list of book covers that you can click/touch and drag, to scroll through all the books I've written. It looks way more modern, and it looks just fine on a phone, too.

I hope you appreciate all these changes... especially this last one, which I personally think is really cool! :-)

To visit my website and see them for yourself, click here.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Why I Will No Longer Buy Books From Amazon, If They're in KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited

The other week, I mentioned on a readers' group on Facebook, that I'd be cleaning out my Goodreads to-read shelf, and (among other things) removing all books that were in KDP Select.

I got into a bit of hot water over that, with people wanting to know why. I don't mention it that often on my blog (most recently, I alluded to it in the post Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited), but if you follow me elsewhere on social media, or we share any mutual Facebook groups, you might know that Amazon exclusivity is something I whine about often. It's time I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.

What is Amazon Exclusivity?

In order to fully understand my reasoning, it's necessary that you understand a little thing called KDP Select. Unless you're an author, you've probably never heard of it, so let me explain:

When an author uploads their book onto Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform, they get asked if they want to enrol in something called "KDP Select". If they choose to do this, Amazon gives them certain perks, like higher royalty rates, certain marketing and promotional opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be available, and the option to have their books in Kindle Unlimited (Being in KDP Select is the only way for a self-published author's books to get into Kindle Unlimited).

In exchange for this, Amazon requires that that author's ebooks not be available anywhere else. No other retailers, no digital libraries, and certainly not the author's own website. The author isn't allowed to give their ebooks away, either as prizes for contests or as incentives for signing up for newsletters, etc. And Amazon enforces this policy strictly - in fact, they've been known to ban authors in KDP Select because they happened to find one of those books available for download on a pirate site!

Some authors have no problem with this arrangement, and indeed, it can be very lucrative. The higher royalties from sales, and the additional income from people reading their books on Kindle Unlimited, often more than makes up for the lost royalties at the other stores.

The Problem With Amazon Exclusivity

But there's more to this story, and I personally believe that authors who enrol in KDP Select make a conscious decision to put their own selfish, short-term success ahead of the long-term success of the ebook industry in general.

You see, every ebook that's exclusively available at Amazon is another nail in the coffin of every other retailer out there, struggling to stay afloat. Retailers who suddenly aren't allowed to stock that book. This isn't hyperbole: you might have never heard of Sony E-Books, Diesel E-Books, 'txtr, Oyster, or Flipkart E-Books. These were international e-book retailers who went out of business, and whose demise can be directly linked to them being simply unable to compete with Amazon.

And, of course, those companies had employees who found themselves out of work. And those employees had families who found themselves unable to eat, or who lost their homes. Isn't a little bit of social responsibility called for, here?

Why Would Authors Do Such a Thing?

Now, I understand why authors enrol their books in KDP Select. Maybe for some of them, it seems like a no-brainer. It's certainly lucrative, and plenty of authors make buckets and buckets of money off Amazon, and never consider anyone else. At least, the promise is the potential to make buckets and buckets of money by having their books in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, even if few authors ever actually achieve that.

But, as I mentioned in my Alternatives to Kindle Unlimited article, what about those people who don't have access to Amazon (either because of technical restrictions because of where they live, or because they can't afford to buy books)?

But it works for these authors because we readers have created a situation where it works. Those of us with access to Amazon will automatically go straight there to search for books. If Kindle Unlimited is available where we live, we're going to subscribe to it, because why not? We just don't care about all those other companies struggling to make ends meet. And I have this vision in my head of Amazon laughing maniacally at their fates.

How Can You Help?

I'm not saying don't buy books from Amazon. I'll still buy books from Amazon, if they offer me the best deal on any given ebook. I'm saying you should certainly shop around first, and check what the book's price is on Kobo, or Google Play, or (for self-published books) Smashwords... and if a book's not available on those platforms, think twice about buying it because the chances are high that Amazon isn't allowing them to make it available.

And if you want to sign up for a subscription reading service, use an alternative to Kindle Unlimited, knowing that the books in Kindle Unlimited have been paid for in blood - the blood of all those people and their families who work for Scribd. Or 24Symbols. Or Playster.

Lastly, if this article has moved you, please spread the word. Share it widely on your social media platforms, email it to people, and discuss it with your book-buying friends. I've even met some people who actually had no idea there even were alternatives to Amazon, when it comes to buying ebooks. If you were one of those people, prior to reading this article, then I sincerely hope you've found it enlightening. Please share that enlightenment with others.

Tuesday 7 May 2019

How to Get Books Purchased from Smashwords onto Your Kindle

So you have a Kindle, and you've just bought a book from Smashwords (Or perhaps downloaded it from Prolific Works or some other site). As per the Smashwords instructions, you've downloaded it in mobi format, and now you need to get it onto your Amazon Kindle device.

This is also known as "sideloading", and the easiest way I've found is to use your Kindle's unique email address, and send it to your device that way. Here's how to do it.

(Disclaimer: I personally don't have a physical Kindle device. I only have the Kindle app, installed on my tablet and phone. These instructions should still work, however; if you have a physical Kindle, and know of a better way, please let me know in the comments below.)

First, you need to download the mobi file onto your computer.

Then, visit the Amazon website from your computer. Sign in, if you have not already done so:

Hover over "Accounts & Lists", on the right-hand side, below your name. This will pop up a menu. Then click "Your Content and Devices":

Click on the "Devices" tab, and your Kindle should be displayed in the list:

I have a few listed here because I happen to have several apps installed on several different devices. Depending on your setup, you might only have one. Find your Kindle and click on the ellipsis button ("...") to the left of it. This will pop out a panel with all the details of that device:

Look at the line that says Email. That's your Kindle's own personal email address. Open your favourite email client and email your mobi file to that address.

After it's sent, wait a few minutes and refresh your library on your Kindle. Your book should appear. It'll also show up under the "Content" tab of "Your Content and Devices" on the Amazon website.