Apple vs Amazon in the fight for updating rights

One of the appeals of writing books exclusively in a digital format is that if you need to update your book, it should be simple. Whether it be for a mistake, or additional information, or simply a bigger and better second edition, ebooks are perfect for updating. Rather than printing a huge batch of paperback or hard copy books then realising you’ve made an error, it should be easy to fix and avoid that heart-sinking moment of discovery.

Round in circles

It should work that way, but up until this point, it really hasn’t. When I published the 2012 Season Preview earlier this year, there were a few tweaks that needed to be made almost immediately. Nothing major, just a couple of typos and a table that wasn’t looking right. I published the book via Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple’s iBookstore, and both processes were completely hideous.

The first problem came because Apple take so long to approve the book that we were ready to do an update before they had published the Preview to the store. It takes an age to get things approved for the iBookstore, and when it did finally appear, I ended up in a circular email conversation with a friendly but ultimately unhelpful helpdesk representative. It was a frustrating experience that led to the conclusion that the lower number of sales via the iBookstore was not worth the hassle of trying to deal with the admin.

Amazon won the battle, then, but only slightly. It was much easier to submit an update to the book (which had been published almost immediately), and there were only a dozen or so people who managed to get their hands on the first edition. Trying to get an update pushed out to those existing owners wasn’t easy, despite giving all the information across to Amazon as requested. They said it should appear in the Manage my Kindle section for those that want to update – but it didn’t.

So updating should be easy, and it isn’t. Or, at least, it hasn’t been up until now.

Forward motion

Apple’s recent announcement has stirred enthusiasm for the iBookstore again, with the ability to push updates to customers without any hassle at all. It still takes an age to get the book approved in the first place, but once it is there, you can replace it with updated versions as often and as seamlessly as you would like. The updates show up just as any app update would – with an alert to let you know a download is available.

The only question mark over it is what happens to all your bookmarks. The reason Amazon are so circumspect in updating books is that they require express permission from the user to go in and download a new version, wiping all their highlights and notes. Apple say they will migrate the highlights and extras forward where possible, but this is probably one of those “mileage may vary” things.

So, from far behind, from frustrations that saw me call an end to my books on the iBookstore, Apple have jumped ahead again with this new ability to update. The competition for ebook domination is pushing innovation and improvements from both parties, and that can only be a good thing!

New Kindle update gives you more book for your buck

When the Kindle Fire initially came out, we saw ebooks the way they should be – nice layouts, gorgeous pictures, crisper graphics. The fact-filled and informative Pocket F1 book made use of the new table designs and looked all the better for it.

Sadly, the Kindle desktop apps and the original devices were left behind with less snazzy tables, but that has all changed thanks to Amazon’s latest Kindle update. The new version (4.1.0) should be rolling out to customers gradually, or you can head to that link and update manually if you’re tricksy like that.

The upgraded features include:

  • Improved reading font that is higher contrast and crisper
  • Parental Controls that allow you to restrict access
  • Dictionaries grouped into a collection in Home and Archived Items
And the one that is most important to us:
  • Support for books with complex layouts and formats with Kindle Format 8.

Granted, I wouldn’t call a table a particularly complex layout, but nevertheless, the new version allows it to look ever so pretty. To get the most out of your Pocket F1 Handbook, you’ll need to remove it from the device and re-download from the archive, but what wonders will await you once you do.

It’s not every day your book can disappear and return in seconds, all spruced up and fancy for no cost at all!

Kindle Stores launched in Italy and Spain

A few days ago, Amazon announced two brand new stores for Kindle, bringing the total up to six individual destinations now. The two new countries added are Italy and Spain, via and All three of my books are currently available in both, with any searches bringing up the results with Euro currency.

The two news stores join the recently introduced French site, along with the already existing US, UK and German stores.

A week or two with my first Kindle

This is a review of my first couple of weeks using one of the new line of Kindles – my first Kindle. The review was originally posted on, but is relevant here as well.

When Amazon announced their new line of products – ereaders and tablets all – we decided it was about time we became a Kindle-owning household. I’ve never really been fussed about the Kindle really, settling for the gazillion apps I have spread around the office. There’s never a time I’m very far from a book these days.

Still, the new range of products made them more enticing, and as a Kindle book writer, we sort of needed one for testing. That’s the excuse I’m going for, anyway.

The device arrived really quickly, well ahead of the shipping date suggested, and before we’d even had a chance to anticipate. It arrived in a box that clearly labelled it as a Kindle, which seems an odd thing to do. If all the parcels that travelled across countries were labelled up with what’s inside, I can’t see them all getting to their destinations.

Nevertheless, this one did arrive, and it was soon synced up and ready to go. We opted for the new Kindle, without 3G, and I was astounded at how small and light it was, without feeling insubstantial. I’ve never really had a problem with the weight of the iPad (1 or 2) but compared to the Kindle, they are positively gargantuan.

I quickly established that the device didn’t fit into my bedtime reading routine. It wasn’t comfortable to hold in bed and I found the page turn button uncomfortable to use. However, it has very quickly slipped into my weekday lunch hour routine, providing a solid chunk of reading every single day. I used to read at my previous office, but found it slightly awkward. I didn’t want to stare at my phone for an hour, because a) battery and b) appearances – I don’t want to look like I’m texting or whatever for an hour. I also didn’t want to bring the iPad because it just didn’t fit that office environment.

I think the same would be true here, but it is not a problem because I have the Kindle instead. The one thing that bringing it to work, and it mostly living in my bag, has shown me is that there really is a use for 3G. It’s not really a problem, but I can see how non-wifi syncing would make life a tiny bit easier. I’d never thought it was that necessary, but if I read something at home, I usually forget to update the Kindle before heading off to work. Now the concept has been proven to me, I’d be more likely to consider 3G next time.

And what of the device itself? As mentioned, it’s extremely light, very holdable, just the right size really. The e-ink screen is indescribable. It is some kind of magic. The text is clear but not too sharp, the background is dull but in a good way, and it really is just like reading a book. I can’t really find the words but I really do love it. My only real complaint is that the background feels just a bit too dark for me. You have to rely on natural light, of course, and black text on a grey background is ideal, but I’d rather the distinction was a bit better.

That’s a tiny complaint, though. Otherwise, the Kindle has slotted into my life as though it was always there, and has made reading at work a lot more fun. It’s a device I didn’t think I’d get a heap of use out of but always feel reluctant to put down.

Amazon launch French Kindle store

Amazon have launched a French Kindle store to go alongside their US, UK and German destinations. The new store allows Kindle users in France to purchase books from a dedicated .fr domain, rather than being redirected to their nearest store and purchasing in differing currencies.

Along with the store, Amazon also launched a French-language Kindle, so that users can buy and read books in either language.

You can find my three books on the French Kindle store here.

Reading 365 F1 Stories without a Kindle

Since writing my two-part F1 book and releasing it on Amazon as a Kindle ebook, many people have noted with disappointment that they don’t own a Kindle device. Yet one of Amazon’s best kept secrets is the many, many Kindle apps they have created offering the ability to read their ebook content on a variety of different devices. Even if you don’t possess a Kindle, you should still be able to read an ebook.

On the big screen

Amazon recently launched a cloud app, for reading within your web browser. It still syncs up with your account but you can read online, or download for offline reading, without needing any extra software. With the ability to browse your library, tweak reading settings to suit your style and highlight passages of specific books to share with others, or keep for yourself, it’s easy to create an atmosphere where you’ll enjoy reading and referencing books you have downloaded.

Try Kindle Cloud Reader

On an iDevice

One of the main ways I personally indulge in Kindle books is via the iPod and/or iPad. Amazon’s many-app policy means that everything syncs together, so it doesn’t matter which device you pick up, you’ll be able to find where you finished up reading last time and get started from there. The iPod is a particular favourite of mine, as it is useful to read at night – lightweight and backlit – or to carry around on errands (waiting for the dentist is the perfect time for a spot of reading).

Get the Kindle app

On the go

Amazon also offer apps to read books on Blackberry, Android or Windows phones. If you carry one of these in your pocket you can read and sync wherever you are. There are such a variety of these devices on the market it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which are optimised for reading and will be most comfortable to use, but there’s plenty of information on Amazon’s site and all the apps are free to download and test out.

Try Kindle on your phone

The iBookstore alternative

If you aren’t the biggest fan of Amazon, 365 F1 Stories is also available on the iBookstore. Available to read on iPhones, iPods and iPads, the books have great styling, and use a more modern ebook standard meaning some sections are enhanced. In particular, the Table of Contents is much better on iDevices, than its Kindle counterpart. You can purchase the books via iTunes and sync, or buy directly on the devices.

Buy from the iBookstore

Community service

Once you’ve found the app for you, ebook reading can be addictive. Since moving from paper, I read much more than I ever used to, and I love it. Amazon are adding more and more ways to share your reading habits – including tweeting out selected passages to your followers, should you find them noteworthy.

If you’ve been reluctant to try out the ebook world so far, or assumed that not owning a Kindle device excluded you, there are a world of different options to make it free and easy to get started and see how you like it.

Once you’re comfortable reading electronic books, I can highly recommend a two part series looking at selected moments from the history of Formula One!