Route Around Amazon Kindle’s Ridiculous Limits on Highlights Exporting With Bookcision

While the Amazon Kindle platform has a lot going for it as far as ease of use, it has a number of anti-consumers “features” built into it. One of those are limits that make it difficult/impossible to export highlights you have made of a book.

For example, I can’t even see all of the highlights I’ve made of a book on the Amazon Kindle’s online Notebook area, because after a certain point Amazon starts hiding them from me due to copyright issues: “Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.”

If I try to export those highlights from a Kindle app, I receive an error message like this:

This export will exceed the 15% limit set by the publisher for this book by 21%. New items will not be exporter after the limit is reached.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Anyway, Bookcision is a bookmark tool for Chrome that routes around Amazon’s damage to your books. Drag the button to the Chrome bookmark bar, login to the Amazon Kindle area in your browser, click on a book, and then hit the bookmark. A window will pop up that has all of the highlights for that book with the option to copy/paste or download them.

It just works.

Amazon Buys Goodreads

Ugh — so Goodreads has sold out to Amazon. I can’t blame them for that, although I can blame them for titling their announcement of the sale with “We’re Joining the Amazon Family!” I immediately see visions of Tom Hanks from “That Thing You Do” welcoming Goodreads to the Playtone Galaxy of Stars.

Anyway, according to the press release/blog post about the acquisition from GoodReads, basically this will allow Goodreads to directly integrate with the Kindle (barf) as if Amazon’s constant attempts to upsell Kindle users books wasn’t already extensive enough. But, promises Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler,

It’s important to be clear that Goodreads and the awesome team behind it are not going away. Goodreads will continue to be the wonderful community that we all cherish. We plan to continue offering you everything that you love about the site—the ability to track what you read, discover great books, discuss and share them with fellow book lovers, and connect directly with your favorite authors—and your reviews and ratings will remain here on Goodreads. And it’s incredibly important to us that we remain a home for all types of readers, no matter if you read on paper, audio, digitally, from scrolls, or even stone tablets.

I certainly hope so as I don’t look forward to having to re-enter all of my book information into some other service 6 months from now. Please, please, please, Amazon, don’t pull a Google Reader on Goodreads fans.

Kindle 2? Yawn

Amazon Kindle 2So Amazon finally announced its long-rumored Kindle 2 which appears to be just like the original Kindle only 25 percent more of everything.

I bought a Kindle right after it went on sale last November, but stopped using it after a couple months. Amazon doesn’t seem to have fixed any of the defects with Kindle 2.

Amazon says the battery lasts 25% longer letting the user “read for days without recharging”. Yeah, right. The Kindle battery life was awful. With its much-vaunted Whispernet turned out, battery life was pretty much non-existent. Most of the times I actually wanted to use the Kindle, the battery was dead. I’ve never seen a device go through power so quickly when it wasn’t even turned on.

Similarly, Amazon says they’ve added more storage so you can carry along more than 1,500 books, but the major defect with the original Kindle was a lack of any way to manage large libraries. I had hundreds of books on my Kindle — the only way to organize them was in one long frakking list which the user then had to page through. No folders, subfolders, tags, categories or any other organizational system other than one big damn list.

The only thing that’s halfway interesting in the Kindle 2 is the text-to-speech feature and I’d really like to hear that demonstrated on a variety of books to see how useful it really is.

Me, I went out recently and bought a Sony PRS700 which is Sony’s second generation reader that has a touch screen and a backlight. The backlight is stupid and pointless (if you’re considering buying a PRS700 for the backlight, don’t). The touch screen works great — I have a habit of underlining and annotating books as I read, and the PRS700 works great for that. Morever, the battery life is fairly good and the PRS700 actually allows the user to sort books into what it calls “Collections,” so I can keep my hard scifi novels separate from the historical romances separate from the science and history books.

And whatever you do, if you’re using an ebook reader don’t pay for the DRMed crap books Amazon and Sony want to sell you unless you have a software tool to remove the DRM. Both readers will accept non-DRMed files and non-DRMed files are the only way to ensure that in a few years you’ll still be able to read the books you buy today.

Using the Kindle in Medical Education (And Why the Kindle Sucks)

John Halamka, CIO for Harvard Medical School, has an interesting post about HMS’ support for the Amazon Kindle ebook reading device,

We’ve recently implemented Kindle support for all our 20,000 educational resources at HMS.

Our integration on the Mycourses educational website enables any Word or PDF document to be delivered to the Kindle wirelessly. There is a cost which is clearly explained to the user (10 cents per document to Amazon). Those that don’t want to pay the 10 cents can download documents to their PC and transfer the documents via USB cable. Once the user enters their Kindle account into the MyCourses Kindle setup page (accessible via our resources page or the GoMobile page), any resource which can be sent to the device has a little icon and label “My Kindle” which when clicked sends the resource to the Kindle. It does this by sending the document to the Amazon account via email attachment which then gets converted into Kindles’s specific format and delivered to the device using Sprint’s Whispernet.

HMS is the first Medical School to offer such a green alternative to all of their compatible resources to be downloaded directly to an eBook. At some point it would be nice to bypass the 10 cent fee with some utility that allows us to send to the device, but it’s a reasonable cost when you consider that Sprint is giving Kindle users free internet.

First off, let me say this sort of implementation is extremely impressive. There’s been a of debate online over just how “green” the Kindle is vs. traditional distribution methods, but leaving that aside the convenience of carrying around a Kindle rather than stacks of papers/books is obviously one of the things that is appealing to dedicated ebook devices.

Unfortunately, this sort of application simply underscores the idiocy that is the Kindle user interface. Currently I’ve go about 300 books on an SD card in my Kindle, and you could easily imagine a medical student having hundreds of papers and books loaded on the Kindle.

But Amazon made the boneheaded decision not to have any sort of way to organize large numbers of documents. Instead the Kindle simply lets you scroll through One Big Damn List(TM) of all your books/papers in alphabetical order by title. Of course a medical student might want to, say, organize papers  by the specific classes they’re relevant too. Too bad — all you get is that One Big Damn List.

That horrible design decision alone renders the Kindle almost unusable for anyone who actually wants to carry a substantial number of books/documents around on it. This decision is especially mystifying in that being able to classify and organize books into some sort of category and subcategory system (not to mention being able to see a list sortable by author rather than title) is fairly standard in ebook readers and ebook software.

I’ve had enough with the Kindle and “features” like this and am switching to the new Sony PRS700 which allows you to set up categories and features a touch screen-based annotation system.

Peter Glaskowsky – Another Clueless DRM Defender

Peter Glaskowsky has an analysis of DRM over at CNET that essentially makes the following claim about DRM — Kindle owners and iTunes store users don’t have a problem with DRMed e-books/music, therefore DRM “is commercially practical and acceptable to consumers.” Ugh.

Glaskowsky oversells how willing consumers are to buy DRMed music. Obviously if there were no problem at all with DRMed music, then Amazon itself would not be in the business of selling DRM-free MP3s. In fact, Amazon’s tagline on its MP3 downloads area is “Play Anywhere, DRM-Free Downloads.”

But, of course, when it comes to the Kindle, when you buy a book for Amazon’s e-book reader you are essentially not buying the book but rather simply renting it until Amazon decides to stop supporting the platform. I’m not surprised that Glaskowsky’s anecodtal evidence tells him that no one really minds this. That’s because the evil nature of DRM schemes really don’t come into play until the user wants to leave for another platform and finds out that’s impossible.

This happened with the Rocket eBook, of course. Lots of book fans paid the outrageous price for that e-book reader and then bought lots of content for it, only to find themselves lock out of the books they thought they had bought when Rocket went belly up. Not to mention those suckers customers who paid for Mobipocket DRMed ebooks (Mobipocket is the basis for the DRM in the Kindle) only to find themselves locked out of their books for awhile last year when Mobipocket’s DRM server was down for an extended period of tiem.

The same thing will happen eventually to Kindle owners — another platform will come along from Sony or someone else and they’ll think about switching until they realize every electronic book they own is locked to their Kindle.

Consider how music and e-book DRM works compared to a DRM system that does genuinely work — the DRM system that is used in DVDs. I buy DVDs even though they are DRMed because despite the DRM I can pretty much be guaranteed that they will work on any DVD player I choose probably for much longer than the effective lifetime of the DVD itself. I still don’t like DRM on my DVDs, but it is a minimal hassle.

Now imagine we had the sort of DRM that Glaskowsky finds perfectly acceptable for books applied to DVDs. DVDs would be tied to a single manufacturer’s system. When my Sony DVD player broke, I wouldn’t be able to just go out and buy a new DVD player from any manufacturer since my DVDs would only work on Sony’s system. If I want to get that cheaper DVD player with more features from Amazon, I could, but I’d have to repurchase every movie I own on Amazon-branded DVDs.

Now, the first year Sony released its DVD player and I rushed out and bought DVDs I probably wouldn’t care about the brand-specific DRM. It works great, I don’t have any problems with my playing my movies. Aha, Glaskowsky would say, this just proves that DRM is a grand idea and only crusty old ideologues would have any problem with this system. Of course, the second my DVD player breaks and I realize my DVDs are tied to Sony-only, I might have a much different conclusion. In fact, like many consumers, I might even be shocked to learn that my Sony DVDs won’t play on Amazon DVD players.

I have a Kindle and I use it all the time. But I wouldn’t waste a dime on a Kindle-only book, anymore than I would buy a Sony-only DVD, or a Jensen-only CD.

And the kicker, of course, is that the best thing that can be said about DRM is that it is an annoyance to legitimate customers. It does little at all to forestall piracy. Almost all of the Kindle-only DRMed content is easily available in DRM-free formats if you know where to look.

It is a strange system that essentially punishes only the honest people who actually step up and pay for content, while posting at most a minor annoyance for those who could care less and simply pirate whatever they want to see, read, hear.

But I suspect that objection is a bit too “philosophical” against Glaskowsky’s anecdotal evidence about how people feel about DRM on their Kindle less than a year after it’s release.