Amazon adds e-books: reading your physical books online

If you buy a physical book on, you now have the option to pay (extra) for an electronic version to read on your computer. It’s called Amazon Upgrade.

As far as I know they haven’t done much advertising or publicity. I ran across the new read online option when looking at the Amazon page for a book I’d already bought:

It was only available for two books I had bought (and I’ve bought a lot of books.) One was priced at $1.89 and the other was $2.19. (This is in addition to what I originally paid for the books.)


I bought one just to see what it was like. You get to read the book in Amazon’s Online Reader, which looks like the same software used for  their “search inside this book” option. There didn’t seem to be any way to transfer it to my Kindle or to download it in any format. You could print a page at a time.

It looks like they scanned the actual book, as some of the pages are a bit crooked.

Having all the books I’ve read available to me online at any time is very intriguing. (That’s why I found BKRPR, a program to help you make electronic copies of all your books intriguing, but I wasn’t interested in investing all that time.)

And once again, I think it’s a brilliant business move from Amazon for two reasons.

  1. I’m much more likely to buy textbooks, nonfiction books and anything I think I might need as a reference from Amazon now, since I’ll be able to easily look things up in the future – even if I no longer have the book. (And the ability to search is awesome, especially when it comes to things like textbooks!)
  2. If I decide to reread a book, it’s cheaper to pay $2 for an electronic copy from Amazon than it is to use one of my credits on Paperbackswap. (I paid postage on a book for that credit.)

Now if only they’d let me download these books to my Kindle, allow me to view my Kindle books online, and make copies in different formats …

What do you think? Are you more likely to buy a book from Amazon knowing you can read it online? Do you think you’ll buy online versions for any of the books you’ve bought from Amazon?

3 ways Amazon makes it really easy for me to give them money …

Amazon has perfected one part of the sales cycle: they have made it very easy for me to give them money. Anyone selling anything should think about their models.

First, they had Amazon Prime shipping. I pay $79/year. (I think it was more like $69/year when I signed up.) In exchange, when I order a book from Amazon, I don’t pay shipping and they deliver it in two days. (And often by the next morning.) So if I want a book, I just go online, find it, hit "Buy now" and it shows up tomorrow morning. It’s easier than getting in my car and driving 10 miles to the bookstore. (And cheaper now that gas is so expensive. Cheaper once I’ve already spent that $79/year that is.) So I give my money to Amazon instead of the local (chain) bookstore, because it’s easier. I also buy more books because it’s easy. (And before you tell me to use the library … most of the time my local library doesn’t have the books I want to read and when they do, there’s always a waitlist for them. That said, I love libraries. I still go hang out in them.)

Then they introduced Subscribe & Save. I never even think about diapers now. When we need them, they show up on the door step. Not only do I not pay shipping but I get a 15% discount. So I give my money to Amazon instead of to the local grocery store because it’s easier.

Then came the Kindle. Now I don’t even have to wait for the next morning. I just hit a button and I can read the first chapter and if I like it, I hit another button and they charge my credit card and I get the book. So once again, I give Amazon my money because it’s easier than waiting for my turn on Paperbackswap or going to the local bookstore.

And they’ve encouraged me to tell all of you about it, because if you click through and buy any of these (very addictive) products, they’ll give me a payback. You have been warned!

(And if they listened to me, I have ideas for how they could make it even easier for me to give them money. For starters, their wishlist functionality is so bad, I use several other tools to manage my wishlists. Also, my Kindle needs to be open source so that I can get all the features I want. But even without all those they are doing a pretty good job of making it really easy for me to give them my money.)

I love my Kindle

I did it. I broke down and bought a Kindle. I like it because:

  • It’s light – it really does weigh about the same as a paperback.
  • I can carry several books in a very small space. I always read at least one fiction and one non-fiction book at the same time and this way I can carry them both around.
  • I can really easily take notes by highlighting sections of text or typing in a note. I really like that. (I’d like it if I could use the Kindle a bit more like a journal – that’d be great.)
  • The screen works really well. It looks good.
  • I can really quickly look up any book on Amazon, see the ratings, read the reviews, download a sample. So no more writing down a title to look up later.
  • The wireless works really well. It works in my parents’ town in South Dakota where my cell phone won’t work!
  • It comes with a browser – I can check my gmail account (rather awkwardly.)
  • I can get any book I want (that’s available for the Kindle) instantly.
  • The battery lasts a long time.
  • I’ve been reading the newspaper again. The New York Times shows up every morning. (But I’m also on vacation which means I have more time to read the paper.)
  • The screen saver. They show covers of old books, pictures of authors, tips, … and for some reason I like them.

Things I’d improve on:

  • The keyboard is too small to work as a real keyboard, too big to use your thumbs.
  • The browser is really awkward.
  • I’d like to highlight a title in a book and search Amazon for the book. (One of the books I’m reading now constantly refers to other books.)
  • It takes a second to turn the page. (The Kindle 2 is much better.)
  • It takes a couple of seconds to unfreeze the screen. (Again, the Kindle 2 is better.)
  • The buttons for previous page and next page are too easy to hit accidentally. (Luckily you can freeze the screen.) The Kindle 2 solved this by changing the buttons. If you’ve used a Kindle 1, it takes a bit to get used to but it works better.
  • A journal function. Right now I just take a note in whatever book I happen to be reading but it shows up as a note in that book.
  • I want an easy way to view “My Clippings” (my highlights and notes) on my computer. Right now I have to sync my Kindle and manually copy the file over.
  • International wireless. I’m going to miss the daily paper when I travel internationally. (Which is now available! But it looks like they might charge an extra fee to download it when traveling internationally.)

Overall, I’m very happy with my Kindle. And Amazon is making a lot of money as I bought a lot of books for it!

You can also see my list of accessories you might want and my review of covers for the Kindle 2.

Why I’m never going to buy a Kindle

I want a Kindle. I think they are cool because:

  • You can carry around 100s of books in the space of one. I routinely carry 4-5 books with me on long trips – in my carry-on. I always carry at least two: one fiction and one non-fiction.
  • You can take electronic notes. Notes, quotations, highlighting and underlining are all stored electronically. You can then search for that particular quote or stat you are looking for.
  • It always looks like you are working! Nobody can tell if you are reading a novel or reviewing a document for work.

So why don’t I buy one? I have two shelves full of books I haven’t read yet and it seems like a waste to rebuy them on the Kindle, so I’m waiting until I’ve read them. The problem is, every time I finish a book, I swap it for a new one, so I’m never going to get to buy a Kindle!