Tag Archives: Kindle

Ebook: “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

If you haven’t yet acquired your first ebook, this is the perfect time to try one. Following are some quick links to a wonderful, classic holiday tale, which you’ll find in the story collection titled The Four Million. “The Gift of the Magi” is the second story in the collection.

You can download the entire book for free using any of the following links.

You won’t need a special ebook reading device (like a Kindle or a Nook) to do this. You can read the book in your web browser by choosing the “Read on your browser” or “Read online” options.

You can also download one or several ebook apps that are compatible with your handheld device. Or you can read the PDF version of the ebook, if Adobe Reader software is installed on your computer.

“The Gift of the Magi”
by O. Henry

Google ebookstore (includes web browser, Android app, iPhone app, iPad app, EPUB, and PDF versions)

Amazon Kindle Store

Open Library (includes web browser, PDF, plain text, DAISY, EPUB, DjVu, MOBI, and Kindle versions)

The Gift of the Magi - O. Henry

This prosaic method

While in Boston this month, Peter Jurmu took the time to compose another guest post for Treated & Released, perhaps anticipating my response as a counterpoint.


Peter Jurmu

Guest blogger:
Peter Jurmu, Creative Byline

Most writers I know are young, or at least around my age, and from the Midwest. We spoke as adolescents to each other on AOL Instant Messenger, comprise the demographic (18-34) most enamored with digital media players, propelled Facebook to ubiquity, and still queue for each new video game console from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. We’ve benefited from the rapid escalation of technological potential while remaining somewhat oblivious to the proportionate escalation of expectations. We still buy or participate in what amuses us, and until now that’s all anyone has asked of us.

Only one writer I know in better than passing acquaintance owns a Kindle, but she received it as a gift. The price of a Kindle—$359—pays a little more than one-quarter of my rent in Boston. It also will buy about one hundred used paperbacks from Brattle Books on West Street, within sight of Tremont and Boston Common. Amazon wants us to know that $359 (or $489 for the one they want to sell to students) will buy “20% faster page turns” and a “paper-like display” so we can skim Baudrillard and Signs on a simulacrum. I understand the appeal: 1,500 books in a duffel tend to raise TSA eyebrows.

Amazon’s Kindle has become—or, Amazon has made it—one of the poster children for booksellers’ attempts to suggest digital publishing to readers. Google Book Search is another, and various other e-readers and ebook apps on smartphones broaden the ranks. While writers are readers, too, and the Kindle has won that side of a million readers over, Amazon sells the book, not the writing of it. The writing process remains unchanged, with a few exceptions (such as Peter V. Brett and his HP iPAQ 6515 smartphone). Creative Byline doesn’t help you much until you’ve already completed your manuscript, and only the very famous strike book deals without having written the book in question. Even self-publishing won’t write your book for you.

So it seems writers’ responses to e-readers and digital publishing are those of consumers, businesspeople, or lawyers, and not those of artists. Artists have little of note to say on these matters, since no one has begun writing yet with anything other than the structures established during the era of print-only publishing in mind. Digital publishing only augments what already exists. (Serialized novels with special illustrations, for example, are nothing new.) Whether a publisher sells print and Kindle editions of a book, an agent or author submits query packages digitally, a writer decides to self-publish, or an online bookseller provides another way to read books, the manuscripts were typed or handwritten. This prosaic method of composition has proved resistant to evolution.

The autumn after I completed undergrad, I visited Dr. David Klooster, the English chair at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I asked Dr. Klooster if he intends to require that English/Creative Writing majors take a course in editing and publishing to better prepare them to find jobs and publication. While he sees no value in total ignorance of the industry, he said, greater value lies in learning the craft and not the technology or mechanics. Writers will master the latter, if they haven’t already, and can do with it what they like.

People apply technological mastery to what they already know how to do; the technology itself ought never become the focus. When I mention Mr. Brett, I don’t say he’s revolutionized anything. The keyboard on his smartphone is smaller than a laptop’s, but it’s still a keyboard. A stylus and touchscreen still produce handwriting. A manuscript still causes birth-like pain when you tease it out of the ether. Once you hold (or have saved and backed up) a copy in your hands (or on internal and external hard drives and a flash drive), you can worry about text-to-speech features. Until then, you’d better write.

Peter Jurmu will begin work on his MFA at Emerson College in the fall, and has interned at Creative Byline since August 2008.

FREE ebooks

Sony Reader

  Photo: “Sony Reader” by AZAdam is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In the rush to own or give the latest gadget (to wit: the Kindle ebook reader), how many people will stop to ask about its compatibility with titles that already exist in digital format, especially those offered for free on the Web? Many won’t inquire, because advertising is frighteningly influential and $9.99 for an Amazon ebook download is bargain enough.

Caveat emptor. Remember that devices not designed exclusively for ebook reading, including the iPhone and notebook computers, can serve the purpose at least for now.

WHERE are the free ebooks?

Across the Web, overlooked nooks and crannies conceal astonishingly good reading material. Free ebooks of interest will be easier to extract—that is, to locate quickly—when Web search algorithms become more refined and content is systematically tagged with keywords. In the meantime, human intervention is required. Within six months, someone will begin more aggressively aggregating links to the best ebooks published on the Web.

[Updated on January 20, 2009] Gizmo’s, a freeware advice site, listed “50 Places for Free Books Online” a few months ago.

[Updated on March 28, 2009] TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home now offers a free ebooks guide.

Meanwhile, here are just a few of the many troves of freebies:

WOWIO is a Houston, Texas, startup “where readers can legally download high-quality copyrighted ebooks from leading publishers for free.” [On August 3, 2008, David Rothman blogged about the sale of Wowio to Platinum Studios, which changed Wowio’s advertising model.]

Live Search Books lets readers download PDF versions of thousands of titles. Look for the “100% viewable” notation in the list of results, which indicates the full text is available online. [On May 23, 2008, Microsoft announced its decision to shut down Live Search Books.]

Google Book Search offers the full text of books, including out-of-copyright classics, for download in PDF format. Choose the “Advanced Books Search” feature and limit the search to “Full view.”

[New Writing International, formerly] the Leicester Review of Books, is attempting to compile the definitive list of blog novels. The definitive list keeps moving, so if the link here is broken, try searching the Leicester Review of Books New Writing International for “blog novel.”

There are many other free ebook sources. Feel free to add the links to your favorites by posting a comment here. And take note of the best free ebooks’ digital formats before purchasing a device that might be incompatible with some of them.

WHY do authors or publishers give away ebooks?

Only the person or company that possesses the digital copyright can authorize the publication of a book on the Web. In many cases, the copyright has been sold licensed to the publisher.

Leo Babauta points out that ebook devices could reduce the need for agents, publishers, distributors, and sellers that currently convey traditionally published books from author to reader. He’s not the only one who recognizes digital formats’ potential to deliver content to readers rapidly and efficiently. HarperCollins is set to launch a Web service called Authonomy that will permit writers to publish their unsold work on the major publisher’s site in the hope of attracting readers and the attention of publishers. It’s not clear how readers will be involved, but if an online community gathers on its site, HarperCollins will be able to gauge the market for digital content as well as the growing popularity of genres that are given scant attention in traditional print media. The questions remain whether readers will object to the effort required to filter content and make recommendations to each other and whether the system will be easily gamed.

What HarperCollins proposes to do with authonomy, XOXOX Press has accomplished by serializing Reed Browning’s Trinity: A Haydn & Speaker Mystery on the Web in order to assess readers’ responses and determine whether to release the book in print.

Science fiction author Cory Doctorow, the outspoken advocate of Creative Commons licensing, claims distributing his books online for free has boosted sales of the print versions published by Tor.

WHO else is giving away ebooks?

Tom Evslin’s mystery novel hackoff.com, about a tech executive imprisoned for fraud who subsequently launches an Internet security consulting firm, is available as a serialized ebook or podcast and in traditional print format. Evslin refers to ebooks distributed in blog format as blooks. He links to a number of them and explains that “readers find blogs without the help of traditional gatekeepers; blogs are ‘discovered’ and become successful (or don’t) in an interesting democratic way.”

J.A. Konrath not only blogs about making a living as a genre writer, the author gives some of his thrillers away as PDF downloads complete with Creative Commons licenses.

Chrysanthemum, an edgy serial novel by Sou MacMillan, is posted on GotPoetry.com.

Big Head Press plans to serialize on its website Steven Grant’s graphic novel Odysseus the Rebel, illustrated by Scott Bieser, starting in January 2008 before releasing the trade paperback.

These examples are only the proverbial first waves. Expect a surge of new ebook titles when the public settles on its favorite user-friendly digital format.

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