eInk vs LCD screen technology


I firmly believe that for most books, a book is a book is a book, at heart, and ultimately, the technology should distract neither the author nor the reader if it’s working right, but it’s worth talking about tech from time to time.

One thing that I think is important to understand about eBook readers is the screen technology, because there is a big difference between eInk and LCD: eInk is a lot easier on the eyes, and the readers tend to be single-purpose devices, without email and apps and notifications and all the other stuff that a “tablet” (like an iPad or Google’s Nexus 7) has.

In other words, eInk devices like Amazon’s Kindle are better for really losing yourself in a book, and forgetting about what you happen to be reading it on. LCD screens are great for general purpose use because they are in color, and besides text can also display videos because they have a quick refresh rate.  eInk screens are comparatively slow to refresh, so don’t display video at all, and have a slight “ghosting” effect.  eInk is very different from LCD in that it’s like paper you read it with ambient light – including bright sunlight – rather than having a glowing screen.  That said, Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite also has a built in light for reading in the dark which is pretty handy, but it’s basically just illuminating what is already on the screen, rather than shining light out at you like an LCD does.

Something that’s important to point out is that despite sharing the “Kindle” brand, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a tablet with an LCD screen, rather than an eInk device.  This means it’s great for watching movies and TV, but I don’t really care to use it for reading: I spend all day in front of computers, so to relax I much prefer something without a bright screen like the one my laptop has.

Here are some devices and the screen technology they use:

Apple iPad – LCD screen

Kindle Fire – LCD screen

Kindle Paperwhite – eInk screen

As an author, it’s handy to be able to check out your book on more than one platform, like we do here at LiberWriter.  My personal favorites right now are the Google Nexus 7 as a tablet, using the Amazon for Kindle app, and the Kindle Paperwhite as an eReader.  The Kindle Fire is nice, but Google’s system has more apps, and gets updated more frequently with software improvements and fixes.  On the other hand, Amazon is the place to go for “content” – books, of course, but also movies if you like to watch those on a computer or tablet.  If you’re selling your book on Amazon’s KPD, for most people, that’s where 80% of their eBook sales are going to come from, so it’s well worth your time to get at least a basic Kindle (they can be had for under 100$) to familiarize yourself with the experience.

And for the sake of completeness, here are some Wikipedia links explaining the details of the two systems:



How to deal with pirates


A lot of authors are concerned with having their books “pirated”.   Here’s Rebecca P. McCray’s story of what she did when she found her book, The Journey of the Marked ,  on offer on one such site.  I think it’s a great way of dealing with the problem:

I found a similar request for my book on the same website. I watched it for a couple of weeks and then the users “bumped” it to keep it active (apparently if no one supplies a copy in 3 weeks, they remove the post). At first, I was frustrated. But the more I thought about it, if the large publishing houses can’t stop them, I didn’t stand a chance. Besides, I was offering the parts of my book for free at different times on Amazon, so really a little hypocritical of me to make a fuss. In the end, I tried a different approach:

I registered with the website and I posted a reply to the requester. I wasn’t accusatory or rude. I simply explained that I was an independently published author, had spent quite a bit of money on my book, and had made very little in return. Then, I asked about the nature of his request, never acknowledging the purpose of the website, as I knew they’d delete my post if I did.

He responded to me in a private message. Explained that my book was double the price it should have been in India (oops – be sure to watch that if you just let the price translate based on current exchange rates) and that he could only afford one book a month, but loved to read. Now, I really don’t know how honest he was, but he was nice enough. So in the public forum, I posted the days parts of my book would be free and encouraged them to download from Amazon. Of course, I also pointed out that if Amazon found a free copy of my book somewhere that they would pull my book from their website, which would lead me to NOT publish book 2 of my series (little hint as to the possible negative impact on the requester). The moderator froze the thread at that point, but left the post visible to other readers.

Interestingly, I was invited by a user to another thread where they were discussing whether to separate independent authors from mainstream ones. Again, I posted to the thread in a way I thought might resonate with them. I mentioned the fact that I required a full-time job to support myself. The job meant less time for writing, which meant a much longer time before Book 2 would be ready (negative to the readers). I was never accusatory and simply stated that I either needed people to buy the book or promote the book to people who would buy it.

The moderator posted a “supported author” note by my last post, which encourages their members to either buy or promote my book. In the end, I feel pretty good about the results.

She is not a LiberWriter author, but I liked her story so much I asked her if I could repost it.

Actually going after one of these sites legally is not likely to work out well for most self-published authors:

  • It’s like playing whack-a-mole: another one will spring up in its place if you manage to get one.
  • You don’t have the resources big publishers do, and those guys still aren’t able to shut this stuff down.
  • A lot of them are not in the US; indeed, many of them may be in places like Russia where enforcing US copyright is not going to be easy or cheap.

I think a lot of people on these sites don’t think of authors as actual human beings that are possibly struggling to make a living with their writing.  The internet is so good at making other people anonymous, that it’s pretty easy for some people to rip others off without thinking of it much.  By going in and chatting with these people, hopefully Rebecca has helped them understand that real people are hurt by their actions.

By the way, thanks for reading – Rebecca says her book is on sale today (Tuesday December 10th), so go check it out!