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Nate Hoffelder

Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

Nate Hoffelder auf Twitter.

Morning Coffee – 12 April 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Where to Buy Books in Bulk

I recently developed a need for buying children’s books in bulk. I found a couple sources, one great and the other not so great, and I want to share them with you.

I don’t know if I have mentioned it here, but some time back (I think it was pre-pandemic, but honestly who knows at this point) I started taking care of the two Little Free Libraries in my area. I would keep them organized, remove any damaged or age-inappropriate books (both were located next to elementary schools), and leave bookmarks.

I started doing this because I had noticed that no one else seemed to be doing the job, but I stopped last fall when the school district started holding in-person classes again. I honestly thought that someone one at the schools would step up, but when I checked in on the LFLs a week ago I found that both were sorely depleted, and that no one had bothered to even straighten the books.

I was happy to start taking care of the LFLs again, but it also meant that I had a sudden and exceptional need for kids books. I asked for help on Twitter, and got a variety of useful suggestions ranging from thrift shops, the free section of Craigslist, garage sales, flea markets, and so on.

The idea I settled on was to google for online booksellers who would ship me a box of books, cheap. I found two that I wanted to try (the next time I need books, I might try others).

One was The Book Bundler, and the other was Books by the Foot. Of the two, I really have to say that BbtF was the much better deal. Not only were the books half as expensive, but my order arrived on the Tuesday after I placed an order Friday night. (It probably helped that the order shipped from Maryland.)

The order from The Book Bundler, on the other hand, arrived on Friday. That was still pretty fast, but I never did get an order confirmation email from TBB (a huge strike against them, IMO – I need that email for my records).

The Book Bundler sent me 10 bundles of ten hardback children’s books in two boxes each somewhat larger than a box of copier paper.

Books by the Foot sent me one box of books that size (12” by 12” by 18”, to be exact). I opted for the non-age-specific box, so I got everything from books for 5th graders to board books. The books were all in good shape, but the box almost didn’t survive the trip. (Fedex had to add several extra loops of tape to keep the box from disintegrating, and it still split a seam.)

I still think BbtF was the better value; that box set me back $45, while TBB charged me $155.

My mother (a former teacher) thought that the selection in the BbtF box was so great that she wanted me to have a box shipped to my nephew. I would have done so, except BbtF would not ship to Pennsylvania (no clue why).

If you need to buy kids books in bulk, I heartily recommend Books by the Foot. Their website is not as well organized as it could be, but if you scroll down to the bottom of their “view all products” page you will see they have a couple dozen different options for grab-bag boxes of books ranging from genre paperback to various age-specific kids books.

Morning Coffee – 5 April 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

P.P.S. Today is my birthday. I am now the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything years old.

Morning Coffee – 29 March 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Booksellers File Antitrust Lawsuit Against Amazon, Publishers

The second shot in law firm Hagens Berman fight against Amazon has been fired.

The firm put out a press release on Thursday announcing that they had found booksellers willing to sue Amazon over an alleged conspiracy with publishers.

Retail booksellers today hit Amazon.com and publishing companies with a class-action lawsuit alleging a massive price-fixing scheme to intentionally constrain the bookselling market and inflate the wholesale price of print books, according to Hagens Berman and its co-counsel Sperling & Slater P.C.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Mar. 25, 2021, and states that Amazon colluded with the Big Five U.S. book publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – to restrain competition in the sale of print trade books, or non-academic texts such as fiction and non-fiction material.

This is essentially a follow on to the case Hagens Berman filed in January against Amazon and the Big Five publishers.

It has the same basic claim (that Amazon conspired with publishers to raise ebook prices) and the same lack of evidence to back up the claim. The only thing new here is the change in defendants; rather than consumers, Hagens Berman’s client is a bookstore.

Folks, as I have said before, I would love to see the agency contracts broken, but I just don’t see how Hagens Berman is going to win this case. If they have any evidence of a conspiracy, they did not put it in their filings.

Did I miss something?

image by steakpinball via Flickr

Morning Coffee – 22 March 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Introducing Book Fair Website Template v1.0

About six weeks back I announced that I was developing the website template for a book fair. I have been working on this project on and off since then, and I think it’s ready to be shared with the world.

Download ZIP)

The ZIP file contains eleven screenshots and a couple JSON files. If you have a site running Divi, you can import the JSON files into the Divi Library and then use the page templates from that JSON file to build new  pages on your site.

The page templates can be used to build either a conference or a book fair, something in between, or some other event entirely. The pages will look rather bland, but that is okay because my intent was to give you something to build on.

I’d love to know what you think!

image by ActuaLitté via Flickr

B&N Rebrands 10.1″ Lenovo Tablet as a Nook Tablet

Barnes & Noble has been exceedingly quiet on the ebook front since it was acquired two years ago. Once it stopped being a publicly traded company, it no longer announced its quarterly revenue, including its ebook sales.

The conventional wisdom was that B&N would either shut down or sell off its ebook division, but it would appear that we were mistaken. The retailer just announced that  it was rebranding a 10’1″ Lenovo tablet as the new Nook Tablet.

B&N and Lenovo today announced a new NOOK® 10” HD Tablet designed with Lenovo – a stylish yet durable tablet with full metal body and 85 percent screen-to-body ratio. The tablet offers customers endless entertainment in one package with NOOK eBooks1, digital newspapers and magazines, Google Play, Google Assistant, Kids Space from Google2 (a new kids mode featuring apps, books and videos)  and FM radio. It also comes fully equipped with front and rear cameras, Bluetooth® capability, and dual audio speakers powered by Dolby Atmos® making it ideal for enjoying your favorite streaming content. Built to be gentle on your eyes while reading, the new NOOK tablet’s display comes with TÜV Rheinland®-certified eye protection3 to help lower harmful blue light.

The tablet will cost $129, and is expected to be available in early April.

I don’t have the specs yet, but Lenovo has great hardware. I would expect this tablet is a step up from the last Nook Tablet, which was licensed from a no-name Chinese gadget maker.

And I just checked my files – Did I misplace a post, or did B&N last launch a new Nook Tablet in 2018? (see, that is an example of why we thought the ebook division was dead)

 

Amazon Will Stop Accepting* Mobi Files in June

It’s finally happened.

Amazon has announced that soon it will no longer accept* Mobi files in KDP. They just sent out an email informing authors and publishers that Epub and Doc are now the preferred formats:

We listened to your feedback and are making it simpler to publish eBooks on Kindle. Starting June 28, 2021, we will no longer support files in MOBI, PRC or AZK formats when publishing new reflowable eBooks or updating the content for previously published eBooks. Instead, we ask publishers to use EPUB, KPF (Kindle Create files), or DOC/DOCX (Microsoft Word files) files for reflowable eBooks. Please note MOBI files are still accepted for fixed-layout eBooks.
You don’t need to take any action for reflowable eBooks already published unless you are updating the eBook files. If you are uploading new or updated content, see our Kindle Publishing Guidelines:  https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G79CTKR8BX79E96L

And before you nitpick my language, yes, I know that it’s clunky. So is their new rule, which is basically that Amazon will only accept Mobi files for the one type of Kindle ebook which no one makes any more.

Why they decided to keep that around, I do not know.

via Create If FB group

image by Sergey Galyonkin via Flickr

Morning Coffee – 15 March 2021

Here are a few stories to read this morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Four Website Hosting Companies I Recommend

I recently had a request from a reader who wanted me to recommend a hosting company. This is a question I get a lot, and I am always happy to answer it, but it’s been a while since I last wrote out my recommendations.

of course host websites for my clients, but that is more of a side business than one of my core activities. When asked about hosting, I usually mention four companies.

These recommendations are for hosting a single WordPress site; if you want to host multiple sites, or want to talk about competing platforms like Squarespace, that would be a whole other discussion.

WordPress.com ($60)

There are some web designers who would call me crazy for saying this, but WordPress.com can be a good place to host your author or publisher website. It is rather limited in features at the cheaper pricing tiers (no plugins, and no third-party services) but if you just need a simple site then you can’t go wrong at $60 per year.

You can build that site using free Gutenberg page templates and have a very nice looking site for almost no effort.

PeoplesHost ($110)

There are many budget website hosting companies. A lot of them, including big name companies such as GoDaddy and Bluehost, are simple terrible, but there are any number of companies with excellent service and reliable servicers.

PeoplesHost is one of those reliable companies. I have my server there, and I have been very happy with their tech support and customer service. I have also sent a number of clients there, and several have remarked on how great the support is.

What’s even better about this price is that you can easily keep several websites on one account without running out of resources.

Siteground ($180)

Siteground is a little more expensive than its budget-priced competitors, but it offers services that most of those competitors do not. SG has its own optimization, speed, and caching tools which make SG’s fees worth the price.

Seriously, whenever I work on a WP site hosted on Siteground, my first step is to activate the SG Optimizer plugin and enable all of its recommended settings. This one step has a visible impact on site performance.

WPEngine ($300 plus)

WPEngine provides gold-standard service, but they also cost a mint. You can host one site there for only $25 per month, but if you need several sites (up to ten) you will soon be paying WPEngine more for hosting than I currently pay for my server.

That fee is worth it, though; WPEngine sets a high standard for security, stability, and speed. basically, WPEngine  will handle things for your site that I have to take care of myself for my own sites.

image by torkildr via Flickr

Morning Coffee – 8 March 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

A Dell Warranty is Worth the Paper It Isn’t Printed On

A word of advice: If your Dell device has problems in the return window, take it back. If you have trouble after that, you are better off pitching it in the sea then asking Dell for help.

I am currently in Dell hell. I have a broken laptop which Dell has refused to repair, refused to replace, and refused to refund. Instead, Dell has lied to me, given me the runaround, gaslighted me, and made empty promises.

Do not under any circumstances buy hardware from Dell. Here’s why.

When my last laptop died on 11 January, I saw it as a nuisance rather than a catastrophe. My files were backed up online, Best Buy was opening in a few hours, and I had a credit card, so I figured I would be back online by the end of the day.

And I was right; I was back to work in about 4 hours, and all it took was spending $1600 on a new Dell laptop. I kicked myself for having to pay retail when I could have planned ahead and saved several hundred dollars, but I got back to work quickly, and that was what really mattered.

But then the laptop started to crash – a lot.

I didn’t really notice the high frequency of the blue screens of death until I had owned the laptop for 17 days, when it crashed for the 4th time. This was 2 days past the Best Buy return window, which did not worry me much because it was a brand new laptop and had a next business day warranty. The worst that could happen was that Dell would have to fix it, or replace it.

Or so I thought.

When I got tired of the crashes, I visited Dell’s website and tried to file a support ticket. Much to my dismay, I found that my only options were calling Dell or using the support chat. I have hearing issues and do my best to avoid phone calls, and since the website chat feature didn’t work, I decided to try to solve it myself by running the diagnostic tests recommended by Dell’s site. When that didn’t find anything, I reached out to Dell on Twitter.

My initial suggestion was that they give me a credit, I’d ship them the lemon, and I’d buy a new laptop on their site. This was shot down. Instead they told me to re-run the diagnostics, install software updates, and install more updates.

This did not help. When the laptop crashed less than a week later, I told them they needed to either send someone to fix it, or replace it. They said I had to continue to do their work for them (call their advanced diagnostics dept), which I declined to do. We did after all have a diagnosis; there was a software issue.

After a few rounds of this, I lost my cool and told Dell that my next moves would be to file a BBB complaint and look into filing a lawsuit (I did end up filling the BBB complaint, but the lawsuit was an empty threat).

This was apparently enough to trigger a promise to forward my complaint to an “escalation” team. I was asked for my contact info, and Dell promised someone would contact me in 24 hours. Then, the next day, I was told the escalation team would contact me shortly.

I have yet to make contact with that so-called team; the closest I have come was a garbled voicemail message. Nevertheless, Dell continued to tell me on Twitter that I should work with the escalation team now that I was in contact with them. I was later told that the escalation team had reported I said the problems were fixed. And I was told I should refer to the email the escalation team sent me, that they would take care of everything.

Folks, none of that was true. I still have not made contact with that so-called team, much less communicated with them.

I have given up on working this out, and I am now insisting on a refund. (Given Dell’s track record, I realize that probably isn’t going to happen.)

In fact, I’ve already bought a replacement laptop from Lenovo. It arrived on Tuesday.

TL;DR My experience with Dell tech support consisted of them trying to get me to do their jobs for them, stalling when I complained, and then lying to me and gaslighting me.

P.S. Does anyone want to up a $1600 paperweight?

P.P.S. Now that I think about it, it would be a waste to let such an expensive device collect dust. I should probably find a local computer tech who can take a look, and fix the issue. If Dell’s warranty were worth anything, they would have already done this, but since it’s not I am going to have to pay the cost myself.

Morning Coffee – 1 March 2021

Here are a few stories to read this morning.

I had a very light posting schedule (namely, zero) this past week due to a couple problems which took up all my spare time. The first was a bug in the site which I was only able to pin down Sunday night. The second was a software issue with my new Dell laptop which I cannot fix (and Dell refuses to send someone).

I would like to post more in the coming week (I have something to say about Dell) but I don’t know if I will have the time or energy.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Morning Coffee – 22 February 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.