Technology with attitude

Got Snow? Download an eBook for Some Cozy Fireside Reading

Photo: Some rights reserved by flickr user M Glasgow.

As Seattle prepares for its worst snowstorm in over 25 years (according to, at least), and snow lies across much of the country, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the convenience and stay-at-home simplicity of the ebook. If ever there were a time of year when electronic literature would appeal, it must surely be now, with winter settling in outside our doors. They clearly knew that when they named the Kindle – nothing sounds more appealing today than curling up with an ebook beside a roaring fire.

If you’re new to the world of ebooks, or just stuck in your home and surfing for something to do online, then now is the perfect time to start ereading. Here are some sites to check out as you sip your hot chocolate and wish you’d stocked up with paperbacks over Christmas:

Free Kindle Reading Apps. Even if you didn’t get that ebook reader you wanted for Christmas, that shouldn’t keep you from downloading a book or two during the winter storms. At Amazon there are Kindle reading apps that you can download for every imaginable device, from your laptop to your Blackberry – and the great news is that they’re all free. If you don’t already have an electronic reading device, this should be your first stop. And then…

Kindle Daily Deal. I’ve been making this my first website stop every morning, and if you’re looking to build an electronic library then you should too. Many readers have complained about the high price of ebooks (despite the fact that they’re generally significantly cheaper than printed books – go figure) but the Kindle Daily Deal rights the balance. The deal changes every day, and ranges across all sections of their online bookstore. It’s not unusual to see a modern classic on sale for less than a dollar, or an entire series for a couple of bucks.

Your Local Library. Another choice for the budget-conscious, many local libraries (including the Seattle Public Library) are now offering ebook loans via their websites. Some require you to sign up to a secondary service such as Overdrive, but it’s well worth the few minutes it takes, and entirely free. The best part? There are no overdue fees, as the books automatically vanish from your device once the due date is reached.

Smashwords. If you want something a little more interesting than the latest blockbuster novel (and let’s face it, that’s why we still love browsing bookstores) then Smashwords should be your next stop. Home to thousands of self-published and independent press publications, it’s an online bookstore of the weird and wonderful. With most books coming in under $4 – and many for free – it’s also a great place to pick up an inexpensive gem or two.

Book Bloggers. Those who are still looking for something closer to the high street bookstore experience may want to visit one of the hundreds of book blogs online, for personal recommendations, author interviews, and more. If quality bookstores still have the edge over ebooks thanks to the depth of knowledge offered by their staff, then book bloggers are the new online advocates of the written word. Rebekah Anderson, the Seattle Literary Scene Examiner, offered a fantastic list of last minute gift ideas last Christmas, which works just as well as a snow day shopping list (in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that she recommends my own book, Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand… thanks Rebekah!). Even a basic google search with turn up hundreds of book blogs, however – and when you’re wanting to buy, most contain links to download the ebooks with a minimum of fuss.

With more ebook reading devices out there than ever before (especially so soon after the gift-giving season) is seems that ebooks are here to stay. Whether you use them as your primary library, or simply an easier way of having a book with you at all times, one thing is certain – I’d rather shop for an ebook in a snowstorm. It beats dragging a bag of hardbacks through a foot-high snowdrift, anyway.

Dan Coxon is the author of Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand, available here as a Kindle ebook. If you think you’re cold, check out the chapter where he walks on a glacier.