Thursday, May 25, 2017

Are people over 60 cheapskates when it comes to digital products?

Take a look at this chart:
Infographic: Willingness to Pay for Digital Media Formats in the UK | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

Looks like those over 60 are reluctant to buy digital media doesn't it? I remain unconvinced, especially where magazines are concerned.

I live in the UK and fall in that age bracket. I would choose the digital version in preference to a paper version. For me, it's far more convenient BUT in many cases I can't buy the digital version on it's own. I have to subscribe to the paper version and then pay extra for the digital version. In the few cases where I can buy a digital version on it's own, I get to pay VAT on my purchase which makes the digital version more expensive.

I would love to buy digital magazines but if I'm

  • not paying for the felling of trees, 
  • not paying for transport to pulp mills
  • not paying for making paper
  • not paying to transport paper to printers
  • not paying for magazines to be printed
  • not paying for the shipping cost of delivering the paper magazine
  • not paying for the eventual disposal of the magazine
then I'm damn sure I'm not going to pay extra for the digital version!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The answer to - "Where can I download free ebooks from?"

Strangely, the best place is where you buy ebooks from. All of the big retailers who sell ebooks also offer free ebooks. Of course they don't make money on those so you are unlikely to find them advertising them or even making them easy to find. For years I found doing a search on Amazon for 'free ebooks' produced an impressive list of books with prices. The same was true for Apple, Barnes and Noble (Nook), Kobo and others. They've got a little better now and you can find some freebies with that search but not many among the millions which are there.

Amazon is the biggest ebook retailer and it has a free app which allows you to get books on non-Kindle devices. PCs, iOS computers, Android tablets and SmartPhones. You can even read on Linux and Ubantu using the Cloud Reader and read offline by using the Cloud Reader's 'Download and pin book' option.

Where can you find free ebooks at Amazon?

Try going to one of these links which will take you to the lists of the top 100 free ebooks:

If this list doesn't include the genre you want use the links at the left of the page to select the genre you want but make sure you select the 'Top 100 free' tab.

Of course if a book isn't in the top 100, it won't be shown. In that case you'll have to get a link from one of the many book promotion websites. The best known is Bookbub. My personal favorite is Book Barbarian because I like Science Fiction books. Both of these sites will send you a daily email of the genres you like. There are many others. Try a Google search for 'book promotion sites'.

Kindle books are in MOBI or AZW3 format.

What about free ebooks at iBooks?

On a Mac, launch iBooks (if you don’t have it, it's a free download). Click on iBooks Store. On the right, you’ll see a list of 'Quick Links'. Click on 'Free Books'.

On an iOS device, tap 'iBooks', tap 'Featured'. The ones marked 'GET' where the price is normally shown are free. Again, if a book is not 'Featured' you'll need a link or the name of the book to search for it. Here's two of our free ebooks at iBooks - Immortality Gene (a technothriller) and Raging Storm (a paranormal romance).

iBooks are in EPUB format.

Other free ebook sources

Barnes and Noble and Kobo also have free ebooks. Kobo supply ebooks to many other retailers. In the UK that includes Tesco, Sainsburys and WH Smith

Smashwords is a great site for ebooks. 

Find Smashwords at

Its advantages are that:
  • You can pay via PayPal and for free ebooks you don't have to provide any financial details. 
  • It has a price section which includes a prominent FREE area. 
  • It's ebooks are available in multiple formats. MOBI, EPUB and others.
  • It's also often a fraction cheaper than other retailers for paid books.
  • You can actually earn money by promoting ebooks there.
  • You may find an author will give away coupons which let you have free or reduced price ebooks there.
  • Unlike other retailers Smashwords ebooks don't have DRM copy protection built in so you can move your ebooks onto other devices.

What about Google Play ebooks?

Project Gutenberg offers out of copyright books

Find it at It offers more than 53,000 free, out-of-copyright books in multiple formats.

What if I have a Kindle Fire and want to read an EPUB ebook?

It's not surprising that Amazon don't offer an EPUB reading app in their store but that doesn't mean you can't install one. You'll need to 'sideload' the app. Get instructions here.

What if I have an e-ink Kindle and want to read an EPUB ebook?

You can't do that. You'll have to convert the ebook to MOBI format then email the ebook to your Kindle device email address. An open source (free) program called 'calibre' can do that if the file is not protected with DRM (get it at Smashwords).

What if I want a PDF ebook?

Yes, it's possible BUT you need to be aware of the risks.
  • PDF files are designed for printing not for e-reading. Although most e-reading devices will read them, it's a clumsy process involving lots of scrolling since the text won't flow as it's enlarged.
  • PDF files are frequently infected with malware. Why do you think so many pirate sites are out there offering free ebooks? They want to infect your computer. If you MUST have a PDF file, get it from a non-pirate site which won't infect you such as Smashwords.
  • PDF pirate copies of ebooks are stealing from the author. 
If this post has helped you find free ebooks will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our books 'Immortality Gene' from or/and Raging Storm
Even if you never read them (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
Look - a FREE e-book

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An open letter to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo (Reductio ad absurdum 4)

Dear sirs,
During the course of an investigation into VAT on ebooks for a UK petition it has come to my attention that you owe me money. Apparently you have been overcharging myself and millions of other customers in 25 of the 28 EU countries.

The problem is your VAT charge. The EU states that ebooks are 'a digital delivery service' and that countries in the EU must charge standard VAT rates for this service. I have no problem with that. However you have charged VAT on the full ebook price rather than on the 'digital delivery' part of the ebook. This charge varies from book to book dependant on the file size. To simplify I suggest you apply a standard 10¢ US charge for delivery. In my own country, the UK, this would have a 20% standard VAT rate applied and would cost £0.02 per ebook.

Naturally calculating the refund due to all customers in the EU, (apart from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Denmark which do not have a reduced VAT charge for books,) would be a tremendously complex task. Getting a refund from VAT paid to the EU might also prove an overly complex task also. As a result I, and I presume the rest of the EU, am prepared to waive any refund due on the understanding that in future you apply no more than £0.02 for digital delivery VAT on each future ebook purchased.

No doubt the EU will query the reduced VAT payable. However I believe you have the means to meet any necessary challenges in court and in doing so will earn the eternal gratitude of your customers. I suspect that the reduced VAT charge will lead to increased sales of ebooks and increased profits for the authors and yourselves. The move to ebooks, in turn, will do wonders for the environment.

You might also warn the proprietors of e-zines and e-newspapers that a similar reduced VAT charge will apply to them.

Yours faithfully

John Chapman

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

I have seen the truth and it still doesn't make sense!

The EU changed the VAT regulations which apply to digital products on 1st January 2015. To those of us in the UK it meant a 17% VAT increase.

Previously we paid 3% on many Amazon digital products because Amazon shipped them to us via Luxembourg which applied their VAT rate of 3% - the lowest in the EU. From 1st Jan 2015 we were charged the VAT rate of the destination EU state rather than the supplier EU state. The UK therefore have to pay 20% VAT on digital products. (Ireland - 23%)

Does that seem bad? Instead of paying 3% to Luxembourg, we in the UK now pay 20% to the UK. That means we pay more but at least it will be to our own country. Perhaps it means we pay less in some other tax. Perhaps this makes some sense for music and video but there's one area where it makes no sense at all.

From January 1st 2015 the VAT rate on e-books changed too. The change affected all member states. The table at the right shows how the new rates affected e-book buyers in the rest of Europe. As you can see of the 28 countries in the EU five give e-books a special VAT rate. Ireland and the UK zero rate paper books.

In the UK the new rates meant a price rise of at least 17%. That doesn't seem a lot on an e-book which cost 77p formerly. They now cost a minimum of 99p from Amazon (a 29% price rise) but it's far more than inflation was, and a sharp contrast with the zero VAT rate on paper books.

Ask politicians and they'll tell you "Here in the UK, VAT is charged on e-books because they are a service."
They've also said "The EU doesn't allow us to charge a reduced rate."

Let's compare e-books with paper books and see how they compare:

Which of these is a service?
Paper books E-books
Requires an author Requires an author
Requires an editor Requires an editor
Requires formatting Requires formatting
Trees need to be felled (requires oil) Not required
Timber needs to be transported to papermill (requires oil) Not required
Papermill manufactures paper with some waste sludge (requires some oil) Not required
Sludge needs to be disposed of (requires oil) Not required
Paper needs transporting to printer (requires oil) Not required
Ink needs manufacturing (requires oil) Not required
Books need to be printed (requires oil) Not required
Books need to be transported to distribution depot (requires oil) Not required
Sales team need to visit retail outlets (requires oil) Not required
Books need to be transported to retail outlets (requires oil) Not required
Customer needs transport to bookstore and back (requires oil) E-books are delivered direct to reader electronically.
Surplus unsold books need transport back to printer (requires oil) Not required
Surplus requires storage or redistribution or pulping (requires oil) Not required
Book pulp requires cleaning of toxic ink and disposal of the toxins (requires oil) Not required

As you can see far more 'services' are required in the production of paper books than in the production of e-books. 


  • The EU and the UK have a declared aim of reducing carbon emissions, yet favour paper books which produce carbon emissions, at the expense of ebooks. It's been estimated that 95% of the carbon dioxide emissions could be eliminated by switching to e-books. Despite that, Reuters reported on 7th March 2017:
    The European Court of Justice was called to interpret EU rules on value-added tax (VAT) after Poland's commissioner for civic rights questioned whether the system of allowing lower rates only for printed publications was fair.
    The court said the rules allowed EU countries to apply reduced VAT rates to printed but not digital publications even though both met the European Parliament's objective when passing the VAT directive - the promotion of reading.
  • The sludge produced by recycling books contains some particularly nasty toxins which are expensive to dispose of safely. A Danish report found some of these products were being introduced into food via recycled paper.
As for the reasons we are given for the 20% VAT charge in the UK -

I have seen the truth and it still doesn't make sense!

Is there hope that VAT will be reduced for e-books? It seems that the EU is happy to support the printing industry but feels it can ignore the wishes of content providers and readers. It sets goals and then ignores them.

So what can be done?

In the UK we are now facing BREXIT. Once that has gone through it will be up to the UK government to set the VAT rate charged for e-books.
I know what makes sense.
You know what makes sense.
It's up to our politicians to prove that to them, content is of more value than the printing press.

  • If they fail to do this they are slapping the face of every author, whether that be the author of books, magazines or newspapers because their content is not as valuable as the printing presses.
  • It means they don't care about reducing carbon emissions. 
  • It means they don't care about pollution. 
  • It means that they don't see e-literature as a way of saving schools money.
I've initiated a petition at the UK Government petition site:

Once the UK is not bound by EU legislation remove the 20% VAT on e-literature
Ebooks and paid e-literature (electronic newspaper/magazine subscriptions) carry 20% VAT but paper books, newspapers and magazines are zero rated for VAT. In the past we have been told that EU legislation prevents a 0% VAT rate and that e-literature is a 'service'.

After BREXIT the UK will set VAT rates on this.
Claiming e-formats are a service but paper is not, is ridiculous since both formats require:

  • an author 
  • an editor 
  • formatting 
Only paper requires:

  • tree felling, 
  • transport, 
  • manufacture, 
  • printing, 
  • storage, 
  • eventual disposal. 
  • Re-pulped books require de-inking & disposal of toxic waste. 
e-formats need little oil, produce little toxic waste & add almost nothing to carbon emissions. The government should encourage e-formats by removing this bizarre VAT. 

Sign the petition about e-literature. Find it at:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Can I steal Windows 10 lock screen images to use as screen background?

Yes you can
Because they are stored on your computer. The windows lock screen images are held in a folder:
If you open this folder you'll find a number of files with no file extension. Some of them are .jpg files and others not. You'll need to copy the folder contents and rename them to find the files you want.
The easiest way to do this is to copy the entire folder 'assets' and paste it to a new, easy-to-find location. Your desktop for example.

  • Either back up one level or open %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ContentDeliveryManager_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState
  • Right click the folder Assets and choose Copy. Then right click on a blank area of your desktop and choose Paste.
  • Go into the folder you just created and shift right click a blank area. Select the option 'Open a command window here'.
  • In the command window type ren *.* *.jpg this will change all the files to a jpg extension.

You can now look at all the files and see the contents in a preview pane. (If you don't have a preview pane you can find it under the View tab of the file window). Those files which don't show an image - delete. You'll find two types of image. Full screen landscape ones suitable for laptops and portrait images suitable for mobile phones and tablets.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Downloaded Office files - Removing Microsoft's safety pin

Periodically I download from my bank a spreadsheet of my transactions. Recently though an update to Excel (version 16.0 as in Office 365) stopped these .XLS files from opening. Instead I see a blank page. To view the contents I must now right click the downloaded file, select 'Properties' and in the General tab check the 'Unblock' at the bottom.  It's a pain, especially since Excel will still warn me that the file came from an external source and still ask me if I want to enable editing. It seems Microsoft use belt, braces (that's 'suspenders' in the US) and now a safety pin also.

I looked for a way round this and in an answer to an apparently unrelated question about slow saving of large Word files, I found a possible solution using a registry tweak. It worked and I now no longer have to unblock Excel files from an external source. Obviously, you should only do this with files from sources you trust (can I trust my bank?).

Note: The method to fix the issue will modify the Registry. Before you do this, make sure to back it up and understand how to restore the registry if a problem occurs. Please refer to this link: How to back up and restore the registry in Windows.

Using Regedit, go to this registry key address:
If this doesn't appear to be present, you can create it. If your version of Excel is 15.0 or earlier - just change that to the appropriate number.
Double click the REG_DWORD: EnableOnLoad, set its value to 0 (zero) and restart the PC.

You'll now find you only get two warnings about external files instead of three.

Incidentally this same registry tweak will also help with slow loading and saving of large Office files.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

What is LESS dangerous than a terrorist?

Have you ever wondered what is LESS dangerous than a terrorist? 

After considerable research I can tell you. The information is compiled from National Vital Statistics on deaths

Trivial death risks

  • Killed as a passenger on a train - odds 1 in 10,300,000
  • Killed by explosion of pressurised vessels such as a pressure cooker or tire - odds 1 in 10,700,000
  • Killed by being struck by a person - that's being fallen on or bumping into them not fistfights - odds 1 in 11,000,000
  • Killed by being bitten by a dog - odds 1 in 16,000,000
  • Killed by being bitten or stung by a bug other than bees,wasps or spiders - 1 in 22,150,000
  • Killed by ignition of nightwear - odds 1 in 22,150,000
  • Killed by excessive  man-made heat or cold e.g. trapped in a freezer - odds 1 in 28,800,000
  • Killed by venomous spiders - odds 1 in 28,800,000
  • Killed by a flood - odds 1 in 32,000,000
  • Killed by unintentional firearms discharge - odds 1 in 57,600,000
  • Killed by explosion of fireworks - odds 1 in 57,600,000
  • Killed while occupant of street car - odds 1 in 72,000,000
  • Killed by contact with venomous snakes - odds 1 in 96,000,000
  • Killed by a vending machine - odds 1 in 112,000,000
  • Killed by shark attack - odds 1 in 264,100,000
  • Killed by rabies in USA - odds 1 in 880,000,000
  • Killed by a meteor - odds 1 in 765,000,000,000,000,000

Terrorism with a risk of 1 in 9,300,000 is more dangerous than all of these but terrorism is LESS dangerous than this list:

  • Earthquakes - odds 1 in 9,290,000
  • Scalding by hot water - odds 1 in 8,200,000
  • Riding on a bus - odds 1 in 7,200,000
  • Stung by hornets, wasps and bees - odds 1 in 5,300,00
  • Cave-ins or falling earth - odds 1 in 5,000,000
  • Storms - odds 1 in 4,500,000
  • Lightning - odds 1 in 4,300,000
  • Legal execution in the USA - odds 1 in 4,300,000
  • Bitten by mammals other than dogs - odds 1 in 3,800,000
  • Falling from high place - odds 1 in 2,800,000
  • Overexertion, travel and privation - odds 1 in 2,250,000
  • Accidental firearm discharge - odds 1 in 1,200,000
  • Drowning in bath tub - odds 1 in 800,000
  • Alcohol - odds 1 in 800,000
  • Falling from a ladder - odds 1 in 700,000
  • Falling from a building - odds 1 in 520,000
  • Drowning in a swimming pool - odds 1 in 450,000
  • Tripping/slipping at same level - odds 1 in 450,000
  • Falling off a bycycle - odds 1 in 375,000
  • Falling out of bed! - odds 1 in 370,000
  • Death at your office desk - odds 1 in 140,000
  • Riding a motor cycle - odds 1 in 90,000
  • Accidental poisoning - odds 1 in 86,000
  • Assault by firearm USA - odds 1 in 24,000

The real risks to your life

All of these pale into insignificance when compared with the real risks to your life:

  • Heart disease - odds 1 in 3
  • Cancer - odds 1 in 5 (and falling)
  • Strokes - odds 1 in 20
  • Respiratory disease - odds 1 in 20 (more if you smoke) 
  • Diabetes - odds 1 in 30
  • Alzheimer's disease - odds 1 in 31 (and rising)

Despite spending billions on a trivial risk - remember falling out of bed is 35 times more dangerous than terrorism - we seem unable to stop it. We could easily cut the risk of heart disease though by just educating people to eat less and exercise more often. The cost in terms of health education advertisements would be trivial compared with the arms budget.

Why doesn't this happen? Why are we so concerned about terrorism?

I suspect the real answer is greed. Not from people overeating but the greed of people who make fortunes persuading people to fight each other. Those who finance, make and supply arms and munitions. For their profit:

  • They need to persuade people that terrorism is a serious threat to their lives. 
  • They need religious leaders to be at odds with each other. 
  • They need preachers of hate to stir up fear in the weak willed, easily led people. 
  • They need the media to focus on trivialities and stir up the paranoia which sells their stories.
  • They need politicians to be coerced by lobbyist enticements and forced into stupid actions by ill-informed electorates.

We are fighting the wrong people!
Our target should not be the morons but the men in suits ultimately behind them.