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PG: The Art of Funding a Startup is now free on Amazon (amazon.com)
197 points by neya on Aug 28, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

I believe the reviews are bad because of people's high expectations. This is essentially an interview transcript. Most PG interviews are laid back and most Andrew Warner's are about getting the information out rather than creating a documentary. That combination gives an informative video, not a book.

This is still a good read for a short flight. Definitely better than the 2-star rating Amazon has for it.

If you read through the review, you'll see it got bitten because of:

- Paying for material available for free elsewhere. - Horrible formatting for some devices.

This is very common in the App Store. Apps that decide to go free after charging typically take a full one-star downgrade to their rating.

Lots of people download them because they are free and don't care that much about them and are uber-quick to think they are terrible and move on to the next free app. Whereas people who pay are much more interested in what it has to offer, give it more time before they move on etc.

App.net is probably experiencing some of this with their backers. If it were free it would likely have much worse 'reviews' from people. Not that there is anything wrong with the product, just that people who spent $50 are much more likely to give it more than a quick once-over before making up their minds about it.

The App.net effect is due to sample bias -- the people paying are the one's most likely to be enthusiastic about it, so they are enthusiastic about it to justify the fact that they spent $50 for it. They don't want to feel like they've wasted their money. With App.net, users have a vested interest in other users adopting the service, hence the cheerleading.

Several of the reviews complain about the price in this case.

Formatting problems with your Kindle books? We can help:


I'm somewhat curious why this spam hasn't been downvoted into oblivion.

I'm somewhat curious why this spam hasn't been downvoted into oblivion.

user: davidw, created: 2016 days ago, karma: 28646

user: pc86, created: 11 days ago, karma: 20

I really don't mean to be a jerk, but a few quick suggestions:

1. Do a little research before you comment. Check out http://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=davidw to see that davidw is one of hn's oldest and most respected members.

2. A referral does not necessarily = spam. We love to hear about cool stuff, especially when it was developed by one of us.

3. Language like "downvoted into oblivion" is (a) a lame cliche, (b) an unnecessarily nasty attack, (c) the attitude we're all trying to avoid here on hn, (d) all of the above. Lighten up. Please.

Welcome aboard, pc86. Looking forward to hearing great things from you.

"I really don't mean to be a jerk, but a few quick suggestions"

Yeah, you and everyone else[0]. Karma doesn't make someone respected (quite the opposite in some cases), sharing good information does[1]. When you have the space, at least tell us how it works, what the challenges are and how to fix them. Would probably convert better too. Wouldn't be very nice if everyone with a relevant startup and high enough karma would start posting spammy oneliners.

[1] Example: "Hey, getting x1 and x2 to work correctly is hard. My startup fixes that by doing y1 and y2, using z. I wrote this up on our blog last month, check it out at ..."

[0] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3658860

Karma doesn't make someone respected (quite the opposite in some cases), sharing good information does

Sharing good information often leads to high karma. I'm not sure where you're opposite comment comes from, a quick look at [1] shows that out of the top 15, I would consider ten very highly respected in the community and people who share good information. The other five names I don't recognize myself, but that certainly doesn't mean that they're not also highly respected or people who share good information.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/leaders

To be fair, though, that was one of the more spammy ways of writing it. It's the sort of copy I'd expect from a banner ad.

>2. A referral does not necessarily = spam. We love to hear about cool stuff, especially when it was developed by one of us.

Well said. I've been keeping an eye on Liberwriter for a long time, and I eventually plan to use it.

> I'm somewhat curious why this spam hasn't been downvoted into oblivion.

Because I'm a long-time member of this community who has a bootstrapped company dealing with Kindle formatting, and because it was appropriate to this thread? People were complaining about the book's formatting.

Honestly, people on this site aren't the target market in any case, as anyone with a bit of tech skills can likely create the correct HTML and XML files, but you never know.

Actual spammers tend to repeat the same thing over and over, as well. I rarely mention LW in my comments here.

Then we are happy to support you - but, could I point out I had to read this defence before I knew that - maybe when plugging your own work in context its worth pointing that out.


David, I suspect many HNers are like me - interested in reading the book, no Kindle. I tried the "Cloud reader" but am stuck giving amazon a valid serial number of the Kindle I don't own.

so, is Google right in telling me you cannot use cloud reader without at least one Kindle purchase? (Have not dared brave the Amazon tech support line)

edit - about third rewrite - cannot make the thing about "please say you are bootstrapping HNer" sound anything other than snarky - apologies.

I do not own a Kindle and the Cloud Reader works fine for me. I've never had it ask for a serial # or anything like that.

Perhaps this is a requirement for new accounts?

No, I created a new account about two weeks ago and it never asked me for a serial #. I can use both the Cloud Reader and the desktop KindleReader application without problems.

As edw519 pointed out, I didn't do my research before making that flip comment. I didn't mean any offense by it and I apologize.

I am a LW customer and their work is high quality. They formatted my ebook for Kindle and it was extremely painless for a good price.

Disclaimer: I have no skin in the LW game. They're a good service. I would recommend them to anyone who is publishing to Kindle. Saves hours of time and costs very little to use.

HN doesn't knock the hustle if its relevant and not over the top spammy.

Hacker News has downvoting? I only ever see upvote arrows. Do I need more karma or something?

You need 501 or more karma:


That's just at the moment, though. It increases all the time.

Oh wow, that's pretty high. Thanks for the info.

This is offtopic, but I'm curious, how did you hear about Hacker News? I'm curious what makes new users want to participate here.

Personaly, I was doing a search on something like 'The best websites for developers', and I think it's on StackOverflow that I found people mentioning HN and reddit/programming among other websites. I heard from Y Combinator by Alexis Ohanian at CUSEC 2012, so the URL of HN stood out. And of course, same thing for reddit.

The content at that time was luckily quite interesting, but both website appeared to report the same articles. After a week sight seeing on both, I concluded that HN was usually of better quality than reddit. I think that articles on reddit tend to cover more trivial subjects than on HN, making for an easier, more casual reading, which is usually not what I'm looking for.

I want to participate because I would like to be part of a community of 'doers'. And every time I participate and post something, I'm at risk of getting my face slapped and hell-banned by the readers, which makes for a harsh but effective learning experience.

I want to participate because I would like to be part of a community of 'doers'

Welcome aboard.

I doubt readers have anything to do with hellbanning. You can have plenty of karma and still get hellbanned which clearly implies arbitrary moderator action. (But of course, when bringing that up one gets to read the rationalizations for such cowardly abuses of power, which is a learning experience, too... and not one of minor importance)

Well, you didn't ask me, but I am a new user.

I'm pretty sure I discovered HN as a source in Pulse and found myself hooked on the frequent stories relating to what I would call "real tech", descriptions of actual engineering challenges and solutions.

That's a rare thing as the majority of sites and communities are "passive" in their topics.

It actually took me a while to recognize HN as more than a news feed.

I'm not sure what drove me to actually participate since I generally try to avoid reading, much less posting comments anywhere.

For me, many other online forums discussing software have become too hostile to developers. (Or just too hostile in general.)

I remember HN was mostly populated by developers and so far I've found what I was looking for: more civility and interesting technical discussions. It caters less directly to my specific interests (I'm a game developer), but I'm still reading.

I'm not the parent, but I heard about HN recently through a friend. I've got an account that is my real name, I just don't use it for non-startup related comments/submissions.

Why wouldn't new users want to participate here? HN has a fantastic community. What isn't there to like?

I'm not sure I'd want new users to participate. I'd want them to lurk for a while (a few weeks or months) to learn the standards of the community before "contributing".

If the average new user just started doing what they do on other similar sites, HN wouldn't be a "fantastic community" for long.

I would argue that simply reading the guidelines page would be sufficient in order to properly assimilate a new user into the community, wouldn't you? After a day or two of reading the comments, I had a pretty good idea of what the standards of the community were.

I heard about it from a coworker in the office. I like it because it's like Digg in it's early golden days -- mostly technical stuff hitting the front page. But more than that, I have entrepreneurial goals, and I enjoy seeing and sharing with other similar-minded people.


Yeah - the most recent that I've heard is 400 karma (so it's not always true that 'karma doesn't count for anything')

It is currently over 400. I've been a bit of a lurker for years, just crossed 400, and no downvote arrows.

I read that it was 500 but I passed 500 and went for awhile before I got them. I don't remember the exact number but it was a random number and in the 550 range (like 542 or 568 etc)

It's from an HN member who's been here for a while. Plus, it is very tangentially related to the linked article. This combination is apparently what makes it okay.

But otherwise, I agree with you. Without more context, the comment you are referring really just is spam.

"Free on Kindle" <> free.

How so? You can read it online, or in a number of free Kindle apps for other devices.

Still DRM-laden. Won't buy, even at 0 dollars, sorry. It's a question of principle: I'm strongly against DRM, therefore I will boycott DRM'ed products.

I understand your perspective, though I personally find it a bit extreme, and possibly even self-limiting in this case.

I assume adnam is talking about free as in freedom, vs. free as in beer.

Assuming your goal is to read the book (not remix it), it doesn't seem like that would be a huge difference in practice.

In this case there happens to be a big difference. Try putting this book on your Nook or any other eReader that doesn't have a Kindle app.

Fair enough (though I think the Nook is pretty much the only eReader in that category)

I did. It took about 30 seconds, from downloading the ebook from Amazon, converting it in Calibre, and pushing it to my Nook.

Removing DRM is acceptable for certain personal uses, including, for example, making purchased media usable on your personal hardware.

> Removing DRM is acceptable for certain personal uses, including, for example, making purchased media usable on your personal hardware.

Depends on the legislation you're in. In Germany it's quite certainly illegal.

> I did. It took about 30 seconds, from downloading the ebook from Amazon, converting it in Calibre, and pushing it to my Nook.

You are a technically savvy user. 99% of normal humans are not.

DRM is a serious issue, even if the book itself is free.

>Depends on the legislation you're in. In Germany it's quite certainly illegal. //

It's considered tortuous infringement (unlawful) in the UK too.

how do i read it online? I have no kindle.

It offers downloading a windows app, no good for linux. It won't let me download unless i have a registered kindle program. Why can't they just let me download the file first? Significantly more friction than just downloading a pdf.

You can use Amazon Cloud Reader: https://read.amazon.com/

This will let you read it online. It looks like there's some offline support but I haven't tried it myself.

I have no (major) problem reading it online, but it just wont let me. If i go to your link, i am sent back to the kindle store. Then if i try to 'buy', i am required to have a kindle serial number, there is no other way to proceed. (I assume if gives you an ID or something if you download the app, but there is no 'read online without a kindle' choice).

It worked for me with my existing Amazon account, but then I have a Kindle.

I thought I'd test with a new account, so in an incognito window:

  * Went to https://read.amazon.com/
  * Created a new account
  * Got redirected to Kindle store, found free book, hit "Buy now with 1-Click"
  * Filled in a billing address
  * Got a page thanking me for my order, hit "Read now in Kindle Cloud Reader"
  * Book loaded
You're welcome to use this account--login: "M8R-2neeuu@mailinator.com", password "test123".

Hope this helps.

thanks! very helpful.

I agree that .azw/.mobi is an inferior format to .epub/.pdf, but Calibre is free software for Linux that converts most formats without an issue (and given that the Amazon version already has formatting issues, I doubt that's a problem).

The best thing to do, though, is what Cory Doctrow does: http://craphound.com/down/?page_id=1625. He even has (had) an option for a Gamebody Advance reader!

I actually assumed it was talking about ebooks as well.

Still, talking about a book on Amazon, most people will be thinking physical books, I imagine.

ebooks are outselling physical books now, so maybe not _most_ people, but _some_ people.

Looks like its getting great reviews at Amazon.com.

Yeah, it's a shame that poor formatting is so irritating. It's not hard to format a book properly.

That said, I didn't think it was all that bad.

UK link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-Graham-Funding-Interview-ebook/...

Could anybody get an ePub file? Amazon is not available in my country. I feel bad. :(


Incidentally, what's the legality on this? Seems confusing to me.

I think so. Thanks anyway for the conversion. That was quite nice of you.

I just got it, but would never actually pay to read an interview.

Very good initiative, but giving an epub option would have been even better.

If I want to borrow it (for free) and not own it, I can borrow the book also. But generally I prefer buying physical books that I actually own.

Hey PG, as a former painter, did you have a hand in designing the book cover? If so, can you tell us a bit about the color and layout choices? The electric blue and the not-quite desaturated photograph create a pretty striking effect and the layout seems kind of unusual with the photo taking up not-quite the bottom half of the cover.

from one of the amazon reviews:

"The price to content ratio of this publication is enormous and much of the information can be gleaned from a web search. "

for a free book it seems harsh but probably fair

The book probably wasn't free at the time of this review

Either that or he got a divide by zero error...

A review on Amazon.com: "the value received was not equal to the $4.99 I paid".

Yet again, African dwellers are not allowed to have access to information


I can access it from South Africa.

I wonder if I was the only one, who read the headline and thought of some sort of Bizspark-like program for amazon (free hosting for startups).


If you find yourself frustrated with the Kindle walled garden, and want the book in another format (PDF, EPUB, etc), then you can convert your kindle books to PDF/Whatever format by following this procedure. Please note - This may not be legal, and is demonstrated for educational purposes only!

1)Download and install Kindle for PC (Or Mac, if you have a Mac)

2)Download and install freeware Calibre (Open Source) (http://calibre-ebook.com/download)

3)Download and install DRM removal plug-ins for Calibre (if you use Kindle for PC app, you will just need to add the Kindle plug-in to Calibre)

4)Download your .AZW (Amazon's proprietary format) ebook onto Kindle For PC

5)Run Calibre

6)Find the folder with Kindle for PC ebooks (My documents/My Kindle Content)

7)Select DRM-protected AZW files and drag-n-drop them onto Calibre

8)Calibre will remove DRM protection from AZW ebook(s)

9)Convert your DRM-free MOBI ebooks to any other format (like ePub/fb2/LRF/Mobi/PDF/PDB/TXT/RTF/LIT) using Calibre if needed.

10)Enjoy reading the book in your new format. This is another way to say 'fuck you' to walled gardens like the Kindle.

I've been tempted to do just that: Convert all my Amazon kindle books into MOBI and get out of the "walled garden" as you put it. There was one thing stopping me though. I have an inherent need to support authors as much as I can since I not only wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, but I actually ended up writing a few short stories and a couple of novels. All unpublished off course since they where not mature (as in experience and style) enough. I fear that if I get out of the walled garden I'll end up buying a lot less books (and supporting authors less and less) because of how easy it is to get books online, and I don't necessarily mean pirating FYI.

So yeah, I installed Calibre and was amazed by the flexibility it gave me... and I uninstalled it an hour later because I realized that I couldn't support authors if it was that easy not to do so.

In any case this is great information, thanks for the walkthrough. maybe one day I'll go ahead with it and get out of Amazons lawn (get it get it? garden && lawn?)

>I realized that I couldn't support authors if it was that easy not to do so //

You realise this is counter-logical presumably. There is no reason you can't support authors and have their works in a format that is easier for you to consume. Indeed isn't it part of established fair-use in the USA to do format shifting?

So you buy the work and, assuming it isn't already, transfer it to the format you wish to consume the work in ... so where is the part where the author/owner/licensee doesn't get their "support" (ie payment)??

I don't understand how format shifting is going to change the number of books you buy either; can you explain further?

As an aside, Calibre does a pretty good job of converting epub and the like into the kindle format. It can also create the "Collections" on your kindle, which makes finding your books much easier on the kindle.

I put together a little writeup for the steps on accomplishing this on Mac: http://zacwe.st/blog/kindle-to-epub

Free with purchase of Kindle

Huh? The kindle application for iOS/Android are both free, as are the PC/OSX applications and the cloud viewer.

Ok I didn't know this. Comment withdrawn :)

Free if you have a computer or a smartphone.

Thanks for the posting. This has inspired me to learn how to write Mozilla plugins. My first project will be to write one that will strip (or at least alert on) referrer codes.

God forbid anyone should make a bit of money by recommending a book that is of interest to you.



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