Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm A Guest Blogger!

As unbelievable as it may seem, a very fine book blogger, Clark Bjorke, who runs the Book Review Blog Carnival as well as the fine Resident Reader book review blog, has seen fit to post my latest rant insightful essay on authenticity in blogging. I'm excited--there's something nice about being appreciated by another blogger, and a good one, as well as something freeing about having a soapbox on someone else's space. So check it out, and I'd love to hear what you think of it in the comments!

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Eyes Glued Shut: The iPhone Versus Kindle

The fact that publishing companies are starting to make electronic versions of their books available for the iPhone has recently made the news. Scrollmotion is reported to have made deals with six publishers for books for its Iceberg e-reader for the iPhone, and a few books were available (at prices that were quite high for e-books). Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini, is priced at $27.50, for example (this article lists all the prices).

Random House is also making available, free, for the iPhone the same 9 books that are available for free for the Kindle through February (the list is here). I decided to download and try one of them in the interest of comparing the reading experiences on both platforms: Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston. This is in addition to all the reading I'm doing for Kindle reviews, and for my job. Hence the title of this post.

Six Bad Things is an entertaining and clever suspense story, sort of Elmore Leonard meets Carl Hiassen with a protagonist who is a criminal somewhat redeemed by his pangs of conscience. It's a fairly easy and fun read. I'm using the Stanza e-reader for iPhone as my platform. This platform also has some 40,000 new and popular titles available for sale through Fictionwise, about a fifth of the number of titles available for the Kindle through Amazon. There are also a selection of free offerings, mainly samples and public domain works inlcuding direct access to Project Gutenberg books.

Now to the pros and cons.

Costs. The price of individual books (aside from the free offerings) is higher, sometimes considerably higher, than the price of Kindle books. For example, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is $6.04 for the Kindle and $10.99 from Fictionwise. The Audacity of Hope by President-elect Barack Obama is $9.99 for the Kindle and $14.95 from Fictionwise. Brisingr is the aforementioned $27.50, but only $9.99 on the Kindle. If you read a lot, you'll save money with the Kindle. [Added 1/1/09:] However, please see this post on lowering these initially higher costs using Fictionwise's discounts and rebates.

On the other hand, the Kindle is an expensive device--$359 if you can find one. The iPhone is also expensive, especially if you factor in the monthly service fee (Amazon does not charge for the Kindle's Whispernet cellular connection), but one could argue that one already has the phone for other purposes, so there's really no additional hardware cost to using it as a book reader. For some readers who already own iPhones anyway and who don't read enough to offset the difference in the cost of books, the Stanza reader and Fictionwise bookstore on the iPhone may be a better deal.

Size: Is it a pro or a con? Well, it's a little of both. Because of its small size, the iPhone, unlike the Kindle, fits in a pocket. It's the ebook that you'll always have with you and can be held comfortably in one hand. It has a relatively generous screen, for a phone. Yet, of course, even a large cell phone screen is small compared to the Kindle. Thus, the font is either small and needs to be held right in front of one's nose, or it is large and only a few words fit on the page, requiring frequent page refreshes, frustrating if you're a fast reader. After some experimentation, I chose a smallish, but not the smallest, size. On the other hand, the Kindle, while not pocketable, has a screen roughly the size of a paperback book, and also has adjustable fonts. It's more like reading a regular book, while the iPhone, while quite usable for short periods, is a bit small and squinty over long stretches.

Electronic goodies. This one's a bit of a moving target, since both devices and their underlying software programming can be expected to improve over time, possibly in unpredictable ways. While the Stanza reader for iPhone has some decent features, including adjustable font sizes, a basic search, and bookmarks, at this time it does not have all the functionality of the Kindle. One can't make marginal notes and highlight portions of text, and then recall them at will. The best substitute I've found is using a descriptive bookmark system, which isn't as robust. There's no on-device dictionary with the Stanza, although one could just use the web browser on the iPhone to look up words if one is in wireless range.

Screen resolution: according to the tech specs, the Kindle has a very slightly better resolution at 167 ppi vs. 163 ppi for the iPhone. Because of the e-ink technology, the Kindle screen looks more like printed paper, while the iPhone's screen is brighter and, of course, color. Color doesn't make all that much difference for fiction reading, except that the book covers look much nicer, but you know what they say about covers.

Eyes: Admittedly, this is subjective and based only on personal experience. On the Kindle, I can read for hours at a time without a problem, when I have the time--I find no difference between the Kindle and a paper book in that regard. If you're the kind of reader who likes to curl up with a book for a whole afternoon, the Kindle is great (and it also has loads of fancy electronic goodness). After an hour and a half of reading on the iPhone, I started to get eyestrain, and after about 2 hours I had a full-blown headache and had to stop. On the other hand, it could be nice to have an iPhone book in situations where the Kindle isn't as convenient, like waiting in a line or standing in the Metro.

Bottom line: For iPhone owners who read occasionally or for short stretches and want a reading option with them at all times (because we iPhone owners always have our phones), the Stanza reader on iPhone would work. For those who read a lot, who want the book price advantage of Amazon, and who love the experience of reading for long stretches of time and want the conveniences of the built-in dictionary, highlighting, note-taking, instant access to books, and having a library in one device, the Kindle is the way to go.

In the ideal world: I'd be able to put a given e-book on both devices, and synchronize bookmarks between them. Whilst rushing about, I'd read in snatches on the iPhone; whilst relaxing, I'd read on the Kindle. Yeah, like that'll ever happen.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

The Last Colony is the capstone to the story begun in Old Man's War and continued in The Ghost Brigades. Old Man's War begins with John Perry, a 75-year-old man, enlisting in the Colonial Union defense forces (the troops that protect human colonies and oppose almost all of the several hundred sentient races humanity has encountered); he knows nothing about what he is getting into except that he can, somehow, be made young again, and he can never return to Earth -- but there is nothing for him there anyway.

The Ghost Brigades
does not directly continue the story of John Perry, but focuses on other characters, and particularly Jane Sagan (whom Perry had met and formed an attachment to in the first novel) and other members of the elite and strange special forces, troops created and modified for the purpose of protecting humanity. Both these novels are among the best science fiction has to offer, combining an imaginative future world, main characters with depth, and suspenseful stories. One of the mysteries presented in The Ghost Brigades is: what is the real story behind the conflict between the Colonial Union (human colonies in space) and the Conclave, a U.N.-with-teeth gathering of most of the other space-faring races, whose very existence the Colonial Union has kept hidden from most of humanity? Is the Conclave truly a threat to human existence? Or is humanity the threat and the Conclave the only true hope for peace and stability in the portion of space where humanity resides?

The Last Colony picks up on these us-versus-them and us-versus-us conflicts and reunites John Perry and Jane Sagan. Thinking they are being sent to a peaceful existence leading an out-of-the-way colony on a planet called Roanoke (a bit heavy-handedly named after the Lost Colony in what is now North Carolina's Outer Banks), they are instead cast into the middle of interplanetary politics and military maneuvering. One of the joys of Scalzi's view of our space-exploring future is his dystopian (many would say, realistic given the competition engendered by evolution) view of the fictional space-faring intelligences we encounter. Rather than the advanced, pacifistic beings of many a space fantasy, he depicts a "red in tooth and claw" contest of many intelligent races over too little planetary real estate where only the tough and smart survive and losing a battle means having an entire planet's population mercilessly destroyed. The Last Colony veers from a setting that seems out of the mainstream to being the fulcrum upon which the future of humanity rests with astonishing inventiveness, imagination, and pacing, while exploring further the characters of John Perry, Jane Sagan, and their adopted daughter Zoe.

If one is a science fiction fan and has never read this engaging trilogy, well, get to it! If you've read the first two novels, I believe you will find The Last Colony to b e a worthy successor. Kindle price $7.19.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

USA Today: Free Today

To kick off the beginning of its availability on the Kindle, USA Today is giving the December 26 issue away for FREE at the Amazon Kindle Store. The regular monthly subscription price is going to be $11.99, so today is a great today to find out if the Kindle edition of USA today is for you.

The picture is a screen shot of the front page.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


A recent commenter who is considering whether to buy a Kindle wanted to know about the availability of magazines. I thought this topic might be of general interest, so here is a list of 21 magazines available for the Kindle as of today:

Reader's Digest
Cash: Personal Finance for Real People
MIT Technology Review
The Atlantic
The Nation
U.S. News and World Report
reason: Free Minds and Free Markets
The Escapist
Asimov's Science Fiction
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Each of these magazines allows one free trial, and I urge anyone interested in subscribing to try the free trial first. The graphics and formatting on the Kindle will likely vary from the paper version. However, the convenience of having your periodicals appear as if by magic on the Kindle is outstanding.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Book Review Blog Carnival Has Made Another Stop

At Mawbooks.com. Here is the link. The books reviewed are categorized as Christmas books, fiction, biography/memoir, personal finance, health care, non-fiction, young adult, middle readers and children’s books. Whatever your reading tastes or those of your loved ones, you are sure to get some good ideas here for yourself or for a gift. If that's not a sufficient incentive, there is also an opportunity to win a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, winner to be picked on Tuesday, December 30.

Please visit the book reviews at Maw Books. And happy holidays to all!

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But Can the Kindle Help Me Laugh?

Of course it can! I speak specifically of Free Range Chickens by Simon Rich and The Idiot Girl And the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro. During the Random House giveaway, which lasts until February 28, the Amazon Kindle editions of these books are free. In these times when stock portfolios are dwindling, the greatest manufacturing capacity on Earth, the very "arsenal of democracy," as it was called in WWII, is in danger of closing, and your house is worth half of what you paid for it, what could be better than free laughs?

I'm not going to over-analyze these books. They're funny books, but trying to explain humor never works. I'm only going to try to describe them so the reader knows a little of what to expect.

The Idiot Girl, etc., in addition to having one of the best titles ever, has a number of essays on various subjects (very) loosely related by chronology. Some of these essays, such as the opening "The Lodgers" and the germophobic "Sickening" had me laughing so hard it was a good thing I wasn't drinking, because it would have come out my nose. Others, like the clever "Death of a Catchphrase," are less visceral but still very amusing and well-written. Some, be warned, are what one might call "earthy." If you're offended by what people used to call "bathroom humor," there are one or two stories that might not be to your taste. But, frankly, you should just loosen up and get over it, because these are too funny to be missed.

Free Range Chickens is more of a heady humorous experience. Funny, but more Woody Allen (if you've read his books) than Laurie Notaro. Some of Mr. Rich's work has appeared in the New Yorker, and one theme that is recurs in the book is "what if" sorts of scenarios. What if adult professionals had to dress up in sailor suits like children are made to do? If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, what conversations occured before there were any other professions (no four-letter words are used)? These wry reflections on the human condition will make you think as well as laugh.

The Kindle editions of both books are well done, and both have linked tables of contents, so you can easily go to particular chapters. Both are funny and welcome diversions in these trying times.

PS: Those of you who read either of these, let me know what you think in the comments. Are there any other humor books for the Kindle that you would recommend?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Now it may be time to panic...

No one wants to be unnecessarily alarmist. On the other hand, sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to sound an alarm. If your smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night, a little panic may be appropriate, if it saves your life.

A big three automaker is closing U.S. production for at least 30 days. While it is true that Chrysler typically does shut down production for a short time during the holiday season, a "Big three" automaker shutting down their entire American manufacturing capacity for a whole month, or more, is unprecedented. According to CNN, Chrysler is stating that the continuing lack of consumer credit forced the, one hopes, temporary shutdown. The shutdown affects 46,000 workers, and, a whole host of industries that are related to the auto manufacturing process, which (according to an article in today's Washington Post, employ 975,000 people). Suddenly, the credit crisis is no longer abstract. Also, the Detroit Free Press reports that Ford is extending its usual holiday shutdown for a week, and Wired is reporting that GM is suspending work on a factory to produce engines for the Chevy Volt electric vehicle.

In 2003, business reporter Micheline Maynard wrote a book entitled The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market. The book states that "...there is a strong chance that by the end of this decade, at least one of Detroit's Big Three will not continue in the same form that it is in now." This dire prediction seems ready to come true a year ahead of schedule. How did we get here? The End of Detroit gives us a prescient view of the mistakes and miscalculations that led to the current situation. Kindle edition $7.96.

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Plastic Logic -- a Kindle Killer?

picture of Plastic Logic reader with magazines and a pad of paper

I just paid a visit to the Plastic Logic website, where there is a short video showcasing their upcoming reader, due to drop in 2009. It is thin, as thin as a few sheets of paper stacked together, and, most impressively, has a large, 8 x 10 form factor. As the press release, which can be read in full here, states:

"Differentiated by a stunning form factor (the size of 8.5 x 11-inch paper), the Plastic Logic reader features a big readable display. Yet it’s thinner than a pad of paper, lighter than many business periodicals, and offers a high-quality reading experience - better than alternatives of paper or other electronic readers on the market today."

The video also suggests that, like the Amazon Kindle, the device will have wireless capability. In addition, it is supposed to handle common document formats, including .pdf, which is somewhat hit-and-miss on the Kindle.

So why is a Kindle blogger and Kindle fan writing about a competing device? Because this kind of competition is good for us consumers. Serious competition to the Kindle and supporting Amazon ecosystem may lead Amazon to improve its device.

What interests me the most is the 8 x 11 size of the Plastic Logic reader (I really, really, hope that the production name is better, and more...short). At this size, the device would be able to display newspapers, magazines, and large-format books in their original layout, complete with pictures. Newspapers and magazines are not the Amazon Kindle's strongest feature, being a bit of a compromise--light on graphics and with the articles arranged as links in a simple list, rather than in their original layout. While I love the convenience of the Kindle and do get my local newspaper on the device, the video of the Plastic Logic device showing a whole page of a newspaper looking just like a newspaper, well, it was compelling. Musicians could even use the device to display scores, something that isn't practical on the Kindle.

Will the Plastic Logic reader be a Kindle killer? There are two issues the device would have to address for that to occur. One is price--the form factor is amazing, but at what cost? If it's $1,000, the general public will stick with the Kindle, and Plastic Logic will likely be relegated to the corporate expense account until the price falls. Another is access to content. Amazon started life selling books and I believe has a certain commitment to books (indeed, they are amazingly successful in selling things literary, even given the subsequent growth of their long tail). I know that if I own a Kindle, I will have an increasing, high-quality, and reasonably priced access to books and periodicals.

It may even be that the devices will serve two different markets, the Amazon Kindle settling on the literary market--fiction and nonfiction books, basically. The Plastic Logic reader would be superior for newspapers and magazines.

Like the rumored next-generation Kindle, the Plastic Logic "sheet of paper" reader is due out in 2009. Let the games begin!

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kindledude Interviewed on Kindle Chronicles!

Kindle Chronicles is an excellent site featuring useful technical tips (Just to whet your appetite: how to create your own screen savers; how to put 20,000 classic books on your Kindle at once) and weekly podcast interviews with Amazon Kindle users. The interviews are quite interesting and engaging. I was interviewed for this week, about which, of course, I am very excited. Give it a listen and let me know what you think! I've also added the site to my resource list in the right sidebar.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm between reviews...

so I'll just mention a couple of things. If you haven't yet seen it, the Book Publishing Today blog lists the titles of 10 free books that Amazon is giving away for the Kindle until the end of February. Between these 10, and 15 science fiction novels that Tor Publishing offered a few months back, that's 25 free books in my Kindle queue. If you're the type that enjoys the pleasure of discovering new books and new authors, these are the good old days for ebooks!

By the way, if you look at the list and want to post the title that you think is the best (just the title), make a comment--I want to see how many people pick the same one. I have a hunch!

Someone, whom I'll call "Jessica," mentioned that she might want a Kindle, but that she does most of her reading in the Jacuzzi. Since water and electricity do not get along well, obviously, that won't work. As far as I know, there's no waterproof case for the Kindle. If anyone who has a Kindle has encountered a similar issue--after all, Jacuzzis and baths are reasonable places to relax with a book--and has come up with a solution, please post in the comments!! Don't do it for me, do it for "Jessica"!

Amazon is also making available at the Kindle store (for the standard $9.99 Kindle price) a pre-(paper) publication copy of Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. This item would seem to be a no-brainer for Democrats and Obama supporters, but even if you're more Joe the Plumber than Joe Biden, you might want to take an advance peek at where the country might be headed for the next 4 years.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Book Review Blog Carnival Is Back!

It is hosted this time at Imaginary Lands, where 40 books are covered, in the categories of general fiction, fantasy, horror, young adult and children, and non-fiction. As the weather grows colder and one thinks of huddling indoors with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book, this is a great stop for figuring out your reading list. As the gift-giving holidays approach, visit and think of the literature lover in your life!

In Amazon Kindle-related news, the famed Algonquin Hotel in New York, the meeting place of the famous Algonquin Round Table, is providing Kindles to its guests, "loaded with your favorite book, in keeping with our literary tradition." Scroll down this page to the third bullet point.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I am very pleased...

to announce that I received the Lemonade award, which is given to blogs that show great attitude and gratitude, from Bookpublishing. I'm happy to have been chosen by such a great blog! It is now my duty to bestow the award on the following 10 blogs for great attitude and gratitude:

The rules of this award for recipients:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!

3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Buffy: Still Slaying After All These Years

You may think that Buffy staked her last vamp in 2003, but you'd be wrong. The series lives on in various forms, including a beautifully illustrated graphic novel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, produced by film and series creator Joss Whedon.

It also lives on in books, many of which are authored by fantasy writer extraordinaire Christopher Golden. Today we'll take a look at one of those that is available for the Amazon Kindle, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Dark Congress.

The plot kicks off when an archaeological dig sponsored by the reconstituted Watcher's Counsel, in the process of recovering an important magical artifact, accidentally releases an ancient river goddess, "terrible to behold," who proceeds to wipe out most of the archaeological team. Oops.

Thus unfolds a series of events that will reunite the members of Buffy's team, present a mystery, and lead to events unfolding in a very unlikely location (Yes, I'm being deliberately vague. You want more? Read the book!)

I found that the characters were true to the Buffy canon and the plot, combining mystery, suspense, and a healthy helping of the supernatural, was worthy. This book is definitely a page-turner. Also, the laughing-in-the-face-of-demons quippiness of the original, which is what gave the show much of its charm, is preserved to a fair extent in the literary version. Of course, there is also some backstory provided--those already knowledgable in the Buffyverse may simply skim those passages, which are, thankfully, brief, and the as-yet uninitiated will find sufficient background provided to get them through the book.

I recommend this book to Buffy lovers and others who enjoy the supernatural and fantasy genres.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Read this post if you want a Kindle for the holidays

I get the most wonderful comments on this blog, and, in this time of gifts and giving, the following, from Karen in Tennessee, is one of the best in this time of Kindle scarcity. She also has a blog--link here. Oh, yeah--if you use this advice to get a Kindle, you'd darn well better give her a visit!!!

Karen in TN said...

I grabbed one this morning. I did hesitate, maybe 15 minutes or more, but decide that if Dad didn't like it or want it, then I could always send it back (or sell it for the same price). Mom and I love ours (and she was convinced that she didn't want one, until I had so many books on mine that she wanted to read, that she caved in and got one just before the Oprah show).

I know at least one other person grabbed one this morning, shortly before I did and that they were still in stock 10-15 minutes after my order, so they must have had several added at once. I set up a tinyurl to check the status:


So that I could keep looking up the current stock easily, without a lot of typing, as it was a pain to first open up amazon, then go to the Kindle page, then the "other sellers" page and finally then check for refurbished units. Instead the tinyurl checks for refurbs directly and if one is in stock, you can order it from there. I also added a link this morning to do the same thing at the top of my blog and I'll leave it up until the new units come back into stock. So, don't give up hope, just play "Kindle Lotto" often (and possibly early) and you might get one too!

December 5, 2008 9:26 AM

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Maybe you CAN get a Kindle...

This Friday morning, an unexpected bit of good news appeared. Karen from Tennessee, commenting on the previous post, explains how you may be able to score a Kindle after all. Read her helpful and informative comment here.

Karen, or anyone else, I'd love to hear reports on your experiences in this regard in the comments.

Thanks, Karen!

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

WSJ: No Kindles for Christmas--it's Oprah's fault!

The Wall Street Journal has an article covering the sold-out for Christmas (and Hannukah) Kindle and ebooks in general. Seriously, the Kindle sellout, according to WSJ, is because of it being mentioned on Oprah's show. Read about stats for the ebook market and some of the reasons why ebook lovers love their ebooks here.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Around the web and blogosphere

CNN has an article entitled "A Year Later, Amazon's Kindle Finds a Niche." It's an interesting article and worth reading. Among other things, it reiterates what we've been hearing, that Kindle 2.0 will be available in 2009.

At Breeni Books, guest reviewer and writer Cheryl Ann Gardner makes a passionate and well-argued entry in the book vs. movie category, that the original Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend exceeds any of the many movie versions of this story. This classic speculative fiction novel is NOT available for the Amazon Kindle, so wouldn't ordinarily be something I would mention, except that I thought Ms. Gardner's article was exceptionally well done. Read it here. Oddly, other Matheson novels are available for the Kindle; all one can do, I suppose, is to look the book up on Amazon.com and click on the button to request a Kindle edition.

I recently joined the Metaxu Cafe, a literary blogger collective, in the hopes of reading other blogs of interest, and, of course, having mine read. I logged on today to find that the site is indefinitely shut down. If anyone has further information, please leave a comment!

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Book Review: The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

Sepha Stephanos, the hero of Dinaw Mengestu's novel The Beatiful Things that Heaven Bears, is an immigrant from Ethiopia who owns a run-down grocery store in a run-down neighborhood in Washington D.C. His life in Washington is haunted by his memories of his home in Ethiopa, and especially by his dead father, who was beaten and arrested before his eyes, never to be seen again. Behind his couner, he keeps a copy of a V.S. Naipaul novel (never named, but apparently A Bend in the River) about a shopkeeper in an African country who is caught between two worlds and whose life is turned chaotically upside-down by revolution.

The famous first line of that Naipaul novel states that "the world is what it is." Sepha's Washington is haunted by his memories, colored by his status as an outsider, and distorted by preconceptions about America; it is his psychological struggle to see his new environment as it is and find his place there that is the core of the novel. The novel is about journeys in many ways: the journey out of Ethiopia; Sepha's perambulations around Washington (always accompanied by strong observation and intelligence); and, ultimately, the psychological journey of an immigrant, which continues to take place long after he has arrived in his new country. Of course, in many ways, this immigrant's journey holds a mirror up to American society and allows those of us who are not immigrants to see our surroundings in a new way.

Sepha's neighborhood and store survive in a kind of equilibrium; the people are poor but buy things from his store with enough regularity for him to barely survive. Then this equilibrium is upset by the arrival in his neighborhood of a wealthy white woman, Judith, and her daughter, Naomi. This arrival heralds the gentrification of the neighborhood, and is itself a kind of revolution. In this setting, Sepha's journey to the house a couple of doors away also seems to be a daunting journey across a great distance, albeit cultural and psychological rather than physical.

The novel is beautifully written, with deftly described characters and a strong sense of physical place as well as social context. I highly recommend this novel to Kindle owners (and readers in general). The Kindle price is $9.99.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Official!!

Like one of those challenged plays in the NFL where the officials huddle under a hooded camera long past the time when the viewers at home, through the magic of instant replay and multiple camera angles, know the result, the economists have finally confirmed the obvious: we are in a recession.

I would suggest that in these recessionary times, where one might not think it wise or even possible to afford box seats to the opera, or that diving trip to the Caymans, reading -- in any format -- is one of the most cost effective and rewarding entertainments that one can obtain. A good book transports one to a world of new characters, new ideas, new countries, newly rediscovered periods of history, or even, in the case of science fiction, histories that have not occurred. And all this for a bargain price (and even less for Kindle editions).

What's more, even though this is a Kindle-centric blog, let's not forget that for those for whom a Kindle is currently out of reach (darn recession!) there are many ebook formats that will work on one's computer, one's old Palm, and many other devices, and many of these books are free. Planet ebook provides free classic books in .pdf format that will work on any computer (I don't list it in my resource list because I haven't had good luck converting these books to Kindle format, although the .pdf is fine and very readable on the computer screen). When one selects a book from manybooks.net, one is presented with a drop-down list of about 18 formats, giving one a lot of options for various devices to which one might have access. Feedbooks provides books in several formats, including mobipocket which will work on a variety of smart phones, PDAs, and dedicated readers, and, with available software, on a personal computer (Mobipocket reader for PC, Stanza for Mac and iPhone). If you have an iPhone, a virtual trip to the app store will reveal a few other choices also; I personally like Stanza. Project Gutenberg has an option to download a plain text file, which should also work on a wide variety of devides and computers, including older ones.

The bottom line is that, even for those facing recession, ebooks are available and accessible, many for free, to take one's mind off of worldly cares. So check out the resources listed on this blog, do some searching yourself, and indulge in that Melville or Austen novel that you've always wanted to read but never got around to.

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