Friday, October 30, 2009

The Kindle DX (review) - Part III

This is the final portion of the Kindle DX review where I give you some pictures to get a better visual idea of what the Kindle looks like.

The box:

The shipping label is easy to tear:

That packaging:

Safely stowed away:

Extras underneath:

Backside of the Kindle and the extras:

My nightstand before the Kindle:

My nightstand after the Kindle:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Kindle DX (review) - Part II

So I've had my Kindle DX long enough to learn more about it and what it's like reading on it. So I'll give you a more quirky analysis as well as answer some reader questions.

Quirky Analysis of the Kindle DX:
Don't order this screen protector like I did. It added a horrible amount of glare and made reading nearly impossible. Save yourself the money and buy a book instead.

The screen will show some residual "burning" after you power it on. It cycles through a set number of images (which I'd love to modify) of famous authors and various other neat things. But when you power up the device, you can still see a bit of an after-image beneath the text you're reading. Not to worry though, it goes away fast enough and it isn't strong enough to detract form reading.

I subscribed to USA Today for about a week and found I didn't read that much of it and it was misleading when a new paper was delivered. For example, when I didn't finish Wednesday's paper and I had Thursday's paper delivered, I couldn't easily find Wednesday's copy. In fact, I thought it was deleted. But after I removed Thursday's copy, Wednesday's was there. Which leads me to believe that it shows just as one title on the "Home" screen and you need to use the menu to access the older copies. And while I do like USA Today as a whole, I prefer it from the newsstand. I can quickly scan the headlines and read the articles I want. On the Kindle I had to cycle through each article to read the headlines. You could skip articles without going through each page, but it was still slower than the physical newspaper.

The Text-to-Speech feature is useless to me. Sure, if I were blind or had issues reading, I'm sure it would be awesome. But it simply does not compare to an audio book performance. The difference is bigger than comparing the sound quality of an LP and a CD. But the feature does work (again though, not for PDF files) and is fairly easy to use once you figure out the controls.

Questions from Readers:
@mellijellybean How's that Kindle working out for you? I love gadgets, but also love physical papers & books. Still want one though. How is it?

It's great. I've had it a few weeks now and I feel like I'm reading more now than before. It's very easy to jump between books and very easy to pick up and put down. It also transports better than a book, especially hardbacks, and does fairly well with graphics (like those in Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol). The best analogy I can come up with is this. The Kindle will transform the way we read books just like Hulu and the DVR will transform the way we watch television.

@McGenealogist I think of it as e-book reader or digital book.

It is. And really the only thing that sets it apart from a laptop is the ease of portability. And if I had a netbook, I could use that, but then you get into discussions about weight and heat. And both were big drawbacks to me reading from my laptop in bed. Even if I had an ultra-thin netbook that had very little weight, I'm sure it would still get hot. Not to mention the apps I'd have to open just to read. So it certainly has it's advantages, but it really is nothing more than an e-reader.

@maplemuse I'm curious about the Kindle's annotation support. Can you export the notes to your computer somehow?

For those that don't want the gruesome technical details, skip to the next question. Okay, to annotate something in the Kindle is very easy, as long as it is something that is converted to a Kindle format. Meaning, you can't take notes on something in a PDF format. Anything else should be just fine (except Audible books, audio files, etc.).

To take notes, you simple use the 5-way controller (the Kindle's version of a mouse or joystick) and highlight the text. Move the cursor to where you want to start, click, move to the end, click again. You can then type a note or leave it alone. Either way it shows the highlighted text along with your notes on the Kindle under the "My Clippings" heading on your "Home" screen.

Now, you can take these and easily copy them to your computer by connecting the Kindle via the provided USB cable. The Kindle shows as an external drive, just like most USB hard drives. (When you connect it, I found it's easier to have the Kindle on, then plug it into the computer.) Once you plug it in, navigate to the "Kindle" drive. Mine has three folders by default; audible, documents, and music. Open the "documents" folder and find the "My Clippings.txt" file.
You can either open it to read it or copy it to the computer or open and copy whatever text you want to an email. You get the idea, the file is easy to access and open. Here's an example of what it looks like:

Kindle DX User's Guide (
- Note Loc. 69 Added on Tuesday,
October 13, 2009, 04:03 PM

test note
Simple enough. Now, if they'd let you use the Whispernet to send your notes to an email account, that would be super-awesome and make reviewing a book much easier. You can also edit the notes in the file if you want, meaning you can delete old ones, or write a note to yourself.

@fairywhispers How does the Kindle compare to reading a physical book?

This is the ultimate question and the hardest one to answer. You see, I have bad luck. In fact, I often say if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. What does this have to do with comparing a Kindle to a book? Simple, I've been following this little company called Plastic Logic for months now. They're in the process of building what I would consider a Kindle Killer (my phrase, not theirs). And sure enough, days after I get my Kindle, they announce the name of it. And the next day Barnes & Noble introduces their product. So the two main Kindle competitors I have been waiting on show up to my party too late. I have a Kindle and now I'm committed.

Still you ask what does this have to do with a physical book vs. a Kindle? Well, it's more than just the Kindle. It's comparing a physical book to a physical e-reader (in my mind software on your PC or PDF books don't quite compare to the physical e-reader). We have seen the discussions before about e-books taking over print books, is it better, is it cheaper, what about piracy, etc.

And I think it's okay to be in the middle right now. Think about the VCR. You could record television shows and watch them on your schedule. DVRs have taken that a step further by making them digital. The same goes with email. You can send a letter to family in seconds free when years before it took days and cost you twenty-two cents (plus you had to write neat enough for them to read it).

With e-readers, it's just the next step in the reading life cycle. I'm sure in twenty years we'll be reading off a piece of flimsi-plast that we'll put into our Mr. Fusion to power or hovering DeLorean. But for now, it's the Kindle (and other e-readers). And the Kindle can (and does) compete with printed books. You have a bookstore at your fingertips all the time. You can order a book on the Kindle and have it delivered in seconds or order it online and have it delivered whenever you turn your wireless on. You the consumer have the power to choose when you take delivery.

Is it worth it? That depends. Are you ready to read more books? Are you ready to spend more on books? Yes, there's a large up-front cost to the Kindle. But the back-end prices are cheaper for the most part. I mean, a new hardback book, on sale, with a discount, with cash back on your credit card, with rebates from the bookstore will cost you more than ten dollars. But on the Kindle, that's usually the maximum. And if you watch various sites online, you can pick up some free or cheaply discounted books easily. I've been saving those free PDF books for years now and have amassed nearly eighty titles, all for no cost.

So how does it compare to a physical books? Physically speaking, it's lighter, about the weight of two mass-market paperback books. It's as thin as a magazine and about the same size. The screen has very little glare, so even reading under a bright light doesn't hurt the eyes. In fact, the contrast looks so good, it looks fake. Navigating the menus is very easy with only one or two places that are not "logical" to get to (but once you find them, it's simple to remember). The fonts are adjustable (except on PDFs) and you can rotate the screen if you'd like. These are all features that a normal book does not have.

So, in the end, I would say the Kindle is worth the money. But you need to treat it like an investment. Like I said earlier, it is very much like a DVR. When we got our DVR, we began watching more television, but we could skip the commercials. With the Kindle, we can skip the store, but we're reading more. The only other side-affects you'll need to deal with are withdrawal from shopping in a book store and the lack of that musty smell from an old book.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Kindle DX (review) - Part I

I have been longing for a Kindle since it made its debut a long time ago. And I have been following its many competitors (especially Plastic Logic) since then. So when I had the opportunity (in other word the money) to get one, I could not wait for the latest and greatest to come down the technology pipeline. I had to opt for what I considered the best e-reader on the market. The Kindle DX.

Ordering, Shipping, and Arrival
At the same time I ordered mine, my wife jumped on the same bandwagon and got one as well. While her funding came from a different source, she opted for the same technology toy I did. Can you tell we love to read? Between the two of us, we had very different shipping experiences. I opted for the free shipping while she opted for the 2-3 day shipping. Needless to say she got her's first even though I ordered mine first.

The package was very nice, keeping our Kindles safe and sound inside. The packing slip label on the front is very difficult to get to without ripping to shreds. But if you take your time and follow the directions, it won't make you look like you pulled a Wolverine on it. The contents of the box were very simple. The Kindle, the cord, and a quick start guide.

Battery Life
I have already noticed that the battery life is running much lower than the specs listed by Amazon. But living in the boonies and having the wireless (aka Whispernet) on all the time does take some serious power. So I turn it off until I'm ready to have a new book or newspaper or something delivered.

The screen is so sharp and crisp, it looks fake. Seriously, it looks like a sticker they printed and put on there. But in fact, it is the real thing. So that makes reading very easy on the eyes. And to some degree, I'd say almost easier than reading a printed book.

Geeky Techno-Jargon
Transferring files to and from the Kindle is easy. Plug in the USB and it becomes another hard drive on your computer (just like any USB drive, thumb drive, etc.). It has folders on the Kindle by default that are pretty easy to understand (like "music" and "documents"). If you drag and drop a PDF file to the Kindle, it'll read just like normal. You may see some limited functionality with the PDF files (like Text to Speech won't work and you can't change the font size), but it'll still remember where you left off. It also shows some odd marks that look very much like something you'd see if you printed the PDF, but they don't subtract from the reading experience.

Dropping music onto the Kindle is easy as well, but not really worth it. After all, jogging with your Kindle isn't easy. Leave the music on your iPod or Zune and leave the books on your Kindle.

Audible files work well on the Kindle though, just drag and drop them like anything else. You'll need to register your Kindle as an approved device with Audible, but you only need to enter your Audible user name and password and you're good to go. Just remember that the "ALT" key on the Kindle keypad needs to be pressed each time you want to enter a number.

Converting RTF files is a dream as well. You simple email them to the "free" Kindle email address ( I converted three novels I had in RTF and before I could email the third one, the first was already converted and emailed back to me. Awesome. Simply save the converted file that's returned to you to your computer and drop it onto the Kindle and you're ready to go. And Text to Speech and annotations should work on those files.

Like I stated before, I live in the sticks. Cell coverage at our house is weak at best. But I can easily order something online or on the Kindle and ave it delivered to the Kindle in nothing flat. And even if I have trouble connecting, I can read something else as it downloads in the background. Total time for a novel is usually less than a minute.

I opted for the USA Today trial period and so far it's okay. Not great, just okay. I'd suggest buying one copy or checking out the trial period if you're into magazines and newspapers. Either way, you'll get limited graphics, and not a lot of local news (at least that's what I hear about the Washington Post).

Kindle gives you the chance to take notes while you read. I did notice that this feature does not work with PDF files, but with regular Amazon books or newspapers or even the RTF novels I had converted, it works great. The notes can be easily copied from the Kindle to your computer via the USB cable. Like putting a PDF file on the Kindle, you just copy the TXT file to your computer.

Thus concludes Part I of the Kindle Review. Stay tuned for Part II.

Friday, October 23, 2009

GIVEAWAY - Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul

I have a copy of Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul to giveaway. This is a slightly used (meaning I read it) trade paperback version.

How do you enter to win a copy?

Leave a comment on this post or send me an email at tk42one (at thingy) gmail (dot) com with SKELETON COAST in the Subject.


Send me a DM or @ reply on Twitter (

What are the rules?

- You must live on the planet Earth (sorry, no intergalactic entries).
- You can only enter once (duplicate attempts will be disqualified).
- Deadline to enter is midnight November 2, 2009.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Havoc Giveaway WINNER

And the winner of Havoc by Jack DuBrul is....


That's right, nobody entered. So whoever wins the next giveaway (Dark Watch by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul) will get BOTH books!

See what happens when you miss a chance to win a free book?

Friday, October 16, 2009

GIVEAWAY - Dark Watch by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul

I have a copy of Dark Watch by Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul to giveaway. This is a slightly used (meaning I read it) trade paperback version.

How do you enter to win a copy?

Leave a comment on this post or send me an email at tk42one (at thingy) gmail (dot) com with DARK WATCH in the Subject.


Send me a DM or @ reply on Twitter (

What are the rules?

- You must live on the planet Earth (sorry, no intergalactic entries).
- You can only enter once (duplicate attempts will be disqualified).
- Deadline to enter is midnight October 26, 2009.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Sword of the Lady Giveaway WINNER

And the winner of the two-book giveaway (The Sword of the Lady by S. M. Stirling and Deep Fire Rising by Jack Du Brul) is ...


Congratulations! I hope you enjoy both books!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mini Vacation

Library Dad is a bit bogged down reading at the moment. So the blog will be on a mini-vacation this week while he does his best to finish something worthy enough of reviewing. And don't worry, the giveaways will continue as planned!

Friday, October 9, 2009

GIVEAWAY - Havoc by Jack DuBrul

I have a copy of Havoc by Jack DuBrul to giveaway. This is a slightly used (meaning I read it) mass market paperback version.

How do you enter to win a copy?

Leave a comment on this post or send me an email at tk42one (at thingy) gmail (dot) com with HAVOC in the Subject.


Send me a DM or @ reply on Twitter (

What are the rules?

- You must live in the United States.
- You can only enter once (duplicate attempts will be disqualified).
- Deadline to enter is midnight October 19, 2009.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alex Bledsoe Interview II

I interviewed Alex Bledsoe back in March 2009 before reading his debut novel The Sword-Edged Blonde (review here). So after reading his follow up Eddie LaCrosse novel, Burn Me Deadly (review here) and his vampire/horror novel Blood Groove (review here), I figured it was time for a follow up interview with some more pointed questions.

Your novels, The Sword-Edged Blonde and the upcoming Burn Me Deadly, star a hard-nosed detective named Eddie LaCrosse. What ever gave you the idea to take this classic character from a black and white movie and dump him into a fantasy world with swords instead of guns?

I wanted a new way into a fantasy world that bypassed a lot of the traditional clutter. For me as a reader, when I have to pause and think about how to pronounce names, or read laborious descriptions of made-up cultures just to find my way through the plot, I'm taken out of the story. By using a first-person narrator and a tone that's both familiar and fun, as well as keeping things simple unless there's a valid, immediate reason to complicate them, I hoped to eliminate any emotional barriers between the characters and the reader.

Eddie has found love again with the feisty and independent Liz. Will she tame his wild spirit or will she prod him further into insanity?

That'd be a spoiler, wouldn't it?

When I read The Sword-Edged Blonde, I was constantly reminded of the movie, The Name of the Rose, with Sean Connery. When I read Burn Me Deadly, I was reminded of the TV series Deadwood. Do you find inspiration in television or movies for your themes or am I reading too much into your stories?

No one's compared it to "The Name of the Rose" before. I love the movie, and the book is even better: it deals with not only the mystery, but the very nature of the effect books and reading have onus. What do you see as the similarities?

--Library Dad: I mostly saw similarities betwen the book and movie when it comes to the mood and flavor. And of course there's a mystery to solve. As for the Deadwood vibe, well, watch the show and let me know if you see the same links.

And I haven't had the chance to get into "Deadwood," although it's in my Netflix queue. "Burn Me Deadly" was influenced by, if not directly inspired by, the classic film noir "Kiss Me Deadly" (the Mickey Spillane novel it's based on is a very standard thing, but the film is extraordinary). The film essentially gave me a jumping-off point for my story. I borrowed the structure for the opening scene and translated a central concept into a medieval fantasy idea. And that only happened because many years ago my pal Hays Davis made a comment that stuck with me about how dragons would be the equivalent of nuclear weapons in a fantasy world.

The tavern is an often-used fantasy cliche. Do you think Angelina's Tavern fits that cliche? Or do you even care if the there is a "tavern cliche?"

There's a difference between a cliche and a trope. In fantasy, a sword is a trope; a *magical* sword is a cliche. I feel that the tavern is so ubiquitous that the effort to *not* include one would be silly. So given that one is expected, I tried to make it different enough to be interesting.

Blood Groove and Burn Me Deadly are so wildly different, I've often wondered if the same person wrote them. Can you confirm that you actually wrote both of them? And if you did, what made you choose these two different genres?

Yes, I wrote them both. And so did I.

I write in all sorts of genres; these just happen to be the ones published first. To borrow a phrase from Nicholas Meyer, "art thrives on restriction," and the rules of any given genre provide a great platform from which to work.

As for what drew me to vampires, I grew up watching Christopher Lee on late-night TV, so my first image of vampires was scary, powerful, and seductive only to the extent it allows them to feed more easily. I love the first wave of late 19th-century literary vampires: Dracula,Varney, Carmilla, Lord Ruthven, etc. I admired early Anne Rice, but the novelty of her idea--that vampires might be *bored* by being vampires--wore thin by her third book. And I don't get much charge from the idea of a sympathetic vampire, let alone a romantic one. So in "Blood Groove," I put a lot of my ideas about what makes vampires cool, and set it in a time and place I thought made for an interesting clash of elements.

You've firmly planted a foot in the fantasy genre and another in the vampire genre. Do you have plans for another genre like science fiction or steam punk?

Definitely. I don't want to write the same book over and over, and I don't want to repeat myself if I can help it.

If I recall correctly, you grew up in Tennessee. Did you draw a lot on your childhood memories for Blood Groove? If so, were any of the characters based on people you knew?

None of the characters are based on anyone I knew, but the book's mind-set is definitely what I recall from growing up. The seventies was a weirder time than most people think, stuck between the world-changing sixties and the nihilistic eighties.

Rudolfo Zginski was a very interesting character that I loved and hated at the same time. Are you planning on any future Zginski tales?

The follow-up Zginski tale, "The Girls with Games of Blood," will be released by Tor in May 2010.

I know you did a lot of vampire research for Blood Groove. What one source would you say helped you the most?

Stoker's "Dracula." He synthesized a lot of European folklore, and created some elements that we now *think* of as European folklore. Everything that makes vampires cool and exciting is really all therein that book; later books, including my own, exist either as a reflection of, or reaction to, "Dracula." Even Stephen King acknowledges it; he's said that, when writing "Salem's Lot," the brick wall he kept slamming into was "Dracula."

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Just that the reception for the Eddie LaCrosse books has been better than I ever expected. For years I was told by publishers and agents that my mix of high fantasy and hard-boiled mystery was just too quirky for most readers. I'm eternally thankful to the agents and publishers who took a chance on it, and especially to the readers who have embraced it. I hope to keep sending Eddie on adventures for years to come.

FlashForward Giveaway WINNER

And the winner of the two-book giveaway (FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer and River of Ruin by Jack Du Brul) is ...


Congratulations! I hope you enjoy both books!

Friday, October 2, 2009

GIVEAWAY - The Sword of the Lady by S. M. Stirling

I have a copy of The Sword of the Lady by S. M. Stirling to giveaway. This is a brand new copy in hardback.

I also have a copy of Deep Fire Rising by Jack DuBrul to giveaway. This is a slightly used (meaning I read it) mass market paperback version.

How do you enter to win BOTH books?

Leave a comment on this post or send me an email at tk42one (at thingy) gmail (dot) com with SWORD in the Subject.


Send me a DM or @ reply on Twitter (

What are the rules?

- You must live outside the United States (in other words, foreign countries only).
- You can only enter once (duplicate attempts will be disqualified).
- Deadline to enter is midnight October 12, 2009.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pandora's Curse Giveaway WINNER

And the winner of Pandora's Curse by Jack Du Brul is...


Yes, she won! She had the only entry, so make sure you tell your friends and stay tuned for more. There are plenty more giveaways out there this month, so check them out!