What I’m reading right now – part of an occasional series…

All on my Kindle. Currently I have nothing on paper to be read, which was the idea since, as I’ve said, I’m running out of book space. I’ve always read a lot but, since getting the Kindle, I seem to be reading a lot more than I have been in recent years, and the think might have been designed expressly for reading in bed.

The Mighty Dead, by William Gault, the title is from James Thomson’s The Seasons (1730). Set, oh, about now, I suppose, as it was written in the 50s, and posits the rise to power of a semi-literate US senator who successfully gets a bill pushed through banning any form of reading, writing, printing and publishing, on the grounds that it disturbed people, spread dissent and variously undermined society (and, of course, showed him in a very poor light).

The tale centres on a federal agent, sent to rural Wisconsin to investigate reports of an illegal group of readers, which turns out to be an embryonic magazine, published and disseminated in secrecy. And, you know, I didn’t find it all that far-fetched, in a country where, as we’ve seen of late, a large part of the population appears to treasure dumbness, ignorance, and sub-literacy. One point was missed though – think how much a ban like that would favour politicians!

I’ve just started Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail. I first read this as a child, in the Classics Illustrated series, about which I remember zilch, beyond vague images of buffalo hunters and a wagon train. It’s not, as one might reasonably expect from the title, the story of the pioneer wagon route from St. Louis, Missouri to – yes, you’ve guessed – Oregon (except in part), it’s mainly a tale of Parkman’s adventures in and around Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas in the summer of 1846.

The Colorado Kid, by Stephen King. A jumped-up short story of little consequence – marketing it as a book is a bit of a con. I bought it as the TV series Haven is (extremely loosely, as it turns out), based on it. Haven looks to have promise, if the weirdness quotient can be sustained, and – a bonus – it features Emily Rose, an actress with one of the sexiest voices in the business. Bucking current trends, too, she’s decidedly cuddly – no bad thing – and gorgeous to boot. Doubtless, stick-insect fans will disagree. That’s fine, you have every right to be wrong.

And finally, we come to The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson’s Booker Prize winner, which is lurking in the wings. It’s worthy of mention because it’s the only Booker winner I’ve ever felt moved to buy, mainly because Booker winners in the past have tended to be “worthy” – books that we should read (one thing guaranteed to turn me off the idea of doing so), or in genres in which I have no interest. I have, though, always enjoyed the work of Jack Rosenthal on TV – something his Jewish fiction attracts me, for reasons I’m at a loss to explain, hence The Finkler Question.

Ah – it wasn’t quite finally – I’m also battling with the manual for my new mobe. I loathe touch-screens, greasy, smeary, horrors that they are**, but I managed to find one with a slide-out qwerty keyboard, on a contract I could afford, with unlimited Internet access – a must-have.

I’ll believe they’re anything but a gimmick – something done just because it can be, not because it’s desirable, except to geeky sods who need to get laid – when somebody (not a geek!), actually writes a book on one, without resorting to a plug-in keyboard.

Anyway, the manual – in an act so terminally dumb it beggars belief – is actually on the phone! What dozy bugger ever thought that was a good idea? It’s in the same dumb league as putting a the contents of a PC’s rescue CD on the hard drive! Yep, that’ll be a great help when it stops working**. Still, I downloaded a copy in PDF format, which helps but it’s no substitute for a printed manual.

Yes, yes, I know it can be copied to a proper CD – how many people do?

Anyway, I’m one of those people who almost never uses a manual for anything. I figure that if you need a manual for the fundamentals, the designers have gotten  sloppy. I need one for this phone though – it’s the most unintuitive gizmo I’ve ever owned. OK, configuring the basic functions, and linking it to my wi-fi network was easy enough, but transferring my Contacts list is an impossibility (it can be done but the process is so absurdly, and pointlessly, convoluted, I just can’t be bothered). My previous mobe I just connected to my PC and transferred my Outlook contact list to it. That’s how easy it should always be.

There are instructions for putting the new SIM in the old mobe, and copying the contracts for the memory to the SIM. For some mysterious reason, the new SIM is configured so that I can only transfer the first three contacts. Unbelievably, that’s how it’s designed, which is insane.

For now, I’ve manually input the handful of contacts, email and phone I use on a regular basis (must add my GP though. I’ll buy a SIM card reader shortly, and copy over the contacts from my other phone to the new one, via my PC, and all should be well. I’m not going to be beaten by a sodding phone!

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3 thoughts on “What I’m reading right now – part of an occasional series…

  1. Hi Ron – I finally had the chance to look at one of those Kindles last night. They’re lovely slimline objects – my two immediate thoughts were: why isn’t there a colour screen; and, it’s quite slippery to hold – perhaps it should be more ergonomically designed (indented grips on the reverse?).

    I got curious as to how the Kindle got its name. Answer here:
    http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2008/12/how-the-kindle-got-its-name.html

    I also intend to read Finkler when I get round to it. How much, as an example, does it cost to download Finkler for reading on a Kindle?

    • Hi Deborah,

      The Kindle has a grippy back, which works well for me, but I normally keep it in it’s “leather” cover, for protection (having spilt beer on the cover in the pub, it works!). Colour screen? Haven’t really needed one yet, but it would jack up the price considerably – possibly into iPad territory. As the vast majority of books are black text on a white-ish ground, It works pretty well.

      What I’d really like is to be able to turn off one set of buttons – with paging button on both sides, it can be tricky to pick up if you put it down, without pressing one. The auto switch-off occasionally bugs me – it makes me think some Amazon geek has said to himself “the people who buy this are going to be too stupid to turn it off when they’ve finished.” It turns back on to where you left it, so it’s not a big deal.

      For me, ebooks are massively over-priced (but then, so are mp3s). There are no distribution or storage costs to be factored into the price, for example, and the prices are linked to the hardback RRP, not paperback. Finkler currently goes for £8.22 for the Kindle (I paid £6.64), while the hardback is £9.49 (discounted – full price is £18.99), but the paperback is £5.99 – all Amazon prices. At the Kindle store, different editions of the same book can cost wildly differing amounts, so it pays to shop carefully there.

      There are a lot of free books here, though http://manybooks.net/authors.php better than the usual selection of public-domain freebies, too.

      I’m pretty sure Amazon posted a different explanation for the name on the original Kindle page, but that’s now gone, so I can’t check.

      A lot of the comments at http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B002Y27P46/ref=sv_kinc_0 are terribly whiny, many complaining about features they must have known about before they bought the thing! Still, it’s usually only the whingers that are moved to post comments – satisfied customers just get on with it.

      To be honest, there are some minor niggles, like those I’ve mentioned, but all things considered, especially the price, it’s really very hard to find fault with it. Unless you get a dud.

      • Just had another look at my Kindle (it usually lives in its leather case, so the question of whether it’s slippery or not doesn’t arise, as I’ve never had to handle it without the case). Anyway, I took it out to see how it felt. The front is lightly textured, rather than smooth and the back, as I say, is grippy – the finish usually called “soft-touch” though it’s nothing of the sort.

        And, as I said above (or below, wherever this winds up!), one set of buttons gets in the way of holding it. For me, being right-handed, it’s the left-hand set.

        Put in the case, though, and any handling problems go away. And the way it attaches to the case is inspired.

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