A Kindle in My Computer – And Then Some

I’ve had my Kindle for nearly a year now, and I’ve been happy with it.  It’s easy to read, light-weight no matter how many books I add to it, and it’s only run out of battery power once, when I absentmindedly left the wireless connection on for a week.  I’ve downloaded a wide variety of books, some brand new, some old favorites, many of them free.

The Kindle is great for reading novels, but I’ve had some frustrations (and heard the same from other Kindle users) with non-fiction books, particularly books on writing.  Sometimes I just want to flip back to that earlier chapter on a related topic, and while it can be done on the Kindle, I don’t find it easy.  I miss page numbers, too.  (I have recently discovered that page numbers are available, at least for some books, but only when I hit the menu button, and they vanish after a moment, returning me to the percentage meter.)

So when I finished reading James Scott bell’s excellent new book on Conflict and Suspense and wanted to browse back through the high points, I decided to try something new.  I downloaded the Kindle reading app to my home computer to see if it offered any advantages.  It does.

The download process is very simple.  Go to Amazon, find the reading apps page, pick out the one you want, and click on download.  After the software installs, it will offer you the chance to register it.  If you already own a Kindle, registration will cause the reader to download the covers (not the books, not yet) of everything on your Kindle.  To download a particular book to your computer, just click on it.

It was just a bit disconcerting to see that array of books covers (87 of them) appear before my eyes, reminding me just how many books I’ve bought (or at least downloaded–quite a few of them were free) for my Kindle, my invisible To Be Read shelf.  And beautiful–all of them in full color.

I found Conflict and Suspense in the collection of covers and clicked it onto the computer.  It opened to the page I’d been reading when I last connected my Kindle to Amazon.  And it looks even more like the printed page than the Kindle does.  Navigation is quicker and easier–you can click on either side of the page to go backward or forward, or you can scroll through the pages with your mouse wheel.  You can look at two pages at a time, like an open book.  And you can highlight and COPY text!  Oh, joy!

I downloaded another of my non-fiction collection, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage, a book with a fair number of illustrations, and found the picture quality vastly better on the computer.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m looking at a very large high resolution computer monitor.  (When I bought this computer a couple of years ago, I told the young Fry’s salesman, who clearly came off the assembly line after my first computer did, to go in the back and find me the largest Hewlett-Packard monitor in stock.  He did a good job.) 

Even on a small computer, a lap top or notebook, the Kindle app offers definite advantages for non-fiction or research books.  And if you don’t own a Kindle, this free app (which came with three free books) will let you collect all the ebooks you want, and add them to your Kindle if you buy one in the future.

 

Reading About The Craft Of Writing

was something I avoided for quite a while after I started trying to write fiction (mumble-mumble) years ago.  I suppose I was afraid the authors of such books would tell me I was doing it all wrong.  And I probably was, but at least I was trying.

In the mid 90s I joined a local multi-genre writers group, the Bay Area Writers League, but I knew I wanted to write novels.  I didn’t know I wanted to write romance novels until I discovered what was then called “futuristic romance,” the infant subgenre that eventually led writers to science fiction romance, urban fantasy, and various other branches of paranormal romance.  So I joined Romance Writers of America® and the local Houston Bay Area chapter.  Through those groups I attended workshops and conferences, and met the wonderful BK Reeves.  Her encouragement (and classes) gave me confidence, and showed me that books on writing could be both entertaining and helpful.

Since then I’ve read a lot of craft books.  Some I agreed with, some I did not, but I learned something from every one of them.  I certainly learned that you can read the same idea over and over again and barely notice it until one day that idea is exactly what you need.  I’ve given some away over the years, but I still have several bookshelf feet of craft books that I want to reread, or at least refer to from time to time.

My current favorite craft of writing author is James Scott Bell.  I have not read his fiction (he’s known for legal thrillers), but I have his books on Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing on that bookshelf, and The Art of War for Writers, a collection of essays and blog posts, on my Kindle.  When Amazon informed me (they know me all too well) that Bell had a new book out on Conflict & Suspense, I downloaded that, too.

I don’t really like reading craft books on my Kindle.  I don’t know what page I’m on, or where to go when an author says “more about that on page 165.”  I can’t flip back and forth to find some neat idea I want to reread.  On the other hand, I can pull the Kindle out of my bag and read through lunch, as I did this afternoon, or while waiting for the oil in my car to be changed.

So I can’t tell you what page to look at, but somewhere around the 65% mark, in Chapter 14, “Tools for Conflict,” I found a Really Neat Idea, one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas (for which Bell credits Sue Grafton, one of my favorite mystery authors–I’ve been a fan since A Is for Alibi was published).  Bell calls this the Novel Journal–a notebook (or computer file) used as a preface to the day’s writing, for recording bits of the writer’s life, stray thoughts from the middle of the night, ideas for the next scene or anything else that comes up, a place to gather all those loose ends that don’t fit into an outline or synopsis.  Grafton calls this an “interchange between Left Brain and Right.”  Bell recommends it for both OPs (Outline People, or Plotters) and NOPs (No Outline People, or Pantsers). 

The Novel Journal certainly ought to work for someone like me, who falls somewhere in the middle.  I’m going to pull out a fresh  spiral-bound notebook and try it.

 

My Kindle knows me too well.

When I fire up the 3G connection to visit the Kindle Store or drop by Amazon.com on my computer, I am greeted with a list of recommendations, and many of them are right on.  A few days ago Amazon suggested Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth by James Scott Bell, one of my favorite writers on writing.  I’m not sure how Amazon knew that; I’m pretty sure I bought his Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing at my local Half-Price Books.  But I’ve bought and/or looked at a fair number of craft of writing books on the Amazon site.

Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth is a collection of essays and blog posts in e-book form only, which in itself illustrates one of the points Bell makes.  I grabbed it because I know and love his earlier books.  Bell has an established audience for this type of publishing.  Most of us don’t.  And much of what is currently being self-published, Bell warns, is not quite ready for prime time (“Just Because You Wrote It Doesn’t Mean You Should Publish It”).

Beyond his interesting and realistic view of the e-pubbing phenomenon, Bell’s essays contain a wealth of information, advice, and encouragement, divided into sections on The Writing World, The Writing Life, and The Writing Craft, and concluding with interviews with well-known writers.

I’ve been reading Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth at odd moments over the last couple of days and enjoying it thoroughly; I recommend it highly.  (Bell has a few comments about semi-colons.  He doesn’t favor them in fiction, but they have their uses.)

It’s a shortish book, but I can’t tell you exactly how short.  It’s on my Kindle, and it has no page numbers.  I have to admit that, although I am thoroughly enjoying my Kindle, I miss page numbers.  I’ve heard rumors that they’re working on that, but given the ability to change font size, pagination can’t be easy.  I also miss being able to flip back and forth between pages, especially in non-fiction.  I’ve gone back to the beginning to look at the table of contents while writing this, and I’ll use that to get back to where I left off reading (“How Many Subplots is Too Many?”).  The other day when I went back and forth in another book I had to open the User’s Guide to figure out how to get back to the location number I had left.

The Kindle isn’t a book, after all.  The formatting tends to shift a little here and there, and the proof-reading isn’t always perfect.  I’ve been reading another book in which, for reasons I can’t even guess at, the word often is consistently written as oft en.  I still don’t think that electronic readers will replace traditional books, but the possibilities for supplementing print are fascinating.

I can’t tell what page I’m on, but I’ve read 73% of Writing for All You’re Worth.  Maybe in time that will seem more natural than a page number.

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