Autodidact: self-taught


Back in the Net(Galley)

by V. L. Craven


When I purchased my first Kindle (what was then called a Kindle Keyboard) in 2010 I had no ebooks, but there was a wonderful service called NetGalley that would remedy that situation. Publishers listed soon-to-be released books with the service and provided a digital copy to readers in exchange for a review.

I read like a crazy person. All of these books! For free! And all I had to do was write a review of them, which I would have done anyway? Remove yourself from my proximity because I don’t believe you. Happiness ensued.

I got to read several excellent books I otherwise wouldn’t have picked up. It was like the days of being a bookseller when the big white box arrived with all the ARCs (advance reader copies). Except I didn’t have to get off my sofa.

Eventually I fell away from NetGalley–it wasn’t intentional–I acquired my own ebooks and read physical books I had at home. I was writing, I fell into a depression and stopped reading, etc. These things happen.

Then, last week, a lovely person from Grove Atlantic contacted me through this site and asked if I would be interested in reading Bradford Morrow’s newest book, The Forgers. I’d really enjoyed his novel The Diviner’s Tale , so I said yes. She sent the link through NG and I went in (after working out my password) and found this info on my profile:

Queen of Impossible Numbers

Now, maths and I… we have a long history of just… we’ve decided to ignore one another as much as possible. But even I know that 100% is as high of a percentage as a person can earn.

I thought that since I’d read 16 books, somehow the algorithm they use had given me 100% for all 16 books, but on the page that explains the Feedback to Approval Ratio it says that 80% is if you’re approved for 10 books and you review 8. So exactly what you’d expect 80% to mean. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when I submit my review of the Morrow book (which is compelling–look for that review in a couple of weeks). Will the algorithm correct itself? Will I suddenly have 1700.0%? Stay tuned!

–Queen of Impossible Numbers


Kindle Fire HD 7″ Review

by V. L. Craven

Typically, new technology makes me feel like this, for quite some time:

I don't know who made this, but I thank you


After three days, the Kindle Fire HD 7″ makes me feel like this:

I don't know who Michael Pena is, but he isn't impressed, either

And here’s why.

The Good
(Things that work and are great and yay)

Tux Happy It’s great for reading books (purchased from Amazon) and comics. I bought this in order to read my comics and books. My first Kindle (now called the Kindle Keyboard) was great, but reading e-comics (of which I have a ludicrous amount) on my computer wasn’t cutting it and trying to read them on my iPod Touch wasn’t worth the headache most of the time.
LCD Screen . I can read in the dark now. My previous Kindle had a case with a little light attached, but that sucker drained the battery like mad. LCD isn’t good for reading in bright sunlight, but the sun and I haven’t been on speaking turns since that second degree burn it gave me for my twelfth birthday so that doesn’t affect my life. For people who get eye strain, I highly recommend Gunnar glasses . I love mine.
Watching video . This was the first time I’d seen HD (because I’m a Philistine Technophile hybrid). Wow. Nicely done, technology-makers. If I want to watch Netflix on Virginia (the Kindle’s name is Virginia Poe) it will look and sound great. It’s highly unlikely I’ll want to do so, but it’s up to the task, should it be required.

The Bad
(Things that don’t work and should do)

Tux Sad Lack of Apps . After the embarrassment of riches that is the Apple Apps Store, the Amazon App Store is just embarrassing. Android doesn’t have as many apps, true, but Amazon further whittles down the list by offering a portion of that small number.  Cheers, Amazon. The next person who moans at me about how locked down Apple products are are getting an earful. [I’m not an Apple fangirl, I’m panOS with Windows, Linux, and Mac tech in the house, but damn, the anti-Apple people are obnoxious.]
No way to charge without a computer . I had to buy a charger. Really? If I’m close enough to a computer to plug it in to charge why aren’t I just using the computer? Well played, Amazon. Have another $20USD.
General Organisational Stupidity . I was somewhat prepared for this, as you can have the most well-organised file system of your ebooks, but put them on your Kindle Keyboard and it’s like, ‘Oh, here are all the files in no particular order! You can re-organise them into collections, though, so it’s all right!’ [See next comment]
No Collections . Not so for the Kindle Fire HD. You can sort your books by Title, Author, or Recent. No way to make collections, unlike the several-years-old Kindle Keyboard. How the crap are organised people (the normal ones) supposed to categorise their books? Amazon, find the whitest part of my Anglo-Irish arse and pucker up.
Silk Browser . My only guess about the Silk browser is that Amazon actually holds its customers in contempt and this is the way it shows that contempt. And you can’t download other browsers. Because of course. Oh, there ARE Android apps for Firefox and Chrome, but you can’t have them. Google Play offers them. But does the Kindle allow Google Play? Nooooo. And when I tried to browse the internet, thinking I’d just get used to the thing, it’s effing slow!
The provided document organiser leaves something to be desired . Like all the things. It leaves all the things to be desired. For files I’ve uploaded myself, I have to view them in the document organiser, OfficeSuite, which would be all right if I could organise them once they were on my machine. You can add new folders, but you can’t move files into them. Perhaps that’s a feature if you pay $15 to upgrade to Pro, but that’s not happening. I’m looking into other apps that will allow me to see personal documents and will report back.
No way to organise apps . They’re all just there. In alphabetic order. No way to make menus or even group them by type. I cannot possibly be the only person this makes crazy.
No way to remove unwanted native apps . I do not need IMDB, Kindle Free Time, or Skype, thank you. But there they are. I also do not need the email, calendar or contacts apps, but you can’t even hide them.
The email, calendar and contacts apps don’t work easily.  If you try to add an gmail account from the apps menu you get an error. Follow the directions on this page and do it from the ‘swipe down from the top of the screen’ menu (I don’t know what that’s called.) It took three days to work this out, as, when you search for the error ‘You do not have permission to sync with this server’ you get nowhere.
No way to change the menu on your homescreen . Speaking of things you can’t hide: On your homepage (above the Carousel, more on that later) you have a list of things to choose from including Shop, Games, Apps, Books, Music, Video, Newsstand, Audiobooks, Web, Photos, Docs, and Offers. I will only be using two things (games and books) and would like to edit the menu. Can I do that? Nope. And neither can you. We can be miffed together, friend. You can lock certain things down by using Parental Controls, but that just greys out the option. It’s still visible.

Perhaps I’m just accustomed to Linux, but I would like far more control over my devices than the Kindle Fire HD allows. Hell, my Apple devices have given me more control. But on to the worst part…

THE MOST Annoying Thing
(So annoying it gets its own heading)

Tux Rambo will Kill Your Ass No more MyClippings . This is infuriating. As you can probably tell by looking at the left sidebar of this site, I enjoy keeping quotes from books. The Kindle Keyboard had a MyClippings.txt file that had all of your highlights from both books bought from Amazon, as well as personal documents and PDFs. Now you can only access highlights from books purchased from Amazon here . This conversation says Amazon will keep highlights from personal docs if you email the document to yourself and have Personal Documents set to archive in your Kindle settings, but that didn’t work for me. This one pisses me off more than any of the other annoyances.

The Ugly
(Things that don’t automatically work, but can be made to function…sort of)

Tux cow Dropbox . If you offer Netflix, why the frack don’t you offer Dropbox? To get around this, first: ‘Allow Installation of Applications’ from the ‘Swipe down from the top of the screen’ menu, tap ‘More’ then the option is under ‘Device’. Then go here to get the Android app from Dropbox.
Autocorrect . This has to be the most annoying autocorrect I’ve yet come across. Disable it under Settings > Language & Keyboard > Keyboards > Choose your current keyboard > Choose your capitalisation and autocorrection preferences.
Carousel . The first thing you see when you unlock your Kindle is the above-mentioned uneditable menu and the Carousel, which shows everything on your Kindle. Each app separately, each book separately. EVERYTHING. SEPARATELY. To remove things from your Carousel, press the icon until a menu appears and you can remove each thing. One at a time. It’s fortunate I only have five things on my Kindle. Still, my carousel is tidy now. It’s just the twenty books I’m reading and the two other apps I use (Perfect Viewer & MyBinder). I just pretend all the other tabs and menus are invisible.
Linux compatibility . I could manage my Kindle Keyboard with my Linux box by plugging it in. It wouldn’t charge, but I could move files around and such. No such luck with the Kindle Fire HD 7″. When you plug it into a Linux computer you get a note to go to this site , where they say Linux computers require an Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) USB driver. This post has step-by-step instructions, though you can get libmtp and gmtp from synaptic rather than fiddling with the command line. Then start with step three in that post.
Adding apps not offered by Amazon : According to this post, it’s possible to install Android apps not offered through the Amazon App Store using . I’d love to have Chrome on mine, but am iffy about installing software on something that said software could bollocks up without knowing how to fix it because it’s so freaking locked down. AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO HACK CHROME ONTO MY KINDLE. IT’S AN APP. IT EXISTS. OMGWTF, AMAZON.

The Jury’s Still Out On
(I haven’t had it long enough to know)

Battery life . Hard to say if it’s good or bad. Will report back later.

Boobly-Boo, Misc & Other
(Things peripheral to the Kindle Fire)

The Moko case is fantastic. LOVE the case. They’re made for each specific type of Kindle, though, so if you want one for the non-HD 7″ or the HD 8.5″, make sure you’re ordering the correct size.

Evernote.  I wanted a note-taking application and Evernote has been touted far and wide. The free version won’t let you access your notes if you’re not connected to the internet. The notes you’ve just taken on the device. If you pay they’ll let you see your notes. Nice of them. I wound up using My Binder , which is fine. It’s free and lets me make notes and even allows me to see those notes when offline.

Perfect Viewer (and Perfect Viewer PDF plugin ) : I got this thing for reading comics and so the $2.99 for Perfect Viewer was worth it. It automatically scans whatever folder(s) you designate and keeps your file structure. Something the $200 Kindle Fire HD doesn’t even do.

Final Thoughts

Looking over this post, a word that appears a LOT is ‘organise’. Clearly, the developers and testers of the Kindle Fire HD had something against organisation. Their homes are probably cluttered to the degree of  the Collyer brothers  and they probably like it that way and feel oppressed when someone (like me) says, ‘You know, if you put your keys in the same place every time you’ll always know where they are.’ They’d rather live in a hodge-podge of rubbish and their own filth than be able to easily locate important property. And that’s fine. For them. But give the rest of us the option to organise the crap out of our files, m’kay?

The home of a Kindle Fire Developer?

A Kindle Fire developer’s home.


I was expecting an experience similar to the one I had with my iPod Touch, which I got just for music and, while I *do* listen to music on it, that’s probably only 5% of what I use it for. I live my life on the thing. If I’d got the Kindle expecting only to read books and comics I wouldn’t have been disappointed. Fair dues, that’s on me. Still, this experience will apply to others.


What’s your experience been like? Tips? Tricks? Addresses of the people who worked on this thing?


Bonus Post for E-Book People

by V. L. Craven

I’ve only just discovered StoryBundle  and simply had to share, because this round ends in a little over a day.


StoryBundle is a site that offers packs of DRM-free e-books by indie authors. This round (the one that ends in 30 hours) is horror and dark fantasy. You can pay whatever you’d like, but if you pay at least $9 USD you get two extra books for free.

Another thing that’s wonderful, is that you can choose what percentage of your donation goes to the author and what percentage goes to StoryBundle. AND there’s an option to donate to a charity that helps kids become better writers, or a charity that plants trees.

Go! Donate! Get books! Support indie authors!


Book News from Tokyo

by V. L. Craven

[This is a post from a previous blog, with a 2012 update. Original date: 21 January, 2008.]

Novels composed on mobile phones top best-seller lists.

Those kooky Japanese. Not only do they top the world charts for cuteness, but they compose novels on mobile phone text pads. Some novels are then published in hard copy form and some of those reach the best seller lists. Amazing.

2012 Update: I wanted to re-post this one partially because of this bit in the article: ““Will cellphone novels kill ‘the author’?” a famous literary journal, Bungaku-kai, asked…” Clearly, they didn’t.

Whenever something new comes along in publishing, doom-sayers declare it the end of literature. They were saying that when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1440s. Making books widely available would lessen the ‘specialness’ of books and of reading them. Because everyone would be able to do it, no one would.

This is similar to the people that say ebooks will be the end of publishing. There seems to be an assumption that people won’t publish if they’re not going to be paid well. Being a writer means writing whether anyone is going to see your work or not. Very few authors write for a living–they have jobs to pay the bills and anything they receive for writing is a bonus–and so simply having their work published by a legitimate press is worth it. Hell, some people are happy to have their name on the front of a book they paid to have printed and then have to market themselves.

You can’t kill the drive to write and you can’t kill the will of real readers, who will read anything that’s worth reading. I know it’s fun to pronounce the ‘end’ of things since nothing new really happens, but you’re just wasting time you could be spending reading.

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