Monday, February 20, 2012

I'd Rather Read this on my Kindle

Writers often read other writer's works in draft form. We critique, proofread, review, and blurb.

In the old days, the other writer would send you a printout by postal mail. You'd carry around a sheaf of paper, scribbling furiously in the margins. When finished, you'd package the marked-up copy and take it to the post office for mailing back to the author.

Things got even easier when it became possible to email versions one could review. Microsoft Word, for example, has a review feature that tracks comments. Starting with version 10 of the free reader, Adobe Acrobat allows you to highlight and make simple comments.

When I got my Kindle, though, I wanted to be able to read copies there. My Kindle is much more transportable than a laptop or even my netbook, and the screen is much easier to read than that of a smartphone.

Kindles can read PDF, but it doesn't read well; typically the font is too small and when you resize it, the text doesn't reflow. I wanted something that would behave like a regular Kindle book, with all the features.

Kindles can read something called the Mobipocket format. (See the WikiPedia entry "Comparison of e-book formats.") Without too much pain, you can download a free copy of the Mobipocket Creator, create a .mobi version of your Word, PDF, text, or HTML document, and then put it on your Kindle.

How? If you're adventurous, go to the Mobipocket software page, download the Creator (on the right side of the page), and give it a go. (Import, optionally enter metadata, and then build.) If you need a little more assistance, check back later and I'll post the full instructions.


K. A. Laity said...

Get an iPad ;-) PDFs look pretty. So do Kindle books. And you can surf the web, play on social media, email, write new books, play music -- everything!

The Mobipocket Creator is not Mac friendly, by the way. I've got Calibre which seems to do the trick.

Terri Bruce said...

Wow, you've really got me thinking about the next phase of peer review/critique. It never even occurred to me to read and critique draft materials on my e-reader but it's a brilliant idea and seems to obvious now you pointed it out!

Lee-Anne Phillips said...

Although the Kindle format is very popular, it's also in the process of rapid change as tries to update its capabilities to approach that of the industry standard ePub format.

The Mobipocket format is a deliberately "crippled" form of the ePub format, with significant weaknesses requiring special care on the part of the author (or an author's technical contractor) to work around dozens of inconsistencies and irritating limitations.

I personally have devices that rely on both formats, and actually prefer the performance and appearance of even Kindle books on an Apple iPhone and iPad. The ePub format, on the other hand, blows Kindle away, because they're capable of real typography, so the publisher (whether that's an author or her publisher) can actually *design* the look and feel of the book without stumbling over the Mobi "gotchas" and "you can't do thats."

The only really big advantage of Kindles over iPhones and iPads is battery life, but the Nook also handles ePubs (its native format) and has the same or better battery life.

The free access to downloads from the cellular telephone network is also nice, but my cellphone and full tablet do lots more handy things. I can't make a phone call on my Kindle, for example, or do much of anything really useful, other than read books.

The third generation Kindle (much less the earlier versions) is very susceptible to overloading as well, despite their claim that one can load thousands of books on the thing. After around half the available memory is filled, somewhere around a thousand to two thousand books, the Kindle bogs down to glacial slowness and starts crashing randomly, not a happy experience.

If pressed, Kindle support will suggest resetting the device to the factory default, which erases all one's books, giving one the wonderful opportunity to access the world's worst "backup" library, where the only access is by author name and title. Imagine trying to find a book without a specific name, absent the Dewey Decimal or LOC indexing taxonomy...

If you want to look at all your books on cosmology, or historical romance, it simply can't be done. Neither can any "general" search, so reloading particular subjects involves inspecting each title, looking at the description in the online store, and then going back to the catalog and acting on that information for each and every book.

Trust me, it's a miserable experience.

Lee-Anne Phillips

Morven Westfield said...


Thanks for the tip about Calibre for the Mac. Much appreciated!


Is there any free ePub converters you'd recommend? This would be for quick and dirty conversion for personal use, not for publishing.