Part 1: An Brief Overview of an E-book reader

March 7 to March 13 is Read an e-book week. For more information about the event, including notices of free and discounted e-books, visit http://ebookweek.com/

What is an e-book reader?  Also called an e-reader, it is a device specifically designed for reading electronic or digital books. These readers have screens made out of e-ink, or electronic paper.  These devices are not backlit like a computer, so it is possible to read in bright sunlight, but a light is required for reading in the dark.  Since the devices are not backlit, they have a long battery life, especially when compared to PDAs and cell phones.

Some of these devices are wireless such as the Kindle and the Nook, and can download content directly into the device.  These e-readers are tied to a particular store or website for wireless purchases. Others require a computer to download books from the Internet and use a USB cable to load content onto the e-book reader.

Each brand of e-reader also has its own proprietary format for encoding the books.  This means that books encoded for one reader are not be able to be read  on another brand of reader.  Some readers can read Adobe PDF files and there is some movement towards the standardizing formats. The EPUB format seems to be evolving as a standard, although it is not yet implemented across the board for e-readers.

Content for the devices varies from reader to reader.  Beside books and short stories, there are also blogs, magazines and newspapers available for subscription and purchase on e-readers.

So what are the benefits of an e-reader? Probably the number one reason that people say they buy an e-reader is for the convenience.  One e-reader can hold a large number of books, which makes it great for traveling. No huge stack of books to lug around.  No leaving a book at the hotel or the airport terminal.  Some of these devices can hold up to 1500 books.

The ability to be able to purchase books wirelessly from almost anywhere is a great feature, especially if you travel at lot.  A new book can be purchased and downloaded in a matter of minutes.  I have downloaded books while sitting in the doctors office or at the airport terminal.

The ability to change font sizes is a great bonus for those with vision problems.  The Kindle also has a text-to-speech features which allows the device to actually read a book aloud to you. This feature does not work for all books and must be enabled by publishers in order to function.

Some of these devices also have limited capabilities for other functions.  The Kindle, for example, also contains a rudimentary web browser and can play MP3 files.

Here’s a great video showing how the software for the Kindle works:

The number of e-book readers is really exploding right now, with new readers entering the market at a astonishing pace. Prices for the devices, however, still tend to be somewhat high.

Anyone have questions about owning an e-reader?

In Part 2: A look at content, formats and accessories

The Internet Cookbook: Spinach and Tomato Orzo

This spinach and tomato orzo dish from Angie of the Southern Grace Gourmet blog has turned into one of the staple dishes that I make at least once or twice a month. It has a rich creamy taste that is absolutely scrumptious!  I add cooked shrimp and Parmesan cheese to transform it from a side dish to a main course.  Serve it with bread and salad and it is a great meal. You can even substitute whole wheat orzo for the regular pasta and the dish turns out great.

Angie has some great recipes on the Southern Grace Gourmet blog and I recommend taking a look, especially if you love southern cooking. You can also follow her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Read an E-book Week

Kindle E-book Reader
Kindle E-book Reader

March 7th through March 13th, 2010 is Read an E-book Week.  You can find out more about the week-long event at http://ebookweek.com/.  The site offers information on ways to read an e-book (very helpful if you don’t own a Kindle or other e-book reader) as well as news on many e-books that have deeply discounted in honor of the event.  There is also a Twitter account set up with news about e-book specials.

To help celebrate, this week I will be posting some entries regarding e-books and e-readers.  The theme of the posts will be to explain the attraction of e-reading for those who haven’t experienced it. 

As anyone who spends any time around me knows, I am a passionate advocate for e-readers.  I take my Kindle everywhere with me, and I find that most people who see me with it have never seen one before.  Hopefully, my posts will educate and explain a bit about why people buy e-readers, their advantages and disadvantages and the wide range of material available for the readers.

The Creative Writer Blogger Award

creativewriter_thumb111I was just tagged for a blog meme by my dear friend Hope.  First, I would like to thank the academy and – oops, wrong speech!  But really, I am truly honored  to be tagged and listed amongst this group of  extremely talented writers chosen for this award.  So, Hope,  thank you very much! And even though I can’t play along, I do appreciate being thought of.

This one sounds particularly fun as the idea is to “tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.”  Now, if you are a regular reader of Hope’s blog, Tartitude, then you know that this type of creative writing is something that she is very good at, among many other things.  If you haven’t read her blog yet, go have a look.  Tell her Glinda sent you.  And ask if she’s really wearing green sweat pants.  Inquiring minds really want to know.

The War of the MP3 downloads

Techflash’s Eric Engleman just noted on his Amazon Blog that Apple is begining to push back against Amazon’s MP3 Daily Deals.  It seems that iTunes is trying to pressure labels to stay away.

I would hate to see Amazon lose this battle.  The Daily MP3 Deals of the Day are generally great values and I myself purchase quite a few of them. Most of the people I know seem to prefer the Amazon MP3s to iTunes.

Hmm. Do you think this means we can get What’s This? as a Deal of the Day?

The Internet Cookbook: Chris’ Bay Area Burgers

I love a good burger and frequently add various seasonings when cooking them that give a unique and individual taste.  This recipe makes one of the best burgers I have ever eaten.  The addition of olive oil, garlic and  basil gives these burgers a lot of flavor.  I added onions to the mix and served it topped with slices of mozzarella cheese on freshly baked ciabatta bread.  It made for a divine Italian inspired sandwich.

Day by Day Armageddon: A Review

31I6DaHu2aL__SL160_J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon is a interesting book that tells the story of the zombie apocalypse from the point of view of a military officer who is struggling to survive it. The novel originally began as a series of blog entries by the author that gained quite an audience on the web.  The book was then self published and eventually picked up by Pocket Books.

The reactions to the book are certainly polarized; people either love it or hate it.   There are certain criticisms that seem to come up repeatedly regarding this book.  Among them are:

People compare it to World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks: I can’t tell you how many times I have read, “I read World War Z and liked it, so I thought I’d read this one….”  In this case, this is a recipe for disappointment.  I think that Max Brooks’ book is absolutely brilliant, and it is certainly at the top of my zombie reading list, but the book is really atypical for the genre.  Just because a person likes one doesn’t mean that they will necessarily like the other. DBDA should not be criticized for NOT being like World War Z.

People say it lacks character development: The criticism that there is no character development is also somewhat unwarranted. Because the main character’s nature is not really effusive (he’s a military man, remember?), much of what is written in the book is about events, rather than feelings. Often, the feelings about the events are not stated directly and generally do need to be  inferred.  Other times, the feelings are very direct and evocative, such as when the main character wonders if his parents have survived or if he could manage to get to their home to check on them.  Throughout the book, the characters do act in ways that are consistent with their nature.

I think that part of the difficulty in perceiving the development stems from both the lack of a baseline and the limitations of the journal format.  In the book, the narrator starts keeping the journal right as the zombie outbreak begins.  We have very little material written before the outbreak which means we have little information with which to judge any level of character growth. 

People say it has an extremely boring plot: I personally find criticism that the plot of this book is boring to be somewhat amusing.  Rather than having a frantic paced activity level, the author (very effectively, in my opinion) uses inactivity to good effect to create tension. By using prolonged waiting to get the reader to almost a fever pitch, it heightens the suspense. Because of that, there are parts in this book that are so suspenseful, they are scary.

The journal format itself is, as others have noted, both problematic and limited and may help foster the idea of a slow moving plot.  Most zombie movies and books are usually told in the present tense.  A journal would of necessity be written after the events in question have already happened. A certain immediacy is lost because of this. And since DBDA is predominantly a survival story,  the author is more concerned with telling a story about survival than he is with telling a story about zombies.  Typically in a zombie book, there are lots of scenes of people getting eaten by zombies, and like the films, much of the emphasis is on blood and gore.  In this book, the author seems to pay more attention to describing the MREs, guns and ammo than he does the zombies.

People say it is too full of typos and grammar errors:  There are definitely two schools of thought on this one.  Some people think that the grammar errors are deliberate; others think that they are examples of extremely poor writing/proofing/editing.  I myself am torn on this one.  The author’s website and Twitter entries are generally grammatically correct.  However, the book contains numerous instances of poor punctuation and spelling (such as “putting on the breaks” instead of “putting on the brakes”).  I have never in my life been so tempted to take a red pen to a book and would have loved to introduce the author to the proper use of the comma and the semicolon. And I read the book on a Kindle!

If these errors are deliberate, it would be extremely helpful for the author to note that in a forward to a future edition.

People say the ending is horrible: I have to agree that I do not like the ending to the book at all. Without spoiling the ending, all I can say is that it ends too abruptly and that it could have been handled in a much better way.

Despite the some of the issues with the book, this is an interesting and compelling read that is enjoyable.  If you are a true fan of the zombie genre,  this book is too important to miss. A sequel, Day By Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile,  is currently in the works and is due to be released in July of 2010.

You can learn more about the series at the author’s website,  http://jlbourne.com/.  You can also follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jlbourne.

The Internet Cookbook: Black Bean, Chicken and Roasted Corn Stew

When I found this recipe, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it. So, I was totally blown away when I tasted it and found out just how good this stew really is.  And so easy! There are a lot of “adaptations” of this recipe out there on the web, so a lot of evidently people like it enough to make it their own. 

I added a cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese to the recipe when I made it.  I also reduced the Cilantro to a small amount and just used it for garnish.  I served it with sour cream and tortillas  for a great meal.  My family went wild over the dish and it is one of my new staples!

To try later: I also thought that this might be tasty If I substituted the chicken with cooked pork or cooked shrimp for a change of pace.

The Demon Hunters: A Review

The Demon Hunters
The Demon Hunters

This is the second volume in Linda Welch’s Whisperings series. And, believe it or not, as good as Along Came a Demon was, this sequel is even better.

In The Demon Hunters, Tiff Banks has made some major changes in her life, including starting a new detective agency with her partner, Royal.  But as Tiff tries to move her life forward in a new direction, things don’t exactly go as planned. When money becomes an issue, she is reduced to rescuing a kidnapped kitty for the reward–with the help of her faithful Scottie, MacKlutzy, of course.  And she discovers that she may not have as much choice as she would like in choosing which jobs to take, or how to handle them once she’s gotten them. 

As the book unfolds, a lot more is revealed about Tiff’s past and how she uses her gift. The book also introduces the demons known as the “Dark Cousins,” an interesting group that I hope we learn a lot more about in future volumes in the series. And, of course, her roommates Jack and Mel are irrepressible.

Author Linda Welch is always a talented, thoughtful writer and does a great job with the writing of humor–the kidnapped kitty section is hilarious.  Most impressive is the skillful recreation of a period journal that provides a vital clue to solving the mystery.  It is so well written and feels totally authentic. Like the first book, this one is a suspenseful, fast paced, fun read that I highly recommend.

Like the first volume, the book is available for the Kindle at a very reasonable price.

At the end of the book is a preview of the first chapter of the next book in the series, Demon on a Distant Shore. That volume promises to give some insight into the background of at least one of Tiff’s ghostly roommates.

You can learn more about the author, Linda Welch, on her blog where she posts updates on the Whisperings series.  You can also follow her updates on Twitter.  There is also a fan page on Facebook for Whisperings here.