Kindle’s Killer App

Instapaper is a godsend for Kindle users.

I’ve written a couple posts about my search for an application that would make moving web content to the Kindle a simpler process. I have found that application.

With Instapaper, you get a little “bookmarklet” (a little button that goes on your browser’s bookmark toolbar or in your bookmarks drop-down menu) that, when clicked, grabs the text from the website you’re reading (a story in the New Yorker or a long blog post, whatever) and saves it for later reading.

Later, when you’re ready to spend some time reading and digesting, you surf over to the Instapaper website, and there are all your saved articles. You can either read the text right on the website (it’s very readable once all the obnoxious webpage-y stuff is stripped out), or you can click the little button on the right side of the screen that will download all your saved articles into a nice little Kindle-formatted package. It takes the three or five or 25 articles you’ve saved, formats them for the Kindle’s screen, puts them into one file, and creates a table of contents. You can even create different folders to organize your saved articles before downloading them.

As a bonus, Instapaper has a “Browse” page that lists popular and recommended articles from around the web that you can add to your “Read Later” list.

Brilliant. I’m in love. Screw you iPad.

Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you’re looking for some hard-edged, well-written science fiction, you’ll like Iain M. Banks. This was my first Banks novel. He showed up on my radar when I read a particularly favorable cover blurb on his latest book, Transition, from William Gibson. So I did some checking.

Turns out, Banks is quite well-regarded by readers of science fiction (Consider Phlebas is 100 percent space opera–frak-tastic space opera) as well as his more, er, literary efforts, which he writes as Iain Banks (no middle initial).

In fact, everything I read about his work was so positive that I began collecting his sci-fi books before I read even one of them. The problem was, Consider Phlebas is hard to find, and I wanted to read it first.

Finally, it came out in a Kindle edition, which I had preordered. One day it just showed up on my home screen, and I jumped right in as soon as I finished The Blind Side.

It’s a good book. The imagination on this guy and his willingness to see things through to their gruesome conclusions make for a sometimes jaw-dropping reading experience. It’s a quite good introduction to his work. I gave it four stars instead of five because it felt a little like he painted himself into a corner toward the end of the book, but even then he kept me interested.

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Recently Read Short Fiction

I’m on one of my occasional short fiction kicks. I’ve discovered a great podcast, the New Yorker fiction podcast in which one of the magazine’s current fiction contributors reads one of their favorite stories from the archives. It’s a great way to sample some of the classics.

I’ve also been dipping into Richard Ford’s A Multitude of Sins and Hemingway’s Men Without Women. I downloaded Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It for the Kindle, but haven’t waded in just yet.

I’m enjoying Ford because I take a certain comfort in his style, and I appreciate his subtlety. Hemingway, of course, is always good. I was going to get to one of Meloy’s stories during the nap today, but Sean just didn’t sleep long enough. Maybe tomorrow or tonight…

The Zenith Angle, a Review

The Zenith Angle The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Zenith Angle was disappointing. I ignored other reviews that said as much because I’m a fan of Bruce Sterling’s work. Ah, well.

The ingredients of a good Sterling novel are here, but he over-seasoned the dish. Perhaps in an attempt at satire, he essentially turned his novel into a long rant on the state of security (specifically cyber-security) in the post-September 11th world. And it gets tiresome.

You follow his hero, Derek Vandeveer, on his odyssey from the world of the dot-com into the world of bureaucracy. The plot, when it emerges, seems to come from nowhere. There’s nothing organic about the transition from cyber-warfare to space-warfare.

Worse than that, his characters are not believable, and his dialogue–which is usually serviceable–is terrible.

What more can I say? I’m hoping the next one will be better. The Caryatids is already queued up for Kindle download.

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Calibre Plus Bookit Equals Kindle Heaven?

In theory.

It would be great if you could get these two softwares to work all the time in predictable ways.

I shouldn’t complain: both are free programs, and, thus, one expects to have to do a little tinkering to make them work. If I can do that, I will be very happy indeed. For, what Bookit and Calibre ostensibly allow one to do when they’re installed together on the same machine (I should include Firefox on that list, perhaps, since Bookit is a Firefox extension) is exactly what I’ve longed for: turn a webpage (or portion of a webpage) into an e-book that my Kindle will recognize. You can do this with a few clicks.

In theory.

If I can make it work, you’ll be the first to know.