18 May

Paperless Critiques using a Kindle

Posted in E-reader, Tips

I don’t know about you, but one of the things that drives me crazy about critiquing pieces for workshop or critique groups is the mountain of paper.  Not only does it mean that a lot of paper gets used in the printing of individual pieces, but it also means that after receiving critique from a group, I end up with piles of paper clogging up my apartment and when it comes to implementing the changes, I have no idea where to start.

To that end, I’ve come up with an almost-paperless method of critique, using my trusty Kindle and MS Word on the Mac.  Why a Kindle, you ask?  Personally, I like the portability of it; I like being able to read critique pieces on the subway or bus.  In addition, I’m not a huge fan of reading pages of text on a back-lit screen and I find the Kindle screen easier on the eyes than other paperless alternatives.

Here’s a step-by-step how-to for using your Kindle to read and comment on workshop pieces.

  1. Get the critique piece on your Kindle.  The best way to do this is to convert the piece to a mobipocket file (.mobi) or an Amazon Kindle (.azw) file.  My critique group emails MS Word documents to each other for each submission so all I need is my Mac and a little program called Stanza (which you can download for free on the web).  Here’s how you do it:
         Step 1:  Open Stanza.
         Step 2:  Go to:  File –>; Open –>; [Select the file you want to convert]
         Step 3:  The file should open on your screen.  Now go to: File –>; Export Book As –>; [Select either mobipocket (.mobi) or Amazon Kindle (.azw)] and save file.
         Step 4:  Now just transfer the .mobi or .azw file to your Kindle and you’re ready to read on-the-go.
  2. Why a .mobi file?  Why not just a .pdf?  When you open a PDF on a Kindle, the entire page of shows up on the screen meaning that the text is very small. Also, the page is “locked” that way so you can’t make comments using the Kindle’s note-taking function.  If you use a .mobi file (or .azw) it adjusts the text that appears on the screen depending on the size of type you choose.  It also allows for taking notes.
  3. Making Comments on the Kindle.  I haven’t figured out yet how to export comments I make on my Kindle back to my computer, but I do find the note-taking function on Kindle useful and I use it like this:

    • I make a note of something using the Kindle note-taking function.
    • Once I’m done reading, I go back and retype the notes in more detail using track changes in MS Word, which I can then email back to my critique buddy.
    • TIP: I delete comments from my Kindle as I go so I know which comments I’ve already done.  When all comments have been deleted from the Kindle document, I know I’ve finished my critique.
    • Finally, I’ll type up a page or two of “big picture” comments which I bring with me to the workshop or critique group meeting.

I’m still working out the kinks in this process, but overall, I’m enjoying not having so much paper everywhere and also having the portability of the Kindle.


16 May

Kindle: The Good, the Bad and the Not-So-Ugly

Posted in E-reader, Reviews

Last night I finished the first full-length novel I’ve read on my Kindle.  Let me say first and foremost that when I started reading said book on the Kindle, I was rather reluctant to buy into the whole e-reader hype.  I wanted to like the concept of electronic books but I was afraid that the experience just “wouldn’t be the same” if I wasn’t holding the book in my hands.  While the idea of having all these books in my e-library (and not on my shelves) was a happy one, I was skeptical.  Something about the feel and smell of a real book seemed irreplaceable to me and I was fairly certain that the Kindle would not live up to the experience.

The verdict?  It took a little getting used to, but I have become a Kindle fan.  What I realized while reading this book on the Kindle is that if the story is good and the writing is engaging, the page (or in this case, the screen) fades away.  This is true whether the page is an actual piece of paper or e-reader screen.  In the end, good writing can transcend the medium in which it is presented.

Those who know me and know how strongly I feel about the “book as experience” are probably shocked that I have been so easily won over by the digital page.  Truth is, there are advantages and disadvantages to the Kindle and the trick is finding a balance and using this tool in the way that works best for you.


  •  You can store thousands of books on a device that’s smaller than one book.  This frees up tons of shelf space that you can use for… what else?  More books.
  • The Kindle screen (unlike the iPad which is back-lit) doesn’t strain the eyes the way a computer screen would and is pretty similar to reading a printed page.
  • It’s portable and great for travel (says the girl who packs a suitcase of books for a one-week trip).  You can take all your books with you in your carry-on.
  • You can download tons of classics for free (check out project Gutenberg).
  • The Kindle has a cute little built-in keyboard for easy note-taking, which is great for reading critique pieces on-the-go.


  • Let’s face it, in terms of graphics, the Kindle still leaves much to be desired.  Apple’s iPad definitely wins in the pretty department and has the lovely full-color screen, but that device has a host of other downsides (which is a whole other post topic).
  • When the battery runs out, you have to charge it.  Paper books don’t require batteries.
  • The note-taking feature, though useful, does not export to your computer (not in any pragmatic way… at least, not yet).

In the end, I find that the Kindle is great for storing and reading average, everyday books.  I am certain that there will still be plenty of books in my apartment (more than I’ll ever be able to read in a lifetime) but my shelves will now be reserved for books where the function of “book” is key.  This would include signed books, art books, books where pretty pictures are important, antique books and other books that hold a special place in my heart.  But for all those regular books that make it into my library but are not books I absolutely need in book form, having them digital and stored on my Kindle is a great space-saving alternative.

iggi says…


09 Apr

On a Quest for the Perfect E-reader

Posted in E-reader

Introverted book-lover seeks compact gadget to contain her ever-growing library.  Gadget should be easy on the eyes and the wallet.  Should also be slim and portable.  Must be cross-compatible with other e-reading technologies in case book-lover gets fickle and decides to upgrade gadget to something new in a few years.  Gadget should also feature some sort of note-taking or comment-writing function.  Wireless technology and sizable storage space a plus.

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