Monday, October 24, 2011

Experiment with non-Kindle ebook

I've been known to whinge about not being able to get books I want to read because of geographic restrictions.  Elizabeth Fletcher's post at CrimeBeat on H.J. Golakia first Vee Johnson novel, The Lazarus Effect,  caught my attention. I was in pre-whinge mode when I looked at the digital downloads on kalahari.net.

The Lazarus Effect is available as an ePub, yea. Kalahari doesn't care that I live in the US, yea. It isn't compatible with my e-reader of choice, the Kindle, boo. Since I work in IT and thus am curious about technology and being the adventuresome sort and not wanting to be denied, I decided to try the Kalahari reader for Mac and Android. I purchased The Lazarus Effect and installed the readers on my MacBook pro and my Droid2 mobile.

The Experience
The Mac —you get a two page layout which can't be changed. The reader is anchored and can't be moved to a secondary display. You can add a book mark and notes and they are accessed through the table of contents but not on the actual page. This is a little kludgy. Unfortunately you can't highlight text when making a note and it looks like the size of the note is limited but I'm sure of the number of characters allowed. In addition to jumping to a bookmarked page through the table of contents, you can choose a specific page by clicking on the thumbnail that you can pop up at the bottom of the screen. The pages are easy to read though not comfortable if you have your laptop on a stand with keyboard and external monitor attached as I do. If I'm planning to sit down for a long read I will disconnect everything and take the laptop to a comfortable chair which will annoy the cats since the laptop takes up valuable lap space.

The Droid2 —The text is quite readable when I pop the magnification up one level. Obviously each page takes multiple screens. There is a slider bar to move forward and back in the book but it is useful only if you have Tinkerbell sized fingers. Swiping to advance the page doesn't always work the first time though this might be me or the Droid2.  You can get to the table of contents by pressing the info icon but I didn't discover that right away. Bookmarks and notes work the same as on the Mac reader. I actually prefer reading on the mobile phone since I have it with me always. Last night I was waiting for takeout and read a chapter over a beer. Convenient if awkward at times.

Rating: C
The experience of reading a book with these readers is OK but not close to the convenience of a Kindle/iPad/Nook etc. device.

Will I continue to get books from Kalahari this way? Yes. Having decided to specialize in African crime fiction this may be my only way to read some books. In fact, Sifiso Mzobe's novel Young Blood is already queued up on my wish list waiting for me to finish The Lazarus Effect.

I wonder if I can find a relatively inexpensive ebook reader in the US that supports Adobe DRM ePub and Adobe DRM ePub? Maybe something like the gobii reader selling on Kalahari for R899/$114.28.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Short Fiction of Roger Smith

Photo by Dieter Losskarn from the author's web site
You are familiar with Roger from his gritty South African crime novels Mixed Blood, Wake Up Dead, and Dust Devils but you might not realize that he also has a deft hand with the short story. I only know of two but I hope he will occasionally toss one our way between novels.

The first I encountered was Ishmael Toffee which was printed in the December/January issue of The Big Issue. You can read it here on the Crime Beat blog. The story comes in at 2,245 words and Roger makes every one count. Lean, sharp edged prose.

Ishmael Toffee was a killer who got tired of killing:
Killing always came easy to Ishmael Toffee. From when he was old enough to hold a knife he stuck people dead. Killing sent him to prison and kept him there. When you good at killing you don’t get no rest. Then one day he just didn’t want to do it no more.
On parole from Pollsmoor Prison, Ishmael is doing day labor working in the yard of a house in a wealthy suburb of Cape Town. He is drawn into an action that might just show that there is a spark of humanity left in him, a chance of redemption.

I can't say much more about the story but read it and tell me what you think. It stands on its own as a short story but could be the seed of a novel.

A short story by Roger is included in The Crime Factory: The First Shift, a recent collection of stories from the folks who produce the online Crime Factory Magazine. I will take a look at the whole book later but for now I want to highlight Roger's story.

With Half-Jack Roger fills in a bit more about what we know of Disaster Zondi. This is the Disaster from the time of Mixed Blood, the elegant, cultured Disaster far removed from the mud hut in which he was born. Disaster has much to occupy him: his job as a special investigator for the public prosecutor, clothes, music, expensive alcohol, and an apparently inexhaustible supply of blondes "drawn to his blackness." But Disaster has an emptiness inside him, explored in Dust Devils, and early in the morning, in a moment of inattentive musings, he falls victim to two of Jo'burg predators, car jackers. Zondi knows his chances of survival would be slim at best but non-existent when the jackers find out he is a cop. These jackers aren't bright, even by the low standards of this breed of scavenger, but they have the guns and Disaster doesn't have many options to avoid a bullet in the brain.

If you enjoy Roger's novels, you'll feel right at home with this short story. It has the dark, edgy, noir feel of his longer fiction compressed into a tightly written stand-alone.

Here's the first paragraph:
When the gunmen come at Disaster Zondi, he's lost in one of Erik Satie's intricate piano pieces, the faint, musky tang of the blonde whose bed he's just left still rising from his fingers as they play imaginary scales  on the wheel of the idling Beemer.
The Crime Factory started in 2000, closed in 2003, and was resurrected in 2009. It features hardboiled and noir fiction, new and established authors, and non-fiction on the genre. The Crime Factory: The First Shift is available for the Kindle and Nook so there's no reason not to start reading it now.