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The Dark Lord’s Handbook – by Paul Dale

The Dark Lord’s Handbook – by Paul Dale

the dark lords handbook by paul dale

One of the things I like most about the whole e-reader and e-book revolution is the fact that it has made self-publishing a lot easier. I’ve read some great self published books – and it’s almost chilling to think that the vast majority of these authors would have had no outlet in the old world of paper and ink. What a waste!

Anyway, here’s a good example of a very enjoyable self published novel, by Paul Dale.

The Dark Lord’s Handbook is Paul Dale’s first novel, and it’s a humorous parody of the fantasy genre. It’s basically the battle for good and evil, complete with dragons, wizards and orcs, done in a style which is not dissimilar to Terry Pratchett. It also has echoes of Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw, if you’re familiar with that one.

Given that the author is British, it’s probably unsurprising to learn that the sense of humo(u)r is also fairly British. It’s a bit like Austin Powers – but with dragons, orcs and wizards. If you enjoy humorous fantasy, with or without an extra u, then you’ll probably like this.

Like many books in the fantasy genre, the basic premise is that the battle between good and evil is never ending.

There is always an epic, and often seemingly unequal, struggle. Vast tracts of land are laid waste, armies march to battle, dragons soar through the air whilst wizards, mages and warlocks let fly with funky firebolts, and then – just at the end – when it seems that there is absolutely nothing that can prevent the triumph of evil …  something prevents the triumph of evil.

That has to be more than a little frustrating for the guys playing for Team Evil surely. In an effort to break the somewhat predictable cycle, Evil decides to jot down a few pointers, things to watch out for on your way to world domination so to speak – and that’s how “The Dark Lord’s Handbook” comes into being.

After being lost for hundreds of years, it eventually finds it way into the hands of Morden. Morden always knew he was different – and now he’s got himself a bit of a roadmap for world domination, the triumph of evil, a night of endless darkness etc.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

To become a Dark Lord is no easy thing. The simple ambition to hold dominion over the world and bend all to your Will sounds straightforward but it’s not. There are armies to raise, fortresses to build, heroes to defeat, battles to be fought, hours of endless soliloquy in front of the mirror – it’s a never ending job.

After many spectacular failures, Evil decided to lend more than inspiration to these would be tyrants. He wrote an easy to follow Dark Lord’s Handbook. And yet the next Dark Lord that came along screwed up like all the others.It had been hundreds of years, and the Handbook was lost in the annals of time, along with all that was mythic and exciting in the world.

Then one day a randy dragon had a chance encounter. Nine months later a Dark Lord was born.In time, the Handbook found its way to this new contender, Morden.

To become a Dark Lord is no easy thing. Morden had better be a quick study.

It’s the author’s first book and has that nice, first book freshness about it. There’s no back catalog to refer to and come into line with, which allows a certain freedom of expression. The ending does seem just a little bit rushed, but not enough to spoil your enjoyment.

dark lords handbook conquestIt is, in summary, an enjoyable romp. If you like comic fantasy, Terry Pratchett etc., then you should really give this a try.

Paul Dale has now followed up with a sequel; “The Dark Lord’s Handbook: Conquest“, which I also enjoyed a great deal. It continues Morden’s progress to world domination, somewhat predictably, and charts his success, somewhat less predictably. Be careful what you wish for Morden.

Which Kindle Reader To Choose?

The Kindle Reader Family

kindle voyage ereaderThe Kindle isn’t the only show in town, far from it, there are plenty of other excellent readers out there. However, it has been the market leader for years now and it has seen off a number of putative “Kindle killers”, so if you’re looking for an e-reader, it’s pretty much unthinkable that you wouldn’t at least consider something from the Kindle range.

These days you have the choice of three different readers, ranging in price from $79 to $289. In addition, you can choose from Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus 3G connectivity and with or without “Special Offers” (adverts).

Let’s have a quick look at the connectivity and ad options before looking at the individual models to decide which is the best Kindle reader for you.

Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi Plus 3G Connectivity?

wi-fi connectivity ereaderIf you have a good Wi-Fi router at home then the Wi-Fi only model is probably all that you’ll need. Unless your usage is very different from average, most of your downloads will take place at home anyway. Even if you use your Kindle a lot outside the house, the chances are that you’ll be able to find a Wi-Fi hotspot without too much trouble anyway.

The addition of 3G connectivity, where available, costs an extra $70, which is quite a high adder. It’s probably only worth it if you think that you’re going to spend a lot of your time out of range of Wi-Fi – and still be able to receive a 3G signal.

Special Offers Or Not?

special offers on the KindleWhen Amazon first introduced special offers, some people did get up in arms about it – but not many, and not for long. The ads don’t appear within the books. They only show on the opening screen and the screensaver – so they don’t disturb your reading experience in any way – and they help you to clip $20 off the price of your Kindle.

Speaking for myself, I don’t find them intrusive in any way and I wouldn’t pay the $20 to get rid of them. If you’re not sure how you feel about the ads, then order your Kindle with Special Offers anyway. If, after you’ve been using it for a little while, you find that the ads are annoying you, you can go to the “Manage My Kindle” page on Amazon, pay the extra $20 and have them removed.

The Entry Level Kindle

kindle reader entry level modelThe entry level Kindle will cost you somewhere between $79 and $99. There’s no 3G option with this one, it’s strictly Wi-Fi only. The extra $20 is, as mentioned previously, simply for getting rid of the Special Offers.

The display has a resolution of 167 pixels per inch (PPI) and, remarkably at this price, it’s a touch screen display. However, it has no reading light.

Based on an average of half an hour’s reading per day, the entry level Kindle should go 4 weeks between charges.

Dimensions are 6.7″ x 4.7″ x 0.4 and it weighs in at just 6.7 ounces.

What you get: A great, fully functional touch screen reader for less than $100. It’s a good buy for anyone who wants a great reader but is on a budget.

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite ereaderShell out another $40 and you’re into Paperwhite territory. The Paperwhite with Special Offers and Wi-Fi only connectivity costs $119. If you want Special Offers with Wi-Fi plus 3G then it’s another $70 at $189. Paying a further $20 for either option will lose the ads.

The Paperwhite display has a resolution of 212 PPI and has its own built in light. Note that the light shines onto the text rather than from behind it (i.e. straight into your eyes) as would be the case for a back-lit computer display.

The Paperwhite has the longest battery life of all the current Kindle siblings going for up to 8 weeks between battery charges (based on a half hour’s reading each day).

Dimensions are 6.7″ x 4.6″ x 0.36″. The Wi-Fi only version weighs 7.3 ounces with the Wi-Fi plus 3G model tipping the scales at a still svelte 7.6 ounces.

What you get: A great, high definition reader with a lighted touchscreen and a long battery life.

Kindle Voyage

Kindle Voyage ereaderThe Voyage is now the top of the range reader in the Kindle family. the Wi-Fi model with Special Offers costs $199 and a further $20 gets rid of the ads. Go for the Wi-Fi and 3G model with special Offers and you’ll need to find $269 – getting rid of the ads will cost you no less than $289 – which is definitely a high price to pay for an e-reader these days.

The voyage has a display which has 300 PPI resolution. The light will automatically adjust to the lighting conditions wherever you’re reading – and it will even adjust to take account of the fact that your own eyes adjust to dull lighting after a few minutes.

The Voyage also features physical page turn buttons on both the left and right bezels. These incorporate haptic technology feedback (they vibrate slightly when you turn the page). The bezel itself is flush with the reading area – just like a tablet computer.

Using our, now standard, average of thirty minutes of reading daily, you can expect to get 6 weeks of use between battery charges.

It’s the smallest and lightest member of the Kindle family. Dimensions are 6.4″ x 4.5″ x 0.3″. The Wi-Fi only version is a real featherweight at just 6.3 ounces and the 3G version weighs 6.6 ounces.

What you get: A feature packed reader which offers a reading experience like no other. If you’re a serious reader who counts reading as one of your main hobbies, then this is definitely more of a treat than a luxury.

Snuff – The 37th Discworld Novel

Snuff – By Terry Pratchett

snuff by terry pratchettSnuff is the 37th novel in the Discworld series by Sir Terry Pratchett. If you’re already familiar with the Discworld novels then you’ll understand the brief description below immediately.

If you have not yet had the pleasure, then it probably won’t mean a great deal to you. I would certainly recommend the Discworld series – very funny with an occasional hard edge. However, starting with the 37th novel in the series might not be the absolute best way to introduce yourself to it. Grab yourself one of the early volumes and have fun catching up!

Samuel Vimes Goes Wild In The Country

Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch of Ankh Morpork, finds himself displaced from his normal urban environment. At the behest of his wife, and with some machination from Lord Vetinari, he is on holiday in the country.

Needless to say, when a policeman goes on holiday, he finds all sorts of crimes to keep him occupied, and Vimes is no exception to this rule. Terry Pratchett uses his hero as a vehicle to explore racism, the class system, corruption, police methods and a whole variety of societal mores – in a way that will leave you with a smile on your face.

That’s the beauty of Discworld. It may be populated by wizards, witches, goblins, vampires, werewolves, dwarves, goblins, trolls – and it may be a perfectly flat world which is supported on the back of four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle – but you will recognise it immediately and feel right at home. Here’s a quick primer:

Snuff is another triumph from Terry Pratchett and, as always, well worth the wait.

If you’re a fan, you can read an interesting interview of Terry Pratchett by Neil Gaiman on Amazon, where the two authors discuss Snuff and stuff.

Snuff On The Kindle

Terry Pratchett’s books are a good way to demonstrate just how much the Kindle has improved over the years. I hardly ever buy printed books these days, but Terry Pratchett books were among the last of my regular buys to transition over to the Kindle.

The thing is, Sir Terry uses a lot of footnotes – to great effect – in his works. They are very definitely part of the humor and an integral part of the book. The trouble was, on my old Kindle 2.0, handling footnotes wasn’t the most natural process.

You used to get taken to a separate page where you would read the footnote (along with all the other footnotes for that chapter) and then return, with a bit of luck, to where you left off. I quite often wound up somewhere else, or I would read the wrong footnote from the list. My fault I’m sure – but it wasn’t a very satisfying experience – and I read Terry Pratchett’s book in hard copy for a while.

These days, the modern touchscreen Kindles handle footnotes much better. You just tap the footnote and a window pops up with the relevant data in it. When you’re done, just close the window and you return to the main text where you left off. It’s pretty seamless actually – so now I have digitized even Sir Terry!

Anyway, whether you prefer to read Discworld on paper or an e-reader, here’s a video of a short interview with Terry Pratchett where he discusses “Snuff” – among other things:

Publish Your Book For The Amazon Kindle

One of the often overlooked facts about the growth in the popularity of ebook readers and ebooks is that it is very much easier for authors to self publish these days. Indeed, publishing Kindle books could hardly be any easier.

Anyone who has an internet connection and a copy of Microsoft Word can upload their book, or books, to Amazon. After approval (it doesn’t take long and isn’t hard to achieve), they can be a published author with their work on sale on the world’s largest book shop.

There’s no shortage of success stories either. Some self published authors have sold more than 1,000,000 copies of their Kindle books. A few have gone on to sign deals with large publishing houses.

To make it even easier to track down such works, Amazon has now launched its “Indie books” page, where works from independent authors and publishers are showcased. Due to the fact that a lot of authors are less well known than mainstream authors, you can find some real bargains.

Obviously, there is a spread of ability and quality, but you can always take advantage of the ability to download the first chapter of any Kindle book for free and try before you buy.

What’s more, if you have the next great American novel tucked away in your desk, you can have it uploaded to Amazon and on sale quickly and easily. There’s even a Kindle book (free of course) which explains exactly how to do it.

publish on amazon kindle


And, if the thrill of seeing your work on sale on Amazon isn’t enough on its own, you can keep 70% of whatever selling price you set for your work.

Whether you want to publish your own book or just pick up a bargain from an author that you might not otherwise have had the chance to read, it’s well worth a look.

Tablet Computers – The Fun Factor

The Appeal Of Tablet Computers

ipadWhilst I much prefer reading on an e-reader, I am far from immune to the charms of tablet computers. Fortunately it’s not an “either – or” scenario, you can have a tablet and an e-reader – and a notebook, and a smartphone, and a desktop, and a spare tablet – technology is definitely part of our everyday life right now.

I use my e-reader for reading on and my tablet for fun – playing games, watching video etc. That’s a big part of the appeal of tablet computers; they are fun. Most tablet computer purchases are by individuals for their own personal use, and “personal use” is normally defined as having fun.

UK Mobile Technology Usage Times

As you can see, mobiles dominate early in the morning as people entertain themselves during the journey to work. During office hours PCs (both desktops and laptops) dominate as the corporate world puts its nose to the grindstone. Tablet computer usage dominates from the early evening onwards.

A fair bit of the tablet usage will also be of the multi-tasking type. A lot of people use their tablets when they are sitting on the sofa watching a movie or TV show. They can dip in and out of e-mail, social networks and games as they see fit.

Tablet Computers For Fun

Some people will point out that tablets aren’t, and can’t be, as productive as a good solid laptop or desktop – and they’re right. Whilst you may be able to use your tablet to perform a lot of, maybe even most of, the tasks that laptops and desktops can be used for, you’ll often find yourself jumping through hoops and using workarounds to get the job done.

ipad 4th genHowever, in addition to being absolutely correct, those who point out tablets’ shortcomings in the productivity arena are also completely missing the point. Tablets are not meant to be productive, they are meant to be entertaining, enjoyable and fun to use.

That forms a big part of their appeal. It’s like having your own mobile entertainment center, right there in your hand. And you can pop them in your bag and take them with you wherever you want. No need for an external mouse, laptop cooling pad, power cable etc. – tablets are truly mobile devices.

Another major factor in the appeal of tablet computers is the fact that they are very easy and intuitive to use. Many people who would not normally enjoy using a traditional computer with a QWERTY keyboard and mouse will quite happily pick up a tablet computer and start swiping, prodding, tapping and poking away.

I have personally seen lifelong technophobes pick up a tablet computer and be almost cooing with pleasure as they realize just how easy it suddenly is to perform all of those tasks that have eluded them up until their introduction to tablet computing. Suddenly e-mail is accessible and they can find stuff on Google at will!

Tablet Computers For Kids

I have also seen children as young as 3 using tablet computers and seniors, well into their eighties, swiping and tapping away at a tablet. Even without the previously mentioned “fun factor”, the wide ranging appeal of tablets would be enough to secure significant sales.

When it comes to tablets for children, parents basically have the choice of a specially designed “kid’s tablet”, something from LeapFrog or VTech perhaps, or an entry level standard tablet – possibly with the addition of a childproof (if there truly is such a thing) case.

Amazon even offers a “Kids Edition” of their Kindle Fire HD 6 and HD 7 tablets. It’s basically a Fire HD in a special case with easy to use parental controls and access to Amazon’s massive content system of kid’s apps, games, books and videos – plus (get this) a two year no-questions asked warranty against whatever damage your little darlings can inflict upon it!

If your kids break it, no problem – send it back and Amazon will give you a new one by return! When it comes to peace of mind, that really is about as good as it gets.

Tablet Computers For Seniors

At the other end of the scale, tablet computers for seniors are just as popular. Tablets can be a whole new window on the world for senior citizens. They can use them to keep in touch with friends and family via e-mail, social networks and VOIP. They can listen to music, keep up with current affairs and watch videos.

Another interesting fact is that more and more seniors are not just discovering tablets, but also the joy of computer games. These may not be exactly the same games that teenagers play – although if Grandfather enjoys playing GTA why not? – but there are plenty of enjoyable and diverting games available for seniors to enjoy.

There have even been some studies which suggest that this type of gaming activity helps keep the brain active and can even prevent, or delay, memory loss and other deterioration of mental faculties. It’s entertaining, good fun and good for your mind. Not too shabby all things considered.

As with children’s tablets, you can source tablet computers which are specifically designed for seniors – or you can opt for a standard tablet and install whatever apps you think are needed (you’ll have plenty of choices). Whichever way you go, a tablet computer can be absolutely great for an elderly relative.

Tablet Computers Are Fun

So hopefully that explains some of the appeal of tablet computers. They appeal to all ages, from the youngest to the oldest in society – and all points in between,

You can get all wrapped up in the technical specifications of all the various tablets available on the market right now if you want – but the real secret behind the success of tablet computers is the fact that they are fun, fun, FUN!

What Books Are Not Good For E-Readers?

Are There Books That Don’t Work Well With E-Readers?

raising steam by terry pratchettSince I got my e-reader, five or six years ago, I hardly read any books in printed format. There are a few types of books that won’t work so well on an e-reader of course, but these are getting fewer over time.

For example, I’ve always been a big fan of Terry Pratchett. If you’re not familiar with his work (seriously?) he writes (among other things) about a fantasy world called Disc World, which is populated with wizards, vampires, trolls, werewolves, dwarves etc. – pretty much the whole pantheon of fantasy creatures – but it’s a very humorous fantasy world.

When I first started reading on an e-reader (a Kindle 2.0), I found it a bit hard to enjoy Terry Pratchett’s books. The trouble is that he uses a lot of footnotes. He explains things about different characters and species in them – and it’s an integral part of the humour.

Unfortunately, reading footnotes on my Kindle 2.0 was a bit clunky to say the least. It was definitely possible, but it was a clunky, and occasionally frustrating, experience to say the least. I would lose my place in the book every now and again, usually after I had read the footnote and was trying to navigate back to the page I’d originally come from.

Things are a lot better these days. Touch screens, such as those featured on the entire Kindle range, mean that you can just tap on the footnote reference and a new window will open for you to read it. When you’re done with the footnote, just close it and you get back into your book wherever you left off.

It’s pretty seamless, and it’s a good demonstration of just how much e-readers have improved over the last few years. Terry Pratchett is definitely back on my Kindle reading list.

Apart from that minor, and now resolved, problem with footnotes, about the only types of books that I can think of that don’t work so well with e-readers would be books which have a lot of detailed colour illustrations. In fact, the last physical book that I bought for myself was a recipe book (for my newly acquired halogen oven – a cool gadget in its own right).

I did think about using a tablet computer, it would have been quite handy in the kitchen I think. In the end, I didn’t much fancy having to clean flour and olive oil of my touch screen tablet, which is almost certainly what would have happened. That’s why I went for the old fashioned dead tree book – and I think that when I buy my next recipe book (in about ten years or so) that I will probably stick with a paper version.

There aren’t too many other types that I would go for a print version. Possibly, were I the type to maintain my own car, I might get auto manuals in paper – for similar reasons to recipe books, but avoiding engine oil on the screen rather than olive oil.

Those two examples aside, I think that e-readers, or a tablet if there are lots of colourful illustrations, have pretty much got my needs covered.

Anyway, back to Terry Pratchett – here’s a short video where he explains his Disc World series:

I recommend the Disc World series – whichever medium you choose to read it in.

The Potential Future Of Wearable Technology

cicret braceletDespite what many reviewers would have you believe, e-readers and tablet computers are very different devices. They are intended for different purposes and aimed at different target markets. That’s why tablet computers will not spell the death of e-readers, any more than e-readers have made printed books redundant.

Without going into too much detail, one of the biggest differences between the two devices is the type of display which each one uses. E-readers use e-ink technology displays; great for reading, not so good for anything else. Tablet computers of course have lovely color touch screens; great for surfing the net, playing games and watching video, not so good for reading text (for long periods at a time).

Although I don’t see tablets displacing e-readers, I have wondered if the two devices would eventually merge. The main requirement for this would probably be the development of a color e-ink display with a high refresh rate.

However, the video below makes me wonder if this type of projection technology might not work just as well.

At the moment, this is a project that’s in its early development stages. You can read more over at The company is currently crowdsourcing funding for this bracelet, as well as one other project.

It might never become commercially available of course, but it’s certainly a very appealing prospect. No more lugging around notebooks, tablets, e-readers – and no more chargers either.


Kindle Voyage E-Reader

The Kindle Voyage

kindle voyage ereaderThe Kindle Voyage is the best Kindle to date, which is another way of saying that it’s the best ereader available on the market right now.

It has an amazing, sharp display, complete with an auto-adjusting light, flush bezel and “re-imagined” page turns.

It’s not cheap; the Wi-Fi only model with Special Offers will set you back a cool $199 – and if you want the Wi-Fi plus 3G model, without Special Offers, you’re looking at an eye watering $289. Nevertheless, if reading is your thing and you get through a lot of books, you might just think that the Voyage is worth every penny.

Kindle Voyage Features

Kindle Voyage Features

The Voyage is just jam packed with features, but as with any e-reader, it’s the display that really matters. You will really enjoy reading on the 1440 x 1080 pixel screen.

That equates to 300 ppi, and it means that you get laser sharp, super crisp text.

The Voyage also has its own built in light, which shines onto the text rather than a back-light which shines from behind it (and right into your eyes).

What’s more, the light will automatically adjust to the level of illumination in your surroundings. It will also make allowance for the fact that your eyes gradually adjust to the lighting level; for example, it will dim the light a little after you’ve been reading in a darkened room for a while.

Of course, you can override the automated light settings manually if you wish and you can fine tune the light’s settings to suit your own personal preferences.

Another new feature is the physical page turn system, which features haptic technology. You can still turn pages by tapping or swiping the screen if you like, but I do think that the large majority of people will prefer tapping the side of the reader to page forward and back (I know that I do).

kindle voyage dimensionsThe bezel of the voyage is fully flush, just like a tablet computer. The back of the case is magnesium and the display uses specially reinforced glass.

It’s very small and light. It feels extremely comfortable in your hand and is super easy to use and control.

Dimensions are 6.4″ x 4.5″ x 0.3″. The Wi-Fi version weighs in at just 6.3 ounces and the Wi-Fi plus 3G version still stays in the featherweight class at just 6.6 ounces.

Battery life is estimated at 6 weeks, based on half an hour’s reading each day, with Wi-Fi turned off and with the light setting at 10. Your mileage may vary according to how you use it of course. And when it is time to charge it up, it will take a full charge in just 3 hours from a computer usb port. Get yourself an adapter and charge from a wall socket and the charging time should be even lower.

The Kindle has 4GB of memory, which is enough to store thousands of books. You also get free cloud storage for all of your Amazon content.

Is The Kindle Voyage Worth It?

kindle voyage origami coverAll things considered, the Voyage is a fantastic reader. Combined with Amazon’s low e-book prices and the huge selection of books available, it’s definitely something that’s going to appeal to anyone who enjoys reading.

Even so, it’s a fair old price these days, especially if you consider that you can pick up a very decent entry level tablet computer (from Amazon if you like) for just under the $100 mark. On the other hand, when the Kindle first hit the market, way back in November of 2007, it sold for $399.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. The Voyage is the best e-reader, bar none, on the market today – but if the price is too high for you, you can always go for the entry level Kindle (touch screen functionality, no lighted screen) starting at just $79 or the Kindle Paperwhite (touch screen plus light) starting at $119 (but quite often discounted to $99).

For anyone who reads a lot, say a book a week or so, I think that the Voyage is almost the natural choice.

Here’s a short video review to help you make up your mind: