Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kindle on the Cheap. . . Sort of.

A Literary Journey of Sorts.
This journey starts with a game. A game I have mentioned before and with which I am a little obsessed currently. The Game is Savage Wolds, and it is a Role Playing Game. One thing that sets Savage Worlds apart is its simplicity which lends it well to a Pulp Fiction Flavor. (Another thing that sets it apart is that it is not tied to any particular setting, meaning it can be applied to all manner of settings—High or Low Fantasy, High or Low Sci-fi, Pulp Fiction, Superheros, Pirates, Spies, Etc. Etc. Etc.)

Pinnacle Entertainment Group really accentuates the Pulp Fiction Feeling of their system, by publishing Game Settings to go along with their Core Rule Set that really fit into that Genre. The Most Obviously Pulp Setting they have released is called The Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane.
So, who is this Solomon Kane? He is a Character created by Pulp Fiction Author, Robert E. Howard—of Conan and Kull and Solomon Kane Fame. Conan never really interested me, Kull never interested me because I thought Kull was just like Conan, I can blame the Movie Kull the Conqueror for that. I'll just Quote Wikipedia—it's an interesting twist: "Kull the Conqueror is a 1997 fantasy action film about the Robert E. Howard character Kull starring Kevin Sorbo. It is a movie adaptation of the Conan novel Conan the Conqueror, with the protagonist changed in the face of Arnold Schwarzenegger's refusal to reprise his role as Conan and Kevin Sorbo not wanting to redo a character already played. (This is ironic, as the very first Conan story, "The Phoenix on the Sword", is actually a rewrite of the Kull story entitled "By This Axe, I Rule".) Note however that the Kull story, "By This Axe, I Rule", is very similar to the story line of this movie, and is a more likely basis for the movie."—though the characters are similar, they are not the same. 

I had heard of Conan, and Kull—but not Solomon Kane; turns out he is a very interesting fellow indeed. Solomon Kane is a 17th Century Puritan that wanders the World to Fight and Vanquish Evil. Now that's a story I can get into. Funny thing, I was first introduced to a pulp fiction author in high school. My friend Justin told me I should look into H.P. Lovecraft—and I've been meaning to read him ever since. Anyway, after reading about Solomon Kane, I decided I liked the concept enough to actually read the stories—I always want to read more, but find myself doing other things and not committing time to reading. The great thing about Pulp fiction, is that the bulk of it is short stories.

I began looking on Amazon for a Compilation of Solomon Kane Tales, there's a lot of them, but the first one that I thought I might be interested in—due to its completeness—turned out to be a no go. I was reading the synopsis on the site and when I glanced at the price it seemed perfect, 80 cents. Now that can't be right, I thought to myself, and that's when I noticed it was a Kindle Version. I guess if you're going to sell the Hardware for $400, you've got to sell the books cheap. 

So I kind of gave up. I never actually planned to buy a book in the first place; I was just curious as to what was out there before making my trip to the library. Meanwhile I had glancingly noticed that there was an app for the iPhone that allowed the reading of Kindle Files. I filed this away in my mind under things I'll probably get in the eventual case that I actually end up with an iPhone or iTouch. (I filed it mentally right next to a dice rolling application that I saw when I looked up if there are dice rolling applications already available when it occurred to me that that was a really cool idea for an app, and that I should pursue it if it had not already been done, which it had.)

A few days later this was all simmering in the back of my head when it donned on me that with the latest update for the Zune they added Games. Which means the Zune can run "Apps" of a sort, and I got to wondering if people had Hacked that ability for non-gaming goodness, and I wondered if someone had added eBook abilities to the good ol' Zune. The answer is no—not that I've found, at least. (Frankly I find that the Technical Abilities of the Zune are greatly under appreciated and under implemented, even by Microsoft. The device could be used for so much more than they let it.)

But there was another solution. The Zune has a picture Gallery, and a search for eBook and Zune very quickly leads to instructions for converting eBooks to Images. This piqued my interest and I tried a few of them. The one that suits my usage is simply called eBook to Images. It has default settings for a number of portable devices that can display pictures. 

Now that I had software, I needed books. First and foremost on my mind is Solomon Kane. Now the works of Robert E Howard are from the 20's and 30's, and copyright on literary work from that time is a little up in the air, and different for different parts of the world. I figured it was old enough to be in the public domain and started looking online for Solomon Kane Stories. (From what I can tell, this Document indicates that most of the works are indeed in the Public Domain)

I started at Project Gutenberg (Australia), because Wikipedia mentioned that there were some stories available there. But their search function bore no hits. So I spent a couple hours while we watched T.V. one night looking here there and everywhere to no avail. Then the typical happened, I hit upon the right Search parameters and boom, there I was, back at Project Gutenberg (Australia) which is where I thought I had started, staring at a list of Solomon Kane stories.

So I have converted a number of eBooks to Images and have loaded them on my Zune. I like it, though there are some quirks. I have no way to bookmark where I am, in hindsight I probably should have added page numbers (an option in the software), but I thought it would be confusing because the software doesn't handle text formatting as well as I had hoped, it can get confusing, because there were page numbers already in some of the documents and a heading at the top of each page that got inserted into the text. I can ignore all that, but the one thing I have trouble with is the way it handles hard returns. . . it ignores them, which turns bantering dialogue into a difficult to follow mash up of sentences. I got used to it fairly quickly but my reading comprehension suffered a little on the first few pages. 

So I have myself a Kindle Alternative, on the Cheap because I already had a Zune. A Zune that was free—most people don't get that price. So for me, this is a Kindle on the Cheap, for you. . . results may vary.


  1. Rock on. I read Upton Sinclair's the Jungle on my little PocketPc once. That was the beginning and end of my affair with the eBook.

    Except scriptures. I love scriptures on my iPhone because I don't have to fiddle with a stylus, and I don't have to carry a big stack of books to church.

    Except the Joseph Smith manual stinks on the iPhone, so I still carry that book.

    See I like the whole "I'm using an iPhone to read my scriptures" thing to be as transparent as possible...and it's impossible with the Joseph Smith manual to, say, turn to page 34. You have no clue where page 34 is.

    But back to my main point(s).

    1 - The iPhone scripture app still falls worlds short in usability from the PocketPC App I used. They made it pretty for sure, but I don't want a spinner to select a chapter...I just want a ugly page full of numbers, and I can tap on one.

    2 - I really want an eInk device. If you haven't seen one in person, they have the Sony one on display at every target. I am hoping Amaozn either comes out with a KindlePlus that you can use a stulus on, or I hope Apple comes out with something sweet and small that can be used in tablet form, for all those classes that I use PDFs in currently.

    3 - Unfortunately either of those are pricey...I can print a lot of pages off my Laser Printer for the cost of a Kindle. Still, I tend to keep my tech toys if they do come out with something, I may just save my pennies...and...we shall see.

  2. I promise, if you don't run a Savage Wolds game, then I will. I love Solomon Kane. and enjoy Conan bu Full is just a shadow.

    You really should read Lovecraft. He is very good, underappriciated by the masses. Sometimes he is a bit dry to read but also he can be very entertaining. what do you expect from the prophet for the Great Old Ones.

  3. I'm glad you're creative and work with what you have!
    I need to get some books on my Palm.