The Future Is Knidle


I remember seeing ‘Thunderball’ for the first time and thinking, ‘Oh My God, the jet pack is finally here!’
In those days, Cubby Broccoli’s 007 movies only showcased stunts and devices that actually existed, which was why they were so thrilling. By the time Bond was riding tidal waves and driving through ice palaces it was all so ho-hum, but for a brief moment the future arrived and did not disappoint.

As a child I had fantasised about someone inventing a box that could hold movies inside it, so that you could carry them in your pocket. And flat TV screens. It took the future forever to arrive after that.
So when they invented the Kindle, and I looked at this chunky piece of grey plastic that appeared to have been sold in the GUM department store some time before Trotsky got whacked with an ice pick, I thought ‘Dear God, is this the best the future can manage?’ In a few short months I was eating my words. I had been got at. So, now that I’m on my third electronic reading device, I thought it was time for a few observations.

1. The proofreading on the Kindle is utterly appalling. So many texts are peppered with misspellings that I’m now used to them and don’t even get annoyed by the random gaps, digits and ampersands that pop up all over the place.

2. My reading rate has risen dramatically – at any one time I am reading at least four books simultaneously, and reading at least six short story collections.

3. My purchasing of paperbacks has jumped sharply. If I like a book a lot, I need to own it in paper form as a permanent item.

4. I have started reading books that aren’t published by the big houses. I’m currently reading ‘The Fall of the House of Murdoch’ by Peter Jukes, published online by Unbound, and it’s as good – if not better – than anything published by a major house. It’s also mistake-free.

5. I nearly always have the Kindle on me. There’s a neoprene socklike sleeve you can fit it into that beats those naff faux-book covers they try to flog you.

6. I’m concentrating on the words rather than letting the book’s design influence me, and I’m reading a lot of rare books I would not have touched with a bargepole before. Anstey’s ‘The Brass Bottle’, anyone?

7. I don’t miss pictures, but when they ameliorate the text (as in ‘The Lost City of Z’) I buy the paperback too.

8. I have taken to grazing for Kindle titles in bookstores and surreptitiously making notes as I go around to purchase them online later. But I still usually come out of the shop with a new book.

9. My actual reading speed has jumped. I think it’s to do with the practice of reading in more places, more continuously, and varying type size in different lighting conditions. My 87 year-old mother now uses one, too.

10. I realise there are downsides – the arthritic navigation, the accidental turning of pages and the ridiculous situation wherein you cannot use them until the plane is in the air – but these don’t matter compared to the most important thing, the reading experience. Another sign that the Kindle is here to stay is that the French hate them. Kindle sales in France are almost non-existent.

Now if Apple had only designed an e-reader. Bond never spotted that coming, did he?

19 comments on “The Future Is Knidle”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Typos and gaps? and your third reading device? I’ll wait until things settle down.

  2. Ford says:

    Point 6 …. How would Spanky have fared without that cover????

    I can attest to the increase in reading with a Kindle. My wife reads much more, now she has one. Keeps her quite for hours! Highly recommend it!

  3. snowy says:

    Re. 1. Probably artifacts from running a physical book through an OCR or converting formats. But there is no excuse for not proofing afterwards.

    If anybody gets given a e-book in this state they should complain to the supplier or they will never change.

    And as to the look, it is rather drab, but it is very easy to get a ‘skin’ for it. There are 1000’s of designs. But if none suit your taste, you can for a little extra have them made with an image of your choice. A ‘skin’ however is not a cover but simply decorative.

    The devil in me thinks that the ‘Spanky’ skin might sell rather well.

  4. Ford says:

    Snowy; I handle “proper” books in my work. There are shed loads of “facsimile reprints” which have been quickly OCR’d; and, not proof read. Great if it’s a book about East European poetry! Though you can’t beat the books which are just reprint of Wikipedia pages!!! Links, and all! Bizarely, the publisher of these gems has the disclaimer “Not published in Mozambique” (I think that it’s Mozambique!)

  5. Jame says:

    I can’t really comment on typos and errors in kindle books BUT enough exist in HB and PB versions anyway.
    Very impressed to see how many books are cheap or free for kindle. A very good thing.
    Finances stop me buying as many books as I would like so support for libraries nationwide is needed for so many people for so many reasons.
    Loved the comment about the Sparky cover – have that one and for a time – that kind of gimmick worked – does it still?

  6. Jame says:

    Spanky – not Sparky sigh. Yet feel free to write a book entitled Sparky.
    (grey hamster)

  7. Jane of the Waking Universe says:

    Because of the transposed letters in the title, I honestly did not know what this blog post was about until the third paragraph. I thought, “Hmmm, knidle… what could that be? Sounds German.” LOL

  8. snowy says:

    Well that has got me completely baffled, Ford. The last thing I’d ever do for a facsimile, would be to run it through an OCR. I’d digitise them as pure image files and then concatenate them into a “book”. Uses a lot of file space but if it is going to end up in printed format it doesn’t matter, might be an issue if offered as a download though.

    I’d heard about the wiki books, it caused a wry smile. There is no end to the rubbish people will try and sell. The latest innovation being the “female biro” offered by a certain large online retailer.

  9. Tom Johnson says:

    I have to agree with you 100%. Nearly everything you mentioned above has been the same in my experience.

    The typo’s and such I *think* are caused by publisher’s using crap software when they scan a hard-copy of the book into the e-format. You can see this, when it comes to the number 1 getting confused for the letter I and so forth.

    The only issue I have with my Kindle Fire is I can no longer create my own folders like you could with the previous generations of Kindle, but I am told they are working on that feature for a future update.

    Actually, one more complaint. I don’t know about, but has a SEVERE LACK of Christopher Fowler’s older titles. Sure, no problem finding B&M novels, but the short story collections and older novels are non-existent. Any chance they’ll become available?

  10. Dan Terrell says:

    Jane: Some of us prefer not to mention any typos, early-, mid- or late- in the day deviations from the good spelling norm and spacing jams that are more WordPress and size of type issues than not. No blackboard eraser comes with WordPress for us the commenters.
    Tom: You are so right. Except for B&M there’s next to no backlist titles of Admin’s books on Kindle.US. My wife got a Kindle Fire this past Christmas and I have an app on my Pavilion, so we download electronic books every so often. But you can’t buy a British book from Amazon.UK and download it here. Does it only requirw a satellite to be nudged a bit?
    I’ve obtained my Fowler backlist titles from Amazon’s second-hand no-new-money-for-admin. shops, excuse me, previously owned shops. Just ordered Red Bride, which with Roofworld, will nearly complete my collection of pre-B&M appearances, only just Plastic to go, but will it be on Amazon.US? Bother..

  11. Tom Johnson says:

    Actually, if you go to and change your address to one in the UK (use your imagination, but make sure you have the post code right), you can then switch to, for a little while anyway. I did this, claiming I was in the UK for a few months and used a friends address, so I could download all the titles I wanted from The only drawback is you have to use your computer and go to the website to download/send books to your kindle, rather than downloading them right from your Kindle. It worked for a few months before Amazon wanted me to prove my address.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Why not use admin’s address? Finding the postal code for King’s Cross should be fairly easy. (Notice I did not comment on the knidle.)

  13. snowy says:

    You could try the address of the Equadorian embassy in London. They are quite accustomed to accomodating foreign visitors.

  14. John Howard says:

    Hi admin, what’s not to agree with only I find that, like you, reading has gone up but book has not gone down. I have managed with the apple solution because I have no problems using the iPad as yet another method of reading. Note to self. Must check to see if that Bryant and May chap is on ITunes.

  15. John Howard says:

    That of course should have been book buying

  16. Dan Terrell says:

    Amazon has just announced that it is sold out of the Kindle Fire! But since word of mouth has it that within few weeksa new version of the Fire will be put out that’s not too surprising.
    Also, want to say that your column of early January this year (“Where are Arthur and John?”, I believe) has been invaluable in tracing the evolution of the characters in the PSC.
    A book of short stories, some old and a few new, would be nice. There were several short stories collections from Simenon and Carr, so how about collecting some from the PSU?

  17. Helen Martin says:

    Dan: “a new version of the Fire will be put out”!! Could not ignore that, especially since it was unintended.

  18. Dan Terrell says:

    Helen: Glad you did. First laugh of the day. That bit is either the subconscious or speed composition or both. Thank you.

  19. Ken M says:

    Another obscure novel to turn up on kindle: Atomsk by Carmichael Smith

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