Sheila O'Kelly's Blog

Freelance journalist, sub-editor, and e-novelist

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Kindle review

with 5 comments

Review: Kindle 2 International

I live in Ireland and have had the Kindle for a few weeks now. Overall, I love it even though there are many things that I would change about it. Would I buy another one if this one went missing – definitely.
Please note that if you try any of the workarounds I describe below it is at your own risk!

The Kindle costs $259 from In addition, there are charges for customs and postage.

Good points

  • Easy to read – paper ink works very well and there is no noticeable eye strain.
  • Easy to turn pages.
  • Easy to download free sample chapter from Amazon.
  • Easy to buy books from Amazon.
  • Most books relatively cheap, about €7.
  • Easily fits in handbag.
  • Print size easy to change.
  • Great having a selection of books to choose from.
  • If someone else in your household has a Kindle, you can share your book library.
  • You can email text, Word and PDFs to your personal account at Amazon and they will be converted into text for Kindle and emailed back to you, when you can drag and drop them onto your Kindle (when it is connected to your computer via the USB cable).
  • Some other file formats can also be converted.
  • You can now drag and drop PDF files directly onto the Kindle without converting them.

Bad points

  • Many Amazon books are not available to readers outside the US.
  • Whispernet internet connection to Amazon store is frequently unavailable – although that may be the recent stormy weather.
  • No cover supplied.
  • Shipped from US with US type plug – come on!
  • Cries out for touch-screen. It would make the space used by the keyboard at the bottom available for the reading screen.
  • Cannot lend books bought to other people unless they are one of your four nominated Kindle users.
  • Because there is no backlight you need the same type of light that you do for a paperbook. But a clip-on light works very well.
  • No free books available from Amazon outside the US.
  • Some PDF files are difficult to read on the Kindle screen.


Free books

You can get free books from Gutenberg ( They provide downloads to books that are out of copyright.  I have installed the free Calibre ( software that is genius at converting these books and uploading them to the Kindle. The format to look for is mobipocket.

There are also lots of DRM free books available at where you can download the mobipocket version and use Calibre to convert them.

Free Irish Times, Guardian, New Yorker, Wired

You can subscribe to newspapers for a hefty monthly fee from Amazon. But with Calibre you can create your own newspapers for the Kindle using the newspapers RSS feeds. This does take a while to set up the first time, but after that they are delivered automatically to your Kindle from Calibre every time you connect the Kindle to your computer with the USB cable.

For example, I created a Kindle Irish Times by using the Irish Times RSS feeds for: Frontpage & News Digest, Ireland, Finance, Features and Weekend. And of the Guardian by using its RSS feeds for: G2, Features, Fashion and Technology

I have also subscribed to parts of the New Yorker and Wired.

Even if you can’t be bothered creating your own News links, Calibre has many of them already tagged and you just click and pick which ones you want.

I don’t read these every day, but when I have an unexpected half-hour free or at the weekend, it’s great to have them easily available all in the same place.
Calibre instructions are easy to follow.


Written by SOKNH

November 25, 2009 at 15:43

Posted in 1, Technology upgrades itself

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Hi again folks. Yesterday I wrote about the WordPress bug that was around recently.  I advised people to upgrade their WordPress, but I now realise that this is only necessary if you are running If you have you don’t have to do anything, it is upgraded centrally.


Written by SOKNH

September 9, 2009 at 11:40

Posted in 1, Technology

Reflections on technology

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The temperature has gone up and it’s damp and muggy. Not that many people out walking this morning. I love the reflections in the river when the sky is grey. And Mr Heron is out again, perched up high surveying the scene.

I listened to a particularly enjoyable episode of Leo Laporte’s  US TWIT podcast while I was walking. You can subscribe to it at or via iTunes. They were warning people again about the hacking going on at WordPress. If you have WordPress blog you really need to upgrade. seems to be okay, it’s that is vulnerable.

The TWIT podcast is my favourite tech podcast although I also enjoy Technology on the Right Hook for a purely Irish slant.

Snow Leopard was discussed on another issue of TWIT. The conclusion was that this upgrade is no big deal and you don’t need to be in any rush to get it. Particularly if you have CS3 and use PhotoShop a lot because Adobe is not offering support for any compatibility issues. InDesign is reported as working fine.

And speaking of technology, these pics were taken with the iPhone. My Canon is much better but I didn’t have enough pockets to carry it. Must remedy that.

Upgrade that WordPress!

Majestic heron is not bothered by the drizzle

Majestic heron is not bothered by the drizzle

When it's raining, I usually listen to a podcast when out for my morning walk

When it's raining, I usually listen to a podcast when out for my morning walk

Written by SOKNH

September 8, 2009 at 11:29

How to publish a book online

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This article first appeared in the Irish Times on August 5

An electronic shortcut in the race for readers

You don’t need a print publisher to get people reading your novel on the beach – you can make it available as an e-book which can be downloaded onto one of the many electronic readers on the market, writes SHEILA O’KELLY

It seems there are lots of us scribblers out there writing novels that never see the light of day because publishers aren’t prepared to take the risk on an unknown. It’s a huge risk for them to take on the marketing and printing costs. But in the last 12 months or so new technologies and websites have opened up a lot more ways to distribute fiction like: Amazon Kindle; Sony Reader; Smashwords (a website not a gadget); and Stanza, an iPhone book reading application.

My novel, Love Knot, begins in 1979 and charts the next few years of a young journalist who becomes pregnant and flees claustrophobic Dublin and heads to London to escape. It took me quite some time to write and I think people will enjoy it so am loathe to let it moulder there. So I decided to give this electronic publishing business a go by uploading the novel to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

The Amazon Kindle Store is an offshoot of (so far not available in Europe). It sells electronic books that are uploaded to its Kindles, which are small plastic devices, like a mini-mini laptop, with a 6-10 inch diagonal screen.

Smashwords describes itself as: “A publishing platform, online bookstore and ebook distributor for independent ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.”

So there were two platforms ready and waiting. However, there is a glitch with In order to upload a book to Kindle you must have a US bank account so that they can you pay you a percentage for each copy of your book that they sell. So I phoned my sister-in-law in Philadelphia who kindly set up an account in her name, using her bank account, that I could use to publish my book. So officially she is my publisher on Amazon.

Next I read through all of Amazon’s detailed instructions about how to format the book. I tried several of their suggestions, but in the end found that what worked best was simply uploading the novel in Word. Even though on the forums this did not work well for others. For the record, I use a Mac and Word 2004 – perhaps this was just a lucky combination. I don’t know, you may need to experiment. It works best if you don’t use any fancy formatting – this will just confuse the technology.

I chose to sell my novel for $99 cent. For each copy sold, I get $35 cent.

Smashwords provides a very detailed style guide that you need to follow to successfully publish on their site.  Again it is crucial to avoid fancy formatting. Love Knot is also $99 cent on Smashwords and there I receive either $56 cent or $76 cent per copy – not sure why it varies. I chose to upload the novel in all the formats Smashword makes available and this means that they also make Love Knot available on iPhones via the Stanza application.

By the way. I think it’s worthwhile doing a very simple cover design, which you upload separately. It will make your book look a little more professional.

Then I had to start thinking about marketing. I got a kickstart when Smashwords offered authors the chance to make their novels available for free during the month of July. I used this to promote the novel using Twitter (sheilaokelly); Facebook; and Linkedin where I already had accounts.

So far the response has been very encouraging and I am hoping that when people have finished reading the novel they will leave ratings or reviews on either or

Meanwhile, I have just started the next novel!

Sheila O’Kelly is a freelance journalist who also gives training courses in how to write in plain English.

Written by SOKNH

August 24, 2009 at 19:41