Friday, January 14, 2011


"One morning last month," begins a casual in the New Yorker this week, "Lady Antonia Fraser was stuck in a security line at the Toronto Airport and missed her plane. She didn't mind, because she had a Kindle and spent the time reading a novel."

And just last week Roger Ebert wrote, in one of his blogs, that he had bought a Kindle because his repeated surgeries had weakened his shoulder muscles so much that reading a book in bed had become difficult. Reading with a lightweight Kindle solved that problem.

If one of the world's most distinguished historical biographers (Mary, Queen of Scots, Cromwell and Charles II are among Lady Antonia's books) can adopt e-reading in her 80th year, and if one of the nation's most celebrated film critics and bibliophiles can use an e-reader to deal with an infirmity, it is fair to say that the Kindle and Nook and their ilk are not only here to stay but also are going to eclipse the tree-book before long. Maybe they already have.

Not that e-readers are without annoying idiosyncrasies, but for one seems to have prepared for at least two of them.

Last Sunday I opened my three-month-old Kindle 3 shortly after boarding the City of New Orleans for a train journey south, and discovered that it was dead. It would not start. It would not recharge. The little yellow light that signals recharging would not go on. Damn.

But I had thought to bring along my iPod Touch, the little machine with which I first began reading e-books, and used its Kindle app to read a couple of whodunits stored inside just in case.

I was not worried overmuch. Last month my Kindle had been behaving oddly -- randomly restarting itself and losing my bookmarks -- because the leather cover that protected the machine was intermittently shorting out its innards. I contacted and was immediately told that it was a known problem with the leather cover, and to send it back. would not only give me full credit for the return but also a new leather cover with a built-in book light, no charge.

Even though I had to pay the small shipping cost both ways, I was delighted with this customer service. And so I was confident Amazon would fix or replace my ailing Kindle under warranty, no questions asked.

"RTFM, Henry, RTFM!" a small voice insisted as I sat down yesterday to e-mail about the problem. I rd TFM, and am glad I did. In the manual's appendix, a chapter about troubleshooting suggested holding the Kindle's on/off spring switch open for at least 15 seconds, then trying a recharge.

It worked. As soon as I plugged in the charger cord, the little yellow light came on and the machine reset itself. Half an hour later I unplugged the charger cord and tried the on/off switch.

The green light came on, and the Kindle awakened at the place in Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra where I had last closed the cover.

All is well in the world. Mine, anyway.


  1. Hi Henry,

    About 8 or 9 months ago I bought a netbook and I've been able to read ebooks with it. I'm only able to read them indoors because of the glare but I'm still thrilled. Ginger and I still have hundreds of tree books laying around the house but I like the fact my ebooks don't take up much room on my hard drive. Are you going to release any of your books as ebooks?

  2. It's up to my publisher, Forge/Macmillan, to release the mysteries as e-books. I hope that will happen soon. The Macmillan group of publishers has been slow to embrace e-book technology because it apparently wants a larger slice of the revenue pie than has been willing to give.

  3. How was the train ride ?????