Ever want to change the images in your Kindle’s screensaver? It’s as easy as putting new 600 x 800 images into the system/ folder on your Kindle – and then running a script which finishes the update. At least, according to one web post (citing a discussion on a mobile books forum).

It links to the script to run, though it’s important to also read the page’s comments. Some users are having trouble running the update, and there may be a better way to accomplish this!

Caveat: I’ve never tried this myself. (And I’m not sure if it works for all Kindles, or only for the Kindle 2.) But I’m definitely visiting that web page when I’m finally tired of my Kindle’s pre-loaded screensavers!

William Saroyan won a Pulitzer Prize — which he refused to accept. And the author wrote a wonderful scene about books at a public library in his novel “The Human Comedy.”

But the scene is different if you watch the movie. Saroyan quarrelled bitterly with the film’s producers, and actually wrote a novel-version of the movie, after-the- fact, to try to make the story more hard-hitting. In the movie, the librarian tells two little boys that she’s been reading books for more than 70 years.

“And it still isn’t enough time.”

Tonight I looked up the same scene in Saroyan’s book version. The two boys still visit the librarian, and she gives the same speech. But in the book, she only insists that she’s been in the world reading books for sixty years.

“And it hasn’t made one bit of difference!”

It’s a interesting counterpoint to the life of William Saroyan. His popularity declined, and he eventually funded a foundation to publish his works — possibly just to shore up his legacy. So it’s interesting what happens when you look for Saroyan ebooks for the Kindle.

You don’t find any.

But you do find a biography about his bittersweet life…

The Kindle Kills a Minister?

February 13th, 2010

I heard the Kindle mentioned on NPR this morning. There’s a news quiz called Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Three stories are read to the contestants — one true but unexpected, and two which are outright lies. And this week the category was “technology disasters.”

The first concerned Apps-berger’s syndrome — a newly-discovered medical syndrome in which people use cell phone apps obsessively to perform tasks they could just as easily do by themselves. (I was pretty sure that story was false!) And story #2 concerned a guy who insisted to his girlfriend that the sexy text messages she’d found on his cell phone had actually been pre-loaded on the phone when he’d bought it.

So was story #3 true or false?

It concerned a minister who bought a Kindle. Actually, not just a Kindle. Late in life, the minister become a raging technophile, while also helping elderly members in his congregation learn how to use technology themselves. (And at one point, he even placed a bet on the exact date of the Apocalypse.) He bought himself a pocket-sized Kindle, to which he downloaded the Holy Bible, and he always carried it with him in his jacket’s vest pocket.

One day while hunting, a gun accidentally fires a shot. The bullet rips through his jacket – and rips through his Kindle – before passing through the minister’s is body and then out his back. Two nearby hunters heard the shots, and rushed to the aid of the fallen minister. Looking down at the scene, one of the hunters said…

“Where the hell is your pocket bible? That would’ve stopped the bullet clean!”



The name of the news quiz was “You were supposed to make me happy!” And it turns out the true story was… #2. (The pre-loaded cell phone text messages — which was my guess. It reminded me of a similar true story about a cellphone that was pre-loaded with someone else’s pornography!) Still, it’s worth noticing that the Kindle was also included in this pageant of technology folk tales.

Digital readers are now part of the popular consciousness. In the year 2010, I turned to the mass media — and saw people who were talking about the Kindle.

A reporter asked me if I was worried about possible price increases in all Kindle books from Macmillan publishers. And I said no — because most of the books I read on my Kindle are free!

And I’m not the only one…

Look at Amazon’s list of their best-selling Kindle books. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is actually in the top 10 — 120 years after it was published — and “Treasure Island” is #24. In the top 100 you’ll see Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, Dostoyevsky and H.G. Wells — plus several books by Jane Austen and other classics. There’s also two books by Leo Tolstoy, the original “Little Women”, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

And that’s just in the top 100! I’ve seen other classics with a sales rank just below that, so I know other Kindle owners are “buying” free books as well. The list of free books on my own Kindle fills up nearly three pages. Curious? Here’s a quick sample….

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
The Story of a Mine (by Bret Harte)
The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin
A Short History of the United States (a classic history text)
Two Years Before the Mast by Henry Dana

Maybe it’s the dirty secret about the popularity of digital readers. A traditional bookstore will still charge you for a hard copy of a classic. But on digital readers, they’re all free. And (judging from Amazon’s best-seller list) the classics are already extremely popular.

Now I’ll admit I don’t know how popular the classics were before, in print editions. But they’ve got to be even more attractive when they’re absolutely cost-free. I’d already started to think that digital readers will change reading as a pastime. But one of the surprising results may also be an increased popularity in the classics!