Cover illustration from R. L. Stine's Goosebumps zombie high school ebook

Are zombies taking over the Kindle? If you haven’t been paying attention, you may not have noticed the rising zombie invasion. Search the Kindle store for the word “zombie” and you’d see 1,992 results — back in September. Perform the same experiment this morning, and you’d find 277 more Kindle ebooks about zombies….

That’s an increase of 13.9% from one month to the next! And currently one of the top 100 free ebooks in the Kindle Store is something called Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. The real message may be that this Halloween, there’s more self-published authors writing zombie fiction. Even the Library of Congress has only 523 books with “zombie” in their title. Oh my god, run everybody — Amazon’s Kindle store has four times as many zombies!!!

They’re not real zombies, but it does suggest the Kindle store’s amateur authors are especially attracted to the zombie genre. (Or are they? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the amateurs from the pros.) Take a peek at the new titles, and you’ll be startled at just how many zombie ebooks there are. Don’t look now, but the living dead could be shambling up to your Kindle!

Here’s some of the stranger ebooks.

Zombie Girl Invasion
Wesley and the Sex Zombies
The Scarlet Zombie Sketchbook #1
Bachelorette: Zombie Edition

A Girl’s Guide To Falling In Love With A Zombie
Rock And Roll Reform School Zombies
My Life as A White Trash Zombie
The Zombie Attached To My Head

Zombie Lust and The New Flesh
How to Make Love like a Zombie
My Lovesick Zombie Boy Band
Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!

Trailerpark Zombies
Zombie Road Trip
Jesus vs. the Zombies of Perdition
Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space

To be fair, “Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space” is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, “intentionally designed to give the reader an interactive experience using the advantages over print that E-Books allow.” And Zombie Spaceship Wasteland was written by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, using the horror movie monsters as a metaphor in a collection of essays “vividly evoking his zombie-like co-worker,” according to Booklist‘s review. Even 71-year-old literary author Joyce Carol Oates — twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize — named her 2009 novel Zombie (P.S.) It’s about a serial killer — named Zombie — who keeps a diary as he pursues his victims.

But yeah, most of the titles in the Kindle Store aren’t as ambitious.

I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It
Married with Zombies
Zombie Blondes
Zombies Eat Lawyers

Confessions of a Zombie’s Wife
Slow and Sweet: A Love Story, With Zombies
Zombie Erotica: An Undead Anthology
Never Slow Dance with a Zombie

A Cold Dark School with Zombies at the Gates
Zombie Queen of Newbury High
Zombie Fight Song
Jesus Camp Zombie Bloodbath

The Code of the Zombie Pirate
Battle of the Network Zombies
Hungry for Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance
Diary of a Duct Tape Zombie

I can understand why some of these books aren’t in the Library of Congress. (It’s probably more surprising that there’s any zombie books in the Library of Congress.) But to explore the popularity of stories about the shambling undead, I asked my friend Thomas Roche, a professional writer for more than 15 years, who’s just published his first novel about zombies. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a quote back.

I think zombies may have actually eaten his brains.

Or maybe he’s just busy reading all the ebooks he’s competing with…

Goddamn Redneck Surfer Zombies
Zombie Dawn Apocalypse
Breaking News: an Autozombiography
Brains For Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?!

Road Kill: A Zombie Tale
I, Zombie
The Christian Zombie Killer’s Handbook
Zombie Hero #3: “Keep On Truckin”

Zombie Combat Manual
The Zurvivalist – Real Life Solutions to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
Zombology: A Zombie Anthology
Brains: A Zombie Memoir

Zombie Sniper
You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News
Zombie P.I.
Why I Quit Zombie School

That last book is actually the newest book in R. L. Stine’s popular “Goosebumps” series of scary stories for younger readers (which have sold more than 350 million copies. I used its colorful cover at the top of this blog post. It’s easy to laugh at the titles, but they may have tapped into a storyline with some primal universal appeal. Some authors have enjoyed wild success by re-creating our darkest nightmares, and maybe that’s the ultimate irony.

It’s not that the zombies are attracted to our brains. It’s that our brains are attracted to zombies!

Zombies vs Unicorns
Zombies Sold Separately
Zombies and Power Tools
Every Zombie Eats Somebody Sometime: A Book of Zombie Love Songs

Zombie Jamboree
Zombie Safari
Zombies for Jesus
Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombies

Jailbait Zombie
What Do You Do With Dead Zombies?
Forward, Shamble!: A Bob the Zombie Novel

The Art of War for Zombies – Ancient Chinese Secrets of World Domination, Apocalypse Edition
Superheroes vs Zombies
The Adventures of Zombie Boy
Zombie Butts from Uranus

There’s even zombie Christmas books, believe it or not, including A Zombie Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol of the Living Dead: a zombie holiday tale. (Plus A Zombie Christmas and “A Christmas Wish: A Zombie Tale for the Holidays.”) If you think that’s confusing, try reading The Christmas Zombie: The story of why zombies celebrate Christmas. And if you’re just looking for holiday cheer, there’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies (Christmas carols “composed specifically for…the decomposing).”

Some authors have also tried their hand at creating zombie books for other holidays. (Like Dangerous Hunts: A Zombie Father’s Day Tale.”) And A Very Zombie Holiday even follows a zombie father as he attempts to celebrate every holiday with his living family. If you’re after a classic bedtime story, there’s Snow White and the Seven Dead Dwarves: A Zombie Fairy Tale.” And for educational purposes, there’s also something called Zombie Ed Counts To Twenty, and its sequel, Zombie Ed Loves Halloween. (“Text-to-speech enabled… Finally! A zombie book for children! “)

And — uh-oh. Here comes another wave of more strange zombie ebooks…

Zombies vs. Nazis
Don of the Dead: A Mafia Zombie Novel
The Zombie Cookbook
“Rednecks Who Shoot Zombies, on the Next Geraldo”

501 Things to do with a Zombie
Zombies Wearing Hats
Zombies Hate Vegetables, Too
Grampa’s Zombie BBQ

Frankenstein, The Zombie Hunter
Love in a Time of Zombies
An Inconvenient Amish Zombie Left Behind The Da Vinci Diet Code Truth
Zombies Don’t Play Soccer

Dr. Zombie Lives Next Door
Zombies Ride Motorcycles
Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion
Zombies at the Bar Mitzvah

I’m not sure what to make of an ebook called James Joyce and the Zombie Priest, though it’s attracted at least one positive review on its web page at Amazon. (“If there is a better zombie version of Araby by James Joyce, it would be news to me!”) This trend probably all started when real-world bookstores started seeing big sales of a 2009 parody novel called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (crediting Jane Austen as a co-author). It rose to #3 on the New York Times best-seller list, according to Wikipedia, apparently spawning a new generation of even stranger zombie novels — and zombie ebooks. There’s even a Garrison Keillor parody called The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten that’s attributed to an author named Harrison Geillor. (“The humor in this parody lies in the simple truth that even a zombie bear with a hatchet in its head won’t faze a Minnesotan,” writes Publisher’s Weekly.)

And there’s zombie parodies of other books — like Zombies of Oz (and The Terrible Zombie of Oz). There’s also The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim and Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf…and a Zombie Too.” Someone’s even written zombie versions of two Sherlock Holmes stories, a book of zombie fairy tales, and a zombie version of The War of the Worlds (“plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies”). And if you liked Great Expectations, you might try Pip and the Zombies, by Charles Dickens and Louis Skipper.

In the two years since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the concept has apparently festered its way into a full-fledged literary movement. I was surprised to see a book titled simply Zombies for Zombies — until I realized it was a parody of the “For Dummies” book (receiving thirteen 5-star reviews). There’s also The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zombies, which strangely is not a parody, but an official title in the “Idiot’s Guide” series, which traces the origin of zombie stories with chapters about books, movies, and comic books. But just when it couldn’t get any creepier, I discovered that there’s even some zombie books that are actually about personal investing.

Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance
How to Prosper During the Coming Zombie Apocalypse
Workplace Of The Living Dead: What Zombies Can Teach Leaders About Engaging Employees
Zombie Project Management

And there’s also some zombie history books. (Which, honestly, throws some doubt over their historical accuracy.)

A Zombie’s History of the United States
A Tale of Zombies in Czarist Russia
A Tale of Zombies in the Old West
Everything My Grandmother Taught Me about Killing Zombies
The Eagle has Re-Animated
Pappy’s Old Time Zombie Radio Show
Zombies Take Manhattan

There’s something strangely inspiring about the sheer number of books that have ultimately been inspired about zombies. It’s nice to see this massive outpouring of new creativity, as people all around the globe start wondering what’s going to happen in their imaginary zombie scenario. In fact, zombies are turning up in a surprising variety of different kinds of books. Though some authors even seem to think that maybe the lonely zombies just need a friend…

Zachary Zombie and the Lost Boy
Jude and the Zombies
Peter Crombie, Teenage Zombie
Nobody Wants to Play With Zombie Jesus

Jasper, the Friendly Zombie
How I met Barbara the Zombie Hunter
The Student from Zombie Island
Zombie Joe and the Pogo Stick legs

Growing Up Zombie
Oh No, Our Best Friend is a Zombie!
Timothy Holbrook and the Zombie Curse
Proper Care and Feeding of Zombies

Zombie Mommy
Phredde and the Zombie Librarian
Day of the Field Trip Zombies
Mom and Dad Aren’t Getting Along (Now That Mom’s a Zombie)

Maybe they were also inspired by the success of the Twilight series of books about a vampire’s teenaged romance. (One ebook author has even written Vampire Among the Zombies.) But I had to laugh when I saw an ebook titled “Where are the Zombies?”

Dude, you’re not paying attention. They’re everywhere!

The STRANGEST Books Ever Written

September 11th, 2011

Whitman books about Hollywood movie stars

I’m amazed that they even exist. They’re printed books, each with a happy, colorful cover, that transform real-life celebrities into characters in a book! Nearly 60 years ago, a magical thing happened to Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and Annette Funicello. Each of them turned up in their own fictitious adventures in a series of Hollywood-themed books!

I remember similar books. The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were two TV sitcoms about families that aired in the 1970s — and both of them were adapted into mystery books using all the characters from the TV shows. It’s apparently been happening since the 1940s, but it’s easier to find these books now that we’re in the age of technology. Instead of hoping to stumble across one in a used bookstore, you can finally track them all down online!

The Partridge Family Mystery book cover with David Cassidy    Brady Bunch mystery book

I’d thought about these books when I wrote my post about “the worst Kindle eBooks ever written”. (One author had created hundreds of short “quickie” ebooks about celebrities which were all apparently cut-and-pasted from the online biographies at Wikipedia.) I guess I was stunned by how little effort went into creating those celebrity-themed ebooks. In the past, authors cranked out entire novels about movie stars — each of them more than a hundred pages long!

Take a look at some of these titles.

Betty Grable and the House of Cobwebs
Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak
Gregory Peck and the Red Box Enigma
Judy Garland and the Hoodoo Costume
Dorothy Lamour and the Haunted Lighthouse
Shirley Temple and the Spirit of Dragonwood
Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter
Lucy and the Madcap Mystery

Lucille Ball - Lucy and the Madcap Mystery book coverYes, that’s Lucille Ball in the last book — the star of the classic ’50s sitcom I Love Lucy. “The story takes Lucy Carmichael and Vivian Bagley and their children (the characters from The Lucy Show, of course) on a camping trip,” remembers one collector of Lucy-related memorabilia, “during which all sorts of events occur, including the gang getting mixed up with the military and the FBI!” And it turns out it’s not the only print book to be based on a TV comedy. There’s also print books based on some of the silliest sitcoms ever written, like The Munsters (a TV show about a suburban family that resembles the characters from a horror movie) and even Gilligan’s Island!

The Munsters: The Great Camera Caper
The Munsters: The Last Resort
The Monkees: Who’s Got the Button?
Patty Duke and the Adventure of the Chinese Junk
Patty Duke and the Mystery Mansion
Gilligan’s Island (by William Johnson)

Gilligan's Island book

And some of the stories are even stranger then you’d expect! For example, here’s how one book collector’s site summarizes the plot of
Judy Garland and the Hoodoo Costume.

Judy Garland agrees to return a misplaced dress to the owner, but what should have been an easy errand becomes a lengthy ordeal, almost as though the dress has brought a curse upon Judy. Judy first traces Frederica Hammond to her boarding house and finally to the home of a sick relative.

Judy travels to the home of Myrta Mattis where she discovers that Frederica is held a prisoner by Myrta’s relatives, who appear to be attempting to poison Myrta. Frederica insists that Judy will be held a prisoner as well if her presence becomes known. Judy devises a plan of escape for herself through the basement and plans to go for help.

Judy’s escape is cut short after a servant mistakes her as a spirit that has risen from the nearby lake. Judy is then forced by a spirit swindler into performing as a spirit for his clients. It is only by a stroke of good luck that help arrives for Judy, and Frederica is saved from her prison.


Judy Garland and the Hoodoo Costume

I have to mention one more book that has a very strange history. In 1892, author Janette Sebring Lowrey was born — and 50 years later she wrote the best-selling children’s picture book of all time. (The Pokey Little Puppy — one of the first twelve books in Simon & Schuster’s series, “Little Golden Books”.) Lowrey actually wrote dozens of books, including a sensitive 1950 story about a teenaged girl who moves to the city to live with her aunt and uncle. That book was originally called “Margaret”, but Walt Disney bought the rights for a TV adaptation.

During The Mickey Mouse Club, Disney broadcast short 10-minute episodes in a “serialized” adaptation of Lowrey’s book. It starred Annette Funicello — Disney even changed the main character’s name to Annette — and it proved to be extremely popular. Soon another writer had been hired, to create a series of books based on the popular Disney segment. The original characters went from a book, to a TV show, and then back into an entirely different book — that was written by a different author!

I think Annette Funicello probably holds the record for appearing in the most celebrity mysteries – each one set in an intriguing location like the Arizona desert, the California mountains, or a glamorous estate.

Annette: Sierra Summer
Annette: Desert Inn Mystery
Annette: Mystery of Moonstone Bay
Annette: Mystery at Smuggler’s Cove
Annette: Mystery of Medicine Wheel

“In one a boy’s father has been wrongly sent to prison, and in another her friend’s parents will lose their inn unless they can discover hidden money,” one collector remembers. “Annette is sympathetic (and polite), and eventually she and her friends stumble into a key discovery that invariably set things right. But the stories always begin with a leisurely and enthusiastic introduction of the characters and their settings.”

Annette Funicello book cover Sierra Summer

To my knowledge, none of these books are available on the Kindle — and they probably never will be. Collectors mostly want to cherish the colorful covers of the print editions. (And it would also be a nightmare to track down the owner of the original copyrights.) They’ve already become forgotten artifacts from a different generation, and in the age of digital ebooks, they’ll be even further away from the bright lights of our collective memory.

I guess I wanted to take one more moment to remember these fondly-written books, before they finally fall away into obscurity…

Ping book cover and funny Amazon review of UNIX ping

This week hundreds of users submitted fake one-star reviews throughout Amazon’s Kindle store (as a protest of high ebook prices). But there’s also a tradition of random pranksters spontaneously slipping fake reviews onto the site — simply to amuse their friends.

And some of their most famous fake reviews can still make me laugh…

1. I was as surprised as anybody that Amazon was selling a plastic bottle of “Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz.” And I was even more surprised it had received 759 five-star reviews (and a total of 1,215 reviews).

“So Tasty the Monkeys of Tuscany Weep as it’s Exported”
“Has anyone else tried pouring this stuff over dry cereal?”
“Can fight zombies.”

There’s something strange going on here — the gallon of milk was priced at $160. And don’t forget to click on the “related images,” which apparently show a satisfied Tuscan customer, bicycling with a refrigerator on his back. Instead of investigating the milk itself, the reviews become miniature satires, calling attention to the absurdity of selling milk through a Seattle-based web site.

“My milk came by UPS via Amazon Super Saver shipping (great value!). Unfortunately, it arrived warm and mildly chunky. As such, I’ve had to downgrade my rating to only four stars. It’s still the best milk $700 can buy

Eventually, even The New York Times ended up writing an article about the fake reviews, noting wryly in their headline that “all of a sudden everyone’s a milk critic.”

2. It was an even stranger day when Amazon’s educational science supplies finder turned up Uranium Ore. “So glad I don’t have to buy this from Libyans in parking lots at the mall anymore,” wrote one reviewer (who awarded the product 5 stars.) “The quality of this Uranium is on par with the stuff I was bying from the Libyans over at the mall parking lot, but at half the price!”

And amazingly, 1,377 of 1,437 people found the following review helpful.

“Ok for cleaning teeth, not so great for killing ants…”

In the mix are some finely-tuned jokes about the half-life of radioactive materials. (“I purchased this product 4.47 Billion Years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty.”) And there’s also some advice for suggested implementations. (Like “Don’t use in a teleportation device!” and “DO NOT USE AS LUBRICANT!!!”) But one user issued a warning not about the product, but about the shipping.

“I was very disappointed to have my uranium confiscated at the airport. It was a gift for my son for his birthday. Also, I’m in prison now, so that’s not good either.”

3. Over 200 different reviews have turned up for the Bic crystal ballpoint pen. (“Worked fine with my right hand, but when I came to use my left hand my writing came out looking like the work of a complete imbecile…would caution left-handers to ‘try before you buy’.”) Within 24 hours, a link to one review actually drew over 1,000 positive votes on Reddit. (“Since taking delivery of my pen I have been very happy with the quality of ink deposition on the various types of paper that I have used…”) One reviewer was delighted to discover the product, because “I have been meaning to upgrade from my HB2 pencil for some time, but I have been wary of making the jump.” But someone calling themselves “Flabbergasted” instead wrote an outraged review complaining of “Blatant false advertising…

“I ordered 300 of these individually gift wrapped for a client’s wedding and was horrified to learn 14 minutes before the reception that this is NOT REAL CRYSTAL!!!”

4. I have a personal fondness for some of the first fake reviews ever submitted. Once upon a time, back in 1995, there was a web site where random wise guys submitted alternate captions for the newspaper comic strip “The Family Circus.” It continued for over four years, until Bil Keane’s lawyers finally showed up and purged them from the internet — but the site’s contributors had also apparently slipped in some fake Amazon reviews of the cartoonist’s books. (“Since Bill Keane’s extradition from Guatemala, his work has not been the same…”) One amazed author at the literary site Feed honestly suggested the reviews were “revolutionary”, protesting the “insipid commentary” that usually clogs Amazon’s review section.

He noted Amazon had just faced a controversy about whether they were accepting bribes for listings in the staff-driven “What we’re reading” section, then suggested the fake reviews were “poetic justice.” An embarrassed Amazon quickly deleted the funny Family Circus reviews, but eventually some quotes also turned up in a Village Voice article asking the ultimate question: who’s reviewing these reviewers?

“While I agree that Daddy’s Cap Is on Backwards has its moments of drug-inspired poetry, frankly I was disappointed that Keane appears to have abandoned the thematic thread that ran through earlier classics including . . . the quintessential Don’t Bother Mommy When She’s Drinking.”

5. It’s also been more than 10 years since John E. Fracisco submitted his review of a famous children’s picture book — but it has to be considered one of the most famous, since 9,846 of 10,193 people marked his review “helpful”. The picture book tells the story of a fish-catching duck who works on Chinese fisherman’s boat — though Fracisco’s review apparently mistakes “The Story About Ping” for a manual on the UNIX operating system command for testing connection latency. But he still enthusiastically plows through his review, describing the book as “an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix’s most venerable networking utilities…[though] I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.”

“Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized…”

The Onion mocks the Kindle

November 8th, 2010

Last week The Onion made a funny, fake announcement about the president of Amazon. “‘The Kindle Is Easier To Read In Bright Sunlight,’ Amazon CEO Shouts At Customers In Apple Store.” It’s a nod to Amazon’s war with the iPad, but the fake headline got a real rise from Twitter’s assortment of geeks, Apple fans, and Kindle lovers. The headline appeared on The Onion’s Twitter feed, which has over 2.4 million followers — and by Monday, over 100 people had “re-tweeted” the message to their own followers on Twitter.

But I discovered it wasn’t the first time the humor site had joked about the Kindle. When Amazon released the Kindle 2, The Onion was there with a quick list of its new features.

- A lot fewer dangling wires
- …is not just a hollow box with a clear plastic window that you insert books into…”

And in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show, they’d also joked that for nostalgic users, the Kindle now “signals a logging crew to cut down 10 trees for every book purchased with the device.”

Bit it’s hard to tell whether they’re making fun of Amazon’s digital reader, or if they’re secretly fans of the Kindle. For example, in July their “American Voices” segment showed the heads of three people, responding to the news that ebook sales were [almost] surpassing sales of printed books. One of them announced that he wasn’t surprised by the popularity of ebooks, because “…if you’re reading a hardcover book, strangers try to start conversations with you. If you’re reading off a Kindle, people just stare at your awesome Kindle.” And the same fake people were also there in March, ready to react to the news that Amazon had temporarily pulled all the books from Macmillan publishing house.

“Publishing house? I thought Stephen Coonts just typed all the books right into Amazon!”

In May, they even offered opinions about Amazon’s foray into the market for college textbooks. “It does make sense for students to keep all the books they’re not going to read in one device, rather than lugging a big heavy bag around.”

But interestingly, you can now buy entire ebooks with humor from The Onion. For $9.99, you can buy Homeland Insecurity: The Onion Complete News Archives, Volume 17. (“This collection features the entire archive from November 2004 to December 2005…”) In print it came out to a whopping 320 pages, but the ebook edition was just released in May — and judging by one review, now its fake news headlines are even more timely. (“Cost of Living Now Outweighs Benefits… Bankrupt U.S. Sold to China.”)

And just last month The Onion released an ebook by their columnist, Jean Teasdale. It’s called A Book of Jean’s Own!: All New Wit, Wisdom, and Wackiness from The Onion’s Beloved Humor Columnist, and it’s a tongue-in-cheek newspaper column that’s apparently written by a cheerful yet secretly unhappy housewife.

I’ve been enjoying The Onion’s skewed take on the news for over 15 years, but I have to admit that they finally got me. Reading through their fake news stories, I discovered their announcement of a new “U2 Edition” of the Kindle, which ships pre-loaded with all of the favorite books by the rock band U2. For half a second, I wondered if Amazon really had released a special Kindle edition, and I actually spent a few minutes frantically searching for it in Amazon’s Kindle store.


And remember, you can also subscribe to The Onion on the Kindle for just $1.99.

XKCD cartoonist talks about his comic strip on Amazon's Kindle

I’m a fan of the comic strip XKCD. So I was delighted when the cartoonist did a special edition that was all about the Kindle.

“Even if I spend months broke and drunk in a strange city, I’ll still be able to use Wikipedia and Wikitravel to learn about anything I need…”

Ironically, it’s very hard to read that comic on your Kindle (though its dialogue is almost legible if you surf straight to the image.) But, to give away the punchline, the female character decides there’s something suspiciously familiar about the idea of being able to learn anything anywhere. And when she examines the Kindle more closely, she makes a startling discovery: it’s actually The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, it describes a near-magical, all-knowing guidebook that would be crucial if, say, your home planet Earth was destroyed, and you had to navigate through all the other strange alien civilizations. It’s the perfect metaphor for the Kindle’s unlimited (and free) internet access, though I first read that cartoon before I’d even purchased my Kindle. But I still remember it every time I switch to Wikipedia to look up crucial context for the classic books I’m reading. (“Was this book popular in its time? How old was its author…?”)

I even added this capability to yesterday’s list of my favorite Kindle tips and tricks. (It’s possible to instantly search Wikipedia for any topic just by typing @wiki after hitting the Search button.) But the cartoonist’s joke has a special resonance for me, because I’d interviewed Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, just a few weeks before his death in 2001. He’d lived long enough to see a wonderful sight — his six-year-old daughter, pushing her doll’s baby stroller while mimicking the voice of the GPS system in her daddy’s car. And I sometimes wonder what he would’ve thought of the Kindle. “Anything that’s invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things,” Adams had joked, while introducing, of course, a contradicting corollary. “Anything that’s in the world when you’re born is considered ordinary and normal.”

I’ve always assumed that Adams would eventually come around to the idea of using a digital reader. But regardless of Adams’ opinion, the magic of the internet at least lets us peek into the thoughts of the cartoonist who draws XKCD. If you hold your mouse over his cartoons, you’ll discover that the cartoonist leaves behind an extra personal statement for every cartoon. (For example, “Now that the Apple Store is getting rid of DRM, Cory Doctorow will get rid of his Steve Jobs voodoo doll…”) So what was his message for his Kindle cartoon?

“I’m happy with my Kindle 2 so far, but if they cut off the free Wikipedia browsing, I plan to show up drunk on Jeff Bezos’s lawn and refuse to leave!”

Visit Amazon’s Page of Douglas Adams Kindle books.

Or check out the Kindle version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

LOLcats on the Kindle

Here’s something I never thought I’d see on the Kindle. The Lolcats!

Wait, wait, it gets better. You’ve probably already seen their crazy misspelled thoughts, spread across cat pictures capturing funny scenes and expressions. (The most famous one was a bright-eyed grey cat, smiling expectantly as he asks: “I can has cheezburger?”)* But in February of 2010, one webmaster took it to extremes, using the re-captioned cat pictures for a translation of a very unexpected book: the Bible.

“In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez an da Erfs n stuffs….”

The book’s description on Amazon explains that “from the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew to Latin and the King’s English, the Bible has been translated into over 2000 languages. ADD ONE MORE…” Yes, the whole bible has been re-written in cat-speak, so its first book isn’t called Genesis, it’s called “Ceiling Cat Maek Awl teh Stuffz.” And Amazon’s description of the book gives you a sample of the other inspirational wisdom that waits inside…




In a comment on the ebook’s Amazon page, its author explains that thousands of people helped with the translation project as a collective effort. Martin Grodin saw himself as more of an editor for the project, and the painstaking editing for each misspelled cat-translation of the Bible stories “made me realize that it is, in fact, hilarious.” At times it’s like reading an insane version of Finnegan’s Wake, since you’re decoding the misspelled cat words using half-remembered biblical stories. And there’s more text than pictures — though sometimes its broken up by a long line of kitten paw prints.

There are pictures in the book, though I had to read all the way to Genesis 2:19 until I found the second one — a picture of two cats resting to indicate Eve’s arrival in the Garden of Eden. (“Oh hai! yu can has frend. She liek yu but missin sometings.”) The text is also available on a web site, but I thought they also did a nice job of formatting it for the Kindle. There’s 176 pages of craziness, and though the book costs $9.32, there’s still fun to be had even if you only order the book’s free sample.

Because even the book’s table of contents is still pretty funny.

Teh Plague ov Owchie-Blisturs
“Leev Egypt, Nao!”
Crossin’ teh Reed Sea
Jonah an teh Big Fishie
Wawter into Booze…
Happy Cat Walks on Wawter
Parable ov teh Niec Samaritan Dood
Teh Last Cheezburg Feest
Happy Cat rises from teh Deds
Awl Fings Brite an Purtyful

Yes, Jesus in the LOLcat bible becomes “Happy Cat”. And as an amusing bit of related trivia, Amazon’s Kindle store doesn’t seem to have any free editions of the real bible (without LOLcats). If you wanted to download a free bible to your Kindle, you could still get one from Project Gutenberg.

But then you wouldn’t get any funny pictures of cats!

UPDATE: It turns out there is now a free version of the (real) Bible available in Amazon’s Kindle store.

And Click here to order LOLcat Bible: In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez an da Erfs n stuffs

P.S. This book is not to be confused with “I CAN HAZ BYTECODE,” a “collection of funny and occasionally thought provoking tweets based on my work experience as a Super Senior Software Engineer at a Silicon Valley startup!”