Tag Archives: eBooks

Now In Paperback!

A lot of people don’t think a book is a “book” unless it’s made out of dead trees. I can understand that until I bought my Kindle and started publishing my Christopher Columbus books electronically. I say “books” because there are three different versions.

One is simply the original, all-English version that is only available as an e-book. http://www.amazon.com/Tacking-Through-Adversitys-Wake-ebook/dp/B007X8F278/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337002969&sr=1-3  It is priced at $2.99.

Then there are the two dual-language editions. Stephany Peñaloza and Deyreth García, students at La Universidad Latina here in David, Panama, translated the book into Spanish as their thesis for their degrees in English translation. I combined the original English book with their translation and published them as e-books priced at $4.99.

http://www.amazon.com/Virada-Estela-Adversidad-Desafortunado-ebook/dp/B007XU7Y7M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337002969&sr=1-1 Is for English-speakers studying Spanish. The Spanish text is presented first in BOLD face followed immediately by the English text in ITALICS. This formatting, which I haven’t seen used anywhere else, allows the reader’s eye to follow the story as they would reading normally, yet they can easily check the italics to confirm their comprehension.

I also converted the book for Spanish-speakers studying English with the English version in bold text and the Spanish in italics. http://www.amazon.com/Adversitys-Wake-Calamitous-Christopher-ebook/dp/B007XTYMXW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1337002969&sr=1-2

While Amazon has reported that e-books are actually outselling paperbacks, a lot of people don’t have an e-book reader. I know that’s true of several people who follow this blog. Also, in an effort to supplement my income, I decided to publish the books through CreateSpace, the Print on Demand branch of Amazon.com. to reach a wider audience.

Let me tell you, there’s a HUGE difference in formatting a book for print than it is setting one up for digital publishing, and the learning curve for doing it was STEEP! I spent more than a week tearing my hair out (and at 70 I still have a full head of hair) trying to figure out such things as inserting headers and footers and page numbering. The digital editions of the book are approximately 288 pages. The reason I say approximately is that with a digital book the reader can change the size of the type and when that happens the page count changes. In a printed volume the page count can’t be changed. It is what it is. Sort of.

The first paperback edition of the English to Spanish book is 316 pages. I’m working on the Spanish to English version now and it’s interesting. Even though the type face and type size is the same when the Spanish text is put into boldface and the English into italics the page count jumps to 319 pages.

Well, folks, here it is: https://www.createspace.com/3862699 Because of printing costs I had to price the book at $9.99. Odd thing is that while it’s a bit double the price of the electronic version my royalty works is only 1/3 of what I make from the e-book. Actually I make about a nickel more from the electronic version than I do from the paperback.

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My Dual-Language Books at Amazon.com

I have combined my book about Christopher Columbus’s last voyage with the Spanish translation.

For English-speaking students studying Spanish there is this volume:


For Spanish-speaking students studying English there is this version:


To See ALL my books available at Amazon.com go here:



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My Dual-Language Books At Amazon.com




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Reader Feedback Request

One of the big advantages for writers, especially independent authors, has been the digital revolution. No longer is an author’s work dependent on literary agents (Literary agents, in my opinion, are like lawyers, low-life bottom-feeders who can’t write themselves so they make a living skimming 15% off the top from people who can write. They simply didn’t have the grades in college that would get them admitted to law school so they could spend their lives chasing ambulances.) and the Big 6 publishing houses who are more interested in churning out re-hashed versions of the same, slightly modified stories by the likes of James Patterson, John Grishom, Clive Cussler and the like. Those with a vested interest in perpetuating the Big 6 domination of the literary world clamor that independent authors clutter the world with trashy writing…yeah? Look above and tell me about their value to the printed word.

Ever since Gutenberg figured out moveable type until just a couple of years ago once an author gave his work a title and a cover was affixed to it that was it. . forever. You were stuck with it. Now, though, with just a few clicks of the mouse (and a new ISBN number) an author whose work is in electronic form whether as an e-book or Print on Demand (POD) can change the title and/or the cover at will.

I’ve never been completely happy with either the title of my book about Christopher Columbus’s horrible fourth voyage. His fleet was denied entrance into Santo Domingo to ride out an approaching hurricane. It took them a month to sail the northern coast of what is now Honduras and when they turned the corner he named it “Cabo de Gracias a Dios” which is still on charts to this day, 510 years later. They constantly battled contrary winds and currents. Their attempt at establishing a colony in Panama was a disaster. The Indians didn’t take kindly to the thought of sharing their land with these interlopers and in a bloody battle literally drove the white men into the sea. With his ship’s hulls leaking like sieves because of shipworms he was forced to abandon two of the four in Panama. Trying to return to Santo Domingo the two remaining ships were so close to sinking that besides manning the pumps 24 hours a day the men were literally bailing with their cooking utensils to the point where they had to be run ashore on the bleak coast of Jamaica to save their lives. They remained there for over a year and Columbus faced starvation, a mutiny and a pitched battle between the mutineers and those loyal to their leader.

The original title of the book was “Despair!” and the cover was an old painting of the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” It was okay, I guess, but not really what I wanted. Now, with the book translated into Spanish and being worked on to be offered as a dual-language book, I’ve decided on a new title and cover art. I’d like to get some honest feedback from my readers as to what they think of the new title and cover.

Old cover and title:


What do you think about this?


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My Latest Project

As a lot of you know, my book, Despair! (http://www.amazon.com/Despair-ebook/dp/B004LLIXT4/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1334499453&sr=1-3) has been translated into Spanish by two young students at the Universidad Latina here in David, Stephany Peñaloza and Deyreth Garcia.

Stephany (L) Deyreth (R)

Stephany translated the first half of the book and Deyreth the other half. I had them send me their MSWord files of their translation and combined the two for a project I’ve had in mind. I spent several days going through the two files and formatting them so they’d work as an electronic book. Stephany had LOTS of extra spaces between words that had to be eliminated and she also used the “TAB” key a lot which throws off the formatting. And Deyreth’s version didn’t use quotation marks correctly so I had to painstakingly go through her version and insert them as needed. One thing I found in going through their versions was that I’d missed punctuation here and there in spite of having read it so many times I was sick of the story.

One of the requirements of their course was that they give me a bound copy of their work. I’d received Stephany’s several months ago and Deyreth wrote to me a couple of weeks ago saying her bound copy was ready and we needed to get together so she could give it to me. Another of the requirements of the course was that they could receive no financial remuneration for their work. My big brainstorm for a project needed their permission to publish their work side by side with mine and I needed to get them to sign away any rights they might have to their translation.

Yesterday I met the two of them at a fine Italian restaurant in David for dinner and explained what I had in mind and got them to sign my agreement to publish their translation. It could very well help them in the future, though, when they go looking for translation work. When asked if they can show any work they’ve done they can say, “Well, sure, here, I translated a BOOK!”

So, here’s what I’ve been working on. 1) I plan on offering the translation simply as a Spanish version of the book. 2) I am combining my original version of the book with their translation so English-speaking students who are studying Spanish can read the Spanish version followed immediately by the original. Like this:

No recuerdo cómo el viejo, Juan, vino a vivir con mi madre y conmigo. Parecía que siempre había estado allí. Él no tenía ningún parentesco con nosotros. No que yo supiera, de todos modos. Él simplemente estaba ‘allí. I don’t remember how the old man, Juan, came to live with my mother and me. It seemed he had always been there. He was no blood relation of ours. Not that I knew of, anyway. He was simply ‘there.’

De niño él me asustaba. No era nada por lo que él hiciese. Era sólo él. Corto de estatura, casi diminuto, su piel quemada por el sol estaba arrugada como una pieza de fruta seca. Siempre estaba encorvado. Aún de pie y apoyado en el viejo pedazo de rama de árbol que llevaba consigo a todas partes, él nunca estuvo erguido. Su espalda siempre estuvo doblada como si hubiera visto algo en el suelo y se había detenido por un segundo para obtener una mejor visión de ella. Cuando él había estado bebiendo no solamente se inclinaba ligeramente hacia adelante también se inclinaba de un lado al otro. Viendo sus brazos podrías decir, que alguna vez él había sido muy fuerte. Todavía se veían los músculos fornidos debajo de los diseños de tinta permanente en su piel. As a young child he scared me. It wasn’t anything he did. It was just him. Short of stature, tiny almost, his sun-weathered skin was wrinkled like a piece of dried up discarded fruit. He was forever hunched over. Even standing and leaning on the old piece of tree limb he carried with him everywhere he was never straight. His back was always bent as if he’d just spotted something on the ground and had stopped for a second to get a better look at it. When he’d been drinking he wasn’t just bent forward, he leaned to one side or the other, too.  You could tell, looking at his arms, that he had once been very strong. The muscles still rippled under the faded designs permanently inked into his skin.

Él nunca peinó su cabello. Era un blanco cegador y lo poco que quedaba de él creció en lugares aislados en la cabeza. Estaba como ligero y fino, cual la pelusa, como la flor de la planta del diente de león y que ni la más leve brisa lo haría agitarse. He never combed or brushed his hair.  It was blindingly white and what little there was of it grew in isolated spots on his head. It was as light and fine as dandelion fuzz and the slightest suggestion of a breeze would cause it to flutter nervously.

Sus ojos eran del azul más oscuro, como el color del mar, donde la línea recta del horizonte reúne el azul claro del cielo y que a menudo parecía que él estaba mirando fijamente a esa línea lejana donde todo lo que un marinero busca aparecerá en primer lugar. Y su nariz grande, como la de un halcón, hendida en el mar de su cara como la aleta de un tiburón surcando las tranquilas aguas dentro de un arrecife. His eyes were the darkest blue; like the color of the sea where the straight line of the horizon meets the lighter blue of the sky and it often seemed that he was staring intently at that distant line where whatever a seaman is looking for will first appear. And his large, hawk-like nose cleaved the sea of his face like a shark’s fin slicing through the calm waters inside a reef.

Él me dio miedo, el viejo Juan lo hizo, pero eso era cuando yo era joven. A medida que fui creciendo y poco a poco él reveló su historia, yo crecí con el amor del hombre y la maravilla de la aventura de su vida. He scared me, old Juan did, but that was when I was young. As I got older and he slowly revealed his story to me I grew to love the man and marveled at the adventure of his life.

For Spanish-speaking students the book will be presented in reverse with the English first followed by the Spanish translation. So far I’ve gotten the Spanish to English version finished and it wasn’t easy. It took me three complete working days to do it. I’ve got the first two chapters of the English to Spanish version done so far. When that’s done I’ll have to create a cover for the book that is different than the original so it won’t be confusing to people searching on line. I’ll let you all know when they are published.


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Twenty Percent of Nothing

As I’ve mentioned, I love my Kindle. Currently I have 120 “books” waiting to be read. Well, 119 because I’m reading one of them now. I can’t tell you how many I’ve already read but I go through two or three a week.

Almost all of the books I’ve downloaded have been free. If you go to the Kindle site you’ll find a list of the 100 Best Sellers on Kindle. The hundred best that can run from 99¢ to $12.99 for the latest Jonathan Kellerman and John Grisham offerings. Sorry, but I’m not going to pay $12.99 for any of their books even if they were in the dead tree format.

One of the big rips going around in the literary field is that with the advent of such services as Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing making it possible for anybody to “publish” is that the markets are being flooded with crap that’s not worth reading. Well, that’s certainly true to some extent, but there’s a lot of crap that’s being foisted upon the reading public by the established publishing houses, too. And most of it is horribly overpriced.

The majority of the free books on the Kindle Best Seller list come from independent and first-time authors, though I’ve found quite a few mid-list writers whose books are offered for free and have enjoyed them. I’m a sucker for mysteries and have enjoyed Paul Levine’s Jake Lassiter series having read four so far, as well as H. Terrel Griffin’s Matt Royal series. Both authors books are based in Florida where I lived for nearly half of my life. But I’ve also found some wonderful first-timers, too. Bubba and the Dead Woman by C.L. Blevill and Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise by Joyce Magnin were two of many.

I check out the Best Sellers list every morning since a lot of the books only stay there for a day or two and if you don’t download them when you see them they’ll be gone and if you weren’t fast enough downloading them you’d have to pay. That’s why there’s a 120 books in my active list. The one thing about these free books is that if they don’t capture me in the first couple of chapters I can toss them and I’ve lost nothing but an hour or two.

This morning, coming in at #23 is, Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out by Pandora Poikilos.



The title intrigued me so I clicked on it to find out what it was about. This is the product description:

“Anya Michaels is having the time of her life. She has the man of her dreams by her side. She has graduated at the top of her class. She has the job others were lining up for. Between late night drinks at her favourite bar and fancy dinners at the most expensive restaurants, she has a string of adoring friends. Everything changes when she hears the dreaded words, “You are sick.”

“Being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, her world starts to fall apart, one piece at a time. Now dumped, her four year relationship is nothing but a memory filled with pictures, thoughts and a very broken heart. Her job becomes an even further challenge as she tries to hide her condition. Her friends suddenly have more important things to do, what is a party without a party girl? Perfect could not crumble any faster.

“Soon, caught between situations, people and pieces of life that she never dreamed of planning for herself, Anya begins to wonder if her brain condition is all that bad. As she absorbs the changes in her life and realization sets in, she begins to wonder if she is the only one saying: Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out.”

The book received 12 five-star reviews and 6 single-stars. Thirteen other readers gave it 2, 3 and 4 stars.

What I found really interesting was the last line of the product review: “20% of royalties will be donated to the National Organization of Rare Disorders.” Since it’s a FREE book, 20% of nothing is NOTHING!

Okay, I admit I’m being sarcastic here. These free books only stay free for a couple of days, as I said, and it will soon cost $2.99 to buy it when it’s back on the regular lists. And yes, there IS a National Organization for rare diseases: http://www.rarediseases.org/

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I’ve Started A Third Blog

I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I’ve started a third blog. The second blog I created is:


Since I bought my Kindle I’ve been reading a LOT! And most of what I’ve downloaded to my reader are either FREE books or books costing less than $3.00. A lot of the authors are self-published like myself or are offering their books at drastically discounted prices or absolutely free in hopes of attracting an audience that will shell out some cash to read their other work.

I’ve run across some really good stuff and, of course, some real trash. So I thought I’d start a blog giving my opinions on what I’ve found on line.

I call the blog Cheap Reads On Your Kindle.

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e-Book Covers

It’s said you “can’t tell a book by its cover” but every book needs a cover that will “hook” the prospective reader so they’ll pick it up and look inside.

I’ve just finished editing and rewriting A Pirate of the Caribbees by Harry Collingwood. When I say rewriting I mean I converted a 100 year-old text with such archaic writing as:

“For pity’s sake,” I ejaculated, “give me something to drink!”

“Ten thousand pounds?” I ejaculated.

“Thanks,” answered I, with alacrity.

I spent the last four months working to turn the book into something that reads as if it were written in the 21st Century. I pared out nearly 9,000 words from the original text that were just unnecessary but left the basic story line intact.

Next I had to come up with a cover for the book.

Getting cover art isn’t easy. Most writers hire an artist to do this for them. Fortunately I’m working in a genre where there are plenty of images in the public domain. That is they aren’t covered by copyright and can be used by anyone.  In my search I came across a fantastic illustrator named Howard Pyle. Pyle even opened his own art school and one of his students was N. C. Wyeth who did the illustrations for Treasure Island that those of us of a “certain” age surely remember.

I loved Pyle’s pirate illustrations and it was a tough job picking the one to use for the cover of my latest effort.

There are certain things you have to look for in a picture when you’re choosing cover art. Your first consideration is, where are you going to put the text so that it doesn’t interfere with the picture. There has to be enough blank, or empty space for you to do this. Next, you have to go to some sort of photo tampering program and create the cover.

For my first four efforts I used the Microsoft Paint.net program. It was fairly easy to use,”user friendly” and quite intuitive. But then I got hit with an incredibly vicious virus that forced me to reformat my hard drive back to the original factory settings. Fortunately I’m pretty good at saving my work as I go along so I didn’t lose a whole lot of stuff when I reformatted. However, no matter what I tried I couldn’t get Paint.net to reinstall.

I searched all over for another program to use and believe me there are a ton of programs out there. I needed simple and I needed FREE. I downloaded several that just didn’t meet my needs. One that kept popping up and that I loaded is called GIMP. It’s a great program, so I’m told, but the learning curve would challenge a PhD candidate at MIT. I downloaded YouTube videos showing how to “work with layers,” resize photos and everything you need to monkey around with a picture to get a cover you wanted. I couldn’t figure out how to make the damned thing do what I wanted. The frustration kept building. I didn’t want to spend days learning how to make the program work.

Then I found something called Photo Pad Image Editor. It’s WAY better than Paint.net in what it does and within less than an hour I got it to do what I wanted. Talk about “intuitive” and “user friendly.” This is the program to have.

So this is what I came up with:

What do you think?


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Getting Use To My Kindle

Okay, I’ve had my Kindle for a couple of weeks now and here’s what I think of it.

I like it a lot but it’s definitely NOT like reading a dead tree book and in some ways that’s a shame. The tactile experience is missing. You don’t get to actually turn the pages, and while playing with font size makes the page you’re reading about the same size and word count of a paperback book it’s just not the same thing.

Since I got the Kindle I’ve been doing a LOT of reading. I actually wander away from the computer, dig out the Kindle and read a book. I read Teddy Roosevelt’s account of the Rough Riders. Not only was it an interesting story but so well written that you’d never guess it was penned a century ago. Reading the Roman histories by Tacitus and Caesar’s Commentaries, books I’ve wanted to read for years but just didn’t want to spend the money on to buy even in paperback.

While my literary tastes may run towards detective stories like the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke and the Prey series by John Sandford or the complete Butch Karp saga by Robert K. Tanenbaum I’ve been absolutely delighted with a couple of free books I downloaded by some female authors: Talk of the Town by Lisa Wingate (when it was available free) and Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise by Joyce Magnin. I enjoyed Charlotte Figg so much I had a hard time putting it down the first night so I could get some sleep and finished it off the next day.

One thing I like about the Kindle is the included Oxford Dictionary of English. Occasionally I come across a word I’m not sure of and you simply scroll down to it and it’s defined for you. A great feature.

I naturally bought a cover for the Kindle to protect it from getting scratched up just through the process of daily reading and carrying it around in my knapsack for my trips down the mountain to do my shopping. Holding it open with the unit on the right hand side and the cover to the left it’s almost like reading a real book except you only have a right-hand page.

My only real objection to the unit is that the little thing-a-ma-doodles that you press to “turn” the pages happen to be right under your thumb as you hold it and the slightest pressure flips you to the next page. However, you can configure the screen in several different ways but I’m just too lazy to do that.

I’d give it 4-1/2 stars and am glad I finally caved in and bought one.



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Let me say in my defense that I am not a complete Luddite. I have had a computer for over 15 years but it took me a while to overcome the technophobia attached with such a purchase. At the time I was living on a small sailboat so a desk-top model was out of the question and the price of a notebook back then was simply out of the question. Not only was it a question of space and money but it centered around what I wanted to do with the equipment. All I wanted to do then was to write about the previous five years in France, sailing across the Atlantic and my single-handed, nine-month trip to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, and I couldn’t justify the expense of a notebook computer to do that and to play a few games when I got bored.

One day when I was at one of the big box stores looking at the notebooks I came across a Brother notebook word processor. Perfect. It would do what I wanted and it was about a fifth of the cost of a “real” notebook computer. It also had a version of the Tetris game which I became really, really good at. But the machine was also very, very, I mean molasses slow. I believe it probably used an old 286 chip and you had to store whatever you’d written onto a floppy disk. Remember those? It wasn’t one of the big floppies but the ones with the plastic shell. As my stories got longer it took forever for the machine to work its way to the end so I could continue writing.

In 1994 the Pentium chip was introduced to the market and I boldly entered the computer age. But my Luddite gene did influence my purchase. My first notebook had a 486 processor, not a Pentium. Naturally the prices were slashed on the 486 hardware and I also figured it was probably better to have the last of the old technology than it was to have the first of the new that didn’t have all the kinks worked out of it. I was very happy with that piece of equipment. It had MS Word on it and when I wanted to get to the end of a piece I was working on it went there instantly instead of taking two or three minutes, literally, for the old word processor to work its way to the last word in a story.

I am not technophobic, but you’re not going to find me camping out all night waiting to be one of the first to buy a new iPad or anything like that. I don’t have a “smart” phone. The one I have is a “dumb” phone. It does one thing. It makes phone calls. Period.

Now, I love to read. Have since I was a kid. I mean when I took the standardized tests in school I had the reading level of a college freshman before I even hit junior high. But when Amazon came out with the Kindle and Barnes & Noble introduced the Nook I didn’t run right out and buy one. No, I like “dead tree” books. No way did I need or was I going to buy one of those electronic doo hickies.

But I moved to Panama. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find books in English here? There’s a terrific used book store in Dolega called the Bookmark and they fill a very big niche. But over the years of living on boats I’ve developed an aversion to collecting books. They’re big and bulky and a real pain in the old wazoo when you move from one place to another.

But still I avoided the temptation to buy an electronic reader even though I wrote and published a book that is only available in electronic form. I got my reading material in a couple of ways that bow to modern technology. I subscribed to Audible.com and download wonderful books to my iPod. Yes, I’ve had one of those for quite a few years and it’s loaded down with over 3,000 songs. I “read” 40 hour-long books when I would take my dog Penny for her afternoon walks and I listened to books when I was living in Boqueron and didn’t have a television. Listening to audio books takes me back to the days of my early childhood when I’d sit on my maternal grandfather’s lap and we’d listen to the evening news with H. V. “There’s gooood news tonight” Kaltenborn, Jack Benny, Amos and Andy et al on the big console radio in the living room together.

I’d also discovered Project Gutenberg with over 36,000 free public domain ebooks. I’d download the ones I wanted, copy them and paste them into a Word document and save that into a special folder in My Documents to be read at my leisure.

When it was announced that Amazon had come out with an app you could download for free that simulated their Kindle for your PC or Mac, I did it instantly. The only problem with this solution is that it’s not easy to read a book outside in a hammock. The glare on the notebook’s screen makes it nearly impossible to read. Besides that the computer is heavy, it gets damned hot sitting on your stomach or in your lap and the battery life is quite limited.

Slowly I developed the urge to actually get a Kindle or my own. Trying to get one delivered down here isn’t easy. First of all there is no home mail delivery and I don’t have a mailbox at the post office. Also there are no real addresses. For example, on the water bill the address for the house in Boqueron is listed as “The two-story house near the health clinic.” Personally, I think that’s priceless. I mean no company in the States is going to deliver something to The two-story house near the health clinic, Boqueron, Republica de Panama.

There is a gringo couple I know who live in the third house up the mountain from me. They’re in the States right now but will be returning in October. I thought that I’d buy a Kindle, have it delivered to them in Montana and have them bring it to me. Since they could declare it as their own personal property it would circumvent having to pay import duties on it. So, I’d only have to wait another couple of months or so and I could have my own Kindle and be able to lay out in the hammock and read on a lazy, rainy afternoon. That’s like every afternoon, folks, since we’re now deep into the rainy season here.

Then I saw a post on the Yahoo “Gringos in David” group from someone who said they were coming to Boquete and did anyone here need anything brought down from the States. A Kindle is quite small and light and wouldn’t take up much luggage space so I immediately got in touch with Al and we made arrangements for him to bring down a Kindle for me. We got together this past Thursday and voila as they say in Antibes, here it is along with the holder I bought to protect it:

I’ve used it in the hammock and it’s great. Yesterday I spent a lot of time riding buses. I went from  home to Bugaba to buy some cigars from the factory there and then from there to Boquete to pick up the charger for the Kindle since Al forgot it when he came to Potrerillos to give me the unit. Then I had to ride the bus back down from Boquete to Dolega in order to get the bus back to Potrerillos. In all I was on the road for nearly eight hours and while I ususally listen to an audio book while riding on the buses I read my Kindle instead. On the ride from David to Bugaba a young guy sat next to me who was fascinated with the Kindle. He’d never even heard of such a thing. So, it’s turned out to be a way of meeting people, too. Turns out the young man is a border patrol agent. He showed me his I.D. I guess if I ever have any problems trying to get into or out of Costa Rica I’ll have someone I can appeal to. Who knows?




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