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App Review: Kindle App

January 17, 2016

I use a lot of apps. Even for regular sites like Twitter, I like to try out third-party apps. For work. For games. You get the idea.

But I’d never gotten around to using the Kindle app, primarily because I wasn’t convinced about reading online. I can read news articles and such, but reading entire books was a little tough. It lasted till I forced to switch over to e-books, and finally got used to it. Reading online doesn’t quite have the same joy and fun (and quite often, the sentences just don’t stick in your mind as well). But it sure is convenient. Many books, all the time.

So when Amazon offered ‘Kindle Unlimited’ for just INR 199, I figured it was time to give it a shot.

The first mistake I did was not perusing the books available in this list. “Over 1 million books” says the tag line, but any reader worth his / her salt knows that there are over 1 million crappy books in the world.

Let’s talk about the app itself first:

The Interface:

You’d think that a company whose first business was books would have some insight about readers and what they like. The home page is a film scroll, with editor’s picks listed below. But there is no option for me to make bookshelves. Unlike your book shelf at home, it is annoying to see all your books on a tiny little screen. I’d rather have book shelves on the home page, but that could just be me.

Then the scariest thing: Kindle reads your entire phone. ALL your files. And it lists every bloody PDF, epub, mobi or any other book format that is there in your phone. Now, apparently you can undo this if your documents are not in a folder named documents or books. But I find no way to stop the app from scanning my phone and listing the books. I have several confidential documents on my phone and I hate the fact that another app is accessing it. Even with Cyanogen’s Privacy Guard, you cannot stop this from happening.

There is a folder called ‘Kindle’ on your phone but unsurprisingly, there are no temp files there, but the app thinks it is okay to scan your phone and list all the documents it thinks you want to be listed on Kindle. And there is no option to ‘remove’ the particular file from Kindle. It deletes it from your device. Talk about taking over your phone !!!

The Menu has surprisingly limited options. You can choose ‘All’, ‘Books on your device’ and a couple of other options. Then, of course, settings which is less than nothing. A couple of options for sync, naming your device and that’s pretty much it.

Finding a Book:

If the reason you signed up for Kindle app, like I did, was the ‘Kindle Unlimited’ Option, then you’ll find it frustrating to access the Kindle store. There is no one-click option to access the store. You’ve to click on the cart, go to the kindle store, click on the ‘kindle unlimited’ feature and then you have the further task of narrowing down categories, and browsing through hundreds of titles. I’m not sure what algorithm is used to list the books, but there is no way to change that. This is fine on a bigger screen, but on a phone, it can be tedious scrolling through books 10 at a time.

You can search for a book, but it might or might not be available in the Kindle Unlimited Series. They perhaps expect you to browse like in a library, except on a 5 inch screen.

I searched for nearly 20 titles or more (How to be a woman, Raven Black, Unladylike: A memoir, Wikileaks, Alibi, Secret Sisters, Queen of the Oddballs, Book of Shadows, Run to the Hills etc). Some where available in Kindle format, but the ‘over 1 Million titles’ did not include any of these in the Kindle Unlimited Series.

I finally found one story about Wikileaks that I finally downloaded, and another chick lit. Then the process of downloading it to your phone, which means you need to repeat the entire process of going back to the Kindle store and trying to find a book, if you are trying to build up a collection.

In any case, you cannot have more than 10 books at a time according to Kindle. Not sure what the fuss is in this case, but moving on…

Now, if you want to find the book you downloaded from Kindle, there is no one-tap option to choose the file from ‘My Kindle Unlimited’ or some such thing. You’ve to pick it out of your library, among all the other books. For people like me, who are typically reading more than one book at a time, it is plain annoying. And no, I don’t want to be making ‘ collections’ of books to access.


This was one part I thought would be sorted. Perhaps I was peeved by the whole experience of finding a book to read (which took me over half an hour). The minute I opened the page, I found the settings annoying compared to the other ebook readers I’ve used.

Moonreader, for instance, allows you to handle the brightness of the screen with just a tap on one side of the screen. You can even set up scroll options etc with one-tap.

With the Kindle app, you’ve to go to the ‘menu’ on top of the page. Brightness options are limited – there was only ‘system brightness’ and if you manually tried to set the brightness, even the lowest was too bright at night.

The second annoying thing was something I noticed in the first chapter. It says “2 mins to finish chapter’. What the hell? By this point, I was beyond fiddling with controls of the app, so I don’t know if there is a way to turn this off. It is in unnecessary annoyance and I’m not sure what the developers were intending to do with it.

The third thing: ‘Popular highlights’… some of the lines are automatically highlighted while you are reading. This is turned on by default and there’s a way to turn it off, but again, multiple steps. Again, I’m not sure why this is a default feature.

I hate the entire experience of the Kindle app.

Verdict: The app seems to be attractive to bookworms, but with Google Books and many other third-party apps around, there’s absolutely no compelling reason to use Kindle app. There are no good books and it is simply annoying to handle. And thus far, I’ve not found a good collection of books either. Perhaps they are looking to push their device, but this is absolutely not an attractive preview.

The privacy concerns are quite serious.

Next: Uninstall

Goodbye 2015

January 3, 2016

I tried to recall where I began the year… the early months, you know. But honest to God, I can remember the first day of the year… and then the rest of it blurs. I need to concentrate to remember what happened in 2015… that’s how weird the year was.

A handful of trips… one of the few train trips in recent years – that was a memorable one. I cannot even recall what I did for my birthday, and that’s a little strange because it was the big 3-0. There were a lot of firsts in the year and strangely, I cannot recall what I did for any of them – which is a little worrying for someone like me. I do remember things… or did, despite a deplorable memory for some things.

The highlight of the year was the grand trip to Spiti – a landmark trip for several reasons, and for the place in itself.

I guess I need to look back and remember that I just cannot let things go the way they did in 2015. The haze-covered, work-fueled, hysteric, hamster-on-a-wheel routine.

There were good spots… but a lot fewer.

So instead of trying to rehash it, here’s hoping for a better 2016!

Book Review: The Girl In The Spider’s Web

January 3, 2016

Is it legally, ethically, morally wrong for one person to take over a character and storyline created by someone else and take it ahead?

In this particular case, I think it is. In this particular case, I wish this book had never been written.

Why? Let’s list out the reasons:

  1. The murder of the character of Lisbeth Salander: Not literally, though that would’ve been better. The Lisbeth we were introduced to and grew to love was a mystery. A simple person with a very clear black & white view of the world, she had few requirements and despite being a little socially awkward, was someone you would be okay hanging out with you in the same room.
    The Lisbeth we meet in this book is portrayed a genius certified, a hacker of unmatchable merit in the entire fricking world. A hacker who belongs to a bunch of hackers (loosely indicating Anonymous). A hacker who takes on the NSA for reasons that are mentioned in a long-winded manner.
    The Lisbeth in this book is unravelled and laid out in one short book for the reader’s ‘enjoyment’. And by that one simple act, the author destroys a beloved character forever.
  2. The weakening of Blomkvist: You know this man as a good reporter in a world where there are so few. And in this book, he is a completely weak, confused man who doesn’t have a say in anything. But he is so intelligent, so keen about Salander that he heads out on a wild goose chase or close enough to search for her.
    *Spoiler Alert*
  3. Bad writing: The first 3 books kept you up through the night, wondering what would happen next. It was fast-paced, intriguing and a beautiful web. This book is a bad attempt at ‘plugging the gaps’ or so it seems. The author is hell bent on explanations, because the earlier pages require those explanations, so it gets quite long winded. And then confusing. And just tedious.
  4. Crappy Plot: Sorry, but there are no other words to say it. The author has taken every little bit of news about hacking that he came across in the past few years – Edward Snowden, Anonymous and their exploits, NSA’s all-seeing eye, some corporate espionage – and tried to put it all into the book. So you have the NSA, you have a hacker’s group (to which Salander belongs), you have a game developer and some corporate espionage. And then the attempt to tie it all together.
    Then, the author remembers that Lisbeth never does anything without an actual reason that matters to her. Or so he thinks. So instead of developing a good villain, he fishes in the old pool of characters, and gets Salander’s SISTER as the villain. That naturally means more back story and more tedious text.
    Sure, you can say that roots of all of these were their in the earlier books but sometimes, when you end a series, it is for good reason.

This entire book is written simply to make money. And it comes at a high price – the death of a beloved character in recent times.

Growth & Corruption

April 25, 2015

“The only way to peace is through war” a quote read in one of the prescribed books in university.

As I read one of the biographies about one of the companies in India, which is generally touted as a massive success story, I wonder if the only way to success is through corruption.

India is a country that suffers from a massive dynastic hangover. Be it a political party, the movie industry or the corporate world, it is filled with people who are ‘connected’. Apparently, who your father is or who you know makes a difference to your success or failure.

Despite, or due to, such dynastic philosophies, corruption has become an embedded part of our culture.

The only way a newbie can probably succeed is by bribing a few people. Yes, there is much being said about the new start-ups and their success stories. But watch closely and you can probably hear the tremors of them navigating the red tape.

I recently read the biography of the Ambanis, which had once been banned in India, or at least tried to. A few pages down, I realised why they tried to get the book banned. It paints a very ugly picture of the way the company was built, how it promoted corruption and the deep corruption embedded in some parties of the country.

Of course, nobody can ever prove what was and what is. Many of the participants of this story are long dead and gone, leaving behind legacies that are probably too massive to dig into. But you flip through the pages of media stories on them and you can read between the lines.

The Indian media today is in the worst possible situation today, with almost nil autonomy. If they were once coralled by the need for advertisement revenue, today they are directly held back by their owners and deep party loyalties.

The days of Khuswant Singh and Goenka are long gone, who put the truth of journalism before friendships and families. Today, we have reporters angling for a plum retirement plan, inciting NRIs to their own benefit.

The Social Media Wave is truly that… it builds up with one little news item, crests and then builds up again as a follow up, till there is that big 7th wave and it cools down for the next wave.

Surviving the 20s

April 9, 2015

Why is it such a big deal when a woman turns 30? It definitely isn’t because she survived the 20s. It definitely isn’t because of an achievement. It is spoken more with a tragic air that we’ve crossed into the grey time from which there is no return.

I’d been looking forward to turning 30 for a while, so I could say that I survived my 20s. The 20s are horrible… full of big, important decisions made by naïve people that actually affect the rest of your life, stubbornness or pig-headedness that makes you stick by those decisions, even when you realize that you are probably being dumb.

So it should probably be a time of celebration that you made to it the other side without too many war wounds.

Turning 30 should be a sign of success, a time for reflection, a time for cheering.

When I was 10, someone said that by the time one hits 30, we are more firm in our opinions and less open to other things. I had vehemently denied or laughed about this, stating that I would never be that person. Today, I am a little shamefaced to say that I am rather firm in my opinions and a little less open to things than I should be.

But perhaps realizing that is key and I will be more open to things again. Regarding the opinions part though, you develop a clear idea of what you like and what you don’t. You develop a routine and you are either the kind of person that is ready to kill if the routine is changed or the kind who enjoys that change every once in a while. I’m glad to think I’m still in the second category.

Your patience runs thinner when you head towards the other side of 30. People can be incredibly dumb and for those of us who were born with little or no patience, this can be a trial. Everytime I think I’ve learnt to be patient, I am taught another lesson that I have not really learnt much. So the learning is constant and hopefully, the lessons will catch better than the algebra in school.

30 is a nice age to be because you are just appreciating the balances, beginning to learn about balances actually. You enjoy the quiet, you enjoy the hard work. You probably have a vision of the future, or least how you don’t want the future to be. You are wise enough to know when you are being shitty (or most of the times when you are being shitty). You’ve learned to suck up and apologize. You’ve learned the dangers of ego. You’ve learned that you have learned nothing and you need to start afresh.

There is an air of challenge, of racing against time and you begin honing your priorities. The bucket list is honed down to things that are really important. The frustrations perhaps don’t go away. You probably haven’t become the person you thought you would be. Which might be good or bad. But you realize these things. You realize that you are not the best person in the world and you might or might not be okay with it. You accept some things and you strive to work on some things. You’ve reached a balance and you are keenly aware, every single moment, that you might be brought to your knees.

Yoda, you are not. But least you’ve accepted your role, as vague as it still is.

Turning 30 seems to have erased some of the discontentment that was plaguing me for a while. Maybe it will return. But for now, I look forward to what can be and not all the opportunities missed. No, that’s not entire accurate. I do feel like an ass but then I realize that I have done a substantial amount for a 30-year old. Or nothing at all. It depends on which way you look at it.

Perspectives. That is what you keenly become aware about.

Strangely, I still don’t have an idea of that ‘goal’ but right now, that doesn’t seem as keenly, painfully frustrating as it was a few weeks ago. I guess that’s what surviving the 20s brings you.

Baazigar 2015

March 16, 2015

I was watching Baazigar on TV the other day and I thought – Shit, this movie would have ended before it even begun if they had done it today.

Imagine this:

Girl, shopping with her boyfriend, runs into an old family friend at a mall. Friend thinks boyfriend looks familiar. Pulls up Facebook on her phone and starts looking through 5-year old photograph (cue in obligatory song here in the time it takes to go through 1 lakh photos).

She finds the photo, memory flash. Share the image through Whatsapp with the girl and ask “Yo… wasn’t your sister dating the guy”. Boom!


Bollywood movies wouldn’t have really survived if they had followed technology. Of course, being Bollywood, they would probably put in instances like “Facebook account hacked” and unable to access photos just to prolong the movie.

2014 in review

January 2, 2015

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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