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Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert for Wednesday, February 17, 2010: Tomorrow is "Pitchers and Catchers," and It’s Time to Kindle Your Pennant Fever

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 17, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010

Tomorrow is “Pitchers and Catchers,” so it’s time for some free baseball reading.

What am I talking about?

We may have had seven inches of snow here in my neighborhood yesterday, but at noon tomorrow, February 18, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jason Varitek and several dozen other established or hopeful pitchers and catchers will report to the Boston Red Sox compound in Fort Myers, FL, to begin Spring Training.

The shorthand phrase “Pitchers and Catchers” is meant to communicate something longer, like, “the Spring Training reporting deadline for pitchers and catchers,” but it suffices, and even for most of the grossly overpaid participants there’s little about the process that seems anything like a deadline. Any player worth the price of his own baseball card arrives early and is already shod in his spikes and champing at the bit for his first throw-and-catch hours before the deadline.

For us non-participants, it all serves as an alternative calendar of sorts. When the local football team was eliminated from post-season play rather early this year, a good number of the team’s followers simply turned to each other and said “well, just 39 days ’til Pitchers and Catchers.” I’ve had plenty of other things to do, and I am also an ardent follower of the local basketball team, but my internal calendar, my awareness that they’ll soon be painting the lines on fields all over Florida and Arizona, has helped keep cabin fever at bay.

For people who share my addiction to a lovely slow-paced game with its own statistics and literature and economic craziness, all over New England and probably in many other communities around the world, the icy sludge of winter will begin to thaw, our skies will brighten, and our hearts will warm a few degrees. I doubt it’s exactly the same in Anaheim or Atlanta, but I’m sure it inspires a bit of Spring Fever almost everywhere.

And one of the things that many of us will do to embrace this renewal and revisiting of paths that have worked for us countless times in the past, restoring us to the wonder and hopefulness of children (or delusional adults), is read. We will read sports pages and statistical compendiums and predictions and projections, but the very lucky among us will also be able to read some great baseball books and other baseball material on our Kindles.

So here, in honor of “Pitchers and Catchers,” is a Starter Kit of free and bargain baseball reading and access for your Kindle.

Emerald Guide to Baseball 2010 by The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) – FREE DOWNLOAD & KINDLE CONVERSION

This is a free book that runs 586 pages and costs $24.95 in its print edition, and it is one of the finest, most comprehensive pre-season guides available with complete 2009 statistics and recaps and a full preview of the coming season. Although it is not available directly in the Kindle Store, it’s a snap to download the PDF file here at the sabr.org website. Then, since the Kindle’s PDF conversion process and the Kindle DX PDF reader still leave a lot to be desired, send the file to your approved you@free.kindle.com email address with the word convert in the subject line, and Amazon will convert the PDF file to a Kindle-compatible ebook in .AZW format so that you can download the .AZW file to your computer, connect to your Kindle via USB, and drag and drop the converted ebook into your Kindle’s documents folder to start reading. Much of this book renders well directly on your Kindle, but some of the more comprehensive statistical sections will do better with the Kindle for PC App or, perhaps before the All-Star Game, the Kindle for Mac App. (Note: This is large file, so I strongly recommend using the free.kindle.com email address rather than paying Amazon 15 cents a MB to send the file wirelessly to your Kindle). You can also, by the way, download free copies of the 2007-2009 guides from the sabr.org website.

ESPN – The Baseball Report by Peter Gammons and the ESPN Baseball Gang.
FREE 14-DAY TRIAL, after which you pay 99 cents a month for several posts a day, by some of the top baseball writers in the country, pushed directly to your Kindle. Old friend Peter Gammons has no equal in baseball journalism, and here he’s surrounded by knowledgeable people like Gordon Edes, Rob Neyer, Melissa Isaacson and Buster Olney who also happen to be terrific writers. If you’re as much of a fan as I am, you’ll love the feeling that these guys are your own inside source and scout on what’s going on on and off the field with your team and the rest of Major League Baseball.

Set up a free ESPN Baseball bookmark on your Kindle’s web browser to track, scores, news, teams, players, standings, stats, rumors, probable pitchers, transactions, and pre-game lines anytime and almost anywhere on your Kindle. There may be plenty of web browsing activities that are slow and clunky on the Kindle’s web browser, but it’s a snap to keep up with baseball activities any time before, during or after the baseball season. To set up your Kindle for this, just open the Kindle web browser, press the Menu button and select “Bookmarks,” and the select ESPN from your Kindle’s factory-installed bookmarks. Move the 5-way controller down the page to select “Sports,” then select “MLB,” and press the Menu button again to choose “Bookmark This Page.”

If you’re tired of the business of baseball, to say nothing of the sordid tales of performance-enhancing drugs, perhaps you’d prefer to mix your scores, stats, and baseball punditry with some real old-school fiction set against the backdrop of the Grand Old Game.  If that’s the case, I’m touting three can’t-miss prospects for you, and these aren’t expensive Bonus Babies.

For just 99 cents a pop, try these Kindle editions:

Whatever your reading fare, I wish you and your team all the best this season and, oh yeah … Go Sox!

Wire Up and Tag Kindlepedia to Educate Yourself Any Time on Any Topic

First, a tip of the hat to Edukindle creator Will DeLamater and Kindle Formatting author Joshua Tallent for creating the Kindlepedia tool discussed here and for Kindle Chronicles podcaster Len Edgerly for bringing it to my attention by featuring it on his program recently, and to old friend, author, teacher, fellow traveler and classmate of Len’s and mine Ned Stuckey-French for getting my thoughts percolating about the pedagogical possibilities here.

I can’t imagine that there is a single Kindle owner anywhere in the world who is not already familiar with Wikipedia, the online crowd-sourced encyclopedia with over 13 million collaboratively written articles, about 2.9 million of them in English. In addition to the fact that it is the 7th most popular website in the world according to Alexa, Wikipedia is a very high-profile part of the Kindle experience already, since it is featured as a prominent channel for any user-initiated Kindle search along with Google, the Kindle Store, the Kindle’s onboard dictionary and its library of ebooks and other documents:

The opportunity for readers to move quickly and easily — using the Kindle’s absolutely free wireless 3G web browser — between content on their Kindles and the kindof supplemental references and information that they will find on Wikipedia is bound to enrich the educational usefulness of the Kindle, and not just for college students. My 11-year-old son moves seamlessly between his life and Wikipedia explanations of the few remaining things he does not understand, and I am learning more slowly to do the same. By leaving the door constantly cracked between any content that we are reading and Wikipedia’s rich universe of information and content, the Kindle offers astonishing potential for us to place the words that we read in the kinds of rich historical and cultural contexts that makes them more vivid than they could ever be in a traditional book, no matter how much we may love print on paper.

But Wikipedia is more than just a place to visit for a few seconds here and there in the margins of one’s reading experiences. The rich and extensive content to be found there is worthy of reading time all its own, and offers inquisitive readers an opportunity to move organically — or whimsically, for that matter — across dozens or hundreds or thousands of “articles” in ways that allow the construction of remarkable aedifices of personal knowledge and contextual understanding. Thomas Wolfe may have arrived at Harvard in 1920 with the dream of reading every volume in the university’s Harry Elkins Widener Library, but I cannot help but think that he might have enjoyed his self-education more, begun it earlier, and avoided the constant need to wash the dust from his hands if his times had allowed him access to a Kindle with an always-on Wikipedia connection.

Now, Edukindle creator Will DeLamater and Kindle Formatting author Joshua Tallent have collaborated on an extremely useful and elegant new application, called Kindlepedia, that allows Kindle readers to create a Kindle “book” within a few seconds from any Wikipedia listing and transfer (download) it to a Kindle either via USB or Whispernet for offline reading and research at one’s leisure. Not surprisingly, given Joshua’s virtuosity with Kindle formatting issues, the resulting Wikipedia-based “book” arrives on a Kindle in an elegantly formatted, easy-to-read state, with external web links intact so that a reader is never more than a click away from extending one’s research even further, including references beyond Wikipedia. Here are the steps, and just for fun I’ll use the Wikipedia article on one of my favorite underappreciated baseball players, Bernie Carbo:

  • On your computer, go to the Kindlepedia page on the Edukindle website at http://www.edukindle.com/downloads/kindlepedia/. (No need to try to do this Kindlepedia procedure directly from your Kindle; I have already tried and it does not work).
  • Type in the URL of the Wikipedia entry from which you wish to make a Kindle “book” in the entry field in the center of the screen or, if you are relatively certain that a brief keyword or phrase will produce the desired article, you can try that:
  • Click on the “Create Kindle Book” button, and within a few seconds you will see a new screen with these buttons in the center of the display:
  • Click on the “download” button and note from your computer’s dialogue box (or a quick file search, for, in this case “Bernie_Carbo.mobi”) the location to which the downloaded file is being be served on your computer.
  • Transfer this “Bernie_Carbo.mobi” file to your Kindle either by sending it as an attachment to your @kindle.com email address (in which case Amazon will charge you 15 cents per megabyte rounded up and send the converted file to your Kindle via Whispernet) or, for free, by connecting your Kindle to your computer via USB, copying the saved file from your computer to the “documents” folder in your Kindle’s main directory via Finder, My Computer, or whatever file management program you use with your computer, and using the “Eject” Kindle command to disconnect the Kindle from your computer.
  • You should now find the Kindle-formatted “Bernie Carbo” book at the top of your Kindle’s Home screen if your Home display is organized to show all documents, most recent first:

As with any other Kindle book, click on “Bernie Carbo” and begin reading or let your Kindle read the content aloud to you. While reading, you’ll be able to click on any live web link such as the Baseball-Reference link shown here

to extend your research to, say, viewing Carbo’s lifetime stats:

Okay, if you are thinking that this great new research tool is going to curse you with an unmanageably long list or catalog of “books” on your Kindle, let’s revisit a Kindle Nation piece from March 9 (which referenced a Kindle Chronicles podcast from March 6) on A Brilliant Way To Apply Tags To Organize Your Kindle Content:

Amazon’s failure to provide user-defined content management folders or labels is one of the major disappointments offsetting the many improvements that we have seen with the Kindle 2, but a Kindle owner named Larry Goss has developed an elegant work-around system that allows him to “tag” any title on his Kindle. To hear his approach, check out the March 6 edition of Len Edgerly’s Kindle Chronicles podcast. Larry’s idea is detailed in the show comments section a little over two-thirds of the way into the podcast. The gist of it is that you can use any Kindle’s annotation feature to “tag” your content by genre, status, or any other qualifier as long as you create “words” that would not otherwise be found in your documents. For example, I might create two tags for science fiction novels on my Kindle, and thus annotate the first page of each either with SWSCIFIREAD or SWSCIFINEW, to signify Stephen Windwalker’s science fiction novels read or unread. Once the annotation is saved, books with a particular tag will display in the search results whenever you enter that tag. Yes, it is a work-around, but I hope you will agree that it is brilliant in its elegant, workable simplicity, and join me in thanking Larry and Len.

For my purposes, I just create a tag, er, annotation, at the beginning of each of these Wikipedia-based books. The first four letters are always “swkp” for “Stephen Windwalker Kindlepedia” and subsequent letters are the briefest and most simple tag for the content, so that for the Carbo content, I simply open the file on my Kindle, choose “Add a Note or Highlight” from the Menu, type in “swkp carbo,” and click on “save note” at the bottom of the dialogue box. Then I will find the content anytime by typing in “swkp carbo,” whereas typing in “swkp” will show me all my Wikipedia-based content and typing in “carbo” will show me all Carbo references on my Kindle. Fortunately, if I forget some of my own tags, I can also access them by selecting opening the “My Clippings” file on my Home screen.