Readers who know me, or who have followed this blog, will know that, although I read a lot, I rarely buy books. For printed books, there is the library. For my Kindle, I look for free books, and that has generally meant that most of my downloads have been of out-of-copyright classics: I’m currently wading through The Complete Works of Anthony Trollope, for which I actually paid $2.99, but it was worth the price for nearly 50 MB of content including 47 novels, short fiction, plays, and assorted nonfiction, mostly pretty well formatted, with illustrations. The only real downside is that I never have any idea where I am in any given novel because the percentages are given for the entire file, of which I’ve currently read 16%.
In my pre-Kindle days, in preparation for a trip out of town, I would have swung by the Friends of the Fairhope Public Library’s used bookstore and picked up a handful of cheap paperbacks, preferably detective novels. Now, instead, I keep my eyes on the Facebook postings from Pixel of Ink and grab free Kindle books that look promising. Since June 2 I have grabbed eight free Kindle books and read six of them. For the most part, they were worth about what I paid for them; in a couple of cases, they were worth less (one started out so unpromising that I gave up on it, and another I finished even though it made me very uncomfortable). Even the ones that were engaging and well written suffered from moderate to severe need of copy editing. Only one—The Dirty Parts of the Bible—was a total standout in content, style, book design, and freedom from errors. I can recommend it without qualification.
But there was one other Kindle book that I took with me on my vacation, and I took the Kindle version only because the hard copy would not arrive until I got back. That was Jay Freedman’s Microsoft Word 2013 Plain & Simple. It was not a bad book on the Kindle, but the printed book is much more readable and far more convenient as a ready reference, which it is ideally suited to be. If you are a novice Word user, you will find the step-by-step, illustrated instructions in this book very clear and easy to follow, and probably 90% of the content of the book is also applicable to Word 2007 and 2010—and much of it to earlier versions as well. Full disclosure: The book (both copies) was supplied to me by the publisher at the author’s request, and I was very grateful to get it and am more than happy to be able to say nice things about it. Jay is a fellow Word MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional) whom I’ve considered a friend for ten years or more. There is hardly any better way to get a broad understanding of the Word application than to, day in and day out, answer questions from users in all walks of life and areas of business, with varying requirements and a wide range of familiarity with the program, and I have always admired Jay’s ability to explain Word in terms that users can understand. That ability is put to excellent use in this book.
I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’ve constantly been astonished by the completeness of its content. My experience with Word/Office books in the past has always seemed to be that they were very general—often more likely to boast of all the things Word could do than to tell you how to actually do them—and never seemed to answer the specific questions I had. Not this book. In addition to the basics on each page—one simple procedure with numbered steps, each step identified on a screen shot—there are colored boxes for TIPS (green), TRY THIS (red), CAUTION (orange), and SEE ALSO (blue). And Jay includes keyboard shortcuts (when available) for every command that is accessed from the Ribbon or a menu. Only very rarely have I seen him miss one (Alt+Shift+O to open the Mark Table of Content Entry dialog, for example), and so far I’ve found only one typo (“tab atops” for “tab stops” in a heading on page 186), and, coming from a copy editor, that is high praise.
The cover bills the book as “Your easy, colorful SEE-HOW guide!” It is certainly colorful. Each chapter has a colored stripe at the top of each page, the colors keyed to blocks in the table of contents, making specific material easier to locate—and just generally making the book more cheerful and attractive. It is a delight to look at and a pleasure to read, and I’m actually learning quite a bit. As I say, I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I also haven’t yet gotten around to installing Word 2013, and this book is definitely whetting my appetite!