I recently bought a Kindle 3, which I have to say is a great device. I had been eyeing up the various eBook readers availably in the UK for some time, but that was the one that finally offered the right combination of price and quality for me to take the plunge.

However I’m probably the type of customer that Amazon most dislikes: the sort that never buys a book.

My main reason for buying an eBook reader was as a practical way to make my way through some of the many out-of-copyright classics that are in the public domain. Well-known sci-fi and fantasy staples such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Time Machine are all available for free download (along with tens of thousands of other texts, across all genres) from sites like Project Gutenberg. Many of these, in turn, have been formatted for eBook readers and are available for free from sites like ManyBooks, Feedbooks, and numerous others. Throw in the excellent Calibre to manage them (plus my instructions for getting Calibre to work with the Kindle 3 on Ubuntu 10.04), and an eBook reader quickly pays for itself over buying even the cheapest print versions of these free texts.

I’ve tried reading such classics on computers in the past – directly viewing Gutenberg ASCII files on a desktop monitor (not great), using FBReader on a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet (better, but still not great), and in small digestible chunks via email courtesy of DailyLit (quite a good option, actually). But none of these compare to the ease of reading a printed page.

That’s where eBook readers excel. The E-Ink screens they use are unlike any LCD or CRT you’ve ever used, and are the closest you can get to the clarity and readability of print, short of putting ink on paper. If you’ve dismissed eBook readers in the past simply because you don’t like reading off a computer screen, then you really should have a look at one in the flesh – it might just change your mind.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that the first thing I read on the Kindle was HG Wells’s classic, The War of the Worlds.

The trouble is that I’ve been spoiled by growing up hearing the best-known parts of Jeff Wayne’s musical version, making it impossible to read the opening passage without hearing Richard Burton’s voice (not a bad thing), and replacing Ogilvy’s words with the musical’s chorus singing their approximate equivalent (not a good thing). The worst part was mentally hearing the synthetic whistles and whoops of the Martian’s leitmotif with every passage that described them.

So in an effort to excise this demon, I’ve clearly sought inspiration from both the original book and the musical in writing this comic strip, and the second part to follow in a couple of weeks. However, there’s a very good chance that you’ll spend the rest of the day with the melodic refrain of “the chances of anything coming from Mars…” popping into your head with annoying regularity. Sorry about that.

Cette bande dessinée est aussi disponible en français
This comic is also available in French

Click here to download the SVG source for this comic

↓ Transcript
[Caption: No one would have believed in the opening years of the twenty-first century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than a Grey's and yet as mortal as his own]

[Scene shows two Greys watching an incoming shooting star]

G2: What do you think it is, Ogilvy — invaders from Earth?

G1: The chances against anything Greylike on Earth are a million to one

[Caption: But still they come…]

[Scene shows The Greys standing next to a NASA Mars Rover of the Spirit/Opportunity design]