Laptop & Coffee

Author and Blogger, Val Portelli, shares her experience of using technology over several decades to offer advice to technology users of all ages.


Ebook Reader

Did you know that as well as downloading eBooks from Amazon, you can also send personal files to your kindle? This could be a word document you have received via email, or, particularly useful for authors, a copy of your own book so you can see how it looks. First you need to go into your Amazon account and ‘accept’ the email address from the recipient. This is to prevent your Kindle being bombarded with spam. Then, send an email to your Kindle address which is usually something like ‘,’ attach the file and subject to gremlins, it should appear on your kindle in the same way as a downloaded purchased book.


using a ruler
Working with Laptop

What’s the first thing you need to do as an Indie author before uploading your manuscript? No, don’t start typing yet. Your first job is to set up the layout of the page. Set your margins, page size (possibly 5 x 8) and then you will have a more accurate page count for your manuscript.

‘Page break’ means the next block of text will begin on a new page (useful for chapters). ‘Section break’ splits up the text into the ‘bumf,’ (acknowledgements, copyright and so on), from the main story. This is particularly important when allocating page numbers for paperbacks so Page 1 becomes the first page of the interesting bit, and not the blank page at the beginning.

Formatting for paperback and for eBook are two very different animals. Although this will probably be out of date by the time you read it as technology moves so quickly, it is worth keeping two separate files, one for paperback, one for eBook. Online books don’t like spaces, tree books do.

Facebook and Social Media

Digital social media
Working Coffee

Another two-edged sword. I have learnt more geography from having friends on the other side of the world than I ever did siting in a classroom. My local groups keep me better informed on what is going on in my area than waiting for the local paper ever could. Avoiding a certain road because of an accident, finding a trusted tradesman, and seeing genuine comments on restaurants all make modern hectic life easier.

Everyone has to start somewhere, but check out friend’s requests carefully before accepting. Remember, once they are your friend, they can access your other friends’ posts and spread their venom if they are not genuine. An older person with few friends might look suspicious as they tackle modern technology, but you can learn a lot about them from looking beyond the initial profile. Even if you don’t like cats, their membership of the RSPCA and local cat charities can give you an insight into whether they would be suitable friends.

The main thing to remember is if you feel the slightest twinge of uncertainty, even if you don’t know why, it’s your prerogative to decline the request. Better safe than sorry and if, over time, you learn more about them and change your mind, you can always approach them at a later date.

Skype and Facetime

Father and daughter at computer

On a brighter note, how wonderful that Grandparents can connect with their family who have immigrated to other countries, and remotely watch the next generation growing up. Perhaps not quite as good as an actual hug, but a vast improvement on the snail-mail occasional photo from their first day at school or graduation.

Love it or hate it, technology is here to stay. Learn to use it to your advantage, but as those old enough to remember the programme will say, ‘Be careful out there.’

Sometimes known by the pen name 'Voinks', Val Portelli has published a wide variety of books and short stories. You can find out more about her work by clicking on the titles below.

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