FROM time to time,  people ask me how to  get a book published.  With great difficulty, I reply.

While everyone may think they have  a book in them, the little matter of  writing 80,000 words of fiction can  put many off.

Not everybody has those ambitions,  of course. Some may want to write  short stories, children's books,  poetry or their autobiography.  Anyone’s life story can be  fascinating because it is a slice of  the past. It may not make the best  seller lists, but it is a great asset to  any family history.

And as silver surfers now often  have access to computers, they  should get writing and record for  posterity the information and  family stories that will be lost for  ever once their  generation has gone.

Until recently, it really has been  difficult to get into print. Vanity  publishing companies will print a  set number copies for a fee, but this  can be expensive and unsatisfactory.

And just because they have printed  it, does not mean it will  automatically be seen in W H  Smith or Waterstone’s or on  Amazon. That’s up to you.

But digital technology is making  self-publishing easier than it has  ever been before. You may not sell  thousands of copies and retire to  the Bahamas on the proceeds, but  you can get a single copy of a book  published these days at a reasonable  price. Which is ideal for a short  print run or just half a dozen copies  of memories for members of the  family.

The two companies at the forefront  of this revolution are  and, inevitably, Amazon. Both offer  fairly simple instructions on how to  go about publishing your book  from your computer and are  transparent on pricing. Amazon  also offer the option of Kindle  publication.

Kindle is the Amazon brand name  for an e-book reader. There are  other types available, as well, but  the Kindle has taken the world by  storm. My daughters bought me  one for Christmas.

With a Kindle, you no longer have  to go to a book shop but can  browse on-line at the Amazon store,  pick your mystery or romance,  download it at less than the printed  version costs, and be reading it a  couple of minutes later.

I still prefer to handle books and  have them on my shelf, and there is  nothing like the feel of actually  opening the parcel from your  publisher and picking up your book  for the first time. But Amazon are  already selling more Kindle books  than paperbacks in the US and  their share of the market will  inevitably increase. I have a book  coming out in September and it will  be published in both print and  Kindle versions.

Let’s face it, the e-book reader is  the future.

The attraction of publishing a book  on Kindle is that it costs nothing.  Writers who have never been  published and want their work to  be read, can publish this way and  the Amazon site provides their  market place, both here and in  America. And if you haven’t got a  Kindle, you can download them to  your computer.

Some writers are so desperate for a  reaction that they offer their work  for free. I have tried a couple of  them and they are, unsurprisingly,  not very good.

Established thriller writer Stephen  Leather, however, offers a couple of  excellent tales for 49p each,  presumably as a loss leader so  readers will go on to buy his more  expensive works.

I’ve entered the Kindle market  myself with two thrillers – Deniable  Asset and The Heydrich Sanction  under my own name – and Flood, a  novel about the Holmfirth disaster  of 1852. This latter book – “passion  and disaster in 19th Century  England” – is under the pseudonym  Emma Cookson.

If you have a book you want to  publish, in print or Kindle, the  means are there. The instructions  are sometimes a little confusing and  you may have to go back a few  times to correct mistakes, but the  outcome can be fun and, as far as  Kindle is concerned, it’s free.

SHEILA Wrigley sent these  notices culled from around  the world in places where  the finer points of English  has not quite been grasped.
Cocktail lounge, Norway:  Ladies are requested not to  have children in the bar.
Doctors office, Rome:  Specialist in women and  other diseases.
Dry cleaners, Bangkok:  Drop your trousers here for  the best results.
In a Nairobi restaurant:  Customers who find our  waitresses rude ought to  see the manager.
On the main road to  Mombasa from Nairobi:  Take notice. When this sign  is under water, this road is  impassable.
Tokyo hotel’s rules and  regulations: Guests are  requested not to smoke or  do other disgusting  behaviours in bed.
On the menu of a Swiss  restaurant: Our wines leave  you nothing to hope for.  Hotel, Yugoslavia: The  flattening of underwear with  pleasure is the job of the  chambermaid.
Hotel, Japan: You are  invited to take advantage of  the chambermaid.
Advertisement for donkey  rides, Thailand: Would you  like to ride on your own  ass?
Airline ticket office,  Copenhagen: We take your  bags and send them in all  directions.
A laundry in Rome:  Ladies, leave your clothes  here and spend the  afternoon having a good  time.
In a cemetery: Persons  are prohibited from picking  flowers from any but their  own graves.

I’VE had my grumbles about  airports recently and John  O’Flaherty adds his two quid’s  worth. Literally.

“I was reading your column  about the airport. My wife  dropped me at Leeds/Bradford  and picked me up again a few  days later. Did you know that  they charge you £2 to get out  of the car park every time you  drop off and pick up?”

Which seems a bit  expensive to me, just for  dropping someone off.