Saturday, January 30, 2010

e-books (part 2)

There does seem to be one use where an e-book (on a small device with a backlit screen) is handier than a paper book -- reading in bed. It's small, it glows, and it keeps your place if you fall asleep holding it.

And because it can lie flat and you can scroll through the pages with one finger, it's good for reading at the table, too. (Just avoid greasy finger foods if you don't want to smear the screen.)

Monday, January 18, 2010


I've been trying to give e-books a try, really I have. I can't justify paying the price of a dozen or so hardbacks for a machine to do what can be done for free with a lamp or a sunny window, but the library has e-books that can be read on a home computer and now there's a free Kindle reader for the iPhone.

Actually, I've been reading e-books since the early days of CD-ROMs. One of the earliest apps for the new (and at that time still very slow) format was a CD full of plain-text public domain works. And as any follower of this blog knows, I'm a big fan of Project Gutenberg. The difference with the new systems is that they include new books. And they scroll from side to side instead of up and down.

Supposedly, e-books are cheap, around ten bucks a pop. But that's not truly cheap to someone who remembers 65-cent paperbacks. For that matter, I strongly resist paying anything to read any book just once. I pay money for books I want to keep -- for the rest of my life, and be able to pass down to any great-grandkids I might have in the future. So for e-books I need to find modern books I'll want to read over and over, but only in the next few years. Or things I'd like to have a second, portable copy of. The problem is, every time I think of such a title, it turns out not to have an e-book version. Or it's one of the over-ten-dollars books.

The public library subscribes to netLibrary, which allows patrons to check out books to read on their home computers for a limited time. Sounds like a good deal, except that they have next to nothing I want to read even once -- except for public domain titles I can read at Gutenberg without the hassle of signing in, and download to keep for more than two weeks. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but browsing for books less than a year old brought up nothing at all, and I couldn't find any fiction, either.

So for now I'll go back to reading Poe's "The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal" for free online.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

brevity is the soul of ...

... broadband being down.
(sent from a cell phone, which is awkward to type on)