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.

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