Reading Is An Investment In Thinking

December 31, 2008

The Long Decline of Reading

It takes hours to finish a book, even for the fastest readers. This wasn’t a problem when books had less competition, but with the three massive timesinks of cable TV, videogames, and the internet, people look at that massive time investment, and they get apprehensive. Sure, they know that books can be just as enjoyable as movies or games, if not more. They may even feel guilty about not reading. But what if this book is no good? What if I end up hating it? What if I can’t understand it? Imagine all the time wasted! And so they stop before they even start.

A long, detailed, and excellent article.

Strangely, public libraries aren’t mentioned at all.

Advertisements

The Horror Of Paper Books

December 31, 2008

This is a post I’ve kept putting off. Things happen.

Then Wayne MacPhail tweeted this photo he took inside a bookstore:

It gave me a feeling of absolute horror — and I knew the time had come to actually do this post.

There I was several months ago in a bookstore. One of the few still remaining in Manhattan that offers overstock at incredibly-reduced prices.

And I found a book I would have liked to have.

But I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.

I kept having flashbacks to all the times I’ve had to get boxes, put the books in boxes, carry the damned boxes, move the damn boxes, unpack the damn boxes, and again arrange the damn hundreds and hundreds of pounds of printed paper books.

That book would have been another pound to lug around. Another frikkin object hanging like an albatross around my neck, limiting my mobility, weighing me down, reminding me that it will remain when I’m gone.

Let me say again: I really wanted the book.

But I physically could not buy it.

I’ve developed a bizarre allergy to printed books — of the kind that are bought and owned and have to be moved around and that are always looked at and that are also a reminder of one’s mortality.

Library books I don’t have that problem with.

I can temporarily lug them home, even have a pile, read them, and then poof! back to the library they go.

But I want to own books.

I feel a guilt at not giving writers their rightful payment for reading.

Plus, with things being the way they are — and have been — I can no longer count on any public library having a copy of anything on its shelves. I once had to go to the Northern part of Manhattan just to read a short story by Barry N. Malzberg because only the City University had a back issue of the pulp magazine it was printed in!

This is another reason why I am an eBook militant.

I’ve never been a paper fetishist. My first collection of books were mass-market paperbacks. I never liked the size and weight of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. But I eventually amassed a collection of those too. I couldn’t help it: Publishing had changed and there was no longer a guarantee of anything in hardcover or trade paper moving down to cheap paperback!

But the book as an object I came to see for what it is: A cage for the words within it.

It’s the words — it’s always been the words — that interested me. Never the packagaing, never the jail the words were locked-up in.

I can’t be the only one out there who feels a sense of material liberation with eBooks.

Recently, a writer I’ve written about in this blog left a Comment offering to ship me a whole big bunch of books I’d blogged about. I never published that Comment because I couldn’t explain why I couldn’t accept more printed books. Even free ones. Even free ones from a writer whose work I admire!

So, this post has been something I’ve needed to do, in reply to that writer.

And to also explain why I have come to absolutely hate printed books.

Yes: But they’re better weapons as eBooks!


ECTACO jetBook: Built-In WiFi Coming?

December 30, 2008

I’m asking ECTACO directly about this.

I got a bit of a shock with YahooMail moments ago. Not one of their usual useless banner ads. This one was aimed right at me:


Composite image. Click = big.

Of course I had to click on that M218!


Click = big

I knew as of last night that this was being sold in China. I never thought it’d be sold here in America.

And yet here it is listed on ECTACO’s American store!

This is the paragraph to note, the built-in WiFi and its unique feature:


Click = big

The text of that:

With built in high-speed Wi-Fi, Chinese eBook reader M218B can easily connect to wireless network. Then you can immediately search and download numerous eBook, Pdf files and music. Another exciting feature of Chinese eBook reader M218B is that it supports end-to-end transmission. You can copy and exchange files, music, picture with another user, who can be your friend or just another “eBook-pal”.

Emphasis added by me.

I can hear the nascent heart attacks of the dying dinosaurs of print out there!

Alas, the beauty photo of the M218 highlights the calculator-like nature of its screen, and not its ability to be mistaken for eInk under direct lighting:

But I have to wonder: Will ECTACO be releasing an English-language jetBook version of this?

Would WiFi then justify its $299 price tag? Well, not just WiFi — but its upcoming ePub and MobiPocket capability too!

An ePub/MobiPocket WiFi eBook reader would suddenly help shake things up.

Both Amazon and Sony would have a formidable new competitor, I think.

Previously here:

ECTACO jetBook And ePub
Eejit Geeks. Things Should Just Work!
Micro Fondle 2: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
ECTACO jetBook Ups ePub Stakes
ECTACO jetBook At Blowout Price!
More About That ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
Micro Fondle: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader


eBooks Search Milestone

December 30, 2008

Five of the ten terms that have led people to this blog (at WordPress) today are eBook-related:

This has special significance because this is the holiday gift-giving aftermath.

I’ve already seen stats in search for this blog this week that show an incredible number of people got either an iPhone or iPod Touch as gifts. The number towers over those for the Sony Reader — but the Sony Reader has not given up the fight yet and has made a consistent good showing.

Dying dinosaurs of print: You better heed this milestone and amp up eBooks to Setting 11 in 2009.


Free eBook By Ken Wohlrob

December 30, 2008

“Happy Bus” now available as a free eBook for iPhone, Sony Reader and more.

I’m proud to announce that I’ve made “Taking the Happy Bus on Home,” a short story from my collection The Love Book, available as a free eBook for the iPhone, Sony Reader, Kindle and a just about every other device on the planet.

At FeedBooks for ePub, Mobipocket/Kindle, PDF, Sony Reader, iLiad, Custom PDF (the last option requires registration; all others do not):

One of the short stories from Ken Wohlrob’s new collection, The Love Book. An epidemic of suicide hits a retirement community in Ohio and one couple begins to question the value of their final days together. These are very modern fables, with a great heart, a very biting sense of humor, and fully-fleshed out characters that you can sink your teeth into.

Buy a copy of the book or learn more about the author at www.kenwohlrob.com

iPhone/iPod Touch users can grab it using Stanza. See details here.


ECTACO jetBook And ePub

December 30, 2008

My curiosity won’t let me rest, of course.

I found out the jetBook is also in China, called the Dr. Yi. (I don’t, however, know if this means the jetBook is of Chinese creation. But I wouldn’t be surprised.)


Of particular interest to me is this:

CPU: ARM9 200MHz

Because look at this for the Sony Reader 505:

CPU: Freescale i.MXL, ARM920T core, 150-200 MHz

That says to me the jetBook should have the horsepower needed to deal with ePub files. I had been wondering about that.


Reference: GutenMark

December 30, 2008

GutenMark Home Page
Attractively formatting Project Gutenberg texts

What is GutenMark?

GutenMark is a command-line tool for automatically creating high-quality HTML or LaTeX markup from Project Gutenberg etexts. As of April 2008, there is also a graphical front-end called GUItenMark that greatly simplifies usage for casual users. Both Windows and Linux ‘x86 are supported. Mac OS X is also supported, though in some respects it lags the others. Limited iPhone support is also possible.

In combination with other freely-available conversion tools GutenMark aims to convert Project Gutenberg etexts into publication-quality Postscript or PDF, for print-on-demand applications. The goal is for this conversion to be completely automatic, without manual markup or editing, but for the forseeable future some manual intervention will almost always be needed—at least, if your standards are at least as high as mine.

I took the Project Gutenberg plain text file of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and ran it through this.

Amazingly, this:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.

was transformed to this:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.

As it should be!

I was impressed with the available options and did some light testing. It could be a very useful tool for Project Gutenberg etexts that have only a plain text version available.

On the other hand, I also downloaded the Project Gutenberg HTML of the same Holmes and it was superior.

But this tool remains a very painless way of changing those text files into a format that can then go on to further processing to create an eBook.