Friday, May 22, 2009

Reading--Off the Page and Off the Screen

Here's my copy of Little Dorrit, part of The Complete Works of Charles Dickens, which I bought for a dollar at an auction in Connecticut, about 1980. One volume contained a German Christmas card, used as a bookmark, dated 1892. This has certainly been a good value, but little pieces of Little Dorrit fall off every time I turn a page, and my other Victorian novels (bought as secondhand paperbacks in the sixties and seventies) are in worse condition. Do I move these old wrecks into the new house? Do I replace them? Most are only available in paperback, or as hardbound sets of similar vintage to my Dickens volumes.

I'd like to rely on Project Gutenberg for my continued reading pleasure, but the computer screen is not comfortable reading. I have an eleven-year-old Linux laptop that I sometimes use to read Project Gutenberg books in html format, but it's heavy, gets hot, and the battery doesn't last long. It did represent my ideal price point, as I salvaged it from a junk heap. I probably won't find a bargain like that again.

That's why I've been eyeing eInk book readers for the last few years. A cute, lightweight, paperback-sized device that isn't backlit and can hold hundreds of text documents--it sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, there are plenty of drawbacks with what's been on the market so far. The various ebook readers have competing DRM's (Digital Rights Management systems), so you can't use books from one device on different hardware, or make backup copies of the (fairly expensive) books you buy. Some of the devices have features I can't use here in Pocahontas County (like the Kindle's wireless capability), and both books and devices are on the pricey side.

Nevertheless, I keep looking at what's available, and daydreaming. I should be daydreaming about drywall, and oriented strand board (OSB), and paint, as these are the items I will be purchasing soon....

  • Kindle: Amazon's 6" Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) Too pricey for me, and the elaborate wireless connectivity is useless in this part of the country. It'd sure be cool though, if money were no object....
  • Introducing Kindling, the Wireless Wooden Reading Device! Made me laugh out loud.
  • BeBook Review on's forums. This is one of several implementations of the Hanlin hardware. As far as I can see, BeBook handles the largest range of ebook formats, including pdf's and rss feeds.
  • BeBook homepage.
  • BeBook Mini, smaller, cheaper, and yet to come.
  • Coolreader uses the same hardware as BeBook, but reads fewer formats. They have their own (very expensive) e-bookstore, but they come in lots of pretty colors.
  • EZ Reader is another incarnation of the same hardware (any color as long as it's black)--a little more expensive than BeBook, and the software is not as well-explained on its product web page.


OfTroy said...

the high acid content of the paper is doing a slow burn..

if you really want to keep an old book, you have to neutralize the acid in the paper, (wash each sheet of paper with an antacid, let it dry, turn the page and repeat.)

archivist do it.. but its a PITA to do at home. how sad that books are so ephemeral.

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm old fashioned. I like books with pages made of paper. Maybe I'll get over it, I'll try.

Rick Lee said...

I got that "classics" app for the iPhone... read Robinson Crusoe on it and loved it. I also got the Kindle app for the iPhone... I have one book on it... I started it but I don't think I'm going to finish it... not the hardware's fault though. I'm thinking of getting my mother a Kindle. I heard that the average age of Kindle users is waaay up there. They like the fact that they can change the size of the font at will. My mother is having a lot of trouble reading. As soon as I made up my mind to get it, they announced that sometime they would come out with a larger one so I guess I'm waiting.