Reading books in this modern world...

I'll admit it.  I'm a technophile.  The more gadgety goodness I have in my life, the more exciting gadgets I want, and the more I think about the ways in which we can improve the functionality of the gadgets that are out there, setting arbitrary thresholds at which point I plan to dive into the technology, dreaming of the cool stuff we could do if only gadgets would do what I want them to.

I was a fairly early adopter to the whole e-book thing, though not at the very beginning of the technology's release, like I was with digital cameras (I bought an HP 0.3MP digital camera, with just a few MB of internal storage, back in the mid 90s).  I bought a Sony e-Reader PRS-505 on the day it was released.  I heard the rumor it was out, called the Sony Style store, left class as soon as possible and hightailed it over there just minutes before close.  I could rattle off the specs, but if you really care, you can just follow to the wikipedia article I linked for it.  It was a thing of great beauty and a tech toy of my dreams at the time.  I could download a book from their store, or load a .PDF, .DOC, or .RTF file on it with barely any effort at all.  I could have loaded .EPUB books on there too, but I had no source for those really.

I found a little app that would let me translate fanfics directly from the website they were on into the e-reader format, and little by little my collection of actual ebooks built up.  I even discovered that there was a sort of underground trade in books that people transcribed by hand from the original paper copy, including the warnings not to do so, and with the introductions of some typos... even OCR scans of books, which seem to have even more typos than the hand copied ones.

After a couple of years of using and loving it, it seems my son uses the e-reader more than I do. My job bought me an iPhone, and when that got old they bought me an HTC Evo.  Even though those screens are small, I seem to do 85% or more of my reading on that tiny little screen.  It's like the old saying in the photography business -- "The best camera for the shot is the one you have with you."  The best ebook reader is the one I have with me when I want to read.

Almost no matter where I am, I have my phone with me.  Got 5 minutes to fill waiting in line for lunch or at the bank?  Well that's a couple of pages.  Got a little bit of time waiting for a virus scan to run, or for an OS to finish installing?  That's a couple more pages.  Got a long drive and don't feel like watching the road?  Okay, I don't really read while operating a motor vehicle, no matter how much that guy at work swears he saw me doing it.

I read all 9 books of that Callahan's series I mentioned in the earlier post on my phone, and whatever series of books I pick up next will most likely be read there too.  That said, let me tell you about the tools I use in my pursuit of literary satisfaction.

On my Android phone, I use Aldiko, which is a very nice little free app.  There's apparently a "pro" version also, but I can't tell what the difference is, so I'm sticking with the free one for now.  When I was an iPhone user, I was a fan of Stanza, and I still use that on the iPad from time to time, though Apple's iBooks is pretty good too.  My favorite thing about Aldiko is the ability to use the volume control buttons to turn the pages forward and back -- great for reading with gloves on!

Since these are .EPUB readers, i occasionally have to convert a file over, and I mostly use the command line open source epub-tools to do those conversions, though if you're not a fan of the command line, Lexcycle, makers of stanza, have compiled a list of tools that you can try for yourself.  The advantage of using one of these reader applications and an epub source is that the application remembers what page you were on, even if you forget to plug the phone in and have to replace/recharge the battery.

While you're getting used to reading on the small screen, I recommend working up to it -- start out with a  collection of short stories and read a few pages here and there until you're accustomed to the screen size and the page flipping, work your way up to the bigger books.

I don't think I could go back to reading paper books in any serious way.  A physical artifact that requires me to carry it around?  I have too many of those already.

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