Thursday, September 8, 2011

My History with eBooks

I’ve been in a lot of Twitter discussions on eBooks, but I have a history with eBooks that simply doesn’t fit in 140 characters. Every book I’ve read for pleasure since 1999 has been read in a digital form. It started when I bought a Handspring Visor in 1999. For those unfamiliar, it was a Palm operating system handheld device like the Palm Pilot, but not as expensive. There weren’t many places (if any) to buy eBooks back then, but there were newsgroups dedicated to digitizing books. Groups like alt.rec.books, alt.rec.e-book, etc. There was also software like Newsbot that would download the files from the newsgroup and put all of the parts together into a book. Files came in lots of different formats, but there were converters and eReader programs that could handle them. My preferred reader was iSilo (still available at 

I built up quite a large library. I had so many files that I could never keep up with weeding the duplicate copies of the same works. They did come in very handy for answering questions on the Stumpers listserv. I can remember a question about the first Bond book to use “Bond, James Bond” including a request for citation of page number. I searched all of the Bond books and found it. I quoted the section, but had to say it is on a page 37% into the book, since I didn’t have any page numbers. Someone got the book, saw 697 pages, did the math, turned to the page and was able to give a definite citation with page number.

There was another Stumpers question that I answered with a quote from my eBook, but one of the names was misspelled. Someone on the listserv responded with ‘that’s a horrible typo for a commercial product’ and I said, “Who said it was a commercial product?” 

That’s the part that will probably upset the most readers. These were books that were still in copyright that someone was scanning and OCRing. Just like folks were doing for Project Gutenberg, they were scanning their own books and posting them anonymously to newsgroups. 

The rest of the history is a little fuzzier. I know I eventually moved on to a Dell Axim which was a Windows Mobile OS handheld. The screen was better and in full color, but the reader and book source was still the same. Then came the iPhone and for the first time I was able to merge my handheld with my cell phone. At the same time, Nook and Kindle apps made buying eBooks a reasonable, efficient, & cheep option.

I’m still looking for a Library based lending service for eBooks that is simple and easy with lots of digital books. I’ve looked at Overdrive through the Maryland Library System, but the selection just isn’t there yet. I now have both an iPhone (version 4 at this writing) and an iPad (version 1). (We bought my wife the iPad 2 and I got the old version 1 as a hand me down.) I use the iPad only at home since it is wifi only, not 3G. I do love features in readers like Nook that open the book to the page I last read even when I change device. I always wondered why that was pushed as a feature, until I became someone that changes devices. I just didn’t think there were that many people doing that.

So now you know why I say I’m an expert eBook reader and incidentally some of the backstory of how we all got to be here today. I apologize to any author who didn’t get paid for the books I read. I would have paid you, but the means weren’t there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Can't we compromise anymore?

I am 50 yrs old, an Air Force veteran, a Government employee and registered as a Republican. If it was an option, that might be Tea Party. Many of you have just decided not to read the rest of this post, and that is the root of the problem.

My parents were Democrats and I declared myself as a Democrat until I got out of the Air Force. I changed because I kept seeing the Dems throw money at a problem, while the Reps seemed to have realistic solutions. I realize you and I may not see things the same way. That's OK with me; is it OK with you???

My Brother-in-Law teaches High School Civics in VA. He was one of the Electors (i.e. on the College of Electors) in the last presidential election. He admits to being a Yellow Dog Democrat. Defined as: If the Democratic Party put a yellow dog on the ballot, I would vote for it. 

I don't talk politics with that BiL because it doesn't matter. His mind is already made up, so any discussion can only fail. He's 60 and beyond changing. I recognize that, he recognizes that, and it is OK.

What about you? Is your mind still open to the possibilities? It seems to me that too many of our elected officials do not have open minds anymore. They are stuck toeing the party line and yes, they would vote for that yellow dog if that’s their party’s candidate. Unfortunately, we all suffer for their closed mindedness.

The recent problems with debt management had less to do with the conflict between increasing revenue vs. increasing the national debt and more to do with the inability to compromise. S&P didn’t lower our bond rating because we’re 15 trillion dollars in debt. They’re OK with that as long as we’re still paying our debts. The problem was the inability of Congress to resolve the discussion and actually agree to an answer.

Somehow the rest of us adults have identified compromise as a necessary component of human interaction. 
“What are we doing for dinner?” 
“I’m in the mood for Chinese.” 
“I was thinking about Italian.” 
“OK, let’s do Italian tonight and we’ll do Chinese tomorrow.”

What is wrong with Congress that they haven’t figured this out?