Monday, October 6, 2008

Kindle makes me read more…& why aren’t PD ebooks better?

Now entering my 3rd month with Kindle, I still have stock complaints about fairly obvious usability problems and missed opportunities for such a device, but nonetheless it is creeping into the category of “always in my backpack”. I’ve found it makes me read more, for 2 reasons that weren’t obvious to me when I started using it.

  1. When I have time, I can read for hours on end, but I have to switch among various titles to avoid saturation. Before, I had to get up and get a different book from the bookshelf (or beach bag, or whatever). With Kindle it takes seconds to switch to another title and I don’t have to exert myself. Yes, that sounds lazy.

  2. I spend a fair amount of time evaluating a book before deciding to read it; I read editorial reviews, customer comments on Amazon, etc. The “try before you buy” feature makes this even better since I can sample a chapter or so of the book, usually instantaneously.


I’ve also been downloading a lot of public domain ebooks by some of my favorite authors–Darwin, Sun Tzu, H.L. Mencken–but I’m baffled as to why the ebook-format versions of these aren’t better. Manybooks.net, and its mobile companionmnybks.net, distribute lots of Project Gutenberg ebooks in a variety of ebook formats. But the book metadata as translated fails to pull any structure out of a book, so you don’t have a navigable TOC or index, and certainly no intradocument links (even in documents converted from HTML that contain well-formed intradocument hyperlinks). In my copious free time I hope to do better on this–a modest goal would be converting an HTML document to ebook (.prc or .azw or .mobi) format while preserving internal links.

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