Tuesday, January 24

The future of the e-book

The Wall Street Journal Online discusses the future of the e-book focussing on the new Sony Reader.
They suggest that the failure of the e-book to catch on has been the lack of any "user-friendly way to read e-books" and that people do not enjoy reading on a computer screen. WSJ refers to the 17000 available free downloads from Gutenberg.org although it does not mention that they are mostly not in a suitable format for use on book-style devices, i.e. handheld computers.
They omited to mention that reading e-books on a device such as a Palm is in many ways superior to reading paper books, especially when it comes to reading large texts such as the Gutenberg classics.
  • having a small amount of text on a small screen prevents you from losing your place when reading
  • scrolling is smoother than page-turning
  • an e-text always re-opens exactly where you were last reading
  • you can search the text for any word you need, so in Freud you can search for "dream", "unconscious", etc.
  • who reads one book at a time? Take them all with you with an expansion card.
  • on public transport you can read downloaded texts from the web, or short text fragments such as Nietzsche's aphorisms from Gutenberg.org or another peice of a long text without losing your place (bad luck car drivers)
  • copy and paste good quotes into your email or research text, blog etc
  • carry only one device which can serve as phone, email, camera and book)
So why haven't they caught on?
The Sony Reader has a larger screen and fewer functions than a Treo. It looks more like a book. Are people just conservative when it comes to reading and want more of what they are used to?
It seems that most people have not tried reading e-books on the appropriate device. Or they have not found a good source of free books and free software to display and convert them. Universities and schools do not require their students to read e-texts or demonstrate their advantages. Most teachers do not know.
Sony will market e-books with their Reader. Perhaps the market can turn text consumers on to the books they offer, better than educators have been able to get their students to use highly functional reading technology to do research.

Friday, January 20

Wikipedia despite legal action

If you are having trouble accessing the German version of Wikipedia which has had to curtail its internet presence for legal reasons, you can also download the off-line version of Wikipedia.de from here. So if you can't get online access to this massive source of information, you can always have the off-line version on your pda.
The problem is caused by legal action concerning the hacker
Boris Floricic whose parents are involved in a court case against the German Wikipedia. Floricic died in unclear circumstances

Monday, January 16


Wikipedia is now available for off-line use on a Palm. At present only the German version is available. The Mobipocket-Wikipedia-Version can be downloaded and requires Mobipocket installed on your computer and Palm. More information can be found at Wikipedia (German).
The download takes over an hour (broadband) and to transfer it onto the Palm also takes this long. Make sure you have a large expansion card to put it on and set up the transfer accordingly.
The off-line wikipedia is an amazing source of information wherever you are. It offers thorough information about a huge range of research topics which you can access wherever you have your Palm with you.

More ebooks

Another source of free e-books is manybooks.
A lot of the books in the Gutenberg collection are available there in various formats for loading onto a palm so they do not require conversion from the Gutenberg text format.

Saturday, January 14

Converter downloads

New download files are now available for the converter. A Windows version which will install the programme on your computer is available here (290 Kb). A cross platform executable jar file, which will execute when you click on it and which you can locate wherever you prefer is available here (7 Kb). The zip file is still available as before here (7 Kb).

Friday, January 13

Aphorisms by Nietzsche

Aphorisms are an ideal form of text to read on a palm. They are short and contain compact information. In a café, you can read an aphorism while waiting for a cup of coffee or a friend. Good aphorisms provide great content for reflection.
Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil is a book of aphorisms with universal and timeless relevance. It is a classic text whose ideas remain contemporary and are discussed in many contexts.
Beyond Good and Evil and the German original Jenseits von Gut und Böse are both available for free download at Gutenberg.org. They are only in text format so they need to be converted before they can be read on a palm.

Tuesday, January 10

Ebooks: Converter for Gutenberg Text Documents

Gutenberg.org is a great source for classic texts with thousands of books available for download. The only problem with them for ebook readers is that they are mostly in a text format which cannot be loaded easily onto a PDA. They will transfer over, but are not suitably formatted and hard to navigate. Lines are of odd length. Scrolling goes line by line.
So I have written a Java programme which will convert Gutenberg text files into well-formatted html. Download it. Then start it by clicking on the gutenberg.jar file. Follow the on screen instructions.
To use the converter, Java needs to be installed on your computer. It can be downloaded from Sun.
The obstacle with Gutenberg text files is that they have a paragraph marker at the end of every line. This interferes with any attempt to simply paste them into an html editor or to make a pdf out of them.
The converter removes these unwanted carriage returns and reformats the text into an html document which you save on your computer. The etext then has all the features of html.
Using Plucker, these html files can be read on your Palm or Treo. Easy navigation, searching and bookmarking are some of the features. Use Plucker on your palm with Sunrise Desktop on your computer for synchronisation. Sunrise also requires Java.