eBooks and Reading

I recently wrote on working with Apple’s various ways of syncing with iTunes, and how it can work better. One of the apps I neglected to mention, was iBooks, because I work with eBooks differently. Here’s why. 

Ever since childhood, I have loved the printed word and have read many genres for my own entertainment and education. I have fallen in love with the covers of books when I walked through the library and I love the smell of new books. My father strongly encouraged reading and always had books laying around. Much of it was the science fiction that today I love the most. He could blitz through a novel in a day, while I have always slowly enjoyed the physical contact with books.

Working as computer lab attendant at Pennsylvania State University back in my youth, one day I came upon a computer at the attendants desk, where X-Windows was running and the XMosiac web browser had been left open. I previously had experience with Gopher, the web’s much older and uglier cousin, but this looked so much better. I spent the whole shift playing with this newly discovered software. Since first experiencing the World Wide Web that day in 1993, I used the web to educate myself on Linux and HTML, which lead to landing my first job in the fall of 1994 in Warren, NJ as a junior systems administrator. I have not let go of the digital word since then, using it to further myself in any direction I can.

This is what my book shelves looked like in 2008. I saw someone put these together and post a photo, and I immediately ran out to Ikea and spent $1000 on shelves.
There were many more in the basement in boxes I’d not opened since my move in 1994. And yes, almost all of that had been read. Though this is no longer the case.

In April 2010, about to have gall bladder removal surgery in May, I knew I was going to need to be in bed for much more than the usual hours of slumber, and wanted to spend the three weeks I expected for full recovery going through numerous books. I had experienced O’Reilly’s Safari online ebook service many years before, and I found I read much faster in non-paper format (I hate audio books BTW). I’d been through years of hard bound books, had been looking at ebook readers such as Sony’s Reader for a number of years, but waited because the technology was still new and slow. I tried a number of ebook readers in the stores over this time, did my research, waited for prices to come down, got advice from friends, and finally purchased a pair of what were then new Gen 2 Kindles, one for me and one for my fiancee. I unboxed the units that had arrived quickly, along with the cool skins we got to decorate them, bought a number of books we’d wanted to read from the Amazon website, and waited shortly for Whispersync to do its thing over the free 3G. Amazingly, all my books were there and I was ready to go under the knife. I spent those weeks reading to my heart’s delight and really enjoyed those ebooks.

Since then I’ve gone through countless books on that Kindle. I have a large collection of ebooks in PDF and Mobi and Epub formats backed up. However, one disconnect remains in all this. While I love the idea of having a centralized place for all my ebooks, PDFs look terrible on this Kindle. I also don’t have a way of picking up those non-Amazon books from my collection that I read on the Kindle and continuing on the Mac.

It seems like this may be something I can do in the new iBooks for Mac, but it is not available on the PC. This leaves Apple out of the game since I cannot reference books from that collection while I am at work on Windows.

I may be able to do this with the Kindle mobile and desktop apps on these various platforms, but the Send To Kindle app only works for free with the new Kindle fires and I am not about to invest in an android device (though we did get those for the kids last Christmas, on sale). For anything on Whispernet, Amazon charges per upload.

Since I’m notoriously cheap, I need a third-party way to sync books and the current point read in each, regardless of platform, preferably using a common app for Android, iOS, Mac and PC. It may just be time to retire my non-wifi Kindle, though. 😦  Most of all it’s probably time to switch to an iPad where I can also get the Kindle app, upload my docs with the Send To Kindle app, and just use that to reference my docs at home and work. Why wouldn’t I just buy another Kindle of that series, now called PaperWhite? Because I have to move beyond devices that are just ereaders, and I need a full tablet. The battery life of even the old Kindles is amazing, but their functionality hasn’t changed much. The marketing on this is, of course, aggressive and misleading.

What to do? I have a lot of choices of where I can keep those bookshelves and more in a space thinner than a paperback. And that’s not a bad problem to have. eBooks don’t feel like actual books when you hold them, or fan through them, or smell them, or look at an iconic cover. But they are super portable and can replace an entire room of shelves. I can’t wait for the day where we will finally see Steve Wozniak dream of the 256GB memory iPad! Keep reading, keep reading.


3 thoughts on “eBooks and Reading

  1. Yep, you are reading this right. It’s actually quite easy now to get Kindle books on Nook color and have both eBook stores available to you on a single device. This is possible because Nook Color is more of an entry level Android tablet than a dedicated eReader. As it comes out of the box it just happens to start the Nook application by default and not let users run anything else.

  2. I’m seriously looking at the Google Play Books apps. It has a central store for keeping all the books and reading them from various platforms. There is a limit of 1000 books, though. iBooks still requires syncing on your computer for your personal ebooks. I’ll take a look at Amazon’s Kindle limits next…

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