Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 13 February 2009

Ebook reader: progress report

It’s beginning to look more like a book. The MS of Gypsy Scholar, which Jinks and I have sweated over for two years, now resides on my swanky new Sony Portable Reader System alongside War and Peace, The Heart of Darkness and 98 other titles which came as freebies.

As explained, the aim is to read the MS as if I were a reader instead of an editor. I did the transfer yesterday and was ready to go but swimming pool water got into my goggles and left my eyes streaming. Some time this weekend, then.

How good is the machine? For me, optically as good as paper but it supplements rather than replaces books. Electronic things break and if you were in Timbuktu (excellent BBC4 programme last night about the ancient documents found there) you’d need print back-up. But ponder this. Suppose you were going foreign and needed your big 2½ kg dictionary. If it came as an ebook you could load it into the 255 gm Sony and still have room for Hamlet, The Rights of Man, Middlemarch, On the Origin of Species, Jungle Book, the complete Jane Austen, most of Dickens and le tout Ruth Rendell. In all 160 titles.

At the moment I’m spouting the press release; I need to use the thing. I checked title availability by Googling “ebooks” and turned up half a dozen, mainly university, sources. Project Gutenberg offers 27,000 free out-of-copyright titles. Copyrighted titles you pay for. If you want French books try Athena. On verra.

Latest: Just copied and transferred Rousseau's La nouvelle Héloise (via the Athena site) with no problems. Wonder what it's about.

7 comments:

Zhoen said...

You have resigned any residual Luddite status hereby.

Avus said...

Um... you are very convincing, BB and I can see its convenience. But I love the feel and smell of books - the pleasure of turning a page and finding something left or annotated by a previous reader - knowing that another hand and eye has been there before me, maybe decades previously

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: But suppose that earlier hand was the hand of an idiot? The sort that celebrates the discovery of a typo with a triumphant comment in the margin. Or, worse still, feels it necessary to register his outrage in a library book when he finds a naughty word in the text.

I can't pretend I'm romantic about the books themselves, only the contents. I prefer paperbacks to hardbacks but that's because I do a large part of my reading in the bath, although in more than sixty years I've never got a book wet.

As I said in the post I think the ebook reader has a complementary role especially when going on holiday (Let me hastily add, not in your forthcoming case. I'm sure HHB has a large and sufficiently varied library to keep you going if your luggage finds itself in Peru). But here are one or two things I've discovered: from now on I need never buy another "classic" book again, never another Dickens, Shakespeare, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, etc (or, more plausibly, all those authors who've been too iffy for me to bother buying in the past: Meredith, Pater, Gissing). I can store 160 books in a list I can delete and add to in minutes. The whole of French literature (in French) is available. Modern books I would have to pay for but I suspect the price will drop.

I can't match your pleasure in touching and feeling books but to buy the reader, get it to work, transfer the WIP MS to it, discover the free availability of many other books I might read - were tiny but significant pleasures. Books are vital to me and this is another way in.

I hope this doesn't sound offensively defensive. Let me add a final detail I've been meaning to pass on for some time. As you know Jean Behra was killed racing at your eponymous race track. Did you know he wore a prosthetic ear?

Plutarch said...

People who draw and paint sometimes hold their pictures up to a mirror to see it in a fresh light, and their work does often look remarkably different. Above all, the process reveals faults which your are otherwise not aware of. Tine has the same effect but the mirror is quicker. I think that you are doing something similar with your Sony reader.

Sir Hugh said...

I have just read about two hundred pages of an anthology on Environmental Ethics (this was a duty required for an informal literary group I attend). The book weighs about two and a half pounds and has a small type face in double columns. It was too heavy to hold up in the bath or in bed which only added to the difficulty imposed by it unnecessarily abstruse contents.

I was cured of lending books to people a long time ago after lending a nice little copy of Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World to a "friend" who did manage to drop in the bath.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: You've got it in one. There was a need to break out of reading the MS on the computer screen. I've now read about a third of it on the Sony and already I've picked up some incoherence in an early chapter that neither the author nor I had ever noticed before.

Sir Hugh: So "Sailing down the plug-hole". But it's not funny. Despite my impeccable record I would never read someone else's book in the bath.

Avus said...

I knew about Jean Behra's death at the Avus circuit but did not know about the prosthetic ear. (Time for the famous Michael Caine quote...) I wonder if the ear was a vanity or if it helped in his racing in some way?

I do fume at what you call "the hand of the idiot" in books and you have almost convinced me as to the viability of the Sony Reader.

I shall excavate HHnB's many bookshelves with great pleasure whilst in Oz.