Tag Archives: ebook readers

Free Books, or: Bookworm’s Pleasures on the Internet

img_20161231_102332153I got a new Kobo for my birthday, as the one I’d bought myself six years ago is in the process of giving up its electronic ghost. You can read all about that one here – it’s one of those older (brand-new released at the time) non-touch-screen ones that don’t really do anything but display books. My new one doesn’t do much else either, it just does it faster and with a built-in sidelight. Actually, pardon me – one thing it does do that the old one didn’t is make it possible to borrow ebooks straight from the library, via its wifi connection.

You see, that’s one of the great things about an ebook reader: getting library books at any hour of the day or night you darn well please. Like right now, my local library is closed for the holidays, but I’m still merrily downloading books to my Kobo. (A big reason I chose a Kobo, i.e over a Kindle is that it allows you to get library books, which a Kindle won’t, at least not here.)

But you don’t have to have an ebook reader to do that mad midnight murder mystery acquisition. Any computer, tablet or smartphone has the possibility of downloading free ereader software – the Kindle App, the Kobo App (all of which designed to get you buying from their websites), and – my favourite – Overdrive (which is the program that allows you to borrow books from libraries – both “print” ebooks and audiobooks – but also read books from other sources). Plus, most phones/tablets/computers come with built-in ebook software – Google Play Books is the one I got on my phone, for example, and Apple devices come with iBooks.

Even quite aside from the wonders of library downloads, there are treasure troves of books out there on the internet – for free, and for keeps. I’m not even talking about all the great perma-free indie books you can get; Amazon and Kobo and the other ebook vendors abound with free books (like Seventh Son – you know, just sayin’). No, there are websites out there where you can get more free books than you can read in a lifetime. We’re talking the classics here, books that are in the public domain, and other wonders.

That’s right, free. Austen, Dickens, Brothers Grimm, BrontĂ«, the Oz books, Trollope, Andrew Lang, L.M. Montgomery, Chesterton, Sherlock Holmes – to just mention a few that I loaded up my new Kobo with – all yours for the collecting, with just a few clicks. Pretty awesome, right?

So here, without further ado, are some of my favourites of those sites (click on the names for the links):

Project Gutenberg: over 50,000 free books (!) in the public domain. Extremely easy download for epub, Kindle, plain text, html…

Mobile Read: a community of people who’re into, well, e-reading. They have an ever-growing library of books (again, numbered in the tens of thousands) that members put in the collection for free download. A lot of them are the same as the Gutenberg.org ones, but nicer – better cover images, cleaner formatting, less front matter etc.; they also have languages other than English. In fact, Mobile Read is the first place I look when I want a classic for download to my Kobo. Quite incidentally, this is also the go-to site for any e-reading support. The good people in the discussion boards have been invaluable in helping me learn to drive my ereader.

Librivox: this is audiobooks – crowd-sourced, as it were. Volunteers from all over the internet record themselves reading public domain books, and upload it to the site. Thanks to Librivox, I finally fulfilled my long-held good intention of getting through some of the Victorian writers like Dickens and Trollope. I like getting both the audiobook and ebook of the same title, and listening to it while I do boring housework, then flipping to the print when I have time to sit down. You’ll need to download the Librivox App to listen, but it’s quite painless and works well.

There are other places where you can get books, of course, but as I said, those are my favourites, with the most extensive selections, so I wanted to share it.

Life, the Universe, and Free Ebooks. What’s your favourite ebook site?

 

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Smartphone

smartphoneI have arrived! In the Twenty-teens, that is. That’s right: I got a smartphone. Hey, come on, it’s just 2015; I’m only about five years behind the times.

Okay, okay, I was never an early adopter – the only reason we got a computer when we did (1996, refurbished machine with Windows 3.1. I know, right?) was that I happen to be married to a nerd who figured it would be useful for business purposes sometime down the line (it was). And then we got on the Internet in 1997 because we signed up to an online homeschooling program that loaned us a fully-loaded computer complete with dial-up net connection. I can still hear that crreeech-bip-bip-bop-beep-bip sound of the modem when it was dialling. The password was an eight-letter string of gobbledigook which we memorised because we had to type it in every time we went online, for anything.

Other than that, the earliest adoption of new technology was my Kobo ebook reader – I got that in the fall of 2010, when ebook readers were the new & hot thing. And the only reason I got it then was that I wanted something other than a computer screen to read pdf’s on for school (I was still in undergrad at that time). Turned out the Kobo is lousy for pdf’s, but great for reading actual books – so I got sucked into using new technology sort of by a side road.

That’s what happened with the smartphone, too. I’ve had a cell phone for a year or two longer than the ebook reader, but it’s always been just a little flip phone – you know, a cellular telephone. It made phone calls. Ever heard of those? You talk into this hand-held device. With words, in your voice. Audio. That’s about all that phone did; you couldn’t get Google Maps on it or anything. Oh, it did have an alarm clock. And you could do texting on it, for a given value of “texting” (t-de-wx-t-ghi-mn-g, like that). Actually, it’s the texting that made me want to get a new phone; I just wanted some method of doing that more easily, as there are some friends who are most readily reached that way.

So with some birthday-gift money I had, I got myself the next-to-cheapest not-flip-phone my provider was offering, and well, it’s a smartphone. With, you know, Android and stuff. I didn’t even really know what that meant, and had no idea that those not-flip-phones come with (ooh, aah!) wi-fi, so you can do all that smart stuff even if you aren’t paying through the nose for a data plan. That’s right – I can do smartphoney things, even though I have no phone data plan, just some pre-loaded minutes on the phone that allow me to call home to find out if we need milk, or if we already own a copy of Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. I can use my cheap phone minutes for dumbphone activities while I’m out, and do all those browsery smartphone things at home or wherever there’s free wi-fi.

So there I was, all of yesterday, learning smartphoney skills. The first apps I downloaded, of course, were e-book reader software (Kindle and Overdrive). Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading A Tale of Two Cities, in waiting rooms and what-not, if I have it in my pocket on the phone – that book has been on my to-read list for several years now. I should see if I can download it to the phone – or is that upload, if it’s coming from my computer? See, I don’t even have the terminology straight…

Once again I’ve been pulled through the back door into adopting new technology. I got a device for one purpose, and found it could do cool other stuff I hadn’t really looked for. And once you get used to the cool new technology, you don’t want to be without it. Well, mostly. Fancy cable TV, we’ve adopted and then un-adopted several times so far; it was just not worth it. The smartphone, though, I have a sneaking  suspicion will be a keeper, even if it does mean I can no longer look down my long luddite nose and feel superior because I can make do with a flip phone. But you have to make sacrifices somewhere.

Life, the Universe, and My New Smartphone. Welcome to the Twenty-Teens.

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Luddism and Ebook Readers

booksI ran across another one of those articles the other day. You know the ones – “Social Media Are Destroying Our Connections To Real People!” “Computers Rot Your Brain!” “If You Don’t Feel Guilty About Your Use of Technology Yet, Here’s Why You Should!” This particular one is entitled “Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books“, and takes a dig at ebook readers. Granted, this article is a lot better than the last one I read on the subject, which cited a study that said we read differently on a screen than on a page (we skip around on a screen, as opposed to the “linear” reading we do on a static page), and then concluded from that that you shouldn’t read books on your Kindle (because a Kindle has a screen). D’uh. Apparently the authors of that particular article haven’t ever actually looked at an ebook reader, particularly the e-ink ones like Kindle or Kobo – it looks exactly like a paper page, you don’t scroll or jump around visually. Just line after line of text, and then you “flip the page” with a touch of a button or a swipe of your finger.

Anyway, this article I read this morning actually has some interesting info: they’re citing a study that found that paper readers had a better recall of the timing of events in a story than Kindle readers. The researchers speculate that it’s because a Kindle always feels the same, no matter where you are in the story, whereas in a paper book you have the tactile feedback that tells you how many pages are left to read – so you know that when the detective ran across the red herring, you still had half the book in front of you, so it obviously wasn’t close to the end of the story.

Sure, it makes sense. And all those articles do have a point. However, have you noticed something about them? All of those pieces of writing decrying the evils of technology are on the Internet. Guess what? You won’t be able to read that article about the evils of reading on a screen on anything but a screen. That video clip about how social media cut us off from real people went viral – on social media.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy about all of that, wouldn’t you say? And what’s more, it has an all-pervasive flavour of Luddism. “Everything Was Better in Ye Olden Dayse”, that sort of thing. “If it’s new, and especially if kids like it, it must be bad.” And that’s an attitude that is suspect right from the word Go. I’m all in favour of doing things the old-fashioned way (I made grape jelly without commercial pectin the other day, and was thrilled when it turned out), but that doesn’t mean that the new way is inferior and to be avoided. That’s Luddite alarmism, is what it is.

See, the fact about that article is that while it claims to give “Great News For People Who Read Actual Books”, what it really does is give Bad News to Ebook Readers. It sets up reading on paper as superior to reading on an ereader – and for what? Probably just so that paper book readers can feel smug, and ebook readers feel guilty.

I’m sorry, I have no use for that kind of snobbery. It doesn’t really do anybody any good, least of all us bibliophiles. Of course I love my paper books, I’d never be without them. (In fact, I built me a new bookshelf just a few days ago. No, getting rid of enough books to make them fit the existing shelves isn’t an option. Sorry.) But my Kobo is also a great way to do reading. In a little package the size of a thin paperback I have about 250 books stored – I don’t think I can fit that many hardcopies onto my new shelf, and it’s three feet wide and four feet tall. If I want new books, in some cases I can get them instantly. For example, just the other day E. L. Bates recommended a series I hadn’t read, and when I went on my library’s website, it turned out to have the first of the series available as an ebook. In five minutes I had that library book in hand, even though it was Saturday night and my local library branch wouldn’t open again until Tuesday. Thousands of classics of world literature are available for free from places like Project Gutenberg and the MobileRead website, and many more brand-new books from self-published authors on Amazon and Smashwords.

koboSo stop it with the Luddite reading snobbery already. Ereaders are a fantastic way to get at more reading material, to carry it around with you, to expand your reading horizons. They’re not inferior to paper books, they’re just different. A new way to indulge your love for reading. That’s something to celebrate, wouldn’t you say?

Life, the Universe, and Ebook Readers. Where are you getting your daily reading dose today?

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