Reading

Public Library Books for Kindle

Public Library Books for Kindle

You can borrow Kindle books from more than 11,000 libraries in the United States to read on any generation Kindle device, free Kindle app, or in your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader. Public library books for Kindle provide the same unique features as Kindle and Kindle books, including Whispersync technology that synchronizes your notes, highlights and last page read, real page numbers, and more. This feature will become available to libraries nationwide in the coming days.

This is a very big deal. Amazon is really on to something here.

Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg dies

Obituary for Michael Stern Hart

Simply put, Michael Hart was the first to get what both Google and Amazon and Apple now get: having books in digital form, while not a total replacement for paper, allows a different kind of use of the material: searching, text to speech, and more.

I met Michael many years ago at a conference and as his obituary alludes to, he was an odd fellow. No doubt some of his oddities including his frugality prevented Project Gutenberg from taking off the way it might have. But, to be fair, Michael founded Project Gutenberg in the days of dial up modems before there was a world wide web so it was always a bit geeky.

I still have a folder on my computer with a nice collection of eText, downloaded from Project Gutenberg in the 1980s. I put together a disk of eText that I’d give away at conferences telling teachers and students that if they’d copy the books and documents (the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.) onto their computers, they could get MacinTalk or its equivalent in the MS DOS/Windows world to read it. This was a great thing for many people with reading problems and while text to speech is much better now and an entire library fits on a small flash memory device, Michael was the pioneer that got us started.

[via Daring Fireball]

Apple updates iBooks app with ‘read aloud’ feature

Apple updates iBooks app with ‘read aloud’ feature

Help your children learn to read with the new read-aloud feature included in select children’s books from the iBookstore. The read-aloud feature uses a real narrator to read the book to you, and in some books, it will even highlight the words as you read along.

This is incredible news, not just for people who have a hard time with reading but also for people who are learning English as a second language and (hopefully in the future) for excellent readers who want to give their eyeballs a break.

[via Edward McKeown]

Do Books in the House Make Smarter Kids?

Patrick James over at GOOD found an old post on Salon and commented on it: Do Books in the House Make Smarter Kids?

Here’s Laura Miller’s post at Salon: Book owners have smarter kids.

While I’m not sure I see how being exposed to books can make one smarter, exposure to books can certainly make one more literate, worldly, comfortable with print material and seemingly if not actually educated (different from smarter).

If you happen to be comfortable in bookstores or libraries — if you’ve been to them many times before and know what to expect, what you want and where to find it, or if you know whom and how to ask and feel entitled to bother the staff with your questions — it can be difficult to appreciate how intimidating these institutions of print culture can seem to someone who has little or no acquaintance with them.

This is very true and as someone with a reading disability I can tell you that the thought of walking into a library and not understanding the card catalog and having to ask for help kept me out of libraries. However, once card catalogs went electronic and I could use them on my own I started to use libraries more. I still had a hard time reading, but at least I could find what I then struggled to read.

I think there’s also a class issue built into this that is self-perpetuating: people with education have books, TV, computers, and lots of ways of dealing with information in the house for kids to use. People with less education might have fewer tools available relying more on TV than books.

At the end of his comment Patrick asks:

I wonder how electronic books and iPads would factor in to a future study like this. Does being surrounded, physically, by walls with shelves of books play any role in shaping a child’s perspective? Or is it simply the access to literature that’s important?

One needs both: the physical World Book to thumb through and an iPad with an electronic version along with wikipedia. It’s a matter of familiarity: if one is familiar with books, how they work and how to use them then they’re one more tool for finding things out and when the iPad doesn’t cough up what one wants one can go to the book shelf, or, the iBook shelf.

Is Mobile Affecting When We Read?

Is Mobile Affecting When We Read?

Fascinating piece with graphs on the reading habits of people who are consuming at least some of their reading material on computers and hand-held devices and using services like Instapaper and Read it Later to time-shift when they read things they find. The study is from Read it Later.

The flood of content disrupts us all day as if we have an maniacal paperboy throwing new editions on our doorstep every 15 seconds.

Yep, that’s about it.

I’ve been using Instapaper for a while now to save things I want to read later after the paperboy settles down or I get tired of picking up new papers, many times on my iPad.

When a reader is given a choice about how to consume their content, a major shift in behavior occurs. They no longer consume the majority of their content during the day, on their computer. Instead they shift that content to prime time and onto a device better suited for consumption.

Initially, it appears that the devices users prefer for reading are mobile devices, most notably the iPad. It’s the iPad leading the jailbreak from consuming content in our desk chairs.

And this is one of the important reasons I do not want to get another desktop computer: I don’t want the “best” computer in the house to be a magnet holding me in my office chair. I know this is a fallacy because I can collect things to read all day on the iMac and read it later on the iPad in a comfortable chair, but somehow I’m worried that won’t happen with me. Odd worry but there it is.

[via minimalmac]

New Edition Of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Will Eliminate Offensive Words

New Edition Of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Will Eliminate Offensive Words

This is terrible. While I don’t use or support the use of the word “nigger” it’s an important part of the history of the United States and the setting for Mark Twain’s book was early enough so that the word in question was in common use.

I find it interesting that NPR’s comment filter is not allowing the word “nigger” to be posted in comments about a story about that very word. Wake up NPR, you’re doing what you’re reporting about.

There’s a poll at the end of the post:

The scholars doing this hope it will introduce more young people to ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ I think:

  • That makes this OK.
  • It’s still the wrong thing to do.

Over 96% of voters think it’s still the wrong thing to do as do I.

Instapaper = virtual breadcrumbs

Feel Free to Read This Later, on Your Phone

But there are also other approaches, alternate distribution systems like the one that Marco Arment, a 28-year-old programmer, has created while working at home in Hastings on Hudson, N.Y.

He built Instapaper, a clever way to create personalized publications. It is clever because it plays to human psychology by helping us gather articles we want to read, but have no time to read while we are foraging.

Instapaper is breadcrumbs for your winding path through online information and it’s fantastic, I’ve been using it for a few months now and I can’t live without it.

As I use my iPad and iPhone more Instapaper becomes even more valuable. The article doesn’t explain well enough the power of RSS feeds though and some folks (like me) prefer apps like Reeder to apps like Flipboard as aggregators of feeds. Instapaper is the next step, saving things from browsing feeds we want to read later.

This entire structure is breaking down information consumption for many folks. Some of us have done it this way for years because we use RSS newsreaders and scanning there is a step before going deep on any one piece of information. For many folks, a setup like this makes it easier to scan and save things while you’re on the train where it might be hard to read deeply so that you can read things later when you’re in a quieter place.

Wendell Minor and Gordon Titcomb

Wendell Minor and Gordon Titcomb

Washington, Connecticut. Wendell Minor (illustrator and author) and Gordon Titcomb (writer and musician) have put together a book based on the lyrics to one of Gordon’s songs: The Last Train.

Our local book store, The Hickory Stick Bookshop had a signing and I had them sign three copies: one for me, one for my friend Gary who like me collects signed first editions and a holiday gift for my friend Edward’s son Henri.

It’s not every day that you can hang out with book authors but I happen to know these guys because our paths cross often in our small part of the world.

Wendell is a world renowned children’s book author and illustrator and has dozens of best selling books out in the world. Gordon is a world class musician who has played both on tour for years with Arlo Guthrie and in studios for numerous musicians. They’re both great guys, totally accessible and the book is wonderful and would make a nice holiday gift for many a train lover.

Gordon played and sang between signings but there were so many he couldn’t keep up.

I should have taken this with my S90 but I had the iPhone out so I used it. Not great but good enough.

City of Asylum

Writers in Danger Offered Safe Haven to Practice Craft in Pittsburgh

Last night on the PBS NewsHour Jeffrey Brown did a piece on City of Asylum/Pittsburgh which offers writers from countries where they’re not free to write a safe haven to think and write.

Residencies for Writers-in-Exile
For two years we provide a furnished house, a living stipend, medical coverage, and help in transitioning to potentially permanent exile.

This is the kind of organization I like to support.

Randy Kearse selling his books on the subway

Author Whose Bookstore Is the No. 2 (or 4, or 5)

“Excuse me, ladies and gentleman,” he called out.

“I am not begging, borrowing or asking for your food. I don’t represent the homeless, I’m not selling candy or selling bootleg DVDs,” he said, then paused. “I write books.”

This story made my morning. If I run into Randy on a train I’ll buy his book and get it signed. I’ll buy two and donate one to our local library.

One person selling books on a train doesn’t sound like it could have the leverage of social networking on the web but in fact, those of us who see things like this can help amplify them by acknowledgement.

Go Randy.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ 50th Anniversary

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Anniversary: Anna Quindlen On The Greatness Of Scout

The book To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, this is its 50th year in print. The film was made in 1962.

Every kid has had that house in the neighborhood that your friends would dare you to knock at on Halloween. The idea that the person in that house is not a monster but a prisoner is so beautifully wrought in this book that I think you’re just totally present in it the whole time you are reading it. At that moment when she says “Hey, Boo” and her father says, “Jean Louise, this is Mr. Arthur Radley”–it doesn’t get any better than that.

That scene in the movie makes me cry every time. Reading about that scene is making me tear up. It was toward the beginning of Robert Duvall’s incredible career.

To Kill a Mockingbird is an incredible book and an incredible film. If you never saw the film I highly recommend it.

CBS Legal Department Sends Cease and Desist to 48 HR Magazine

CBS Legal Department Sends Cease and Desist to 48 HR Magazine

Totally stupid. Give me a ###ing break CBS.

It’s a great magazine. I bought a copy right away and it’s well designed (I disagree with Carr that the layouts are “somewhat rudimentary”): the design reminds me of The Whole Earth Catalog which was a lot of fun to read. 48 Hrs, is also a lot of fun to read and I highly recommend ordering a copy before it gets taken down or the name gets changed.

48HR: Hustle at MagCloud.

iPad on Eaarth

iPad on Eaarth

I knew it was just a matter of time before I bought an iPad although I thought it would be a bit more time, like maybe a year so I could get version two.

At the same time that I’ve learned about the technical intricacies of computers I’ve gotten the most out of them when I know them well enough so the technical stuff falls into the background and I’m left just doing the task at hand, which, for me has mostly been writing and/or communicating.

How long it takes a person to learn this stuff well enough for it to fall into the background (different for each person) is the key to whether they’ll stick with it long enough for it to fall into the background… I know many people to this day who’ve been using computers for years yet still struggle with the simplest tasks (this is true in both the Windows and Macintosh worlds).

It’s doubtful that the iPad was conceived for these people but my guess is it’s what at least some of them have always wanted in a tool.

In my early days it was Apple IIe/AppleWriter, IBM PC/WordStar, the Radio Shack model 100, Macintosh/MacWrite, the AlphaSmart keyboard and a few others and lately I’ve been struggling to use my iPhone as a writing tool. I knew the iPad was going to be a sweet spot in this quest for the tool to elegantly fall into the background and now that I’ve had it for a week I can say I was right.

The Macintosh SE/30 felt right: it was the original small Macintosh box with enough power so that people who knew how to use a Mac could work fast without the machine getting in the way. The iPad is like that: the speed of the thing feels right: the design and power under the hood makes using it feel more natural. Apps launch and the screen rotates at speeds that seem right, not too slow, not too fast, just right. And the iPhone OS is simple, clean, and varnished so it’s difficult to get lost under the hood because there is no hood.

I was concerned that looking at my images on the iPad’s glossy screen might not be a great experience (I’m not a fan of glossy screens for everyday computing) but in all honesty, the images look fantastic. Part of it is that they’re backlit as they would be on any computer screen but part of it is the ergonomics of the iPad: holding the image in your hand (like holding the web in your hand as Jobs said) is very different from seeing the same image on a MacBook’s similar glossy screen. It’s a very odd observation but after hours of looking at images on both my wife’s MacBook glossy screen and the similar iPad screen I like the iPad experience better. I can’t explain it.

The iPad’s built in apps for writing, email, calendar, contacts, and more are spectacular. I’m quite sure that these things and maybe even the entire iPhone OS will migrate to an Apple “computer” at some point or, the line between “computer” and “pad” will be blurred even more.

And this leads me to the one thing that I’d like to see as an improvement. I’m a touch typist: I can type quite fast using all of my fingers with eyes on the screen. The iPad on-screen keyboard, while much better than the iPhone’s is still, an iPhone keyboard with awkward shift key sequences and smaller size which makes touch typing difficult. Yes, one can get the keyboard dock or connect any bluetooth keyboard but that’s not what I want because it’s not attached and one can’t prop the combined thing on one’s lap.

What I want is a hybrid of the iPad and the MacBook Air. Call it Apple’s netbook or whatever you like, but I want a full hardware keyboard attached to the iPad with the option of detaching it at any time. I find holding the iPad for any length of time tiresome I don’t particularly like typing with it on my lap or on a table; being able to rest it on its keyboard, like one can a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro would be a nice advantage. And, you’d lose the trackpad of course as you’d have a multi-touch screen.

That’s my only wish so far.

Frankly, I’ve not been able to use the iPad much because the second day it was here my wife Anne got ahold of it and downloaded a book (Eaarth) she has to read for school for next year to try out reading on the iPad. As an avid reader she was skeptical of both Kindle and iPad for serious reading but so far she seems to like it and I may not get it back for a while which is fine by me: ammunition for buying another one.

The fact that my wife could pick the iPad up and in less than a minute buy and download a book and start reading is what the iPad is all about. She’s not an unsophisticated computer user but she’d never used an iPad before. As I said, the device falls into the background more quickly than any other computing device I’ve ever used. It feels like 1984 (birth of the Mac) all over again.

My iPhone has revolutionised my reading

My iPhone has revolutionised my reading

So why I had found it easier to read from my iPhone? First, an ordinary page of text is split into about four pages. The spacing seems generous and because of this I don’t get lost on the page. Second, the handset’s brightness makes it easier to take in words. “Many dyslexics have problems with ‘crowding’, where they’re distracted by the words surrounding the word they’re trying to read,” says John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. “When reading text on a small phone, you’re reducing the crowding effect.”

Makes sense. I think I’d prefer the size of an iPad at my age with my eyes but still, the points are well reasoned.

All about EPUB, the ebook standard for Apple’s iBookstore

All about EPUB, the ebook standard for Apple’s iBookstore

[EPUB is] a free and open standard format created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and it’s designed for reflowable content that can be optimized to whatever device is being used to read a book file. The IDPF has championed EPUB as a single format that can be used by publishers and conversion houses, as well as for distribution and sale of electronic books.

[via Derek Powazek]