04 November, 2005

Ebooks - a pain to read onscreen.

I don't know about you, but whenever I find a good book, I try to get it in paper form when I can. Getting it in electronic form can cost anywhere from free to whatever the place you go to charges you, but then you have to either choose to read it on the screen once having downloaded it to your computer, or go through the hassle of printing it off just so you have something tangible you can hold. I did exactly this with "The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky", and while I got a book I could then read, I had to do some juggling around with page size just to get the text down to a comfortable size for reading. In the end I got away with four pages on each side. PlanetPDF have some good books, but the way they put text to page is abysmal - something like 12 lines in a page, with only about six to eight words per line. It makes for a lot of pages printed off. If I were to print each page as an A4 page, it'd make a great size for the visually impaired to use. I tend to like my text size anywhere from 8pt to 10pt for reading, not 18pt.

The other aspect to reading off the screen (depending upon the type of screen) is being able to sit comfortably without any glare on the screen, and the main difference of landscape layout as opposed to portrait. There aren't very many flip-screens out, and those that do exist generally aren't cheap. There's also fonts to consider, what program you're going to use to read with (Adobe's Reader, Mozilla Firefox, or the humble "less") and even whether you're going to go with classic black text on white background, or invert that so you have white text on a black background. I'm not entirely sure which I prefer, yet, though I still lean towards classic black text on white, without antialiasing. For some reason, anti-aliasing on my monitor just never seems to look crisp, and apparently that's quite a common complaint, especially with CRT screens. LCD screens have yet another problem of fidelity if you're not using the screen's native resolution.

Another good site to go to for books that are no longer under copyright, or where the copyright has been given over is Project Gutenberg. They have literally hundreds of thousands of books both in text/html/pdf/ps form and now, even in audio form. And they're all free to download. Sure if you want to download a whole collection at a go, then this isn't the place to go, but when you're prepared to get books one at a time, then this is one place to search out. I'm currently downloading a whole bunch of novels by Charles Dickens in html form from the University of Adelaide's stash of books. Dickens makes for some difficult and stylised reading if you're not used to Victorian English, but once you manage to dig under that, you'll commonly find a mine of good work, with plenty of commentary on the political map of the times. Of course there's the classics such as "Great Expectations" or "A Christmas Carol", but there are some other not-so-well known books too, as well as a number of short stories. Well worth a read if you like the classic English story.

Well, that's all from me - I'm going to have a damn good read shortly, after I finish listening to what MUST be the abridged version of Tom Clancy's "Hunt for Red October" - yes, I'm sort of a Tom Clancy fan, though I find his earlier stuff easier to read than his later collaborative works (Net Force, Op Centre). Still, it's good writing nonetheless. So cheers, all.

1 comment:

The Viking said...

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention, other adventure authors I like: James Clavell, Bryce Courtenay, and Stephen Donaldson. I do tend to prefer fantasy/Sci-fi though, but some adventure reads pretty well.