Saturday, 9 October 2010

Thucydides and the e-reader

It was somewhere over the Arabian sea that I finally learned to love my e-reader.

I’d started re-reading my battered Penguin classics translation of Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War fully intending to take it with me on our trip to Europe.

However, one look at my already bulging daysack convinced me otherwise, and did I really want to lug half a kilo of dead tree round Europe?

So on a whim, I plugged an old spare 16MB SDcard into my laptop, downloaded Crawley’s masterful 19th century translation to it in epub format from Project Gutenberg, clicked it into my e-reader, checked it worked and stuffed my e-reader into my pack instead.

Long haul flights are boring. You eat, watch a movie, try to sleep as much as possible but the sad truth about a fourteen hour flight is that you will get bored and run out of options to entertain yourself. So as the sun rose I turned to my e-reader and sat there enjoying the beauty of Crawley’s nineteenth century prose.

I was hooked. And as long as there was some reasonable light I was hooked. In use the device was light and easy to use – so much so that in the course of the trip I’ve worn some of the paint off the ‘next page’ key.

In Venice I downloaded some other texts to read via my travel computer and continued to read using the e-reader, even in bright sun in a Greek olive grove. And the battery life was fantastic – 8000 page turns is between 16 and 20 books worth of reading, more than enough for a month’s travel.

I did take a conventional paper book with me, and I brought it back unread so converted to the e-reader was I.

And the trick of using an old SD card freed me from the need to carry the download cable everywhere as both my travel computer and home laptop have SD-card slots. (Incidentally, in London Nintendo was advertising a cartridge of public domain classics to read on the train – trying to muscle into the e-reader market).

I guess the only long term question is the availablity of copyright books in epub format. On the other hand I’m tempted to sell my soul to Amazon and try a Kindle ...

[update 12/10/2010: well, as a token of my conversion to e-books I've gone and bought my first e-book, George Roux's History of Ancient Iraq. Apart from needing to install Adobe Digital Editions on my laptop, the download process was straightforward - get the acsm token file from the bookshop, load it into Adobe Digital Editions, wait for the book to download from stuff central and drag and drop it onto the e-reader...]

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