I sold my soul to read a novel.

Or, rather, a member of my family sold their soul and then passed the ill-begotten fruits to me.  That’s right, I’m one belated Christmas gift heavier (though not very much, only a hundred or so grams), and it’s a Kindle.  While I suspect the much pricier Sony readers may have suited me better, in the end they’re all being sold in an attempt to lock readers into proprietary formats; since I’m not planning on paying for an ebook that comes with copy protection from either Angus and Robertson or Amazon, I’ll be gleeful with what I have.

What I am doing with my Kindle is highly fun and exciting.  I have now:

  • Converted fan-translated novels, fanfiction, and various file formats into .mobi files using calibre.
  • Had fun with Project Gutenberg downloading bibliophilic and archaeological themed public domain books, as well as staples like Dickens.  I suspect I will end up reading more than I can possibly review.
  • Used the text-to-speech function to amuse myself.  Highlights of hilarity include sex scenes, non-English proper nouns, huge pauses after commas (but not between paragraphs or scenes), and the awkward pronunciation of many many words.
  • Become friendly and intimate with Baen’s reader-friendly ebook download library.
  • Felt disgusted that to use some basic functions like categorising my document library, I must apparently register a fake name my personal details with Amazon.
  • Read things.

What I suspect I’ll actually love most of all, depending on how tables and figures end up, is my newfound potential to convert .pdfs of journal articles to .mobi files for easy reading and annotation (I can always keep a copy of the .pdf as well, to view tables of data).  One of my pet peeves is alt-tabbing between my word processor and various open articles during study, and fingers crossed it will make the composition and editing of academic writing all the easier.

What’s most interesting, coming into the ebook device owning world and reading up a bit on commercial ebook sales, is the clashing and confusion over geographical tax and copyright laws, and consumer attitudes.  Customers want cheap books, not tax elevated books.  Role-playing companies selling short modules and updated for $0.99 US are frustrated by the $2 markup in some international zones, when they’ll sell it to everyone for the same price from their website.  It’s a fascinating mess in the grey area between the shared culture and spaces online and the geographically specific retail and consumer laws that govern pricing and access.  I fully intend to post again soon either with links to some of the core issues, or to blogs that cover them and have links to spare themselves.

I’ve posted in the past about ebook reading hardware and some of the associated changes in bookselling:

Do Readers Dream of E-lectric Books?

Dymocks and Book Prices on the ABC


2 thoughts on “I sold my soul to read a novel.”

  1. i bought a kindle last spring and love it.
    it was a mess of hell deciding if i could stomach an e-reader, and it turns out i can.

    I am in the same boat, refusing to pay. but this turns out not to be a problem as i am also a big user of calibre and free sites.

    – Project Gutenberg is fantastic
    – I frequent the Baen free library.
    – Smashwords has a ton of free books
    – Same with FeedBooks
    – Lots of authors are also publishing free books, with a request to buy a hard copy for a local library if you feel money should be exchanged (check out Cory Doctorow as an example, i suggest reading ‘The Makers’)

    my biggest problem is that my local library system allows ebook downloads, but only in ePUB format, which makes me angry as amazon is MOBI-centric.


    e-books now account for 30% of my reading.

    I have also been fiddling with the text-to-speech. but more from an efficiency standpoint. For fun, I have found that setting the column width to the smallest setting, and turning on fast t2s i can speed read and still absorb more info than i would normally with just speed reading 🙂

    so far it is just a tool of convenience that has not surpassed my normal book love 🙂

    1. Oh, Smashwords I haven’t heard about yet! I’ve been considering Feedbooks, I shall have to check them out. (I actually read Makers and had some issues with it, but I love Little Brother and have got FTW and Doctorow’s others I haven’t read yet already loaded!)

      My library also offers only epubs. My actual problem wasn’t the format, which Calibre could arguably convert, but that the ebooks are commercial. At least from my local public library, all epub files not only come with DRM but only, I think, last for a certain amount of time. Since I use Linux and don’t have the Adobe reader installed (I use something open source), I couldn’t even open the files! I deemed it all an exercise in futility, especially because most of the ebooks offered are romance novels and thus things I personally have no taste for.

      I’m back at uni now, so my weekly readings count for a lot of my reading time. They’re .pdfs, but I’ve found most of them readable when I set the display to rotate 90 degrees. I suspect it’s partly the content and vocabulary of a lot of the documents I’m testing the tts on that’s making it less than useful (but also hilarious). I’ll have to pick a normal book and give it a go.

      I think what many people mistake is that ebook reading hardware isn’t supposed to replace hardcopy books… it actually replaces reading on computers for me, which will save my eyes and back! 😀

      I am delighted to hear that I’m not the only one who uses their kindle for free reading and creative commons fun times.

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