Tag Archives: Kindle

Reading Les Mis: Paper vs. Pixels

A tablet and a breaking paperback.

When I started my epic re-read of Les Miserables, I was reading an old paperback and tweeting my commentary as I went, then using them as scaffolding for an article at the end of each week. The good thing about that was that I was posting things immediately, though on the downside I did have to condense things into 140 characters (sometimes less, since I was trying to link them together with a #ReadingLesMis hashtag), plus of course everything had to be posted, even if it wasn’t particularly interesting on its own.

After a few weeks, reading in a place with no cell reception had me tapping out my notes offline instead of tweeting. This was actually a big improvement, since it meant I could jot down page numbers as reminders, or thoughts that would go well in an article but not in a tweet, and I could work on refining the article anytime I wanted.

Pixellated

Starting with Part Four, “The Idyll in the Rue Plumet and the Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis,” I’ve been reading a digital edition of the same translation on the Kindle app on my Nexus 7. Instead of tweeting or jotting notes down in an email draft, I’ve been using Kindle’s built-in highlight and notes feature.

It’s easier to carry around than the brick. I’m also reading a lot faster (when I have time to, anyway — ironically, I’ve had less time lately, so overall going is slower), because highlighting a sentence is much less of an interruption than setting the book down and tapping out a note on another device. And I don’t have to worry about worsening that tear in the spine, or the pages flipping back while I’m trying to read.

On the other hand, it means I’ll be doing more work when I write up the articles, because I haven’t started composing my commentary yet — just a few notes and a lot of highlights of items I want to mention or quote. I’m 150 pages past the last commentary I published — the ambush in the slums — which is where I switched to reading on the tablet.

The typos bug me, though. I haven’t seen this problem with other e-books, but this one? My best guess is this was scanned in and run through OCR. It’s the same text, format and typesetting as the Penguin Classics edition, down to the page numbers, but there are a lot of errors that aren’t in that print copy, and they’re all visual similarities, not keyboard misses or autocorrects. In particular, the word “die” has become “the” in at least three places (well, four, since one of them is twice in the same sentence!) in the hundred or so pages I’ve read since switching.

And I do miss the at-a-glance indication of how far I am through a section. Flipping forward to see how many pages to the next break, then back, is a lot easier with paper than swiping your finger across a screen. Plus moving that bookmark is much more satisfying (and motivating) than watching the blue line at the bottom of the screen get longer.

The worst part, though, of reading on the tablet? When time is short, it’s awfully tempting to use that time to catch up on emails or other busy-work instead of detoxing your brain with a book. That’s one case where a dedicated device or a physical book has the advantage.

Les Misérables – Reading Digitally & Matching Translations

Les Miserables Book Movie Tie-In CoverI learned three nice things about the Kindle movie tie-in edition of Les Misérables today:

  • It’s only $3.
  • It’s the same translation (Norman Denny, 1976) that I’ve been reading from a big stack of paper.
  • Page numbers match the print edition I’ve been reading, at least where I’ve spot-checked.

This will be great for times that I don’t want to lug around the brick, or that I’m out and about and want to work on my next article, or that I planned on reading something else and changed my mind.

Les Miserables: The BrickI’ve occasionally looked at the Isabel F. Hapgood translation (1887) on Project Gutenberg, just to check against something closer to contemporary. It’s very different. It is written in 19th century English, after all, and both writing style and language have changed significantly since then.

There are several other modern translations available. When I started this re-read, I considered looking up either the Fahnestock & MacAfee (1987) or Julie Rose (2009) translations. What I found online suggested that the former sacrificed readability in favor of accuracy to Victor Hugo’s text, and the latter tried so hard to be modern that it set up a cognitive dissonance between the setting and language. (This will become less important over time.) I suspect the Fahnestock & MacAfee translation is the one I looked through in a bookstore back in high school, comparing chapters I had recently read and wondering why they made the choices they did.

In the end, rather than look for a new edition, I reached for the old Penguin Classics copy that has been sitting on a succession of bookshelves since my teen years. I haven’t regretted it. Maybe when I come back to the book again a few years down the line I’ll check out another translation. But when I do, I’ll probably just read it instead of commenting on it.

Dealing With Multiple E-Book Stores

App icons for Kobo, Kindle, Play Books and ComiXology

While reading about Amazon’s purchase of GoodReads, I noticed a link to an article about e-book discovery that points out that a lot of people tend to explore multiple e-book stores. As someone who has done that, I’d like to comment on my experience.

Classic Kindle

I didn’t really start reading ebooks until I had a device I could use. I don’t like reading fiction on a desktop or laptop computer, and I don’t like reading it on a tiny phone. A couple of years back, Katie bought a Kindle 2, which is just about perfect for the base use case of reading a book from start to finish (though it’s a pain for much of anything else — I imagine the touch screen on the Paperwhite line is a huge improvement). My first serious eBook reading was on that dedicated device, which is linked to her account.

Tablet: Branching Out

Since I bought a general-purpose tablet last summer, I’ve branched out a bit. I picked up a few books on Google Play because they gave me some store credit when I bought the Nexus 7. At the time, a local independent bookstore that I like, Mysterious Galaxy, had a deal with Google where they could get a cut of what I spent.

I bought other books on the Kindle store, sometimes because of price or special deals, sometimes because of selection. Sometimes I’d even deliberately choose Amazon because the site where I learned about the book had an affiliate link, and I knew I’d be helping to support them. Mostly, I just like the Kindle reader app better.

At the start of the year, Google Play ended their deal with IndieBound. The new choice for independent bookstores seems to be Kobo. I’ve bought a few books from there after linking my account with Mysterious Galaxy, but I still don’t like the reader app much, and the service just seems…well…pushy. I’ve har to turn off a lot of “features” in the app. I don’t want or need recommendations in my status bar, thank you very much. And I sure as heck don’t need “accomplishments” to encourage me to read more. You know what encourages me to read more? Having time to read.

Fractured Library

The result is that between the two of us, we’ve got a small library of eBooks spread across two Kindle accounts, Google Play and Kobo…on two mutually exclusive devices. (And that’s not counting the reference books I’ve bought from O’Reilly and saved to Dropbox.)

OK, so it’s not a huge deal now, but as we buy more eBooks, it’s going to get harder to remember which book is on which account when trying to look something up or reread. We already have to discuss how to buy books that we’re both interested in reading.

I like having multiple sources to choose from. Selection, price, being able to support a third party, these are all things that you don’t necessarily get with a fully-siloed approach. But with the way eBooks are handled right now, it does add barriers to finding things.

I would prefer the way digital music purchases work: I can buy from anywhere, download a DRM-free file, and then put everything in one place. It doesn’t matter whether I bought the music from iTunes, Amazon, directly from the artist, or imported it from a CD. There’s no question of where to go when I want to listen to it. (Well, until they switch to an all-cloud-storage model, anyway. The cynical part of my brain wonders if this is the real goal behind that trend.)

On the plus side, since the libraries are searchable, and three of them are linked to the same device, it’s actually an improvement over the years we were living in a too-small apartment with 90% of our books in storage, and it was a question of finding which box they were in.

Links: Identity, Kindle, Language, and the Moon

  • Geek Merit BadgesFanboy Scouts has launched a series of Merit Badges for Geeks including achievements for Speedster, Mt. Doom, Tie Fighter Pilot, Away Team, and more.
  • Privacy in terms of contextual identity. How you present yourself to your friends is not how you present yourself to your colleagues, and what you’re willing to share in each context is going to be different.
  • XKCD is probably right about the future of “old-timey” speech. “Forsooth, do you grok my jive, me hearties?” We have a hard enough time getting the mid-twentieth century right, and that’s with people around who lived it!
  • Darryl Cunningham debunks the Moon Hoax in comic-strip form.
  • The new Kindle looks nice. They’re starting to get to the price/feature/polish point where I’d be tempted. (Well, except for that pesky DRM…) Also, Amazon launched Kindle for Android recently, but I haven’t tried it out. While it will run on Android 1.6, it’s a bit big for my G1 unless I clear out some other apps.
    Kindle Wireless 3G+WiFi.

Kindle DX: A Digital Comics Platform?

Kindle DXAmazon has announced the Kindle DX, a new version of their e-book reader with a 9.7-inch screen. Unless I’ve got my numbers wrong, that makes it larger than the standard manga page, though not quite as big as the standard American comic book page. And it’s only 1/3 of an inch thick, comparable to a typical trade paperback.

This could be the first e-reader device suitable for simply taking comics formatted for the printed page and transferring them to a tablet. No need to break it down and show one panel at a time like most iPhone or Android comics. No need to zoom and pan. Just transfer the whole page.

Sure, it’s only black and white, but there are plenty of comics produced in B&W, or reformatted for printing in cheap collections like Marvel Essentials or DC’s Showcase Presents series.

Imagine 30 years of Justice League of America or Spider-Man in the space of the latest trade.

The only drawback is the steep price tag: at $489, I’m not picking one up anytime soon.

(Reposted from Speed Force)