Archive for ebooks

Free E-Day

FreeedayI’m very late with this, so my apologies. Some of my Twitter acquaintances are staging Free E-Day tomorrow, December 1st. This is a day to celebrate Indie Culture, featuring plenty of  art that will be given away for free.

So you’ll find free images there, free music, and lots of free writing to download. Also check out the schedule of events, to find web chats, online workshops and other special things that will be going on. It’s a little more formalized in this Bookbuzzr Free E-day brochure.

Here’s where to go if you’re interested in these areas:

  1. free designs
  2. free music
  3. free writing

I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last we see of this sort of thing, especially from Dan Holloway. He’s the one I wrote about in an earlier post, Can you write a peaceful novel with no conflict at all? He’s got a lot of different ideas about things, and is very busy exploring the concepts of self-publishing, independent writing, free writing, and so many other things.

Anyway, if you’re interested in any of these things, rush over there and partake of all the festivities.

Barnes and Noble eReader

Barnes and Noble now has their own eReader that you can download from their Nook site, which went up today. [**Please note: I’m adding a correction to much of this post, at the bottom, quoting from Melissa’s comment because I’m in a bit of a hurry at the end of the day.**]

You can download it to your PC or Mac, or to your iPhone or Blackberry, so it looks like they’ve got most of the major reading situations covered. I don’t know if this is a permanent feature, but certainly today, there are free ebooks available as well. The Last of the Mohicans and Sense and Sensibility are included right with the reader. And once you create an account, there are four more ebooks waiting in your Online Library: Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Dictionary.

You’ll be able to buy and download your ebooks from B&N, change viewing modes (portrait or landscape), make other customizations, and take notes, add highlights, and make bookmarks. So it sounds like you’ll be really set.

You’ll only be able to read the ebooks you purchase from Barnes and Noble on B&N eReader, unfortunately, so you can’t transfer them anywhere else. And you can’t read ebooks that you bought anywhere else on the B&N eReader. So this market is limited, especially if B&N doesn’t carry every ebook you want to buy. Check out the FAQ page for other info.

You’ll also see on the FAQ page, under “Managing eBooks,” that you’ll actually be able to lend the ebook to someone else who also has the B&N eReader on their device, at least a certain number of times. You just need to know their email address. But there’s no mention of whether Barnes and Noble will be able to yank the book off your reader if it wants to. Heh.

Melissa’s correction: “The eReader software has been available for download since July for MAC, PC, iPhone/iTouch, and Blackberry. There are nearly 1 million ebooks available for the eReader software due to the partnership with GoogleBooks. What’s new to the site today is the debut of the “nook” – a physical eReader device that is based on an Androd OS platform. Nook is available for preorder now, shipping around November 30, at which time all brick-and-mortar stores should have a Nook available for demo in the stores and for purchase there as well.”

Book Review – The Case for Books, by Robert Darnton

Case for BooksA few weeks ago, I was involved in an extensive Twitter chat with several authors and editors, and discovered that a great many of them were all for taking every book digital and doing away with physical books altogether.

I have a feeling that Robert Darnton would say to these people, “How admirably enthusiastic you are! But how very naïve.”

This is a man with one foot in each world, the physical and the digital. He founded the Gutenberg-e program that ran from 2000 to 2006, an attempt to turn selected PhD dissertations into digital books with multiple layers. He has aspirations to write his own multi-layered digital history ebook. And as Director of the Harvard University Library, he’s been instrumental in creating the program to digitize Harvard’s vast scholarly collections and make them accessible to everyone, rather than limit their availability just to that university’s closed community.

So the guy is no Luddite. He likes ebooks. Yet in The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (**), he argues that we should neither be in such a rush to eliminate physical paper books, nor should bookish people look down their noses at digitized books and e-readers. We are not confronted with an either-or situation, says Darnton, despite what people on both sides of the divide believe.

Darnton, a scholar as well as library director, advances arguments that will make each side both smile and weep. He was probably farther ahead in the late 1990s, with his ideas on where ebooks should go, than most people who are pushing ebooks so strongly today. Yet at the same time, he describes just how much published material there really is, and will be in the future, so that the complete digitization of all books and printed matter simply will never happen. He also argues that modern libraries, rather than doing away with physical books and going entirely digital, should stock even more books than ever before.

Darnton’s primary concern, through each essay in this book, is the wider public good. In this regard, while he admires Google’s goal of digitizing all books and making them accessible to everyone, he believes this should be done by a public non-profit consortium of libraries rather than a private corporation. The recent class action settlement with Google essentially gives it a monopoly, and while the current owners of the company appear to have only benevolent motives for what they’re doing, that guarantees nothing about what future owners will choose. In the end, the company’s main goal is not the public good, but the greatest monetary value for its own shareholders. So while Darnton loves the idea of everyone in the world having access to all books, he is convinced that handing ultimate ownership of every book ever published to Google is a very bad way of achieving this.

The Case for Books is a collection of essays about ebooks and the value of physical books, published by Darnton over the last decade. The essays are grouped into a Future, Present, and Past configuration, looking at where we might be going, where we are now, and what the previous history of books has been. It’s the last section that might give readers a bit of difficulty, depending on who Darnton’s audience is supposed to be. Those who aren’t used to scholarly analysis may find the final essay (“What is the History of Books?”) rather hard slogging, fascinating though it is. It’s a great demonstration of how books make history rather than just describe it, but as the end of this book, it concludes things rather quietly.

Indeed, the entire “Past” section is academic enough that it may bring some readers down with a bit of a thud, after the excitement and, occasionally, strong emotions of the first two sections. Perhaps it might have been better to arrange them Present-Past-Future, or perhaps to take the first essay (“Google and the Future of Books”) and make it the last one instead, to end this volume on a more powerful note.

However, on the whole, Darnton makes a very strong case for the crucial importance of physical books continuing to exist and be promoted alongside ebooks. Some of his views will make people on both sides gnash their teeth, but his suggested solutions may be the only way the two views can ever be reconciled, and books of any type be preserved.

(**Note: The Case for Books is published by PublicAffairs, whose goal is to publish “good books about things that matter.” My copy was an advanced reading copy, and there may be changes when the final version is published on October 27, 2009.)

(**Further Note: for Darnton’s own summary of his thoughts about the future of the book, you may be interested in an article he published on September 14, 2009, in Publishers Weekly: On the Ropes? Robert Darnton’s Case for Books.)

A school library tossing its books

This has me so horrified I can’t even write about it. Read here:

Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books.

I may be able to comment more coherently in a bit. Or not.

Edited: Some of the people at Library Thing have a few choice things to say. If you’re a member, be sure to add your voice there.

Jeremy at the PhiloBiblos blog also weighs in.

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