Tag Archives: book

Reading 2.0 and the Ultimate E-Book Toolkit (Calibre)

As a child of the orig­i­nal ‘Inter­net gen­er­a­tion,’ I’ve long felt blessed and grate­ful for the trans­for­ma­tions that have come about in the wake of the per­son­al com­put­ing rev­o­lu­tion. It’s changed the way we com­mu­ni­cate, the way we share infor­ma­tion, the way we store our things, and the way we think.

There’s always been some­thing very beau­ti­ful about the inti­mate enmesh­ment of phys­i­cal essence and tech­nol­o­gy. The tighter that bond becomes, the more we become able to tran­scend our own nat­ur­al lim­its. If not also in name and appear­ance by this time, I’d argue we are at least the first cyborgs in spir­it, aug­ment­ing our liv­ing bod­ies with tire­less elec­tron­ics and high-pow­ered micro­proces­sors, hold­ing a uni­verse-with­in-a-uni­verse between our quiv­er­ing fin­ger­tips.

Back in the day, a lot of peo­ple used to talk about device con­ver­gence, a point at which all (or most) user needs could be met by the capa­bil­i­ties of a sin­gle mul­ti-pur­pose plat­form. There were numer­ous exper­i­ments tried and failed over the years to find that ide­al­ized, com­fort­able sense of mass appeal, rang­ing from the launch of WebTV to installing hard disks into game con­soles, but despite all of this, the true killer app came only when the com­put­ing indus­try final­ly set its sights on the ordi­nary mobile cel­lu­lar phone and said, “Let’s make this bet­ter.”

Ka-boom.

And so the sec­ond rev­o­lu­tion of our gen­er­a­tion began.

Nowa­days, it’s almost abnor­mal to meet any­one on the streets who isn’t cart­ing around a three-by-sev­en-inch smart­phone (or tablet) with pow­er and endurance rival­ing that of many net­books and low­er-end lap­tops. With boosts in porta­bil­i­ty and bat­tery life, more stor­age, mul­ti-core pro­cess­ing, wide­spread open-source devel­op­ment, and easy cloud inte­gra­tion, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Much like the change in our own des­tiny, aug­men­ta­tion of our phones has hit a point where it’s trans­formed them into some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent, and made them part of a greater force in the realm of cul­tur­al design and social func­tion.

And while we use these devices for a mul­ti­tude of every­day tasks, one of the more sub­tle ones that’s tak­en hold is read­ing for busi­ness and plea­sure. It’s long been obvi­ous, ever since cyber­space gained mass appeal, that one of the more hot­ly debat­ed issues would remain the divide between read­ing from phys­i­cal media ver­sus read­ing from dig­i­tal. The e-book trend is in an upward swing, a lot of read­ers have trad­ed in their cum­ber­some dead-tree-for­mat for some­thing that slips more eas­i­ly into a data card, and these changes have many more ques­tion­ing the direc­tion in which these changes might take us.

First off, I don’t care much for the pol­i­tics, and I’m not here to preach. The views on elec­tron­ic read­ing are as var­ied and numer­ous as there are peo­ple who read. Some like to keep their dis­tance and feel that e-read­ers are infe­ri­or and a betray­al of a whole­some pas­time. Oth­ers strike vary­ing shades of bal­ance between the use of dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal for­mats. Still oth­ers are at a point where they’ve either swung firm­ly toward car­ry­ing out an even­tu­al migra­tion to dig­i­tal or have already arrived there.

Per­son­al­ly, I’m flex­i­ble when it comes to my books. I have a lot of paper, in spite of every­thing else in my life being almost entire­ly dig­i­tal. I also have a lot of books in dig­i­tal for­mat. So, when­ev­er I want to indulge in a sto­ry, I go with what’s con­ve­nient and feels good that day.

The take-home les­son here is, “you do you.” Work with what makes you hap­py. Work with what you feel works best for the cir­cum­stances. The ONLY thing you need to care about at the end of the day is that what you’re doing keeps you read­ing and keeps you feel­ing joy from your pas­time.

Books are a price­less tool to hone the intel­lect and give wings to our imag­i­na­tions. There’s a lot we could do that’s far worse than con­sum­ing them reg­u­lar­ly (and eager­ly) in dig­i­tal form.

On that note, I’m going to share one more tool that might be of inter­est to any­one who’s dip­ping their toes into the e-read­ing pool. Cal­i­bre is an e-book sys­tem that’s total­ly free, has no ads or spy­ware, and pret­ty much does every­thing you could ever ask for in an e-book soft­ware pack­age. I’ve been using mine to con­vert between EPUB and PDF for­mats; as long as a user under­stands basic typog­ra­phy, this pro­gram is a dream to work with. Cal­i­bre makes it ridicu­lous­ly easy to cre­ate out­put files that are re-flowed and set for the screen size of one’s read­er.

Also, huge kudos go to Mor­ri for gift­ing me with the old Black­ber­ry Play­book that became my mobile library. I love so much of what we share, inter­est-wise and oth­er­wise … and this BB made for such an awe­some DIY hack, and even more fun after the fact. I can slip this thing into a purse or coat pock­et and just run out the door, and not have to wor­ry about cart­ing around 50 pounds of books. (I know I’ve already thanked you pro­fuse­ly IRL, but cred­it is due in cyber­space too!)

So long sto­ry short … if you’re an avid read­er, check out Cal­i­bre, it’s one of the few appli­ca­tions I’ve encoun­tered that’s prob­a­bly worth your time.

Now … pick up a book and read, dammit!  :)

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