Category Archives: technology

waitin’ for a breakthrough…


So, I’ve just spent two fun days pretending that I owned an e-reader. I converted some books I owned to a file that my little XO (the OLPC laptop) could handle and cheerfully sat on the couch reading away. I can tell you that the four hours I spent reading two books far exceeded my tries at the Kindle and at the Sony E-Reader in both length and pleasure. It’s not that I have anything, at all, against the idea of e-books, although I would always be leery of dragging anything electronic to the beach, but there are a few…advances…that I need to see before I embrace to e-book as something that will serve as a real replacement for my physical library.
First, I need the e-book catalogues to have more depth to them. Some of the books I own, I own because I cannot depend on finding another copy. They are not necessarily rare (as in expensive), but they are difficult to find. If I’m going to adopt an e-book reader, I want to be able to find all of those wonderful books as well.
Second? Well, I’ve played with the Kindle and the Sony E-Reader. I was impressed with the e-ink technology. But, as someone who reads quickly, I really struggled with how often I had to refresh/change the page and how long it took for a new page to load. The e-reader also had a strange response to being set in portrait mode–it skipped back a section so that the last sentence you *had* been reading was suddenly in the middle of the new page. Needless to say, that drove me nuts. And, it didn’t solve my problem of having to load new pages every thirty seconds.
And last? for now? I’m not sure how I feel about DRM. I am all for artists, writers, creators, and those who bring their works to the public, getting paid. I would, however, be very, very, very annoyed if a book I had bought suddenly stopped *working* because of an argument between a publisher and a distributor. Or, simply because my e-reader died for some reason.

I did love reading my books on my XO. It was great to trot from room to room in the house with both the books and somewhere to type notes on them. The XO is light and has a great battery life, and, because it loaded the entire book at once, I didn’t need to wait for it load–I just scrolled down.

I’m all for e-books. I would love for entire libraries to be so portable that they are available for everyone, everywhere. It just hasn’t happened yet.

free chickens?

While perusing one of the random book oriented websites I sometimes read, I came across this article on the availability of some free books on an iPhone e-reader. Immediately, (after my heart-rate had gone down at the thought of free books), I checked out the Stanza application on the iPhone and downloaded this book. I have two things to say.
One: the Stanza application (from Lexcycle) is one of the better ebook readers I’ve sampled. I actually like it better than the Kindle, partially because the “tapping” element now feels innate to me after iPhone use; partially because the pages load quite quickly once you are into the book, and I didn’t feel that there was as much dead time as with other ebook readers. The screen was clear and the typeface easy to read (although the ability to flip to a place within a book wasn’t as easy as with a physical book to deal with). The available books (I only checked out the free ones) are decent–although obviously a lot are missing (even of those books out of copyright). Every time I come across one of these readers, I start hoping that all of my favourite out of print books will be available. I found one or two here. So thumbs up from this picky (format-wise although not subject-wise) reader.
Two: I was right. Anything with the title “Free Range Chickens” had to at least be a little funny, and this was a lot funny. My favourite part so far? Some of the missing commandments. Including:

If it takes a man a long time to lead his people out of the desert and into the Promised Land, everyone should just be patient with him and learn to chill out a little.

Snort. For those who keep an eye on such things, a quote from the book appeared on reddit earlier this year (the one about the dissections from a frog point of view). Funny stuff.
Also, of course:

Everyone has to give Moses five dollars.

A list. Again.

I’ve been asked a few times what ‘magic’ I use to match my kids with books. It’s not really a trick, I just have a large store of books in my head, and I basically shuffle through them in a effort to match maturity level, interest, and possibilities to spur further reading.
It’s not much use just sitting there in my head though, so I turned to Web 2.0

And created a wiki at pb wiki for just this purpose. It can be found here, and I would love more input than just mine. Even if you don’t teach language arts, or middle school, I would love to hear recommendations and suggestions for books for our students to read, from the littlest to the biggest.
Check it out!