I read a persuasive article about the past and future of ebooks yesterday and decided to give ebooks a try. Not “another try”, a try. I have text and PDF versions of some textbooks that provide them and I find those useful for search, but apart from confirming that I wanted to buy the dead tree version of “Little Brother” I’ve never really tried reading fiction in ebook form.I dug out an ancient Palm PDA, installed the free software Plucker ebook reader onto it, downloaded some Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross then grabbed some classics from Project Gutenberg all in Plucker Format. A brief learning curve later I managed to get an offline version of 2000 pages from Wikipedia onto the memory stick as well.The breakthrough for me was finding the auto scroll feature. Trying to keep up with text as it crawls by like a perspective corrected Star Wars opening sequence may not sound like the most relaxing way of reading, but you can adjust the speed and I soon warmed to it.So I’ve started reading a Charles Stross story, some Sherlock Holmes and the occasional Wikipedia article. I wish more books I have in hardback were available in Plucker’s DRM-free pdb format, but the wise and the classic are more than enough for now.I’m wary of copyright differences for the UK with some of Project Gutenberg’s ebooks (notably Ulysses won’t be out of copyright here for another three years, and H.G. Wells’s work will be in copyright here for some time to come), but as long as you check the dates it’s easy enough to manage. And contemporary Creative Commons licences remove any need for wariness of the books they cover.It took me less than an evening to set up and warm to ebooks with Free Software and Free Culture. Ignore dedicated ebook readers and try ebooks on any handheld devices you may already have. There are gigabytes of classic and contemporary literature that you can get and read for free and freely, and you may discover a writer you can support financially offline.
Rob MyersFree Culture