Archive for July, 2008

They’ll never catch on!

July 18, 2008

This is a re-post of a satire of mine first posted to Blogcritics last week. Having just spent a couple of days unpacking my first e-book reader, scratching my head over obscure directions, and cussing at recalcitrant software it seemed appropriate. No, it wasn’t a Kindle – not being a resident of the USA, I must be classified along with the rest of the terrorists and terrorist-sympathizers who are not invited to buy one. And yes – part of my discovery time was spent cursing Microsoft. Well, isn’t everything that doesn’t work on a computer their fault?

“The other day I walked into a museum and in a deserted, dusty room at the back saw shelves and shelves of objects that the catalogue called ‘books’. I nearly died laughing. These were huge and cumbersome things, that smelled of mildew, instead of instantly accessible files that my e-reader could access within seconds.

My curiosity was aroused – I just had to know where these things came from and what their purpose was.  In a spirit of adventure I lifted one of these strange objects out of its place on the shelf and hefted it across to one of the easy chairs in the window. I admit to being baffled at first – how did one switch it on?

While exploring its surface I found the lid could be lifted and inside was an actual sheet of paper . . . you remember paper, don’t you? This paper was marked up as if it were the first page of an e-book, with title, author, publisher, and all the usual information. Lifting that sheet of paper revealed yet another laying below, bearing the markings that one would expect to see on the second page of an e-book. What a novel idea! Someone must have spent days coming up with such an amusing burlesque.

Even stranger, the reverse side of the paper also bore writing but I found it very inconvenient to twist my head to one side to read it. Eventually, because I became quite engrossed in the exploration, I found that the lid of the ‘book’ could be laid on its back beside the rest, and the reverse sides of the pages read almost as easily as one could read the first. I did find it very inconvenient in that in this configuration the device took up considerable space on my lap and required me to turn my head from side to side to follow the lines. The typeface was also rather quaint and quite tiny to read. No matter how much I searched the ‘book’ I never could find the control that changed the size of the font.

I suppose you might be interested in the subject of this so-called book. It turned out to be a volume of an encyclopedia, and the rest of the objects on its shelf were successive volumes of something called a ‘set’. Since the publication date I discovered tucked into an obscure corner informed me that this was a relic from the earliest years of the twenty-first century I found it a remarkable window on an ancient era. Hardly any of its entries had information we would consider reliable today, and it eventually dawned on me that the reason must be the lack of any wiki function in this ancient publication system, preventing it from being updated with current information and scholarship.

I must have spent several hours in that musty old room and during that time I exchanged that first volume for several of the others to see what differences they might show me. Actually, they all seemed to follow a format identical with the first. I began to lose interest when I realized I could much more conveniently read one of the many modern encyclopedias accessible with my own e-reader and peruse up to date information. I did see other shelves in a far corner that held slightly smaller ‘books’ of the same primitive type, and was able to read that one seemed to be a copy of a novel. Becoming more familiar with the nature of these so-called books, I was able to open it while standing at the shelf, but it seemed to be no more than a text version of the story – no video versions, no actor interpreting the text aloud, no link to scholarly analysis, and no reviews. The experience of taking it to the window to pore over didn’t promise to be rich enough to be worth the effort.

I had to ask one of the museum staff about my discovery as I left. She agreed that it was an almost forgotten corner of the museum and took up space that could be employed to better purpose, but she told me that it was their contribution to historical research, and that every year or two some scholar would spend a day or more uncovering some obscure facts useful for footnotes in scholarly journals. Well, I guess it takes all kinds.”

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I’m now electronically literate.

July 12, 2008

This past week my eBookwise 1150 e-book reader arrived and I’ve been familiarizing myself with it and finding my way through all the glitches and problems that invariably come with new equipment and software. For example I bought the eBookwise Librarian software as well so that I could upload my own writing into the reader without having to wait for release date of the novel and getting the formatted file from my publisher.

The instructions for adding ones own files to the reader are on the website as well as being downloadable, so it seemed as if it would be a simple process. However, it was only when the software failed to perform that I delved into more information to learn that the computer running the software has to also be running Word 2000 or later as well in order to convert doc and rtf files. Since I don’t use Microsoft’s contribution to world illiteracy, I had a problem. Eventually I settled for doing what my publisher does and convert the files to html, which doesn’t require any additional help to convert.

Even that presented a problem, because my replacement computer runs on Windows XP and the version of Word Perfect (12) that I needed for it is a version produced since Microsoft bought 50% of Corel. I find that the later version of the formerly superior Word Perfect software has been degraded in several areas – clearly in order to reduce its level of superiority over Word. WP 12 has no function to save WP files in html – which the earlier versions have. I had to open my WP files in Sun Microsystem’s Open Office and convert them to html there. Another reason to pray for the rapid destruction and bankruptcy of Microsoft and its evil minions.

I managed to run afoul of the Fictionwise system as well yesterday. A publisher had set up a free gift card of a title I had offered to review and my understanding of the instructions – written in the most cryptic form of Nerdese that one could imagine – seemed to tell me to download the Half VGA.IMP file and use the Librarian software to place the file into the 1150. Doesn’t work – perhaps I’m running into the need for Word again, or else some other Microsoft plot to prevent quick and simple computing. When I have another hour to waste, I’ll track down the source of this problem too and find a work-around. Fictionwise sent me a customer questionnaire later asking, among other things, how to improve their system. I told them what I thought of their awkward website with its alien designed processes. Perhaps I should have told them to have a literate human being, over the age of 50, write all their instructions in logical form in English.

So – now to go onto something that’s not bitching. I joined Blogcritics this week and my first post, a piece of satire, can be found at http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/07/09/130843.php . After a week of frustration with software and gadgets satire seemed the appropriate way to unwind. I’ve not got around to starting my next post there, but I’ve already had two comments on the piece, a better that 100% improvement over the comment rate for this blog. I will likely post everything I write to Blogcritics first and then either link or re-post here later.

I think I will begin a new survey of e-readers, since the discussion on them I started on BLDG98 disappeared when the site folded. If you have any experiences with e-readers to impart, please add them here or send them to kwhyte2@gmail.com . Thanks.