Monday, May 16, 2011

the coolest thing in the world (nerd edition)

I don't have an iPad.

When we travel, we take our compact Acer netbook, which nicely does the job of getting to the web for news, maps, and (especially) email, and doubles as a Skype machine, for making virtually-free calls to friends and family.

I've had a 'smartphone' for a long time - several incarnations of Windows Mobile devices, going back to the days when I was writing software applications for Windows CE devices (mostly ArcPad scripts). I've always appreciated the ability to read Word documents on my phone, and, in the past, have often travelled with a (very) small library of essays, short stories, or whatever, stored on the phone's SD card.

These are especially helpful to have on hand while waiting at the checkout areas of stores, while others were shopping.

I used Pocket Word (or whatever Microsoft now calls it) to scroll thru the documents and it worked OK, especially with the dedicated 'down' button on my former phone (HTC Tilt). It was inconvenient not having a 'bookmark' feature, but that was a small price to pay for the reading pleasure.

That Tilt got stolen in Costa Rica last December (long story), and I replaced it with a Tilt 2, running Windows Mobile 6.5 (craigslist - $65), which, actually, I have come to like a lot.

I've looked at a (rooted) Nook Color as a possible Android tablet (I resist 'i' devices - iPhone, iPad, iPod, iZod - stubbornly), but really don't want to carry another device, when we fly to Europe next week.

A few weeks ago, I discovered 'Freda', a free ePUB book reader that runs on various platforms. I downloaded and installed it on my phone (required a .NET common library), then downloaded a couple of ePUB books from Project Gutenberg, and I was hooked.

The Library management and reading tools in this software are great. A single screenful of text is an easy chunk to digest at a glance, and a simple swipe or touch of the screen changes pages quickly or takes you to the menu of options (set a bookmark, see the Table of Contents, etc.).

Project Gutenberg is great, for getting a zillion classic works of literature. I read 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' and some wonderful PG Wodehouse stories on my phone recently, and these were great. I have loaded my phone with a dozen assorted books from Gutenberg, and look forward to many hours of happy reading.

However, what about content that is NOT on Project Gutenberg? This morning, a blog I routinely read referenced a long John McPhee article that appeared some years ago in The New Yorker. Having been a New Yorker subscriber for MANY years, I felt no guilt about calling up that article, doing a 'Select All', pasting it into Word, and saving as a .doc file. So far so good.

An internet search brought up this site. I followed the instructions to have Word save the file as an '.htm' file, then clicked the buttons to upload that file, generate a Cover page, and save the ePub file. It was amazingly fast and easy, and, once I loaded the epub file into my phone and launched Freda, there it was.

A whole new world is now opened up. I find this pleasing. Happy reading.

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