Kind of an off-topic post today–about digital readers and old, old Westerns if you will…
It’s been a habit of mine these past years to pursue and download public domain reading material found on Google Books, the Internet Archive, Many Books and other on-line resources such as the usenet. I’m not alone. My preferred format has always been Adobe .pdf because it beats all the other clunky ebook formats out there and it’s a very common standard for just about any type of document published electronically which means there is lots of stuff out there. But reading .pdf’s on a computer screen was never comfortable and using a laptop was annoying with start-up, connectivity, cords, heat, and weight. So, a couple of years ago I bought a first generation Amazon Kindle and I instantly went back to my usual websites to download gigabytes of .mobi formatted books. This was a novelty and I was very pleased with the easy-on-they-eyes screen of the Kindle. I was also excited that .pdf documents could be read on my Kindle but although it could open those files it was almost impossible to navigate though the document. Another problem I found was that many, many of the old public domain books were horribly formatted into the .mobi format. They looked great in .pdf in their original type setting but lost their “readability” when the text converted over into a format for the Kindle. (Same goes with epubs for the Nook BTW)
I then bought a Kindle Fire which was a real step up. It opened .pdf files that I transferred to the device with no problem and I could actually read the document. However, there were still problems as I had to flip the 7 inch device on it’s side and utilize my thumb like crazy to scroll from top to bottom. My middle aged eyes, not being what they used to be, required some “zoom” in order to read better. I had similar problems with .cbr files (a common format for comic books and graphic novels). The screen on the early Kindle Fire was just too small for my old eyes and it was still clunky to navigate when zoomed in.
This year I’ve had several opportunities to test out an iPad as well as several other tablet devices with a larger display screen than my Kindle Fire. Wow, what a difference! I quickly wondered what a scanned pulp in .pdf would look like. So, whenever I had the opportunity, I downloaded one of the .pdf pulp stories from this blog and opened them up on the store’s device. I’m really blown away by how they look on the iPad’s 9.7″ display and the iPad Mini’s 7.9″ screen (their Retina display IS beautiful). The other tablets were just as visually pleasing and after sizing them all up I now have my eyes set on Amazon’s newest Kindle HD with the 8.9″ display. This is almost the same size as an original pulp magazine (9 3/4″ X 7″) and larger than I really need to read some of those old Zane Grey westerns or James Oliver Curwood Canadian wilderness novels (usually no bigger than 7″ X 5″). It’s also a better price than the iPads.
The point of this rambling post is that we are experiencing technology (again) opening doors to the past that for many has never practically existed. There are thousands and thousands of books that have fallen into the public domain and thanks to the efforts of Google and other archiving organizations they are available to read now in full resolution and original type face. I know they’ve been available for several years but the point is that now you don’t have to sit in front of a PC screen to read them and with the new tablets these old books are available for your lap, at your leisure, in large resolution with original type setting and for free. This is not a plug for any product. I just like the old books and I think these new large display tablets are the “cat’s meow”.
Just the other day I found the following book by Emerson Hough on the Western outlaws. Visualize this book appearing in full page glory on an iPad and you will understand why I’m excited.