Reading E

I finally succumbed to the necessity of a crackberry and found myself spending a lot of time in airplanes and subway cars. After reading the same Sky magazine for the fourth time, some new reading material was in order.

I tried ebooks a few years back, uploading raw text files to the Note reader on my iPod. It worked ok, but the mechanics were annoying – no bookmarking, scrolling through each page, battery draining.

On my blackberry I was able to download a program called Mobi PocketReader. It’s a free app built on the iTunes model – expensive content downloads integrated seamlessly.

I was on a tropical island kick and read through Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies in about a week each.

Each file is broken up into hundreds of tiny pages – each the size of the Blackberry screen. Flipping between pages is nearly instant with the click of the space bar (much faster than the Kindle). The program also keeps a blue bar along the bottom of the screen to track progress (ala World of Warcraft’s XP bar).

Reading in this format (small twitter-sized chunks of literature) takes some adjusting. Faster paced or Young Adult writing (ala Treasure Island, Lord of the Flies) fits into the format pretty well. More complex writing is a bit more difficult, especially if sentences stretch across multiple pages.

Obtaining ebooks requires a bit of work, but nothing too major. Because the Mobi program itself only provides pay-for-download content, you’ll need to use your regular computer to download and/or build ebook files. Project Gutenberg is probably the best starting point, with hundreds of classic novels and writings already in the Mobi format.

TXT, PDF and HTML files can be converted to the Mobi format using the MOBI creator program.

Once you have your ebook file, you need to transfer it onto the blackberry hardrive. The easiest way is simply to email the file to yourself and then save it to the home/media/ebooks directory on the phone. The mobi program will automatically detect and display it when you open the “Library”.

Overall, having a few books on me at all times will probably result in more reading. Which is a good thing. The overall experience is a bit less pleasant than an actual printed book. The small glowing rectangle is more eye strain than natural light on paper. And flipping back and forth (to determine the length of a chapter, or re-read a relevant passage in context) isn’t really possible on the mobile device. I wouldn’t want to read Pynchon on the thing. But it works great for page-turners and (relatively) short fiction – nice to have when I’m stranded at the terminal for a 3 hour flight delay.

Currently in my library: Walden, Notes from the Underground, Adventures of Huck Finn, Foucault’s Pendulum.

Note – Similar setup for the iPhone here

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