I use my smartphone a lot, and not as a phone.
That much is pretty obvious, isn’t it? I haven’t read any recent research about smartphones, but the last one I remember reading was already pointing out that its users are now doing more texting, tweeting and browsing on them than making calls.
That’s my case.
I use my smartphone more and more to do all the NCS (non-calling stuff) – and reading is in the forefront.
As I said in a previous installment of this column, most e-ARCs these days still come in the time-honored format of the PDF file. It’s still the easiest, fastest way to format a text – editorwise, I mean.
PDF format was created in 1993 by Adobe Systems (in fact, it evolved from a system called “Camelot”, created in 1991, so we’re dealing with a Jurassic file in Internet-time) with a laudable goal: according to J. Warnock, author of the first document describing it, “The specific problem is that most programs print to a wide range of printers, but there is no universal way to communicate and view this printed information electronically.”
So the programmers at Adobe created what they called the Postscript language, devised to make documents visible on any display and printable on any printer. It took them two years to go from Camelot project to the first certifiable PDF file – but it paid up. PDF isn’t old because people are lazy or overlooked something – it wasn’t discontinued until now because it is good and it serves its purpose fairly well – even to be read in a mobile device. Just not in every mobile device.
The title of this fortnight’s installment should tell you everything, isn’t that so? Let’s just start in a more formal way, then:
My name is Fabio Fernandes, and I’m a book addict.
So far, no biggie, right? That’s what all of you must be thinking. After all, if you are reading this column (and by now you really should know what this column is about), you must love books, so that makes you, dear reader, a colleague, an associate, an accomplice, a sister or brother in vice.
If you can see yourself in me, then you recognize the symptoms: the dry mouth, the sweaty palms, the accelerated heartbeat every time you pass in front of a bookstore. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good one or a rattrap, a used bookstore with a veritable treasure trove so far hidden from other eyes (for naturally only you, and nobody else, could see the value in that, yes, that dusty Charles Eric Maine pocketbook or, say, a rare Chad Oliver first edition, or even that one fairly recent Karen Traviss’s Wess’har novel you needed to complete your collection…)
You know what I mean.
Therefore, you will already believe me when I say it’s not different in the world of e-books. Not at all.
As I mentioned in my previous installment, I had quite a few apps for reading e-books on my iPhone – until I went to Amazon.com to search for a book and – hey, they have free Kindle apps for iPhones AND for PCs too! I should try it one of these days…
You already know what I just did right after that thought, don’t you?
It was November 21, 2009. I downloaded and installed both apps. The first book I bought was one that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time – Aegypt by John Crowley. (I wanted very much to read this book, but what I really wanted to buy then was Little, Big, which made quite an impression on me when a friend loaned it to me on my early twenties. Sadly, he had to take it back because he was moving to another city and I never finished it – still haven’t, by the way.)
Ok, let’s start this one with a universal truth: nobody (at least until now – from 2011 on things might be a lot different) has ever started reading e-books on an e-reader.
I’m counting, naturally, PDF files – after all, most e-ARCs these days still come in this time-honored, God-forsaken format (more on that later).
However, you can’t take a desktop computer to bed – and that’s, my dear readers, that’s the precise point where necessity arises, and necessity, as all of us knows (Frank Zappa’s band included) is the mother of invention.
This is a question much discussed in academia, in newspapers and trendy magazines, and being constantly analyzed by pundits everywhere.
I think, however, this question should not be asked by science fiction writers. We’ve been thinking of alternate modes of reading for ages. Shigawire spools, Star Trek PADDs® , brain implants, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Why should we even think twice when offered the chance to get our hands in a device that can storage hundreds of books and allows us to switch between several books faster than a desktop or notebook interface could, with all the benefits (like doing a search for certain words or writing annotations)?