Daily Archives: March 25, 2010

Experiences with E-texts

I haven’t completely updated my reading list, but I put aside Conan Doyle in favor of A.E. van Vogt’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle. I “checked it out” via the Greater Phoenix Digital Library. I read quite a few etexts for someone without a portable reader. A List Apart had an article on web standards for ebooks which covered many of the formatting problems that occur. Since I’m in the habit of chronicling things, I figured I’d include my impression of the etexts I’ve been reading lately.

The short stories that I’ve read online (online defined as “on a web page”) have all been HTML documents. (This is in comparison to the sort of streaming page-at-time that big publishers sometimes use for “free” ebooks.) Apex Books has had the least formatting bells and whistles, but the text was happily easy to read. Clarksworld offers slightly more formatting, using wingdings for separators, and Tor adds illustrations, but all three use the usual double space return instead of paragraph indents. I also read a short story from a Realms of Fantasy PDF. While the format of the magazine was preserved, there were artifacts of (what I’m guessing to be) non-transferred images. These didn’t interfere with the text of what I read.

Which brings me to The Voyage of the Space Beagle. It is an Adobe PDF eBook produced by Rosetta Books which is read through Adobe Digital Editions instead of Adobe Reader. The formatting is okay, though the lack of paragraph indents bothers me more in this case. Maybe it’s the font. The biggest problem are the typographical errors, such as paragraph breaks in the middle of sentences and errant punctuation. The first few chapters were pretty clean, but from about page 50+, there are more and more instances. Since I’m reading this for free through the library, I can’t complain. But if I were paying $3.99 (Kindle edition) – $8.54 (Sony eReader edition), I’d be put off by the quality. Yes, all the words to the story are there (I hope), but crummy formatting errors do a disservice to the text. Plus, no one would put up with this in a print book.

It’s interesting to note that the etexts I read that are for sale (Realms of Fantasy and the Rosetta book) were the poorer quality*. There’s an argument about how people are no longer willing to pay the real price of something. This is confused with the price that people value something at. If people do not value your product at the price that it costs to make that product plus profit, you have a problem. (That’s a basic economic principle, yes?)  Well, considering the quality of this product in this case (an electronic file of a decent novel riddled with formatting errors), I don’t value it beyond free.

*I believe I obtained the issue of Realms of Fantasy legally through a give-a-way though it is currently only available for sale.

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Since Sunday I’ve been suffering from congestion, the occasionally earache, and general tiredness. My antihistamine has taken the teeth out of my itchy allergy symptoms, but I can’t decide whether the rest is allergies or a low-grade cold. My mucus says, allergies. Mucus wouldn’t lie, would it?

Played disc Monday (played fairly well) and, while I didn’t strain my back during play, I seemed to afterward. Luckily(?), we didn’t play Wednesday. A walk to the Circle K (a block away) was excruciating. Today, it’s feeling better and I will venture a walk/run up to the mall. I’m out of hazelnut coffee and something must be done.