Saturday Aug 04, 2007

Plucking the Public Domain

    I've been a fan of the concept of ebooks for several years, but I've been very disappointed by most of the implementations I've encountered. I have read ebooks on my various Palm platforms, using about every reader and format I could find, including Peanut Press (now eReader), Palm DOC (via a wide selection of reading and writing apps), iSolo, TomeRaider, MobiPocket Reader and Plucker. I got sucked into a long series, 'The Survivalist' by Jerry Ahern, which I read a lot of on long sleepless nights pacing with one son or the other in my arms trying to get them back to sleep, and bought most of the ebooks from eReader.

    I have gotten books and stories from Fictionwise, but mostly the free ones they give away of award nominees. One of the things I like about Fictionwise, is that I can get short stories and small items for a more reasonable price. They have a micropay system for supporting purchases in cents vs dollars. They also support a variety of formats, including several DRMed/secure formats. For the time being, MobiReader is my preferred secure format, with eReader second. Unfortunately, our local public library network doesn't loan out many books in my preferred formats, as they seem to be focused on PC readable formats like MS Reader and Adobe Secure PDF. I'll admit that despite the limited selection, I am impressed with the fact that I can even borrow ebooks from the library.

    One format I have really taken to is the Plucker format. Plucker is an Open Source reader, designed with web pages in mind. There are a variety of tools out there for converting web pages and sites into Plucker format, and it makes it pretty easy to access web pages offline on my Palm. It even supports the virtual graffiti srea on my T3, for a larger readable area. For creating my own Plucker files, I mostly use JPluck, a Java-based Plucker tool for creating Plucker files, and use it for grabbing reference type sites, like documentation or quick reference stuff. While getting the URL, it looks like it is no longer being maintained, and the sourceforge link for JPluck points to Sunrise. I kinda liked JPluck, because I could use it regardless of the OS I was booted in at the time, but it looks like those days are over, as sunrise has OS specific binaries.

    Another favorite source of ebooks for me is Project Gutenberg, and a recent visit there to restock some reading material gave me the opportunity to discover that they appear to have adopted Plucker as one of their primary formats. Cool. Now I can enjoy public domain books etc. in my favorite portable format. And I've been putting it through it's paces. I found a 1950s-esque young adults in space series, 'Tom Corbett, Space Cadet', which I have been reading to the boys for their bedtime story, at least until the recent Harry Potter book forced a hiatus. I've also found several classic Sci-Fi writers with works on Gutenberg, including Andre Norton and her various nom-de-plumes, Lester Del Rey, and others.

    A few years back, I availed myself of Project Gutenberg to actually read some classic Sci-Fi I had only seen the movies of or known as the 'well-known' stories their popularity made them, including Frankenstein, and Dracula. They were both quite interesting, particularly when compared with modern incarnations, but I particularly liked Frankenstein. This book seemed to me to be much more of a study of human nature and the relationship between man and his creator, than a standard horror story. I don't often read books more than once, besides comic/cartoon books, but this one I expect I will read again. And yet there is so much to read out there, if only all of it were as easily accessible. :-) So, if you see me with my nose stuck in my T3, I may be reading some more classics. :-)

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A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.

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