07 September, 2012

My First Real E-Book

Keith Curtis

This is the first book i have read on my Kindle; not actually the first e-book i’ve read ~ that might have been Mendenhall’s about ancient Israel, i don’t remember ~ but all others have been done on the computer screen, whereas this one i purposely saved, after i downloaded it months ago, as i was pretty sure that at some point i’d be buying an e-book reader. So, this review can serve to speak of the book and the reader.

Curtis is interesting; he is an apostle in the gospel of free software, converted like St. Paul from an enemy of it; in Curtis’s case he was a Microsoft employee, but now urges Linux on the world, as the way into a better future, powered by the ability of thousands of volunteers who will scratch what itches ~ fix or improve what annoys them. The main message that Curtis gives is not that Microsoft (or any other entity which charges for software) is evil, nor that their products are, of necessity, poor quality; rather it is that software which is charged for because people are employed to make it cannot be of such high quality, at least after a period of time, as that which is freely available both to use and to be improved upon, because people will improve it ~ not because they will be paid but because they want it to be better for themselves. Thus free software takes advantage of people’s own self-interest to improve and evolve. The secondary example he uses to illustrate the process is that of Wikipedia, which improves daily as readers make changes to something they believe can be better expressed or more accurate or simply add what had not previously existed. This perspective, at least as Curtis gives it, is quite persuasive, to the point that i shall at some point more than likely try Linux for myself, as i already use free software (OpenOffice) daily, both at work and at home, it is not too great a stretch to imagine migrating.

The points at which i tended to lose interest were those at which he moved from talking about free software to making points about capitalism and space exploration, both of which he has beliefs on, and neither of which he seems especially qualified to be listened to on. This is a shame, because i enjoyed the book, other than at these points. Still, one mustn't complain.

The other point i need to address is the use of the Kindle to read this e-book. I cannot at all remember where i got the PDF file from, but i remember downloading it some months (or more) ago and keeping it because it looked interesting and i imagined that at some point i would obtain an e-book reader. I did not try reading it on the PC, because i dislike PDF files to read, by and large, as they are cumbersome and sitting upright at a desk is not, i find, a particularly comfortable position. That was, as i recall, the sole complaint i had about the prepublication PDF of Mendenhall's book.. I have to say, however, that reading on the Kindle was both comfortable and pleasurable. I did quite a bit in bed, fully warm, except for the hand holding the device, and that could be changed and warmed up frequently enough for it not to be an issue.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the electronic reader will not replace physical books for me, nor is it likely that it will become even the primary method of obtaining and keeping reading material. There is too much invested emotionally in actual books for me to give them up; i can quite easily see, though, that i and people of my generation and perhaps the one after me could well be the last regular users of paper books, as children being born now are quite likely to consider us as we consider the monk with vellum ~ a relic of a previous age and method.

No comments: