Midweek Bookblogging: Read an Ebook Week Edition

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We are Bookblogging midweek since A. we didn’t get around to it over the weekend and B. It’s Read an Ebook Week! We have had our Cybook Gen3 for a few weeks now and it rocks our socks. Naturally one of the first things we did was download all of Jane Austen’s novels, plus Lady Susan, Love and Freindship, the Memoir, Life and Letters, and a couple of other interesting oddments to our Cybook. And not only do we have all of Jane Austen’s work (and work about her), we have books by the Brontës, Mrs. Gaskell, Mrs. Radcliffe, Fanny Burney, L.M. Montgomery, Dickens, and a metric truckload of Trollope–and much more–and we are using maybe 5 percent of the capacity of our 1GB SD card. We carry this device around with us daily. The Cybook is the thinnest and lightest reader with an eInk screen, though the cover adds some heft to it, but it fits easily in our smallish handbag. We have played with a co-worker’s Kindle and were extremely impressed by the ease of use. We thought the interface seemed kludgy before we used it, but it’s amazingly intuitive. We also have heard many wonderful things about the Sony Reader, and if you don’t mind or even prefer a backlit display there is the eBookwise, or you can use your Treo or BlackBerry or mobile phone or PDA to read eReader or Mobipocket format books. (We still have many eReader format books on our Treo.)

Incidentally, all of the books we mentioned above were free. We also received $50 in downloads of paid books from BooksOnBoard when we purchased our Cybook (haven’t used it all yet). But most public domain books, for all devices, are free to download from somewhere. Manybooks.net probably has the best selection, both of books and of formats; Feedbooks has a smaller selection but its books are really nicely formatted. Community members at MobileRead have digitized dozens of public domain books in various formats, and MobileReader Harry T. has uploaded lovely ebooks of Jane Austen’s novels in Mobipocket and Sony Reader formats, including the C.E. Brock illustrations from Molland’s and Solitary Elegance! We just downloaded five of the Big Six in Mobipocket format to enjoy on our Cybook.

Admittedly, ebook readers, especially the eInk readers such as the Cybook, Kindle, Reader, and iRex iLiad, which are the top of the line technology (and correspondingly expensive), are still in early adopter territory. We can see that they may not work for some readers; though we are really impressed with how well Amazon has done in making the Kindle work out of the box even for the non-tech-savvy and in providing a variety of content. DRM is an issue, which is going away with music but still very much an issue with ebooks; the main problem with DRM is portability between devices, and the Kindle and Reader use proprietary ebook formats. But for those of us who mostly read classics anyway, it’s not as much of an issue; there really is a tremendous amount of totally free public domain content out there, and everyone is at least talking about DRM. Whether it will do any good remains to be seen.

We used to say “Can’t curl up in bed with a computer, so we’ll never read ebooks.” Well, you can certainly curl up with one of the latest generation of readers; and some intrepid types even take them into the tub and on to the beach, properly protected of course. We still read and collect and enjoy paper books, but we are really enjoying our adventures in ebooks. Incidentally, stay tuned–we’ll be adding some new etext titles at Molland’s very soon! We’re happy to answer any of our Gentle Readers’ questions about ebooks or the Cybook in comments.

Speaking of digital text, JASNA has digitized Persuasions No. 10, which includes essays from the 1988 AGM in Chicago (which is, of course, where the AGM will be this year as well). The theme of the conference was “Jane Austen’s England” and the list of papers, both related to the conference and not, look fascinating.

The News Observer (North Carolina) has an article about the Everyman’s Library, currently featured at an exhibition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library.

Early dust jackets were graced with Thomas Carlyle’s assertion that “The true university in these days is a collection of books.” The Everyman’s edition of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” was graced with Sir Philip Sidney’s lovely line, “A tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney corner.”

We’ve updated the list of upcoming books and those currently on the shelf in the menu at right. Hopefully we’ll get it together to do a post highlighting all the latest publications!

That’s it for Friday Weekend Midweek Bookblogging, and always remember, Gentle Readers: Whether electronic or paper, Books Are Nice!