When I was in high school we did a geology test where we had to recognise different minerals.
On the first day we got to go around the ‘stations’ where the rocks were laid out with their name and properties on a little sign and we had a blank bit of paper with us, and for each station we could write down the name of the mineral and up to 5 identifying features of the mineral to help us identify it the next day.
On the second day the stations were just numbers and the rocks, and we had our cheat sheets and our exam papers and we had to go around the room and write down the station number and what kind of rock it was.
The first day I had noted that each of the rocks had a number painted on the side. I’d asked the teacher (in front of the whole class!) if these were the exact same rocks that would be in the final exam, and he’d said ‘Why yes, they are. Useful no?’ and had simply written ‘Olivine: 5’ and ‘Feldspar: 8’ etc on my cheat sheet.
The shocking part of this story is that I was the ONLY person in the class to think of this, and the only person in the class to get full marks on that test.
I still wonder, to this very day, why no one else tried that trick? Surely other people had noticed? Surely SOMEONE was listening when I asked the teacher about it? Even if you wrote down the legit ‘identifiable features’ as well, surely you’d just write their number down in your margin, just in case? He practically gave us permission to cheat!
When I was a teenager I entered a competition to win an ‘eBook’, which back then was a device like what we’d call an eReader today and came with a small collection of digital books on it.
I didn’t win, which was a shame, but perhaps not such a shame since it was a doomed technology that came back in an entirely different form 5 years later.
Anyway, last night I borrowed a bunch of eBooks from my local library because I’m too sick to go in person to borrow books and I’m too tired and listless to play video games, and don’t have enough brain to do anything like modding.
I’ve never found an eBook that I thought was worth the paper it was printed on, but having received glowing reviews of eReaders and eBooks from various sources I thought I should probably give them a proper go.
You see, I’ve read pirated eBooks, and I assumed that the problems with those were probably related to the decryption process in part corrupting the text.
I’ve also read eBook computer science text books which were just awful. Horribly laid out, difficult to read, hard to digest because you can’t flick back and forth easily and the colours and layout were wrong and I had to use someone elses computer for them because they wouldn’t work on my computer.
Last night though, I thought, hey, I’ll give this a proper go. Young Adult Novels are pretty much the perfect kind of book for this test. Nothing complicated like non-fiction/text books, and I could borrow them from a library and thus get their unsullied, non-pirated, perfect form.
To be perfectly honest, I actually started with the idea that I might buy the books in electronic form and spent several hours setting up software and accounts and finding sources where I could buy ebooks by Australian authors from someone (anyone!) other than Amazon (who I consider the devil). So I tracked down the books I wanted from an Australian seller. To buy the eBook version they redirected me to their German partner (better than Amazon, but still…?).
Each book was going to cost me $10 and I started to get cold feet. I looked up my local library and found I could borrow the books for free and decided to go with that.
So an hour later I actually managed to get the software needed to operate the DRM installed and working and signed up for an Adobe ID account cos I just LOVE having to deal with monopolies like Adobe to support my local library. Yay.
The process was not as easy as it should have been. My library made things pretty simple, but the AdobeID end was needlessly complicated. It did end up getting done though. Maybe its because I have a cold that I found it so hard.
I was a little excited to read my first borrowed eBook and develop my impressions of the format.
My impression? Excellent story, but the format really detracted from the reading experience.
My issues with the format are as follows:
1. There was some text missing. In one of the late chapters I noticed a ‘gap’ in the text and changed my font size to a smaller one. There was text being hidden at larger font sizes. I experimented and found that at the largest font size only the first sentence of that part of the book would display, while at the smallest font size there was still an unknown amount of text missing. It was very frustrating.
2. Not all of the fonts rendered. I don’t know why the fonts aren’t embedded in the eBook, but apparently they are not. I clearly didn’t have all of the fonts required installed on my computer, and since there is no information provided with the eBook about ‘system requirements’ the book I was reading was littered with little square boxes that at first I didn’t really notice, beyond ‘hrm, ugly, why are those there?’ but later in the book when there was an entire sentence written in unrendered symbols the penny dropped as to what they were. Unfortunately I don’t know what font is required and can’t even install it to see what the symbols are.
- There was also no differentiation between the end of the book and the beginning of the advertisements at the end of the book. I kept reading and it took me a moment to realise that I was reading an synopsis of another book and thats why it didn’t seem to be related to the current story. There should be some kind of font difference or a gap/blank page at the end before the ads.
I would not pay $10 for that reading experience. I would happily pay $20 for that book because I really enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind having a paperback copy, but I wouldn’t pay more than $3 for the digital edition since I’d be missing out on part of the story text and a significant amount of presentation.
My verdict on eBooks?
The format is not yet mature enough for me to invest my limited finances in it.
In the case of ‘Should Ryan save for an eReader or a new Graphics Card’, new Graphics Card wins.
Now I’m going to go read some more eBooks to get an idea of how common these issues are in eBooks.