E-books

I have just read my first e—book, plunging into the brave new world of publishing's future. I can report that I am extremely happy with my experience. For a mere two dollars, you too can try out the new technology for yourself, and in the process read an extremely valuable book at a small fraction of its cover price in the dead tree format.

My friend and frequent American Thinker contributor Herb Meyer and his lovely wife Jill years ago wrote the best book about the process of writing, a hands—on guide for organizing and refining ideas and turning them into good prose. It bears the obvious and therefore useful title How to Write, and has sold over a quarter of a million copies in the print version. A journalist friend working at a major national daily told me about using it at Columbia J—school, and that it was the best thing she found there. Perhaps that is damning with faint praise, but I don't think she meant it that way at all.

Herb and Jill have decided to make their book available as a downloadable e—book, and have priced it in a way that makes it accessible to everyone who needs it, which is just about everyone. William Buckley and Mark Steyn may take a pass, but they are rare counter—examples. Herb and Jill have great hopes for home—schoolers adopting it, and, as a home—schooling dad, I think they have done us a great service. But most adults would benefit by being taken through the entire process of preparing ideas and converting them into prose by teachers as skilful and knowledgeable as the Meyers.

My suggestion is that if you don't have the latest version of Windows on your computer (which already includes it), you go to the trouble of downloading and installing Microsoft Reader, the latest and most functional program for reading text. MS Reader allows you to highlight, bookmark, and otherwise manipulate the text, in ways that html or Adobe Reader do not.

I am enough of a slow adapter or Luddite (if you will) that I don't have a pocket PC of any sort, so I have not tried out How to Write in the version downloadable to these portable machines. I barely tolerate my cell phone, and manage to forget it so often that friends have learned not to call me there if they want to reach me. So it will be awhile before I try out the portable version.

But I do foresee that eventually many books will be read on tablet—like readers. More readable high contrast screens combined with ever—improving battery consumption will make e—books inevitably supersede the printed version. Distribution cost advantages make this a certainty. Plus, fewer trees cut down, less space devoted to bookcases, and the ability to update data make this a genuine advance.

Yes, I will always treasure certain volumes with their margin notes or beautiful pictures, or author insciprtions. But face it. Most books are printed on paper containing enough acid to give them a very limited life expectancy. Sure, I will wax nostalgic, as I already do for daily newspapers. But I will not miss the dust and the space taken up by all the books in my house and office.

You can access information about the e—book version of How to Write by going here. For two bucks, I cannot imagine a better experiment.

Thomas Lifson   10 04 05

I have just read my first e—book, plunging into the brave new world of publishing's future. I can report that I am extremely happy with my experience. For a mere two dollars, you too can try out the new technology for yourself, and in the process read an extremely valuable book at a small fraction of its cover price in the dead tree format.

My friend and frequent American Thinker contributor Herb Meyer and his lovely wife Jill years ago wrote the best book about the process of writing, a hands—on guide for organizing and refining ideas and turning them into good prose. It bears the obvious and therefore useful title How to Write, and has sold over a quarter of a million copies in the print version. A journalist friend working at a major national daily told me about using it at Columbia J—school, and that it was the best thing she found there. Perhaps that is damning with faint praise, but I don't think she meant it that way at all.

Herb and Jill have decided to make their book available as a downloadable e—book, and have priced it in a way that makes it accessible to everyone who needs it, which is just about everyone. William Buckley and Mark Steyn may take a pass, but they are rare counter—examples. Herb and Jill have great hopes for home—schoolers adopting it, and, as a home—schooling dad, I think they have done us a great service. But most adults would benefit by being taken through the entire process of preparing ideas and converting them into prose by teachers as skilful and knowledgeable as the Meyers.

My suggestion is that if you don't have the latest version of Windows on your computer (which already includes it), you go to the trouble of downloading and installing Microsoft Reader, the latest and most functional program for reading text. MS Reader allows you to highlight, bookmark, and otherwise manipulate the text, in ways that html or Adobe Reader do not.

I am enough of a slow adapter or Luddite (if you will) that I don't have a pocket PC of any sort, so I have not tried out How to Write in the version downloadable to these portable machines. I barely tolerate my cell phone, and manage to forget it so often that friends have learned not to call me there if they want to reach me. So it will be awhile before I try out the portable version.

But I do foresee that eventually many books will be read on tablet—like readers. More readable high contrast screens combined with ever—improving battery consumption will make e—books inevitably supersede the printed version. Distribution cost advantages make this a certainty. Plus, fewer trees cut down, less space devoted to bookcases, and the ability to update data make this a genuine advance.

Yes, I will always treasure certain volumes with their margin notes or beautiful pictures, or author insciprtions. But face it. Most books are printed on paper containing enough acid to give them a very limited life expectancy. Sure, I will wax nostalgic, as I already do for daily newspapers. But I will not miss the dust and the space taken up by all the books in my house and office.

You can access information about the e—book version of How to Write by going here. For two bucks, I cannot imagine a better experiment.

Thomas Lifson   10 04 05