Of all the sites I have come across on the web, few are as near and dear to my heart as Project Gutenberg (Wikipedia Entry). For those of you who have not heard of this website, it is a collection of free, downloadable text files of public domain works. The project was started on one of the 15 computer systems in the US that would eventually become the initial internet network. The first etext was the US Declaration of Independence.
Just to note, Gutenberg Canada is http://www.gutenberg.ca/, the address in Wikipedia is wrong (for now).
All documents are available, at the very least, in plain text format. HTML is also available, as well as in PLUCKER format for use with the PLUCKER reader on Palm and Windows Mobile Devices (I'm looking at *YOU* Big V.). PDF's tend to be rarer since they require more specialized software to be able to read them.
As a result of sister Gutenberg projects in other countries, more documents have been made available as a result of differing copyright laws (such as George Orwell novels at Project Gutenberg Australia). The wealth of excellent documents to read is HUGE, and growing at a rate of 50 texts per week.
Now all this boils down to: How do I actually READ all of this fantastic content?
While it is probably not cost effective to print out a full book on your printer and reading it off of a computer screen is not comfortable, but you might be able to snag a cheap, used mobile computer off of eBay. This somewhat harkens back to my last post regarding eBooks. If you're knocking off three or more books a month on the bus, then it might be a good investment. Especially since you can recharge the mobile device at work and have a full charge for the bus ride/train ride/carpool back home.
Here are a few options for reading books on various mobile devices:
Windows Mobile devices all have mini Office Suites, so reading text files is no problem. You can also download PLUCKER if you want to read nicely formatted text instead of the regularly formatted stuff. Or you can download Acrobat Reader for Windows Mobile, if you want to read PDF's.
While the Palm OS, doesn't come with all the software that Windows Mobile devices do, it is easily reconciled. First of all, DataViz makes an office suite for Palm OS handhelds which handles doc, rtf, txt, and even PDF files.
Adobe also makes a PDF Reader for Palms. The document is reformatted on your PC desktop, and then transferred to your palm.
Palm Fiction is an excellent text file reader, that is geared toward ebooks, I highly recommend it. (a better description is here).
If you want to edit txt files on your palm while you read them, then CardTXT is the application for you.
May 13, 2008: I have removed the link to PSP eBook Creator as it has not been developed in over 2 years. eBook to Images is actively being developed and was last updated in March of 2008. In addition, eBook to Images supports screen dimensions of more readers than just the PSP, offers PNG format for better quality and smaller file sizes, and supports more input files than just text.
Now as unbelievable as it may seem, the PSP is truly a multifunctional work of art. For those of you who do not have a modified PSP (see THIS post), then eBook to Images is for you. What it does is take a text file and format it to the PSP screen and then outputs it hundreds of BMP/JPEG/PNG images which you can upload to your PHOTOS directory on your memory stick and view natively on the PSP's photo viewer (I recommend PNG for better quality and smaller file sizes).
You do need to install Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 (link on the download page above).
The only downside is that a small text file winds up becoming many megs of pictures, depending on the length of the original file and the font size you are using.
One gotcha, is that it ignores single line breaks because most ebooks are word limited to 72 characters by hitting enter. Paragraphs are separated by double line brakes, so those are kept. So if you have a list of items that only have a single line break to separate them, they are going to wind up as one long line.
But it is such an ingenious idea, I had to give it a mention.
If you do have a modified PSP, then you can run this piece of homebrew called Bookr. Bookr is hombrew software that supports Text and PDF files natively on your PSP. Although the last version came out in 2006, it is highly functional. You can change the zoom or font size, bookmark your place, and change the viewing colours. It is truly a great book reading software for the PSP platform.
More installation instructions for Bookr.
I know that I said it is not practical to read a book on a computer, but this program really jumped out at me. Tom's EText Reader
actually LOOKS like a book. Mind you, I had to download a copy of unzip32.dll and save it to C:\windows\system32\, but it looks nice, runs without installation, and lets you customize the view.
Well that pretty much rounds up another informative posting. Hopefully you will be able to squeeze some personal reading into your busy days.
Until next time, this is Soundwave on board the Nemesis bidding you farewell.
"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"