Bookstores and the iPad

I walked around a fairly large bookstore here in Toronto today, and realized that the experience had changed. I have my new iPad back in the hotel room, loaded with iBooks and the Kindle app, with a couple new, unread books loaded up.

I love bookstores, especially the big ones. I wish I had the discipline and even remotely the time to read every book that caught my fancy. As usual, I wandered around the science fiction section, looking for authors and titles not found in the States. Alas, I have a poor memory and have been know to buy the same book twice or even three times.

My wife loves books and bookstores, and so do the kids. If I want Terry to read a book, I just leave it lying around. A couple hours later, it is lying somewhere else, the contents already absorbed.

But I don't need to have a paper copy of every book I read, and our book/book-shelf ratio is chronically too high. Efforts to archive books I will never read again are met with resistance.

There are many books I'd be happy to download, read, and perhaps lose later to technological or economic changes. Many science fiction books are fun, but I don't need the paper copy. Terry Pratchett's discworld group fall in that category for me. Quickly-outdated science books, or "The Big Question" by Steven Landsburg (now loaded in my iPad) also fit this category. Free To Choose does not, nor most of the Heinlein ouvre.

The bookstore had a number of books I might have purchased, but they were all in the non-archive category. Why not just buy them online? They fit in the iPad without adding weight.

And speaking of archiving, the Kindle app had an "archive" category, which I misunderstood. It was described as all the books one had purchased from Amazon. We've been major clients of Amazon since very early on. Would those books be available for no further charge? Would they even be listed---sometimes I accidentally buy multiple copies of books from them, too. They ought to Do The Right Thing, and mention if I had bought a particular title from them before. Of course, the archived list are Kindle titles that had been purchased, a nod toward extending the permanence of one's book purchases.

Of course, the Kindle has been around for a while, and I am late to the game. There are many rabid Kindle fans who have already discovered all this. But it appears to me that the iPad has better display technology for me. Alas, it is too heavy to hold long in one hand. One must lean it on the cat, or buy one of the hundreds of holders doubtless available for it.

But iBooks is really a lovely format for reading. I found myself wishing that the papers I am reviewing were available in that format, and that appropriate annotation features would be available as well. I am trying the Goodreader ap;p for PDFs. I don't think it is quite there yet.

But it also occurred to me that both editions of the Firewalls book ought to be available in that format. We've released the PDF of the first edition a number of years ago, but it is still in print, and still appears as a lunch-changing sum in my royalty check. Why shouldn't it be available in that form for $1.99? Apple, Addison Wesley Longman, and the authors could split the take. Free money.

Both editions of the book were written in LaTeX, so in principle one could generate the eTXT format from that. I haven't seen any translators yet that appear right, but I will check them out. I'd be willing to make a format editing pass to get it right. And speaking of format changes, I'd like to see technical papers published in two forms: PDF and eTXT.