Ah, Books...

I love books. There is nothing like the feel of the pages between your fingers and the smell of a book takes me back to the elementary school library. I can't get enough of books. I still remember the first book I read solely for my enjoyment. It was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I was so enthralled with it, I read it in three days. Not so much of a feat for an adult, but as a seventh grader, I had never read more than fifteen minutes at any one time because, frankly, I hated it. After I finished it, I went right back to the book store and bought The Elf Stones of Shannara and that was all she wrote. I was hooked. Fantasy was my genre. Nothing could compare. Unfortunately, it was another five years before The Wishsong of Shannara came out but I managed to fill the time with various other books that did not have the same profound effect on me as the Shannara books have.

Then, I found out about Dungeons and Dragons. Wow! A game system entirely devoted to what sparks my imagination and even better, people had written novels about the worlds the game takes place in. I was in heaven. I was constantly reading book after book. I read at least one, if not two books a month.

STOP...See, I said in a previous entry that I get easily distracted. I started this just to talk in generality about my love of books and then talk about the newest form, the e-book, and I go off on a tangent and end up being a one man advertising army for Terry Brooks and Wizards of the Coast!

Back to the topic at hand...As I stated before I love the feel and the smell of books, hardbacks especially. The sound of a book thumping on a table or being quickly closed. They all bring back memories for me. I am sure that you all agree that there is nothing like sitting on the couch, propping up your feet and covering up in a warm blanket on a cold day and enjoy the company of a good book as you sip a warm beverage (I enjoy hot cocoa or herbal teas the most, for my wife it's hot cocoa or Kona coffee with hazelnut creamer). Yep, there's nothing like it.

Knowing my love of reading, my wife bought me a Nook from Barnes and Noble last year for our anniversary. I really like it. It's great. It's just not the same. I read books on it, but only if I can get them for free. I don't see the point of buying a book and not having a physical copy in my hands. I got a lot of the Barnes and Noble Classic series when they were offering them for free last summer. I read The Last of the Mohicans in August and followed it up with Dracula in September and November (was very slow at times). Still, it is just not the same as a real book and with my refusal to pay for the electronic copy, my selection was very limited. Then I found Project Gutenberg. This organization takes old books that no longer have a copyright in the United States and posts them on the web as e-books and audio books for you to download for free and you can even give copies of the files away to anyone you want...legally! Unless you give it to someone from a foreign county where the book is still protected under copyright. You can even take the books they post and have them printed at places like Lulu or CreateSpace if you must have a hard copy of them.

Now this really sparked my interest. I have found many good books and magazines on their website and I was curious, where do they get all of the books from? Well, they get a lot of their content from another site called Distributed Proofreaders. Distributed Proofreaders takes scanned copies of out of copyright books and converts them to text. Then, teams of volunteer proof readers go over the files and correct any errors made by the computer when it converted the images to text. They do some amazing work. You can find out more about what they do and how they do it at their website. You can even sign up and be a proofreader as well. I did and it can be quite enjoyable. For example, I ended up assisting with the proofreading of a book on the American Revolution that had been written just after the American Civil War. There was a lot of insight in the text that I never got in school. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was able to read and it sparked my interest in early American history. I am still waiting for the finished book to be posted to Project Gutenberg so I can download it and finish reading it.

STOP...There I go again, off on a tangent. I don’t seem to be able to get my mind focused, so I’ll just finish up with this: Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders do great work and they should be supported.

Again, back to the topic at hand...Because I refuse to pay for something that I can not hold in my hand, my selection of books is very limited but there are other sources for free books out there, the only drawback being is that none of it the new literature that most people read. I will add this though, even though I have limited myself primarily to out of copyright literature for e-books, I have found a lot worth reading. A person can read the old classics by Mark Twain or Lewis Carroll. You can peruse the myriad of Oz novels by L. Frank Baum (did you know there was over fifteen of them?) or even delve deeply into the myths, legends, and fairy tales of people from around the world.

Both formats have their advantages. Hard copies of books bring back memories of our youth. E-books let us carry an entire library on a microSD card. To each his own, I, myself have found a need for both at times. They each suit me at different times. I like my Nook for travel, but I prefer my hardbacks when at home. In short, there is a lot available out there in both formats and I recommend everyone partake of whatever suits them best.

Until next time, keep safe and warm and enjoy life to the extent you are able.


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