The best free e-book site I’ve found yet

I’ve been grabbing Project Gutenberg texts as I think of them, and prettying them up with an epub editor, but I learned today that I’ve been largely wasting my time. Manybooks.net is a site that has most of the Gutenberg collection available and has already cleaned up the formatting and added covers to make these old public domain books look better and more recognizable on an e-reader’s virtual “shelf.”

That’s not the only thing the site has going for it.

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How to tame e-books

I haven’t exactly been rushing out to buy an e-reader, for at least a couple of reasons. The practical reason is that I’m afraid of being locked in to a single vendor. Amazon is the market leader and the most likely to still be around for the long term, but they’re the worst about locking you in. The other vendors offer slightly better interoperability–supporting the same file format and, optionally, the same DRM–but the non-Amazon market leaders are Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Sony, all of which are scary. Borders is being liquidated; B&N isn’t losing money–yet–but its profit margins have shrunk each of the last two years; and Sony’s recent problems are well known to the security community. I’m not too anxious to climb into bed with any of them. Google is entering the market as well, but the first Google-backed e-reader doesn’t support highlighting or note-taking.

The Luddite reason is that I’m old enough to have an attachment to books. Physical books, printed on paper. Maybe this isn’t true for any generation beyond mine (I’m a GenXer), but for my generation and previous generations, having books on your shelf is a sign of being educated. And there are certain books–or types of books, depending on your field–that you’re expected to have on your shelf.

To a certain extent, the latter reason can be negated by playing the e-reader card. Of course I have the complete works of Shakespeare on my e-reader, so those Shakespeare books from college just became clutter…
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My what-I-did-tonight piece

I hate to do a boring this-is-what-I-did-tonight post, but I figure the occasional one of those is better than silence from my direction.
I’m sick again. I think this is some kind of record. This pattern of five-day breaks between illnesses really better not last much longer.

So I went out to stock up on sick supplies. You know the drill: chicken soup, zinc lozenges, vitamins. I went in to get my vitamins, then found myself blocked in, so I continued down the aisle and found the first vacant aisle to cut through. Of course it was the make-up section. I felt especially manly cutting through the make-up section, especially considering my next stop was… the sewing section. I needed a needle and thread, for two reasons. I’ve got two shirts with buttons popped off, and I learned a cool way to bind books, but you need a drill (which I have) and a needle and thread (which I didn’t) in order to do it.

So I picked up a couple different colors of thread, then wandered aimlessly for a while until I stumbled across the needles. I found a 25-pack for 64 cents. Good deal.

I really, really hope I looked as lost as I felt.

So when I got home I bound a short book. The idea is this: You drill holes a quarter inch from the top and the bottom, then drill two more holes spaced two inches apart. Cut a length of thread about four times as long as the book is high. You can get the sewing technique from this PDF file. Traditionally, you use Japanese stab binding for short books of drawings, poetry, or journals. But I found it works just fine for everyday stuff. I recently printed a few public domain texts from Project Gutenberg, and this provides me with an easy and extremely cheap way to bind them.

I was trying unsuccessfully to sew on a button when my phone rang. It was my girlfriend. She asked what I was doing. I told her I was making a fool of myself trying to remember how to sew on a button. She described a technique to me, and when I got off the phone with her, I gave it another try. I think I ended up using a combination of her technique and my mom’s, but it worked. The button’s not going anywhere.

Something she said gave me my masculinity back. She asked how I was at threading needles. I said I had some trouble doing it. She said part of the reason sewing is traditionally a women’s thing is because women have smaller hands, which are more adept to the fine movements that sewing requires. My hands aren’t huge, but they’re bigger than most women’s. She said threading a needle requires good vision, concentration, and a steady hand. I’ve got good vision and concentration. But every time I tried to do something that required a steady hand, my dad just shook his head and said, “You’ll never be a surgeon.” And they’ve only gotten worse with age.

And before all this, I spent some time writing up a piece talking about all the lovely things Microsoft did to DR DOS in the late 1980s. This is in response to some mudslinging that happened over at my recent anti-Microsoft piece. Normally I’d just ignore a troll who doesn’t even have enough guts to put his name on his taunts–all I know about him is his IP address is 12.209.152.69, which tells me he’s using a cable modem attached to AT&T’s network, he lives in or around Salt Lake City, Utah, and at this moment he’s not online–but I think this story needs to be told anyway. Depth is good. Sources are good. And there’s a wealth of information in the legal filings from Caldera. And those filings prove that my memory of these events–I remember reading about the dirty tricks in the early 1990s on local St. Louis BBSs–was pretty accurate.

I’m not surprised. I have a knack for remembering this stuff, and I had occasion to meet an awful lot of really knowledgeable people back then.

If I can still remember that Commodore’s single-sided 170K 5.25″ drive was the 1541, its double-sided 340K drive was the 1571, and its 800K 3.5″ drive was the 1581 and I remember the command to make the 1571 emulate the 1541, and why you would want to emulate a 1541, I can probably just as easily remember what you had to do to get Windows 3.1 running under DR DOS and what the reasons were for jumping through those hoops. That history is more recent, and at this stage in my life, I’m a lot more likely to have occasion to use it.

Not that I’m trying to brag. I can remember the names of the DR DOS system files, and I can remember George Brett’s batting average in 1983, but at the end of a five-minute conversation with someone I just met, I’ll probably struggle to remember a name. Or if you send me to the store, you’d better give me a list, because I’m good at forgetting that kind of stuff.

I suspect the DR DOS piece is half done. I might just get it posted this week.

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