Publisher-provided metadata

Reading on an ereader, I seem to lose all of the “publisher’s metadata”: there is no longer any hint of what type of book this is — no cover to judge, no binding, no typography to tell if it’s a serious literary thing or a pulpy time-passer or an old forgotten once-loved.

It’s probably good this way. Lets the text speak for itself. Mainly the loss harms my ability to recall a book, more than the way I receive its words. No more recollection of 20th century authors as dusty orange Penguins with failing glue. Now they sit alongside every other of any time whose surname begins as theirs does, or is (as arbitrarily) co-alphabetically titled.

Perhaps what I’m looking for is a chronology of literature? Victorians vs. post-war makes more sense than the alphabet as a reading criteria!

Kobo update

A few months ago I bought a Kobo Mini ereader. These are a few notes I’ve made since then about how well it works. It does work well, and I use it a lot.

  • Quite often, after first turning the thing on, it will go back to sleep mode after the first or second page-turn—without me touching the on/off switch. After switching it back on, it stays on until commanded otherwise. This is annoying, and the first few times I thought the thing was total crap, but now I’m used to it and it doesn’t really detract from normal use.
  • It took far longer than I would’ve expected to get used to turning the page! In a couple of books, it would turn the wrong way, or two pages at once, or not turn at all (but just refresh to the same page!). I think this was just my fumbling and lack of awareness of the various screen areas and swipe/tap directions, because it hasn’t happened for ages and I’ve nearly forgotten about it.
  • The bezel is a bit high, casting shadows across the text when the light is not quite high. Far better than the shadow cast by the opposite page of a book, though, so I don’t really say this as a criticism (but it is noticible).
  • Hyperlinks don’t work and should not be displayed as such. (This has only come up in Wikisource texts, and I realised that the epub’s stylesheet should be able to solve this problem.)
  • Fonts seem lacking in some UTF characters (such as 1/8).
  • Hyphenation is a bit weird. Maybe that’s something to do with the epub itself though? I haven’t bothered to read further on the issue.
  • The first-run can not be done on a Linux machine, as it does some stupid reporting and updating to the Kobo HQ. Why this sort of shit is necessary is beyond me, but at least it only needs to be done once and thereafter can be treated as a USB storage device on any OS. I would have loved to have been able to take it out of the box and instantly start reading some pre-packaged whatever.

There’s lots of other stuff, but basically positive and therefore invisible. It has good battery life; good screen contrast; is physically robust (although I do have a fantastic case for it, which puts a nice slab of binders’ board over the screen when it’s not in use); all up is pretty good.

Now, I just hope I don’t have to buy another ereader for, say, five years. Ten, preferably.

My new Kobo Mini

Today I bought a Kobo Mini ereader. It’s lovely: small and simple, feeling light and nice to touch. It’s got an on button on the top edge, and a USB plug on the bottom; the rest is screen, bezel, and back (the latter two of a sort of micro-fluffy textured plastic). So far, so good.

I bought it because I want to read Wikisource texts offline and away from the computer, and I don’t like the idea of continuing to print them out. It’s nice to proofread on paper, perhaps, but then carrying A4 pages around in manilla folders isn’t very good (for reading on the bus and whatnot). I don’t think it’s too hard to make notes about corrections in my notepad, so long as I give a suitable amount of context.

Anyway, the second thing about the Mini, after it’s pleasing appearance: it won’t work until it’s been ‘activated’! What on earth’s the point of that, other than to attempt to force me into buying books from some particular company or other?! Ridiculous! However, do it I must, if I want to read anything else — so I registered, and stumbled around in the Kobo Desktop application…

At first it looked like it mightn’t actually be possible to just copy the files I wanted to the device (despite it most sensibly mounting as a little external storage thingo), but it turned out that one must first activate it and then copy files to it, in order for them to be recognised. The file I’d copied before activation was ignored, but then after copying another there it kicked it into action and both were listed in the main menu. A relief.

So: all working on Ubuntu now, and I’ll report back in a few weeks on the actual readish fun of the thing….


Update: I wrote some more about my Kobo in July.