eBooks are our faceless friends

I love my Kindle. I’ve read probably a hundred books on it and will definitely read many hundreds more. I love everything about it: the convenience factor, the screen, the storage space, the form factor — everything.

I’ve read about a hundred books, but, if it wasn’t for Shelfari, I probably wouldn’t remember reading half of them. Not what the book is about, but the very fact that I’ve read this book. If I were browsing library shelves and happened to pick up some of the books I’ve read, I wouldn’t recognize them. Why is that?

The familiar and easily recognizable form factor of a Kindle makes the experience of reading one book virtually indistinguishable from reading any other. You may be reading a Lincoln biography, The Three Musketeers or the Holly Bible — nothing, absolutely nothing, changes. It’s the same black device with the same screen and the same black-on-white print. There are no pictures; the weight, the size, or the font of the book never changes. All those memory hooks that allow us to remember and distinguish things are missing. The books that you’re reading simply have no face. It’s like meeting a hundred faceless men at a cocktail party and having them tell you their name and their life story. You may remember the stories, but good luck telling which story belongs to who.

The same thing happens when I try to remember a specific paragraph or illustration from a book. The way memory, at least my memory, works, I remember that this specific paragraph was somewhere in the last third of the book, it was after this illustration but before that diagram, it was at the bottom of a page that had some other distinguishable sentences on it. I might have even highlighted it. In other words, finding something in a physical book is possible by just leafing through pages and setting off memory triggers. In an ebook all of that is missing: you can’t open a book in its last third and leaf through the pages to find something. You have to rely on the search feature, but you have to know what you’re searching for in the first place.

(Of course, there’s the highlight feature of a Kindle, but unless you make just a few highlights in a given book, finding a particular highlight is also not so straight forward.)

I find that using ebooks forces me to give up the natural way I remember things. It is forcing me to devise new ways, which don’t feel right and, frankly, don’t work for me. I’m yet to come up with a system for consuming all those highlights I made in all those Kindle books. I’ve tried importing my highlights and organizing them somehow in Evernote, but that, once again, forces me to have to remember what I’m looking for in the first place. I’m considering starting a good old notebook of handwritten notes. Seems like too much work though.

What do you do? Do you have a system for remembering or finding things in ebooks?


Calibre – Best e-books software

If you read e-books, you need Calibre.  Simple as that.

Well, let me rephrase that.  If you’re a Kindle user like me and only ever get books that are available on Amazon, you probably don’t have much for Calibre.  Same goes for the dedicated Nook users.

But if you get your books from a variety of sources, then Calibre is an awesome piece of software.

First of all, it gives you a nice visual tool to manage all of your e-books: the ones saved on your computer and the ones already on your reader device.

Secondly, and most importantly, it can convert e-books from any format to any format.  When you install Calibre, it asks you to specify which device you have.  If you said ‘Kindle, then if your local library has e-books available for download but they all are in EPUB format, which your Kindle doesn’t read, then Calibre will effortlessly convert them to the Kindle’s mobi format, including all of the features you’ve learned to love on Kindle.  If you download books from a variety of sites, even, God forbid, some Russian and Ukranian sites, which will go unmentioned, Calibre will just as effortlessly convert them from the FB2 format to mobi.

Lastly, it has a nice book search feature.  Calibre will search a variety of popular e-book sites to find a book of your choice.  If, for example, B&N has a book cheaper than Amazon, I can now buy it in the Nook format and convert to Kindle.  I just wish I could edit the list of sites it uses.  Project Gutenberg, for one, is not included.

I can’t believe that it took me this long to discover this great program.  I am now reading some Russian books that I’ve wanted to read for quite some time, but never got around to acquiring them.

Happy readings.



IBM Lotus Domino: Classic Web Application Development Techniques – Book Review

The folks at Packt Publishing are continuing to expand their shelf of IBM Lotus books.  Their latest addition – Classic Web Application Development Techniques by Richard G. Ellis.

Before I tell you how absolutely awesome this book is, I have to get something off my chest.  The word “Classic” in the title is the absolute key word here.  Mr. Ellis starts off the book by saying that everything here was written for and tested with Domino Designer 8.0.  Upon reading that sentence I just had to go back to the very first page to check the publication date: someone is playing a trick on me.  Alas, no tricks.  The book was indeed published in March of 2011.

The book also stays away, far away, from anything related to XPages and says so right off bat.  But it is about classic development after all.

Once you get over those two facts, the book is actually very good.

I was afraid that it would stick to the trivial topics of web enabling Domino applications and using framesets and tables to layout an application.   Of course, you can’t talk about web development without explaining the basics of including HTML in a Notes form.   And the book certainly does mention framesets and tables.  However, it quickly moves to more advanced techniques of using DIV tags and CSS to effectively build a modern-looking web application.  And for Notes developers who are not faint of heart, there are even sections devoted to advanced JavaScript and AJAX calls to boost performance.

If you are an advanced Domino developer building web applications every day, this book may not be for you.  But if you are a Notes developer who is making a transition to the web and want to know how to web enable your awesome Notes apps without looking like they were built by 5th-grader in 1999, get a copy of the book.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a better single source collection of Domino web development tricks.

What are you reading?

LinkedIn now has a “Reading List by Amazon” application.  If you add it to your profile, you can let people see what books you are reading, have read or are planning to read.

Look through the recent updates of your network or of the entire LinkedIn for that matter. Look through their reading lists.  People read nothing but business, management, technical, self-help and an occasional biography  books — in short, non-fiction”smart” books.  Nobody, almost not a single person, is willing to  admit to reading a crime thriller or the latest paperback smut novel.  We are supposed to be too important, too busy to have time to read fiction, which will not help us advance in our professional development.  Or, LinkedIn being a “professional” social network, nobody wants to show their personal side and admit to reading for fun.

Most likely, it’s a combination of both.  Some are proud to be too busy to read, they certainly don’t have time to read for fun.  And that’s fine.

But if you do read for fun, why not share it?  What are you afraid of?  People won’t think less of you.  It is OK to show a bit of your personality to the world.  It’s OK to be defined by something other than your resume.  People may appreciate knowing a different side of you, something more than a list of awesome jobs you had and schools you went to.  And it just might make YOU stand out just a bit from all the people with the same titles, jobs and certifications as you.

So go ahead, if you’re reading something fun, let others know.  And let me know.  I’m always looking for a good book to read next.

P.S., now if only LinkedIn were to figure out how to tie their application to my Amazon account and pull my books from there.


The Lazy Project Manager or Where Do I Fit In

I picked up this book by accident, looking through the top free Kindle books.  Of course, a project management book that has “lazy” in its title is bound to catch one’s attention.

If you’re looking for an advice on how to screw the pooch and be an effective project manager at the same time, this book is not going to teach you anything.  What it will teach you though is how to stop being one of those project managers who are always busy and yet accomplish little.  Instead, follow the 80-20 rule, focus your attention on what is really important and learn how to use resources available to you.

It is a hard lesson to learn.  If you’re used to being the doer, relying on yourself and delivering results, habit of doing the work yourself is a hard one to break.  To this day I have to remind myself to delegate.  Instead of piling yet another project on my plate (Oh, I can take a look at it tonight), let someone else take care of it.  It will get done and will free you up for other things.

The book is a quick and entertaining read.  Well worth its Kindle price of a whole big ZERO.

What caught my attention is this chart.

Now, I know that I am lazy.  And a few people have told me that they thought I was smart.  All of that makes me wonder.  If I believe the chart and if I believe those people are right, then…  I know how to be successful through efficient use of resources.  Just have to keep reminding myself that I’m lazy enough and I’m smart enough to be successful and to delegate.

And what about you?  Which quadrant do you fit in?


Shelfari is connecting to Kindle – Finally!


Oooooo  can’t wait!

Wonder if they will automatically updated book’s status when I finish reading it on my Kindle.


Kindle, Shelfari and reading books in new year

According to Shelfari, I read 42 books in 2010.  That’s 3.5 books on average per month.  Today, on January 8th of the new year, I already read 3 books and am working through 2 more.  So I’m ahead of pace.

I credit my increased book consumption speed to my new Kindle and audiobooks.

I started the year with reading on a Kindle.  For a long time I foolishly resisted getting a book reading device.  I just didn’t want to give up that feeling of having an actual book in my hands, flipping pages, feeling paper under my fingers.  I read Jeff Bezos promises that his “top objective was to make the Kindle disappear” and didn’t believe it possible.  But Jeff was right.

The first time I sat down to read with my new Kindle, I quickly developed a headache.  It took me a little while to realize what was wrong.  I was trying read it like an LCD screen — a laptop or an iPad or some other handheld device — and Kindle isn’t that.  I can’t explain it, but my eyes were looking at it a little differently and it wasn’t comfortable.  Once I realized my mistake, I adjusted my eyes and started looking at the device just like I would at a book page and that made all the difference in the world.  After that, the device truly sort of “melted” away.  It no longer mattered what I held in my hand, all that mattered was the text on a page.

The form factor of the device is a definite plus.  It is smaller and lighter than most of the books I read, making it much more manageable.

I also found that I read much quicker on a Kindle vs. a regular book.  I attribute this to the size of the screen, the width of the page is narrower than most books I read and it allows my eyes to travel down the rows faster.

And the built-in dictionary is absolutely phenomenal.

All in all, Kindle is an amazing little device.  It is letting me read more and read faster.  It is making me spend more money with Amazon, but that side effect was to be expected.  And if you’re into the classics, there’s always Project Gutenberg, offering many classics in Kindle format for free.

The thing that’s missing for me is tighter integration with Shelfari itself, which is surprising in itself, since Shelfari is owned by Amazon.  I’d love to see my Kindle automatically update my Shelfari bookshelf with books that I’m reading or have read.  Anyone knows how to build it?

And then, there are audio books.  Again, something that I resisted for the longest time until finally deciding to give it a try.  And I’m hooked.  I’m using MyMediaMall through my local library.  Checkout a book, download and transfer to your iPod and enjoy.  I find myself driving slower (people who know me personally and have been in a car with me may find it hard to believe), prolonging my commute just so that I can listen longer to my book.

I’m looking forward to discovering more books this year.  Let’s see what my total count will be at the end of the year.