Friday, March 30, 2012

So, how about some reading on your phone/tablet/PC?

Wait, what's that? Am I nuts? Who reads these days? Reading is for losers, right?

Re-think your knee-jerk reactions, re-inhale your gasps of horror, and listen to me: all of you are avid readers. Even those of you who haven't picked up a book in many years. Yes, I accuse and find you all guilty of reading.

What are you doing right now? What do you do on Facebook? How about your favorite websites (the ones you are willing to admit)? Do they not contain large portions of text with pictures and videos interspersed in between to elaborate a point mentioned in the text? Reading, as a skill and as a hobby, is at an all-time high. So are books. We can see newspapers and journals falling victim to Twitter, online news sites and blogs, but books, including fiction and non-fiction, have not been replaced. In fact, through expansion into the electronic medium, books and magazines have never been more popular.

So what can you read on your PC and how? Here are my recommendations.

MAGAZINES: Zinio Reader. It's perhaps the best thing that ever happened to magazines. Zinio is an online service where you can buy or subscribe to electronic copies of a wide variety of magazines.

That's not the end, though. Zinio has got applications for Windows, Macs, iOS and Android. Your library is maintained in the cloud. That presents the following benefits:
1) Your magazine arrives right on time, never late. No tracking the courier service, no missed issues.
2) By reading in this way, you are doing a world of good for the forests of this world
3) You can read/download the magazine on any device which has Zinio - so whether it's your laptop, tablet or phone, your entire library is available on it.
4) You don't have to worry about archiving - all your data is forever there for you to download from Zinio
5) Last, and MOST IMPORTANT - how does an issue of Car and Driver for 0.99 USD sound? Yes, you read that right. Those are the kind of prices you can get when you go electronic. Beware though that not all magazines are this cheap.

Zinio itself is free, and you subscribe through your credit card. Give it a try - there are a lot of free issues to try out, so you can re-introduce yourself to magazines without spending a penny.

BOOKS: How's this for a paradox: Electronic edition of one set of bound pages, lavishly coloured, 100s of pages, with contributions from various writers, costs peanuts. Another set, with black and white type, costs the same price for both paper and ebook version. Whereas books are concerned, the picture is not so encouraging. You basically pay the same amount for paper or paperless version (give or take a dollar). What's more, the ebook ecosystem is very fragmented: you have to have a specific device (such as Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook) or a specific ebook software (Amazon Kindle or Nook again) on your device, and you will only be able to purchase your ebooks through their connected ebook stores. Inter-device compatibility is also hit and miss. All in all, while it is attractive to have your reading library on your PC or phone, don't expect any savings by foregoing printed paper in favor of bits and bytes.

And, if you live in Pakistan, don't expect to be easily able to buy ebooks! Most ebook stores do not offer their services in Pakistan. Which brings us to the next paragraph.

However, there are standalone ebook readers (Aldiko, above and my personal favorite, and Kobo) which I use to read ebooks download sources. My ethical position on this is simple: I only download those books which I already own. I see no reason in having bought a book on paper and then buying it again electronically.

That said, the fact that virtually any book you might want to read is now there on the internet, potentially free, is bound to overwhelm your self-delusional ethical stance on such things at some point. Think along the lines of mp3s and 'locally available' software and movies and you will know what I mean. 

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