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Book-Reading Online

February 13, 2008

I have put a book up online, where it can be read easily and comfortably, even aesthetically. Let me introduce how and why.

My high school typing class was pre-electric typewriter, and what I learned was that I was lousy at typing and I hated it. The first time I saw a student who was a struggling writer learn how to use the Bank Street Writer, an early word processor, I knew writing with a computer, where I could correct without re-copying, was for me.

I was introduced to dos, and I hated it! Even when I copied out step-by-step instructions, I still frequently had to ask for help. Mild dyslexia might have been part of this, and only a very strong pull to write kept me going back to this early computer system.

When the college where I worked introduced Windows, I was delighted to discover the GUI – that is, the Graphical User Interface! (Imitating the visual and user-friendly Mac)

As a writer and a writing & communications teacher, I began to see what a profound communications tool this was. Mentored by two women who were computer experts, I began to play. I created a website using Netscape Navigator’s Composer (I love WYSIWYG) and managed to learn about computer and web use for communicating without ever learning anything but a few dribbles of HTML code.

If you are wondering what this had to do with reading books online, be patient, just a little more introduction;->

I had come to believe that we, my generation, were living through the most profound change in communications (and therefore of human culture) since the printing press. I returned to school determined to write a thesis both about and demonstrating the learning required for, and the impact of, the personal computer and the web. I was lucky enough to have Dr Patrick Diamond supervise me as I wrote an autoethnographic arts-based narrative inquiry, probably the only way I could actually demonstrate the possibilities of word-processing and the web. I would have made my thesis multimedia, if I’d had the skills required at that era (2004). I was happy to settle for using a variety of fonts and layouts, each conveying a different “voice” (inspired by authors such as Stephen King in Misery) and lots of screenshots.

I sent my thesis out to some academic publishers, who rejected it. I knew that the extensive use of different fonts and coloured screenshots would make it very expensive, and that in itself, made it unlikely to be published. After a couple of years, I investigated what it would cost to publish through lulu; too much.

A few days ago, someone on Twitter, (sorry I forget who) referred to issuu. I looked at it. I was struck by four things:

  1. It kept the appearance of my pages intact;
  2. It suggested the aesthetic experience of reading with a beautiful page-turning animation;
  3. It accepted even very large pdf files; and
  4. It was free.

I uploaded my thesis and embedded it in the previous post in this blog. I had some struggles with the size of text and moving through it, but it was beautiful. I mentioned my blog post in Twitter and Ignatia responded, and expanded in her blog – http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2008/02/document-sharing-software.html – and I discovered Scribd . (Thanks Ignatia.)

I liked four things about Scribd :

  1. It kept the appearance of my pages intact;
  2. It was easy to move through the text;
  3. It accepted even very large pdf files; and
  4. It was free.

So my thesis is up on both issuu and scribd.

I’d love to hear what you think of both issuu and scribd, and maybe even of my thesis;->

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