22 September 2009

BFD (Best Free Downloads) for iPhone: Text Readers

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm an old school kinda person. Others may brag about having their old TRS-80 in a box in the garage, but I have my favorite mimeograph in my office. I may not be using it to print newspapers anymore, but it's there. (Don't tell anyone, but I can't write these posts without huffing the processing fluid. Tiiiiiiiiiiight...)

My idea of technology serving man (Don't go with the aliens, Mr. Smeedley. It's a COOK BOOK!) is an application that does something simple, and does it better than the previous technology. Paper money is better than bartering with goats and chickens. Automobiles are better than horses. You haven't experienced air pollution until you've been around horse exhaust.

This is why I'm so infatuated with text readers like Lexcycle Stanza and the Bookz Text Reader. We're talking a serious man crush here. Both are dreamy, but Stanza has some advantages for most people. Either is better than the dopey commercial version: Kindle.

Text readers in general are a mashup of technologies that work together. In this case, Stanza and Bookz are nice little applications that pull text from somewhere and save them to your iPhone/iPod, and allow you to read them at your leisure. But where would they get something worth reading? We look to one of the best results of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) on the planet. I'm talking about Project Gutenberg.

There are plenty of examples on the internet of good ideas taken to insane lengths. (Come to think of it, how egocentric is it to think that others would want to read my blather? Yet millions of wannabe authors like me are blogging their dreary lives everyday... for you, our beloved, fictitious readers!) Project Gutenberg is the brainchild of Michael Hart, who in 1971 decided that it would be a cool idea to take all of the great literature in the world and convert it to a digital format. The electronic ASCII codes could be passed from person to person via eight inch floppy disks until someone else could come up with the internet. The result: people could enjoy the works of Shakespeare, Twain and Poe for no charge.

Now think about the last time you walked into a public library. What kind of a sick, twisted freak would think "Gee, I bet I could re-type all of these books into my computer"? I know nothing of Mr. Hart, but he had to seriously be a burrito short of a full combo plate, sipping the multi-color Kool-aid, whack-a-ding-hoy.

But, like many things in life, his sickness was our gain. Someone really has transcribed all of the best Public Domain (and some copyrighted) books of the past and made them accessible to the common man. I personally have downloaded and enjoyed several of the OZ books, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and a Mark Twain collection of essays. They really are easy to read on an iPhone/iPod screen.

This is where the Stanza pulls ahead of the Bookz Reader. Where the Reader (no relation to My Sickly Truly) accesses Project Gutenberg only, the Stanza also accesses several other free book sources, as well as several book stores. These will sell recent bestsellers for a modest fee.

So now you know my source for canine romance novels. Don't tell anyone, my fictitious friend.

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