Tuesday, April 09, 2019

comfortable reading

The other day in Leipzig, I went into the huge bookstore next to the university to buy entertainment for the flight back to Zurich (and possibly any number of successive flights).  Strange how unappealing the seat-back screen is when you're not up to date with the movies anymore.  The books I had in mind, my personal shortlist of recent smash hits, were all bound in hardcover.  This is not very practical for traveling.  The only softcover I looked for was Dostoyevski's "The Brothers Karamazov", at 1200 pages not exactly a lightweight either.  It was then that I remembered the e-reader lying ignored in some dark drawer.

My mom had given me the gadget for a birthday a few years back.  I had read a few books on it but never really got into it.  Why would I spend the price of a good book to just get a file in return?  This is not my kind of reading.  But for traveling with Dostoyevski, a file sounded just right.

Back in Switzerland, I went hugendubel.de, my source for German books.  They had a few hits matching my search.  There was the current translation at 15 euros and a handful of older translations out of copyright that could be had for a euro each.  After an exhaustive study of the relative merits of the various translators, I decided I wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway and went with one of the cheap options.  "This item cannot be delivered to Switzerland," is not what I expected for a file.

To help the online retailers in their feeble efforts to sell me things, I went to orellfuessli.ch, Switzerland's biggest booksellser, hoping for better luck.  I found nearly the same selection, at comparable prices, as on the German website, but then started to think.  If this new translation is really better than the others, as many claim, I might as well splurge for it.  At the cost of two Economists, it would keep me reading much longer.

The transaction was quickly finished.  The book showed up in my online bookshelf and invited me to start reading right there in the browser.  That had not been the idea.  After a while I figured out the download.  That's where the problems started.

In the Guardian, a number of British authors were just bemoaning the fact that a fifth of all ebooks were pirated and that the government, the "morally bankrupt government" wasn't doing anything against to stop this.  Not only are writers cheated out of their deserved rewards, literature itself was also suffering as a consequence.  Two thumbs up from me.  Why would you not just buy your ebooks legally, download it to your reader and immerse yourself in written beauty in seconds?

Here is why not.  My e-reader, a Tolino Vision 2, is not recognized as a removable storage volume by any of the computers I own.  It will only talk to hugendubel.de natively because that's where it was bought.  Connecting to my just opened account on orellfuessli.com through the pre-installed browser failed because of unspecified technical issues.  Trying to open the Tolino's own web reader was met with an unsupported browser error.  How can the browser that's installed on the damn device fail to open the online library written for it?  By now I was getting rather aggravated.

My next long flight is still a few weeks away, but I don't want to have to leave without Dostoyevski's many words.  Adobe Digital Editions might be a solution, but I don't see this as very likely if the reader isn't recognized as a USB device.  Dropbox came to my mind for data transfer through the cloud, but this would require digging out credentials that might not work anymore anyway.  Then there's the option of linking my accounts at hugendubel.de and orellfuessli.ch to make my purchases visible to both.  Could this work?

For now, the file is online, on my two laptops and on one USB stick.  In a few weeks, it'd better be on the Tolino as well.

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