Ebooks and Pbooks
I love ebooks, I own a couple hundred now. For the last 5 years, I’ve tried to avoid paper books (pbooks). As well as my stream of C. J. Cherryh books, I’ve also limited myself to e-versions of technical and programming books.
While I’ve found this useful for browsing while travelling, waiting on compiles and etc, I’ve found no variant of ebooks anywhere near as useful as a physical hard copy of the same. This is not helped by things like PDF readers and electronic media being god awful for searches; hell(*1), even Kindle for PC on my kick-ass high level machine takes forever to search Programming Python, to the point I think it sends a web request to Amazon to have someone pick up a physical copy of the book, look the page up from the index, and send the result back to my software.
I’m looking to start learning Silverlight and XNA, particularly for Windows 7 Phone (I’m currently at the interested-but-not-convinced stage with XAML as I’ve experienced it with C# .NET 4.0). So, sure, I checked out a heap of technical books on my Kindle. But when I finally settled on 101 Windows Phone Apps (which appears to be the source of most of the Windows 7 Phone marketplace apps), I decided to go pbook.
I really don’t understand why I have this preference. I work perfectly fine with web-based tutorials and such, but yet let a book publisher turn it into an ebook and somehow I find any such book a total pain in the ass: O’Reilly, Kindle, PDF, Kindle for PC, Kindle for PC on my laptop while I work on my PC… UGH!
Ultimately, all of the above try too hard to provide a digital simulacrum of the paper experience.
Consider the ZeroMQ “book” (online). It features the ability to view the code examples in a variety of languages. If printed, it would likely force you to leaf/scroll past a litany of examples.
Other examples feature tutorials with links to a pop-out listings of code, use of tool-tips etc, all of which allow for a task-oriented access to the information contained with them.
Kindle? Hell no. PDF? Not a chance. The best you can hope for is a web link (invariably to a defunct site or a page full of “did you mean?” options, or advertising, or some other annoying failure to just list the information you wanted: morons), or a link to the CD Rom (how frigin’ annoying is that: this digital media now requires you insert physical media into your computer!).
Conversely, I generally find published books serve much better as reference materials, while electronic media like web-tutorials are generally awful for reference purposes.
“101” should arrive at work by Monday, and I’ll spend a little time dabbling with it this week and I’m intrigued to see how my first “learning” pbook in 5 years compares to my “ebook” experiences of late…
*1 When I start using ‘hell’ like that, I’ve probably been reading one of the Foreigner books.