I had an interesting discussion today at work. One of my co-workers arrived in the office with a couple of O'Reilly textbooks, and said they are on my bookshelf, if you'd like to use them as a reference. He said he was tired of looking up solutions to his coding problems on Google, fixing his problem, and then going on to the next problem without really learning anything. He wanted more information, thus the textbooks appearing on his bookshelf.
I had to admit, I was in the habit of not looking things up in texts, and just trying to find the answer to my one problem on the Internet. It usually works. I don't know if you want to call this being lazy, or being efficient, maybe a little of both.
This led to electronic books and readers now available on line that can answer your problem and at the same time go beyond and give you the background information for future problem solving. We both agreed that we don't like reading books on line and prefer a text in our hands. There's something about the smell and feel of books in your hand that makes you treasure them, and enjoy the read.
Following our discussion, I downloaded the "new" free Amazon Kindle reader for the PC, and a free Kindle book from Amazon to check out the reader. This is currently just a Window's application, and it is in "beta" which means there are some bugs. They ask you to put in your Amazon account id and password which automatically links the reader to your account. Now with one click of the mouse you can buy a Kindle book and download it to your PC reader.
There's not a lot of free Kindle books available, but enough to check out the reader. You can find them on Amazon by searching for Kindle books, and a list of books are returned. A "Sort By" box will appear in the upper right side of the search results window, click on it, and sort by "Price low to high." All the free books rise to the top of the pile. Sherlock Holmes it was. And the purchase at $0.00 was completed. Amazon's hope is you'll build up a PC library, and then buy a $259 Kindle so you can take it with you.
They did a nice job with the software, and the reader is nice. You can change font size and page width easily, to make it universally acceptable for all eyesight, and it keeps track of what page you are on in the read. You move pages by the arrow keys or scrolling and can jump via bookmarks and a table of contents.
Since I had loaded it at work and it seemed to work fine, I decided to try it at home and in the end unloaded it. I do not believe they have their syncs worked out yet, and maybe had problems with my loading it down twice.
One thing I did notice is that the books I "purchased" were kept at Amazon. I had to share in my purchase in my account on Amazon, and then sync to ereader to read it. A pain at best that does not work properly. If I understand this correctly, when I put down my money, I get a copy of the book for as long as I remain sync'd with Amazon, although this is done automatically by the software, a piece of me wants it both ways. Keep a record on Amazon, but also give me a copy on my computer or computers for instant set up and access.
The Kindle reader looks nice, but its not quite ready for prime time yet, and is still a beta. I think e-readers and by default PC readers will come into their own, but their still working out the kinks and are not quite ready for prime time.