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Archive for the ‘e-books’ Category

Free spanish e-book for intermediate learners

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on December 3, 2006

It is quite frustrating how often a good material hides so deep in a random website that it can only be found by total accident.

Such seems to be the case with Suspense, no suspenso. From what I can tell, it is a complete detective story book written in Spanish for an intermediate language learner and even includes some exercises for the teacher’s use. It used to be a real book (with ISBN and all), but has obviously been released to the world at large since.

I cannot read it yet as I am still at the early beginner stage, but to find a text that is free, in plain HTML (for converting to other formats) and targetted specifically at the language reader is a rare delight. I hope someone ahead of me in learning spanish, will find it useful. Leave a comment, if you do.

And if there are enough people interested, maybe we could find some bilingual speakers to add an english translation to the text. Given that the book is clearly there not for commercial gain, I am sure they would not object if somebody offered to improve its value further.

Posted in e-books, Spanish | 2 Comments »

On open e-book standards and whether translating to Esperanto will bring more readers?

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on November 5, 2006

There is a fight brewing between David Rothman of TeleRead and Bill Janssen of Plucker fame. The point of contention (as I understand the issue) is what would be good format to produce e-books in.

Bill’s position is that any format that is not already accepted (specifically not html) is a lock-in and a disadvantage, whether that format is an open standard (like OpenReader) or a proprietary one (like Sony’s BBeB). He advocates using web browsers as ebook readers.

David’s point (and he invokes me in there) is that HTML format is not sufficient for all e-books, mostly due to the layout and browser changes issues. So, if HTML is not sufficient, we have to chose a new format. Thefore, it is better if the format is an open standard that can be implemented and maintained by multiple parties.

I am with David here and mostly for the reasons he pointed out. For my interests (language learning e-books), HTML is not a good enough format. Sure, I could hack HTML into submission for some of my goals, but it will require so much javascript, that it will not work in anything but a full-blown browser. I invite Bill to replicate the functionality of the Pocket e-Sword. so that it works well in IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari. Maybe that’s why Pepper Pad is integrating FBRReader despite already having a built in Firefox web browser.

So, where does Esperanto comes into it? Well, here is Bill’s quote (emphasis is mine):

Trying to standardize on a common “ebook format”, be it some IDPF creation, some OASIS masterpiece, or even the so-called OpenReader, would only be an attempt to force them all to publish in Esperanto, instead of their house languages. They still wouldn’t have customers.

Publishing in Esperanto does not bring customers? Really! I wonder where Bill gets that data. I don’t know how many (human)  languages he speak, but the only reasonable way I could interpret that statement was as “publishing English material in Esperanto would not bring any more English customers”. That could be a a point, where he would be mostly correct. Of course, the market for Esperanto is not English, it is global.

As an example, I want to take the book/movie Night Watch by my favourite author Sergey Lukyanenko. The book started in Russian, was made into the Russian movie with english subtitles, impacted American market and finally was translated (quite well) into English. What about Chinese or Egyptians? Would they be interested in this book? Maybe, but there is no easy way to find out because translation or even subtitling is very expensive.

Except that there is a way. Night Watch has just been translated into Esperanto (announcement in russian). There is even an excerpt available (unfortunately in PDF). Now, the book is accessible to people in China, Egypt or Germany, as long as they can read Esperanto. And if there is enough interest from those people, the book can be translated into their native languages as well to reach to the rest of the audience. The push model of finding the markets suddenly becomes a pull model of market finding you. This is not a new idea, it is already used by newspapers and even Vatican. It is called establishing a beachhead, I believe.
And that’s exactly the strength of open standards. They can expand the audience beyond original planned targets and bring new markets to your solution, adapting the solution to the market needs in the process.

Closed standards control the markets they know about, open standards create new, unplanned markets. I am currently in the market segment, Sony does not want to think about. Do I wait another 5 years for Sony to catch up or do I look for open standard and open source alternatives? There should be no need to guess.

Posted in e-books, Esperanto, Publishing | 2 Comments »

Spanish/English bilingual e-book is available free via Overdrive

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on October 21, 2006

I was listening to the Trying to Learn Spanish podcast and in its 11th episode somebody mentioned an interesting e-book (Thirteen Senses by Victor Villaseñor) that has parallel English and Spanish text and allows to quickly switch between them.
I like the idea of bilingual books, so I went hunting for it. The book is available for purchase in a couple of places, but I wanted to see an excerpt first to see the quality and ease of use. So I went searching and found something much better.

The book is available as an eBook via Overdrive programme, that many libraries subscribe to. WorldCat site allows to easily find where the book is available and in which format. I confirmed that my library subscribed to the book, so within 15 minutes I had setup the Mobipocket reader and downloaded the e-book to my computer.

It looks quite good and interesting to read. Jumping between translations is with little hyperlinked arrows, so one cannot see both translation at once but it is survivable.

My spanish is not quite up to to the proper reading level yet, but it is good to know it is there and ready for me when
I am ready. And I have 21 days to dip in and out just to see how far I can get.

What’s is interesting is that I could not find any discussion about this dual format and whether it worked for both learners and – commercially – for the publisher. I think this (or similar) format has a lot of promise, but maybe other people disagree.

Posted in e-books, Spanish | 3 Comments »

Good overview of e-books – especially for distance education

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on October 16, 2006

David Rothman of the TeleRead fame has written a good background article on the e-books for the Innovate – journal of online education (free registration required).

While David’s articles at his blog are frequent and in-depth, any one of them is too tactical for a good overview. The article at the Innovate is a good summary and is rather more strategic. It also utilises the online nature of the journal to provide a comprehensive set of relevant hyperlinks. There is even a recorded Webcast connected to the article with further discussion on the issue.

(Disclosure: I have previously written an article about e-books for language learning for the TeleRead blog)

Posted in e-books, General Education | Leave a Comment »

E-book discussion at the Philips’ Simplicity forums

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on October 9, 2006

Philips recently had a Simplicity event, where they showcased a number of concept products that may or may not make it into the real world in the future.

To go along with the event, Philips also setup a voting board for a number of discussion topics. One of the topics currently under discussion is whether e-books are a good idea. You can pick a side and argue out your position or vote on the arguments of others. At the end of the discussion (3 weeks from now), the results are summarised, based on the vote counts.

I have added my opinion to the forum and pointed to the TeleRead hosted copy of my article on the issue and I invite you to join in the conversation either at Philips forums or in the article’s comments area for your view on the situation.

I believe that the more interesting functionalities we can point out now, the more likely they will be incorporated into the future e-book design. Waiting until e-books are avialable, will lead to those design having just some of the advantages of a paper book, but all the disadvantages of an electronic device.

In fact, Sony’s e-book reader seems to have proven that point already. It does not even seem to have dictionary lookup, something most of the handheld e-book readers provide.

Posted in e-books, General Education, Language acquisition, Publishing | Leave a Comment »