Leaving Antigua, W. I.

Friday, August 26, 2011

EBooks and Life Aboard a Sailboat, or Sail Faster, Read eBooks

We got interested in eBooks early on, because they take up no space and they are available anywhere there is internet service.  Both of those features are important to us.  Leslie was the early adopter; she started reading eBooks on a Windows CE handheld computer using Microsoft Reader, years ago.  Her choices were somewhat limited in the early days.  Most of the books available were out-of-copyright classics, which had some appeal.  She also found a few reference books, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica for the pocket PC.  Her breakthrough occurred about three years ago, when she discovered that she could find a recently published novel that she wanted in eBook format for immediate download.  It required downloading different reader software, but that was a trivial problem.  Given that we were down in the southeastern Caribbean, where bookstores are scarce, she was pretty excited.  It was possible to order a paper copy of the book in question from any of a number of online retailers, but shipping would have been expensive, plus there would have been the aggravation of clearing the package through customs and paying duty, as well.  The eBook price was slightly less expensive than a paper copy, but the total cost was a fraction of what the paper book would have cost us, and she had the book and was reading it within a few minutes. 

We now have a library of around a thousand eBooks, growing daily, stored on a notebook computer and managed with a great program called Calibre.  These days, we read eBooks on our iPod Touches.  Leslie was the pioneer again.  Her handheld PC died two years ago, and we replaced it with an iPod Touch.  It's an amazing device.  Although reading eBooks on the older device was convenient, switching to reading on an iPod Touch meant that she could read a book using one hand.  Once she got the iPod, she quit reading paper books.  I couldn’t understand it. 

When I got involved in planning to replace Play Actor's engine, I borrowed the iPod and downloaded a project-planning application, which really opened my eyes.  At the first chance, I got my own iPod Touch, and I’ve never looked back.  I have an entire reference library on it.  It now holds everything from novels to dictionaries of several languages to the entire Wikipedia database, offline, plus the workshop and parts manuals for everything on the boat, including our new diesel engine.  It also handles spreadsheet files for our budget, and stores all of our recipes and shopping information, as well as serving such mundane functions as a clock and calendar.  But, I digress.  I was writing about eBooks and their impact on our life under sail.  Perhaps I'll do another post about how computers and related technology have affected us in recent years. 

Reading eBooks on such a versatile platform has changed the way we read.  If we happen upon an unfamiliar reference, it's become intuitive to shift from the book in question to one of the many reference works that reside on the iPod, satisfy our curiosity, and go back to the book, all seamlessly.  While it is possible to do that with paper books, it is enough more cumbersome, especially on the boat, where books must be stored in every available cranny, that we didn't often do it.  Thoughts and ideas that are stimulated by whatever we are reading are easily captured in a similar manner.  We can copy from the text and paste to a notepad or to-do list, or make a note in our handwriting on the screen.  Annotation of what we're reading, and the sharing of the annotations, is equally easy.  That significantly increases our reading pleasure, as we interrupt one another much less often to share our observations.  In a paper book world, contemporaneous observations were usually not recorded, and so were often forgotten before they were discussed. 

The contribution of the iPod to my efficiency as a writer is tremendous.  Some of my best ideas pop into my mind while I'm reading, often when I'm reading something unrelated to my current writing project.  It's easy to capture those thoughts on the fly, without completely losing track of what I'm reading, but that's a topic for my writer's blog. 

The other major impact of eBooks on our life afloat has been in the area of boat speed.  We've taken a few hundred pounds of reference books off the boat in the past year, not to mention drastically reducing the number of paperback novels aboard.  We've come up a bit on our waterline.  We used to plan our cruising to some extent based on stopping in places where we knew we could find good book swaps.  That's no longer an issue.  We have internet service available almost everywhere, so we can add to our library anywhere we wish, without worrying about where we'll put the books. 

There are other benefits, as well, such as the freedom to read anywhere we're comfortable, without worrying about lighting.  Reading in bed is possible without disturbing your bedmate.  Some of the benefits are specific to the platform we've chosen, but a dedicated eBook reader, such as a Kindle or a Nook, would offer the freedom from bookstores and the space savings, at a minimum.  Some of our cruising acquaintances like the screens of the dedicated readers better, too. 

What's your experience with eBooks aboard?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waiting on a Gal Named Emily

We've been watching an area of disturbed weather out in the Atlantic to the east of us for the last few days.  The weather gurus have been predicting that it would spin up into a tropical cyclone, and if so, it would be named Emily.  We already sat through one hurricane named Emily here in Grenada several years ago.  We figure that since the last Emily rolled right over us, this one was bound to miss us, kind of like lightening not striking twice in the same place.

Emily-to-be (or maybe not to be) had a mind of her own, though.  She's not going to get in a hurry just because the forecasters say she will.  She's just dawdling along out there, and, for now, will pass well to the north of us.  She hasn't even decided if she's going to be a storm.  We're thankful that she wasn't listening to the same weather predictions that we heard.

We did actually move the boat from our normal summertime anchorage around to a spot on the south shore of Grenada, just in case the winds came out of the west with the passing of this weather system.  It was also time to run the engine to charge the batteries, since we haven't had enough solar and wind energy to keep them up for the last couple of weeks, and we noticed on our last swim that we were growing a little slime on Play Actor's underwater surfaces.  The move took care of all of those problems, and afforded a change of scenery for the crew, as well.

We're enjoying a relaxing summer, reading, swimming, and doing enough minor boat maintenance to keep occupied.  Bud just published a short story, The Lost Tourist Franchise, available in eBook format on Smashwords, The Lost Tourist Franchise on Smashwords.  It should be available on the Kindle Store on August 2. Check his writer's blog at http://www.clrdougherty.com.

We'd love to hear from you.  We hope your summer is a good one.