E-reader reviews and some "Anthem" sprinting

>> Tuesday, March 01, 2011

So one of the things I did when I got the Galaxy Tab is load it up with entertainment software--by which I mean that in addition to the Kindle for Android software preinstalled on the thing, I also downloaded and installed Nook for Android, WordPlayer and eReader for Android.

Because, y'know, one e-book program isn't enough. There are all those different formats and stuff.

I have a bunch of stuff from Project Gutenberg that was bouncing from the netbook to the laptop by way of my Dropbox account; things I need to read eventually, and having them synced that way meant I could load them all into Calibre and deleting from one after I read it would delete it from the other (for the most part, I don't see the point of keeping a public domain e-book on a hard drive, and "throwing them away" when I'm done is a good way to keep track of what I've read).

Most of the books are actually short stories; actually, this is a little sleazy and Judas-ey on my part--when it emerged last year that Project Gutenberg had added a bunch of old Golden Age pulp SF stories that may or may not be still in copyright, instead of saying, "Those rapscallions, ripping off the legends of fantasy and SF," I said, "Score!" and went zipping off to the PG website to start downloading every short story I was the least bit interested in. I'm a terrible person.

But there are a few longer works mixed in. One of them, alas, is Ayn Rand's novella "Anthem," since I figured I might as well read one of her works and I have neither the time nor the inclination to pay good money for Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, having read excerpts and summaries of the late Ms. Rand's deathlessly prose. And it's a chance, anyway, to test out the Galaxy as an e-reader.

For "Anthem" I'm using the Nook software, which is decent but a little slow to load, and the file management for your own
"sideloaded" files is a little... nonexistent, actually. You can delete from the file manager, but not (as far as I can tell) within the program unless the book is part of your purchased-from-B&N library.

Actually, on the testing e-reader-ware front, I'd already used eReader to wrap up The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane, which I'd been reading off and on on my phone for the past year and WordPlayer for some of the short stuff from Gutenberg. eReader's offering for the Android is frankly just unimpressive; at this point, the only thing eReader (which I started using years ago with my first PDA) may have to offer is the widest range of mobile operating systems to run under; but they haven't particularly kept up interface-wise. WordPlayer is an excellent bit of freeware and you can't complain, and the library management is decent. Both programs on the Galaxy Tab, however, have a problem common to programs running under Android on a tablet: they don't scale properly, so while they are quite legible and easy to use, the actual text display is about the size of a smartphone screen, with a black bar around the entirety; much like the idiot complaining about a letterboxed movie on a 4:3 screen, I just sort of want the black bands to go away.

The Nook display on Android has no such issue, filling the entire screen. Although, curiously enough, the front menu doesn't autorotate. Which is a quibble, of course.

As for "Anthem."

Well, you know, I have to say: talking about the software I'm reading "Anthem" on is vastly more interesting than talking about "Anthem." I imagine I'll finish eventually, because I'm one of those idiots who finishes a book once he's started it, no matter how terrible it is. "Anthem" isn't exactly terrible, but two or three chapters in it's awfully mediocre and clunky. I've read worse, but if that's damning with faint praise, it's completely intentional. In all fairness, English wasn't Rand's first language--then again, it wasn't Nabokov's, either.

At any rate, I can already detect some of the appeal Rand has for a certain kind of personality: Equality 7-2521, the main character of "Anthem," is a Mary Sue for the Republican technocratic type who got picked on a lot in school because nobody fully appreciated how smart and beautiful he was, etc., etc., etc. The pathos of poor E7 really distracts from what's supposed to be the horrific dystopian backdrop for the tale of an individual triumphing over regressive collectivism by dint of his own natural talents and desire for intellectual advancement--I mean, I'm less impressed by his resourcefulness in setting up a junior science lab in the tunnel he found (he and his friend, International 4-8818,1 "melt strange metals, and... mix acids": I wondered if they also made their own "zombie barf") than I am saddened that he can't find any pleasure in his assigned job as a street-sweeper. Everyone needs clean streets, dammit!

A little more seriously, while one wouldn't want to live in a society where one had to take a job assigned by a decaying group of elders, Rand's contempt for a bit of honest physical work really is off-putting. I guess nobody really wants to be a street-sweeper, sure, but there's no shame in an honest day's work and one ought to be grateful if he lives in a place where the effort's made to keep the place clean. I suppose we're to take it for granted that good ol' E7 is too good for that, that he has natural talents as some kind of science-guy in a civilization of retrograde, superstitious imbeciles or some such, but really, he's the narrator, we're just having to take his word for it that he's as brilliant as all that and his civilization is oh-so-horrible. It's unlikely Rand has the craft (or imagination) to create an unreliable narrator and "Anthem" is meant to be taken at face value, but I guess part of what I'm saying is that the narrator of "Anthem" still sounds like every petulant teenager or early-twentysomething in history, misunderstood and held back and nobody loves him and this place sucks! Maybe if Rand wasn't so dead-set on making sure the reader knew E7 is better than everybody else (just like the reader and Ms. Rand!) I'd stop hating him enough to feel some sympathy for him and therefore horror at his situation. Instead I kind of want him to tell him to shut up and he missed a sandwich wrapper in the gutter over there.

Also, E7 meets a girl, and she's better and prettier and braver and more independent than all of the other girls even though she's just seventeen. If he gets a fucking pony I may not be able to finish the book for all the pony's prettiness and smartness and good temper and awesome bestness of all the ponies in ponydom. Is it sexist if I call E7 a fucking twat? Because I really want to, unless it's going to offend somebody, and even then I might still be tempted.

So I may have more to say after I get a little further into this wretched business, but I wanted to post something more than a music video today. At least the e-reader stuff might be useful to someone.

1Also, am I the only one who's detecting some kind of homoerotic vibe between E7 and International?

But we know. We know, when we look into each other's eyes. And when we look thus without words, we both know other things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these things frighten us.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not what I was led to expect from Ayn Rand. Oh, and this happens right before E7 discovers International's tunnel and explores it. Subtext? What subtext?


Seth Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 7:06:00 PM EST  

Sounds a lot like this guy:


Eric Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 8:05:00 PM EST  

I haven't read those, Seth but that sounds almost exactly right, except that the Wikipedia article for Adrian Mole says he usually fails, and I expect our E7 will succeed because he's so AWESOME and SUPERIOR to everybody.

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