Sunday, May 29, 2011

A little bit of Fun with eBooks

I found this in a book I was reading: "His [Louis Pasteur's] reputation soared when he diagnosed a disease that had been decimating France's silk industry." The book didn't go into any details, as its topic was about later work of his, not about his work helping the silk industry.

But I got curious, so naturally this became my "Google a Day" topic. But I am unfocused when I am not working, and my attention wander around without bounds and easily stray into tangents.

"Louis Pasteur Silkworm" gave many hits. A Wikipedia article mentioned a silkworm disease called Pébrine but its description was a bit sketchy. I wanted to try something different today, so from the sidebar, I said "More", and picked "Books", and looked for "Silkworm Pébrine". There were many books listed, so I then narrowed them down with "Preview Available". There were still quite many books on the topic. I picked The culture of the mulberry silkworm, which is a bulletin issued by USDA in 1903.
It was an entertaining read.

I've seen silkworms raised in an industry setting when I visited Japan a few years ago (I even hand-reeled silk out of cocoons), and they way the book described how Europeans back then made worms spin their cocoons in bundles of twigs was quite different from how it is done in the modern silk industry these days (they use a small compartment per worm made out of cardboard-like material).

But I have completely forgotten why I started reading that bulletin in the first place - I wanted to learn about the disease and the devastation it caused. In the last part of it, various diseases were briefly mentioned, and Pébrine was described in the very first section; annual crop in France was reduced from 57,200,000 pounds to 8,800,000 pounds. That is not mere "decimation" (reducing one in every ten) but seriously worse.

The first book I was reading was in Kindle for Android. Then I traveled to Google and ended up in Google eBooks.

One reason I like Google eBooks is because these old and/or out of copyright books that are otherwise very hard to find can be easily read. Like many other old books, this particular document is only scanned without OCR. It was not a pleasant read in landscape on a 10-in tablet (the application shows facing-pages, making the page a bit too small), but was very legible in portrait where single page fits the whole screen.

The Motorola XOOM tablet is a bit too heavy for bedtime reading, but otherwise, it is a very nice reading device, together with Google eBooks and B&N Nook software. As I prefer reading facing-pages (unless when I read "scanned pages"), Kindle for Android is not exactly for me (it does not do facing-pages), even though Amazon and B&N did far better job than Google eBooks in their software to support more than just reading (I really miss dictionary look-up and bookmarking when I use Google eBooks). Even though I liked the light-weight Kindle (2nd gen) very much when I got it, I rarely touch it these days. I realize that one biggest reason why I don't is because it needs external lighting hence is not a good bedtime reading device.

Perhaps I would need a Nook Color or Galaxy Tab instead.

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