Rabble is one of the hardest core Perl fans I know. Even when we were working together for Palm as Java programmers he was still writing Perl (which is something of a feat). So I’ve watched his enthusiastic uptakes of Ruby (and in particular Rails) with a mixture of curiosity and alarm . In fact it seems like a huge percentage of the really smart people I know are all learning or using Ruby. Now I’m on a bit of a self imposed “travel ban” when it comes to working on non-PHP projects, but with 4 hours to kill in the airport (Jasmine’s flight is delayed) I figured now was the time. But this blog post isn’t about Ruby (yet), its about eBooks.
First thing I did was I bought the Programming Ruby ebook. Pragmatic Programmers have gone a very nice route with their copy protection. They don’t lock, or encrypt, or in some other way hobble the PDF. I can copy it, and print it, and general own it. I can even “loan” it. But my name is on the bottom of every page so I have an incentive to tightly control access to it. This is good, and smart and embracing the possibilities of a new medium. eBooks aren’t ever going to take off as long as their publishers cripple them.
I’m less enthused about the choice of PDF as the distribution medium. I’d be curious as to why this choice was made?
I spend a huge amount of my day reading online in Firefox, I’m comfortable with it, the quality of the display is excellent (at least on OS X), and I don’t have to launch a special application. I know I like reading books as HTML because I have experience doing this both with Baen, and with the O’Reilly bookshelves. (does anyone know a good script to produce properly formatted and linked HTML from a PDF?)
If I was on Linux or Windows a PDF would be useless
to me. Thankfully I’ve got a Mac, and as I spend more time with Preview.app I am more and more impressed with it. Its fast, its light on memory usage, its responsive, the text rendering is gorgeous. Odd how Apple can produce a better PDF reader then Adobe. The one thing I’m really missing is bookmarks
. Apple, can we get some bookmarks in Preview? I’ve got a back button, and a previous and next commands, but I’m reading through an 800 page PDF and I need bookmarks.
A Bit More on Ruby
Okay I’ve spent 20 minutes playing with Ruby, and 20 minutes grinding my axe about ebooks, but I have to say what I’m most impressed by is Ruby’s ability to learn from others. Just one example, I learned Python sitting in idle playing iteratively. I’m very happy to find irb, and am having a similar experience.