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eReader and Travel

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This week BTT asks:

When you travel, how many books do you bring with you? Has this changed since the arrival of ebooks?

My Kindle has certainly changed how I travel, but more notably, it’s travel that has changed my mind to get an electronic reading device. I used to make at least two trips to Asia every year and on top of that Hawaii, Puerto Vallarta, and British Columbia. For transpacific international travel, I was allowed to check two bags of 70 pounds each. Into the cabin I was allowed a hand-carry no more than 15 pounds and a personal item, which is usually a backpack. I recalled the pre-iPod travel days when almost all the handy-carry quota went to books, a stack of books that would cover my time abroad. I always brought more because overseas bookstore inventory almost never agreed with my whim. Then I had to worry about AA batteries for the discman (CD player) and a stack of CDs. Even a business class seat is too crammed for all these things. The iPod and Kindle just answer the call to travel light, just in time when airlines cut baggage allowance and charge crazy money for literally everything. When I fly to Asia, I still bring along 2 or 3 trade paperbacks and the rest I read on my Kindle. The length of the trip is key as to how many books (that are actually books) I’m bringing with me. I’m fine with hard copies in Hawaii, as long as I can manage to keep them dry!

Reader’s Privacy

I don’t like to delve into politics—I don’t know enough to write a post about politics. Nor am I going to talk about whether Jane Fonda is a traitor. But her autobiography, My Life So Far, which my friend is reading, broaches a subject that affects me more profoundly than I have conceived. Under the United States Patriot Act, information about your library account and usage can be obtained by Federal Agents using a court order. The act prohibits library staff from informing you if such an order or search has been undertaken by means of a gag order. The FBI can retrieve any information about you that the library has. Information from the library may include, but is not limited to, books and other materials you have checked out; searches you have done on library computers, including places you have visited on the Internet. How about that?

Which brings me to the issue of reader privacy. E-readers possess the ability to report back substantial information about their users’ reading habits and locations to the corporations that sell them. That means FBI can exercise the same right authorized by Patriot Act to access personal information from Amazon and Apple. And yet none of the major e-reader manufacturers have explained to consumers in clear unequivocal language what data is being collected about them and why. Google’s new Google Book Search Project has the ability to track reading habits at an unprecedented level of granularity. In particular, according to the proposed Google Books Privacy Policy, web servers will automatically “log” each book and page you searched for and read, how long you viewed it for, and what book or page you continued onto next

A careful examination of my Kindle license and agreement terms reveals that the device software will provide Amazon with data about your Device and its interaction with the Service [i.e. the wireless connection, purchases through the Kindle Store, etc.] (such as available memory, up-time, log files and signal strength) and information related to the content on your device and your use of it.

Now it makes me wonder if FBI has access to the blogs and websites we read—in other words, web browser history? Does it have access to our credit card bills to see what kind of books we have purchased? Does the x-ray machine at security line has a software that keeps track of the reading materials we bring with us on vacation?

Again, eReader vs Paper

Although I have an eReader for travel, I still prefer paper almost all the time. While many believe that paper-based books are heading to extinction, NPR thinks books have many futures. I say non-fiction and news, information that is readily revealed, is best formatted electronically. A good story, which is meant to be savored, is best to be slowly revealed through the act of turning pages.

Update on Reading Deliberately

I’m keeping my fingers cross while waiting for my new gadget, the Amazon Kindle 3G + Wifi. I was thinking how the new electronic reader will change my reading habit. For sure I won’t read any less than I do now. I’m thinking I can add more non-fiction to my reading list as I usually don’t buy them. I will have to make a list of ebooks so I do not acquire duplicates in print. That boils down to owning hard copies of my favorite novels. Meanwhile I’m still participating in Reading Deliberately, hosted by The Bluestocking Society. Here’s an update:

1. Jane AustenCompleted. Finished Emma and Persuasion.
2. Charles Dickens
Completed. Finished A Tale of Two Cities.
3. Ian McEwanCompleted (and also left me very appalled). Finished The Comfort of Strangers and The Cement Garden.
4. John SteinbeckCompleted. Read East of Eden, which is my #1 favorite book so far this year, Cannery Row, and Of Mice and Men. Bought Grapes of Wrath.
5. J.R.R. Tolkien—this remains the most interminable goal.
6. British Mystery or ComedyCompleted. Adopted Jenny’s advice and read Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers.
7. Russian author-–this one is a regular ritual of mine. I’ll either re-read The Master and Margarita or tackle In the First Circle. The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them looks like fun.
8. Old Classics—Dickens, Faulkner, Joyce, Lawrence, etc.
9. NonfictionCompleted. Finished The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings. Follow Tom and CB James’ advice, will read An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman and City of Quartz by Mike Davis, a history and geography of Los Angeles.
10. PoetryCompleted. Finished reading 100 Essential American Poems edited by Leslie M. Pockell.
11. Pulitzer Winners—One book stands out and catches my attention: March by Geraldine Brooks.
12. Published in 2010Completed. Read One Amazing Thing and recently finished The Little Stranger by my new girlfriend favorite author Sarah waters.

Here is an updated acquisition list based on your reviews and/or contacts:
The Palisades Tom Schabarum
Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri
Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel
Cloud Atlas David Mitchell
Love Toni Morrison
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Helen Simonson
In the Woods Tana French
The Betrayal Helen Dunmore
Room Emma Donoghue

I also did a quick scour at the library. I noticed that a lot of the new books aren’t available yet. The catalog would say “one/two copy in consideration for XXX branch.” Budget problem?