Friday, October 31, 2008

I just finished Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, his paean to privacy, cryptography and "stickin' it to the Man".

Set after a terrorist attack in San Francisco, Little Brother is basically an excuse for Doctorow to go off on the stupidities of "homeland security" and the ways it can be spoofed by even tech literate teens.

In some ways, it resembles Heinlein's juvenile novels, for both good and ill. The story keeps moving and is interesting, and the writing is good in a straightforward way, but it gets bogged down in his pet interests/issues (privacy vs security) in a way that gets tiresome and, like a lot of Heinlein, there doesn't seem to be much distinguishing the protagonists of his various books, particularly not in the way they are written.
(I wrote about another book by him here.)

The other notable thing about this book for me is that it is the first one I have read in a digital format, in this case on the eReader app on my new Ipod Touch. I can't compare it to a Kindle, since I don't own one of those, but reading on the Touch is actually a pretty decent experience. The interface is easy to use, the screen/fonts are a decent size/appearance and, aside from some html text interpretation issues, it was an overall positive. I also tried the Stanza app, but abandoned, and deleted, it after it crashed for the twentieth time.

I could see transitioning a lot of my reading onto digital forms except for one thing - lack of reading material. 99+% of what I read these days is from the library and I buy very few books. Since there is no way yet to match DRM requirements and library use with digital readers, this limits me to free downloads, like Little Brother, or books that are in the public domain. Since the later includes most "classics", including personal favourites like the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, I will keep it stocked for emergency situations, but most of my reading will remain in the standard book form.

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