My Book-less Semester: Halfway Through

English: An Apple MacBook in an aluminium casing.

English: An Apple MacBook in an aluminium casing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my midterm week! Yahoo! Next week is spring break!

The past couple weeks, I haven’t really had outstanding to report on the whole “book-less grad school” topic, but now, after buckling down this last weekend, I have some halfway point reflections on my decision to go paperless this semester.

1. If you have contacts and wear them a lot, either set aside some time in your day to take them out and do your readings, or don’t go 100% paperless. My contacts felt like they were going to fall out of my eyes after a long reading session. Granted, I spend most of my days staring at a computer screen all day long, and when I’m not doing that, I’m popping them in at 5:30 a.m. to teach and then work my night job. Wetting and lubricating drops have become my friends, for sure.

2. Always carry your device charger! You never know when you’ll have downtime to read, and if you’re like me, you don’t keep a running log in your mind of how much battery power is left on your laptop, eReader, etc. I’ve gotten into the habit of plugging everything in every night, but sometimes, depending on the amount of work I have, my MacBook runs out of gas. My Nook battery lasts fairly long, but I only have one textbook on that device. And if you’re an iPhone 5 user, you are familiar with the battery woes that come with actually using that phone.

3. Brightness controls are your friend! I found that a good way to avoid my eyes hurting during reading sessions was to turn down the brightness on my devices. I already do this on my iPhone (to save battery, mainly), but I’ve become very accustomed to dimming my laptop screen for reading and then turning it back up for regular use.

4. Disconnecting from Wi-Fi is the easiest way to get focused on reading. It sucks, because often part of my assignment is to read and respond in an online forum, but I do not have the self control necessary for reading on my laptop when I could be watching talking dog videos or googling job openings.

5. Get familiar with the note taking tools on your platform of choice. NookStudy is awesome, and Kindle for Mac also has highlighting features. They’re useful, especially for grad students who are doing research in their field. My textbooks often explain concepts that are central to my research project, and it’s super easy to highlight the sections and come back to them later on.

That’s all for now. So far, I don’t regret my decision to go paperless. I definitely don’t read assignments like I used to (over a period of four-five days), but that’s just a matter of disciplining myself to work that way again. The temptation of the open web browser is just too much for me after seven hours of work, two hours of coaching, and three+ hours covering meetings and writing articles.

Next week is my spring break, and after that I’ll try to provide intermittent updates (as long as I have something new and interesting to talk about!) throughout the second half of the semester!

Smashwords, anyone?

www.smashwords.com

For all you self-publishers out there (or those looking into it), I’ve heard lovely, wonderful things about Smashwords. It streamlines your manuscript into formats appropriate for Apple iBookstore, nook, kobo, Sony Reader, etc. Basically any eReader that you can think of, Smashwords can help you get there with one simple upload.

I’m not ready to self-publish at this point, so as far as personal testimony on ease of use, pricing, etc., I can’t offer much opinion. I’ve only been hearing good things about it through my new pals on Scribophile (talked about earlier this week here).

Are any of you readers ready to self-publish or have you already? Familiar with Smashwords and care to offer advice? Feel free.

Also, anyone looking to support fellow self-publishers or looking for great reads and low prices, check out Smashwords’s homepage to see what they’ve got going on. There are tons of free eBooks, and while you do have to wade through some slush, there is absolutely something there for everyone.