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!

My Book-less Semester Week 2: I’m Getting the Hang of This!

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

I’m starting to finally find a rhythm to get into with the eBooks and doing my readings, thank goodness, making this week’s a short update (I’ve got readings to do, people!).

Most importantly: Still no screen headaches! I’m starting to think this is a myth. Or maybe my digital native status makes me immune? Who knows. Anyway, moving on…

First of all, I have to sing the praises of Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader, which allows me to have a tab constantly open while I’m at work with my current chapters to read through during my precious free time. I have the Kindle app downloaded on my laptop, but I can’t do that on my work computer, hence the Godsend that is the Cloud Reader.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Barnes & Noble and I love my Nook, but Amazon definitely knows how to deliver a user experience. While not as innovative as Nook Study (at least not that I have discovered yet), the Cloud Reader is definitely giving me some much-needed flexibility with what machines I’m reading on. I wish Barnes & Noble would do something like this. I know they have mobile apps and all that jazz, but as far as I researched, it all has to be downloaded. A browser tab is just so much more convenient when I can’t have my eReader!

This weekend, though, I had my first quizzes, and man was it tough to “click through” the pages of eBooks to look at my notes! Something I’ll have to adapt to, I suppose!

I’m also finding that having all my texts on a computer might be making me print out shorter readings (articles and such) for my current research project. It’s weird. I never used to do this – I’d usually always compile a GoogleDoc of links and citations, and download when I got back to my personal computer. Then I’d use Preview’s highlight and annotate features to mark them up.

However, as I said, I’m printing articles and highlighting them with an actual highlighter. So weird. I wonder though, if it has anything to do with the fact that it’s for my master’s research project, and not just class. The really good sources — ones I’m positive I’ll be using when writing my final report — are the ones I’m printing. Perhaps it’s one of those instinctual tendencies, an indicator that I still don’t 100% trust the Google machine to keep the articles I need under the same addresses for future review! It’s something I’ll have to keep tabs on in the next few weeks!

Want to learn more about my decision to buy 100% eBook textbooks for my second semester of graduate school? Click here.

Want to know how it was going for me last week? Click here.

Why Printed Books Will Never Die

I came across this article, courtesy of Dina Ciccarelli’s blog, Keep Calm and Read a Book Blog.

It’s from Mashable, and it’s about the physical beauty of a printed book as opposed to an eBook, and points out many other reasons why printed books will withstand the storm of technology in publishing. I thought it was a timely piece to include here since I just wrote about the BiblioTech “eLibrary” in Texas the other day.

Here’s a link to Dina’s original post: http://keepcalmandreadabookblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/why-printed-books-will-never-die/

Merits of Self-Publishing

It’s not going away: products like Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle, as well as their various spinoff technological devices are changing the way that we read. Digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, and electronic versions of books and novels are becoming more and more popular.

But besides changing how people read, e-readers are changing the way we publish books.

I did some light research on self-publishing (so feel free to add your own knowledge) to figure out whether it’d be an avenue worth pursuing when I’m ready for that step. Turns out that self-publishing can be a great way to get your name out there and get readers interested in your writing. And as it turns out, self-publishing a book doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a “traditional” deal with a big-name publisher. Just take this advice, compiled by Joanna Penn at her blog “The Creative Penn,” as an example. Here’s an excerpt:

A successfully self-published book can propel you down the road to a book contract at a commercial publishing house.

That’s the truth of the matter, despite the worries I hear from writers that self-publishing could doom their hopes of ever landing a real book deal. Don’t listen to those persistent rumors and urban myths that agents and editors won’t take on books the authors have published themselves.

She also cites two examples of books she’s worked on with self-published authors. Check it out at: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/03/11/how-self-publishing-can-lead-to-a-real-book-deal/

For anyone who, like me, is just starting out and looking to test the waters before going full-throttle into getting published, I’d recommend looking into it.