06 March 2011

Read an E-Book Week

I'd planned to do an e-book post at some point, and this appears to be the perfect time. E-books are nothing new to me—just the concept of paying for them are! :-) I've been reading e-books since I bought my HP Jornada in 2002. One of the applications it came with was Microsoft Reader, which is the ".lit" format.

At that time there were no Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, etc. There were e-readers on Jornadas and Palm Pilots and other PDAs, however, in two formats that I knew about (there may have been others), Microsoft Reader and Mobypocket. The Jornada came with some fairy tales, but I later found e-books of classics on a University of Virginia site. Gutenberg.org also had e-books. Again, at that time these were public domain classics: Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Frederick Douglass, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.

I hit the jackpot when I found a site called Blackmask.com. This site not only contained the same classics, but it also had pulp magazine stories and, best of all, old children's series books. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? No, these are still under copyright. But everything else, and much earlier than Drew or Hardy, all the way back to the much joked about Rover Boys and the original Bobbsey Twins (where they rode around in horses and carriages), and everything else.

(The owner of the Blackmask.com site was later sued for using Doc Savage and the Shadow pulps on his site, ignoring the fact that Conde Nast still owns these characters. The site vanished for a time, but is now back, sans Doc and Lamont, as Munseys.com. New e-books join the ranks daily.)

So here I discovered all the early girls' series: Grace Harlowe, Ruth Fielding, Betty Gordon, Nan Sherwood, and more. Plus the boys' series: the Pony Rider Boys, the High School Boys (later the Dick Prescott books, the Dave Darrin books, and the Young Engineers), the Boy Allies, even Tom Swift. It's all been great fun to peek into the past: fashions, mores, school customs, speech patterns, how the adults of the time expected girl and boy protagonists to act. Some of the plots are paint-by-number, sadly bigotry reared its head many times, language might be florid—but all of it has been interesting, occasionally fun, and I have even come to love some of these early characters.

I'm hoping to write more this week about the books I discovered, some characters I found endearing, and more during Read an E-Book Week.

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