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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Free E-Book Resources


Merry Christmas! I hope your Yuletide is as filled with family, feasting, and festivities as mine is.  I didn’t include “presents” (or “favors,” just to keep the alliteration going) in that list because presents aren’t what the holiday is about. That said, I enjoy receiving gifts just as much as the next person and this year was no exception as the gifts I received were thoughtful and heartwarming.

A Kindle 3G was part of my bounty this year and I have to say I love having an e-book reader! I didn’t think I would, what with just how much I enjoy physical books; there’s just something so wonderful about the smell and the feel of a printed book.  Even now when using my Kindle I feel a twinge of guilt, as though I’m betraying my childhood dreams of one day having a personal library as vast as the one Belle finds in the Beast’s castle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Despite my misgivings whenever I pick up the device, I have managed to read no less than three books within the last 72 hours.  I find it easier to read because it’s only ever one page at a time – when I pick up a physical book, I’m wracked with guilt over the time investment the book’s width visually reminds me I will make in reading it.

I have always proselytized the need to read prolifically in order to improve writing skills.  With e-books, doing just that has gotten easier in an increasingly wired world.  The beauty of e-books is that even if you don’t have an e-book reader (After all, they are rather pricey. If mine hadn’t been a gift, I would never have purchased one myself), you can still read e-books on any computer using e-book software. 

Free E-Book Software

E-books come in a variety of different formats (mainly for proprietary and personal preference purposes) and depending on what file type each e-book you download comes in, you may need to also download a software program capable of reading each file type.  The sheer number of different file types can be intimidating, but not to worry, most of these e-book programs support most (if not all) file types, so you’ll only have to download one.

Calibre By far my FAVORITE e-book management software, Calibre supports ALL major file formats, lets you convert from one format to another, is compatible with all eReaders, and is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux.  What more could you ask for?
Adobe Digital Editions This software supports PDF and EPUB files, lets you annotate pages, and offers a “library” from which you can download and purchase e-books. 
It has built in support for the Sony Reader and is PC and Mac compatible.
Reader Library Software Sony makes this program and it is fully compatible with all Sony eReaders (of course). It is also PC and Mac compatible.  As far as file type support, the page only mentions the ability to read library books in the software, which means it supports EPUB.
Microsoft Reader Made by Microsoft, this program also has a built in “marketplace” from which you can purchase new e-books.  No information about file type compatibility is provided. It is only PC compatible.
Kindle Reading Apps makes a software program that reads its proprietary file type (.AZW) and .MOBI files. Of course, it allows you to browse for more e-books to purchase and download. PC and Mac compatible.
Borders eReader Apps Supporting the .PDF, .MOBI, and .EPUB file types, this software links you directly to’s marketplace for e-book browsing and purchasing. PC and Mac compatible.
Barnes and Noble Nook Apps Barnes and Noble is also getting in on the action with their eReader. It is PC and Mac compatible and supports .EPUB, .PDB, and .PDF files.


If you have Adobe Reader, .pdf files open by default in that program.  For other file types, I like Calibre because it’s hard to beat its simplicity, but feel free to choose the e-book software that’s right for you.  Run a search in Google for “free ebook readers” for other, more obscure  e-book reading software that I left out of this list.

Free E-Book Sources

Now that you have a program that will let you read e-books, it’s time to download some e-books.  My personal favorite genre of e-book is the free kind so here are a few websites (in order of personal preference) to get your free e-book library started.

Hopefully these links will prove useful to you and help you find some reading material that is kind to your wallet this holiday season.  Remember, you don’t need to own a fancy e-book reader to benefit from the abundance of e-books available online.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Happens When Reading and Writing Aren’t Important To You?

What happens when, for one reason or another, a person fails to think writing well is a necessary skill for success in life?  The high school where I work gives me plenty of examples from which to gauge just how critical an intrinsic sense of the worth of writing is for people to become fully literate.  I have students who have never read a book and see no reason to start reading literature.  When these students are asked to write something…  Well,  as you can see, the results aren’t pretty.

There was once a girl names amy. Who like hello kitte. She like hello kitty because Beth liked hello kitty. So the when to the hello kitty store and but every single thing in the store that was hello kitte. When the when home to put every thing in there room. The notice the wore missing the hello kitty shoes. That the but for 236.96$. So The when back to the hello kitty store mad and pissed.  The told the girl that was working there that the wore missing the hello kitty shoes the but.  The lady asked for the receive.  Amy got so mad she stared screaming at the lady.  Beth told her to come down and gave the lady the receive.  She saw that the wore right and she gave them the shoes.  She also said sorry and gave them 2 new hello kitty lap tops.  For Amy and Beth.  Then Amy was like yea she better had gave use this lap tops.  Beth just started laughing.  Beth was happy cause the got the free lap tops The got home and got on them and told all there friends what had happen to them.  The wore like dam…that’s cool.  The wore happy.  With all there new hello kitty stuff.

In Texas, students must pass the TAKS* test to earn their high school diploma and they must earn a 2 out of a possible 4 points on the essay.  As willing as I am to invest the necessary time and energy in Beth that she requires, unless Beth herself wants to improve her writing skills, there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell she’ll pass the English portion of the exam.

What can we do?

I’m only a single person and there’s only so much that I can do.  As passionate and excited about writing as I am, I only see my students for 45 minutes a day.  Most of the progress I make in a class session is undone by the interaction my students have with family and friends who don’t value reading or writing.  Fitting in with family and peers is far more important to most teenagers than is pleasing a teacher. There’s always the fear of being labeled a “teacher’s pet” and no kid wants that.

Even though I may  not be able to do much, you can.  You can help ensure the people close to you don’t end up in Beth’s position by being a role model for writing.  I know it sounds dorky, but the attitudes we have towards literacy are more contagious than we know.

So if you have a friend or a family member who is struggling with writing, please don’t tease or belittle him or her.  The damage your comment does could mean the difference between that person ever learning how to write well enough to pass high school.

*Soon the test will be renamed STAAR

Photo credit: Patrick Gage