In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I re-examine reading print vs. digital books, talk about the value of daily, weekly, and monthly roundups, and more.

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You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 21 minutes long.

  • 1:14 – 1. Print vs digtal from a reader’s perspective
  • 9:49 – 2. Postach.io follow-up
  • 11:54 – 3. Daily, weekly, and monthly roundups
  • 17:14 – Pick of the week

DPP043: Print vs. Digital, The Value of Daily/Weekly Roundups, and More

Hi everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this podcast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, including blogging, ebook and video creation, podcasting, and other things relating to internet business and online marketing. You can find a full transcript of each episode of this show at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.

I’d really appreciate it if you rated this show in iTunes. Just go to itunes.digitalpublishingpodcast.com and then click the blue “View in iTunes” button in the sidebar to rate and review the podcast in iTunes.

I’m recording today in Belgrade, Serbia, for the first and last time because I’ll be in Nepal next week. I have to apologize for there not being a new podcast episode last week. I had just gotten to Serbia and the internet in my apartment didn’t work for a few days. And speaking of apartments, that brings us to topic #1 of 3 today…

1. Print vs. digital from a reader’s perspective

The Lost Symbol. Don't read it. It sucks.

The Lost Symbol. Don’t read it. It sucks.

Most of the apartments that I stay in when I travel around are empty. They’re regularly rented out to people. They’re furnished, but people aren’t actively living there. But the apartment that I’m in now here in Belgrade is just some kid’s apartment. He lists it on Airbnb and whenever someone rents it, he just goes and stays at his brother’s house across town. But all of his stuff is still here. All of his clothes and books and food—it’s all still here. It’s a bit odd being in someone else’s place like this. But I was looking at the books on his bookshelf and saw that he had The Lost Symbol. That’s the book that Dan Brown wrote after The Da Vinci Code, and it’s the third book in what is now a four-book series. Last year I listened to an audiobook version of The Da Vinci Code (which is the second book), and last week I read Angels and Demons, which is the first book in the series. When I saw The Lost Symbol on the bookshelf here in the apartment, I figured I might as well read it, so I did. And first of all, it sucked. I realize that Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons aren’t high literature but man, I thought The Lost Symbol was just bad. But that aside, it was the first paper book I’ve read in probably two years, and I really didn’t like it for a few reasons, and the experience really solidified in my mind why ebooks are the future of reading.

First, the book was big and heavy. It’s a hardcover book and more than 500 pages long, so it’s not small. This last Saturday, I wanted to go for a walk and then maybe sit in a park and read for a bit if I felt like it, but I didn’t want to have to bring my bag with me just so that I could carry the book. Even if you had a purse, this is the kind of book that’s just too big for any normal-sized purse. My siblings and I got my dad a Kindle for Father’s Day this last year, and my mom stole it because she likes it so much. She used to always have one paperback in her purse and another in the car and another by her bed, but now she just carries the Kindle with her wherever she goes and she has all of her books right there with her, and the one Kindle weighs less and takes up less space than a single paperback. It’s much more portable.

Another aspect of the book being big and heavy is that it’s kind of a pain to read. It’s really annoying to hold it up in bed, for example. And one great thing about reading on a tablet or phone or backlit e-reader is that you can read in the dark. In my apartment here, there’s no lamp next to the bed, so I had to get up and turn off the overhead light when I was done reading in bed and wanted to go to sleep. This is obviously a first world problem, but it’s one that can be easily mitigated with ebooks.

Second, I really missed being able to look up words easily while reading. In the Kindle app on my phone, I can just highlight a word that I don’t know and it’ll instantly show me the definition. I absolutely love this feature and learn a ton of new words this way.

Third, I missed having a bunch of different books available at any given time. There was one day that I did take the book over to a park just across the street from my apartment here. I read the book for about half an hour before it’s crappiness made me tired of reading it, and I wanted to read something else. Usually I’m reading a few different books on my phone at any given time, but I’d left my phone in the apartment, so I was stuck in the park with a book I didn’t want to read anymore. I love the feeling of pulling out my phone and reading whatever I feel like at the moment. Right now on my phone I have 15 regular books and 9 PDF ebooks in the iBooks app, plus 63 books in the Kindle app. Those are just the books I’ve downloaded to my phone; that doesn’t include the 500 that I can download from my Amazon account if I have wifi or 3G access. The fact that I’ve got dozens of books literally in my pocket is still something that I find amazing.

Fourth, I missed being able to highlight things and then access my highlights online. So when I was reading Angels and Demons, for example, a bunch of different places and objects in Rome are mentioned throughout the book. I like looking at pictures of these kinds of things online so that I have a more vivid picture of what’s being talked about in the book. If I’m reading on my phone or Kindle Fire, sometimes I’ll just open up the browser and search for whatever it is I want to look up. Or if I’m next to my laptop, I’ll pull it out and do the search. But another thing I do a lot is just highlight there in the Kindle app whatever it is that I want to lookup, and I can actually access these highlights on my laptop later on by going to kindle.amazon.com and then clicking on the Your Highlights link at the top of the page. That way my reading experience isn’t interrupted and after I’m done reading, I can go back and look up those things I was curious about. It’s awesome.

A lot of what I talk about here on the podcast as far as digital publishing goes has to do with being the publisher and creating things, but just as exciting to me is digital publishing in general as a consumer. I’ve always loved books, but I started reading a lot more when I bought my first Kindle. It’s October 16th as I record this and I’ve read 9 books so far this month. It’s just so easy to find more ebooks to read. I don’t have to order them on Amazon and then wait for them, or go to a bookstore and look for something to read. This has been especially relevant to me over the past 14 months as I’ve been traveling and living in different countries. Bookstores around the world usually have a smattering of English books, but how awesome is it that I can instantly download just about any book I want from anywhere in the world? Throw in the fact that you can get so many great ebooks for free from Project Gutenberg or from free Kindle book sites like fkb.me, which is the free ebook site that I run, and you realize that you’ve essentially got a free and infinite supply of reading material. And if you’re willing to spend up to only a few dollars per book, that opens up so many more possibilities.

There are so many ways that the digital reading experience is superior to the physical book experience. That’s why I’m such an evangelist of digital publishing. It’s just better. Ebooks have literally made my life better. I know that a lot of people say that they much prefer the experience of a physical paper book. They like turning the pages and smelling the paper. That’s fine, but I wonder how many of those people have actually given ebooks a real shot, and I’m talking beyond just reading PDFs on your desktop. If you haven’t given ebooks a fair chance, download the Kindle app, go to fkb.me, and find and download some free Kindle books. Try reading on your phone or tablet. Or pony up the $70 and get a brand new Kindle. Even the cheapest Kindle makes for a fantastic reading experience, and you can always resell it if you don’t like it. But give ebooks a legitimate shot if you haven’t already, and please let me know if you have any questions about reading ebooks.

Cur8r

The Cur8r theme for Postach.io

2. Postach.io follow-up

I talked in the last episode two weeks ago about how I planned to use an Evernote-powered Postach.io blog to document my trekking adventures in Nepal in a couple weeks. I mentioned that if you upload an image to Postach.io, it’s automatically resized, and people can’t click on the images to see the larger version. My proposed workaround was to upload the images to Dropbox and then manually create a link below each smaller image that said, “Click here to view the larger version,” and then that would link to the full-sized Dropbox image.

Well, I ran across a more elegant but still effective solution, and that’s to just use a different one of the Postach.io themes. The different themes have different default widths, and any image you upload is automatically resized to fit the theme you’re using. There are 13 themes available for Postach.io blogs, and one of the themes in particular is wide enough that the images you upload turn out to be pretty big, big enough for me, at least, to not feel like I need to upload and link to a larger version. For those interested, the theme is called Cur8r. It turns your main blog page that lists your posts into a Pinterest-style grid, and then you click on one of the squares and it opens up the post—and any images in it—at nearly the full width of your screen, so you end up with images that are nice and big.

Also, I actually emailed the creator of Postach.io about linking from an image back to the full-sized image that was originally uploaded, and he said that it’s a feature he’s working on, so that’s great. More props to Postach.io and the people working on it.

3. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Roundups

I’ve been trying to spend less time online recently. There are a couple reasons for this. First, I’ve realized that a lot of what I do online is more out of habit than necessity. I’m sure like a lot of you listening to this, I regularly get caught in a cycle of checking email, Twitter, Feedly, and Facebook, and it’s something that I do unconsciously at this point. It’s a reflex for when I don’t have anything else to do, and I don’t like that. The other reason is that the Internet access I have here is actually through my phone. After a few days of being unable to get the DSL Internet here to work, the landlord gave me a new SIM card for my phone that had 4 GB of data available on it, the idea being that I’d turn my phone into a personal hotspot and then tether my laptop to it via wifi. 4 GB might be plenty of bandwidth for most things, but I watch a lot of YouTube videos and download a lot of podcasts, and the gigabytes get eaten up pretty fast that way.

So. As I’ve tried to cut back on my internet usage for those two reasons, my browsing habits have shifted slightly. I’ve been looking forward more to certain types of blog posts from the blogs I follow than others, and I’m talking about the roundup posts. These are the daily or weekly or even monthly roundups that link to the best and most important news items, articles, and blog posts in that niche. When my time online is limited, it’s really nice and convenient to just look at those roundup posts and see what are essentially the greatest hits.

One of the roundups I look forward to is from The Digital Reader, a blog all about digital reading. The blog owner does a daily roundup called The Morning Coffee, which is just a list of 10ish interesting book- and ebook-related news and articles. Another roundup I look forward to is from HikingInFinland.com. Honestly, I’m not too interested in Finland’s hiking, but the blog is more of a general blog about hiking and the outdoors, and the best articles for me are the weekly roundup. The weekly roundups there (which the author calls Weeks in Review) are broken up into 3 sections: News, Gear Reviews and Deals, and Trip Reports. He also embeds a couple new videos into each post.

There are other ways to do a roundup, too. There’s a big rock climbing-related site called SuperTopo. There’s a really active forum there and people post trip reports and there’s information about climbs and gear reviews—all sorts of climbing-related stuff. I’m a subscriber of the monthly SuperTopo newsletter (here’s an example of a recent one), and it’s essentially a roundup of what happened there on the site over the last month. The newsletter has 3 different sections: Forum, Gear Reviews, and Trip Reports. Under those sections are a handful of links to the best forum posts, gear reviews, and trip reports from the site in the past month. Again, I’m too busy to check the site every day and see every new thing that’s come out, but I really like getting this monthly “greatest hits” newsletter.

These kinds of roundups and reviews are super helpful for two groups of people in particular: 1) those who can’t or don’t want to spend the time trying to keep up with every little thing going on in the niche, and 2) people who are new to the niche and don’t know where to look. I’m relatively new to the world of hiking blogs, so that weekly Hiking in Finland roundup is extremely valuable to me because it points to places and things and blogs that I otherwise definitely would have missed.

Like I said before, these roundups are the things that I look forward to in my RSS reader more than anything else. If you do something like those on your blog, it could become a really valuable resource for people. I think that entire sites can (and probably have) been created that just post daily or weekly or monthly roundups. If you’re into mountain biking, for example, why not create a weekly mountain biking roundup blog or newsletter?

If you want more examples of wrap-ups and roundups, just do a Google News or Google Blog Search for the words “weekly roundup” or “weekly wrap-up” and you’ll find a ton more.

Pick of the week

The Jackery Bar

The Jackery Bar

And that now brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or anything else I find valuable. My pick of the week this time is a gadget. It’s an external battery pack that can be used to charge a variety of devices, and it’s called the Jackery Bar [link]. It has a 5600mAh capacity, which is enough to charge up my iPhone completely a few times. It’s a little bit tricky to describe its size, but I’ll try. It’s a little bit shorter in height than my iPhone 4. It’s about 2/3 as wide is my iPhone, about twice as thick, and has rounded corners. It’s like the size of a small grip on a gun, I guess. But it’s a super handy thing to have if you travel at all. On long bus or train or plane rides, you could watch videos on your phone at full brightness for hours and hours and still not run out of juice. Or it’s really helpful if you’ll be somewhere for a couple days and are wondering about whether you’ll be able to charge your device like you normally do. I got one of these for my brother for his birthday earlier this month, and he uses it just as a regular charger for around the house. Like he’ll be sitting on the couch and not want to have to get up to plug his phone in, so he’ll pull this thing out of his pocket or bag and charge it up. Also, the cigarette lighter thing in his car doesn’t work, so he can’t charge his phone in his car, but now he can and does with this thing.

And the great thing is that it will charge anything that you normally charge via USB. I’ve tried it on my iPhone, my Kindle, and my Kindle Fire, and it works great on all of them. You just charge it up by plugging it into your computer (or the wall if you have a USB wall adapter) and then use it whenever you need to. It’s small enough that you can keep it in your bag, car, or even your pocket and not be annoyed that it’s there.

Again, it’s called the Jackery Bar. Jackery is the company that makes it and Bar is the name of the model. It’s $30 on Amazon right now. Jackery also makes a couple other sizes. They make one that’s bigger and they make one that’s the size of a tube of lipstick. Just search for Jackery on Amazon and you’ll see all of the ones they make. I love mine and if you’ve ever found yourself wishing you had more battery life on your portable device, you should get one.

Final words

And that’s all for episode 43 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.

Please don’t hesitate to email me any questions you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. If you do follow me there, be sure to say hi. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.