When people think about ebooks, they think about mostly text-based reading of straight, narrative work. But here are some off-the-beaten-track book replacements you can make yourself that save time and money and provide an enhanced experience.
1) Art books. Delphi Classics, a favourite vendor of mine who sells DRM-free bundles of ‘complete works’ by authors in the public domain, has an inspired new series focused on masters of art. The first book, at a budget-friendly $2.50, features the complete works of Leonardo Da Vinci, with bonus biographical content and other goodies. The iPad is a perfect medium for this type of book. I am halfway through the first section, and it’s pretty much a sequential presentation of all Da Vinci’s paintings, with each accompanied by a brief explanatory text about what to watch for. Some of the paintings even had extra pics with parts zoomed in or given special focus. I think that ebook formatting still has a ways to go in order to make this type of book look optimal—it still seems beyond the software capabilities to properly wrap text around a graphic while permitting text reflow, for instance. But more of this type of book would definitely interest me.
2) Cookbooks. I have found ebook cookbooks to be a bit of a miss in and of themselves for the same issues as in the above book—it seems you have to choose between text reflow or proper graphics wrapping, and this is an especially fatal issue for me in cookbooks because I find I can’t follow the recipe unless I can see it all on one page. But there is software you can use to easily make your own tablet-based cookbook—and it’s not nearly as much work as I thought it was. The app I use, Paprika, can pull right off recipe websites, or allow you to type directly. I can open a sloppily formatted ebook in Calibre, copy the recipes I need and have them ready to go in minutes. I can also select recipes to generate a meal plan or shopping list, scale the ingredients for greater or fewer servings, pull a photo right off my device’s camera and, as I can with my Kindle app, view and synchronize across my multiple devices. I do enjoy browsing a paper cookbook, and I still buy them and use them. But for sheer practicality, for recipes I have browsed, chosen and added to my inner circle, this solution is a win.
3) Decorating books. I am a sucker for big, glossy decorating books with lots of pictures. I am about to move, and I love looking at these pretty books and planning how I am going to decorate the new place. I am also at the point in my adult life where quality is starting to matter, and I have realized that I won’t be able to afford all the improvements I need for my new place in one go. This will be a work in progress for some time and these books keep me inspired and motivated. The problem is, they are usually $40 or more for the big, glossy paper versions. I have found an ideal e-solution: iPhoto. I have a few decorating blogs I visit often, and when I find a photo I like, I just drag it onto my desktop then into an iPhoto album. That album syncs automatically to my iPad. When I feel like getting my decorating fix, I can flick through them, slideshow-style, and dream to my heart’s content. I have almost 300 photos—that’s a good-size decorating book right there. And unlike a paper book, I can email the good ones to my housemate straight from within the browser for his consideration.
4) Journals. The ladies on my exercise video message board are wild for a certain diet and exercise diary that’s set up as a series of circles you can fill in with different colours of marker. So, for every workout, you get to colour in a circle. For every healthy snack, another. It’s a great way to get a visual representation of how your day is going, and there is definitely a feeling of satisfaction in seeing those coloured circles pile up. The print version is also $30 plus shipping! (an ebook version is available for about $15). I found two great iPad apps that let you set any image saved on your device as a background watermark in your own digital notebook. So I made my own little daily tracker, complete with circles to colour in, and loaded it into one of these apps. Now, I get to colour in the circles too and I don’t need to pay $40 plus shipping for a paper version that will clutter up my living room.
These may not be straightforward ebook files I read and finish, but in each case I am still replacing what was once a paper book with a digital equivalent. In some cases, I gain features. In all cases, I save money and I save storage space, all with just a little bit of creative thinking.