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Ebooks and Hurricanes

I’ll be going offline very soon. Here’s a piece I wrote for teleread about waiting for Hurricane Rita to come to Houston. I won’t be blogging about the experience, especially since I left my #$$#$# PDA at work and my web server is in my apartment and will be going offline very soon. But I’ll definitely catch up on reading.

Houston blogger Robert Nagle (aka idiotprogrammer) writes about the oncoming hurricane Rita.

Thursday morning I was determined to avoid the inconveniences of Hurricane Rita by fleeing to San Antonio (and visiting friends & family in the process). As a city 60 miles from the coast, Houston won’t be going underwater, but the eastern parts are prone to flooding, and the entire area experiences random wind damage and power outages lasting 2-3 days. Not fun. Residents will anxiously await the return of hot showers, air conditioning (temperatures in September here still leap to the high 90’s), microwaves meals, mindless TV reruns and of course the glorious Internet.
As it happens, Thursday evacuations turned out to be impossible. The trip from Houston to San Antonio (or Houston to Austin), which usually takes 3 hours, now was taking 16 hours. I live on the west side of town, and my trip to my folks’ house (no more than 10 miles away) ended up taking 3 1/2 hours. So I turned around and went back home, stopping in various supermarkets to see which ones were still open (most were not). I managed to find a well-stocked convenience store down the street. In addition to buying salsa, beef jerky, nuts and tortillas, I discovered a new Mexican delicacy: “Dried Mango con chile” I am happy to report that I could not wait on a stupid hurricane to slake my curiosity: the spicy mangoes were increible.

Today, in addition to cleaning up, protecting my personal papers, webserver and gadgets, I took inventory of what emergency equipment I had. Aside from the fact that my reserve of dried mangoes are now depleted, I discovered a genuine oversight: I had no candles! And my camping flashlight has practically no battery charge left. (And before I say anything else, let me heartily recommend the Grundig FR200 AM/FM Shortwave World Band Crank Radio and Light (which would be a great help–too bad I ordered it on amazon.com just an hour ago). I ditched my landline two years ago, so that left me four light sources: mp3 player (which also served as a radio), cellphone, Axim x50v PDA, and ebookwise 1150 reader. As luck would have it, I left my PDA at my office. How annoying! I was actually looking forward to using my Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard and PDA to write fiction or at least catch up on letter writing.

So when the power goes off during the hurricane, what will be my main light source? That’s right; it will be my ebookwise 1150. Owners of the 1150 probably admit the reader’s font quality is mediocre at best, but boy is that battery terrific! Charge it for less than an hour, and the battery is juiced for 11 hours. People who never read ebooks are often surprised to hear this, but I find it much more pleasant to read with all the lights off except the backlighting on the ebookwise. As you sit or lie in total darkness, the only thing to occupy your attention is the illuminated text before you.

During situations where you worry about the safety of your physical belongings, you definitely start to appreciate the convenience factor associated with ebooks. I am always buying and collecting p-books (Physical Books). (Here’s my shelf of soon-to-reads ). P-books take up space and litter the floor. They are big and bulky and suspectible to water damage or dirt or rips. Having hauled dozens of boxes to moving vans and up many flights of stairs, I regard book hauling as my personal Calvary on my path to literary salvation. On the other hand, I can download 10 ebooks a day from the What’s New section on blackmask.com and never download enough to fill up a DVD. (Btw, amidst all my hurricane preparations yesterday, I still found time to download a collection of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s stories–wow!). And when will I find time to actually read these books? Well, there are always future hurricanes.

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