Note: The info here is relevant to Kindle and iPad owners as well as Nook users.

Updated: 08/28/2010 – Included ebook definition and link to and


My ereader–a Barnes and Noble Nook–arrived today! What a thrill! On my way to a meeting, the person who received the mail brought the box straight to me in the hallway. I took it along to the office where we were gathering. When I arrived at the meeting, the question preceeded the business, “I’ve never seen one. May I?” So I opened the box, pulled it out and the first words out the other person’s mouth was something like, “Is it like an iPad?”

“No,” I replied with a smile. “It’s less expensive…and I have access to other technology for that. This is for pleasure reading.” My smile grew as I remembered the 100+ books I’d downloaded in ePub format last night.

Sigh. In my office–full of technology folks–the Nook also got a lukewarm reaction. “Can I swish the pages by moving my finger across the screen, like on my iPhone?”
“No,” I replied, “you have to push this button to advance the pages.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that,” came the reply. “I’ve gotten accustomed to moving my finger across the screen.”
(of course, you can swish your finger across the touch screen on a Nook to get to the previous or next page but I forgot that in the discussion).

When I got home with my new Nook, my wife questioned my sanity…an “inexpensive” book reader you can’t even surf the web with? Hmm…I tried to minimize her concerns, pointing out that I’d already downloaded enough ePub books from Baen to not buy any new print books for quite awhile! Surprisingly, I hadn’t ever read any of the books available from Baen’s Free Library, not to mention the rich variety of free sci-fi ebooks  available on other sites.

My daughter greeted the addition of the Nook as an enemy of print books, signaling the demise of beloved friends, betrayed by her own father. She refused to look at it.

Just to clarify, ebooks, for the sake of this discussion, are books which are available electronically, rather than printed on dead trees, and which can be read on an electronic device of some sort. And completely free ebooks, just now, are those which are legitimately available for free. Other options exist. We all know that. (Source: via (great list of ebook sources)

Those expressions of dismay and disappointment aside, I found myself looking at the Nook and wondering, maybe I made the wrong choice. But then, I turned it on, registered it with my account info, and the two books I’d purchased appeared. I connected to the WiFi connection. So far, so good. But then, what really knocked my socks off was Calibre.

calibre is a free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books. It has a cornucopia of features.

Again, I’m amazed at the power of Calibre, a free open source ebook converter and manager, that converts to a variety of formats, including support for a variety of eReaders:

It’s pretty amazing in that you get a preview of the cover of the book…I was thrilled to find Andre Norton’s books available for free, finding the entire collection of stories (Time Traders, Defiant Agents) that I’d read long ago and were now out of print.

Aside from free ePubs available, I have to confess my profound appreciation for the Baen authors and publisher, who share their books in a variety of formats.

Here’s one title from their entirely free collection of Baen books:

You have to admire the Baen Free Library of Books. Note that they offer books in a variety of formats, including Mobi (which is Kindle friendly) and ePub (which is Nook and iPad friendly).

Read a bit about how they got started from Eric Flint below:

Baen Books is now making available — for free — a number of its titles in electronic format. We’re calling it the Baen Free Library. Anyone who wishes can read these titles online — no conditions, no strings attached. (Later we may ask for  an extremely simple, name & email only, registration. ) Or, if you prefer, you can download the books in one of several formats. Again, with no conditions or strings attached….

There was a school of thought, which seemed to be picking up steam, that the way to handle the problem was with handcuffs and brass knucks. Enforcement! Regulation! New regulations! Tighter regulations! All out for the campaign against piracy! No quarter! Build more prisons! Harsher sentences!

I, ah, disagreed. Rather vociferously and belligerently, in fact. And I can be a vociferous and belligerent fellow. My own opinion, summarized briefly, is as follows….

It’s definitely worth reading Eric Flint’s opinion. It’s an important one to consider, but I may have to disagree with his opinion in this way. He points out the following:

Online piracy — while it is definitely illegal and immoral — is, as a practical problem, nothing more than (at most) a nuisance. We’re talking brats stealing chewing gum, here, not the Barbary Pirates.

I disagree…consider these links below with the amount of books available for “free” from pirates…I do not consider this that simple. Entire collections of books are available online for download via torrent…if I were a book publisher, I’d be worried! Yet, one seldom hears of this…in fact, the knowledge of these is kept secret. 

Terry Brooks’ Site

These links below to torrent files represent a fortune in books…does their availability signal the dawn of a new age of writing? Authors write for fame, not fortune?

  • 2009 Star Trek Books – Over 20 book titles
  • Stephen King books – everything he has ever written. How does King feel about all his work just being out there for free download?
  • The Economist
  • James Patterson – 31 books
  • Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire worth $195 on Amazon
  • Dean Koontz – 36 books

This is just a sample of the over 20 pages of “torrents” available with ebooks that are copyrighted…even the King James Bible appears. The search took all of 10 minutes, if that, using Google Search Engine.

Consider the front page of‘s line up for Fall reading:

Or, Barnes and Noble (I actually bought the Legends of Shannara book…Terry Brooks is great!):

The question is, how long would it take to find a random selection of these books online using a Google Search for a torrent file? Let me pick one title from each vendor above and see if I can link to a torrent online:

  1. Amazon – Don’t Blink by James Patterson
  2. Barnes and Noble – The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

This activity took less than 2 minutes. I’m starting to wonder if Flint knows what he’s talking about (I’m still grateful for the Baen Free Library!!!)…this can’t be a mosquito bite, unless you count getting eaten by mosquitoes no big deal (watch this video of a man in Panama, my country of origin, suffer being eaten alivemight shock you).

While torrents are often used for legitimate purposes–imagine downloading a DVD ISO of a GNU/Linux distribution–they are also being used for piracy. A short definition of what “Torrent” means:

Torrent is a small file (around few kilobytes) with the suffix .torrent, which contains all the information needed to download a file the torrent was made for. That means it contains file names, their sizes, where to download from and so on. You can get torrents for almost anything on lots of web sites and torrent search engines. (Source)

Of course, I am sympathetic to this other point that Flint makes…it pretty much sums up part of the satisfaction I derive from blogging and sharing my work online:

I don’t know any author, other than a few who are — to speak bluntly — cretins, who hears about people lending his or her books to their friends, or checking them out of a library, with anything other than pleasure. Because they understand full well that, in the long run, what maintains and (especially) expands a writer’s audience base is that mysterious magic we call: word of mouth.

Word of mouth, unlike paid advertising, comes free to the author — and it’s ten times more effective than any kind of paid advertising, because it’s the one form of promotion which people usually trust.

As I look at my new Nook, bursting with more Baen books I couldn’t hope to read in a year (I have all this other “academic” reading to do), I realize I probably am not the run of the mill ebook reader. I’m not one of those folks that runs out and buys the latest book and reads it because I want to talk about it around the water cooler.


I read for pleasure and that’s what my Nook is for. I’ll worry about what happens when I run out of Baen free books when the time comes. For now, off to read!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure