Category Archives: e-Books

Spanish read and listen material: Obras de Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

Obras de Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer – Tomo Primero is a collection of stories in Spanish available with recording and text (both plan and PDF). It was produced by Florida’s Educational Technology Clearinghouse that has a lot more audio/text stories in English in its Lit2Go project.

MP3 recordings can be downloaded individually, but nice iTunes interface is also available from the home page of the project.


Free spanish e-book for intermediate learners

(Update for June 2007: The website got reorganised and the link is gone. Fortunately, it was archived by WaybackMachine)

It is quite frustrating how often a good material hides so deep in a random website that it can only be found by total accident.

Such seems to be the case with Suspense, no suspenso. From what I can tell, it is a complete detective story book written in Spanish for an intermediate language learner and even includes some exercises for the teacher’s use. It used to be a real book (with ISBN and all), but has obviously been released to the world at large since.

I cannot read it yet as I am still at the early beginner stage, but to find a text that is free, in plain HTML (for converting to other formats) and targetted specifically at the language reader is a rare delight. I hope someone ahead of me in learning spanish, will find it useful. Leave a comment, if you do.

And if there are enough people interested, maybe we could find some bilingual speakers to add an english translation to the text. Given that the book is clearly there not for commercial gain, I am sure they would not object if somebody offered to improve its value further.

On open e-book standards and whether translating to Esperanto will bring more readers?

There is a fight brewing between David Rothman of TeleRead and Bill Janssen of Plucker fame. The point of contention (as I understand the issue) is what would be good format to produce e-books in.

Bill’s position is that any format that is not already accepted (specifically not html) is a lock-in and a disadvantage, whether that format is an open standard (like OpenReader) or a proprietary one (like Sony’s BBeB). He advocates using web browsers as ebook readers.

David’s point (and he invokes me in there) is that HTML format is not sufficient for all e-books, mostly due to the layout and browser changes issues. So, if HTML is not sufficient, we have to chose a new format. Thefore, it is better if the format is an open standard that can be implemented and maintained by multiple parties.

I am with David here and mostly for the reasons he pointed out. For my interests (language learning e-books), HTML is not a good enough format. Sure, I could hack HTML into submission for some of my goals, but it will require so much javascript, that it will not work in anything but a full-blown browser. I invite Bill to replicate the functionality of the Pocket e-Sword. so that it works well in IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari. Maybe that’s why Pepper Pad is integrating FBRReader despite already having a built in Firefox web browser.

So, where does Esperanto comes into it? Well, here is Bill’s quote (emphasis is mine):

Trying to standardize on a common “ebook format”, be it some IDPF creation, some OASIS masterpiece, or even the so-called OpenReader, would only be an attempt to force them all to publish in Esperanto, instead of their house languages. They still wouldn’t have customers.

Publishing in Esperanto does not bring customers? Really! I wonder where Bill gets that data. I don’t know how many (human) languages he speak, but the only reasonable way I could interpret that statement was as “publishing English material in Esperanto would not bring any more English customers”. That could be a a point, where he would be mostly correct. Of course, the market for Esperanto is not English, it is global.

As an example, I want to take the book/movie Night Watch by my favourite author Sergey Lukyanenko. The book started in Russian, was made into the Russian movie with english subtitles, impacted American market and finally was translated (quite well) into English. What about Chinese or Egyptians? Would they be interested in this book? Maybe, but there is no easy way to find out because translation or even subtitling is very expensive.

Except that there is a way. Night Watch has just been translated into Esperanto (announcement in russian). There is even an excerpt available (unfortunately in PDF). Now, the book is accessible to people in China, Egypt or Germany, as long as they can read Esperanto. And if there is enough interest from those people, the book can be translated into their native languages as well to reach to the rest of the audience. The push model of finding the markets suddenly becomes a pull model of market finding you. This is not a new idea, it is already used by newspapers and even Vatican. It is called establishing a beachhead, I believe.
And that’s exactly the strength of open standards. They can expand the audience beyond original planned targets and bring new markets to your solution, adapting the solution to the market needs in the process.

Closed standards control the markets they know about, open standards create new, unplanned markets. I am currently in the market segment, Sony does not want to think about. Do I wait another 5 years for Sony to catch up or do I look for open standard and open source alternatives? There should be no need to guess.