A Tale of Two Online Book Sites

For both personal reasons and for professional reasons, I recently signed up for O’Reilly’s [Safari Online Books][sob] service and I purchased an Amazon Upgrade[^1] of the Robert Coles’ book I am using in my seminar this spring, [Doing Documentary Work][ddw].

Personal reasons aside for the moment, my professional reasons were twofold: I wanted both access to the content the two services provided and I wanted to try out the services themselves:

1. I needed immediate access to the Coles’ book because my own copy went missing and I wanted to finish preparing for my seminar before our first meeting tomorrow. A subscription to O’Reilly’s service would give me access to a number of titles that might play a role in my teaching now or in the future, and the chance to access those books for a relatively small sum — O’Reilly graciously admitted me into their defunct $9.99/month subscription plan while their SafariU goes on holiday — was too nice to pass up. The two titles I am reading now are: [*slide:ology*] and [*The Lean Forward Moment*][lfm].
2. As the humanities in particular and all of us in general slowly rumble towards a digitized distribution scheme for practically everything — well, let’s hope nutrients stay off-line (though there’s enough effluvia already passing through the internet’s “pipes”) — I wanted to try out two of the possibilities currently being deployed in the mainstream.

O’Reilly is usually a bit ahead of the mainstream — and often fairly smart — but in this instance, their online reader looks, and acts, a lot like Amazon’s reader. Here are some screen shots:

reader-amazon
*Amazon’s Reader*

reader-safari-1
*Safari’s Reader*

reader-safari-2
*Safari’s Reader scrolled to maximize the page.*

As can be seen in all the screen shots, but perhaps best in the last (bottom-most) one above, there is no way to see a whole page on a MacBook screen. (And I had no better luck when I had a 15″ MBP.) There’s a **zoom** option, but there is no way to zoom out, only zoom in. Safari is a bit more advanced in offering an HTML option for reading, but it doesn’t work on any of the books I have checked out yet. So, it’s an offer, but one you can’t accept.

All of this might be mitigated by the option to go **full-screen** with these readers, and I hope to explore some way to do this in Firefox, but it’s not built into the readers themselves — if Youtube can do this for videos, why can’t we do this for books?

[^1]: I tried to link to a generic page about the upgrade program on the Amazon website, but all the URLs I could find were very long and very ugly. Bad, Amazon, bad.

[ddw]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195124952?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0195124952
[sob]: http://my.safaribooksonline.com/home
: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0596522347?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0596522347
[lfm]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0321585453?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0321585453