Friday, December 10, 2010

Another way to "publish" one's genealogy: electronic digital readers

It's difficult for me to stop collecting genealogical data and take the time to publish what I have gathered into a printed book with hard covers. There always seems to be one more fact to uncover, one more census to consult, one more relative to interview, and so on. However, along the way, I have faithfully entered most of my data into my chosen genealogical computer program- which happens to be Ancestral Quest (AQ) by Incline Software. Every two or three years, I create Modified Register Reports for several end-of-the-line ancestors. I take the option to save the reports in Adobe's pdf format and then take the files to Kinko's Copy Shop or similar place to be printed on their laser printer. Finally, I bind the reports with plastic combs. I consider these reports to be interim. Almost immediately I begin to make corrections with my red pen. One can see so many errors once a report is printed. And yes, I find new ideas for further research and further put off the final printing.

However, I am getting to the age at which I believe I must stop and publish my findings. I do not want to take any of this genealogical information with me to the grave- as many of my relatives have already done.

Publishing and printing is expensive. My brother-in-law recently contracted a professional printer to make 150 copies of his McCutcheon Line. It cost thousands of dollars- and that's just for one family line. Nevertheless, each book is invaluable. His genealogy is archived in libraries all around the country including the Congressional and LDS Libraries. His data are carved in granite and will be here for many generations to enjoy.

So, I plan to have my genealogies professionally printed. Nevermind the cost. I'll mortgage my house if I have to.

IN THE MEANTIME, I came across a new technology that might be used to simply and quickly archive genealogical data. I am talking about electronic digital readers (e readers). A large portion of the market is cornered by Barnes and Noble's "Nook",'s "Kindle", and Sony's "eReader". These readers usually cost less than $150. After looking at the features of each of these models, I settled on Sony's eReader (Trade Mark). In particular, I was looking for a device in which:

1. A media card could be inserted into the e-reader and loaded with my OWN pdf files.

2. A reader that could be turned on its long side (landscape orientation) so that more of the text would be visible, left to right.

Let me break here and show a few images of the Sony eReader that I purchased. I loaded the Reader with a 2GB SD media card containing Modified Register Reports (MRR) in pdf format which were created in Ancestral Quest. The card was inserted into a slot on top of the Reader. Realize that these images are photos of the reader.

Image 1. (below). Sony eReader (Trade Mark), vertical orientation, small font (shows whole page). MRR for Joseph Austel, page 1 of 115. Adobe pdf format.

In Ancestral Quest, one can add a primary image to the vital statistics and biological notes for each individual. It would be extremely difficult to read the text in this set up of the Sony eReader. Now, if we go to the next image:

Image 2. Sony eReader set in Landscape orientation, medium-size font. MRR for Joseph Austel, p. 1 of 115. Adobe pdf format.

In this setting, I could easily read the text in the report. Though I can't read the whole page, top to bottom, I can drag my finger across the screen to scroll down to the rest of the page. The reader automatically re-formats the text of the original pdf file such that the width of the lines is not cropped. In other words, the text is re-flowed.

Image 3. Sony eReader (TM), showing the editing feature: add a free-hand note or type one.

The last image shows the editing feature. I can add notes either in free-hand as shown using a stylus, or call up a box and virtual keyboard and type in a note.
The notes do not affect the original pdf file. Also, I can call up all the notes at once for a specific book (pdf file).

I have loaded my SD media card with 14 individual, Modified Register Reports (books) each of which were originally created in Ancestral Quest as a pdf file. The pdf files range from 100 to 300 pages. In addition, I also loaded 15 Scrapbook reports in pdf format. The SD card can be removed from the eReader; inserted into a computer; and then read in the Adobe Reader application. I made a copy of the SD media card with all of its pdf files and gave it to my brother to be used as a back-up.

One can also load jpeg images and mp3 audio files into the eReader. Images are seen in black and white on this eReader, but Barnes and Noble is now marketing a "Color Nook".

I believe the Nook and Kindle readers to not have the capability of loading SD media cards. Therefore, electronic books have to be downloaded from the Internet either wirelessly or via a computer. The "3G" readers can connect to the Internet directly for downloads. Unless you have your genealogy posted in a book at Amazon or B&N, you can not load your own genealogy into their readers. However, I recently discovered that a fellow genealogist, Thomas MacEntee, posted a Guide entitled, "A Genealogy Blog Primer. Everything You Wanted to Know About Genealogy Blogs but Were Afraid to Ask". The Primer is free and can be downloaded as a pdf file fom LuLu bookstores.

One final note. After saying all this, I do not like to read my genealogy books on the eReader. My old eyes get tired reading the text against a light grey background. Even the e-reader manufacturers say that traditional books are still easier to read. I saw a recent advertisement which claimed that their "new" reader had 5o percent greater contrast. The Color Nooks might be easier on the eyes. This technology is still young but growing fast. And I must admit- it is more convenient to carry around an electronic reader rather than a case of traditional books.

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