Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eating Crow

You may not know this about me, but I'm the kind of guy who puts his money where his mouth is. I pony up. I bet it all on black. I roll the hard six... I have no idea where I'm going with this, but insert your own gambling metaphor so you can play along. I've said I don't like the .pdf format. I've said I don't like reading games on screens and that the format is unwieldy. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and try this whole, newfangled electronic revolution thing. Because I may be a crumudgeon, but I prefer to do so from an informed position.

I also have a Nook Color. I thought to myself "now here is a chance to sort of combine two experiements into one." The Nook allegedly allows you to read .pdfs. I considered this to be a bogus claim; well, not really bogus so much as a "we'll put a crappy .pdf reader on this Nook just to throw people a bone, but we'd rather they'd buy stuff in our EPUB format" kind of claim. See where I'm going here? I'm going to test the functionality of both the Nook Color and the .pdf format and see what happens.

I fired up my web browser (on the Nook, no less. If you're going to test something, really stress it out) and went to DriveThruRPG. I'd never visited the site before, but I checked it out when I blogged about the .pdf format a few posts ago. All of the .pdfs I'd seen previously had been given to me (a scan of FASA's old Star Trek game, Dresden Files). While there, they (DriveThru) were promoting something called Mortal Coil. I clicked on it because it had a cool cover, and read a few pages of the sample. That was pretty neat; I could see a cover, and open the game up and read a preview version. Almost like I was standing in a game store. So my first helping of crow: I have to admit that DriveThru does a nice job of promoting and marketing products. (Their web design, however, is horrible. Must all game-related sites look like they were designed overnight by a guy who just read Web Design for Dummies?!)

Back to the Nook. I go to the DriveThru site and search for Mortal Coil. I've wanted to buy it since I saw it a few weeks ago, and this experiment was my chance (and by "chance" I mean "justification"). I find it with no problem. I register on the site with no problem. In fact, the only problem I have is with the Nook's on-screen keyboard, which continuously doubles and triples my letters (rrrooss_iisaaaacs@yyahooo.comm) for no apparent reason. I have to key in my information three times, particularly my credit card information. But I'm doing it from the comfort of a noisy, crowded Barnes & Noble cafe, so it's all good. After an irritating ten minutes, I get my game downloaded directly to my Nook Color. Hey! Look at me! I'm living in the FUTURE! Eat that, Captain Picard!

Eager, I go to the place where the Nook stores downloaded files. And there is my game, sitting there waiting for me. I tap the icon. The Nook informs me that it can't read it. I stare at the screen. I think to myself "B&N put a crappy .pdf reader on this Nook just to throw me a bone, but they'd rather I'd buy stuff in their EPUB format." Captain Picard laughs at me for my hubris. I leave B&N to go to work.

I remain undeterred, however. When I got home, I fired up the Nook user guide and discovered that the preferred way in which load .pdfs is through a USB cable. (And, please, only use the approved USB cable. Don't try any of that using any old USB cable laying around stuff.) So I do that. In as little as 30 seconds, I'm staring at a readable copy of Mortal Coil, on my Nook. My second helping of crow: This isn't as hard (by which I mean needlessly complicated) as I thought it would be.

Surely, the next step would vindicate me. The reading of the game on a Nook.... Nope. No vindication there, either. I got a rock. It's super easy to do. And the text is super clear. I can get the entire page on one screen. The font is a little small, but readable. And, I don't have to prop a laptop on my lap (ever notice how annoying that is?!) to read it. I can luxuriously lie in bed and read my copy of Mortal Coil. My only problems are, again, with the Nook. I cannot use its bookmark functionality. Neither can I change the font size nor use the highlighter function (and I highlight my books a lot. What's nice about the Nook is that I can highlight a section and not have to worry that I'm marking up a book; so my highlighting tendency has gone way up, even in books you wouldn't normally highlight). Most irritating is that I cannot stop at a certain page, switch to another book or put the Nook away, then go back to where I left off. The file always opens to the first page (which makes the lack of a bookmarking function super annoying).

Giant helping of crow: Aside from some technical glitches, downloading and reading a .pdf is actually pretty convenient. Using DriveThruRPG was easy, and allowed me to buy a game in the manner that I like. Loading the game onto the Nook Color was simple. And reading said game is now not only way more convenient than on a computer, it's also way more portable. Plus, the actual reading experience isn't as hideous as I remember. I conclude the experiment to be a success: I like the combination of the .pdf format and the Nook.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to shoo some kids off my lawn and watch some Matlock. Because I'm still a crumudgeon.

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