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Low Tech Gutenberg?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the long-distance-info-dumps dept.

Education 108

Peace Corps Guy asks: "I have a friend who recently left for a two year Peace Corps stint in Mozambique. While there she has limited access to electricity, no technology, and not a lot to do with her 'off' time. She's a big literature fan, and many of us here at home would like to send a care package - but how best to ship pieces of free online text like Project Gutenberg to a developing nation? We can print it (high shipping and printing costs), print it very small and ship her a high quality fresnel lens (awkward), or put it all on a cheap PDA, which would be a high theft risk en route and in situ. High shipping costs on weight and volume are another major limiting factor. What alternative solutions can Slashdot readers suggest for shipping a freely available byte-stream to someone without a computer?"

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A (compartively) new way of encoding byte-streams (5, Funny)

Macphisto (62181) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634364)

You've got the right idea, but let me build on it. A relatively new development you may not have heard of has been created by some industrious Germans several centuries ago. This new method of presenting byte-streams is highly affordable, portable, and contains an embedded reader which does not require an external source of energy. While the initial selection of material was limited, I understand that the idea of the Gutenburg press has taken off to some extent in the following centuries, meaning that you should be able to ship any number of Dungeons and Dragons paperbacks to your friend.

Re:A (compartively) new way of encoding byte-strea (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634598)

Yeah, I've tried to swear off responding to Ask Slashdot's with "Don't even bother!" but, really, he's right.

You're talking about books that are off copyright, anyway -- buy some cheap or used paperbacks and send them as parcels. (I think there's even a discount books-only rate.) It's foolproof, familiar and when she's done, she can distribute or trade the books. A much better plan than microfiche and a Fresnel lens.

Re:A (compartively) new way of encoding byte-strea (2, Insightful)

s4f (523726) | more than 9 years ago | (#11639792)

Sounds good, but they do in fact require an external energy source. Solar power is your best bet, but any of the solar subtitutes availble will probably work fine.

This message brought to you by the Stonecutters. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11668586)

"Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do.
Who leaves the Atlantis off the maps? [shot of Carl]
Who keeps the Martians under wraps? [shot of Lenny]
We do! We do. [shot of Martian]
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg [] a star? [shot of Steve]
We do! We do.
Who robs cave fish of their sight? [shot of Skinner]
Who rigs every Oscar night? [shot of Homer]
We do! We do. [] "

Re:A (compartively) new way of encoding byte-strea (2, Insightful)

Bud (1705) | more than 9 years ago | (#11640284) embedded reader which does not require an external source of energy.

No no, you've got the specs wrong. The embedded reader is based on reflective technology and absolutely REQUIRES an external energy source. Best results may be achieved using a giant ball of flaming gas positioned above and behind the user's shoulder. This is actually the preferred source of energy, since giant flaming balls of gas are abundant on this world. In this case you don't have to worry so much about environmental conditions, e.g. even backscatter works fine.

If the giant ball of flaming gas is hidden behind solid objects ("gone where the sun don't shine") and/or is difficult to position (e.g. due to lack of levers and/or fixed points from which to move the Earth), you must simply rely on backscatter from other planetary objects or produce your own energy e.g. by incinerating animal fats.


blast from the past (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11634368)


Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

How about (-1, Troll)

hey! (33014) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634369)

printing it out on a roll of toilet paper. I think the old HP calculator printers could be adapted. You can't have ours though. It was an engagement present to my wife so it has sentimental value.

I wish I had a better suggestion other than to print it out real small. Cheap PDAs are probably a bad idea in poor countries. I just equipped a guy with a backpack DGPS unit to go to Kenya, and he told he was going to have to wear it practically 7x24 to keep it from being stolen.

local (1, Troll)

ryanelm (787453) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634384)

the country has internet therefore there is probably an internet shop in the capital city. i would find one and pay them to print out the material and then have it shiped from there.

Re:local (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11639670)

Why was this modded as a troll? It makes sense to me.

BTW, ryanelm, sentences usually begin with a capital letter, the word "I" is usually capitalized, and the word "shipped" has two "p"s.

Digital media (3, Insightful)

mpmansell (118934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634389)

If she already has a PDA, or can get one, then the best way would be to send data via SD media.

As for powering the PDA, there are a number of options using solar power

Re:Digital media (1)

Descartes (124922) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634799)

Well, first of all whoever modded this Troll is a complete moron. Metamods: fix it.

I don't know why a cheap PDA is not a viable option. Seriously, you could get some really old Palm PDA's so cheaply that it wouldn't matter if it got stolen. Just load one up with a few books (txt's don't take very much space) and mail it to her. If it doesn't get there, or somebody swipes it, send her another one.

Re:Digital media (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635589)

No joke. You can buy Palm IIIs for pretty cheap. I've seen iPAQ 3100s and 3600s for $40-60. I guess I'd say go for something like that- cheap- and with 8 MB or more RAM if you can, 16-32 MB if possible. Most ebooks are 400-700 KB, and you can fit a lot on an iPAQ 3650 with nothing else installed but uBook from

Re:Digital media (1)

barc0001 (173002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11637718)

I'd stay away from the Pocket PC world side of things because of battery life in an application like this. Go get an old Palm IIIxe off Ebay for a few bucks and send it loaded with several megs of text and a reader, and a pack of AAAs from Costco. The old IIIs were super thrifty on the battery life becuase they didn't have to drive a power hungry display. I used to read ebooks on them all the time and even with heavy use (like 1-2 hours a day) only had to change batteries every once or twice a month.

Re:Digital media (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 9 years ago | (#11648296)

I second that, for this application. But if it's between some really good deal on a few old iPAQs and something a lot more spendy on the old Palm side, then I wouldn't have any problems doing the iPAQs. If someone had some free ones to let you use, etc. But the old iPAQs were especially bad- 2-3 hours of life in them. Stray away from newer Palm OS devices too, which are no better than a Pocket PC, with the exception of the Zire 21, but it's still not as good as the Palm III, V, etc.

Send it _as_ a book (3, Interesting)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636085)

Get a genuine hardcover book, preferably a boring one from an op-shop or bargain bin with a stark (black and white) cover, easy to read through the packaging. Open it, use a craft knife to chop out (a) hollow rectangle(s) for the PDA and accessories. Pad the PDA so it doesn't rattle, tape the book shut with clear tape so it doesn't flop open in transit.

Runs up the shipping costs a little, but since hardcovers feel heavy anyway, only an xray will show it up. You can even thwart some of those by putting a couple of leaves of tinfoil inside the covers, but you'd be better off using tinfoil silhouettes to spell out "P D A" to help avoid bomb scares.

Re:Send it _as_ a book (1)

Descartes (124922) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638884)

That's a pretty clever idea, but I think it would be more usefull for hiding it while she's there. Admittedly I've never shipped anything to Mozambique, but I assume it is possible to ship valuables some of the time if not most of the time. Really, it's hiding the PDA while it's not in use that will be the big challenge, but who would think to check a random boring looking hardcover book on the shelf?

Re:Send it _as_ a book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11648483)

Are you 12 years old? First of all, a few sheets
of tin foil are not going to fool any x-ray
machines -- even ones in third world nations.
And if I was a package inspector and I saw a
funny image that spelled out P.D.A.
I'd take that package and have the bomb disposal
guys take a closer look.

Before digital media, there was microfiche (1)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636105)

She's likely to be able to lay hands on a reader for it, too. Shipping her a couple of kilos of microfiche is more likely to succeed and less likely to get stolen than a PDA. At a pinch, she can use a random light-source and a magnifying glass, and/or ship her a fold-down Fresnel lens too.

Should have thought of this *before* she left (2, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634390)

But what the heck. I'd send it as a PDA with a huge storage card of some sort- but I'd disassemble the PDA first, send it in a few separate packages, marked "miscellaneous electronic parts" to avoid it being stolen, and to go for smaller packages thus minimizing shipping/customs costs. It can be reassembled at the other end. Plus, might be usefull to include something like This hand crank charger [] or This Solar charger [] considering that she has limited access to electricity. Far cheaper than shipping printout, books, or other items of the sort.

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (1)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634553)

Do you routinely label the contents of everything you ship?

"Credit card payment"
"Subscription to nudie mag"
"Blackmail payment"
"PDA to my friend overseas - don't steal it"

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11634624)

Do you routinely label the contents of everything you ship?

It's called "customs declaration" -- yes, I do label everything I send overseas.

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (1)

TheWanderingHermit (513872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634668)

Whether or not a package has a label on it, there's still a chance that if someone even suspects it's valuable, it might not get there. I bet if you ask a few people who have sent/received packages in similar places, you'd find out that many times the packages arrive opened, or opened and re-sealed.

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634739)

When you send it international- yes, you usually have to fill out a customs declaration form of some sort. Certain phrases get less attention from the authorities/thieves than others of course- try to make it something NOT worth stealing or bothering with when you've got 50,000 other packages to search today....

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11635350)

I always find the labeling in my shipments of ayahuasca, from the Netherlands to the US, rather amusing in their creativity.

Insurance. (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634723)

Send it to her insured (normally costs 5% over the value of the package).

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (4, Informative)

Houkster (829643) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636449)

Forget breaking down the PDA.

Go buy a big Bible or other book but Bible has advantages. Make sure to look for something that is shrink wrapped. The One Year Bibles I believe come like that. You take and cut a spot in the middle of it for the PDA. Reshrink wrap it, get a cheap Royal brand type PDA, a cheap calculator or something and put em in the same box. Now you can etchically say misc small electronic devices and a bible. Ship it off and it should make it. The other 2 pieces might not, but hopefully the Bible will since in most countries people don't steal Bibles.

In addition, she can store the PDA in the Bible once she gets it which might be a way again to help keep it safe.

At least an idea of a way to do it, don't know if it will work.

Re:Should have thought of this *before* she left (1)

shumacher (199043) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638758)

This appeals to me more than the other posts. You address the theft issue quite well here. Kudos!

Make books on CD (3, Interesting)

p7 (245321) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634391)

Find a decent text to speech software and make cds of the audio. They are small and light can be played in a cheap portable cd player. A cassettes would work also.

Re:Make books on CD (2, Insightful)

John_Booty (149925) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638746)

Are you seriously suggesting that hours upon hours of horrible monotone text-to-speech voice samples would be REMOTELY pleasurable to listen to?

Even the best text-to-speech stuff I've heard is, uh, not something I'd want to listen to for hours on end. What you've descrived sounds like a particularly excruiating version of pure hell.

I am befuddled by your question (2, Informative)

Frac (27516) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634421)

Here's a suggestion - there are many companies that offer to print such free online text onto smaller than letter-size paper, and they even bind it for you for much lower printing costs than doing it yourself. They call them "books".

These "books" aren't that much heavier to ship than high quality fresnel lens or PDAs.

Re:I am befuddled by your question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11643659)

So you're saying Encyclopedia Britanica would be cheaper to ship in paper form than the 1 PDA it would all fit on? If you can't help the person asking the question then please don't clutter the thread with off topic sarcasm.

Not Gutenberg (4, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634426)

Amazon delivers to Mozambique (linky [] ). Just order some actual books and have them delivered. Some nice Penguin Classics paperback edition or so would probably be more practical to read than any of your ideas for delivering a Gutenberg text as well, I would think.

(Possibly giving this answer makes me a total moron because I obviously forgot about a number of problems with it, and it's not even an answer to the question. If so, kindly explain why it won't work. Ta)

Re:Not Gutenberg (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634981)

I was going to say ship her a Barnes&Noble gift card as a cruel joke.

Re:Not Gutenberg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11642093)


You are an evil genius.

Re:Not Gutenberg (1)

cjsnell (5825) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635016)

Yeah, you're not kidding! Amazon delivers everywhere. That page even claims that they deliver to Bouvet Island, an uninhabited island in the Antarctic Indian Ocean, claimed by Norway [] !

Re:Not Gutenberg (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635543)

What would happen if you sent a package there via a shipping method that requires a signature?

Re:Not Gutenberg (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635568)

The UPS guy leaves 3 tags on the island, and then returns it to Amazon.

Re:Not Gutenberg (1)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635746)

That's it! I'm off to Bouvet Island!

What? They don't have broadband there? Nooo!

One option (1)

Citoahc (565108) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634442)

If they already had a decent PDA it would be fairly easy to stash a memory card in something like a sock or normal book where it might not get noticed. As to getting the PDA there I have no clue.


Wow. (1)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634493)

My first thought was to go with an iPod mini, and just be sure to convert the pages to Notes format before sending it to her.

The more I think about that though, you'd be better to send her something cheap that can read compact flash, then just mail exchange the compact flash...

Then PDA's come to mind. :\

Why not find a really old laptop with PCMCIA, load a minimal linux with a reader? That way if it were to be stolen, no big loss?

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11635580)

> My first thought was to go with an iPod mini, and just be sure to convert the pages to Notes format before sending it to her.

My mind automatically inserted "Lotus" before the word "Notes", and I shuddered just a little at the thought of running that on an iPod...

Buy real books (1)

humuhumunukunukuapu' (678704) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634544)

It saves the hassle, and it probably doesn't cost any more money.

A possible reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11634614)

Why not ship the books? Perhaps, because an avid reader with alot of time on their hands can burn through your average trade paperback in a few hours. I also am familiar with shipping books internationally, since my wife used to use [] ship them all over the place. I quickly started questioning the practice when the shipping was close to the cost of the book.

So my guess is that they don't want or can't pay the few hundred dollars it would likely take to ship a large number of books to the reader and were wondering if the slashdot world had any clever solutions.

Low tech data transport? (4, Funny)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634691)

The Internet rises to the challenge!

RFC 1149 'IP Over Avian Carriers' t []

Re:Low tech data transport? (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634781)

I tried that one. Bandwidth sucks. Latency is unbelievable. Not to mention packet loss [] ...

Re:Low tech data transport? (2, Insightful)

zcat_NZ (267672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634811)

Not as silly as it sounds (for small distances at least..) 42 27.shtml?tid=126&tid=133&tid=186&tid=95

Re:Low tech data transport? (1)

zcat_NZ (267672) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634859)

Not as silly as it sounds (for small distances at least..)

Oops wrong link, try this one []

One suggestion (2, Interesting)

LordOfYourPants (145342) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634708)

Project Gutenberg has some ebooks done by text-to-speech synths [] as well as those read by human readers [] which were donated by [] . A note about the final site mentioned: if you want their material for free, it requires you to sign up, download low-quality versions, etc. The rest comes at a price.

From there you can burn to a CD, easily playable in any $40 portable player. Heck, you could send 2 or 3 for the price of a PDA if theft concerns are that high.

If you want to send over a real reading experience and PDAs are risky to send and there are no computers, then I dunno how you're going to get around sending either the real thing or the text in microfiche or something along those lines.

YES (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636138)

AudioBooksForFree is an excellent site. The free bitrate used to be better (but included ads). But it is still 'almost' usable. But for a minimal price of $120 [] , you can get hundreds of hours (300 audiobooks) on 5 DVDs. Burn them out to CDs, and a cheap CD player will work just fine.

Same power problems as a PDA, though.

I've tried the text-to-speech books, and it loses so much in the translation as to be unusable. Human read are soooo much better.

One up on the book shipping (2, Insightful)

Hellraisr (305322) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634753)

Here's an idea. Open a website that allows people to donate books to this person, much like a paypal donation site. On top of you shipping books to your friend, other people can also ship off a couple old books that they don't want anymore.

It would save on shipping costs for you (I think what you're trying to do is ship a huge amount of printed material, right?), and wouldn't cost many other people very much either.

Let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11637752)

I pay you to get rid of my books?

Is this bizarro world or something? Pay for your own damn books.

Just buy real books (3, Interesting)

Bastian (66383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634756)

Anything that's on Gutenberg is probably something you can pick up in a 'thrift edition' at the bookstore for less than $10 if a short book and less than $15 or $20 if a long book.

At those prices, just buying the book is probably going to be a whole lot cheaper than printing the files yourself, and is going to be cheaper to ship as well (since the paper in pulp paperbacks tends to be lighter weight than printer paper.)

On top of that, the dimensions of real books are going to make them a lot easier for your friend to store and transport, and the covers are going to prevent as much wear and tear on the books. (I have lots of computer printouts of free books online. They don't last long, even though I just keep them on a desk.)

If you really really want to send a LOT of books, you can send a PDA, but that's also going to be expensive, and it's going to harm the ability of your friend to enjoy the books - she won't be able to read them just anywhere, because she would be attracting attention to herself, and in almost any country in the world foreigners with expensive crap are going to be more likely to be mugged. On top of that, you're going to have to send her a regular wall charger since she doesn't have a computer, and those things are bulky and annoying to carry around. And nobody likes a book that starts bitching about low batteries while you're reading it.

Do her a favor, don't bother being trendy or 'e', and just buy her some real books. Heck, maybe there's an online bookseller in Mozambique that sells lots of english-language books, so you can save even more on shipping costs.

Re:Just buy real books (2, Insightful)

RomulusNR (29439) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634938)

$10?? Hell, you could get them for a buck or less (US) at a Goodwill or other thrift store, maybe as much as $3-5 at a used book store.

Re:Just buy real books (2, Insightful)

Chapium (550445) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638062)

First of all, I'd like to compliment the courage of your friend. But really, just send a real book. They are nice. You can keep a slip of paper on them, share them with others, and they are very easy to read. Besides.. depending on where they are, electricity might not be always there. Batteries are just going to poop out. One of the best things about being out there is removal from electronics and crazy things like that. A book will do nicely :D

This will take some preparation (2, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634761)

Explain her part in detail in a letter you send beforehand.

At a mutually agreed upon time have a powerful laser flash against a satellite that will be passing overhead (for her) during the early evening. The flashes will encode the text in morse-code going slowly enough for her to read.

There are some practical details to work out, but this will work.

Or, of course, you could just send her a 10 cent paperback book from a used bookstore, but if that were practical you would have already thought of it and not asked Slashdot.

Buy a book (1)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634845)

Use the right tool for the job.

Send books (3, Insightful)

jbarr (2233) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634849)

OK, so others have already suggested this, but really, it's probably the best solution for many reasons. For example, when the person is done reading them, give the books away to locals to promote the stories. It's educational, and a great way to expose others to the literature. The problem with at PDA is that its the usefulness is really limited to that one person, but if you send books, they can be passed around to countless people. We take things like this for granted but many would love to get their hands on books to pass around...

Fiche, anyone? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634861)

Send her a handheld microfiche reader [] that runs off of 120VAV, 12VDC, or ambient light. Fiche-ify the books, voila!!

Re:Fiche, anyone? (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635621)

Holy shit, I hope you're kidding, because that is hillarious.

projector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11634881)

OK, how about printing each page onto movie film and setting her up with a projector that's modified to advance a frame at a time upon demand. I estimate you could send a few hundred books per reel, or a single book in a package the size of your fist.

Also known as microfiche.

Don't be selfish! (2, Interesting)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#11634914)

Ship paper, not electronics. Don't ship small print either!

Your friend is supposed to be helping these people. When you ship an electronic book she reads it in her off time, and then what? Ship paper and she has something to leave behind as a gift when she leaves. (Note, there may be laws against this) Something that might encourage some of the natives to read for fun, which makes them better.

Prefer books printed on acid free paper. With lose pages from a printer you can count on one getting blown away in the wind and then what? (Note, you can bind your own books, something to look into though I don't know if it is worth it) Normal acid paper will be destroyed in a few years. These are people who will have enough trouble getting books, they don't need to have the few they have destroyed early.

Re:Don't be selfish! (2, Informative)

SamHill (9044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638744)

Normal acid paper will be destroyed in a few years.

Unless you're using something like newsprint, they don't make acidic paper anymore [] .

Granted, that doesn't mean that there aren't other possible issues, and while most paper today is acid-free, it's not generally buffered, so contact with acidic materials can still ``infect'' it. But most laser-printer and copy paper isn't going to fall apart due to acidification.

Sheesh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11634996)

Dear Slashdot: I want to send some reading material to a friend. It can either be on paper (books), or in electronic form (file). I can't send paper (too expensive) or anything that will read a file electronically (theft). Please help.

*rolls eyes*

Re:Sheesh! (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11640202)

When you put it like that, the answer is obvious.

Sky writing.

Fineprint & The Online Books Page (1)

mvance (75821) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635099)

I'm sure there is some wisdom to the idea of just sending books, but you might also consider checking out a program called FinePrint [] . FinePrint can print 2, 4, or 8 pages per sheet of paper and can also streamline the process of duplex printing (giving you up to 16 pages per sheet). I use it all the time just to save paper, but it might suit your purpose as well. I know that there are similar programs for processing text files under Unix, but I can't recall the name(s) at the moment.

You might also want to be aware of another good resource of free online books, The Online Books Page [] . It includes Gutenberg Project texts as well as lots of others.

Old laptops (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635102)

Can they acquire an old laptop with a CD-ROM drive? Maybe something that can be recharged via solar power?

Someone else mentioned shipping things disassembled so they won't get stolen. Laptops are easier to reassembled than PDAs. Marking them as broken parts and REALLY pack the hard drive.

Better yet: make the CDs bootable so they don't even need a hard drive.

Some harebrained schemes for book transport. (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635356)

Is decent paper available locally? Ribbon or ink cartridges are small and weird enough to ship without being stolen. Send her a cheap old printer and an old PDA that can drive it. Since the printed books can be taken anywhere, the theft-targets can be left at an arbitrary secure location. This has the advantage of being able to print as many copies as resources and time allow, and once the printed volume exceeds the shipping weight of the equipment, you're winning.

I wonder what it would take to modify the "demo buttons" you see attached to printers at the computer store, so that they'd print out short books at the push of a button.

For a really minimalist implementation, a basic stamp with some serial flash and a receipt printer would fit in your pocket, make hardcopy, and run on batteries. ;) Paper costs are likely to be excessive though.

Hmm, on second thought, maybe shipping dead trees is easier. Isn't there some cheap shipping available? You don't need turbo-airmail for 100-year-old text, and if a box gets lost at sea, who cares? Your local used bookstore would love a "fill this bag and I'll give you $10" offer, and send it by the cheapest method available. Repeat this method every few weeks.

If you're not above a little ironic fraud, find the DHL account number that Halliburton uses, and just ship that way. :)

Try to get a story onto the newswire that one of the locals saw the virgin Mary in a tree or something. Fundie tourists flocking to see the "miracle" will bring bibles with them, some of which will be lost or stolen, which can then have the pages washed and reprinted with something peaceful.

Alternately, get word out that the area harbors Al Qaeda, and the Bush administration will bomb it even closer to the stone age. Then Congress will approve a few billion bucks to build it into a technologically advanced society, and your friend can trade beads to soldiers for books.

For extra points, do both of the above simultaneously.

(If I'm gonna get modded flamebait, I'm gonna deserve it!)

Similar problem here... (4, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635432)

I have a friend with a similar problem.
He is going to Namibia for a year trek into the deep jungle. He will have a lot of down time. He is an avid musician, primarily playing the Harmonica. He currently creates music using GarageBand on his Mac, sticky solely to his sampled harmonica sounds. He is wondering how to bring his Macintosh, multiple CinemaDisplay LCD screens, and surround-sounds speaker setup into the jungle since he has to carry everything in his backpack and there will be no electricity.
He can't bear the thought of not making or hearing any Harmonica music for an entire year. I was thinking I could ship him a PDA and he could write down the sheet music, ship it to me, then I would enter it into GarageBand for him, create a Harmonica song, cut it to MP3, download it to his PDA, and ship it back to him. But this would be difficult and expensive.

Can anyone think of anything else that might work?

Re:Similar problem here... (0)

EllF (205050) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635537)

He could stop being a fucking yuppie and carry a metal harp in his pocket?

Re:Similar problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11635636)

> He could stop being a fucking yuppie and carry a metal harp in his pocket?

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's the joke flying over your head!

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635593)

Buy him a harmonica? They are pneumatic-powered. Now, all your friend has to do is to find a source of hot air.

Seriously. If knows how to play the harmonica, and he likes to hear harmonica music, then what is wrong with just playing the darned thing? Maybe he will screw up his performance occasionally. But who cares?

Or, he can mail hs Mac to me just before he leaves, and I will take care of getting it to him -- promise!

Re:Similar problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11635612)

He can't bear the thought of not making or hearing any Harmonica music for an entire year. .... Can anyone think of anything else that might work?

Buy him a harmonica? :-)

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635708)

While I'm with the other dude who says he should just bring a few harmonicas with him, you can just use a PDA and skip the sheetmusic insanity. There are programs like Ewok Tracker [] which is OSS as well as commercial tools like Griff [] . Both are probably adequate...

Re:Similar problem here... (3, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635823)

What's REALLY REALLY funny about this is I purposely picked the most absurb example I could think of, with the SMALLEST, LIGHTEST, MOST PORTABLE musical instrument in existance and compared it to hauling a TON of unnecessary high-tech equipment.

And still I'm getting serious replies.

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636271)

You're new here, aren't you?

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

qengho (54305) | more than 9 years ago | (#11637017)

the SMALLEST, LIGHTEST, MOST PORTABLE musical instrument in existance

Nope. You should have said your friend was an exquisite whistler. "How will he manage without a mic, a recording deck and electricity??!" Any replies to that would be truly worthy of derision...

p.s. - it's "existence".

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 9 years ago | (#11637544)

no. there's only one semi-serious reply which suggests a PDA-based recording app, but still mentions the absurdity of the situation.

please stop making posts to prove a point. yes, the grandparent post was funny, but your point's completely invalid

Re:Similar problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11640219)

Oh no! You STILL don't get it?

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

richy freeway (623503) | more than 9 years ago | (#11640426)

Did you really need to make the post to prove the point that we'd probably already all spotted?

Likewise, did I need to make this post? Probably not.

Welcome To Slashdot.

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

mgdupont (839180) | more than 9 years ago | (#11646920)

Your imaginary friend might enjoy actually LEARNING TO PLAY HIS INSTRUMENT as opposed to Vanilla Icing himself.

May I also suggest the following lightweight, small, REAL instruments:

  • Jew's harp (twang twang)
  • Double Mijwiz (for that good-time two-part harmony!)
  • Piccolo (might fit in his mouth with the harmonica)

Re:Similar problem here... (1)

skaffen42 (579313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11641144)

He is going to Namibia for a year trek into the deep jungle.

Ah shit, I know it was meant to be funny, but this is Slashdot so I am not going to feel guilty about making fun of your geographical skills.

Namibia. A country pretty much named after the Namib desert. A country largely consisting of sand, diamonds and a few people who like sand and/or diamonds. Not much in the way of deep jungle.

But look on the bright side, if he takes some solar panels along he will have no problems powering his Mac. And if gets one of those big flat Powerbooks he should be able to use the thing to surf down some dunes as well.

Print and Ship from South Africa (1)

ChrisGuest (556510) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635484)

It's worth looking at the cost of getting a printer in South Africa. Email them some PDFs of the books and get them to print and ship the order for you.
Though, I suspect it may be cheaper to find a 2nd book dealer (in South Africa) with the titles your friend is after.

Re:Print and Ship from South Africa (1)

webhat (558203) | more than 9 years ago | (#11640341)

I thought about a printer too, but emailing them pdf's??? Why?

If she has access to a computer and internet, unless there's some magic email that doesn't need internet, and you send a printer she can download the text documents from the internet and format them herself

The second option, if you like your friend, is te send her frequent letters and add a 6 or 7pt chapter or two of the book. If she has access to a copier, which is probably easier than getting to an Internet connection, then she can blow them up.

The other option, which has been done on the west coast, is to connected to the internet over ham radio.

And otherwise she's have to do what my friend did when she went to Namibia for 6 months... Suffer and buy books instead, once she's finished reading them she can give them away or sell them. (That's what I do when I go backpacking, although... even basecamp of the K2 there's a Internet connection.)

Nobody said joining the Peace Corps was going to be easy.

You guys just aren't thiking, you have half the id (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635599)

Go to EBAY and get a handspring or other PDA for next to nothing that accepts some form of extra storage like SD memory or compact flash cards and uses regular batteries, not rechargables.

I've got a Visor Platinum with a Kopsis compact flash card reader right here. A cheap 128MB compact flash will hold over 200 books.

Use Adobe's FREE Acrobat reader for Palm to port the files to the Handspring, and the copy of Acrobat you need to set up the files doesn't have to make the trip.

If your friend runs out of books, set up just another compact flash card and send that.

Don't forget to add AAA batteries to the care package.

PDA versus Microfiche? (2, Informative)

tyen (17399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11635943)

Find out if the Peace Corps sends other people either to where she is doing her stint, or if someone will pass through. Send the PDA with them, and have her meet them at the airport. This won't solve the theft in situ problem, but she probably has quite a few personal possessions in that category already, so it is not like an unaddressed problem. At least if you get a PDA to her, shipping her bytes consists of just sending a flash media card in a letter.

She might not live near an Internet cafe, so printing out the material might not be feasible, or might be prohibitively expensive, depending on how much she wants to print out.

I think PDA-based solutions might even beat out microfiche at this time, which surprised me. It was difficult to find out how much Computer Output on Microform (COM) costs; closest page to prices [] I could find seemed to imply that there is a $175 USD setup fee per run. This page [] seems to imply a $0.02/page cost. Maybe the Canadian government agency price of $0.12 CAD per image [] says I'm completely wrong, and if you can ship someone a TIFF file of the entire microfiche, they can turn around the microfiche to you for really dirt cheap. Or they might be talking about a TIFF image per page, and not per microfiche. I would be astonished if it was not priced per page, and really was $0.12 CAD per microfiche. If it was that cheap, then I would reconsider a PDA based solution if cheap microfiche readers can be found.

Oh, alright. Google is not all knowing. Curiosity got the better of me, so I broke down and called Microfacs [] and spoke with a nice guy named Rick. Minimum pricing is $0.05 USD per page, and they think 2,000 pages is a very small order. For that, the deal goes like this. You ship them single page TIFF images. You get about a week turnaround, and it is in the form of 16mm microfilm. If you want microfiche, that costs extra. I didn't ask, because $0.05 per page sounded like about the limit for the low budgets we are talking about; I'm guessing that $0.10 per page for microfiche. More expensive than a copy shop, but a heck of a lot cheaper to ship around I would imagine.

Recondtioned readers [] don't go below $130 USD, although some student projects [] seem to be aware of the advantages of shipping bulk human readable data around on microform (they are aming for a $20 USD reader, for example). There are handheld microfiche readers that use sunlight [] , but they cost about the same as a new low-end PDA, so you would still have in situ theft concerns. Used readers have $50 USD opening bids [] on eBay in the here and now. This is all for microfiche readers; search around for 16mm format microfilm readers that are sunlight or battery capable (if she isn't around reliable electricity), though I'm not sure about the prudence of using for long periods of time any readers that you have to peer through optics.

It currently seems tough to beat the TCO combination of an eBay'd Palm, solar panel, and SD media if you are talking about shipping all of Project Gutenberg to her. Microform readers cost more than a cheap PDA, even used and reconditioned, and the reproduction costs can really swing the cost picture into the PDAs favor (even assuming a couple get stolen) when you start dealing with 10,000 pages (roughly the number of proofed Project Gutenberg pages) and up. If she is around reliable electricity, then I really don't think anything is going to beat a cheap Palm, a RhinoSkin hard cover so she can carry it in her pocket all day, an AC mains charger (hopefully that comes with the Palm), and nice friends like you who are willing to snail mail her SD cards. Assuming it cost about $150 USD delivered to get a cheap Palm to her, and she wants all the proofed pages of Project Gutenberg, printing the bytes over there has to cost less than $0.015 USD per page to beat the Palm's price at that page count.

Now, if theft is that big an issue, and she doesn't want to read that much, then I suppose printing out 1,000 pages at $0.15 or thereabouts could work for her. It sounds like the critical requirement missing here is the page count you want to ship to her. Depending on that number, buying and shipping books through Amazon, buying thrift store books and shipping, microform, or PDA all are cost-effective solutions. What the others said about high-tech solutions making one a mugging magnet should also be kept in mind. If that is a real concern then physical safety trumps all other considerations, and dead tree books are pretty much your only solution. In that case, get a list from her, get the books (used or new), and see if you can pack some along with another volunteer going to or through the nearest airport to her, and send the rest via mail.

an Ethiopian project perspective (2, Interesting)

286 (620933) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636057)

There are so many post by people who just don't seem to get it. (yeah, yeah, I know this is /.)

Africa is a diverse place with different needs. Many of these project are looking for solutions that are not that different from your typical under funded public library or university. They may have a donated server in the back room that they need to figure out how to best utilize it.

Our project, is working with non-profits and public institutions we have a few systems set up there with OpenBSD and Koha. Koha works just like any other library management software. But it supports links to on-line resources. Ideally having "copyleft" medical journals and Gutenberg text stored locally would be great. The local Internet connections are unreliable. These desires we have for our own schools and research institution are not that different from those on the other side of the pond.

C. Gilbert
Bethany Memorial Foundation

Re:an Ethiopian project perspective (1)

kcelery (410487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11640014)

A mimeograph machine + a dot-matrix printer + a few volunteers. The consummables are the stencil, ink and paper. Download the books, use the dot-matrix to print to the wax stencil. Mount the stencil to the mimeograph machine, add ink. Then tell the volunteer with a bright smile on her face to roll the fine machine. The printed papers could be glued or stitched together to form a book. Now if you are determined like the book makers few hundred years ago, the paper could be hand made from wood pulp and a few cactus.

Just a thought... (2, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636100)

Maybe the problem of getting books there is something that the Peace Corps should be looking at. Teach a man to fish and all that...

Ebookwise 1150 Ebook reader!!! (1)

Brietech (668850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636186) tm [] I recently got one of these things and it's a great deal. It cost me around $100 (I think it's gone back up to $130 now), so it's not terribly expensive, and it only weighs about a pound or so. You can import your own texts to it (i.e. project gutenberg texts), it can use Smartmedia cards (up to 128mb), so you can store a LOT of books, and the batteries last for about 25 hours and can just be charged off of 12V dc. Hook up a small 12V solar panel to trickle-charge it and you've got yourself around 300+ books for ~$150 or so!

Peace Corp and Books (1)

lezerno (775940) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636334)

This reminds of the time in the early 90's when I was working in Russia and an American Peace Corp worker came to my Hotel Room. All I can remember about the visit was that he kept asking for books to read. The lesson we should all learn from this is to always bring something to read.

Send a game boy advance (2, Interesting)

monopole (44023) | more than 9 years ago | (#11636631)

Lik-Sang has a GBA Movie Player module for $24 which reads text files off of CF cards. Use old CF cards for cheap. Get a mini-winder charger (Lik-Sang) (8 mins of hand cranking generates 30 min of operation) and either a Game Boy SP for ~$59 used (smaller than a wallet easy to hide) or a refurbished GameBoy advance ~$35 (nearly disposable). Toss in a magnifier (they do work) and you have a portable human powered library.

WinCE 2.0 PDA, wind up charger, CF card, $80 (1)

AEther141 (585834) | more than 9 years ago | (#11637404)

Pick any random old winCE PDA from ebay, preferably one that takes standard size batteries, buy a big CF card and a wind-up or solar charger, Send them over wrapped in wadding packed in a video tape box inside a padded envelope. Customs agents will almost certainly just read the postmark from the US, feel that it's a video tape and pass it through. Unlikely to be stolen en route, and if it is, you're only down $70 or $80. You can send another half gigabyte of books for $40 if she can't get the card back to you.

Re:WinCE 2.0 PDA, wind up charger, CF card, $80 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11639050)

Watch it!

Make sure the PDA has enough RAM to handle the text files. I have an old Velo that I'm probably gonna junk because it can't even open a 250KB RTF file. Better safe than sorry, if you ask me.

Bound Printed Matter (2, Informative)

JadesFire (604779) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638756)

In regards to shipping books, the USPS has special information for sending _only_ bound printed matter. Link []

buy it in South Africa (1)

klaasvakie (608359) | more than 9 years ago | (#11638856)

I am currently living in SA, and if I had to do this, I would go to [] (a local online bookstore) and have them ship the books to Mozambique. Orders over R300 (about $50) are shipped for free in SA. Their shipping info page says that people in neighbouring countries can contact them for a quote.

Freely available byte stream without a computer? (1)

Laconian (578463) | more than 9 years ago | (#11639750)

sorry, up a creek without a paddle.

Cheap PDA (1)

Catmeat (20653) | more than 9 years ago | (#11658818)

Get a Palm M125 from eBay.

1)They're dirt cheap - no big loss if stolen. Get two in fact, one as a backup.

2)They run for weeks on 2 AAA batteries, no need for a recharger or access to a power supply.

3)They take MMC cards. If you use Weasel reader and the ztxt fomat for compressing books, you can get an average Guttenberg text down to about 250K. So that's about 1000 books on a 256M card. More MMC cards can be posted out from home, as an when required.

iPod shuffle? (1)

azav (469988) | more than 9 years ago | (#11663692)

How about audiobooks on an iPod Shuffle?

Get two and when she ships one back, ship her another one updated with new audio books.

Re:iPod shuffle? (1)

azav (469988) | more than 9 years ago | (#11663713)

DOH! And I forgot to mention a solar recharger for the iPod.

AND it's made from recycled materials in a developing country :D

"high tech gutenberg"!? FUCK. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11665552)

This is so fucking ironic that it hurts my head. What a stupid fucking question.
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