Secrets Of The Perpetual Traveler

“Vicki and I travel light,” writes Intrepid Correspondent Paul Terhorst from his current position in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “We never check bags. When we run out of something on the road, we buy it.

“We also like to read. How do we travel light when we read three or four books a week?

“We’ve struggled with this problem for years. Recently we’ve come up with a solution: Download books from the web.

“First, the easy way. A friend says to buy an Apple iTouch or something similar and purchase your books online. Carry your iTouch around the world and connect to the Internet wherever you find a WiFi hotspot. Buy books on the web, download directly to your iTouch, and read them there.

“Now comes the hard way: Download free .pdf books from the web. You’ll find a few technical challenges. But you get tens of thousands of free books, and you can read them on the computer you already have.

“Most free books come in .pdf format, which I like best. Read .pdf books with Adobe Acrobat, Foxit, and other free programs. Vicki and I travel with netbooks, cheap, lightweight little computers available for under US$300. We use our netbooks for browsing and e-mail, for pictures and music, for writing and bookkeeping. We can now use them to read books.

“On my netbook, I open the .pdf book, rotate the image clockwise, click on ‘full screen,’ and hold my little netbook like a book. The main difference from a real book is that I have a page on the left only. On the right is my keyboard, where I click the right arrow to see the next page. Works great.

“My favorite book sites are,, and Planetpdf carries only .pdf books, and they download quickly and easily. As I said, I find .pdf books easiest to read.

“You’ll find the classics, from Moby Dick to Alice in Wonderland, but little else. Feedbooks carries many, many more books, and users upload new books all the time. Unfortunately, Feedbooks come in many formats, including .pdf but also .txt, .html, .xml, and others.

“Gutenberg carries more books than anyone, all in text (.txt) format. Here you’ll find nearly all the classics and much more. I found a Roget’s Thesaurus and a Webster’s dictionary, for example. You can get War and Peace, Ulysses, and other light reading.

“Downloading books presents a few hurdles. I read mysteries, for example, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. (For the record, I’ve never read Ulysses.) At, I was delighted to find 17 Nero Wolfe books in one file. I downloaded the file, only to find the books compressed in .rar format. What is .rar format? I googled and found .rar to be Microsoft software. I use Linux rather than Windows these days, so my first job was to find a Microsoft Windows computer. I then decompressed the files and saved them on my thumb drive, only to find the saved books in .lit format.

“What is .lit format? I googled and found .lit to be another Microsoft pest, a format for use with its old e-book reader. I googled yet again and found a free program to convert .lit files to .pdf files. Voila! I now have 17 Nero Wolfe books to read on the road. Most are now in .pdf or .html format, although some books refused to come out of the .lit format. I’ll have to find a Windows computer to read them.

“Complicated. But it gets worse…

“I’m used to reading books in bed while falling asleep. I’ve done this for so long that I respond automatically. I read a book in bed–in this case on my computer–and fall asleep. In theory, I could fall asleep and have the computer fall in my face. The hit could break my nose, not to mention the computer.

“I’m working on a solution.”

Kathleen Peddicord

One thought on “Secrets Of The Perpetual Traveler

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