The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

A Read for the Ride

I’m officially blaming it on gas prices, which probably isn’t too far off the mark. Metro ridership in D.C. is way up, and recently hit a new record.

Metro says it counted 854,638 riders on Friday, beating the old record by 4,000 passenger trips. Officials attribute the spike to a Washington Nationals baseball game, a Women of Faith Conference at the Verizon Center and tourists visiting the city.

So far, 20 of Metrorail’s top 25 highest ridership days in its 32-year history have been recorded this year. Many of the busiest days are generated by baseball games or big events like the Cherry Blossom Festival or the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

No wonder I can’t find a seat on the Metro. I used to let packed trains go by, because I could be almost certain that I would get a seat on the next train. That means I’d be able to take out the laptop and use that little bit of quiet time between work and home to catch up on some of the stuff I’ve been wanting to read.

But the trains are all crowded now, and by the time the third packed train goes by, I have to get on or get home late. So, what’s a guy to do?

It’s hard to read stuff on a laptop while standing on a crowded train. For starters, you still need one hand to hold on to the nearest bar or pole to stabilize yourself. It also tends to irritate one’s fellow travelers in such close quarters. So, I’m busted back down to paper.

But it’s a little tedious to print out half a dozen or so articles to read on the train and/or bus. I started looking for a solution, and digging back through my Google Reader tags, and a post at Lifehacker took me back to Feedbooks.

Service:

As a service, Feedbooks is a unique solution for e-paper devices and e-books in general.

It provides an easy way to find, publish and download e-books in a large number of formats, while focusing on creating the best experience for e-books.

Technology:

Our team developed its own technology to generate e-books on the fly.

Using both semantic and presentation elements, Feedbooks can generate high-quality e-books in any format.

Instead of using terminal formats, Feedbooks strictly work with an abstract representation of the content, and therefore it can easily be extended and adapt itself to new formats.

Feedbook, it turns out, didn’t quite meet my needs. What I needed wasn’t a book, and Feedbooks seems to print single-column format only. (The articles I added to its “Create a Newspaper” function resulted in a 36 page document I couldn’t quite bring myself to print out.) I needed a kind of customized magazine or newspaper. As I searched further into my Google Reader tags, I dug up another Lifehacker link to FeedJournal.

FeedJournalI’d forgotten about FeedJournal. I ust have forgotten, because I tried to sign up only to find out that I already had an account. I’m not sure why I abandoned it (maybe there were some initial bugs to be worked out when I tried it the first time) but I decided to give it another try. The only problem was how to get full content from feeds that only published summaries. The creator of FeedJournal offered his solution in a blog post titled “How to Publish Anything.”

Ingredients (all free): One Google Notebook account with the browser extension (optional) and one FeedJournal Reader account.

Scenario: You have browsed to an interesting article but have no time to read it right now.

Instructions: Select the text with the mouse, right-click on the selection and choose “Note this (Google Notebook)”. The text have now been saved to your Google Notebook account. Make sure it is added to a section marked as shared, as it enables RSS feeds from the notebook. Grab the feed URL from the public page of your Google Notebook and subscribe to it in FeedJournal Reader. Once you subscribed to that section’s RSS feed, any additional entries you add to Google Notebook will be automatically published in FeedJournal Reader.

Sure enough that worked. Google reader may have update since his post, because opening the public page wasn’t necessary. All I had to do was right-click on “RSS” in the “Export To:” footer on my notebooks, and add it to FeedJournal. Boom. Done. I actually created several Google notebooks, so that I could have different sections of my “newspaper,” since FeedJournal gives you the option of rearranging your feeds. It also give you the option of choosing how many columns you want, as well as your default paper size, and margin size. You can also chose justified columns and (in an experimental feature) your preferred language.

I chose four columns, and with double-sided printing ended up with a 5 page document I felt comfortable printing out. With that, I was ready for the train.

Winner: FeedJournal.

Given the latest news on newspapers, it’s kind of ironic that I’m actually shifting back to paper for some my reading. My offline reading, that is. (Which is something I’ll talk about in another post.) It makes me wonder, whether newspapers haven’t adopted a model similar to something like FeedJournal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the response to something like FeedJournal becoming “too successful” wouldn’t prompt newspapers to respond by, I dunno, finding a way to put the kibosh on copy-and-paste functionality, based on some kind of copyright issue or another.

But that’s a subject best left for yet another post, I think.

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