A Plain Defense For Plain Text Blog

The Plain Text E-book Initiative

The plain Text E-book Initiative

Written by Donald L. Brown Jr.

Please Read Before Continuing

This work was provided by the author listed above and is copywrited 2019. Although this work was provided in plain text format doesn't give anyone the right to modify, copy or redistribute it without the expressed written permission from the author. This work is not PLR and should not be treated as such. Since this work is in plain text format, you should be able to read it within any text editor, text viewer or word processing program, or on any operating system with absolutely no trouble whatsoever. All that is asked of you is that you respect the author's wishes regarding this text.

This publication was adapted to be placed here on Bear, and all copyright statements still do apply even though this is now a blog post.

Preface

The very first attempt at putting a book into electronic format was done back in 1971. However, this was back when home based computers were a thing of science fiction, and nobody had any real means for reading electronic texts. However, as technology advanced and home computers started to become a thing in people's homes, that's when electronic texts were starting to become available. Back in the early days of computing, the main operating system was MS-DOS, which was a non-graphical user interface that was all text based. This was way before e-books were a thing. However, this doesn't mean that people didn't write very large text files and called them books. No matter how times change, what hasn't really changed is the fact that the earliest text files can still be viewed even on today's really complicated devices and computers. Plain text is used even today in many different ways such as writing instant messages, tweets, blog posts and so much more. Even text messaging is still done with plain text and nobody worries about the font style, paragraph formatting and stuff like that. It is all just plain text.

However, as you already know, we're so attached to our word processors and our word processor file formats such as DOC and DOCX, and whatever other file format there is for a word processing program. We quickly forget the importance of plain text and how simple it really is. We also forget just how versatile it really is and the fact that plain text needs no specialized application in order to view it. As you will see through this book which is in plain text itself, just how valuable plain text e-books are and why they're so much better than other file formats such as PDF and so on.

Going Gaga Over Style

Let's face it, most people are visual. They love fancy font styles and fancy paragraph layouts and such. That's why HTML was invented for the web. It was designed to get plain text to display font information and paragraph structure in such a way that it has style. Now while all that is fine, there will come a day when much of the HTML coding that we are using today will be phased out and something else put in its place to represent the very same thing that we're viewing today. Just like word processors, browsers change with time along with HTML coding standards. However, when it comes to plain ordinary text, that doesn't change.

This is why so many people use programs like Microsoft Word simply because of the ability to style the document and make it all pretty and such. However, doing that to the document has its serious drawbacks. While those documents will be usable today, what's to say that five years from now you will still be able to view that document that you had worked so hard on? Well it isn't guaranteed unless you also save a backup copy in plain text format. There's nothing wrong with those word processing formats if they're used in the way that they're supposed to be used and that's for printing, but if you're one of those people who save for electronic use only, then you will want to seriously think about backing everything up in plain text format as well. This would be the smart thing to do. Why? Well like I said, whose to say that your word processing file that you had just created will even work in a new word processor five years from now? If you didn't back up the document in plain text and then you tried to open that file five years from now, you might not be able to read it because the word processor has changed its native file format to something else. Believe me this has already happened to a whole lot of people who have lost their precious work due to the fact that the file wasn't backed up in plain text also. So even though you use a word processor for your work, it is fine to want style and all that jaz, but just make sure that you back up everything in plain text just in case. That's the smart thing to do as a writer.

Why Ebook Formats Do Not Work Well

When e-book readers first came onto the scene, they were rittled with over protection, passwords and other junk just to prevent plagiarism, and copying of the information. That's still done today as more and more e-book formats come onto the scene. So why all those formats? Why isn't there a basic e-book standard that everyone can be happy with? That's a very good question and I am going to give a really simple answer. It has to do with money, and copy protection. For some reason, everything has to be made really complicated even if it means reading abook whereas years ago, there was only one format for a book, and that was paper. However, paper didn't have any copy protection and anyone who had the time to rewrite the book, or take the thing to a copier could do it and make their own version of the book. And of course with a little bit more work, you could really plagiarize the work simply by rewriting the work and adding your own flare to the work and then make tons of copies of it.

That was then, but still this same thing can be done today even with the most copy protected book out there. You see, all those fancy file formats were developed in the hope of protecting the work from people who would copy it and redistribute it. However, if one wanted to, it wouldn't take all that much to simply rewrite the book into your word processor, edit it and republish it on the web even though the original file was so-called copy protected. So basically what I am saying here is that if the book can be read on a screen, then it can be copied and rewritten. So what's the use for those fancy file formats other than just to confuse people and make people buy yet another fancy reader for that particular file format?

There are many many different e-book file formats out there which makes purchasing a book really complex. Not every file format can be viewed in all e-book reading software. So the question is; is there really a standard for e-books?

The answer is of course yes, and the thing is, is that it has been around ever since the computer has been around. It is called plain text. However, if this is so, then why wasn't it used as a standard for writing electronic books? Well like I had said earlier, it all has to do with copy protection and money. The only place that I know of where you can even find plain text e-books is on the project gutenberg web site. They have many of the older works in plain text format. However, when it comes to newer works such as what I am writing now, there aren't very many works in plain text. They're all in those many other file formats that will be forgotten years from now. So if you're one of those who download books on your tablet or phone, or even your computer and you're using epub, PDF, and any of those other file formats, don't be surprised when several years from now, those file formats will no longer be available because they will come up with yet another fancy file format that you have to buy.

According to most sources, the PDF file format is the so-called defacto standard for e-books, but it is really far from being a true standard since in order to read it, it needs a native application in order to read it, and as far as being truly portable, well, that's another story altogether.

It all has to do with the love for fancy fonts, fancy paragraph layouts and fancy page styling along with all that over rated copy protection and junk like that. That's why people publish their books in those other formats. However, I will not use those formats because I strongly believe in making my works last for the forseeable future. And as far as I know, plain text will always be readable no matter what device or platform you use it on, and no matter what year it is.

However, I can hear you saying, but Donald, aren't you worried about people copying your work, and aren't you worried about people not buying your books because they're in plain text? Well not really because once people realize just how easy it really is to just load a plain text file is, they will continue to buy my books because for one, they don't need a specialized program to view the file in and secondly, my books will be readable in just about any viewing software that can view text documents. The mere fact that plain text is an open file format also gives the reader the ability to put the book into a specified format if they so choose. However, why would they want to go to all that trouble formatting the text, adding page styles and such when they could just open up the file and read it?

Oh No, Another Update?

We all are familiar with software updates whether they're on our computers or on our smart phones and tablets. Now while there's nothing wrong with software updates in themselves, what really poses an issue is when the update also includes updates to a particular file format, or a dropping of a particular file format altogether. This is when updates are no fun. So what about these updates and what do they mean to e-book authors and publishers, as well as e-book readers? Well it can mean a real mess.

You see, when software is updated, especially software that has to do with the reading or writing of information, part of the updating process is the changing of how those files are generated. Programs such as Microsoft Word are very notorious for changing the native file formats such as DOC, and DOCX. These file formats can change so much so that what you had written in an earlier version of Microsoft Word may or may not work in the newer version of the same program.

Not only that, but version conflicts really rear their ugly head when you swap files from different computing platforms. Just because someone has Microsoft Word on their Windows machine doesn't mean that their files will work on Microsoft Word for the Mac. This is all due to the lack of consistency. However, it gets even worse because as programs get more and more advanced, file formats may actually disappear altogether making them totally unreadable in future versions of the software. That means that whatever program allows for you to read the current e-book format now, might not allow for that same file format in an update of the software in the future. And if that's the case, then what happens to all those books that you had bought years ago? Well, they have become digital dust taking up space in your library because they can't be read any more. This is why I strongly support putting e-books into plain text as another option for selecting e-book formats.

Storage Issues

As you may or may not know, text files are the smallest of all the file formats there are for e-books. Because they don't have any formatting whatsoever, or any markup, they take up far less space on media. Word processing documents store a lot of other information relating to the document such as the styling information, font information and other codes that are native to the program that created the document. So those files are larger than their plain text counterparts. Not only that, but when you go to share those word processing files, if the individual to whom you're sharing the file with doesn't have the same exact version of your word processor means that there could be a real issue when they try to display your file whereas if it were in plain text, there wouldn't be any real problem with it.

Word processing programs are notorious for really messing up and adding things to your files that can really cause displaying issues with it on other devices and computers. This is why plain text wins hands down over word processing documents and any other fancy document format for electronic books. True, plain text files do not have any fancy font styles, fancy page layouts, but the most important thing is, is the information that is provided inside the text file. If the information was put into one of those fancy file formats and then many years down the road you tried to retrieve that information, more than likely you wouldn't be able to retrieve it because that file format is no longer used.

Plain text however, will always be around because it is the most basic of all the file formats even though it isn't very fancy-looking. It is practical and it is future-proof. It is also the smallest of all the file formats because of its basic structure, or lack thereof. You can store many thousands of text files on a 4GB flash drive, or SD card. Just to give you an example, the King James Bible roughly takes up only 4MB of storage. Now while that might not seam like a lot, a plain text file that is 4MB in size is really huge! 4MB is the average size of a standard MP3 file which contains far less information than a plain text file.

This is why from now on, I will be publishing in plain text format rather than in PDF. because more people will be able to read my books in plain text than in any other file format. The storage capacity for plain text files is astounding, and like I said, they're the most universal file format there is for information exchange and retension.

Cheaper In Price

Plain text e-books are much cheaper than any other file format simply because they don't have to be rendered in specialized applications. Most everyone, or should I say, everyone has a means to read plain text files on their computer, tablets or phones. However, that can't be said for other fancy file formats that need specialized applications in order to be able to read those files. This in turn makes plain text e-books much cheaper to produce. Not only that, but there is another really big advantage for plain text files, and that is accessibility for the blind and visually impaired or other disabilities.

Accessibility Freedom With Plain Text Files

Blind and visually impaired individuals use software called screen readers to help them to navigate their computers, tablets and smart phones. These programs rely completely on textual information. Therefore, if the text based information is inaccessible, then the blind or visually impaired individual can't read the information because their screen reader can't access that information from their device.

Document formats such as word processor files, HTML documents and yes, plain text files are for the most part accessible. However, plain text files are the most accessible due to the fact that there is no underlying structure that the screen reader has to deal with when rendering the information to the individual through speech synthesis. Even with some document formats such as word processing files, PDF files and other types of files with heavy structure, screen readers may run into accessibility issues when trying to read the information to the blind user. Some HTML files can run into issues with screen readers especially if there are scripts running in the background, or graphical elements on the page that aren't accessible to a screen reader. Of course the ALT tag was introduced that helps blind and visually impaired people understand what a particular graphical element is on a web page, but when it comes to scripts and other things running in the background, this is where the trouble comes into play.

Basic HTML files are really the best way to go if you have to use HTML for an e-book and such because at least with very basic HTML, you don't have all of the problems with things like java script and other scripting languages getting in the way.

However, plain text files never provide an issue with screen readers because there is no coding of any kind that will hender the screen reader from reading the document. Other fancy file formats may not work as well with a screen reader due to their inherent file structure that works with the application that is to display the information. Then of course you have problems with the rendering application itself in that it may or may not even be accessible to blind readers. This is why plain text is really the go to file format for producing electronic books. Not only this, but blind people don't know much about font styles, font sizes, colors and such if they had never seen them before. Those things just don't make much sense to a blind individual.

Getting Back To The Basics with The plain Text E-book Initiative

Let's face it, all those fancy document formats will disappear in the future only to be replaced by yet something else. However, plain text will always be available. This is why I want to start The plain Text E-book Initiative. I want to finally set the standard for electronic books simply because there is so much confusion over file formats and rendering applications. Sure those other file formats may keep programmers quite busy, and I guess that's a pretty good thing because it makes them money, but for the rest of us who have to deal with the outcome, it is pretty horrific. Am I trying to abolish all those other file formats? No not hardly. However, what I would like to see happen is more e-book authors publish their work in plain text format so that their work can be viewed on practically any platform and on any device without any fancy rendering application if that's what the reader wants. Sure their works can be published in those other file formats but if their works were also published in plain text, then their works will be available forever, and for future humans to read on their futuristic devices whatever those might be. But at least their work will be future-proof and future generations will be able to read them even if those other file formats have gone by the way of the dinosaurs.

Believe me, nobody 200 years from now will even know what an epub file or a PDF file is, but they will know what plain text is. So why waste all that work on some fancy file format that will not last forever? So if you're an e-book author, you might want to seriously think about also publishing in plain text format for longevity reasons. Sure the plain text file format is an open format meaning that anyone can edit it and copy it, but that can be done with those fancy file formats as well. All of that unnecessary copy protection is really useless because most people aren't into plagiarism or copywrite infringement. They just want to read the book. They're not interested in hurting your business.

Sure there are a few individuals out there who plagiarize and infringe on copywrights, but that's to be expected in this business. So even the very best protection scheme will not keep people from doing that. Like I said earlier, the best copy and plagiarism protection that you could ever offer on anything is to never ever produce it to begin with. Remember, if it can be seen, read, or heard, it can be reproduced or copied in one way or another. People copy and paste things from the web all the time. We are so sophisticated with our copy protection schemes and such that the low tech means of copying information believe it or not will work. We go all out to protect our work that we actually make it much harder for the average person who is not a theif to even enjoy what they're trying to enjoy due to all of that complex copy protection. This is why I will only publish in plain text format. I do not want to cause any more confusion than there already is with e-books and e-book publishing. I would love other authors to follow suit with this because by publishing books in plain text format along with the other file formats makes their work future-proof and accessible to everyone no mattter what device, or computer platform they're using. Believe me, most books that are published electronically today have probably been shared, downloaded or infringed upon by a whole lot of people. I am in no way advocating that you go and illegally copy someone's work. I am just merely showing you just how easy it really is even with those fancy file formats that are available today and will be gone tomorrow.

If you read books on your phone or tablet, more than likely you're reading one of those fancy file formats, but at some point the software that you use to read those books on will have an update and when that happens and the file format that you were reading from for so long is no longer supported, then you have a real issue because all of the books in your digital library are all a waste. You won't be able to access them any longer, and you will no longer be able to read them whereas if they were in plain text, then you could go back to the place that you bought the book from, re-download it in plain text and have it again on your phone to read. This is why I am wanting to start The plain Text E-book Initiative.

I want all authors to realize the potential that plain text has and how truly universal it is. It is accessible to everyone no matter whether you're disabled or not. Plain text is truly the most portable document format there is. It is even more portable than the PDF file format is. I believe that as more and more authors get on board with this, , they will finally realize the power of plain text. The plain Text E-book Initiative, I hope will be a great kickstarter for getting more books published in plain text. This initiative will be quite powerful as more and more people get on board and support the effort. However, this will reach a whole lot more than just e-books. It will hopefully get people to realize that saving their work in plain text along with other document formats is the smart thing to do, even if the work isn't being published for the public to read. The fact is, there is a defacto standard for documents, and it has been underneath our fingertips all this time. We didn't need to monkey around with all those other fancy file formats that have already gone the way of the dinosaurs. We could have just stuck with plain text and been happy with that. However, we wanted formatting, font styles, page styles and all that other fancy stuff, so we got programmers to get busy and crank out expensive software called word processors that did all of that for us and satisfied our eyes. However, we had forgotten the most basic file format, and we have forgotten just how universal it really is and how it can make all of our information totally future-proof.

However, with The plain Text E-book Initiative, provided that enough people got on board just might help to make some changes in how information is published on the web and off the web. This initiative is more of an educational thing because it is designed to educate people on the use of plain text and how it can truly revolutionize the way that we distribute information. It isn't designed to take people away from word processors but rather it is designed to get people aware of the fact that backing up their work in plain text is really the smart thing to do, and it will hopefully help e-book authors to see just how valuable plain text is to their audiences and so on.

Anybody can get on The plain Text E-book Initiative. It doesn't cost a single dime to do so. All you need to do is to simply back me up in the promotion of plain text files to as many people as you possibly can. The more that we get the word out, the stronger this initiative becomes. Sure plain text might not look all that beautiful, but what it lacks, it makes up for in the fact that it is robust, and withstands the test of time very well. After all, it isn't the fancy fonts or fancy layout that is important, it is the information that is the most important here. That is why I started this initiative from this book. I want to make people fully aware of the simplicity of plain text, and I want to show people just how practical and reliable plain text really is.

By setting plain text files as a defacto standard for e-book authoring and such would be a huge step in the right direction alongside all of the other file formats that are available today. What this would do is it will give people a choice at which format they want to read the books in especially for people with certain print disabilities. However, this would also give everybody a basic standard file format that they can fall back to for future purposes and such. After all, plain text files aren't going anywhere for the forseeable future. They will always be around. Sure platforms and delivery mechanisms may change but the files themselves will stick around far longer than any other file format that exists today. We have already seen many of the older word processing file formats go the way of the dinosaurs, and many of the file formats being utilized today will do the same, but as for plain text; that will continue. Like was said earlier, plain text is the simplest and most space saving file format there is. It is a type of one size fits all kind of thing in that it will work on any operating system, hardware platform, and it isn't reliant on any specific program in order to view or edit it. It is truly universal in every sense of the word.

What Is The Goal Of The plain Text E-book Initiative?

The goal of this initiative is to make people more aware of the many benefits of using plain text alongside other file formats, and to help to establish a final defacto standard for e-books that will be able to co-exist alongside the other file formats to provide yet another format that is universal in nature and will stand the test of time no matter what happens to all the other e-book file formats in the future. Although, many people feel that PDF is the defacto standard, it really isn't because it is yet another file format that will eventually fade with time. However, like was mentioned already in this book, plain text seams to be the standard that everybody is looking for that will not only withstand the test of time, but is also the most universal and portable document format there is.

The goal of this initiative is not to make using text files a law, but to make them a valid counterpart to all other file formats that are currently available, and to also give people a clear choice when it comes to deciding which file format to read in. As long as there is a basic file format that doesn't change that works alongside the other file formats that do change, e-books will be able to retain their longevity simply because plain text doesn't change at all. It remains the same and will always remain the same no matter how far into the future we go with e-books.

So join me in this effort to expand the use of plain text files and their powerful capabilities of retension and longevity through the years. Let's make plain text files a true defacto standard for electronic books.

So how can you join me in this initiative? Well all you have to do is to simply send me an email at the following address here below and state in your message that you would like to join me in The plain Text E-book Initiative in the subject line. Then in the body of the email, express your opinions on plain text files. that information will then be placed into a special file that will go along with this book as proof of your interest in the initiative and your feelings concerning plain text files. Here is the email address below to send your info to.

dbrwn@aol.com

Thanks so much for reading.

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