After 20+ hours of traveling yesterday, my mind had turned into pudding. When the plane landed in DC, I collected my carry-on, but forgot that I had put my book in the seat pocket. It wasn’t until I was in the taxi to the hotel that I remembered my book.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d left something on a plane (and because I know myself pretty well, it probably won’t be the last time, either), but this was a big inconvenience for me in a number of ways. First, I was almost done with the book, and I really wanted to finish it. Second, it was in Chinese, so it will be hard to replace. Bookstores in the U.S. don’t usually carry Chinese books, and almost certainly wouldn’t carry this one.
The worst inconvenience is that the book is one of a series. The one that I lost was third in a series of four. I can’t start the fourth one until I finish the third one, and I can’t finish the third one because it’s on an airplane somewhere. I brought book four with my on this trip, under the assumption that I would finish book 3 soon, and could start on book 4. Book four sits on my desk in my hotel room now, watching me with ancicipation, waiting for me to finish book three so that I can get started on it.
But wait, you say. Don’t you live in China? Aren’t there book stores in China? Just get another copy there, stupid! Yes, I answer you, but you don’t understand, I special-ordered it from Taiwan, because I wanted the version that’s printed in traditional Chinese characters, not simplified characters. Books in China are only in simplified Chinese. If I want to replace this book, I’ll have to wait until the next time that I go to Taiwan.
So I was irritated at myself for being a pudding-head and losing the book. But then I remembered that many Chinese books are available online. A quick Google search turned up the book in digital form, ready for anyone (like, for example, me) to download. Right there online, ready for harvesting.
I turned to crime in order to solve my problem. I downloaded the book. I am a cybercriminal. I justify my illegal actions with the reasoning that I had already bought the book, so I wasn’t depriving the publisher or author of any money by downloading a digital version of what I had already purchased. Amazon recently started a program where they give you a digital version of books that you by in print form. So I can think of what I did as a DIY version of that program. That reasoning should enable me to avoid a guilty conscience.
The problem was that the digital book that I had downloaded was in simplified Chinese, which I can read, of course, but I really prefer to read traditional characters. What to do, what to do?
If I had had a laptop computer, I could have used the function that’s built in to OS X to convert between simplified and traditional Chinese. But all I had was my iPhone, which doesn’t have that function.
So I found a website that will do the conversion. Using my phone’s tiny keyboad, I copied the book text, pasted it into the form, converted it, copied the converted text, and pasted it into Pages on my iPhone. Then I emailed the file to my Kindle. I now have a digital version of my lost book, in beautiful traditional Chinese characters, on my Kindle.
Who wants to bet that I’ll lose the Kindle before I get back to China?