New Scoutmaster Bookshelf

Clark Green has an excellent list of books for every Scoutmaster to read as does the blog Most Casual Observer, and these guys should know, they’ve been Scouters forever and the advice and information they give out is invaluable…

What I wanted to share was not so much the content of the bookshelf, but the bookshelf itself.  Because compiling all of the information that you will be expected to know at some time in your Scouting career is a daunting task, and I remember a few years ago having crates full of notebooks with BSA publications and books, etc in my trunk.  Why in my trunk?  Well, if I left it at home, I wouldn’t have the info when I needed it, and I was rarely without my car.   So I was driving around in a mobile library.

But then I started playing with an IPad at work.  The Ipad for me, isn’t a tool that I can use very well for day to day productivity.  I much rather a laptop or a PC (which kind of shows my age!), but one of the things that I immediately latched on to was the ability to use it to store documents.  It allows me to have almost all of the information that I was carting around in one place, so when working with a scout or scouter, I’m immediately able to pull up relevant information on the fly.

Most BSA publications that aren’t for retail can be found via Google or downloaded directly from the www.scouting.org  A few of their publications are separated on their site and need to be pieced together, for example, the BSA Field Book.  You can either leave such publications in their chapter form, or compile them together using Acrobat or a free utility.  For the BSA publications that only can be found in print, most of them are loose leaf notebook style, so I scan them with a color scanner and save them as a pdf.  For the Scout Handbook or the Philmont Field Guide or books like that, I try to find them in the spiral bound editions, and then I scan them as well, and because I’m a little OCD, I crop the scan to take off the borders and then edit the .pdf to add the chapters in, etc.  For those publications that have a binding, I’ve yet to cut the binding and scan them, as I’m waiting for them to come out digitally (Come On “Working the Patrol Method”, hurry up!), and I still like to go through books and  I don’t want to ruin them.

For other books, I primarily use Amazon’s Kindle service if the book is available digitally.  If I can, I try to get one of the general EPub versions of the book, and then I use a program called Calibre to convert it to Kindle or Nook as needed.

Also, as I use multiple devices, I like to have my library available from each, so I use Kindle primarily for books, and Dropbox for .pdf scans.  For Android devices, I also use an app called GoodReader to manage my .pdfs as it syncs with Dropbox and keeps my documents on the device so I don’t have to wait for a download or worry about internet availability.

I am fortunate to work in a field, when I’m not scouting, that allows me to play with a lot of technological devices.  When I first started, as I said, I began with an IPad and now I’ve been playing with a number of devices and would consider them in 3 categories, the tablet, the mini tablet and the phone device.

The phone device (the Ipod would be in this category as well) is mostly just for convenience.  I don’t have much of a preference of using one over the other (Android vs Apple), as they aren’t the most conducive for reading or searching through text, but in a pinch, with no other options, they are useful.  I do though, currently have an Android Razr, though have had the Iphone and probably will again.

The Mini Table, such as the Kindle, Nook, or Nexus 7 are great for digital publications.  Though with the Kindle and Nook you are limited to one or the other.  The new Nexus 7 is great in that you can use both services from one device.  Scanned PDF’s are a little limiting with these devices as it shrinks the page to capture all of the formatting and I either wind up straining to read or enlarging the page and having to constantly move the page around.  Even with these limitations, I use my Nexus 7 as my default reader, because of its portability and general ease of use and flexibility.

For tablets, you have the best experience for all types and formats of documents.  They are the easiest to use, the most versatile with formatting and the one I’m most comfortable using for extended reading (my eyes are getting old).  That being said, they are big when compared to the Nexus, and a little bulky to carry around, they don’t fit in the cargo pocket of your scout pants!  I have two tablets that I use primarily, the Motorola Xoom and the IPad 2.  I like the Xoom because of the dual processor and speed ( also have downloaded the Scout Rank Videos and movies, etc for trips) but like the IPad for easy use and weight, so probably tip my hat to Apple on that one, but only marginally.

Unfortunately, when you create a bookshelf like this, you can’t share it, so don’t ask!  You can lend Kindle or Nook books according to their rules, but most of the scans, when copyrighted, must be for personal use only, and can’t be distributed.  (A Scout is Trustworthy)