About two weeks ago I received a new iPad. It isn’t actually mine — it is for a work project — but I will be the person using it and giving it a home for the coming year, so it kind of feels like mine anyway. It has taken a couple weeks to work out getting the device to talk to local networks (still troubleshooting some) and getting account set up to buy apps, so I’ve started off very low key with free stuff.
Something I’ve been thinking about ever since Hurricane Katrina is how to come up with an information device to support crisis & disaster response. The original thought came from a scenario in which a doctor was in the Superdome, his smartphone died because of no power to charge the battery, and he needed just a very few resources to be able to help the people around him who were injured, ill, or suffered from chronic conditions. Librarians around the country mobilized to order on Amazon copies of the works he needed, which were shipped rush to the Superdome, arriving (you guessed it!) the day people left the Dome. Oh.
What I wanted to see what a device with a long battery life, that could be recharged by solar or crank, that could be stuffed with essential disaster/crisis response information (selected by teams of experts), with the ideal being that these devices would be carried by all first responders and preferably anyone else who wanted to have one.
With that in the back of my mind, the first thing I did with the new iPad was stuff it full of books. Given that I had only marginal and minimal network access and no funds for the device, until yesterday anyway, I started with free things. I wanted to report out on that part before I start spending money. So, the question was: What old books or free might be useful in a crisis even today?
I started with general categories of topics I could find in the free section of the Kindle store that seemed relevant.
A couple topics which seemed relevant in longer disaster recovery situations, but for which I could not find free content, included candlemaking and soap making. There probably is something that I just haven’t found yet.
Entertainment was the easiest section for which to find content. I included:
Bible & other holy books
Inspirational & Philosophy
Myths and legends
Poetry (especially rhyming)
Here are a few specific titles that I’ve actually skimmed and found worth keeping.
Camp life in the woods and tricks of traps and trap making
Canned fruit, preserves and jellies, household methods of preservation
Emergency childbirth, a reference guide for students
Everyday foods in wartime
Field and garden vegetables of America
Handwork in wood
Woodcraft by George Washington Sears
Wild Flowers Worth Knowing
I hope to expand this list as I have time to review more titles. I’d love it if people would recommend other titles they think would fit in the scope of this. I’d like to see a core set of materials, a mini-library, that people could just grab and download, and EVERYONE have them, or which are preloaded on the devices. When I tested this out, I downloaded about 250 books to start with, and the memory on the iPad went from 28.7G to 27.3G. We could load a LOT of useful books. The biggest problem I found was that the free ebook apps on the iPad I tested did not support tagging or sorting or creating booklists to make it easy to find what you need in a hurry.
Also, I understand that the military has a partial set of something relevant for battlefield quick reference. I bet that would have a lot of useful content. Wouldn’t it be great if the government and libraries and public health organizations partnered on creating a collection of this sort, free to download from Ready.gov?