The Mueller Report is Not Free
My search for an e-reader-friendly version of The Mueller Report
One of the first “blog” — back then we called them “web journals” — posts I published was about The Starr Report (I couldn’t find the post, but feel free to search for it). I was in high school, across the street from which stood a coffee shop in a strip mall advertising, “Starr Report Here!” on a marquee.
I, like so many others (but unlike most high school students, I assume), flocked to read the online version of the report when it was published. We (and by “we,” I don’t include myself because I was a mere high schooler) scrolled through thousands of words, picking out pieces to examine for layers of meaning and connections to other nefarious assumptions about the Clinton administration. A lot like what everyone is doing right now with The Mueller Report.
It was groundbreaking, in a way, in that it — as far as I can remember, anyway — was the first document of massive public interest that was immediately available for everyone to read on the internet. It was ugly as sin — even The Washington Post’s version, which still survives online, sucked hardcore — but it was available for free without a lot of work (previously you’d have to order a copy from the Government Printing Office or wait for publishers to maybe release it in print). Here it was: a long-awaited report into White House dirt available for all to read.
I figured The Mueller Report’s release would be similar. I was wrong. We’re so deeply enmeshed in neoliberal capitalism that even with all the technology created since the ’90s to increase communication and make information more widely available, the release of The Mueller Report is, in some ways, just another avenue for corporate owners and shareholders to profit off materials and products wholly funded and created by the public (aka government).
Let me explain.
Among others, I immediately made fun of them for turning the report over to Congress on CDs. I mean, seriously. They couldn’t publish it digitally like Starr?
Nonetheless, my interest in reading it grew as Thursday approached. I quickly sought out the link when CNN began blaring on its site that the report had been released. This is what followed:
Once it was uploaded online for all to see and people started downloading it, we found the report’s PDF file so large, it was like downloading it over a 28k modem rather than my 200Mbps.
When I opened the PDF and saw it was over 400 pages, I decided I’d prefer to read that many words on a digital reading device — or, at worst, my phone — rather than from behind my computer screen. (I knew publishers were rushing it to print but I didn’t intend to pay for something created wholly at public expense.)
Now, if you don’t know, PDFs suck on e-readers. They show up exactly as they do on a computer screen. But e-readers, tablets and phone have much smaller screens, so there’s no way to read it normally. Instead, you have to zoom in and scroll around from side-to-side and top-to-bottom of each page to read. It doesn’t format the text to the common e-reader format EPUB or even the Kindle format, MOBI.
However, you can usually convert PDFs and other formats into an e-reader-friendly format without much trouble. I started there.
I tried to convert the PDF into one of those formats using Calibre and other solutions. No dice. In fact, when it did work, the pages came out as images. So, I thought to myself, it must not be machine readable.
I went back into Adobe Acrobat DC and ran optical character recognition (OCR) on the report, which makes the PDF searchable machine-readable by recognizing the letters in the document and converting them to text. I saved it and tried to convert it again to an e-reader format. Again, failure.
Giving up on doing it myself, I searched online for the report in EPUB format in hopes someone else had been able to accomplish what I’d spent more than an hour failing at. Nope. The only suggestions were to “Send to Kindle,” which will usually, if poorly, convert PDFs into Kindle format. When I tried that, the files were so large it took a day for them to make it to my Kindle, and, when they did, they looked exactly as they did when I first opened the PDF.
Continued searches found a promised e-reader version from Barnes & Noble on their Nook device. I registered and downloaded the Nook app and then downloaded the book. After giving them all my information, I ended up with another version of the PDF — now only readable on Nooks.
At this point, I’ve given up on reading the report on an e-reader until my favorite pirated book resource has it posted (it says it’s being processed now).
UPDATE: I torrented The Washington Post’s version instead.
I did find some people with an e-reader version, though.
Publishers, including Google (yes, I just called them publishers), Amazon and The Washington Post, were selling e-reader-compatible editions of The Mueller Report for eight dollars or more. They weren’t even waiting to spend money producing a print version before beginning to profit off it.
It’s interesting to me that a report (if you want to be neoliberal about it, you can just call it “content”) that was 100 percent produced by public employees with public money is immediately co-opted by the privately owned providers of some of the internet’s most basic services to be sold back to the citizens who paid for its production.
It’s almost as if it were planned that way.
If you want to read the damning information collected about your president, you have two choices: kill your back and eyes at a computer screen for the hours it takes to read it or pay someone for the pleasure of reading it on an e-reader. (I’ll let them go with the print versions. At least they paid to have them printed. That’s something. Their ability to convert the files — or obtain convertible or compatible files from government sources — require maybe one (undoubtedly underpaid) employee.)
Even the PDF Association thought the report, as released, sucked. While they didn’t worry about its convertibility (why would they promote any other file format?), they did note the complete incompetence (so much that it must have been intentional) of those who produced the PDF. They’re so incompetent, in fact, that they’ve violated government accessibility regulations.
The most amusing conclusion of the PDF Association’s analysis, however, is when they state that the “report showcases the essential qualities of static, self-contained, reliable, sharable PDF in a world that increasingly runs on HTML.”
That’s to say, The Starr Report’s HTML release was more advanced and far more user-friendly than The Mueller Report. The latter released two decades and trillions of dollars of investment in technologies that supposedly make it easier for us to access information later.
Makes you wonder if the real purpose of all this “disruption” isn’t to give people access to information but to give the already-too-wealthy-and-influential people another way to make a buck off something produced by the public.
Note: If you want a free EPUB version of the report, message me.