Monday, March 28, 2011

Very Brief Book Review

What if Flannery O'Connor had said to herself, "Screw it, I'm going to write a zombie novel"?  The result might look something like Alden Bell's, The Reapers are the Angels.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Libraries are wonderful, magical things.

As a kid growing up... I should rephrase.  As an extremely nerdy military brat that moved around constantly, libraries always felt like home.  They were a refuge.  Enlisted military families have never made a lot of money.  My parents always did right by me, but we rarely had the money and toys thrown at us that seem to be commonplace now.  We also didn't have the money to afford all the books that my voracious reading required.  Libraries became a god-send.  I read anything I could get my hands on in the sci-fi section.  Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlen, Herbert, Hubbard.  Starting with the Narnia Series, I eventually branched off into fantasy as well.  First with Tolkien, then the original Dragonlance series, Piers Anthony, David Eddings and finally in high school, Robert Jordan, along with many, many others.  None of this would ever have been possible without libraries.

I recently read a book by Jo Walton, Among Others.  Although for the first 40 or 50 pages, I was afraid I was reading yet-another-teen-diary-novel, I plodded through based on good reviews from others.  It was worth the effort.  The protagonist performs the occasional "magic", leaving the reader wondering if it's really happening, or if it's all in her head, or if any of that really matters.  More importantly though for the topic of this discussion, the book read like an ode to libraries and librarians, with the "diary entries" containing little short reviews of various 60's and 70's scifi books that the protagonist read.  For me, some brought back nostalgia, others had me reaching for my browser to look up the titles on Amazon.  It was a fun time.

Recently though, there's been a rash of articles on the wars that various publishers seem to be waging on libraries and their ability to lend ebooks.  Somehow lending an ebook is drastically different to a publisher.  Selling books to libraries, well it would be impossible to stop, but since ebooks are licensed and not sold, they feel that they're taking away from their sales.  Harper Collins recently put a limit on the number of times a library could "check out" an ebook for lending to 26, based on the average check out time of 14 days.  Basically causing that ebook to self-destruct for the library after, at most, one year of checkouts.  Since checking out a book for a day or only a few hours is not uncommon, often once the reader realizes the book isn't what they want, the actual time they can be checked out goes down even more.  Somehow in the mind of Harper Collins, a year is what they predict all a regular print book will last, a fact many librarians find laughable.  Macmillan and Simon and Schuster don't license their ebooks to libraries at all.

In response, many libraries and librarians are boycotting Harper Collins.  Sadly, I don't think it will work.  They really don't want to sell to libraries.  At best, these publishers probably see libraries as a necessary evil for their print books, and taking away from their sales.  I hate sitting idle and watching bad things happen.  Screwing over libraries just feels bad.  It's like screwing over an orphanage or a soup kitchen.  It's like drowning kittens or using puppies for batting practice.  So in addition to contacting Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster, I've decided to join in with the libraries.  I won't be buying any new books from the various imprints  (there's a lot of them) of Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster.  This includes hardcovers, paperbacks and ebooks.  These publishers won't see another dime from me until their policies have changed.

Am I overreacting? Probably.  Will my actions have any effect on them? Nope.  Just as paperbacks are currently the preferred method of reading now, ebooks are growing in popularity and I still feel will end up replacing paperbacks as the dominant way of reading in the future.  I hate sitting by and watching libraries be unable to lend books.  I have to do something, even if I'm just chasing windmills.

Oh, and Jo Walton's book, Among Others, the one I felt was an ode to libraries and librarians? It's a Tor book.  A Macmillan imprint.  You can't check her ebook out from your library.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Nook Color

So, I finally broke down this past Christmas, and bought a Nook Color.  At the time I bought it, I wasn't sure if I was even going to make the plunge with an ereader this year.  Anyone that's ever been to my house (or had the misfortune of helping me move), knows that I love books.  I never throw books out.  I've occasionally traded in books for other books at used bookstores, but most of the time I just keep them.  I am definitely not afraid of books.

I had begun to read a few of the free books out there on my Nexus, my little android phone. By the end of the year I had read about ten or twelve books on my phone.  The phone, however is certainly less than ideal to read on.  The screen is tiny.  The battery life is atrocious when running that bright screen that long.  To make fonts big enough to see I was having to turn "pages" every second or so.  So, I decided to look into ereaders.  So why did I get the nook color, and not one of the other ereaders?  Well, being the slightly obsessive person I am, I actually looked into a few different readers.  The Kobo, the Sony's, the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook and the Nook Color.

The Kobo.
Kind of like the bastard step-child.  What did I like about the kobo? I liked the price.  I liked that I could load library ebooks onto it.  That was about it.  The screen seemed to load slower than either kindle or the nook.  The older eink screen couldn't compare to the Sony's or the Kindle.  There was no way of taking notes on it.  Kind of blah at best.

The Sony's.
These were actually pretty.  I loved the "pearl" e-ink screens.  The only eink screens that could hold a candle to the kindle.  I liked that you could do the library thing on it.  I liked that you could load other purchased books onto it.  I loved having a touchscreen since I was so used to it from using android.  The web browser was pathetic.  It was pretty easy to read on, though.  The price was pretty high compared to other offerings.  I didn't like that Sony seemed to have a smaller collection than Barnes and Noble, let alone Amazon.

The Kindle.
I loved reading on the kindle.  I loved the huge selection of ebooks available from Amazon.  I loved how fast the pages loaded.  I liked being able to type out notes.  Amazon has the best selection of ebooks hands down.  I didn't like being stuck with just Amazon though.  I didn't like the lack of epub support or the ability to get library books easily on it (blah blah, without circumventing DRM, etc.). I also liked the read-to-me feature. As an ereader, it was my second choice.  However, as much as I really like Amazon, I don't really want to be married to them.

The iPad.
I actually went and played with the iPads for a while.  I did like the ability to have color on occasion.  I did like being able to use it for things other than reading books.  I didn't care for the screen.  Even though the screens on the nook color and the iPad are similar (both IPS screens), the nook did a much better job at viewing angles, and the pixel density is much higher on the nook color (iPad at 1024x768 on 10.1 inches and the Nook color at 1024x600 on 7 inches).  I seriously did not like the price tag.  I'm also really no fan of Apple's Big Brother ways lately.  I did like that you could have multiple reader programs on the iPad.  How long those stay on the iPad is anyone's guess.  Apple is starting to turn into an evil little company.  And as it turns out, I'm not even sure how much longer the nook and kindle apps are going to stay on the ipad.

The Nook.
Referring here to the black and white version.  I'm sorry, but I had a hard time reading on this one, like I did on the Kobo.  The black and white eink screen was an older version, so was harder to read the sony's or the kindle, it was a bit slower than either of them as well.  I did like being able to shop at barnes and noble, read in-store, check out library books, sideload books from other companies (Sony, Kobo, Google, etc.).  The only ones it wouldn't do were Amazon's.

The Nook Color.
I loved the viewing angles on it.  I liked having color.  I liked having a touch screen.  The price, though more than the kindle or regular nook, wasn't outrageous like an iPad.  It was eminently hackable.  It was easy to read on.  I could stream Pandora on it.  Like the nook, I liked that I had choices with it.  In the end, this is the one I chose, and I'm pretty happy with my decision.

As to normal objections to the nook color:
"You're locked into Barnes and Noble."  Not really.  I can load pretty much any ebook out there onto it.  The notable exception is Amazon's kindle books, but even that is easily possible if you hack it.

"Barnes and Noble doesn't have as many books as Amazon".  True.  But that gap is narrowing.  Also, as above, it's easily hackable.

"The screen is harder on your eyes than a Kindle/Nook/eink reader."  I still have never found that to be the case with my eyes.  After eight hours of reading my eyes feel pretty much shot, whether it's a hardcover, paperback or my nook.  I don't really notice any difference.  That, and the screen is amazing.  You should really try one out sometime.

"It's not as big as an iPad".  This is true.  However, I prefer the reading size of the kindles and nooks and nook colors over the iPad.  The iPad always felt unwieldy for reading books.

"It's not an Apple product!"  Go away, fanboi.  I'm not going to buy something just because it has a logo printed on it.

"You can't read it in direct sunlight."  I'm Irish.  I burn to a crisp in direct sunlight.  Reading while tanning myself has never been a consideration.  Like my phone, I can read it for the most part outside.  Just max the brightness.  Frankly, I'd rather that I have that nice little backlight that everyone complains about, because I'm more often reading in a dimly lit room, or reading in the dark waiting to fall asleep.  No need for a book light.

"The battery life isn't as good as the kindle".  This is true.  And it was a consideration.  However, with reading just an hour or 90 minutes a day, it's good for several days.  If I read until the battery dies, my eyes are completely and totally shot by that point anyways.  And having my android phone (and using it near-constantly), has me putting devices on the charger overnight more.  I don't frequently take transatlantic flights so not sure how one would fare on a transatlantic flight and don't really care either.

First Post!!

Yeah I hate seeing those as well.  That was especially annoying on slashdot. Having said that, I guess I wanted to start this little blog so I could write out all my various ruminations regarding technology, books, and anything else that catches my fancy.