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Posts Tagged ‘books’

A couple of US students have been signed up by Penguin to write a book which will turn classics from writers such as Shakespeare and James Joyce into no more than twenty 140 character tweets. Aside from the fact that people younger than me are getting book deals (always a sore point), it’s caused quite the stir in the media, with the Telegraph and the Guardian covering it.

The pair of culture wreckers/trend setters/whatevers said they wanted to “capture the grandest ventures of their generation that best expressed the soul of 21st century America”. Meaning they wanted to make a lot of money out of other people’s ideas.

Making great works accessible to the masses or the epitome of the dumbing down of culture? Personally, I won’t be shelling out for a book of extended blurbs. However, there in lies the book’s potential. 20 x 140 characters is 2800 characters, twice the number used in this description of Ulysses. This tome of shortened great works could become a catalogue of extended product descriptions, something that publishers already produce as part of their sales and marketing collateral to tempt booksellers. Co-incidentally, Penguin does a nice line in modern classics (I’m currently reading one myself).

Perhaps this is the future of publishing. Producing books of twitterature, the publishers would be charging the consumer to view a catalogue of relevant work. Said consumer, if intrigued by what they’ve read, could then toddle off down the bookstore/login to Amazon, buy relevant book, and the publisher gets more money. This isn’t the end of high culture and the written word, this is the publishing industry making sure they get ROI from their marketing collateral.

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So despite the fact that the prevailing opinion from my Twitter contacts and friends alike was that I should wait for the Kindle to grace the shores of the UK, the holiday in Denmark with three bulky paperbacks squeezed into a too-cramped rucksack and the impending implosion of my bookshelves into some minor singularity broke me, and I picked up a Sony PRS 505 from Play.com about two weeks ago. I’d seen my friend Rob with one and had a pretty good idea it would be decent, which its proving to be, and I had a feeling that the Kindle would be some time coming…

Here’s what’s good about it:

1) It stores lots of book in a sleek, elegant casing. I’ve shoved a 1GB SD card (at a cost of a not so princely £4) in there, which will cover me for at least 1000 books but potentially as many as 3000 – which is probably more than I’ll need on there

2) It works well with the open source Calibre, even under Windows7 RC1 64bit, which is something of a relief (as I gather the Sony software is its usual bag of decaying tripe)

3) The screen is amazing. E-Ink works like an etch-a-sketch, so reads well in any light. It also makes for…

4) …awesome battery life. Due to the etch-a-sketch nature of the device, it only draws power when turning pages. So one charge (by USB cable), will give you room for about 4000 page turns

5) You can get books. Waterstones has many, even if Amazon is probably banking on the arrival of the Kindle in the UK at some stage.

The not-so-good

1) I’ve already mentioned Sony’s software… the navigation on the device itself is not brilliant, no way to go directly to a page (that I’ve found as yet), not until you’ve made bookmarks (although it remembers what page you were last reading), and there’s no search functionality, ability to make notes etc. I’m also having some fiddling with page alignment (page numbers in middle of page, NBSPs, etc)

2) There’s no wireless connectivity – hence awesome battery life, but hey, if I want wireless, well, that’s what the iPhone I’m planning on getting will do…

3) The page-turning is not that speedy, although its not terrible

All in all, it’s up there with my Netbook in all-time useful purchases. I carry it around daily, have got through two novels on it in two weeks and will probably maintain close to that rate, saving valuable bookshelf real-estate, holiday packing and being stuck on the bus in between books…

Here’s a quick video demo from some dude on Youtube:

Cross posted on Division6.

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What do the Sugababes, a Seattle-based coffee shop chain and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport have in common? If you guessed that they’re at the forefront of the modernisation of Britain’s libraries, you’d be correct.

Following the honourable member for Leigh’s assertion that libraries were “decades out of date”, news comes that Gloucestershire Libraries Services has installed speakers into the counties’ libraries, piping a bit of the old pop ‘n’ roll as a background whilst their patrons make key decisions: namely, do they go with James Patterson or Harry Potter?

Obviously, there are those that think music of any kind should be banned from these places of (book) worship, and will view this as merely further proof of the descent into anarchy we’re witnessing in our libraries today. I can see their point – my local library (called an Idea Store) can be a bit of a nightmare if one picks the wrong time to go, more akin to break time at a school than what one might consider a place for reading. However, this opinion is more due to the fact I don’t particularly like kids at this point in my life, rather than any deep seated principle as to what a library should or shouldn’t be like…

The problem with the whole modernisation of library debate is that there seems to be no middle ground: the future of the library is either a crypt-like experience, or a rave. From my time spent going through the shelves at the aforementioned Idea Store, I think there’s a bigger issue than updating libraries that needs to be addressed: the selection of books they’ve got ain’t the best. I’m not asking for signed first editions of Don Quixote, just something a bit more diverse than last year’s Book Club selection. For at the end of the day, if the content is crap, no one’s going to bother visiting anyway. And no amount of Starbucks and this week’s Top 40 is going to change that.

Where do you stand on the library debate? Should they be temples of silence, devoted to the deification of the printed word? Or should everyone be able to listen to About You Now whilst deciding between Dan Brown and J M Coetzee?

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