Traditional book burning and eBooks

photo by April Sikorski via WikiCommons

To a totalitarian censor there is nothing more satisfying than a good, old-fashioned book burning.  Putting a match to paper and starting a literary funeral pyre with the acrid smoke billowing towards the heavens is a true delight to the bibliophobe.  But how the times have changed with the advent of the electronic reading age.  Kindles, Nooks and iPads have made life miserable for the traditional book burner.  The fact is that hitting a delete button is not very satisfying.  Deleting hundreds and thousands of words in a second is fleeting enjoyment, nowhere near as fulfilling as watching piles of books slowly ash away.  I truly feel for the poor bibliophobe and totalitarian censor.  One can only hope that they can find a more productive outlet for their mania.

Bibliomania: In Pursuit of the Book

I’ve always been a bibliophile.  I love reading.  I love walking into libraries and book shops, browsing endless rows of books, stacked from the bottom of the floor to the top of the ceiling.  I fear that one day I will be killed by a bookshelf falling on me, but what a death that would be!  Alas, they will say, “he loved books and they killed him.”  I can think of no better epitaph than that.

Recently, I’ve taken up the obsession of book collecting, a noble pursuit, and one that is filled with many mysteries.  Few creatures are as misunderstood as the book collector, and especially the ones of the antiquarian kind.  They have their own language, and not many understand their bibliomania.  Most are not in it for the money, but for the passion, for the pursuit of that elusive book that haunts them late at night.  Is it a first edition they seek?  Is it a signed copy?  Is it just the name of the author that drives them to despair?  They must possess this treasure at seemingly any cost or detriment to their mental sanity; like a CERN scientist chasing neutrinos with chalked hands and a collider.

No doubt you are thinking, “well what book do you seek, good Sir?”  I shall tell you, it is a signed first edition of Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African-American Bibliophile by Charles L. Blockson.  The irony is not lost on me that I’m searching for a rare book written by a rare bibliophile with “rare” in the title.

 Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African-American Bibliophile

 

 

In my first attempt to locate this book and read it, I scoured my public library, but to no avail.  Not even through an inter-library loan could a copy be found.  The nearest library that actually has a copy is in Champaign-Urbana, a good 45 minutes drive away, and this being an academic library I can not check it out without being a student or faculty of the university − for shame!  Searches on AbeBooks and Amazon give me prices ranging from $30 to $130 dollars should I wish to purchase a copy.  This cements my theory that  the book is a rarity indeed, for why else would it be so expensive?  I must now commit my time and energy to tracking down a copy of this book and I will keep you posted on my progress.

WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter A

I love dictionaries. I really do. They’re almost porn to total word nerds such as myself. All those lovely words. I used to read them (along with the encyclopedias) when I was a kid. An excessively weird kid. As I’ve discussed previously.

Anyway, today I was flipping through the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to pass the time while my students were working on an in-class writing assignment. Eventually I intend to read the definition of every single word in the OED. I know, how very Malcolm X of me. Yet, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to achieve this feat since the unabridged version of the OED is comprised of several thick volumes that are revised and updated regularly. This is because the English language is the most dynamic language in the world, and new words are being added to it all the time.

There are several words in the A section that I feel are particularly noteworthy. Aardvark is worth mentioning because it’s the first actual word in the OED. It’s apparently a large nocturnal burrowing animal that lives in South Africa. The word itself is in Afrikaans, which is a South African dialect derived from the Dutch language.

The next word that I was a bit taken aback to see in the OED is “Aargh!” You know, the sound people make when they are frightened, angry or frustrated. This is an example of an onomatopoeia, a word which is the spelling of a sound. Other examples include: meow, beep and plop.

Finally, there is the word abreast . It’s normally associated with walking side by side, as in, “The stroller pushers were walking three abreast on the sidewalk, so I was forced to walk into oncoming traffic to get around them.” (Yes, this actually happened.)

Despite its pedestrian definition, this word is the subject of oh so many bad puns and jokes for obvious reasons. It’s one of those old-fashioned words that nobody ever uses anymore because speaking it aloud would cause everyone in the area to titter like teenagers in a sex-ed class. Now that I think about it, the word titter also causes people to titter in the same way.

Books are made of…

Books are made of paper,
And lots of ink and glue.
But they’re also,
Made of happiness.
And fear and sadness too.
Books are made of pictures,
And lots of different text.
But they’re also,
Made of anger,
And joy and pain and sex.
Books are made of memories,
And books are made of love,
Books are really,
So much more,
Than the paper they’re made of.

The benefits of eBorrowing from your local library

As some of you might know I’m a bibliophile who is addicted to both print and ebooks.  I’m also a tech geek so I have an Amazon Kindle, an Asus Netbook, an Apple iPad, and a Sony Pocket eReader.  Though I love the smell, feel and look of real books, I am quite fond of the portability of electronic books.  The best part of having a Sony eReader is the fact that I can electronically check out a book from my local library.  Right now the selection is a bit limited, but I’m hoping as more and more people get eReaders, electronic borrowing from libraries will become more popular.  I particularly like the fact that with eborrowing I don’t have to get a library book that somebody abused.  I don’t know how many library books I have checked out that were stained, reeked of cigarette smoke, were falling apart, missing pages or were just plain nasty.  No such thing with eborrowing.

Another great thing about eborrowing is that you can get some of the latest bestsellers without having to pay for them, just like you would checking out the latest paperback from your local library (free is not exactly true because your taxes are paying for it, but you get what I’m trying to say, right?).  My local library, the Decatur Public Library, is part of the LibraryOnTheGo system.  This system allows library patrons to use their library card to check out ebooks for one or two weeks.  After that the books are no longer viewable on your electronic reader.  You can “check out” up to three books at a time, and just like a regular library book, you have the option of returning the books before your due date.  Returning ebooks electronically is a really neat feature because then you’re not stuck with having to wait to borrow a new book.

Eborrowing is very convenient.  If it’s pouring down rain outside and you don’t feel like trekking down to the library, it’s comforting to know that you can just borrow the latest bestseller from the confines of your own home and curl up on your sofa.  This is also very useful for people with mobility problems.  The LibraryOnTheGo also allows library patrons to download audiobooks and other media with their library card.  Pretty neat if you ask me.

If you don’t have a library card you can always find free ebooks online.  I visit the MobileRead Forums every day for book tips, news about electronic readers, and for suggestions of where to find free ebooks.  I suggest you check them out.  Happy reading!

I still love my Original Amazon Kindle

I’m what you call an “early adopter.”  This means that if a new gadget or technology comes to the market, I have to be one of the first ones to have it.  I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how I roll.  I was one of the first to own an Amazon Kindle, an iPad, a Macintosh clone even!  Being an early adopter is risky.  Not only will you pay a premium price for something new, but you run the possibility of getting a lemon technology.  What’s worse is when you paid all this money and a year later the company closes or decides to no longer support the device.  That really hurts…

Anyhow, sometimes you pick a winner, and the original Amazon Kindle, or Generation 1, is still a winner.  Not only does it still work, but it’s still compatible with Amazon’s Whispernet download service.  I even think it has a leg up on the next generation of Kindles because the user can change the battery.  In the grand scheme of things, that might not sound like much, but I always like electronic devices where you can replace a failing battery without having to ship the unit off to the manufacturer.  Cough, cough, Apple…

I also like the fact that on the original Amazon Kindle you can switch out SD memory cards.  This means that if you have enough SD cards, you can carry with you an unlimited supply of books.  The new Kindles do not have the SD card expansion capability, they are stuck with the internal memory.  That’s a real shame in my opinion.

That’s not to say that the new generation of Kindles are bad.  They are slimmer, faster, and have some new improvements like the ability to read Adobe Acrobat .PDF files, and a long battery life.  No, the new Kindles are wonderful, it’s just that the original Kindle is still so good, I feel no need to upgrade.  Sometimes an early adopter picks a winner.

The Four Hour Reading Pledge

By Arvind Jain originally posted to Flickr as "Match on TV"

According to a Nielsen study, Americans spend an average of four hours a day watching television.  I first thought that sounded like an awful lot, until I realized how much the television is on in my own household.  I generally watch the news in the morning if my youngest one is not watching The Jungle Book for the millionth time.  During my lunch hour I usually catch the news again, and in the evening my wife likes to watch The Biggest Loser or American Idol, and we both like PBS and some of the crime dramas.  It seems every time we are home, our television is on.  I can imagine it’s the same in every American household.  Pretty soon four hours does not sound like so much.

But it is a lot.  It is a lot of time that is wasted.  Time that could be better utilized.  Time that could be spent with your family.  Time reading perhaps.  I’ve got nothing against television.  Like I said, we do a lot of television watching in our household.  I just think it’s time for me to expand my brain and fill it with something useful.  Reading stimulates the brain, it’s an active thing.  It requires thinking.  Watching television does not really require much thought, and it really does depend upon the program you are watching whether or not it stimulates your brain.

I propose the following, a Four Hour Reading Pledge.  Instead of turning on the box with moving pictures, perhaps we should spend those four hours on reading instead?  Who is with me?  Let’s try this and see.