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Librophile – Free audio and eBooks for all! March 18, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Resources.
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Thanks to Lifehacker, today’s Internet Resource is Librophile a site that collects links to Free (and commercial) Audiobooks and EBooks from around the web, in one place. Their collection comes from Librivox and Project Gutenberg and other sites too. Enjoy!

The Smell of E-books March 11, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in reading.
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I came across this essay from last week’s New York Times, and admittedly, only read the first paragraph before I was inspired to write this post. Here’s what it said:

People who reject e-books often say they can’t live without the heft, the texture and — curiously — the scent of traditional books. This aria of hypersensual book love is not my favorite performance. I sometimes suspect that those who gush about book odor might not like to read. If they did, why would they waste so much time inhaling?

From methyl_lives' flickr stream Licensed under Creative Commons

Any guesses why I just had to respond? It’s no secret around here that we are big readers. And, I think pupfiction would agree with me that there is definitely something sensual about reading a physical book. Since I was a kid, I have recognized the different smells of books, and the scent of a brand new book is right up there with fresh from the oven apple pie and Final Touch Fabric Softener as one of my all-time favorites. Library books have a distinct smell as well, and though not as pleasing to me as a brand new book, still pleasurable in its association to the joy of reading a good book.

So why would the author of this essay claim that people who love the smell of books must not like to read? I know I am not the exception to the rule when it comes to enjoying the feel of a book. And for the record, I like reading eBooks too- I use the Kindle App on my iPod Touch, and will consume any written words in any form. Enjoying the scent of a book doesn’t change that.

What do you think? We’ve asked before what you think of eBooks, but let’s ask again… how much does the medium of your words matter? And have you ever noticed the smell of books?

How Will Piracy Affect Public Libraries? January 7, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in InformationIssues.
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The future of libraries, the future of books, even the relevance of expensive research databases are constantly in question. The world of media is changing fast and in too many ways to possibly quantify or qualify. We can no longer predict with any veracity what patrons will want or how they will want it. While I personally don’t think books (in the hardcopy) are going anywhere soon, nor libraries, I did choose to become an academic librarian over public librarian because academic libraries seem to have more lasting power. Most people I know still see the public library solely as a repository for books. The library holds an anomalous position in our society—doing, in a sense, what piracy does on a large-scale, handing out copyrighted media for free. But while libraries demand their materials back, piracy enables the user to keep the materials.

So what happens when books are available on demand for little or no cost? You may think libraries have nothing to do with e-book piracy. You may believe that this is a problem for writers and publishers. But if books can be obtained for free, with the click of a button, what will keep patrons trekking to the library to “rent” a book for a limited amount of time? Will public libraries face the same fate as music stores when iTunes became popular and music piracy became rampant? Are libraries independent video stores and the web, Netflix? We will soon know the answer as digital piracy continues to insidiously contaminate all media.

Don’t think that reading is exempt. This article, published on the first by CNN, states that within days of the release of Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol, online, 100,000 copies had been illegally downloaded. I expect that stories like this will soon become the norm. Add sites like Google Books, Project Gutenberg, and Bartleby, to the mix and the libraries’ concrete offerings seem superfluous (not to mention the futility of paper reference trying to keep up with virtual reference).

So, if the public library is to remain relevant and useful (and in existence!) it must seek to outsmart the pirates and offer services that cannot be replaced digitally. And most importantly, it must make these offerings widely known. What are your suggestions?

What the National Book Awards tell us about the publishing industry November 19, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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I can’t say the winners of the National Book Awards even made it to my TBR. Perhaps this is because, as the Times states,

This year’s nominees had some in the publishing industry wondering about the relevance of the National Book Awards, in part because most of the titles had sold so little and few people had heard of them. The biggest selling finalist was Mr. McCann, with “Let the Great World Spin” selling 19,000 copies in hardcover, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales.

19,000 copies sure pales in comparison to Twilight’s 85 million copies sold worldwide (even quartered for the sake of considering only hardcover this still far surpasses Let the Great World Spin), or Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which sold over one million copies (presumably hardcover) in the first day. What does this mean? Has the National Book Award become arcane and meaningless; is it an award solely for erudite academicians?

This train of thought led me to research the criteria for the National Book Award and here is what I found on their website: “Juries develop their own criteria for awarding the National Book Award and discussions are held independent of the Foundation.” Granted, the panel is composed of authors of that genre but the selection of the judges itself sounds political and elitist as well: “Judges are nominated by past National Book Award Winners, Finalists, and Judges and then selected and recruited by the Foundation’s Executive Director in consultation with the Board of Directors.” Should the finalists really be choosing the judges?

Obscure choices aside, talk at the National Book Awards was reported by a few sources to revolve around the kindle and the growing popularity of ebooks, in defamatory tones. Looks like the writers finally understand what the musicians have gone through for a while. And like the musicians, the writers need to understand, like Cory Doctorow does (and like all librarians do), the need to evolve in order to stay relevant.

On a side note and to follow-up on our previous post about the public voting on the “Best of National Book Awards Fiction”: (another lackluster choice, in my opinion), the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog reports,

Flannery O’Connor won the “Best of the National Book Awards” prize. Ten thousand people voted on the National Book Foundation’s Web site to nominate the best award-winning work of fiction in the last 60 years. The six finalists were Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” “Collected Stories of William Faulkner,” “The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty” and “Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories.