Whither books?

At dinner last night, I got into a discussion about the future of the book. One person firmly believes that the printed page can be so wonderfully expanded upon by digitization, that adding content (eg., author's editing) will be the "killer ap" for ebooks.

Part of me agrees with this. I'd like to see the marginalia that C.S. Lewis added to his books. I'd love to know how A.S. Byatt chooses le mot juste in her works. It'd be great to see the process by which Chris Raschka drew the illustrations that won the Caldecott. But that's me and I'm an odd duck. The majority of Americans, as noted in the Pew "Reading at Risk" survey, do not care. They don't read. E-books aren't going to change that for them. Nothing will.

I've argued elsewhere that etextbooks will be a wonderful innovation. Why publishers haven't jumped on this bandwagon is beyond me: think of the savings. Create a table PC that allows you to download a book (eg, Samuelson's Economics), annotate, print, highlight, etc.. In short, make it like a book but on-line. Then allow people to download multiple books onto this one machine. You (the publisher) can customize to state standards, or update editions, easily. Books no longer need to cost hundreds because there are no printing costs involved. Easy.

Things like the British Library's "Turn the Page" program are fascinating. They just aren't something I (or, I suspect, many readers) particularly want when they're curling up with a good read.

So whither books? I don't know. I just hope that we don't fix what's not broken in the name of technology.

Tags: , , ,

Imponderable Quotes

You can get this free for $20.00 a year.
"Dead and Emerging Technologies" discussion panel


Reading update

I've not been reading much this quarter (well, few books, anyway) but I want to share my excitement about a new series. It's called "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" and it's by Rick Riordan.

The first book, The Lightning Thief, came my way last year at a conference (where I'm known to pick up a few of the Readers Advance copies). I loved it. The story is about a boy, ADHD, kicked out of every school, and his love for his mother and hatred of his stepfather. Then he finds out that he's actually the son of Poseidon, and belongs to a group of half-bloods. See, those pesky Greek gods haven't stopped messing with humans. And Percy is the product of one of those relationships. He goes on a quest and makes friends and you'll have to read about all of that.

The second book, The Sea of Monsters, is equally good. So you're going to read that, right?

What I like about this is that it's fantasy, but of a sort that will really appeal to boys. As a matter of fact, one of my more recalcitrant cases at MOPOW read it and loved it. When I saw him yesterday, he was too cool to admit he was excited to read a new one, but I could tell he really was. Jon Scieszka has written a lot about boys not reading. This is exactly the sort of book that will get them reading.


My little secret

I hate travel. I hate leaving my cozy cottage and going to work, to visit friends, to conferences. I just want to snuggle under the covers with a good book and The Boys and do nothing else. All day. Every day.

There. I've said it.

The reality is, of course, that I can't just do that. I do actually enjoy the give-and-take of conversing with people. I resent that I have to leave my nest to do so.

I need to get ready for the upcoming conference. I have to clean the cottage (always come back to a neat, tidy house - one of my mother's rules). I have to put out food for The Boys. I have to pack. I have to leave my comfort zone and go be "me".

I'm sure I'll learn a lot and meet interesting people (and even play hooky a little). But I'll be eagerly waiting for the time I unlock my front door, see The Boys and curl up with them in bed.



V and X

Two lesser-used letters of the alphabet, right? Also two letters that played an important role in my life this past weekend.

"V" was the movie I saw. I'm not usually into that sort of movie, although I do stray outside my comfort zone when I'm with my friend M. The problem with this one wasn't the stylized violence, or the gaps in the plot, or the bad accent that Natalie Portman had. The problem I had was "who cares?" I didn't feel that this movie meant anything, and I like for them to have some resonance with my life. Some people may feel that it's a commentary on life under Bush (even thought it was written about the Thatcher years). To me it was just a bad melange of The Count of Monte Cristo, a superhero, 1984 and a few other things, all done heavy-handed enough to give me a headache. The best part was after it was all over, and my friend commented that this movie clearly had been done on a huge budget. What clued him in? The fact that there was a Stones song at the end.

"X" was the restaurant where we went to brunch yesterday. Brunch started at 1, and for the next 2 1/2 hours we ate steadily. Waiters appeared a regular intervals to ply us with food: fruit... eggs benedict... bagel and "smoked salmon"... fish... ham... pork... lamb chops... scallops... shrimp... pasta... it was seemingly endless. And then there was the "free" champagne (or mimosas, or kir royales). Two-and-a-half-hours of eating. Dinner last night was not an option.

Tags: , ,


The obligatory St. Pat's post

Many, many years ago, shortly after my parent's marriage, my father made a huge mistake.

You see, my mother was not a great cook. She'd mastered some dishes, but wasn't the type of cook that my father had grown up with (his grandmothers, mother and sister were all excellent cooks). After a while, my father apparently got tired of eating the same dishes and made a request of my mother. "Honey," he said, "why don't you try experimenting with dinner tonight?"

It was March 17. They were in Boston. My mother dyed the rice green.

My father hasn't requested a creative meal since.


Notable Quotes

An optimist is the human personification of spring.
Susan J. Bissonette



My cloud

(รพ: FRL for the link to SnapShirts)


At the risk of spoiling the plot

(although, really, if this does spoil the plot, you should demand a refund on your education)

The opera "Romeo et Juliette" is based on the Shakespeare play by the amazingly same-sounding name. It's considered a tragedy, and it fits quite nicely in with that whole opera convention of boy-meet-girl, they sing, she dies. (This basic plot structure, by the way, cannot be used to identify the opera, nor does it help to add "and it happened in Italy/France" or "she was sick". Really. You're gonna need a bit more than that.) It does a credible job of the whole "but soft, what light through yonder window breaks" poetry. And, in my opinion, the sets were simply stunning. My companion thought otherwise, probably agreeing with New York and PhillyBurbs.

Anyway, as we were heading "home", I started to wonder if I'd perhaps dozed off during the last couple of acts. I knew that the whole Juliette's bed floating in mid-air scene had thrown me (given my extreme fear of heights), but had I totally blanked on something? See, if I remember the plot correctly, Romeo is exiled. Which means "out of town permanently". So, when Juliette is approached by Friar Lawrence, just prior to her bigamist marriage to Paris, about drinking some faux-poison, Romeo's not around to hear about the plot. Then there's that whole subplot about the Nurse, who's supposed to get the news to Romeo but doesn't and then... well, you should know the rest by now.

Except she doesn't. In this version, the Nurse sings maybe 5 lines in Act 1, and then shuts up the rest of the opera. Over three hours, and barely a note. Let alone the crucial "please tell my secret husband that I'm not really dead" bit. Friar Lawrence isn't roped into this, either. Possibly because he's too busy with his telescope. (and wasn't this set around Galileo's time? just asking)

Which then leads to the question: if Romeo is out of town, how does he hear about Juliette's death and know where to find her supposedly lifeless body? ESP? Fax? His copy of the libretto? And don't tell me he's packing - he's a guy. Guys don't pack that much, even back in whatever-century Verona.

Anyway, I wasn't the only one who apparently missed that bit. Perhaps it was one of those "blink and you'll miss it" arias. Or not. This could have been the Cliff's Notes version.