As you may know, HarperCollins is instituting a loan cap on libraries for e-book titles: 26 checkouts, and they have to “buy” a “new copy.” Libraries are not thrilled by this, nor are library users (who, I imagine. form a large segment of the publisher’s customer base).
Martin Taylor gives HarperCollins kudos, saying “librarians must change old thinking.” This is ironic, since it’s HarperCollins who insists that librarians pretend ebooks are physical books. First they had to play “we only have one copy,” and now they must make believe that copy is wearing out. Who’s refusing to recognize reality here?
For a radically different take, see Justin Hoenke’s post on Tame the Web. His proposal (though he modestly points out he’s not the first) is to transform libraries into resource centers for communities to create their own content.
Both authors want libraries to change. Justin’s proposal is more in touch with the new facts of digital content. I’m with Justin, count me in.
Link of the Random Interval of Time (LotRIoT): librivox.org.
LibriVox is the go-to site for free, public-domain audio books (and shorter works). I’ve been listening to a selection of poetry on my daily commute: Blake, Dickinson, Shakespeare and others.
The readers are volunteers, and my gratitude to them is tremendous, but they vary in competence. Some read mechanically; some in sing-song; some melodramatically; and some with the right amount of expression, but with odd choices in emphasis and phrasing. (I have a theory about this last group: I believe they are good prose readers, who give too much semantic weight to line endings when it comes to verse.) Not a few, however, get it just right. What’s more, many of the offerings on LibriVox — especially the shorter ones — are provided in multiple versions with different readers, so you can choose the one you like best. (I suggest someone with a cockney accent, when possible, for Blake’s poems.)
LibriVox provides audio files in mp3 and ogg vorbis formats, and links to text versions of the works. The site can be hard to browse, just because of the sheer number of files in their catalog. Since all offerings are public domain (as are the performances), new works are scarce. With the wealth of classics at your earbuds, though, that’s hardly a problem worth whining about.
Super-librarian Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 states that you should give a book 50 pages to draw you in. If it hasn’t done so by then, abandon it. Since e-reader pages are so short, I gave Blackwood’s A Prisoner in Fairyland twice that. I shouldn’t have.
There’s entirely too much starlight and magic. I assume from the “prisoner” of the title that there will be evil and conflict, but there’s little sign of that yet. Trainloads of wistfulness and innocence, though. People who think children are innocent have forgotten their own childhoods. If they have children of their own, they must be very inattentive parents. Depravity is natural; virtue is learned.
It’s books like this that give fantasy fiction a bad name.
I read the following in Jeff Gomez’s Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age: ” I am who I am because of books, because of the words that others and I discovered between the hardback and paperback covers of worn and dog-eared novels.”
Now, Gomez’s book is no luddite screed, but I have heard similar statements from those who view ebooks with horror, when they can bear to look at them at all. I imagine like laments greeted the first appearance of paperbacks. Many who had grown up with hardback books probably considered these newcomers frauds, cheap pretenders to respectability.
Gomez’s hyperbolic title notwithstanding, printed books aren’t going away. Hardbacks didn’t vanish. They have their advantages in durability and mystique. Even now, any tome with claims to substance or scholarship must first appear in hardback (as Print is Dead did).
I love paperbacks, and still recall the sometimes brittle, faded or taped-up covers of many childhood and adolescent reads. My daughter might someday have fond memories of a scratched and scuffed e-reader, when prices drop enough for her to have one. But for her, for me, for any lover of reading, the physical object held in the hand is secondary: it’s the words that transport us out of our own physical containers that we truly cherish.
I’m assuming everyone already knows about Gutenberg and Bartleby.