Links Galore

A few fun (library love-heavy) links for today:

Links Galore

A few links to round out the week:

Libraries Are More Than Just Basic Information

Today in things-that-fuel-my-rage, this article about the death of the library, including this quote:

“I don’t personally use the library. I kind of have the feeling that libraries are going the route of the video rental stores but I’m probably… wrong about that,” said Coun. Ian Paton. “With the access to information now, with everyone having computers in their home, why do we spend so much money?”

My initial reaction:

My second reaction:

Then I finally got around to putting my thoughts into something resembling words.

Libraries are about way more than just accessing information. Sure, when I have a general question (“When was Abraham Lincoln born?” “What’s the difference between flours?”) I turn to the internet. But what about when I need more information than just the basics? That’s when I turn to a library’s resources. Librarians are people who are trained to help you find information. They know way more than just how to Google something, and they have the resources to help you find that information. For example, not all newspaper articles are available online–if you want to read an article from say, 1987, you might want to check with your library. Also, not everyone has internet access at home–but the library sure does.

Also, I don’t know about Paton, but I’m a reader and I can’t always afford (or keep) the books I want to read. Fortunately, the library has books and e-books for free. This is where I cannot understand why anyone would think that library’s aren’t worthwhile. How else are you supposed to get all the books you want to read?

Libraries also offer readings, social events, trainings, etc. A lot of the community loves and depends on events like these. Libraries can also serve as a meeting place for study groups, as an office for writers, or as a safe place for kids and teens to meet and interact.

Basically, I think it’s really short-sighted to assume that the internet can take over pretty much everything a library does. Libraries are invaluable resources for readers and communities, and we need to support them.

(H/T bookshelves of doom)

In Favor of the E-book

Yesterday I talked about why I like physical books and what advantages they for readers. Most readers I know feel the same–they love books, they love holding books, they love the smell. (Heck, Giles agrees. How can I argue with Giles?)

So what about e-books? So far, I haven’t heard a lot of readers talk about how much better the e-reading experience is. Some people, like Jonathan Franzen, don’t even think an e-book counts as real reading. Do we need to gather the villagers and our pitchforks and run e-books out of town?

I say no. E-books have their place in the book world, too. Here are a few things I like about the e-reading experience:

4182802481_62c616de2a_b1. Your Library in your Suitecase
I avoided e-readers for a while, but then my husband and I were getting married and going on our honeymoon–keeping us away from our home libraries for more than two weeks. A big part of my vacation time includes reading, so it was a choice between bringing eight hard copies or investing in an e-reader. I was able to have a dozen books with me in a convenient little device.

2. Size Doesn’t Matter
Even when I’m not traveling, sometimes it’s not convenient to carry around a giant book. (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.) I’d end up leaving heavier books at home because they wouldn’t fit in my purse or would be too heavy to lug around all day, and it would take me much longer to finish them. On an e-reader, you can carry around Moby-Dick and War and Peace and the entire Harry Potter series in your purse.

3. New Books Without Leaving Your Home
On a snowy, sleety day like today, I’m tempted to crawl under the covers and never leave. Thanks to e-readers, I’d still be able to get new books. As awesome as it is to go to a library or bookstore, it is pretty cool to have a new book while I’d curled up on the couch.

6965382718_f22a157325_b4. No Library Fines
Permissions for e-books and  libraries are still a big issue, but I hope we see an increase in libraries that can offer electronic options. With regular books, you have to run back to the library on your due date or risk being fined. (Or as I like to think of it, you risk a donation to the library, which makes me feel better about myself.) With e-books, you simply lose access to your checked-out book on the due date. Way less hassle for readers.

5. Free Books
No, not just library books–you can download electronic versions of anything in the public domain for free. You want to read Franekstein? Get it now. How about Persuasion? It’s yours forever. When I first got my e-reader, I downloaded a bunch of classic novels. Getting them for free was a great excuse to dive into content I always thought about but never pursued as much as I should have.

6. Cheap Books
Okay, so maybe they’re not free, but there are still a lot of daily deals for e-books. If I see something available for $3 (as opposed to $10), I’m way more likely to download a copy than I would be to search for a hard copy–even a discounted one. I think this helps me take more purchasing risks. If it’s cheap and won’t take up space on my bookshelves, why not spend a couple bucks? And even if it’s not providing the publisher/author with the same amount of royalties, these are probably books I would have waited to get at the library anyway.

4506273004_ebde74350e_b7. Dictionaries at Your Fingertips
I admit–sometimes when I come across a new word in a paper book, I gloss over it and assume I’ll understand from the context. (Sorry, English teachers!) Usually it’s because I don’t have a dictionary with me. My e-reader, on the other hand, came with several dictionaries, so I there’s really no excuse to skip over unrecognizable words.

8. Organization
I always have great ideas about how I’ll organize my bookshelves, and inevitably they fall to disarray. But on my e-reader, I can create categories (like Classics or YA or Non-Fiction) and immediately sort books. That way, I always know where Jane Eyre is. On my bookshelves, it’s probably somewhere on the tall one? Maybe on the one by the kitchen?

So where does that leave us? Is one option better than the other? My opinion is no–they both have benefits and flaws, and they both have their place in my life as a reader. I’m not afraid that e-books will totally kill paper books, and even if they do eventually, that’s a long time coming.

At the end of the day, delivery method doesn’t concern me as much as story. Reading A Tale of Two Cities or Because of Winn-Dixie on an e-reader or as paper books still provides me the same story. As long as publishers keep giving me that, I’ll keep reading.

Are you on one side of the physical book vs. e-book debate? Share your thoughts in the comments!

(image 1: Gene Wilburn)(image 2: smohundro)(image 3: albertizeme)

In Favor of the Physical Book

One of the big discussions in publishing over the last few years has been about e-books and how they’re going to destroy paper books, or how paper books are naturally better and more readerly than e-books. I love a good argument, and I also love playing the devil’s advocate. So today starts a two-part series in which I look at the pros and cons of hard copies and their e-book counterparts.

33440_774475567606_5957005_nFirst up: the physical book.

These are what I think of when I think of books–bound pages, that nice papery-ink smell, arranged in rows on bookshelves. In fact, I’m always tempted to say “a real book” when comparing hard copies to e-books. Somehow having something to touch and smell makes it seem more real.

Of course, that could just be my own bias from growing up with physical books as the only option. (Note: I also don’t listen to audio books very often.) A few more reasons why I prefer hard copies:

1. Cover Art
Okay, they say never to judge a book by its cover. But cover design can be truly unique and beautiful. It’s an introduction to the book even before you read the first word. And it can connect you to a particular edition of that book. For example, when I was in eighth grade, I read my classroom library’s version of The Outsiders. It was the movie tie-in edition, but somehow the cover, with its sunset and the fading faces of actors, felt right. I asked for my own copy for Christmas and got a version with a different cover. I still read the book about a hundred times, but I never got used to this different cover image. This might be different for some of the more impressive e-readers, but mine only includes a hazy black-and-white image of a book’s cover–not nearly as appealing or as evocative of a book’s content.

2. The Ease of Turning Pages
I tend to be a fast reader, especially when I’m in the middle of a book I’m really invested in and I can’t wait to see what happens at the end. But sometimes that means I need to flip back to check on a particular detail. That’s way easier to do with a physical book than an e-book. It’s also easier to immediately see where you are in a book–“more than halfway there!”–and track your reading progress. And there’s something satisfying in physically turning that last page–not quite the same as clicking a button.

71906_774483481746_7191186_n3. Bookshelves
If I go to a friend’s house and they have bookshelves in full view, you can bet that’s where I’ll be. And similarly, bookshelves have a prominent place in my home. A personal library in full view can tell you so much about the person who has read the books, and can spark all sorts of conversations. Having books in plain sight can also be a good reminder of what you’ve read and inspire you to reread a particular book.

4. Sharing and Giving
Sometimes you finish a book and don’t necessarily need to have it on your bookshelves forever–but maybe your friend wants to read it. Although I’m sure there are ways to do it for e-readers, I find it much easier to share physical books. (Granted, I also hoard my books a lot; I’ve been burned by borrowers who become keepers.) Books also make the perfect gift–they’re easy to buy and (bonus) easy to wrap. This year, Walt gave me a copy of Our Town (because I need to cry some more) and inscribed a quote from Thornton Wilder in the front. That’s certainly not something you can do with a e-book.

5. Book Spying
One of my greatest complains about e-readers is that they don’t allow you to see what someone else is reading. I love seeing what people are reading on public transportation/at the doctor’s office/in line at the grocery store/etc. Once I was on the T and I saw someone reading Tuck Everlasting. I didn’t say anything, but it felt like I had an instant connection to my fellow T-rider. If that reader had gotten the e-book version, I would never have felt that readerly bond.

255093_953799341326_1075905_n6. Browsing
When I was young, my family took trips to the library and the bookstore. Most of the books I read were books I stumbled across. Maybe I’d heard about them beforehand, but a lot of times I’d find an interesting title, flip through the first few pages, and give it a whirl. Maybe they didn’t all end up as my favorite books ever, but the sense of discovery was exciting. I don’t tend to browse through Amazon or other online booksellers that much, even with lists of recommended or similar titles.

7. No On/Off Switch
E-readers are great if you’re traveling (more on that tomorrow) but hard copies don’t require you to charge them or turn them off while your plane takes off (an essential time to have a book, in case your seat partner feels chatty).

8. Signings
A couple times I’ve gotten an e-book and later seen that the author would be at a local bookstore or library for a signing. Bringing a Kindle and asking an author to sign that? Not as cool.

If you’re not convinced, check out these posts about the awesomeness of the printed book:

Other reasons you love physical books? Share in the comments!

Links Galore

A few more links for today:

Teens #MustacheYouToRead

Depending on how hirsute your friends are, you may or may not know that November is Movember, a pretty fun time for guys to try out some new facial hair (handlebar mustache!).

But the coolest Movember project I’ve seen is by the Glendale Public Library Teen Services. They’re sharing pictures of readers posing with creative “mustaches” and books they recommend–ie, books they #MustacheYouToRead–on Twitter and Facebook. And you can join them:

“We’d love to see #MustacheYouToRead trend, so if you have any books you’d like to recommend, tweet them to us (or post them here) and let’s let the world know about all the awesome books teens are reading!”

Remember, you don’t need real facial hair to join in. Cut out a paper mustache or even use your finger. Share your recommended reads with the hashtag #MustacheYouToRead. Dumbledore is already on it.

Hedgehogs, Assemble!

Reason #92 why the Brookline Library and its teen librarians/patrons are awesome: Avenger Book Hedgehogs.

It’s like everything I love in one place! And Thor has a hammer! *dies of cuteness*

A little about the project:

“Specially appearing at tonight’s lock-in event for our teen manga/anime club, and then on to a display in the Brookline Library: Marvel’s Avengers!  These hedgehogs, made of repurposed books (drawn from our discarded but well-loved to the point of falling apart comics and paperbacks – no worries, replacements have already hit the shelves!), are decked out in full Avengers gear made by yours truly from duct tape.  Powered by craftiness and geek passion.”

Craftiness and geek passion can do anything. If you want to make your own book hedgehogs (superhero or otherwise), check out the tutorial here.

The library also hosted a hedgehog book-making event for Halloween. Can teen Annie time travel to the Brookline Library and get to do awesome stuff like this?

Overcoming Challenges Now and in a Dystopian Future: a Boston Book Festival Recap

Confession: I’ve lived in Boston about six years now (holy cow!), and this is the first year I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Boston Book Festival.

I know. Somehow I was always out of town or busy that day. But this year I put it on my calendar and made sure I was free. And it was a beautiful fall Saturday–the perfect day to be downtown and among the literary crowd.

I attended two panels. The first was YA: Overcoming Adversity, with authors Jo Knowles, Kathryn Burak, and Barry Lyga (moderated by Simmons professor Amy Pattee). As someone who writes contemporary YA fiction, I really enjoyed the conversation about how essential YA novels are in a young reader’s exploration of adversity. Society tends to trivialize the emotions of young people, but young adulthood is a time when you feel emotions so intensely. YA is the first opportunity for readers to explore “controversial” topics–and possibly, the first time readers get to see that they’re not alone in their pain.

A couple of quotes I especially liked from the panel:

  • “I try to explain about contemporary YA novels–that they exist.”
  • [By reading about things feel turned inside-out] “…we feel a little less turned inside-out.”
  • “Adolescents move toward adulthood. Adults move toward death.” Hmm, that reminds me of a song.
  • “Print it, bitches!”
  • Barry Lyga shares his research on serial killers, including how you can mess with forensics scientists by smearing horseradish all over your crime scene and how there was a surge in serial killers in the ’80s (no, it wasn’t the hairspray).

Next up was YA: The Future is Now, with authors Rachel Cohn, Cory Doctorow, and Gabrielle Zevin (moderated by M.T. Anderson). All of the panelists were really funny and thoughtful, and it’s encouraging to see authors talk about dystopia not as a trend but as part of a concern young people have. Where is our world heading? Are we living in a dystopia or a utopia? Is it possible to make a change?

A few fun moments from this panel:

  • “The usual Boston welcome is when everyone stops talking and looks awkwardly away from each other’s eyes.”
  • “The Dickensian family drama is now!”
  • Gyms are a glimpse at a clone-driven dystopian society. (I also think they’re a good place to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.)
  • Cory Doctorow’s German student impression and first draft puppet show.
  • “Art is an aesthetic feeling you want to get into someone else’s head.”

I also got to get signed copies of See You at Harry’s (which is already making me have all the feelings) and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party (which is one of my favorites).

All in all, a successful first Boston Book Festival. Thanks to all the literary people–the BBF team and volunteers, librarians, authors, publishers, etc.–who helped make this day so much fun!