The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) by Patrick Ness

After having listened to The Knife of Never Letting Go in the car, I reserved the The Ask and the Answer in the audio format as well. But while I was waiting for that to come in, I decided to just read it on my Kindle (I had picked up all three ebooks sometime ago but never read them).

I think I enjoyed the second book more than the first. Perhaps it was because I was not as distracted by the unique dialects while reading as I was when listening. But I think it had more to do with the larger canvas and wider angle of this story.

The first book was all about Todd and the slow revelation of what life was like on New World. It quickly becomes a cycle of run and capture, seeming victory followed by seeming defeat, right up until the end of the book. This pattern got old for me.

In the second book there is more action as Todd and Viola end up caught up in the clash of the “Ask and the Answer.”  We learn more about Mayor Prentiss, and his son Davy, and start to understand the opposing forces known as the Answer. The varied angles and the additional characters make the story seem fuller and less repetitive.

I am not a big fan of dystopian fiction, and I still found some of the writing over the top and disjointed, but I enjoyed the suspense and ambiguity more in this volume; even as Mayor/President Prentiss seems to turn even darker and more maniacal.

Looking forward to the conclusion in book three (whether ebook or audiobook).

E-Books, Change and the Reading Experience

Interesting conversation over at the NYT between Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes on How Do E-Books Change the Reading Experience?

Hamid basically argues that in a world dominated by technology it is important to push back and find ways to generate solitude:

In a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude. E-reading opens the door to distraction. It invites connectivity and clicking and purchasing. The closed network of a printed book, on the other hand, seems to offer greater serenity. It harks back to a pre-jacked-in age. Cloth, paper, ink: For these read helmet, cuirass, shield. They afford a degree of protection and make possible a less intermediated, less fractured experience. They guard our aloneness. That is why I love them, and why I read printed books still.

I understand this sentiment, in fact, I share it. I too find it all too easy to be distracted by technology and lose the chance to dig deeper and find meaning and serenity.

But I find my Kindle solves that problem. Reading books on my iPad not only hurts my eyes but offers the kind of distractions Hamid is talking about.  Cell phones, tablets, computers all have that call to another app or quick check of the web.  The Kindle doesn’t. It is just a reader. (This applies to all stand along readers bu my experience is with the Kindle)

Sure, they are bringing more interactivity to the device with social sharing and built-in Goodreads updates, etc.  But this is not much different from taking notes or highlighting.

I find it very easy to get lost, to be immersed in the moment, with my Kindle because it is just me and the text.  When I read it in bed at night there is nothing but me and that faint glow; the rest of the world disappears.

Anna Holmes on the other hand offers a few complaints 1) you can’t browse an eBook like you can a physical book 2) the progress tracking on the Kindle annoys her 3) an eBook can’t be a social signal for the wider world.

Not much you can do about #1. If you like to flip through a book sampling pages there is no direct equivalent in the electronic version.  Although you can get a sample sent to you and you could browse the highlights of other readers online.

I find #2 actually enjoyable. I like to know how far I have to go in a book whether in terms of time reading or percentage of the book, etc.  And this seem rather silly as you can turn off the progress function so it is little more than some tiny dots on the bottom of the page. Not much different that glancing at how far you are in a book based on your bookmaker.

It is the third point that strikes me as rather bizarre.  Does Holmes really want to be able to see what everyone is reading in public so she can make judgments about what that says about the person?  She wants to be able to see what book you are reading so she can add that to the social status and personality clues given by your choices in clothes, hairstyle, etc.? Oh…Kay….

As I have noted before when discussing technology and books, there are plenty of books for which technology is not an equal substitute.  I love books that are well packaged and beautifully illustrated; books that are an aesthetic experience.

Art books, illustrated children’s books, chapter books and other books for young people all have elements that ereaders or tablets just can’t match (although the technology has improved greatly obviously).  I love these books and seek them out at the library and share them with my family (and buy them when I can).

But when the text is the primary focus (as it is for most of the books I read), I actually prefer my Kindle.  As Hamid notes, it is easier to read for those of us with tired eyes and spouses who don’t want bright lights at night.  It is thin and light and ultra-portable.  I can read for long periods of time and that is the best way to get lost in a book.

So the key for me is not technology but the tool you choose. I use a dedicated ereader so I can focus on reading. I love my iPad but it doesn’t replace my beloved Kindle.

The curious denial involved in book addiction

book_addict_funny_reading_gift_magnets-rfbc62b02da644f53bf83f3ca128cf0ee_x7js9_8byvr_324I will admit it. I just don’t have the discipline nor motivation to blog on a regular basis.  My life is not suited to it at the moment and I don’t have the drive or will power to overcome that. That’s reality. No matter how I wish it were otherwise.

One thing that did strike me in the week or so since I lasted posted was the curious form of denial that is involved in my book addiction.  Yes, despite not managing to produce content on this blog I continue to collect books in an alarming rate (and read them at a not too shabby pace).

The denial involves the belief that somehow buying more books than you can ever possibly read is a good use of your resources.  Or that with as many books as I currently have I should be looking for more.  Why do I continue to visit bookstores, browse Amazon and sign up for book content on social media and email? I really don’t need anymore books.  I haven’t counted but I have a great deal of books at home that I have not read (both physical and digital). Hundreds of books I would guess.

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The curious denial involved in book addiction

book_addict_funny_reading_gift_magnets-rfbc62b02da644f53bf83f3ca128cf0ee_x7js9_8byvr_324I will admit it. I just don’t have the discipline nor motivation to blog on a regular basis.  My life is not suited to it at the moment and I don’t have the drive or will power to overcome that. That’s reality. No matter how I wish it were otherwise.

One thing that did strike me in the week or so since I lasted posted was the curious form of denial that is involved in my book addiction.  Yes, despite not managing to produce content on this blog I continue to collect books in an alarming rate (and read them at a not too shabby pace).

The denial involves the belief that somehow buying more books than you can ever possibly read is a good use of your resources.  Or that with as many books as I currently have I should be looking for more.  Why do I continue to visit bookstores, browse Amazon and sign up for book content on social media and email? I really don’t need anymore books.  I haven’t counted but I have a great deal of books at home that I have not read (both physical and digital). Hundreds of books I would guess.

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Kindle Quick Hits: The Flinch by Julien Smith

One of the interesting things that has developed as part of the growth of e-books is the ability to publish essays and shorter type works quickly and easily and reach a large audience.  If you want to publish something quickly and have the potential to reach a large audience you can now do it yourself in e-book form.  Charge little (anywhere from $.99-$2.99 usually) and make it easier for people to pull the trigger.

I have been taking advantage of this development to read some interesting e-books from a variety of genres and authors.  And over the next few days I want to take a moment to offer my quick impressions of these shorter works.

First up is a e-book that was actually free: The Flinch by Julien Smith.

A book so important we refuse to charge for it.

Julien Smith has delivered a surprise, a confrontation, a book that will push you, scare you and possibly stick with you for years to come.

The idea is simple: your flinch mechanism can save your life. It short circuits the conscious mind and allows you to pull back and avoid danger faster than you can even imagine it’s there.

But what if danger is exactly what you need?

What if facing the flinch is the one best way to get what you want?

Here’s a chance to read the book everyone will be talking about, before they do.

What are you afraid of? Here’s how to find out.

I saw this on Twitter and decided to check it out. After all, it was free.  It turned out to be a sort of digital pep talk.  It has an interesting hook and some useful challenges even if it is somewhat repetitive.

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More on Kindle and the joy of reading

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...
Cover via Amazon

Miljenko Williams ruminates on Kindle and being engrossed in a good read:

But what I most like about the whole Kindle experience is that in some intangible and inexplicable way it has managed to use digital technologies to turn me away from hypertextuality.

I love the Internet – always will do, of course.  But Amazon’s Kindle has reminded me of the simple pleasure of burying oneself in a text – a pleasure I had lost in an online maze of endless restless clicking.

A simple pleasure indeed.

That wondrous permission we readers sometimes choose to offer up to those deserving writers who with their wisdom regale us and reward us.

That beautiful moment when we choose to allow an author the time and space to lead us through their world.

That is why Amazon’s Kindle is worth so very much more than its technology.

All I can says is, yup. I offered my thoughts along similar lines a few days ago.

American Spectator E-Book Debate

The American Spectator has offered a couple of different perspective on e-books this week.  On Wednesday, Lisa Fabrizio didn’t so much denounce electronic books as worry about what their growth might mean:

And so it was with trepidation that I read last week that Amazon.com announced that for the first time, sales of titles for its Kindle e-readers outpaced those of hardcover books. Now, I’m no luddite when it comes to the advance of technology, but I hope I’m not wrong in predicting that the surge in the sale of e-books is merely a fad and not a trend As we grow more and more into a technologically based society, we are losing touch with the sensible world around us. This push-button lifestyle brings us further and further away from simple pleasures; those that may be enjoyed even without electricity.

As did my father when I was a little girl, I encourage children to read: read anything that catches their fancy and if Kindles are the only means to this end, then fine. But my suggestion to the young is to pick up a real book, love it, and reread it until its pages are yellow and dog-eared and then pass it on to someone else. Then none of you will have cause to pause when someone asks you that popular question: If you had three books to take with you should you ever be stranded on a deserted island, what would they be?

Mark Goldblatt, author of Sloth, responds from the perspective of a reader and an author. He concludes it is not an either or situation:

As unsettling as such innovations may seem, they needn’t encroach on the experience of traditional readers — not even those seduced by the siren song of a Nook, Kindle or iPad. The option of sight reading, of scanning down the page line by line, without using the cursor, will always remain. But the range of new possibilities is sure to impact how writers write; many will write with an e-book specifically in mind. They will become orchestrators as well as wordsmiths — deciding, in the case of Sloth, what to annotate, but, in the future, deciding what to score, what to illustrate and what to animate. The results will be hybrids… not unlike the way today’s graphic novels are hybrids of traditional novels and comic books.

Not surprisingly, I am in the both/and camp. I love my Kindle and its conveinence.  But I also love books qua books. Just one example, my wife and I love to buy classic children’s books at used book stores and library sales because of both the classic stories and their great illustrations.  And lest all the authors out there are worried, yes we enjoy brand new children’s books for similar reasons.  This is something that can’t be replicated on a Kindle – at least right now.

I don’t know how the various markets will work themselves out but I am not afraid that art and illustration and the joys of books as physical objects will disappear.

Are e-readers 8-tracks in disguise?

The Wall Street Journal ponders this question:

Books are having their iPod moment this holiday season. But buyer beware: It could also turn out to be an eight-track moment.

While e-reading devices were once considered a hobby for early adopters, Justin Timberlake is now pitching one on prime-time TV commercials for Sony Corp. Meanwhile, Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-reading device has become its top-selling product of any kind. Forrester Research estimates 900,000 e-readers will sell in the U.S. in November and December.

But e-reader buyers may be sinking cash into a technology that could become obsolete. While the shiny glass-and-metal reading gadgets offer some whiz-bang features like wirelessly downloading thousands of books, many also restrict the book-reading experience in ways that trusty paperbacks haven’t, such as limiting lending to a friend. E-reader technology is changing fast, and manufacturers are aiming to address the devices’ drawbacks.

Yes, the WSJ brings us the hard hitting journalism that tells us that if you don’t have disposable income and/or aren’t a gadget person you may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated e-reader!

“If you have the disposable income and love technology—not books—you should get a dedicated e-reader,” says Bob LiVolsi, the founder of BooksOnBoard, the largest independent e-book store. But other people might be better-off repurposing an old laptop or spending $300 on a cheap laptop known as a netbook to use for reading. “It will give you a lot more functionality, and better leverages the family income,” he says.

Wow! I never would have figured that out myself. To be fair, the article does go on to offer some contrasting opinions on the pros and cons of various devices.

But I find this debate tiresome in some ways.

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