New Year -- New Resources

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Remembering The Blitz in fiction

As you may remember, last Spring I had highly recommended Connie Willis' BLACKOUT, about 21st-century time travelers stuck in London during The Blitz; the sequel, ALL CLEAR, is due out from Bantam in October.

Also just published and highly praised is Jessica Francis Kane's novel,  THE REPORT (Graywolf), which alternates between interviews for a 1972 documentary and flashbacks about the worst civilian disaster in war-time, when a London Tube air raid shelter panic led to 170+ deaths in seconds, just like the crowds crushed in at the German music festival this year.

If you are interested in more about the "home front" aspect of WW II, in England and America, you will want to read 109 EAST PALACE:  Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos by Jennet Conant, The author, whose grandfather ran the Manhattan Project in Chicago, describes the tremendous effort required to create from scratch the town that housed the scientists who invented the atomic bomb, largely through the memoirs of a Santa Fe widow, Dorothy McKibbin, who single-handedly made the place liveable for researchers and their wives and children alike. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's the software, the page on the screen that matters


Since I have been reading on my iPad, I am very happy with the hardware, but the software makes me want better, better page design, better search and note talking options

As a reader, I want more choices, more mixed media, and more cross-indexing. I want to be able to have list of all my eBooks in one file; I want to be able to sort titles on the "shelf" by subject or keywords. Searching as list is not the same as browsing book jackets. At least until the printed book dies, I want that metaphor on my iPad in all the ways it can really replicate a library.

I love reading on my iPad. Even with the glare from too close reading lamps or outside sunshine is a small inconvenience. With an eBook reader I could only buy from one bookstore, and I couldn't compare page layouts. The iPad also gives me gorgeous black-and-white photographs in any reader,and great color in the iBookstore, although there are few books with any color that aren't Apps.

The true interactive, mixed-media potential of the iPad, the chance to combine audio, animation, video, and web links with text, exists in even fewer Apps than those with color. THE ELEMENTS remains the most imaginative book available, because it has 3D photography (and the Tom Leher song), but the scientific calculations exist only through links to the developer's web site, which, of course, you can access without an iPad.

That said, if I were reading only on a Kindle or a Nook, I would have no option for color or video. Likewise, if I bought only from the iBookstore, I would have a much smaller library of titles to choose from, since several major publishers and most small ones have not yet agreed to Apple's sales' model which is a consignment model unlike the way normal print books are paid for at wholesale prices. The iPad works for me only because it doesn't tie me to one retailer. I can buy from the store with the best inventory. I can also decide which software I like best for reading, which page layout, search function, highlighting and not taking is most convenient.

This software -- not the hardware -- I am convinced, is what readers should focus on now that we have choices, at different price points and with different inventories of books to buy and read electronically

Next blog: the words on the page are what we read.