2013 reading list, a year end summary

The "to read" pile 5feb13

Here are previous year end lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My always-updated booklist lives at jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.

Number of books read in 2013: 50
2012: 53
2011: 56
2010: 48
2009: 39
2008: 31
2007: 53
2006: 60
2005: 86
2004: 103
2003: 75
2002: 91
2001: 78

average read per month: 4.17
average read per week: 1.04
number read in worst month: 1 (April)
number read in best month: 7 (Jan/Dec)
percentage by male authors: 76
percentage by female authors: 24
percentage of authors of color: 4?
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 90
percentage of total ambivalent: 8
percentage of total disliked: 2

Some of the same patterns as last year. I didn’t travel as much and I think this means I read a bit less. I binge-read the His Dark Materials books and read every book by Brad Meltzer. The Kindle lets me plow through sort of simple fiction and humor stuff, but I’m still not really using it for non-fiction or tougher books. In looking at my to-read pile from February (above), I’m realizing I have a pile of books someplace in my house that has some of these books on it (the Miss Manners book and the RV book in particular) that I must have moved when I spruced up my bedroom. Graphic novels continue to entertain me but it’s getting harder and harder to find new long ones that I like. I still use paperbackswap.com for random serendipity–things come in from my wish list occasionally and I’m never expecting them–and to get rid of older books I just don’t need to have around.

This year I’m going to try to actively read more books by women, more books by authors of color, more non-European authors and more books that fall under the general GLBTQ umbrella. It’s too easy to fall into grabbing the most available titles and these have a tendency to reflect the mainstream. No big deal, and I read some good books, but I’d like to expand my range. It’s good to have goals.

The annual banned books week roundup for 2013

salinger's 60 years later, banned in the US

For some reason last year I didn’t do my annual roundup of Banned Books Week websites. Here is a link to the source of the image above which is from the New Yorker’s article about the JD Salinger-evocative book 60 Years Later, Coming Through the Rye which is illegal to sell in the US. You can find more news articles about that situation at the author’s small Wikipedia page. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. I skipped 2005 and 2012.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. Do NOT look at the bbw twitter hashtag as I mistakenly did last night. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site which is really nice looking this year. The BannedBooksWeek Twitter account is still moribund which is a damned shame. The Virtual Read Out doesn’t seem to have any new videos this year… yet?

Please remember if you are a librarian who has a book that is challenged, report it to the ALA so they can keep track of it.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

The language of the censor is the language of the tyrant, the absolutist, the one with no vision. It is the antithesis of art because it assumes that there is only one perspective, one reality, and that anything that fails to rhyme with it is a sin against nature. But the real sin against nature is to suffocate personal truths and experiences with wobbly doctrine and to disguise it as morally just. Art— particularly literature—exists to show us there are as many worlds as there are people. Each of these worlds come with its own laws. These laws vary from person to person, but if there is one that they have in common it is to share your truth. We owe it to our humanity and our short time among other humans to respect the truths that are shared with us. – Nick Burd

Websites are working and the word is getting out. I was pleased with this year’s collections of content. What I’m concerned about, as per usual, are challenges and censorship that don’t even reach the physical items on the library shelves. What about this Salinger book? Worldcat shows 40 copies of it, a handful of which are in the US, and the reviews of it haven’t been so great anyhow. But the idea that the book wasn’t obtained and removed, it was never obtained in the first place (as we see with so much born-digital content that we can’t even get in lendable format) opens a door to all new ways that libraries can not get books. The old challenges (dirty cowboy? really? do not google that) remain and new ones appear.

unintended consequences: Wiley price hike post-Kirtsaeng

In the wake of the Kirtsaeng decision Wiley has, predictably, decided to raise their prices in the UK to match American prices for titles. The news I got was from a forwarded email but it appears, in part on this website as well

The price increases are the publisher’s reaction to a recent US Supreme Court ruling whereby lower priced editions bought elsewhere in the world were allowed to be sold back into the US, a market which has traditionally had higher prices than other markets. To reduce the impact on US sales, Wiley have chosen to increase the prices in the UK to match the American prices. Unfortunately we have no ability to influence this decision although our buying team has vigorously championed non-US customers against price increases.

The blog post goes on to mention that “Closer examination of Wiley’s list of titles shows that most US Edition titles have more than tripled in price.” The email I was sent also included a link to this list of comparison pricing for literally thousands of Wiley titles so you can do the math yourself.

The odd aspect to this post, to me, is that ebook prices are also going up despite the fact that ebooks can not be resold and are not, in my understanding, affected by this ruling. Am I missing something?

Serendipitously browsed: gems of american scenery

I went to the Windsor Library in Windsor Vermont this weekend to take a look at their seed library. It was really neat. The whole building was terrific with large photographs of people from the community. Jim and I poked around in their historical books room and found this gem. It’s a collection of stereoscopic “Albertypes” in a book by Charles and Edward Bierstadt, brother to the more famous Albert (name of photographic process just a coincidence). The book comes with a little viewer built in to the book cover so that the images can be seen in 3D. I took a few photos of the book and more of the stereoscopic images can be seen online. And now I’ve been spending all morning reading about the Bierstadt brothers and the overlap between Albert’s painting career and the other brothers’ photography careers. Fascinating stuff.

book cover, gems of american scenery, white mountains
book cover

image of the viewer built in to the book cover
viewer built into the book cover

instructions on how to use the book
instructions on how to use the book cover

Jimviewing the images
Jim makes it work

I got a Kindle

kindle with custom screensaver on

I am aware that I am dreadfully behind the times, but the Kindle I wanted finally hit a price point that I felt was worth it and I got one: a Kindle Keyboard 3G/Wifi model. It’s nice. I’ve been tinkering with it. Here are some initial impressions.

1. Now that the Kindle Fire and other fancier ebook readers are out, the older ones are relatively inexpensive. While you can still buy this model new for low three figures, I got it refurbished from ebay for $50 delivered and was happy about it. Didn’t come in an Amazon box. Just showed up in some bubble wrap with a cable. Fine by me and super cheap for worldwide low-end 3G and an “experimental” browser.

2. I am mostly interested in using this when I travel for the free worldwide-ish internet access as well as being able to carry a lot of books with me on a long trip. I still prefer paper books but am at the point where I need to have more working knowledge of ebook readers than I have. We lend them out at the library that I occasionally work at, but that isn’t enough. I am not interested in buying a lot of new books. I am not interested in creating any more of a relationship with Amazon than I already have. I have a loose relationship with copyright laws but that doesn’t mean that you should, necessarily.

3. First step: hacking it so I can do what I want with it. I do not want their default screen savers. I do not want to pay them to convert things to PDF for me. I do not want to only buy things from the store, I don’t really care about the store. I don’t like the blinky page turning effect. A quick google brings me to this page. I follow a few instructions and I have my own screensavers and a jailbroken Kindle. I also read more about the blinky page flashing effect and why it exists (and that the alternative is often ghosting which would drive me crazy) and I’ve decided to stick with the blinky and learn to live with it, even though it’s nice to have options. I am not messing with the default fonts, for now. I am not installing KIF the Kindle interactive fiction interpreter, for now. I am okay that I will miss out on Amazon-only releases, for now.

4. Second step: get some books. As I said, I wanted to see how much I could do with this without involving Amazon. I’m not anti-Amazon so much as I’m just Amazon-agnostic and don’t want to have my device talking to them about me. There are basically three main ways to get books on to the thing: buy them, steal/borrow them, create them.

As much as I love the DIY Scanner idea, it’s a ways off for me. So I’m going to focus on the middle option.

First option: I went to Listen Up Vermont and gritted my teeth through the terrible interface (which I hear is changing), found a book I wanted to read, went to check it out, tried three different library cards until I got one that worked. Then got to the Amazon page and had to log in there as well. Did not want to register my Kindle. My only option at that point was to read the book in the “cloud reader” [i.e. on their website]. Okay. No way to download a book without becoming an Amazon customer. I’m sure this is not news to anyone who has a Kindle, but I hadn’t really tried this all out yet. This whole process took far too long.

Second option: Open Library. Found a book I wanted to read. “Checked it out” via Open Library’s nifty checkout options. Not even sure which library card I used, maybe it was just me being in the state of Vermont. Checked out the PDF of the book. Downloaded it to my desktop via Adobe Digital Editions which did not require me to register for an account but did have less functionality if I didn’t register which seemed okay to me. Could read it on my desktop. Was prohibited because of DRM from reading it on my Kindle. In the interests of science I tried to figure out how to get this to work anyhow. Spent a lot of time on this website reading about Calibre and the DRM and ebooks generally. Don’t let the post dates fool you, this is a fairly up to date blog. Calibre is a great ebook management tool that follows in the steps of some other open source tools in that it doesn’t break DRM itself, but you can obtain plug-ins that will do the DRM-breaking if you want. It also does a lot of other great things like allowing you to edit ebook metadata and group and organize your ebook collection. You can also use Calibre to format-shift your ebooks to and from various formats. I took the DRM off this ebook and then moved it to my Kindle. It’s not so great to read there because it’s in PDF format but it was good for proof of concept. 500 page PDFs are just not awesome for reading.

Third option: piracy. Most of the time if you search for a reasonably popular book using the title and other words like “mobi” or “epub” you can find forums where people upload pirated copies of these books to filesharing sites like divshare or mediafire. It’s worth noting that the Apprentice Alf website that helps you break DRM explicitly says that breaking DRM to upload books to piracy sites is an explicitly uncool use of DRM end-running which is the position I agree with for the most part. I tried the pirate download options with a book I already had in hard copy and found not just that book but a bundle of five other books by the same author. Downloaded, unrar-ed drag-and-dropped to my Kindle. Started reading. No passwords. No failures.

And as far as the reading experience, I’ve taken to it much more quickly than I thought I would. This is, of course, what everyone but me thought would happen. The Kindle is light, the back-forth buttons are simple and not accidentally clicked. I like being able to look up words in a dictionary without moving more than a few fingers. I like that it knows where I left off. I like getting to toss a book out when I am done with it. All in all my conclusions are much like the ones I was nodding my head with at the In Re: Books conference. Ebooks readers are great and improving all the time. It’s the ebooks themselves–the DRM, the bad user experience, the complicated and wonky checkout procedures, the lack of privacy, the changing restrictions we deal with as libraries, the terrible websites our vendors create–that are not just suboptimal but at the center of a bad user experience that we’re in the awkward position of promoting as if it were our own.

So, mixed feelings of course. I’ve gone to bed and read my Kindle most nights this week and enjoy it. I still can’t look a patron in the eye and explain that they need to go through a bunch of bad websites, log in at least twice and create relationships with multiple vendors who are not the library in order to check out a book from us. Here’s hoping the landscape will change for the better. Here’s suggesting we do what we can to help that happen.

a different sort of wormhole

“Knowledge of the wormhole record will allow biologists to trace the recent biogeographic history of species, including invasives of economic importance, and historians to evaluate the place of origin and movement of a woodblock, book, document or art print.”

Read more about the wormhole record over at Quigley’s Cabinet (some images on that page may be NSFW)

2012 reading list, a year end summary

I’ve waited til the new year to write this list up. I’ve spent the first few days of the new year finishing up a few books that were lingering on the nightstand. Here’s the complete list, you’ll notice that I only finished some of the books in this photo which was my “to read” pile on 1/1/12.

Here are previous year end lists: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed.

number of books read in 2012: 53
2011: 56
2010: 48
2009: 39
2008: 31
2007: 53
2006: 60
2005: 86
2004: 103
2003: 75
2002: 91
2001: 78

average read per month: 4.42
average read per week: 1.02
number read in worst month: 1 (Feb/Dec)
number read in best month: 11 (July)
percentage by male authors: 75
percentage by female authors: 19
fiction as percentage of total: 51
non-fiction as percentage of total: 49
percentage of total liked: 94
percentage of total ambivalent: 4
percentage of total disliked: 2

My reading is really getting to be consistent. I read about a book a week, split between fiction and non-fiction. I like most of the books that I read. I read a lot in July and not so much in December or February. Still no ebook reader, though I’ve been using my iPad more to watch Downton Abbey while I am on the treadmill. One book took me the better part of a month to get through (Quammen’s book about the Dodo and other extinctions) but it was well worth it. I read all the Hunger Games books in a little over a week and while I think that having read them is good for me as a librarian, I felt pretty “meh” about all but the first one, which surprised me.

let’s be honest about the ebook situation

Been doing a lot of reading and not enough writing the past few weeks, getting taxes sorted, preparing for SXSW and doing some SOPA follow-up. Sarah Houghton has a great post about ebooks, the current situation with some publishers opting out of providing ebooks to libraries and what she is doing about it at her library. I agree with her that if we want to solve the problem, we need to be honest about what we’ve been doing and what others have been doing, notably publishers that are making it difficult for us to provide their titles digitally. Libraries want to do this and we can’t. Patrons should know that, and know why.

As a librarian and as a reader, I am tired of publishers walking away from the library table. I have no problem with them walking away from a particular third party vendor, but only if they have a plan in place to offer up their own platform or be signed with an alternate vendor already. Gaps in service, gaps in availability of their titles to our patrons equals stupidity in my opinion. Walking away from the library eBook market makes no financial long-term sense, nor does it continue the positive relationship that publishers and libraries have cultivated for centuries to help bring information and entertainment to people.

I think it’s about damn time we, as library professionals, started getting the public riled up about this too. We need legislation passed (or copyright law clarified) that states that indeed, libraries can license/purchase and lend out digital items just like they can with physical items. Fragmentation and exclusionary business practices hurt the people we serve. As a librarian I feel we must stand up, as a profession, and say “no more.”

Bobbi Newman also has some scripts you can use when talking to patrons.

2011 reading list, a year end summary

Books
Image is by shutterhacks

I did a lot of reading-while-traveling this year. I got a lot of travel books from random library booksales. I’ve still been reading in paper-book form, as much as I see the compelling argument for ebook readers, I haven’t made the switch. Here are previous year end lists: 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed. Here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2011.

number of books read in 2011: 56
number of books read in 2010: 48
number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2006: 60
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 4.67
average read per week: 1.01
number read in worst month: 2 (Feb/April/Dec)
number read in best month: 10 (July)
percentage by male authors: 72
percentage by female authors: 28
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 92
percentage of total ambivalent: 5
percentage of total disliked: 2

I read a lot of books by a few authors that I found and liked the year including Tana French, Geraldine Brooks and Connie Willis. Still not really on the ebook bandwagon. Still enjoying reading paper books in bed. Still finishing a few books I started in 2011, I expect this trend to continue. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2011! Feel free to link to your own reading lists in the comments.

So Mayor Bloomberg: where is the People’s Library?

I’ve been waiting a few days to post anything. There have been conflicting reports on what happened to the Occupy Wall Street People’s Library when Zuccotti Park was raided and people in the Occupy Wall Street occupation were removed, sometimes forcibly. There were reports that the 5000+ books from the OWS Library had been tossed in a dumpster. Then there were reports that the materials were removed but not disposed of. The feeling that I got was that your impression of what happened to the stuff was shaped largely by which side of the project you sympathized with the most, but I was holding out hope that the OWS People’s Library materials would be found safe, even if I didn’t personally believe that would be the case. Today I have been reading the official reports from the people who had been working in the library and it seems that while some of their stuff is okay, much of it has been destroyed or missing. This is the current post that is being updated about the state of their stuff and the state of the people who were arrested inside the library [as of now, one appears to be out, one is still being held]. If you’re in the area, they’d appreciate some help sorting through things and especially transporting them.

update: very good overview about yesterday’s activities by Rachel Maddow. Nice shoutout to LibraryThing!