Miscellany 2: Electrons and Paper

Media, Reading & Writing

1. First today, the writer’s tools. Okay, Mac Mountain Lion OS installed, and the first reaction is – it’s bloody fast and more intuitive. I like the search engine being built into the URL and smoothness of operation, still don’t get Mission Control, and like the dock-based Reminders, which replaces the need for Stickies (although I don’t see why you need both – Stickies is required by the OS). But there aren’t really that many changes I can see apart from speed.

2. Congrats to Waterstone’s for starting to sort out their website, but the e-books section still needs work. I’m now on my third e-reader, and have found my buying habits settling down to a roughly equal split between e-books and paperbacks. The loser in this, for me, is the purchase of fiction hardbacks, which seem increasingly overpriced, too heavy to carry around and rather pointless.

3. Social networking is getting more complicated for authors (for example, I have two Facebook profiles, one run jointly by myself and my publisher), which starts to make me wonder if a website is even needed now. By the time I’ve done the day’s roundup it’s taken a minimum of an hour and a half from the morning. And it shouldn’t be a chore – I prefer to do it because I enjoy it.

4. British libraries are in crisis. As the cuts bite and doors close, many are being staffed by unpaid volunteers. But they could be set for a radical overhaul, with books offered beside coffee, IT, murder mystery nights, poetry evenings and open mic sessions if the plans of a private US company be given the green light.
The Maryland-based company LSSI is planning to take over 15% of Britain’s libraries. The “slacks and trainers mentality” among librarians will be abolished, says an LSSI spokesman. In its place will be “a rigorous service culture”. On the surface this is a red rag to a bull, but I wonder if it could help libraries regain their place for new generations. And there are certain libraries I’ve visited which clearly aren’t successful, despite the hard work and good intentions of the staff.

5. What’s on my reading list this week? ‘Seven Days’ by terrific SA author Deon Meyer (pictured below), ‘Farewell Victoria’, a now vanished novel by TE White about the life of a 100 year-old man, the demented ‘The Atrocity Archives’ by Charles Stross, and ongoing;’The Weird’, a superb but insanely vast collection of strange stories by Jeff and Ann Vandemeer that’s physically difficult to carry, better absorbed on Kindle.

15 comments on “Miscellany 2: Electrons and Paper”

  1. Alison says:

    I have to say I like what you say re the libraries. Let’s face it, SOMETHING needs to be done to help them – I work in York which does seem to be doing its best in that there are regular author readings/ties in with the city. It’s the 800th anniversary of the Royal Charter this year and so there are loads of events going on there – treasure hunts within the library for kids and so on. It also has a cafe as well as the usual internet access and so on, so it really is trying. It’s not a library as I think of them – I actually like the hushed, respectful tone of yore – but if it helps keep them alive and bring the next generation of readers along, then so be it.

  2. Jez Winship says:

    The Weird is a fantastic anthology, which has a great reach, incorporating many European stories as well as others from across the world. It manages to include most of my favourite writers – Mervyn Peake, M.John Harrison (with both the brilliant Egnaro and the quietly devastating The New Rays), Angela Carter, Harlan Ellison, Elizabeth Hand and James Tiptree Jr. The Vandermeers’ associated Weird Fiction Review site is excellent, too.
    But yes, the book is a bit of a wrist-breaker.

  3. Mike Cane says:

    Which eBook device are you using now?

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    “Farewell Victoria” is a fine book with great homelife detail. (Wish there was something like it for Leipzig in the 18th century. That’s a bit of a sketchy period in the English language, rather like walking up and down the beach (or through resources in this case) swinging a metal detector. (Yes, I was on vacation at the Delaware shore last week: sun, water, seafood and revision. Three out of four ain’t bad.)
    Hope you’ve read “The Goshawk”? Excellent.
    “The Book of Merlyn”? A fine reflection on life, death, war and such. Another good read by T. H. White.
    Envy your book-reading ability. Depending on what I read, I can only get through 40 to 60 books a year.
    Took a cource in speed reading at the university and seldom use the skill as it sucks all the juice out of reading. Took touch typing, too, but while I did I had to write a paper or so a week and needed to employ my hunt, peck and muttering skills to do that.

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    Great news for those of us who rely on Amazon.UK!
    An email just binged in to report – wait for it – Bryant & May and the Invisible Code has shipped. As they used to say: “Be still my heart.”
    Now, if only the Royal Post wagon can make it through the Olympic crowds of London to the airport.
    Sahhhh.. Bit of a hash up with the (,(( ,) & ))’s above.

  6. John Howard says:

    Well Dan, I dont know about about you but I received my Bryant and May and the Invisible Code this morning. Hoorah… It is sitting beside me in all its hardback glory daring me to open it and start reading.

    And a small note for ADMIN, I “found” Charles Stross at about the same time as I found you, as an author you understand, and can only say that I think that anyone who likes your books will like his. Try Halting State as another good one.
    Hadnt heard of Deon Meyer before so will check him out. Have you tried any Jasper Fford at all?

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Unfair, John. What country are you in? Don’t say the States just to whiz me off.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    My account says it is shipping Aug. 1 for probable delivery Aug. 10th. I’m Canada, Dan, so let’s see if there’s a Commonwealth preference that gets it here first. (oh, no, that only has to do with tariffs and they include the U.S. for some reason.)

  9. glasgow1975 says:

    Charles Stross! Love him too, and he covers a few different genres too, particularly like his Merchant Princes series, alternate reality world hopping saga.

  10. John Howard says:

    It’s OK Dan. I’m in the UK so have an unfair advantage..

  11. Ford says:

    Just this minute ordered my copy; due 3rd August. Mmm! Here in my part of Bourenmouth, we don’t need the Olympics to slow postal deliveries! We have to collect our post from the sorting office; as Royal Mail can’t manage to get post to the right street, let alone through the right door!

    Would a discussion about the decline of Royal Mail be as disappointing as the one about libraries?

  12. admin says:

    I struggle with Jasper, although I’m planning to try again as he gave me a copy when we did a panel together. Nice bloke.

    Oh, and I’m using a Kindle Touch now. Happy with that, won’t want a Fire because of the backlighting.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Isn’t it miscellany, Admin? Vancouver’s main branch is always busy on all of its 6 floors, as is Burnaby’s main branch which used to have the reputation of the most heavily used library in Canada. The branch libraries are getting smaller all the time but they have events, patronage, and can get you that rare book from wherever it’s lurking. I agree that libraries have to move with the times (the librarian who didn’t want “messy looking” signage on shelves and refused to become involved with computers retired long ago)but what will keep them important is meeting the needs and wants of the taxpayers. I’m not sure having a company take over what should be a free service is quite the way to go.

  14. admin says:

    Yes, Helen, the rogue ‘e’ slipped in to the header setting. In my defence let me point out that I was writing this at 6:30am in a coffee shop against a background of very loud hip-hop.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    I don’t know why we pay attention to spelling mistakes here, admin, when we don’t in other places and I did give other people a chance to do it. I’d guess we’re heavily into literacy and won’t cut each other any slack. There’s two slang phrases in one short sentence; I am aware of that aspect as well. Sighs deeply and apologizes for compulsive behaviour.

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