Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Interesting article on e-readers and their future

I just finished reading this article on the future of e-readers: Is the E-Reader Dead? (not e-books I have to note) and I'm wondering what your opinion is.

Personally, I hope not! I love my Kobo Glo e-reader! I've been using one since the very first generation Kobo came out - which I think was around 2010? I still have my 2nd gen one around somewhere too. For a while I used a Kobo Vox, but I've happily gone back to the e-ink e-readers for several reasons.

The primary reason I've returned to the e-ink e-reader - I bought my latest one a couple of years ago, the Kobo Glo HD is the battery life. Overall, my opinion since is that I love it - the touch screen, ability to read footnotes, and the adjustable light, but overall the battery life!

I can take it on a week-long camping trip and not have to worry about running out of battery and reading-time. What's more, I don't have to read with a flashlight/headlamp at night either in the tent or by the fire. Personally at night I find that 2-4% brightness for the lighting works well, which is also dim enough that it doesn't always bother my camping partner.

I compare that with my iPad, which has about a ten hour battery life before I need to recharge it, or my old Kobo Vox which was about 6-8 hours of battery life and slow! Or at least looking back on it it seems slow.

One of the best things with the e-ink e-reader over using an app on my phone/tablet - besides it's habit of sucking battery-power - is the ease of loading the many non-Kobo e-books I have on my computer - the early Honor Harrington series thanks to the CD that came with the hardcover edition of War of Honor, similar collections from other CD's, electronic ARC's and even small-site purchases of e-books. Run those into Calibre, make sure they're in the right format, and then load them onto the e-ink reader.

If I'm doing the same thing with books on my iPad e-reader, I have to do the format checks, then e-mail the e-pub file to myself and then download it into the Kobo app on my iPad. Much more of a hassle in my mind. However, there may be a faster method that I'm not aware of.

Maybe it's a personal thing, but I like having a dedicated device for reading - I remember with the Kobo Vox how easy it was to read for a few minutes then get side-tracked with the games I'd loaded onto that device before coming back again to read for a bit more. Reading on a dedicated device reduces that temptation - though the fact I'm generally carrying a phone with games on it mitigates that.

For the most part, while I prefer paper books, the one thing I can't deny is the convenience of an e-reader of any sort for books like The Mists of Avalon, or The Deed of Paksenarrion - both books that are 800 pages plus, and often over a thousand pages each. Forget taking something like that traveling! Camping or otherwise. Even when traveling, I'm spoiled for choice, with probably a hundred e-books or so with me. Despite that, I'll still carry a couple of paper books too - no way I'm going to risk my e-reader taking it out on my kayak. An inexpensive mass-market paperback that I bought used - and can find again easily? That I'll take, sealed inside a zip-lock bag.

One of the other bonuses with e-books is the "instant gratification" factor. Finished one book and want to read the next in the series? Go online to the store and purchase/download it right away. No having to order the book and wait for it to come in. I will admit to buying some series this way for exactly that reason.

And finally, there's no need to be embarrassed by a book cover any more. Romance novel? No-one's going to see it and judge it - especially if you have a cover on your e-reader. Racy cover? same thing. Again, I have a couple of series that I'm only buying in e-form for just that reason.

Really for me, the dedicated e-ink e-reader really comes down to three main points that raise it over the e-reading apps for phones and tablets (though I'll admit to using the app on my iPad, and I also have the Kobo app on it, though I rarely use it).

First of all, the battery life - it's challenging enough keeping my phone and iPad charged when camping. Having a device for a pastime I do a lot of where I don't have to worry about the battery is a really big plus (I'll easily read for two or three hours a day sometimes).

Second is the convenience of being able to quickly and easily load on non-Kobo or books.

And the third point in favor of the e-ink e-readers: No screen-glare! Which does actually raise a fourth point - how easy it is to read on an e-ink screen under any lighting conditions - bright sun in sunglasses? no problem. Dim shade? Easy. Late at night? Simple. It's so much easier on my eyes. What's more, the e-ink readers give you more control over how the text is laid out on the page/screen I've found. More font-options, margin and line-spacing controls as well.

Overall, as you can see, I'm really hoping that the article linked above isn't correct in it's predictions.

What's your take on the issue?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

More Book Buying!

Yep, I seem to be buying books rather than reading this month. Bought a couple more yesterday - one based on a recommendation from a mailing-list discussion thread, and one I'd meant to buy a few years ago - this one I special ordered. Also I bought a tribute-book/biography for Gord Downie of Canada's Tragically Hip music group.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World - Peter FrankopanThe Silk Roads: A New History of the World
Peter Frankopan
Copyright Date: 2017 (Reprint)

The product description:
“This is history on a grand scale, with a sweep and ambition that is rare… A proper historical epic of dazzling range and achievement.” —William Dalrymple, The Guardian 

The epic history of the crossroads of the world—the meeting place of East and West and the birthplace of civilization

It was on the Silk Roads that East and West first encountered each other through trade and conquest, leading to the spread of ideas, cultures and religions. From the rise and fall of empires to the spread of Buddhism and the advent of Christianity and Islam, right up to the great wars of the twentieth century—this book shows how the fate of the West has always been inextricably linked to the East.

Peter Frankopan realigns our understanding of the world, pointing us eastward. He vividly re-creates the emergence of the first cities in Mesopotamia and the birth of empires in Persia, Rome and Constantinople, as well as the depredations by the Mongols, the transmission of the Black Death and the violent struggles over Western imperialism. Throughout the millennia, it was the appetite for foreign goods that brought East and West together, driving economies and the growth of nations.

From the Middle East and its political instability to China and its economic rise, the vast region stretching eastward from the Balkans across the steppe and South Asia has been thrust into the global spotlight in recent years. Frankopan teaches us that to understand what is at stake for the cities and nations built on these intricate trade routes, we must first understand their astounding pasts. Far more than a history of the Silk Roads, this book is truly a revelatory new history of the world, promising to destabilize notions of where we come from and where we are headed next.
Based on the description, and the discussion where it was recommended, this looks like it'll be an interesting read - just not sure when I'll get to it. I'm so busy with work right now that I'm barely reading anything at all.

I also ordered myself a copy of:

The Emperor's Agent - Jo GrahamThe Emperor's Agent
Jo Graham
Crossroads Press
Copyright Date: 2013

The product description:
Courtesan, actress, medium . . . spy. 1805: Europe stands poised on the brink of war. Elza is content with her life in the demi-monde, an actress and courtesan in the glittering society of France's First Empire, but when her former lover is arrested for treason, Elza is blackmailed into informing on her friends and associates. She has one alternative-to become the secret agent of the most feared man in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte! France's invasion of England is imminent, but a spy in the camp of the Grand Army threatens the secret plans. Taking the Emperor's commission to catch the spy means playing the deadly game of spy versus counterspy. However, this is no ordinary espionage, but backed by the power of the witches of England determined to hold England's sea wards against invasion. Only an agent who is herself a medium can hope to unravel their magic in time-with the life of the man Elza loves hanging in the balance. From the theaters of Paris to the sea cliffs that guard the Channel, from ballrooms and bedrooms to battlefields corporeal and astral, Elza must rely on her wits, her courage, her beauty, and her growing talents as a medium for she must triumph-or die!
If my memory serves, The Emperor's Agent is the sequel to The General's Mistress, which I read back when it first came out. I think it's time for a re-read to refresh my memory of events before I read The Emperor's Agent. My understanding is that these two books are loosely connected to the Numinous World series (Black Ships, Hand of Isis and Stealing Fire).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

And another new book arrival

I'm starting to run out of ways to title these posts. Anyway, the final book in last month's ordering/buying spree arrived this morning.

The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe - Ed. Judith M. Bennett and Ruth Mazo KarrasThe Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe
Ed. Judith M. Bennett and Ruth Mazo Karras
Oxford University Press
Copyright 2013 (reprint 2016)

The product description:
The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe provides a comprehensive overview of the gender rules encountered in Europe in the period between approximately 500 and 1500 C.E. The essays collected in this volume speak to interpretative challenges common to all fields of women's and gender history - that is, how best to uncover the experiences of ordinary people from archives formed mainly by and about elite males, and how to combine social histories of lived experiences with cultural histories of gendered discourses and identities. The collection focuses on Western Europe in the Middle Ages but offers some consideration of medieval Islam and Byzantium.

The Handbook is structured into seven sections: Christian, Jewish, and Muslim thought; law in theory and practice; domestic life and material culture; labour, land, and economy; bodies and sexualities; gender and holiness; and the interplay of continuity and change throughout the medieval period. It contains material from some of the foremost scholars in this field, and it not only serves as the major reference text in medieval and gender studies, but also provides an agenda for future new research.
With all of the other history books I've bought recently, I don't know when I'm going to have a chance to really get into this one, but it's one I really wanted to add to my collection. I'm hoping it will start to fill some gaps in my collection - which is fairly heavily focused on the U.K. and on the Crusades (for which interest I thank a couple of really good teachers I've had, and also my interest in historical fiction). Many of the remaining books are former textbooks I've kept since my university student days. Still, it's time to branch out a bit, and this is a start.

I know I've had quite an interest in women's lives during the Medieval period - part of my interest in people's day-to-day lives. and that's the direction I've been taking my library to an extent.

Anyway, it's time to step back from my ever-growing bookshelves, and refocus on this book.
Looking at the table of contents, there are essays on: Women and Gender in Islamic traditions, Women and Laws in Early Medieval Europe, Slavery, Gender at the Medieval Millennium, Women and Gender in Canon Law, Urban Economies, Gender and Daily Life in Jewish Communities and so many more articles.

I have the feeling that I'm going to be wishing I'd bought the hardcover version and not the paperback - despite the fact that I can't really justify ether purchase with the number of unread books I already have.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

More Newly Arrived Books

Yesterday I picked up two more books I'd ordered last month, and also ended up buying two other books - one a planned purchase, but the other was spur-of-the-moment. Endcaps in my favorite bookstore can be dangerous to the budget!

The books are (ordered books first):

The Disposessed - Ursula K. Le GuinThe Disposessed
Ursula K. Le Guin
Harper Voyager
Copyright Date: 1994 (reprint)

The product description:
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. he will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.
This is one of the books I ordered after I heard about Ursula K. Le Guin's death. I'd been meaning to read more of her books, and never got around to it.

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le GuinA Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin
HMH Books for Young Readers
Copyright Date: 1968

The product description:
Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.
It's been a very long times since I read this one and it's sequels. Long enough to be honest that I don't remember any of the story-line or plot points, just that I did read it as a kid. As a result, I am planning to include this one on my unread fiction books list.

Into The Fire - Elizabeth MoonInto The Fire
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Copyright: February 2018

The product description:
In this new military sci-fi thriller from the Nebula Award–winning author of Cold Welcome, Admiral Kylara Vatta is back—with a vengeance.

Ky beats sabotage, betrayal, and the unforgiving elements to lead a ragtag group of crash survivors to safety on a remote arctic island. And she cheats death after uncovering secrets someone is hell-bent on protecting. But the worst is far from over when Ky discovers the headquarters of a vast conspiracy against her family and the heart of the planet’s government itself.

With their base of operations breached, the plotters have no choice but to gamble everything on an audacious throw of the dice. Even so, the odds are stacked against Ky. When her official report on the crash and its aftermath goes missing—along with the men and women she rescued—Ky realizes that her mysterious enemies are more powerful and dangerous than she imagined.

Now, targeted by faceless assassins, Ky and her family—along with her fiancĂ©, Rafe—must battle to reclaim the upper hand and unmask the lethal cabal closing in on them with murderous intent.
Into The Fire is the sequel to Cold Welcome, which I have to admit I haven't read yet - time to dive back into the world of Kylara Vatta - possibly from book one, Trading in Danger. It also has a great cover image!

The final book I bought was a complete impulse buy:

Victoria The Queen - Julia BairdVictoria The Queen 
Julia Baird
Random House
Copyright Date: October 2017 (reprint)

The product description:
The true story for fans of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, this page-turning biography reveals the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen—a Victoria for our times. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, this stunning new portrait is a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.


Victoria the Queen, Julia Baird’s exquisitely wrought and meticulously researched biography, brushes the dusty myth off this extraordinary monarch.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. In a world where women were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.

Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping conventional boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

Drawing on sources that include fresh revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning.
Thanks to the show The Crown, I've gotten a lot more interested in the British Royal Family, so I couldn't help but pick up this book. Now I've just got to find the time to read it (along with the several hundred other unread books in my collection). 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Two new books arrived

Silence Fallen - Patricia BriggsSilence Fallen
Patricia Briggs
Copyright Date: January 2018

The product description:
In the #1 New York Times bestselling Mercy Thompson novels, the coyote shapeshifter has found her voice in the werewolf pack. But when Mercy's bond with the pack--and her mate--is broken, she'll learn what it truly means to be alone...

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against Alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes--only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in a foreign country.

Unable to contact Adam through their mate bond, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a supernatural war.
I've got to play catch-up with this series! I'm sure I haven't read the last book, but I'm not sure about the one before that (though technically it's part of the Alpha and Omega spin-off and not the main line of the series, the Mercy Thompson books).

Nonetheless, I think it's time to do a re-read and catch-up - this has been one of my favorite urban fantasy series since I picked it up (around the time Bone Crossed came out I think).

The other book I picked up yesterday was one by Ursula K. Le Guin:

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le GuinThe Left Hand of Darkness
Ursula K. Le Guin
Ace Books
Copyright: 1987

The product description:
Ursula K. Le Guin's groundbreaking work of science fiction—winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards.A lone human ambassador is sent to Winter, an alien world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants can change their gender whenever they choose. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the strange, intriguing culture he encounters...

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.
I've not read much of Ursula K. Le Guin's books, other than the first three or four of the Earthsea series, and that was so long ago that I've forgotten all of it. So, after hearing of her death last month, I ordered several of her books - ones I'd meant to read, but have yet to get around to. This was the first of those orders to arrive.


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