13 Sep 2010

E-reader review: BeBook One

I've had my e-reader for almost 9 months now, and am still really pleased by it, but it definitely does have its pros and cons.

My e-reader is a BeBook One from Endless Ideas. I've never tried reading books on any other e-readers (although I've briefly had my hands on both a Sony E-reader, a Kindle and an iPad), so this isn't a review of one e-reader compared to another, but of e-readers vs. paper books in general.

It's a great conversation starter! I mostly use it when travelling, and have had several fellow train-/bus passengers ask me what it was or "Oh, is that that Amazon thing?" Obviously that isn't so good for shy people, but I love talking books in any shape or form, so it's never bothered me :)

It's so handy when I'm away on vacation! As you know, I read a LOT, so trying to guesstimate how many books to bring with me is always interesting. I hate being caught short (although that's of course more of an issue when going on vacations where I can't just go out and buy a new book, so not so relevant when going to London ;) ), so I tend to pack one for every second day or so, which can get rather heavy at times. With the e-reader I just need to bring one average-sized book and I have enough reading materials for several years :-D

E-books are cheaper than paper books. Not in Denmark though! You definitely don't want to buy e-books here. They are still so new that they often cost 2-3 times as much as a paper book. However, I can get hold of English books online, and there are several places where it's possible to find free e-books either for keeps or to loan.

It's nifty and a shiny new toy! Yes, my geeky heart loves new gadgets :) One of my colleagues saw me receive it (it was sent to work) and though he first laughed at me, he then admitted that new toys were great and new toys with cables were even greater ;)

Yup, nifty and shiny, but not nearly as cozy as paper books. Apparently I have a great emotional attachment to the act of physically turning pages, feeling how many pages I've already read, and feeling how many pages are left. Seeing the number slowly increase just isn't the same.

It's really best for reading from A-Z. Flipping through a book to look for something specific is almost impossible. First of all because I tend to remember where things were written by how the book "feels" (approx. how many pages are left, was it on a right or a left page etc.) rather than the specific page number. Secondly it just takes too long to turn a page. Depending on the format and the size of the book it can take anything from 0.5-3 seconds to turn a page.

Apart from the sensation of reading paper books vs. e-books, there's also the issue of a physical library vs. a digital one. I'm proud of the library I've managed to put together by now. I would like it to be bigger, but who wouldn't?! ;) I like looking at my books, picking out old favourites to read a page here and a paragraph there. I like seeing a wall full of books and knowing that I've read them all. Looking at folders on a computer just isn't the same. Also I like having guests comment on my books and loaning books to others - and most people I know feel a LOT more comfortable browsing bookshelves in a living room, than browsing folders on a computer. The former is perfectly acceptable within etiquette, the latter definitely isn't unless expressed permission has been given.

An e-reader is a lot more egoistic than physical books. Mum didn't bring along enough books when we were on vacation together last. Had this been BER (Before E-Reader ;) ) I could just have given her one of mine to read, as I was bound to have brought several, but we couldn't very well both use the e-reader at the same time, so I couldn't be of any help. And I like being of help!

BeBook itself:
I got the BeBook One because it by far supported the most formats (lit, doc, rtf, txt, pdf, epub, html - just to mention the most common ones). At the time I received it, I'd never had my hands on any other e-readers, so I had nothing to compare it to. However, since then I've also seen a Kindle and the Sony e-reader, and I can see that it's definitely more low-tech than those two. It only has the most necessary features (page turn, zoom), no touch screen or keyboard, the screen's a very dark grey (similar to the old Palm) and it takes longer to turn a page than on the Kindle and the Sony e-reader.

My sensible self is satisfied with it. It fulfills its purpose, and that's really all I need it to do. My geeky self thinks it would be nice with something a bit more high tech and is seriously considering buying a Sony E-reader when I'm in London next ;) Or I might wait a couple of years until I see what actually becomes available in Denmark. Since I'm not out to replace my physical library with an electronic one (far from it!), I can say patient a while longer :)

9 Sep 2010

Book Blogger Hop: Judging Covers

Book Blogger Hop

The question was: Do you judge a book by its cover?

My answer: a clear yes and no.

Yes: When I go book-browsing, I judge a book by its cover. That and its title are the only two things you've got to go by when browsing unknown books, and I absolutely base my desire to pick it up and read the back blurb on whether or not the cover appeals to me. Sometimes an intriguing title can make me move past a lousy cover, but that doesn't happen terribly often, and I actually can't think of any specific examples right now.

I receive books for review, so I don't always get to chose the covers there, and some of them are ridiculously tacky. I'll still give it a chance, but sometimes it really goes against my better judgment. I've just received Eternal Hunger which looks really tacky, and Bloody Good by Georgia Evans was almost as bad - that one turned out to be okay entertaining though. Finally there was Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer, where the book was actually really great, but the cover was so suggestive that for the first time ever, I actually felt embarrassed reading it while on public transportation! See for yourself....

Of course, there are also covers that are so gorgeous that you (or I, at least) almost want to frame them and enjoy them in all their beauty. For me, some of those are The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. Fortunately here the quality of the book fit the quality of the cover :)

No: When I have books recommended to me, I don't stay away from reading them, just because I don't like the cover. And if I have one edition of a book, I don't go out and buy another, just because I discover I prefer that cover. Some of my favourite books have absolutely hideous covers. Cases in point, the below editions of The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. In both these cases I'm able to disregard the extremely ugly covers because I know and love the books so much.

And although I did write above that I judge a book by its cover when I'm browsing books, and probably pass over what may be terrific books because the cover don't catch my eye, neither do I buy books just because of the cover. An intriguing cover isn't enough. It has to be combined with an interesting-sounding back blurb. So I don't judge books that much.

8 Sep 2010

Top Ten Childrens Books

These are a mixture of books I loved as a kid and books I'm looking forward to reading to my own children. It does not include picture books, but only chapter books that I either read myself, or that I had read aloud. We had a great tradition of Dad reading aloud to us (actually lasting until I moved out, although in later years it was only when on vacation) and got through a lot of classics that way.

As usual, I've decided not to include any Danish books, but I would be remiss if I didn't even mention Estrid Ott, as she was one of my all-time favourite authors as a child. Especially her delightful series about the adventures of the stuffed toy-Elephant, Bimbi. It's such a shame that these have never been translated to English!

Picking my Top 10 is hard enough, so there's no way I could list them in order of preference. These are just in no particular order. Oh, I decided I could only pick one book per author, but there's no real "rule" about that ;)

Top 10 Childrens Books

The Year of Plenty - Rebecca LeeAnne Brammer (2009)

I only discovered this book last year, but it's a wonderfully cozy and charming book in the same style as Little House in the Big Woods. The language is suitable for children, and I think it would work very well as a read-aloud book. Definitely a book I plan on reading to my kids - even if I have to translate it to Danish myself! ;)

Professional Shrink - Mac (2008)

Another book I didn't discover until last year, but it's one of the very few childrens books that I read for the first time as an adult and still gave 5 stars on Goodreads. It doesn't need the rosy-coloured glasses of nostalgia, it just works! It's absolutely hilarious and delightfully quirky. Probably best for slightly older kids (8-12), and I wish I'd been aware of it (or rather, that it had been written!) when I was a kid.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (1964)

I couldn't write this list without including Roald Dahl, although it was really difficult to decide which book of his to use - Matilda runs a very close second. However, Charlie... was my introduction to Roald Dahl, so if for no other reason than that, it deserves a mention. I think it may still be my favourite - I've always been intrigued by the chocolate factory, and am sad that Willy Wonka rushed past so many interesting doors with no more than a quick mention. I'd love to roam about the factory more. One of the best things about Tim Burton's film adaption of it, was that he completely managed to capture the magic of the factory, and made me just as eager to explore it as Roald Dahl's book itself did.

Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles - Margaret Mahy (1981)

The first two books on this list were books had never read as a kid, this is a book I haven't read since I was a kid and had it read aloud to me. Margaret Mahy is a Kiwi author, and we discovered her during our first year in New Zealand, where Dad read this book aloud to us, to our great delight. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find it anywhere since, so I haven't read it after 1990! Obviously I don't remember much of it, other than that I LOVED it, so I'm very eager to get my hands on it again at some point. Perhaps it'll show up second hand somewhere.

Margaret Mahy's books were all delightfully quirky, and most of them were illustrated by Quentin Blake (who also illustrated many of Roald Dahl's books). I've always loved his work!

Heidi - Johanna Spyri (1880)

I vaguely recall seeing either a movie or a mini-series based on this book when I was young. Can't remember any details though, other than that I loved it, and immediately went out to find the book. It's a sweet classic which I was gratified to see completely passed the test of time, when I reread it a couple of years ago.

The Ordinary Princess - M.M. Kaye (1980)

I have very vivid memories of my Dad reading this aloud to us when we were in San Tropes, France in 1986. The book hasn't been translated to Danish yet, but Mum would try to keep ahead of Dad, translating a couple of pages at a time, and if we got impatient, Dad would translate on the fly (he's insanely good at that!). I loved the idea of an "ordinary" princess, and a fairytale where the prince and princess of an arranged marriage are finally allowed to get to know each other and fall in love ahead of time :)

Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie (1911)

This falls squarely into the "why haven't I read this before!" category. Again a book I read for the first time last year (what is this with last year? I obviously read a lot of great childrens books!), and I was very impressed by it. It's a lot darker than I had expected, but in a way that I think would go over the heads of most children, and I caught myself laughing out loud several times. I suspect it's a book that - like Narnia - works for both children and adults, but just on different levels.

Gone-Away Lake - Elizabeth Enright (1957)

I was reminded of this book just last month when it was chosen as book of the month for a book club I'm part of. I had completely forgotten how lovely it is, and was delighted to revisit Gone-Away Lake with Julian and Portia. It has all the important things in a childrens book - a magical atmosphere, good solid friendship both among peers and between the ages, and lots of fun adventures. I feel transported to another time whenever I read it.

Children of Noisy Village - Astrid Lindgren (1947)

No list of childrens books would be complete without a mention of Astrid Lindgren. She was a huge part of my reading while growing up. But it was almost impossible to decide which book to list, and I'm still not entirely sure I made the right choice. Other books I considered were Emil, Pippi Longstocking and Ronja Robber's Daughter. The reason I chose Children... is not that it's my favourite (I think that would be either Pippi or Ronja), but that it's the first book I can remember being read and reading myself. I remember loving the chapter where one of the girls gets her own room, and the descriptions of how she arranges it and keeps it nice and neat. I'd always get into a fit of tidying my room after reading it... a fit that would last for as long as it took me to move on to the next chapter ;)

Astrid Lindgren is a must on any book-shelf in a child's room. I can't wait to get to introduce my own children to her books.

Famous Five - Enid Blyton

And of course - Famous Five. I am almost certain that these were the first longer chapter books I read by myself, and I know that they were the first books I started collecting. For many years I'd get at least one for every birthday and Christmas, until I had the entire series - including some of the newer ones, written by ghostwriters. They weren't nearly as good, but I still wanted to read them all! My favourite was (and is) Five Run Away Together, because I loved reading about how they found the cave on Kirrin Island and Anne fixed it up really nicely :)

I still reread the original series every now and again, and fortunately they too pass the test of time. Also, they are remarkable in being a series where (at least in the first books) people actually get older the way they're supposed to! After four summer vacations, Julian went from being 12 to being 16! ;)