Tag: ebooks


Paper book sales soar

Posted 23 October, 2015 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

You’ve probably seen a headline like this on Twitter; the particular one that broke this camel’s back is from CTV News Vancouver. On a light note, I’d like to point out that Canada are reporting paper book sales up just after I had a trip to Canada and filled my suitcase and my partner’s with new books from Indigo and various non-chain bookshops. Coincidence?

Well, yes, but I like it anyway. Even though I was in Calgary, not Vancouver. And made some of my purchases in Edmonton. You’re missing the point.

Anyway, I’m getting pretty sick of these headlines, which inevitably come with lines about how reading a “real” book is more satisfying. More interesting, perhaps, are the articles which I’ve seen that show teens are not big adopters of ereaders and ebooks. I’d love to see more about that, because this is a generation that has grown up reading from screens all the time. Maybe it’s because when we’re reading, we want to escape from the everyday world. When screens are your everyday world, maybe you want something that creates a bit more separation, and has no extra bells and whistles to let you know that you just got five emails.

Maybe it’s because many teens just aren’t that interested in books, and therefore won’t invest in an ereader, and teen purchases of books tend to be one-offs, in paperback. I don’t know; I’d love to see studies on why teens aren’t adopting ereaders/ebooks — link me, if they exist!

But what I really don’t get is the way people are crowing over the “failure” of ebooks. I walk into the eye clinic I volunteer at, and I clock at least three Kindles in each 2.5 hour session. They’re great for making books accessible. Large print books are usually not cost effective: the library I volunteer for have a collection of older ones, but I don’t think we’ve added a new large print title in years. They’re just not available for reasonable prices. But you can choose your own font size — uniquely calibrated to your needs and preferences. You can pick your own font, too. Some ereaders even have the font designed for dyslexic readers as an option.

I’m not seeing the failure here. People are choosing what works for them. Ebooks constitute 17% of sales in Canada, for example. That’s not nothing, or a failure. It’s people choosing the technology they’re comfortable with, and which suits their needs. The stats don’t even tell us anything about whether people use both.

For me, it doesn’t matter. I’m not “more satisfied” reading one way or the other. I love my ereader for the access I get to ARCs and the way ereaders create opportunities for short fiction and serialisation. I love paper books because, yeah, I like the smell of the pages, I like to own things. I like my ereader because it has a backlight which adjusts to current lighting conditions, and I can get new releases cheaper. I love paper books because they make my room look lived in. I love my ereader because I can travel, with all the books I want still at my fingertips. Kindle sales can be amazing, but there’s also the satisfaction of carrying home a nice stack of books.

It’s weird how invested people get in the “death” of ebooks, in how “artificial” they are or how they’re “killing” the book industry. Nope, Amazon across all book sales is much more of a threat than ebook sales as a whole, including non-Amazon sources.

I have no big investment in how other people read. Ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks, audiobooks — whatever floats your boat. Just read, I don’t care in what format.

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Review – Blloon

Posted 30 March, 2015 by in Reviews / 4 Comments

I don’t normally review services on my blog, but since this one is an ebook subscription service, it seems pretty relevant! I came across Blloon a little while ago through another blogger. I can’t figure out who that was, but I think it was a regular visitor here, so please do let me know and I’ll give you the credit.

I’ve been looking for an ebook subscription service for a while, but it looked like the best ones were in the US or really limited when it comes to serving other countries. I do have a Scribd subscription too, because of the access to so many comics on there — finally read Lumberjanes, last week, and my recent attempt on Daredevil was through them as well. But they don’t have a lot of more recent books.Screenshot of the Blloon app

Enter Blloon! I was surprised to note as soon as I opened the app that they have some very recent and high profile releases on offer — The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, for example — and I found a fair number of books I’m interested in. To give you just an idea of my list so far, it’s got some Mercedes Lackey, Robin McKinley, Kelly Link, various non-fiction books… And I’m sure there’s plenty more to discover. There are several ways to discover new books too, with a section of highlights, some reading lists (including one to help you diversify your reading called “Not Reading White Men”!), and of course you can also browse by genre.

As for their subscription model, it’s a very flexible one. You can pay monthly for a certain number of pages (500 or 1,000 are the options at present), or you can buy packs of top-up pages. These pages roll over each month, so you don’t have to use them all up to feel like you’re getting the best of your subscription. You can also earn them by giving feedback, sharing the link, and even net 50 pages by following them on Twitter. The first 10% of every book is free, too, so you can test drive it before you ‘spend’ your pages.

So far, I haven’t spent much time actually reading on Blloon. For one thing, for a reader like me reading a 400 page book every day or two, even 1,000 pages a month could be exhausted in less than a week. For me, it’s probably going to be a supplement to my usual sources, for when I really want a book right away or it’s not available on Kobo or whatever. Still, the interface is nice: clean and simple, and you can adjust font size and the background, depending on what’s comfortable for you. My only quibble really is that it doesn’t flip orientation with my iPad, so if it’s on its stand I’m tilting my head while I’m checking for stuff on Blloon, and I couldn’t read like that (though Sarah from Blloon assures me that there’s an update this very week to fix that). More customisation options might be nice if you need to change the font, but the basic features are all there.

All in all, I definitely recommend Blloon. They’re friendly, helpful, and they have an interesting selection available including most Open Road Media reprints. It is limited to iOS in the UK, at least for the moment, but within the UK it’s easily the best option.

And, pssst. If you want to net me 200 extra pages in my ‘wallet’, sign up to Blloon using this link! Mum, that means you.

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Creating more storage space on a Kobo

Posted 21 September, 2014 by in General / 0 Comments

I don’t know about any other Kobo owners, but I’ve reached the limits of my Mini’s tolerance. It’s had enough, it won’t download any more books, it won’t let me put any more on via Calibre, it is so done with me. That’s part of the problem of having a small, casual type of ereader: I never came to the end of the space on my 3G Kindle Keyboard.

Fortunately, the internet provides. It turns out that the storage on a Kobo — any kind of Kobo, I think, not just a Mini like mine — is a micro SD card. That SD card has the operating system on there as well, so it’s not as simple as pulling that one out and sticking a new 32GB SD card in. According to my extensive research (read: I googled), it’s pretty simple, though. So here goes.

First thing to do is get the stuff you actually need. All in all, excluding a false start with a converter that didn’t work, my Kobo upgrade cost me £15.

Ingredients: 
-Kobo.
-Replacement micro SD card, with 8GB, 16GB, whatever you think you can use up.
-A set of small screwdrivers. (These are mine.)
-A converter that allows you to access a micro SD from your computer. (One that looks like an SD card is a better bet than a USB one; I got mine from Maplin.)
Flash Drive Image Creator. (It’s free.)
Flash Drive Image Writer. (Ditto.)
-Partition software like this. (Also free.)

Step One: Make sure your Kobo is completely powered off. For the Mini, you can achieve this by sliding the power button over and holding it until it tells you it’s powered off on the screen.
Step Two: Remove the decorative back of the Kobo. I’ve found it’s useful to get the corner up, and then slide something flat down the side, like a library card — that pops it out of all the catches without risking your nails or your patience.
Step Three: Carefully unscrew the inner back of the Kobo. There are six screws. You can just loosen them and gently pry the back off, or take them out and put them aside safely, whatever you prefer. The notches on the sides of the inner back are a good place to insert a flat screwdriver and just lever up, but be gentle.
Step Four: Take out the micro SD card you can see inside the device. You need to put that into your converter and load up the Flash Drive Image Creator software. Select your micro SD card as the device, pick a destination for the file (I named it “Kobo backup”, but it doesn’t matter at all), and click to proceed. It may take some time as it is literally copying everything on your original card: software, books, stats, wifi preferences, empty space…
Step Five: Set aside the original micro SD card. You don’t need it now. Take the new micro SD and put it into the converter, and load up Flash Drive Image Writer. Select this micro SD as the destination, find the image you created in the previous step using “browse”, and then press “write image”. Wait.
Step Six: You’ve now got the bigger SD card, but the Kobo won’t use that space without this step, so don’t miss it out. Load up the partition software. You should see your new micro SD as one of the drives listed there. Right click on the “Kobo ereader” segment and choose the option to expand the partition. Use up all the unallocated space by pulling the slider all the way to the right, but don’t touch the rest!
Step Seven: Remove your micro SD from the converter and replace it in the Kobo. Screw the back of the Kobo back on, taking care to press the inner back carefully back into place. This may require more pressure than you think is sensible. I actually achieved it by putting the decorative back on too and clipping that into place, which may take a bit more effort but seems a bit more robust.
Step Eight: Enjoy!

TIP: Older Kobo Minis seem to have come with a 4GB micro SD, even though they only used 2GB of it. It’s worth checking before you buy a new SD card whether that’s the case, because if it is, you can skip the Flash Drive Image steps and just use the partition wizard straight away, gaining yourself 3x the original space available for books.

TIP #2: If you have a Kobo Mini and you’re pretty attached to it, you may not want to risk it. The plastic clips holding the back on are pretty fragile, and Kobo Minis have been discontinued by Kobo. I’ve only obtained my spare through nefarious means! (Read: Asda had one remaining brand new unit left in the country, and I seem to have obtained it by pure luck, which seems pretty nefarious to me, as I’m not usually lucky.) The same basic information applies to upgrading a Kobo Glo’s memory, though the mechanics of getting at the SD card are slightly different.

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Thursday Thoughts: ARCs

Posted 21 August, 2014 by Nikki in General / 2 Comments

Today’s theme from Ok, Let’s Read is about ARCs:

As a blogger, YouTuber or generally bookish person, have you ever received an ARC? Did you request it or did they reach out to you? What advice regarding ARCs would you give to bloggers/reviewers who are just starting out? Do you have a preference between physical ARCs and eARCs? Do you have a specific plan or technique you go buy in order to stay organized when it comes to reading and reviewing ARCs?

Yep, I get quite a few ARCs. Direct from authors, agents, or via Netgalley, Bookbridgr, Edelweiss… I’ve had them both ways. With ARCs, the best advice is to request a lot, but only what you want to read; read everything you get; send feedback in whatever way they ask you to. Honestly, the easiest one so far has been Bookbridgr, though that’s only applicable in the UK. Netgalley and Edelweiss do have good ways to build up your reputation by downloading the ready to read ones, so that’s also a good option.

I don’t have a preference re: physical or ebook, though ebook seems less urgent somehow, so they can just… mount up. I have difficulty staying organised; honestly, at the moment it’s pretty out of control. Help?!

Honestly, though, I’m not calculating about it. I just request what I like and review it when I can.

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Custom Kobo case

Posted 28 June, 2014 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

The good thing about being crafty is being able to make your own stuff. Coming from a crafty family is even better, because when you’re not sure your crochet will work for what you want to do, there’s always your mother’s sewing. I should probably say up front that if you’re interested in something like this, mostly Mum makes pen wraps, but custom stuff could be negotiated. Her Etsy is here. If you like (fountain) pens, you have lots in common with my mother and should definitely follow that link.

I’ve volunteered at an eye clinic for a while, and now I have a new boss, who very kindly lets me read during downtime. Which we don’t get that much time of, but now I don’t have to stand there looking jealously at the patients reading while they wait when we do. Unfortunately, I have no pockets on my work uniform, and when I have the keys I have them dangling from my lanyard, so I just have to keep handing Extremis (that’s my Kobo’s name: spot the fandom!) to the coordinators to look after when I have to work. This doesn’t work so well.

My solution went something like this: “Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum. I need a case for my Kobo with a little clip so I can attach it to my belt so I don’t have to carry it all the time at the clinic, Muuuuuuuuuuuuuum are you listening, Muuuuuuuuuuum have you bought fabric for it yet, Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum when will it be finished?”

(She will probably happily testify that I am indeed that bloody annoying.)

And today I finally have my wish: a lightweight little case that can be clipped to straps to carry, clipped to a beltloop (as in the photo below), slipped in my bag, etc. And it has a little pocket inside, too, for some change or keys or something of that sort.

Photo of my custom Kobo case, with bookworm fabric and my Kobo peeking out Photo of me, wearing a Mass Effect t-shirt and modelling my new Kobo case

(Yes, that is a photo of me, and yes, I think that may well be only the second ever on this blog. Yes, that’s me: short hair that currently needs redyeing but is usually red; chubby; geeky; yes that’s a Mass Effect t-shirt encouraging you to vote Shepard/Vakarian for president/vice president in 2012. And yes, the book my Kobo has active is The Snake Charm, by Laura Lam.)

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If you can afford this, you can afford that

Posted 2 April, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

So today Chuck Wendig posted a thing about piracy and why he won’t put out a tip jar, which I’m not interested in arguing with. What I am interested in arguing with is this whole idea in the comments that if you’re reading ebooks, you must have an ereader, therefore you must be able to afford ebooks. Which is complete crap, guys, I can’t even tell you. Here’s some examples of what’s been said — it’s been said in public, so I think it’s fair to copy/paste:

My thoughts on the “but I can’t afford it!” argument are thus –

1. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford monthly internet? My internet bill (whether via my computer line or smart phone) is roughly thirty times my cost for an average e-book. Granted, that’s an average. I buy a lot of low-cost author-pubbed items at 99c to level out the $6-10 fare. Still, internet costs a lot more than an e-book.
2. You can’t afford a $5 e-book, but you can afford something to read that it on? Whether it’s a computer, smart phone, tablet, or e-reader, these things out-cost the average e-book by at least 5 times if not more. Yes, the e-reader, etc, could be a gift, but seriously? If I was so broke I couldn’t afford a $5 e-book (or the internet service to download it), then getting an e-reader is pretty crappy and mean-spirited unless they were showering me with gift cards throughout the year. It’s like buying someone a saddle when they can’t afford the pony.

And:

So wait…. this guy ‘can’t afford’ to buy all the ebooks he wants (I know that feeling – I can’t afford to buy all the designer dresses I want either… so sad…) but he CAN afford to have bought whatever ebook reader-thingy he reads his pirated books on? Strange, I thought compared to ebooks those things were WAY more expensive… I had to save up for three years to get mine…

So yeah, the first quote is roughly correct, even given my £25 ereader: let’s say an average retail ebook is £5, going by, say, Angry Robot (who publish, among many others, Chuck Wendig). That comes out about right: my reader cost five times the book. But it’s a window to many, many more books, including free books from a range of sources (Project Gutenberg, Smashwords, my local library, Baen, Netgalley, Edelweiss, publishers, authors) and cheap books. It’s easily worth it.

What really gets me is the sniffy judgement going on here. “You don’t spend your money the way I approve of, how dare you pay for internet and an ereader instead of books” — in fact, phrased like that, it’s downright snobbish. I get that it’s not fair authors aren’t getting paid, and some authors and series have suffered from it. But you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life.

Like hey, let me paint you a picture: me, a year ago. I live with my grandmother; my mother pays her some rent for me. I had no job, and I didn’t go on benefits, so I lived entirely on the kindness of my family. Depressing enough to start with, right? And then there was my grandfather’s death, and my spiral into depression and anxiety that had been going on and getting worse since my second year of university. Guess what I clung onto when I was too depressed and scared to get out of bed?

Yup. Since you’re reading this blog, I’m gonna assume you’ve figured it out: books, and the internet.* I was too damn scared to leave the house some days. Going to the library where there were people, and germs, and possibly the need to communicate with people I don’t know — gah. Buying books in a store? Well, like I said, any money I had was my mother’s. So my ereader was a lifeline, and my grandmother paid for the internet, so it was easy enough to download books from Netgalley, the library, etc, etc.

Those are not the only reasons that scraping together £25 for an ereader instead of five books (or rather, three, given UK pricing for dead tree books, or less than five trips to my nearest library last year) might be more cost effective for someone. You just don’t know. So please stop making these assumptions and trying to police how people spend their money, and go back to making the very fair argument that authors deserve to be paid.

(Not to mention the sensible point someone else is making that you don’t need a dedicated ereader to read ebooks. Your most basic smartphone can do it, your computer can do it, my five year old iPod can do it…)

ETA: Since I’ve been accused of piracy/theft in the comments, I will just point out that every method of obtaining books mentioned in this post is both legal and moral. It’s not an argument for piracy, it’s an argument for getting your nose the fuck out of other people’s financial decisions.

 

*Me: Here’s a thing. Imagine the prospect of me without an ereader, especially during the worst times in the last two years. Is there a quotable quote of your reaction to that idea?
Partner: A damn wreck? You’d have been a wreck going in circles, driving yourself insane.
(Pretty fair assessment.)

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Sight loss and access to reading

Posted 13 February, 2014 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

For a while now, I’ve been meaning to make a post about my volunteering work for the RNIB. It’s not all relevant to this blog, but certain aspects of it are. I’ve been having a hard time phrasing it, though, and finally Lynn agreed to help by asking me questions as an interview. So thank you very, very much to Lynn for helping out.

Before we start, I just want to say that while I’m talking about being a volunteer for a couple of charities, I don’t officially represent them. And while I hope that I’ve been sensitive and thoughtful in my answers, I’m aware that there’s nothing wrong with my own sight a pair of glasses can’t fix, and that I may get things wrong or mess up in some way. Feel free to tell me if I do: I’ll be glad to add corrections to my post if necessary.

That said, here’s Lynn!

I know you volunteer for RNIB/Macular Society, but what is it that you do when you’re volunteering?

Well, my role in the Macular Society is really simple: I moderate the forums. I answer questions when I can, offer reassurance if I can, but mostly just make sure there’s no spam. Which is why I’m really glad I have a more active role for the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind). It’s also affiliated with the local Institute for the Blind, and we have a really good network of support out there for people who are blind or partially sighted.

My particular role involves working in the clinic and trying to ensure everything works smoothly: I’m there to help both the patients and the nurses. So if someone’s lost, I tell them where to go; if someone’s just had their eyes dilated, so they can’t see to go get a coffee or get a taxi home, I’m trained to lead them safely and comfortably; if someone’s upset, I sit next to them and talk to them a bit; if someone needs to know how much longer it’s going to be, I go and find out. I also help with the general running of the clinic. If there’s work that you don’t need to be a healthcare professional for, I’ll do it: moving files, sorting files, taking requests to the photographers, running messages… It doesn’t sound like much, but when you know how big the clinics are and how many people we move through them each week, the five hours I volunteer a week is actually a significant help to the nurses.

Can you give any rough estimates on the numbers you alluded to?

I remember being told that in one of our treatment clinics, we move 800 people through each month. And we’re sometimes running seven clinics at a time, as well as the eye casualty. Diagnostic appointments usually take longer than the treatment clinics, so the numbers are probably lower for some of those, but it gives you an idea. The waiting room is often standing room only.

For more context, everyone who comes into the clinic has to first have their ‘visions’ done — a simple eye test to compare their current sight to when they had their last appointment. There is one visions room, divided into two parts, so only two nurses are ever doing visions at one time. Some clinics have a specific nurse assigned in one of the other rooms, if it’s a bit more complicated, but most people will go through the visions room.

That sounds like a lot of people! You must be really busy when you’re at the clinic.

Reaaaally busy. I don’t know what they do when they don’t have a volunteer there, because a lot of the stuff the nurses have to do then means they take even longer to get people through the visions room. Even with me there, we’re nearly always running with a delay.

Wow! I hope they always have at least one volunteer there then. How do the people visiting the clinic spend their time waiting for their appointments?

Some of them nap, which is an entirely valid response to the waiting times! Or glare at me, which is kind of unfair but also understandable. Mostly, though, and what I really wanted to talk about, people bring a book or a magazine, or buy the paper on the way in. That really surprised me, actually: I see a lot of the rest of the hospital, helping people around, and I don’t see as much reading in any other clinic or waiting area. You’d think a badly lit eye clinic full of partially sighted people would be the last place you’d see loads of people reading, but that’s my experience.

That does sound pretty incredible! And I mean that in the most positive sense of the word. Does that mean you sometimes end up talking about books and reading with the visitors too?

“What are you reading?” is the third most popular question (after “Where is the toilet?” and “Why is the clinic running late?”) I get asked. Not that I have chance to be actively reading when I’m on duty, but reading is an easy conversation topic to help distract people or just give them some interaction time with a friendly face. When people are worrying about the effects of losing their sight, too, the idea of not being able to read is what seems to really scare a lot of them. And quite often they know very little about the options out there to help them read for as long as possible.

Does the clinic offer them information on the options they have?

The clinic doesn’t, no. Not as such, anyway. My ‘boss’, the person who coordinates all of the volunteers, has an office in the clinic for that purpose. I was taught about the assistive devices we have, but mostly if someone asks for information, it’s easiest for me to go and find her. Then she’ll arrange to spend some time with them, talking about options like that and registering as legally blind, etc.

The one thing I do talk about when I can is ereaders. I’ve been investigating the various options for several years now, since my mother was diagnosed with macular degeneration, so generally I can help people figure out the best ereader for them, and recommend places to get books. Sometimes if it’s quiet I’ll fetch my own ereader and show them how it works.

So… there isn’t a lot of information to help ensure people are still able to read at the clinic other than in a specialised consultation? Is that why you mention ereaders specifically as something you talk to the visitors about?

There isn’t. I think that’s a problem that comes out of the NHS being very compartmentalised, which is a whole ‘nother rant — basically, instead of treating problems holistically, we treat problems separately. The clinic is there to deal with the physical issues; as far as I know, apart from the volunteers, I’ve never seen anything in place to help with the emotional side of going blind. With the clinic so busy, there isn’t time.

So it’s something I bring up when I can, something I know a lot about and can share that sometimes makes it all a bit easier to handle. I know for me, if I couldn’t read anymore, I’d be devastated. I’d probably end up on (more) antidepressants and just miserable. That’s why I also advocate for large print books in libraries (including the one I volunteer in), and for access to audiobooks and so on. Which is, you know, another reason to love the RNIB: they have a Talking Books subscription service with thousands of books available. (Which always needs help and donations, by the by.)

I see. That is… very sad. I’d be devastated too. Apart from ereaders and audiobooks, what other ways have you learned about that help people continue to be able to read?

Well, sometimes really good lighting is enough to help for some people, but then there’s also a variety of magnifiers. The one I find easiest to use myself (I have tried all of the ones we have available) is one of the variety of dome magnifiers we have. You just place them over the page and slide them along, and they magnify the text as well as concentrating the light on it. There’s CCTV video magnifiers, which take the text and magnify it up on an LCD screen, and have the advantage of being somewhat adjustable, but they cost a lot. I’m talking in the region of £800. For something that’s such a major concern for so many partially sighted people, the technology is difficult to access.

We do have programs that can give people these sorts of things free, but again, it takes resources, and it depends on where you live whether you can access one of those programs.

That sounds awful! I hope as technology increases, the costs will become less prohibitive to people. So ereaders and audiobooks are pretty much people’s best options?

To my mind, yes. An ereader is easily the cheapest option. It wasn’t cheap when I first started researching — I got mine for £180, and I think the Kindle was around that price too, then — but now things have caught up. The ereader I’d most readily recommend is the Kobo Mini: I got it when it was in a sale for £24, it’s pretty easy to use, and it’s lightweight, which is often another bonus for elderly people. The Kindle’s about the same weight and so on, but it doesn’t have the same range of fonts and font sizes. There’s a version of the Kobo with a backlight, too; that or the Kindle Paperwhite might be best for people who need bright light and good contrast.

I know you’ve already mentioned this, but just so we’re clear on this and have it reiterated: different people do have different requirements in ereaders? How do you know which ones work best for who?

It can be a problem, because obviously there’s lots and lots of people coming through the clinic from all sorts of backgrounds. Some of them might not be able to afford even a basic Kindle (~£60), or they might have trouble with coordination so a touch screen might not be a good idea. Generally, I just start by mentioning that I have a Kobo and find it useful, and let them ask me questions, which tends to give me a good idea of what they need. E.g. if they say they have trouble reading on a backlit screen, then obviously I scratch the idea of recommending the Kindle app on an iPad and go for something with e-ink technology.

I see… Do you think you could give people a few recommendations on ereaders to start with? Not too many details, perhaps, but some general pointers that you’ve found the most useful.

My first recommendation is generally to ignore me and get to a shop and try them out! In the UK, WHSmith will usually have display models of Kobos, while Waterstones has Kindles. Big supermarkets sometimes have them out, too. That way you can fiddle with the font options for yourself and just see what suits you.

Good idea! Though I know that I find it helpful to have some idea of what I should be looking for before I go into a shop myself. I feel very self-conscious if I have no idea what I want or need from a shop and I’m sure it’d be much worse if I had to deal with losing my sight as well. Having some idea of what kind of ereader I should be looking for would really help me look for one.

For that, I’d probably end up suggesting chatting to other people with similar issues, e.g. on the Macular Society forums. But in the meantime I’d go through a sort of checklist: what sort of screen do you want/need? Do you want it to do other things as well (i.e. a tablet)? Write down the things you know you can’t do without (like a lightweight unit, large buttons, lighting options, fonts), and that’d give you some idea of what to ask the shop assistants. There’s usually a particular shop assistant who handles ereaders, in my experience, so ask about that and ask to speak to them if possible.

I am actually planning to do a post here sometime soon about the pros and cons of various ereaders, and if anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask me. If I don’t already know, I may be able to find out.

That doesn’t leave me with many questions to ask, beyond thanking you for your time and wishing you loads of good experiences volunteering!

You’re the one who helped me out! Thank you for your time, Lynn.

As I said, if anyone has any other questions, feel free to ask them in the comments — if there’s anything interesting, I may add it to the post, and likewise I’ll add any corrections that may be necessary.

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Bookaholics Anonymous

Posted 23 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have it, or something like that, right? Well. I have a problem.

A photo of all the books I bought today

I think I have a problem: an illustration

Altogether, that’s twelve books (one of them is an omnibus). Plus two ebooks because I had an amazon voucher. Admittedly I also had the help of £10 on a Waterstones card, and my sister being a terrible influence, but really. I have a problem.* And I love it.

So let’s see, what did I get today…?

-Ngaio Marsh omnibus containing A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer and The Nursing Home Murder (Waterstones card)
-Rose Tremain, Restoration (Oxfam)
-John le Carré, Call for the Dead (Waterstones)
-Donald Sturrock’s biography of Roald Dahl (The Works)
-A biography of Amelia Earhart (The Works)
-Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives (The Works)
-Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage (The Works)
-Matt Forbeck’s Vegas Knights (Waterstones)
-Michael Wood’s non-fiction The Conquistadors (Waterstones)
-Chuck Wendig’s Unclean Spirits (Waterstones)
-Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes (Kindle store, with voucher)
-emily m. danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Kindle store, with voucher)

Someone asked me to make a post someday about my eclectic approach to reading: this isn’t it, but it certainly prepares the way for it. Crime fiction, biography, history, urban fantasy, classic horror, YA, LGBTQ fiction, fantasy, historical fiction… And I was reading the SF(ish) In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker on the train.

If it comes between two covers (and ha, yes, my ereaders do; they have leather covers) then I’ll probably read it, if it stays still long enough. Which is not a problem. The problem is that I read so awfully fast.**

*Joking aside, I do actually have a problem in that I have an anxiety disorder that is probably GAD but damn well looks like OCD sometimes. Books are all tied up in comfort for me. Don’t let that make this less amusing for you, though. I get through it by laughing at my overflowing shelves.

**Yes, I have calculated my rate of expenditure on books, and it is roughly equal to the worth of the books I’m reading. Seriously.

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RIP print?

Posted 22 October, 2013 by Nikki in General / 13 Comments

Last year, there was a lot of noise around the Hay literary festival about a particular bookseller, Derek Addyman, deciding to go on a crusade of sorts against ereaders. You can read all about that here (warning: link goes to the Daily Fail website); suffice it to say that this is a guy who declares Kindles his “enemy”, talks about people who have ereaders having “no soul”, etc, etc. He actually banned people with ereading devices from his shops.

Display of books with a tombstone and a "bleeding" Kindle

RIP Kindle

I’m pro-ereader, I’d better say this up front. And back when that article was published, I sent an email to Derek Addyman, suggesting the need for some tolerance and understanding. I never received any acknowledgement or reply, so I’d like to post a modified version here. There’s plenty of other anti-ereader rhetoric about, like Franzen’s diatribe or Sherman Alexie’s comment about ereading being like “masturbating with a condom”, so I think this isn’t just a thing Derek Addyman needs to hear.

My name is Nikki; I’m a twenty-four year old English Literature postgrad. I live and breathe books, and was raised in a house where I was daily surrounded by books and encouraged to read them, with supervision if they might be disturbing to me. These days I read an average of two books per day, and currently have around thirty books out of the library. My mother and father are similarly voracious readers, and my mother has even said that she couldn’t live without books.

The fact is, in your world, she would have to. She has macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of visual impairment in the UK. Books with small print are already very difficult for her to read, and her condition is only going to deteriorate more. A couple of years ago she bought her first ereader, which of course allows her to adjust the size of the font to a comfortable size for her to read without difficulty or straining her eyes. As a result, we can still share the experience of reading and talking about reading. This “soulless” invention allows my mother to continue her lifelong hobby of reading, to read the same books as me, to keep up with popular books that people are talking about, even to read literature related to her job. Without it, she would not be able to do so anymore.

She still loves bookshops, of course. Just last week, the two of us went into a local bookshop and she helped me pick some new books. She buys books for me all the time, and continues to support the publishing industry through buying ebooks as well. She’s even bought some of the books she’s excited about in hardback, just to have them. I don’t think she’s your enemy.

I also own an ereader. Right now, just beside me, I have my Kindle loaded with several hundred books, my tablet which I read advance e-galleys on, and twelve paperback books in my ‘to read soon’ pile. My bookshelves are loaded high with books. I can guarantee you that Kindle users like me are not contributing to bookshops going out of business! Many polls I have seen online show that a lot of people buy both “dead tree” and electronic books.

“Books are sociable and people stop and talk to each other about them. Kindles are just a phase and they won’t last. They are our enemy.” That is what you are quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. In your desire to promote the paper books, you would want people like my mother and me to be unable to talk about books — without ereaders, they would become a painful subject, because she could not read them.

I’m sure you didn’t intend to be rude to people with disabilities, but my mother was very upset by your article and its heartless accusations of people who use ereaders being “robots” or “soulless” or perhaps even the “enemy”, to extend your rhetoric. I am not currently a customer of yours, and nor do I intend to become one while you continue this campaign against ereaders.

There are, I will note, legitimate concerns about ereaders. The problems of DRM and censorship, for example; the digital divide (post by Seanan McGuire); even concerns about how environmentally friendly they are considering people’s tendency to indulge in fads. And yes, ebooks are changing (though not killing) the publishing industry.

But seriously. I love ebooks, and I love dead tree books. Sometimes I’ll end up carrying two ereaders and two dead tree books in my handbag. The two really aren’t mutually exclusive — and while I understand Franzen’s fears about the impermanence of ebooks and how that might affect society, I also see positive effects as well. I’m a volunteer for the RNIB and the Macular Society: so many people I come across are frightened of losing their ability to read, and so grateful for everything that helps them carry on reading. And it’s not just people with visual impairment, but people who physically can’t hold and manipulate a book. Heck, my Kobo even has a font option for dyslexic people. Ereaders offer a way to bridge some of the gaps in society, to level things out and make life better for everyone.

And hey, here’s a picture of a selection of my bookshelves, just to prove that I really mean what I say about loving both formats…

RIP print?

RIP print?

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