Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Distance Between Us by Bart Yates eBook editions

Every once in a while you stumble across a true gem; and The Distance Between Us qualifies as one of those gems.  The book is classified by the Publisher as a GLBT title for reasons I do not understand.  Yes, one of the main characters happens to be gay, but it is hardly the point of the story. 

The story revolves mainly around Hester, a compelling old lady.  Although I am not altogether sure she would appreciate that description.  Because she uses anger to hold the world at bay, she is not exactly a likable character.  An extremely articulate and witty character; but not so likeable.  She is bitter; she drinks to much; she is acerbic and does not suffer fools.

Her children, particularly her daughter, are as hostile and verbally adept as she.  Her ex-husband is just flat out disgusted with her and the circumstances of their divorce.  This is one dysfunctional, unhappy family!

It is an interesting phenomena of life that if the message is right, the messenger hardly matters.  And Alex is a most unlikely messenger.  He is a a bright secretive and troubled young man.  A totally unlikely catalyst for acceptance and forgiveness.

While Heather and her family use words and booze as a way to run away from pain; Alex has actually physically run away from his.  Heather and Alex are two wounded souls who come together and somehow help each other heal.

Yates is a powerful writer.  His characters are finely nuanced and is use of language is exquisite.  But the real power is his writing comes from his ability to inject just the right amount of humor into an otherwise painful story.  The humor makes it readable and memorable long after the last words are read.

This is an amazing story!  Check it out for yourself!

Here is the publisher synopsis:

Hester Parker resides in an elegant Victorian house in the town of Bolton, Illinois. She spends her evenings listening to the lush tones of Mahler and Chopin, drinking sub-par Merlot, and reflecting on a life that has suddenly fallen apart. At seventy-one, Hester is as brilliant and sharp-tongued as ever, capable of inspiring her music students to soaring heights or reducing them to tears with a single comment. But her wit can't hide the bitterness that comes with losses:  the loss of her renowned violinist husband, Arthur Donovan, who left her for another woman, and the loss of her career as a concert pianist after injuring her wrist.

When Hester decides to rent out the attic apartment to Alex, a young college student, she has no idea of the impact he will have on her life and her family. Good-natured and awkward, with secrets of his own, Alex becomes an unlikely confidant and a means of reconnecting with the world outside Hester's window. But his presence also exposes old memories and grief that Hester has tried to bury. Over the course of one remarkable month, Hester will confront angry accusations, long-hidden jealousies, and the inescapable truth that tore her family apart and might, against all odds, help reconcile them again. And her brief friendship with Alex will leave each with a surprising legacy -- acceptance of the past, a seed of comfort in the present, and hope for the future, wherever it may lead.

"Absorbing. . .brims with quiet intensity."--Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bowker's "2008 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Report"

Bowker (the company that distributes and assign ISBN numbers to books) and Publisher's Weekly (the biggest publishing industry magazine) have released a new report about consumer book purchases and reading habits. For a mere $1000, you can buy and read the whole report. For the rest of us there is the press release.

The press release notes that eBooks and digital publishing are the bright notes in an otherwise dim industry outlook. The also offer the following info:

  • 57% of book buyers are women yet women purchase 65% of the books sold in the U.S.
  • Mystery books are the most popular genre for book club sales, with 17% of all purchases of mystery books coming directly from book clubs
  • Generation X consumers buy more books online than any other demographic group, with 30% of them buying their books through the Internet
  • 21% of book buyers said they became aware of a book through some sort of online promotion or ad
  • Women made the majority of the purchases in the paperback, hardcover and audio-book segments
  • Men accounted for 55% of e-book purchases

Monday, July 27, 2009

World eBook Fair Top 20 eBooks

The World eBook Fair has been tracking what people download and here are the preliminary results in order of popularity:

1       Emma, By Jane Austen
2       Linux Complete Command
3       Little Woman, by Lousia May Alcott
4       Nostromo, by Joseph Conrad.
5       Workbook in Higher Algebra
6       A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
7       A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne
8       The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio
9       Overview of Servlets and JavaServer
10      RedHat Linux Unleashed
11      Win XP Pro
12      Cousin Bette, by Honore de Balzac
13      The Beautiful Book Of Nursery Rhymes, by Frank Adams
14      Workbook in Higher Algebra
15      C+ Programming
16      MY SQL manual
17      Colonel Chabert, by Honore de Balzac
18      The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, by  Arthur Conan Doyle
19      The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
20      The Time Machine, by Herbert George Wells

This is a fascinating mix of literature and technology. I am sure there there is a message or at the very least some interesting conclusions to be drawn from looking at this list.  I am still trying to figure them out.  Any ideas?

In the meantime remember this:

eBooks About Everything and the World eBook Fair are offering a 15% discount on any book in the store. Remember that new books and the best sellers are already discounted 10% which means a 25% discount on those categories.

Just use this coupon code at check out -- z9WebF4

Friday, July 24, 2009

Amazon Apology -- the Final Chapter in this Particular Saga

amazon logo Jeff Bezos -- in an effort to close the book on the Amazon deletion of books on the Kindle -- issued a "deep apology" yesterday.

. . . the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle.  Our 'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

Now maybe we can all get back to actually reading. . . Tags: ,,,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Wild Water Walking Club by Claire Cook eBook edition

Wild Water Walking Club falls into the category of a great beach read.  This is the fourth Claire Cook title I have enjoyed, starting with Must Love Dogs and Summer BlowoutShe is an entertaining author who understands the complexities and inherent contradictions between love, good sense and human behavior.

One of the things I enjoy most about her books is that even though the usual heroines are middle aged women, there are always an eclectic blend of multi-generational characters.  These kids, young women, middle aged and seniors interact and create a comfortable mix,

Another aspect of her writing that I always enjoy is here ability to mix totally believable story lines with a couple that stretch credibility.  And yet they somehow work together.  Probably because you sense that she is more interested in the characters than in some carefully derived plot line.

I am a daily walker -- walk from 2 to 3 1/2 miles a day.  A more or less useless urban ritual to keep me fit and clears my head.  But all those miles never really seem to add up to anything tangible.  These women counted steps and miles and made them count for a concrete goal -- a trip across country.

I love the idea of walking to a goal.  The smell of lavender makes me happy.  But the whole clothesline thing seemed out of place and kind of lost me.  I admit, however, that it makes for a very funny urban guerilla scene later in the book.

I am seriously considering where I want to "walk" to this year.  I'll keep you posted.

Here is the publishers recap:

Just put one foot in front of the other. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But when Noreen Kelly takes a buyout from her job of eighteen years and gets dumped by her boyfriend in one fell swoop, she finds it hard to know what that next step is—never mind take it. At first Noreen thinks maybe her redundancy package could be an opportunity, a chance to figure out what to do with the rest of her life while her company foots the bill. Sure, she may have gotten high to “Witchy Woman” and grooved to “Sweet Baby James” back when James Taylor had hair, but she isn’t ready for her AARP card. Not yet.

But it’s the first time in a great many years that Noreen has time to herself—and she has no idea what to do with it. When she realizes that she’s mistaken her resume for her personality, Noreen knows that she has to get moving, so she puts on a new pair of sneakers and a seriously outdated pair of exercise pants, and walks. She doesn’t get very far at first—just to the end of her street, Wildwater Way—but she perseveres, and when she’s joined by her neighbors Tess and Rosie, Noreen realizes that walking is not an extreme sport. It can actually be fun.

As the Wildwater women walk and talk, and talk and walk, they tally their steps, share their secrets, and learn what women everywhere are finding out—that time flies and getting fit is actually fun when you’re walking with friends. Throw in a road trip to Seattle for a lavender festival, a career-coaching group that looks like a bad sequel to The Breakfast Club, a clothesline controversy that could only happen in the ’burbs, plenty of romantic twists and turns, and a quirky multigenerational cast of supporting characters, and the result is an experience that’s heartfelt, exuberant, and above all, real.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Amazon Kindle Agreement

legal money I mentioned the agreement in passing yesterday.  Later in the day I stumble upon this great blog piece that is an annotated version of the Kindle license agreement

Stowe Boyd does a great job of taking the agreement apart and explaining it in plain English.  He concludes:

This is an enormous mess for Bezos and Amazon, and the license agreement is not going to protect them from their misdeeds.

Probably not good news for Amazon because class action law firm KamberEdelson is looking at suing Amazon for removing books from the Kindle. 

Jay Edelson "says he intends to argue that the recall infringes on consumers' property rights. He will also argue that Amazon's ability to delete books makes the Kindle less valuable to consumers, who believed they were purchasing a device that would allow them to store books forever. Edelson says he intends to seek to represent all Kindle owners in the case against Amazon."

This is so much fun to watch!  Stay tuned. . . Tags: ,,,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Big Brother and the Kindle

Irony is my most favorite form of humor!  And last week Amazon provided me with a great "laugh out loud" funny moment.

Seems that Kindle owners who bought copies of 1984 and Animal Farm woke up one morning to find that Amazon had deleted their copies.  No notice; no indication that anything was wrong.  They just remotely zapped the copy of the book off the machine.

Someone (I can't remember who or find the quote) noted that this would be like Barnes and Nobles coming into your house in the middle of the night and stealing back books you bought from them.

Which of course made me curious about the actual Amazon Kindle User Licence Agreement.  I actually went to the source and read it.  Lots of legalize, intended, I am sure, to confuse the average person.  But there are a few thing in actual English.

One of them is this sentence:  "Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times..."

Now if you are me and you see the word permanent, you figure it means unchangeable, enduring and everlasting.  And I would further opine that my purchase was a purchase of real intellectual property even if it is in bits and bytes and not between covers.  Evidently Amazon (and their lawyers) think differently.  

The whole concept of someone being able to delete electronic material you have paid for (at will) is pretty scary and brings up legitimate questions about eBook ownership; but the fact that it was 1984 that got zapped is truly delicious!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Solar Powered eBooks?

Ubergizmo is reporting that Neoluxiim is talking about integrating a solar cell into their newest eInk products.

They are promoting it as an advertising device; not an eBook device. It is inevitable, however, that eBooks will eventually be run on solar power.

This particular offering has a got-cha built in. Seems that the device dies after 18 months. Now there is a great example obsolescence if I ever saw one.

Solar is green -- very nice. The eighteen month life cycle more than wipes out any benefit when you think about the electronic waste involved. What are they thinking????????

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Everyone She Loved: 'A Novel by Curran, Sheila eBook edition

It is always nice to see a writer improve their skills and abilities!  Sheila Curran  has done it with Everyone She Loved.  Her last book Diana Lively is Falling Down was a fun read and you could see that this was a writer with potential.

The part about Diana Lively is Falling Down that I really liked best was her ability to create fully dimensional, complex characters that practically walked off the page into my living room. These characters had complex and surprising inner (and outer) lives that somehow made sense even when they shouldn't have.

Everyone She Loved shows that Curran's skill at characterization is still in tact and that her ability to plot a story has markedly improved.  Her characters still make sense; even when they shouldn't.  She is beginning to live up to her full potential as an author. 

This is an intricately plotted novel with at least eight distinct story lines interwoven through out the book.  And happily, Curran actually resolves all of them by the end.  And if that is not enough, she manages to take a bunch of basically very unlikable people, in wildly unlikely circumstances and makes you care about them and what happens to them.  That in and of it's self is an amazing feat!

The premise that a rich, neurotic philanthropist would somehow arrange for all of her friends to either work for her foundation or move into the town her family "owns" is a little strange.  The idea that her husband would agree to having her friends could pick his next wife in the event of her demise is implausible.  The idea that her British cousins somehow gain unfettered access to the foundation is unlikely.  But somehow, against all odds, the story works. 

Mostly the characters are self involved and clueless.  A couple are downright despicable. But they are fully developed and much like watching a train wreck -- you can't stop watching; or in this case, reading.  The character's actually pulled me through the plot twists and turns. 

If you are looking for an engrossing read, start here.

A wise and triumphant novel about four women who've come of age together only to discover that -- when it comes to the essentials -- life's little instruction book will always need revising.

Penelope Cameron, loving mother, devoted wife and generous philanthropist, has convinced her husband and four closest friends to sign an outlandish pact. If Penelope should die before her two daughters are eighteen, her husband will not remarry without the permission of Penelope's sister and three college roommates. For years, this contract gathers dust until the unthinkable happens.

Suddenly, everyone she loved must find their way in a world without Penelope.For Lucy Vargas, Penelope's best friend, and a second mother to her daughters, nothing seems more natural than to welcome them into a home that had once belonged to their family, a lovely, sprawling bed-and-breakfast on the beach. This bequest was only one of the many ways in which Penelope had supported Lucy's career as a painter, declaring her talent too important to squander. But now, in the wake of a disaster that only lovable, worrisome Penelope could have predicted, Lucy has put her work on hold as she and Penelope's husband, Joey, blindly grasp at anything that will keep the girls from sinking under the weight of their grief.With the help of family and friends, the children slowly build new lives. But just when things start to come together, the fragile serenity they have gained is suddenly threatened from within, and the unbreakable bonds they share seem likely to dissolve after all.

In this entertaining and uplifting novel, Sheila Curran explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound and confuse even the most determined of planners. A story about growing up and moving on, about the sacrifices people make for one another and the timeless legacy of love, Everyone She Loved is, above all, about the abiding strength of friendship.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The eBook Reading Device Mystery solved

kindle mystery Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about eBooks and how they are priced.

But the statement that really caught my attention wasn't about pricing at all. It was a prediction by Sarah Rotman Epps:

Ms. Epps, the Forrester analyst, estimates that by year end there will be more than three million dedicated e-reader devices in the U.S., with two million sold in 2009.

All of the press about the Kindle makes it sound like they are flying off the shelves and in fact almost everyone has one. Of course, I have yet to see one in real life. . . Until now I have just chalked it up to a vague idea that maybe I am just too sheltered; don't get out enough.

But this article has made me actually sit down and do the math.

The estimated US population in 307 million. An estimate three million devices means that approximately .01% of the population will own one by the end of the year. No wonder I haven't seen one yet!

Monday, July 13, 2009

eBooks and the iTouch

I finally broke down.  Gave in.  Sold out. It was an offer too good to refuse and within minutes I was the proud owner of an iTouch (for about 1/2 the retail price). 

Like most techy geeks, I have been fascinated by the iPhone/iTouch since it first appeared.  This is a little strange because I may be the only person in America who hated my iPod.  I never could make the thing work right. . . Evidently click wheels and I were not made to co-exist on the same planet.  But I digress.

I have held out for months.  After all, I need another gadget like I need another hole in my head.  My Verizon family plan is cheap.  AT&T doesn't work well in my area anyway.  So as fascinated as I have been, I've managed to remain strong.  Although I have played with any iPhone/iTouch I could get my hands on.  But in a moment of weakness, and with an offer too good to refuse, I caved.

This is an amazing piece of technology.  I have used PDAs of all descriptions for years and years and this is hands down the easiest to use.  My biggest general complaint is that my fingers are a little big for the keyboard.  I spend a lot of time backspacing and starting over.

It didn't take long to sign in to the iTunes store and find the iTunes Aps.  From there it was a short search to find the eReader eBook software and get it downloaded to my iTouch.  Talk about easy!  It was the easiest installation ever.  I think it was even easier than getting it on my PC the first time.

Once it was loaded I went looking for the eBooks About Everything store.  Aside from the fact it was the first time I had typed it; it was easy.  My problem was the fat finger thing. 

The store opened right up;  I used my thumb and fore finger to enlarge it enough to see; went to my wish list and hit the Buy this item Now button.  Picked the version of the book in "Palm Pilot" format and added it to my cart.  Hit the Process Order button.  At that point I had to put in my user name and password and added my card's CID number.  And then waited a few seconds to be told the transaction had completed and that the book was on my bookshelf.

Went over to my Bookshelf.  The book was at the top of the list.  Hit the Download button and the book began downloading.  Within seconds I was opening the book, adding my name and password info (credit card number).  And I was able to start reading my new book.

Wow!  That was the most painless eBook transaction to a PDA ever!!!  And I mean EVERY!!

The reading experience can be customized in many different ways -- font, font size, screen appearance etc.  All very easy and intuitive.  The screen is small, but crisp and easy to read. 

The big difference in reading on this and any other PDA is that instead of pressing a button to turn the pages you flick the right corner with your finger and the page "turns".  The turning is more of a scooting motion; as if you were sliding the old page back to revel a new one.  I find this VERY annoying!  Not sure if it is because it is new or because it is really truly irritating -- time will tell.  For someone who reads very fast, and needs "largish" font size you spend an inordinate amount of time flicking and adjusting your eyes to the new page.  The annoyance is certainly worth it to have a book handy all the time with minimal weight and hassle. 

For long immersive reading my Cybook is hands down a better solution.  But it is one more electronic device to worry about and by comparison it is big a bulky.  I certainly won't be giving it up any time soon, but the iTouch is a nice addition. . .

All of this has left me, however,  with a bigger dilemma then ever.  Can I really live a happy life without an iPhone?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sullivan's Island and Return to Sullivan's Island -- eBooks by Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorthea Benton Frank is a southern writer.  Her works have been compared to Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons.  Nine years ago, those comparisons lead me to pick up her first book Sullivan's Island.  I loved it. 

The publisher synopsis really doesn't capture the magic of her writing or the powerful back story about her family, South Carolina and desegregation. 

Set in the steamy, stormy landscape of South Carolina, Sullivan's Island tells the unforgettable story of one woman's courageous journey toward truth.

Born and raised on idyllic Sullivan's Island, Susan Hayes navigated through her turbulent childhood with humor, spunk, and characteristic Southern sass. But years later, she is a conflicted woman with an unfaithful husband, a sometimes resentful teenage daughter, and a heart that aches with painful, poignant memories. And as Susan faces her uncertain future, she realizes that she must go back to her past. To the beachfront house where her sister welcomes her with open arms. To the only place she can truly call home.

When I read last year that Frank was writing an sequel Return to Sullivan's Island, I immediately added it to my summer reading list. Then I started think about the original book, Sullivan's Island.  I realized that my memory was pretty hazy; so hazy that it would make sense to re-read the book.

Actually, it turned out to be a good/bad decision. 

The good part is that Sullivan's Island is well written, engrossing and I would have missed some of the subtleties of the Return if I had not reread it. It was as much fun to reread as it had been to read. 

The bad part is that in the Return to Sullivan's Island the plot and the writing were definitely not up to the same standard.  I actually found myself wishing that she had not returned.  Or at least not in this particular fashion.  I found the return was incredibly disappointing and stretching my credulity beyond it's normal limits. 

I'm not sure it would have been so disappointing if I had read the books separately or if I had never read Frank before.  Return to Sullivan's Island is an "OK" beach read; it is mindless reading that will keep you entertained for several hours.  Great literature it is not.  Sullivan's Island on the other hand is recommended reading for the beach or anywhere else you happen to be!


Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the enchanted landscape of South Carolina's Lowcountry made famous in her beloved New York Times bestseller Sullivans Island to tell the story of the next generation of Hamiltons and Hayes.

Newly graduated from college and an aspiring writer, Beth Hayes craves independence and has a world to conquer. But her notions of travel, graduate study, and writing the great American novel will have to be postponed. With her mother, Susan, leaving to fulfill her own dreams in Paris and her Aunt Maggie, Uncle Grant, and stepfather, Simon, moving to California, Beth is elected by her elders to house-sit the Island Gamble.

Surrounded by the shimmering blue waters of the Atlantic, the white clapboards, silver tin roof, and confessional porch have seen and heard the stories of generations of Hamiltons. But will the ghosts of the Island Gamble be watching over Beth? Buoyed by sentimental memories of growing up on this tiny sandbar that seems to be untouched by time, Beth vows to give herself over to the Lowcountry force and discover the wisdom it holds. She will rest, rejuvenate, and then reenter the outside world. Just as she vows she will never give into the delusional world of white picket fences, minivans, and eternal love, she meets Max Mitchell. And all her convictions and plans begin to unravel with lightning speed. There is so much about life and her family's past that she does not know. Her ignorance nearly costs her both her inheritance and her family's respect. But Beth finds unexpected friends to help her through the disaster she faces: her wise and charming Aunt Sophie; Cecily Singleton, the granddaughter of Livvie Singleton; and Woody Morrison, the solid young investment banker.

This wonderful ensemble of characters could be your own family, but watch what unfolds as they succumb to the island's spell. If everything happens for a reason, then Beth's return to Sullivans Island teaches her that betrayal and tragedy are most easily handled when you surround yourself with loyal family and friends in a magical place that loves you so much that it wants to claim you as its own.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Bookeen Reader Soon -- The Opus

Bookeen, the maker of the Cybook, are showing off thier new reader called the Opus. Shown below is a picture that compares the current Cybook with the New Opus. Was originally supposed to be available in June . . .

MobileRead lists the new specs below:

  • 5" high definition e-ink screen (200dpi, 600x800 pixels)
  • Ultra light-weight : 150 grammes.
  • 1go internal memory (twice the capacity of the Cybook Gen3)
  • Truly pocket-sized !
  • Excellent ergonomy with convenient well-placed page-turning buttons on the side of the screen for one-handed use.
  • An accelerometer allows you to use it in either hand.
  • ePUB and PDF support (with or without DRM) via the Adobe Reader Mobile SDK. 12 different type sizes
  • Folder support !
  • User replaceable battery.
  • Memory card expansion slot (Micro SD).

Here are a lot more pictures (and more info if you read french)

Looks like an interesting alternative. Stay tuned for actual release date and pricing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

World eBook Fair 2009

Once again eBooks About Everything is proud to be a sponser of the World eBook Fair.

The World eBook Fair is the brain child of Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenburg. Four years ago he enlisted our involvement and we have been great supporters since.

The Fair has thousands of free books and books for sale. eBooks About Everything and the World eBook Fair are offering a 15% discount on any book in the store. Remember that new books and the best sellers are already discounted 10% which means a 25% discount on those catagories.

Just use this coupon code at check out -- z9WebF4


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