We Can Judge The Intelligence of a Society By the Number of Libraries – Okay, Let’s Go Turbo!

Well, the United States of America should certainly thank Benjamin Franklin and Carnegie for all the libraries in our great nation. The gift of knowledge is an incredible gift to humanity and to our society and civilization. Sometimes I worry that in our fast paced world people are not reading and learning anymore. They simply soak up information from the media and call that fact, think they are smart and they know something, when all the while the media is filled with nonsensical propaganda, a good bit of it quite political.

This is a reality that we are all aware of, but that hasn’t changed the issue of fewer people visiting our libraries these days. Yes, there is more information online, and you look up anything you want from your home computer or mobile tech device. That’s nice, and it’s also nice to have discovery channels on TV, Ted videos, and Google Scholar. Still, it’s not time to put the library books into a museum just yet. We still need people to read and write, and books are quite valuable. We need more books in our society, not fewer.

One of the coolest programs that I’ve ever seen is the “Little Free Libraries” program, to find out more check out; TransitionLA (dot) org. The program wants users to “take a book and leave a book” and then puts hundreds or thousands of book Kiosks throughout the city, at bus stops, parks, and public places. Most look like Bird Houses with shelves around them.

Imagine if your city had little miniature bookshelves protected from the environment all over the city. Imagine them literally everywhere. It would keep the books alive, keep them in circulation, and recycle this information over and over again. I can’t think of a greater thing for humanity. In many regards this is just like distributive energy, it would be distributive libraries. It also gets the books where they need to be, in the hands of people, having people read actual books rather than wasting time.

The more books we have around, the more people will realize how important it is to read, therefore they will learn to read, in English. Just that simple reminder everywhere will remind people to pick up a book, and start reading. That would be a good thing for humanity and a great thing for our own society here at home. Further, we could put anti-bacteria compounds amongst the bookshelves, along with anti-mold type substances. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it. I also hope you will look into this project, and perhaps initiate the program in your own city or town.

Espresso Book Machine Dispenses Books On Demand

Prior to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440, books had to be printed by hand (usually by members of religious orders) severely limiting the number of editions that were printed. Today, all a reader needs to do to print a copy of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is press a button. This new technology is the result of an invention called the Espresso Book Machine, which is slowly beginning to sneak into libraries and bookstores around the world.

Operating in a manner similar to an ATM, a person can walk up to the Espresso machine, find the book they are looking for and have it printed and vended in minutes. The Espresso produces (literally prints, aligns, mills, glues and binds) fifteen to twenty library-quality paperback books per hour. It can print in any language, accommodate right-to-left texts, and features a page limit of 550 (though type size can be adjusted to fit more words per page). The printed books have full-color laminated covers, and the machine can even print two books simultaneously.

The company behind the Espresso is On Demand Books, LLC, founded by legendary book editor Jason Epstein and Dane Neller, and they plan on increasing the number of these low-cost, automatic book machines you’ll see in the coming year. Currently available to libraries and retailers, there seems to be a growing interest in the machines. An Espresso machine made waves this past summer when it was placed temporarily in the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library, and machines also have been purchased by the University of Alberta and the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont (though no exact costs for the machines are available). According to On Demand, they are currently in talks with national book retailers and hotel chains about ordering mass quantities of the machines.

On Demand is also continuing to develop the network of books that can be accessed and printed through The Espresso Book Machine. For the time being, most of the books offered are ones in the public domain – i.e., “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, “Moby Dick”, “A Christmas Carol”. But On Demand hopes to eventually include every book ever printed – a task they believe is feasible and even appealing to most publishers. As On Demand sees it, the greater difficulty (as is usually the case with a new invention) is getting people to warm to the idea of purchasing a book from a new source.

Certainly, the technology seems to be in line with current trends. The internet has become a growing source for downloadable, printable books, with some authors (including Steven King) initially offering publications exclusively on line. And redbox DVD machines, somewhat similar in function to the Espresso, have begun popping up across the country. These machines offer people the convenience of renting movies quickly and easily at locations such as grocery and convenience stores for the price of only a dollar. But unlike redbox, The Espresso Book Machine offers people a quality product (maybe even a literary classic) that is theirs to keep forever. If the machine has a downside, it’s that – despite its name association – you can’t get a coffee from it.

Listening to Good Books – The Joy of Discovering Audio Books

I recently underwent a Vitrectomy, a surgical procedure on my eye. I was obligated to spend a lot of time resting my eye. I am now a big fan of audio books. I just finished my third book and I have a few observations:

1. Libraries offer free audio book rentals. Our local library allows audio books to be downloaded onto computers right from home. You can choose your borrowing period. A link to a free player is provided. This is a wonderful service that I did not know about until a friend told me. It is so much nicer than worrying about transporting a bunch of audio CDs. When I finish a book, I can download and start another anytime of the day or night. Free.

2. It is best to be moving or, at least, sitting up when listening to an audio book. During recovery right after my vitrectomy, when I had to keep my head down, it was very difficult to stay awake while listening. Even a great audio book can lull a person to sleep. It is really annoying to wake with a start and try to figure out where you drifted off. I would sometimes replay an entire chapter, only to discover that I had missed just one sentence.

3. There are a LOT of audio books out there. I never imagined what a great variety of books have been transferred to an audio format. There are lists and reviews all over the internet.

4. Audio books are long. It takes forever to listen through an entire book. Even a book that I am loving and enjoying seems, by the tenth or eleventh hour, to be dragging. I now always check to see how long an audio book is before I start listening. That way, I know what to expect.

5. The voice reading the book is very important. Obviously. Before I learned about audio books, I had assumed that they are all narrated by famous “stars,” whose name recognition could help sell the book. Instead, most books are narrated by skilled readers, actors whose names I do not necessarily recognize but who excel at bringing a book to life. I have found online reviews to be very accurate regarding the skill of the reader. A few authors read their own books. I was suspicious of this until I listened to David Sedaris read his book When You Are Engulfed In Flames. He has great comedic timing and really does a wonderful job. Now, I can not imagine his books being narrated by anyone else,

The three books I have listened to are:

* Roses by Leila Meacham, Narrated by Coleen Marlo – This is a good fiction audio book, although extremely long. It follows the twists and turns of a Texas family through several generations. It was interesting and kept my attention. The one thing that I did not like was the narrator’s “male voice” when a man was speaking.

* Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Narrated by Jeff Woodman – One of my favorite books ever. The book is well written. The narrator is wonderful. The story is compelling. This was highly recommended on several audio book lists online. After listening to a couple of chapters, I had to double check how long ago the book was written (2001). I could not believe that I hadn’t heard of it or read it already. I listened to chapter 16 twice, because it was so beautiful. I told my husband and children that they MUST get a copy of this book and read it.

* When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris, Narrated by David Sedaris – If you like David Sedaris, you will love his reading of his own book. This book is a series of stories from his life. Some of the chapters are so funny that I laughed out loud. Some of the chapters were kind of sad and full of pathos. The book contains really foul language and raunchy sexual humor, so I would never recommend it to anyone that might be offended. Sedaris’ book Me Talk Pretty One Day was more highly recommended, but there was a waiting list for that, so I thought I would try this while I waited. I needed something humorous and this book really delivered.

I just downloaded Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori. Several different lists rated it as the best audio book of all time, so I have high hopes for this book.

Audio books have been a lifesaver for me since my surgery. They allow me to “do something” while resting my eyes. They have kept my mind active, and distracted me from thinking about being stuck in the house recuperating. I am grateful for the library, which makes audio books so easily available to people with low vision.