Comfy Chair

Monty Python fans will immediately recognize that phrase, from the Spanish Inquisition sketch. But I bet nobody expected to see it on this blog! And that’s where they’d be wrong. However, that’s not what my subject is about today.

I have a comfy chair. And it’s torture because I have to leave it sometimes. I can’t sit for more than an hour, hour and a half tops. Luckily the indoor plumbing is close by. One must have a cup of tea while sitting in the comfy chair. The one thing you must have is a cup of tea and a good reading light. The two things you must have are a cup of tea, a good reading light, and a stack of books – The three things. . . Oh, never mind.

I do have some age-related issues in my life, mostly that I can’t believe I am as old as I am, and I still try to do things only a younger person should do. Like read a real book. I love my e-readers and the applications of those on my phone. I always have reading material with me. Back when I had to wait for a ride, or took the bus to work, or whatever, if I forgot my book, I was in for a long, boring wait. These days, that is not a problem.

I also have control over the size of the text, so I can see it without glasses if I wish. Usually there is an increase of pain when you fall asleep reading on a phone or reader, than there used to be with paperbacks, but still less than a hardback, so it’s all good.

But now and then, I have a paperback or hard cover that I want to read, and it’s not convenient to purchase it again in e-format. Such was the case with Georgie Lee’s Rescued from Ruin. Georgie is a real angel that I know from RWA, and I won a copy of this great Regency romance. And I got a copy of Brenda Novak’s Heart of Christmas from the Whiskey Creek series. On top of that, my favorite book cover is on Sally Orr’s The Rake’s Handbook (Including Field Guide), and she gifted me with a copy to celebrate my retirement. I had to figure out a comfortable way to read, even if just for an hour every day.

Light and lots of it was the first consideration. My Amazon parrot likes to sit on the back of my comfy chair while I read, and he also likes to destroy (pick a noun). I have a floor lamp with an extended hinged arm, and that keeps the lampshade out of beak range but where I get the light I need. Like this, but not bronze and not as fancy.

Then the most difficult compromise. My eyes are and have always been unable to see much of anything clearly. I am near-sighted I think. Anyway, I have always read whenever I could get away with it by not wearing my glasses. Nowadays, that is not an option for real books. The print has shrunk. My arms got shorter. Yeah, all those jokes now hit home. And it’s way past time for me to visit my optometrist. Got that penciled in for next year.

My regular distance glasses are actually no-line trifocals, and they make life interesting. I tried to read using them, and my eyes ached in no time. The lenses are thick and heavy, and I want to take them off after 10 minutes. Not working as planned.

I have a pair of computer glasses, which I highly recommend to anyone who needs spectacles and works with computers. Mine are so comfortable that I often walk around wearing them instead of the regular pair. I have even driven while wearing them, but not on purpose. Just a mistake that I try not to repeat.

So it was that I sat down in my comfy chair with the reading lamp on, picked up the book, and read. And my eyes didn’t get tired. My computer glasses are perfect for reading! This is like the best Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa gift ever. And that reminds me of the classic Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith as the last book nerd left alive. Glad I got to have a Happy Ever After ending. I’ll be back on Thursday.


It’s Gutenberg Enough for Me

Last Sunday, I shared my thoughts on lending books, ebooks, and so on. That reminded me of the Gutenberg Project. Named for printer Johannes Gutenberg, who was the first European to use moveable type. He didn’t invent it, but he invented enough added details to deserve being a historical person of note.

The Gutenberg Project is an all-volunteer effort to put every surviving printed work into a computer and make it available, as meets with copyright laws, to anyone with computer access. The founder and dreamer, Michael Hart, passed away a couple years ago, but the project is so well organized and has such forward momentum that it’s still running strong.

The official name is the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. I can’t imagine a more noble and wonderful way to spend available volunteer hours. It’s like the burning of the library in Alexandria in reverse. Here’s how to contact them:

Another wonderful project comes to mind, speaking of burning libraries. Burning Man. Once a year, a city springs up in the Black Rock dessert in Nevada, not far from Reno. It’s a massive week-long event of “radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” I am not much tempted to participate, it’s much more of an event for younger, tougher folks, and those whose art is a bit more visual than writing.

The connection for me with Burning Man and Project Gutenberg comes from the book Homeland by Cory Doctorow, where the main characters attend a Burning Man and visit a library that is intended to be burned by the desert community at Black Rock City. The library is set up and staffed by Project Gutenberg volunteers.

I searched the Burning Man files to see if the library is a real thing, but can neither confirm or deny its existence. There is a Burning Man Book Mobile where you can take any book, for as long as you like, you can keep it, or can return it some day. The Burning Man community idea is to create continuity not boundries and rules.

So Cory Doctorow is the perfect person to be writing about this. He’s a major cheerleader for removing DRM (Digital Rights Management) from ebooks, because frankly, even if someone pirates a copy of your book to read, they are still readers! They might be fans soon, and might buy a copy just to have to read or pass on to another fan. You can’t stop the signal! (I heard that somewhere once.)

At Mr. Doctorow’s blog, Craphound, you can find the cities he is visiting in his current tour, and ads for t-shirts which have the entire text of some of his novels on them. Yes, you read that right. A shirt with the entire text of Little Brother or Homeland on it. I have enough trouble with people reading some of my t-shirts, I don’t have time to stand still while strangers read the novel. Then again, it would be a great way to pass the time in line at Comic Con. Too bad I couldn’t put my “friend’s” short erotica on a shirt. I am sure I would make lots of new friends, and possibly new readers, that way.

I’ll be back on Thursday.

The Lost Volumes

Being an avid reader, I tend to hang out with other avid readers. A series of understandable events occur when A.R.s get together. We talk about books, and we find out the person we are talking to has not read the very best and greatest book of its kind that the other person will simply adore.

That’s how it starts. Then some time later, I go looking for the book, and it’s not there. I lent it to someone, but for the life of me I can’t remember who. Whoever it is, I hope they are enjoying my book. They may have passed it on to another AR. Who knows?

Because the universe likes balance, I have borrowed books and have yet to return them. These are not technically lost volumes. I just haven’t finished reading them, and the owner hasn’t asked for them back. See previous paragraph.

I also have lent out books, and remembered to whom I lent the book. The person has had some drama in their life, and the book was put into storage. And the storage eventually could not be paid for. The book became the property of someone else.

For those of us with short term memory loss, Libraries were places that lent out books for a set period, and would charge you money if you were late returning the books. In the later years, they also lent DVDs and audio books, and there usually was a used book store that raised money for some special programs at the facility. However, their ability to enforce the penalties was limited to charging you the fine when you came back to the same library. So if you were moving away, you could easily go in and check out a dozen books, and never return them.

Libraries evolved into systems, in some cases, where a region had more than one branch and they shared a computer system that sent the same list of people who never returned books to all the libraries and sometimes even the post office. It could be a problem unless you moved to another state.

A nice feature of e-books is that you can share them with friends, as long as the friends has the same e-reader that you do. If you have a Nook and he has a Kindle, there will be trouble. Those mixed reading lists are really difficult to maintain. And if you can disable the DRM on those books, it’s just like not having to return them to a friend or library.

My “friend” Roxanna Haley has a book selling on Amazon, and participates in the Kindle Unlimited program. That’s where readers can read the e-book without buying it. It’s a virtual library, and while not as profitable to the author, she will still get a percentage of the price.

In conclusion, while books aren’t as good at dimension travel as socks in a dryer, they do tend to get around. As a reader, it’s all good, I’ll just go buy another copy of whatever book I am missing. As an author, it’s all good, the book will show up on someone’s book shelf, they will read it someday, like it, and go look for more by the same author. Can’t complain about that. I’ll be back on Thursday.