Reader's Exchange

April 2014 - Posts

A-twitter over e-books

Ever had an unflattering photo making the rounds on social media?  This happens to libraries, too.   A valued (and justifiably frustrated) customer tweeted an image of the library's copy of Flowers for Algernon open to display facing pages, both thoroughly scribbled with blue ink.

Any parent would recognize the style as that of a child young enough to have believed that he/she was producing something pretty or entertaining.  We expressed our regrets to the alert library patron and tagged the record so the damaged item can be taken out of circulation and replaced when it's returned.
Two roads diverged
These things happen.   This anecdote doesn't just remind us what understanding customers we have; it also endorses the practicality of e-books.  The library's digital books (Overdrive) are never late, lost, returned to the wrong library, or defaced.  

On the other hand, library e-books frequently cost much more than the corresponding print editions, and some desired new titles aren't offered for library purchase and sharing, only to individual buyers.  And, of course, so many backlist titles aren't available in digital format. 

The perfect borrowing scenario (everything available for free on demand in pristine condition in one's preferred format) doesn't exist. But most of us appreciate and profit from the challenge of seeking out multiple formats.  Readers who extol the convenience of collecting e-books and reading on mobile devices should certainly check out the library's Overdrive choices.  If a particular title isn't offered there (or is checked out and you're in a rush), purchase from one's favorite online vendor may be the way to go.  But remember: that title may be offered in print or audio at the library--at no cost to the borrower.  

We've frequently chatted with customers who express delight with their e-readers--and then exit the library with an armload of print and possibly a Playaway or two.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here (with apologies to Robert Frost and his wonderful "The Road Not Taken") is my view of cost-effective reading:  "The Savings Not Overlooked":

New novels were praised on a site I admire
But aware that if I bought them all
My wallet would suffer, I required
Of myself a solution, library-inspired
An alternative to financial downfall.

I then recalled Overdrive with borrowing free,
Which grants unto patrons a fourteen-day turn
With no risk of late fees.  Then I could foresee
That no-cost e-reading would work handily---
No drawbacks or issues that I could discern.

But wait--for some titles, publishers may elect
To limit their access to just single buyers.
In which case it's savvy my search to direct
Back to print where there's frankly much more to select.
(If you read in both formats, success rates are higher.)

As for purchasing books:  if they're masterfully penned,
Or for gifts or discussions, I'll pay Barnes and Noble
(Or Half-Price or Book Nook) glad, in the end,
For multiple options.  What I recommend:
Exploit all resources--retail, print, and mobile.

This month: rhyme AND reason

April's first fifteen days may represent other priorities for you, but this is National Poetry MonthThe Academy of American Poets website offers a multitude of ways to celebrate, including Poem in Your Pocket Day (4/24).

For an enjoyable and non-intimidating local occasion, consider the poetry reading at Round Rock Public Library.  Co-sponsored by the Baca Center's Great Books Discussion Group and the library, this event features readings by poets and those who appreciate them.  Each participant is invited to bring his/her own work or a favorite authored by someone else, well-known or otherwise (limit five minutes per speaker)--1:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 29.

Having attended in previous years, I long ago put this on my calendar.  And I am already scouting for my contribution (which probably should not be another Billy Collins selection, just to prove my awareness of other voices).  As for the other option--presenting an original work--I annually consider and reject it for the benefit of all.  This untitled composition explains why: 

A poet lives inside each of us
some say; research has not proven otherwise. Unfortunate pencil

Yet. 

But this line of inquiry bodes ill for me.

Confronted with the question by data-gathering types sporting lab coats and clipboards
I could only reply
(1)  Evidently not, in my case
(2)  Unless maybe one does--
unrecognizable as such
due to lack of talent
and  a wretched sense of timing.

How else to explain the amalgam of

Rumpelstiltskin
a mythic trickster
and a night-laboring elf

who ventures out of elected obscurity to engineer bizarre scenarios?

If I'm provisioned with a sparkling, quiescent page and comfortable chair
a setting meant to lure my thoughts into memorable self-revelation

this perverse force beams a defiant stare.

Elegantly miming a zipper sealing his lips, he retreats
perhaps pausing to brush the air with his clearly NOT ink-stained fingers, signalling later!

Or he may not.  Regardless, he is gone.  vanished.  useless.

Until
rested from non-exertion
he effects guest appearances on occasions
which I probably need not explain
require no creative expression and may only uncomfortably accommodate it.

He gleefully piles on evocative
precise
decorative
verbiage
in the conversational space allocated for one workmanlike noun: 

to appreciate 
shadows on neighbors' roofs
newly installed gardening mulch
comparative hues of paper being considered for promotional brochures.

In tribute to such commonplace views
something compels me to to spontaneously apply metaphors where labels should adhere
thus manufacturing poetry's unpopular distant cousin:  TMI.

What if I never again bothered to bestow
contemplative time
a serene space
writing tools
inscription-worthy surfaces
for my inner poet?

Fingertips on dust-furred tabletops
tapered twigs and an expanse of sand
a sad golf pencil and the back view of a grocery list:

only such grudging supplies
offered during hurried and inconvenient moments
would abet literary output.

Which would improve first--
quality
or timing?