Category Archives: Reading Technology

New toy


I finally caved and bought myself an actual eReader. For years now, I’ve done eBooks on my iPad. But not very often, because that perpetual reading on a computer-like screen would do my eyes in. Last week, Amazon was offering a deal for Prime members and so I did it: one new KindlePaperwhite.

In other news, the hubz and I did the Amazon Household thing too. It’s like we’re grown-ups or something.


In defense of paper

NPR recently did a story about how pen and paper are surviving in this digital age. journals

Several “digital natives” were interviewed for the story, explaining why digital matters for some things and why paper still works for other arenas. As one interviewee said,

“It’s this thing that is so intuitive. It’s between you and paper and a pen. It’s kind of meditative,” she says. “When I’m on the phone, it’s never meditative. It’s always task-y.”

Paper, Trinidad says, makes the abstract tangible, in a way that digital devices don’t.

I’m nearing the end of my current journal and eagerly anticipating the start of the new one. Under my bed, I have a whole plastic bin full of my old filled journals.

The paper — the act of writing it down — does make the abstract more tangible. For INTJs like Stacie and me, journaling helps makes feelings real. It also makes things concrete. This happened. I felt these things about that happening. These questions are in my head right now.

As another person said in the story, “The stuff that really matters goes on to paper.”

I always keep my to-do lists on paper. Tasks are real when I write them down.

When I need to learn something, I take copious notes by hand. I had 50-some pages of handwritten notes from the AFP conference this year, even though slides were available online. I take notes on Sunday sermons every week in my journal too. There is such a brain-hand connection for me for learning (the article talked about that too.)

Digital is great. I would be lost without my Outlook calendar and adrift without the connections afforded by email and social media.

But when it matters, paper.


Reading in the Car

It’s a blessing, really, for a Word Nerd, not to get motion sick in the car. I’ve never had a problem with reading in the car and lately, I’ve rediscovered how great this is.

When I was a kid, I did this regularly. My mom reminds me of when I was 9 or so and she I were taking a vacation. I’d just gotten a Walk-man for my birthday and I spent the drive to Hershey Pennsylvania with my headphones on and my nose in a book. After that trip, we started a new tradition of me reading aloud to us in the car (that 1991 Corolla she had didn’t have a tape player…) I remember taking school trips too and reading on the bus (first time I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was on such a trip.)

And then I learned to drive and well, one can’t read in the car and drive at the same time.

In the past few years, I’ve discovered books on tape (WHAT took me so long there, I’m not sure). My commute may only be about 12 minutes long, but I can get through at least one book on CD a month, which means at least 12 more titles read each year.

But, suddenly, presented with a road trip this past weekend, I realized I could read in the car again. Because I could share the driving.

As we barreled along I-70 in central Ohio, he drove and I read. Not for the whole trip, mind you, but sections of it.

The question in, when’s the next road trip?

Find your inner Hemingway

Hats off to the Hemingway App.

I ran across this gem over at Paperback Writer and it’s too good not to share.

This writing analyzer is far better than the spelling/grammar/readability checker built into Microsoft Word. Hemingway App shows you where the problems are and adjusts your score as you edit. Hemingway breaks your sentences down into “hard to read” and “very hard to read.” It tracks adverbs and adjectives. It shows you passive voice.

It also gives you a meter to show the grade level reading level for the passage.

This kind of works and kind of doesn’t. I found a chunk of Hemingway (himself) and pasted it into Hemingway App. Two of Hemingway’s own sentences are “very hard to read” and require “reading at a post-college level.”

A tough sentence here and there is OK. The great part of Hemingway is showing your when you’ve got three or four tough sentences strung together.

The place this app has been the most helpful to me is in the day job. In my fundraising role, I write our direct mail appeal letters. Direct mail fundraising is its own particular challenge, to use a page or two to write a compelling letter to a wide audience of potential donors that will inspire them to go find their checkbook or credit card to make a donation.

Since fundraising writing gets a bit myopic, Hemingway shows me where my writing gets convoluted because I know the topic too well.

This blog post? Eighth-grade reading level with one very hard to read sentence. I’ll take it.



I don’t know why I think I’m going to read tons of books on vacation, but I always do.

I know some people take vacations to go to the beach and sit and read, but when I go places I tend to do things while I’m there. Maybe this defeats the purpose of vacations to relax. I find reading all the signs in museums relaxing in its own right. Also, I don’t like sand.

I love reading books on airplanes, but once I’m at a destination, the read plummets precipitously.

But, I have a level of anxiety about what to read and how many real books vs how many ebooks to take. This all culminates in the overarching worry — WHAT IF I PACK THE WRONG THING?

The end result is then that I go a little nuts.

I put LOTS of eBooks on hold so that I can determine which the most appropriate thing when I’m gone.

Here was list of books (physical and otherwise) for a recent trip:

  • The Clockwork Scarab, Colleen Gleason (eBook)
  • Midwinter Blood, Marcus Sedgwick (eBook)
  • The Last Policeman, Ben Winters (eBook)
  • The Accident, Chris Pavone (eBook)
  • Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb (book)
  • Royal Assassin, Robin Hobb (book)

Before I left, I also had the following books on hold, desperately hoping I’d get the email they were in, just so I’d have more choices.

  • The Rook, Daniel O’Malley (eBook)
  • Worth Dying For, Lee Child (eBook)
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Audiobook hiatus

This month, I’m not doing any audiobooks.

I realized that I’ve listened to at least one a month for the past two years (likely) and I needed a break.

I’ve covered all the Dresden Files (again), most of the Thursday Next books, the Leviathan trilogy, the Old Kingdom Trilogy, a bunch of the Morganville Vampires series, the first four Dune books, The Great Gatsby. There have been others that I can’t think of right now.

Toward the end of May, I finished one and was ready to start the next …

…and I just didn’t want to. I wanted to sing along to the radio. I wanted to listen to more NPR. I didn’t want more novels.

This is another one of those places where I continue to grow as a reader. I have expressed my love of audiobooks and how they are more than “ear movies.” But, like learning how to stop reading a book that is truly awful, I’m learning that its OK to not be interested in a certain type of book form for a time.

I’m not losing street cred as a reader because I just need a break.

So. I’m singing and listening to more of the dulcet tones of Robert Siegal and Renee Montagne.

Maybe in July audiobooks will be back.


The Truth about the TBR

I’ve been living in denial at the state of my TBR pile.  According to Goodreads, it’s about 70 to 75 books at any given time.  Given the way I burn through titles, that’s really not that bad.

Until I started digging into some dark and scary corners of my

I won’t even mention that some of those titles on Goodreads have been on the TBR for more than three years.  Trust me, while that’s a scary fact, I have some that are way worse.

Like my Kindle.

I’m totally in love with my Kindle.  I love that I can carry it in my pocket.  I can read wherever I want.  No one knows how many books it can hold.

Including me.

I was recently digging around in my Kindle, seeking a book that “sounded good.”  And realized that I had a lot of books that I had never heard of.  I have no idea how they got there or who the author is.  It’s sort of like wandering the stacks at the local library.  I discovered that I have 176 titles on my Kindle that I haven’t read.

Yes, 176.

Slowly, the horror crept over me.  I had gone crazy on “freebies.”  You know, those freebie books from authors that are trying to build a reading base.  When I first got my Kindle I grabbed tons of these books, intending to read them in my spare time.  Ha, right.  Instead, they’ve been collecting digital dust over the last several years.  Languishing in my electronic files for the right moment to read them.

photo (1)A second wave of horror washed over me.  I did the same thing with my Nook application.  And my iTunes books.  I’m scared to open other reading apps.  Who knows what lurks there?

In reality, I have a reading supply for at least three years.  Maybe more.  I have no idea what I’m going to do.  The analyst in me wants to build a spreadsheet to track them:  Title, Author, dates added to the list, reading status.  At which point my Type A personality kicks in and declares that I should read them all!

I fear that it’s quite hopeless to conquer the problem.


Shelf Love

Two weeks ago, I finally did it.

I reorganized my bookshelves.

books to shelve edit

Preparing to shelve by putting all the stacks together

Last year, I came into a slew of new books all at once thanks to ALA and then the  Half-Price Books clearance sale bag day, plus quarterly book sale free days at work. More than two dozen new books entered my house and landed, here, on the floor of the den.

I would from, time to time, look at my seemingly full shelves and the stacks and how I hadn’t read any of them yet and feel bad for where they say and my out-of-control TBR pile and this addiction I have clearly about books.

I own four bookshelves. That’s it. Two in the den, two nice ones in the dining room, but they are all smallish.

I took a critical look at how I was shelving things and figured out what I needed to do: the journals had to go somewhere else. I’ve been a journaler since college and I stored the old volumes on the top shelf of one of the dining room bookshelves. After a good 12 years with this habit, we’re talking a dozen volumes (not as many as some, certainly) but enough to fill up 2/3 of a shelf. It was kind of nice to think about all the reflections and whatnot stored therein, but the truth is I very rarely picked up the old volumes.

The journals are now in an under-the-box storage box. The shelf is now full — Graham Greene through Michael Koryta in the dining room (interestingly, I had two copies of Koryta’s “The Cypress House.” Oops.)

As I reshelved things, I pulled out a stack that’s headed to the used book sale at the Library. For all my love of books, there are some that I’m just done with.

There are no rogue piles of books sitting in front of the bookshelf. I’m still technically out of bookshelf space, probably more so than I was before this project. On one shelf, I’ve got mass market paperbacks two deep.

For now, they are are put away and my shelves are happy.


Some things just go together…

“Me and my books in the same apartment, like a gherkin in its vinegar.”  –  Gustave Flaubert  a secret spot for a reader

Readers need cozy spots.  A safe place where they can fall into a book and not worry about anything that occurs outside of those pages.  Readers instinctively understand this basic need in life.

Designers create beauty for those cozy spots. has created a list of twenty cozy spots and their designers.  I truly cannot decide on my favorite.  Honestly, if someone granted me a single wish, I’d pick a reading spot of my own, and any one of these three would be on the list.

I love the simplicity of a seat that looks out to a beautiful view.  The simple adornment leaves nothing between reader and book.  But the storage and handy spaces of the chair are brilliant.  I could spend most of my life in that chair, I believe, with pots of coffee and tea.

My current spot is a comfy corner of our high-sided couch.  I can sit forward with my feet on the floor and lean to the back or side.  I can lean on the arm and stretch my legs out.  I usually have a dog — or two — curled next to me.  I have a small table that I keep close for gadgets and extra books.  And that cup of coffee!



Oyster, anyone?

But!  I’ve been burned before, so I am also timid.  Here’s where my heart is dashing off too:

With Oyster, Keep 100,000 Books In Your Pocket For $10 A Month

Whether for movies, music, or magazines, the all-access model has proven it’s here to stay. Now, what Spotify has done for music and Netflix has done for movies, a startup called Oyster is trying to do for that most analog of relics: the book.

The basic premise of Oyster‘s invite-only iPhone app, which launches today, is simple: For a flat fee of $9.95 a month, members will gain access to Oyster’s catalog of more than 100,000 (and growing) books, which at launch includes titles from hundreds of publishers, including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the large e-books distributor Smashwords.

Doesn’t it sound dreamy?  And, a little too good to be true?

I’m a Netflix subscriber.  I love being able to catch-up on various TV series (hello! how on earth did I miss Dr. Who for all those years!).  It’s cured us — more or less — of Redbox check outs and the subsequent late fees that I always accumulate.  I’m a huge proponent of local libraries and I wonder if this will impact them.

I am done with school and the reading stats definitely reflect that (more later on that subject.)  If the titles are good, I’m a super user for sure.  The upside is that I could get titles faster than the local library can provide them to me.

The downside?  Well, none that I can see.  The fee is reasonable.  I don’t mind not owning the books, no surprise given my intense library usage.

And that’s what scares me.  It sounds too good to be true.  But, then there’s this:  Over the summer, Stromberg pulled out Oyster during a long bus ride and found Lois Lowry’s The Giver, a book he loves but hasn’t read since he was young.  “It’s a book I perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have gone out and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to read The Giver because I enjoyed it when I was in middle school,'” he says. “And now I’m going to go read parts 2, 3, and 4.”

I love the Giver.  And I’ve read parts two and three.  I would totally love part 4.  How could I not?

I’m already something of a book slut.  My Goodreads list shows that I currently am reading 8 books; I know there’s a few titles missing.  My To-Be-Read list has 46 titles on it; I know there’s more than a few titles missing.  I don’t have a stack from the library sitting around because I spent the weekend reading all of them and the next batch was electronic.  The number of books on the shelves — physical and virtual — that I own and haven’t read is deplorable.

Having a subscription offering like Oyster is equal parts good and bad.  I’m a little too close to the addict that protest, “I can handle just one drink!” only to wake up the next morning covered in suspicious liquids and far away from home.

And then I notice the fine print:  Invite-only.

There is a God and I am saved.

Unless, of course, you have an invite you liked to share.