Posts Tagged ‘Amazon Kindle’

Surprised by Joy

November 23, 2014

I am not quite sure how to classify C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy. It is an autobiography, of sorts, but Lewis only wrote about his early, pre-Christian life. He had quite a lot to write about his childhood and adolescence and his early loss of his faith. He seemed to have less to write about his adult life, his service in World War I, and his career at Oxford and the narrative ends when he became a Theist. He seems to have ended just when many readers might want to know more.

 
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Lewis’s journey was not primarily a spiritual one. There was no conversion on the road to Damascus for Lewis. His journey was largely an intellectual one. His faith was shaken by the death of his mother but destroyed by his intellectual pride and a too ready acceptance of the materialist philosophies of his time. C. S. Lewis became a Theist when he realized that many Christians were quite intelligent men. He found that he could no longer believe that a writer like G. K. Chesterton or George MacDonald was brilliant despite his faith.

Lewis’s journey was also a lifelong search for what he called Joy, an indescribable longing for something not found in this world and that can never really be satisfied by the world. Lewis describes his search for Joy in pleasure, the world’s philosophy, and other such vanities. He got snatches of Joy in Nordic mythology, a feeling he called “Northerness”, in music, friendships, etc but it was never the real thing. Ultimately, Lewis found Joy after he stopped looking for it, in his Christian faith. He didn’t expect to find Joy there. Lewis described himself as a reluctant and miserable convert. Lewis’s lesson seems to be that you cannot find Joy by looking for it. If you seek for other things, especially the Ultimate Source of Joy, Christ, you may surprise yourself by finding Joy.

I do not believe that C. S. Lewis was ever really an Atheist. He was not being dishonest, except with himself. For a very long time, Lewis tried to convince himself to be an atheist, but it never really stuck. He never fully accepted the materialist, naturalist worldview that is necessary for true atheism. By his account here, Lewis always had a somewhat mystical bent, a feeling that there is more to the world than meets the eye. One of the temptations he faced in his youth was a fascination with the occult and Lewis admitted that if he had run into the right (wrong?) sort of people he might have ended up a magician or even a Satanist. This seems hardly the sort a Richard Dawkins is made of, but a Dawkins would never have responded to Christ’s call.

Surprised by Joy is one of Lewis’s better books. Some of his best lines, the ones people are always quoting can be found in this book. Lewis recounts his early life with good humor and the result is a very readable story. There are too many typos in the Kindle edition of this book which are very annoying. I hope this can be corrected.

 

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Time Enough at Last

April 13, 2013

Time Enough at Last was the title of one of the more memorable Twilight Zone episodes. Perhaps you remember it. Harry Bemis was a bank teller whose one passion in life was reading. Unfortunately, he never had enough time to read. The bank president reprimanded him for reading while waiting on customers. His wife did not let him read at home, preferring a more social lifestyle. The only chance that Harry Bemis really had to read was in the bank vault during his lunch hour.

Time enough at last!

Time enough at last!

Bemis’s  habit of spending his lunches in the bank vault saves him when a nuclear war breaks out and he finds that he is the only survivor. He becomes lonely and despondent and contemplates suicide until he discovers the ruins of a public library. For the first time in his life, Harry Bemis has all the books he can read and time enough to read them. He eagerly stacks up the books and plans out in what order he will read them, but just as he picks up the first book, he drops his glasses, smashing them and making it impossible to read anything.

Here are the last few minutes of the episode.

You can watch the whole episode here.

It does sometimes seem as if the whole world is conspiring against us readers. Employers frown at us for reading on the job and actually expect us to work. Friends and family keep telling us to go outside in the fresh air and do various recreational activities that do not involve reading. Spouses expect us to take them places and do things with them, even talk. When they are in a romantic or amorous mood, they expect us to waste valuable reading time with sex.

Modern technology has made things a little better. Audiobooks allow us to “read” while driving or engaging in some activity. If you wear earphones, non-readers assume you’re listening to music. The invention of e-books has helped considerably. A Kindle is portable and easily concealed. We can carry whole libraries around with us to read at odd moments. I find that carrying a Kindle is a lot more convenient that the old method of carrying stacks of books. Even better, Amazon has apps for the iPhone and Android which allow you to read your Kindle books. We can read and non-readers think we are working and texting.

Still, there is never enough time for us readers to read as much as we would like. How nice it would be if there were some apocalyptic event which would destroy civilization. Sure, there would be a death toll in the millions and things would be really awful, but think of all the time we would have for reading.

There is one problem though. If there were a nuclear war or something, I doubt that electricity would be available. Without electricity to charge them, our Kindles, Nooks, and smart phones would quickly turn into expensive paperweights. Then we would end up staring at blank screens muttering, “It’s not fair”, just like poor Harry Bemis.

 

Are E-Books There Yet?

June 9, 2011

I got an Amazon Kindle for my birthday last year. I wanted it not just because I’m a technophile, who loves electronic gadgets of all sorts, and not just because of being able to carry around a small library with me, but also because I have just run out of space on my shelves for regular books.

So, you see, I had to find some solution. I couldn’t expand my book shelves any more. I wasn’t willing to get rid of any of my books. So, I decided that e-books was the way to go.

The reason I am mentioning all of this is that I just read an article by John C. Abell of Wired, “5 Reasons Why E-Books Aren’t There Yet”. Mr. Abell lists five reasons why e-books will not displace printed books just yet and I wondered how the reasons affected me.

1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.

Not a problem for me. I carry my Kindle around a lot and I am always reminded to read something. I created a collection on my Kindle called “Currently Reading” so I know what I am currently reading.

2) You can’t keep your books all in one place.

He is referring to the fact that different e-readers use incompatible formats.

Books arranged on your bookshelves don’t care what store they came from. But on tablets and smartphones, the shelves are divided by app — you can’t see all the e-books you own from various vendors, all in one place. There is simply no app for that. (With e-readers, you are doubly punished, because you can’t buy anything outside the company store anyway).

Apple doesn’t allow developers to tap into root information, which would be needed to create what would amount to a single library on an iOS device. If that restriction disappeared, there would still be the matter of individual vendors agreeing to cooperate — not a given since they are competitors and that kind of leveling could easily lead to price wars, for one thing.

But the way we e-read is the reverse of how we read. To pick up our next physical book, we peruse bookshelves we’ve arranged and pick something out. In the digital equivalent, we would see everything we own, tap on a book and it would invoke the app it requires — Kindle, Nook, Borders, etc. With the current sequence — open up a reader app, pick a book — you can easily forget what you own. Trivial? Try to imagine Borders dictating the size and shape of your bookshelf, and enforcing a rule that it hold only books you bought from them, and see if that thought offends you even a little bit.

I get most of my e-books from Amazon.com. I can also get them from the Gutenberg Project, and other free sources. I use mobipocket converter to convert them to a format my Kindle can use. I have created collections based on subject so I have little trouble remembering the e-books I own.
3) Notes in the margins help you think.

The Kindle allows you to take notes and share them with others.

4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren’t priced that way

This one is simple, and also easy to oversimplify since people still have to get paid. But until e-books truly add new value, the way Hollywood did with DVD extras, it’s just annoying to plunk down $13 for what amounts to a rental. E-books cost virtually nothing to produce, and yet the baseline cover price, set by publishers, is only fractionally below the discount price for the print version of new releases.

E-books can’t be shared, donated to your local library shelter, or re-sold. They don’t take up space, and thus coax conflicted feelings when it is time to weed some of them out. But because they aren’t social, even in the limited way that requires some degree of human contact in the physical world, they will also never be an extension of your personality.

Most of the e-books I buy are cheaper than the printed version. Older books, in which the copyright has expired can be had for a very low price or even free. I agree with Abell about sharing. That is really my only complaint, so far.

5) E-books can’t be used for interior design.

Okay, he’s got me there. Still, I have enough printed books for interior design to last me.

I do have one quibble that Abell didn’t mention. The way the Kindle handles illustrations sucks. The Kindle can’t do color yet, so they are monochrome and you can’t expand them. This is especially frustrating with maps, which more often than not are illegible.

Maybe e-books aren’t quite there yet, but Amazon is already selling more e-books than paper ones so they’re coming.


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