Posts Tagged ‘Kindle’


Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

OK, OK, I got it.  I finally got a kindle.  Kind of.  For a month, at least.

The call came about 3.20 p.m. yesterday from Kathleen Gust at the new “bookless” library at Stanford’s Engineering School.  The “bookless library” story was on NPR here, or the San Jose Mercury here.  The library has divested itself of something in the neighborhood of 60K books, and is putting 15 ebook readers in circulation to deal with the aftermath.  Needless to say, they’re in high demand.

How did the new library look?  The temptation would be to say “bookless” — but that wouldn’t be quite true.  Frankly, I didn’t pay much attention.  I was thinking about the kindle.  My friends told me it would transform my life, and I wanted it now. Now.  Now.  Now.  The first impression is the space looked like a regular booked library — just a small one, without too many books.

An affable young man about half my age helped me out.  Michael showed me how to turn it on.  He said I was lucky because the Kindle was still the best of the ebook readers.  Then he began to talk about five different outlets, or places to download, or something.  Perhaps he was speaking in tongues.

I asked Michael how many books were left in the library 16,000 books, minus the Timoshenko Collection, which was another several thousand.  So far, so good.  It made me feel better about the number of books stuffed into my living room (see Bookshelf Porn).  I suddenly felt reasonable again.

First disappointment:  I couldn’t connect to the Stanford’s Green (a.k.a. graduate) Library.  I guess the Green Library doesn’t “do” ebooks yet, at least not in any way I can access.

So I went to the kindle store on the little device, with Michael’s help.  The night before I had ordered an old hardback copy of Leishman’s translation of  Rilke.  The volume, with a pale blue dustjacket, had been a faithful companion when I lived in London. It had saved me from the charms of translators such as Stephen Mitchell, but had been lost in the years and relocations.  Could I have saved 30 bucks by having a kindle?

Not really.  They gave me half 28 titles — none of them Leishman.

So far, all I can access is titles like “Modern VLSI Design,” “Homogeneous Turbulence Dynamics,” “Spread Spectrum Electronics,” and “The Essential Engineer.”  One title looked promising:  “Kindle User’s Guide, 5th Edition.”

When I got home, I handed the device to my daughter Zoë.  She understood immediately and within seconds was accessing data.  Adam Gopnik said during his swing through Stanford last year that the new reason to have kids is that it’s a way of growing your own IT department.  It’s true.

“If I could get comics, that would be hella cool,” she said.

Wordsworth again:  “What we have loved/Others will love, and we will show them how.”  Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure.

Library of the future … on the other hand, you could smash your Kindle

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The San Jose Mercury discusses what may be the library of the future — as exemplified by the Stanford Physics Library.  According to the article, the new library will be only half the size of the current Engineering Library, “but saves its space for people, not things. It features soft seating, ‘brainstorm islands,’ a digital bulletin board and group event space. There are few shelves and it will feature a self-checkout system.”

There’s more:  it will have a completely electronic reference desk, with four Kindle 2 e-readers on site. An online journal search tool will scan 28 online databases, a grant directory and more than 12,000 scientific journals.

Here’s the problem with keeping books, which, in today’s library vernacular, are increasingly described as “units”:

Stanford is running out of room, restricted by an agreement with Santa Clara County that limits how much it can grow. Increasingly, the university seeks to preserve precious square footage.

Adding to its pressures is the steady flow of books. Stanford buys 100,000 volumes a year — or 273 every single day.

“Most of the libraries on campus are approaching saturation,” [Stanford’s Andrew] Herkovic said. “For every book that comes in, we’ve got to find another book to send off.”citylights

Can a backlash be far behind?  City Lights Bookstore,  launched by Beat  champion Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the 1950s, offers a different perspective at Booknewser, in the spirit of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”:

This is the current City Lights Books catalog. As you can see, it depicts a kind of Kindle graveyard. “Smash your Kindle,” City Lights seems to say, “we publish books in print.”

Stanford physics librarian Stella Ota expresses mixed feelings:

“When I look back, then there is a certain sadness for me. Any change is hard. And there are moments of joy, when I see bookplates of former faculty who owned and donated the book, and sometimes made notes on the side,” Ota said.

“But looking forward, I see an opportunity to create something new.”

Let’s hope her optimism is warranted.  As for me, my own real-book library is my sanctuary, and I long for more time away from a screen. It’s hard to beat a sunny afternoon with an old friend in the form of a well-worn book.

On the other hand, I too am running out of space…