Browsing eBooks Just Got Easier

SkimModeGoogle.0There are many people, like myself, who dislike eBooks for any number of reasons, but as technology continues to move forward there are more and more advances in the world of eBooks helping to close the gap between physical books and eBooks. Probably the biggest group of eBook readers are those who enjoy fiction, and rightfully so. Readers of fiction are generally reading a story in their spare time because it’s a pleasurable experience that allows them to dive into a particular story that they find intriguing, making connections with characters, settings, and the like. They are usually very straightforward with how they are read, one page after another as the story progresses and builds upon itself.

On the other hand, non-fiction titles are not as cookie cutter in their use by readers and offer an array of different approaches to reading depending upon the purpose. If you’re doing research on a historical event, you might only want a snippet of a book. When looking at DIY titles, there might be a particular project you would like to attempt. Cook books, manuals, historical texts, books on language, are all examples of books that are not necessarily meant to be read with the reader hanging on every word, going page by page. Browsing these books might be the best approach for a particular need, and it is in browsing a book that most eBook applications fall flat.

Google Play Books aims to change that quite a bit, by implementing their new browsing feature called ‘skim’ mode. This new feature allows users to slide between different pages of the book with just a single tap of the center of the screen. Previously readers would need to either use the table of contents or bookmarks to mark where they left off or to go back to a specific page. Now, you can go to a bookmark and browse around that area with ease, without having to turn each page. The idea might not seem groundbreaking, and it isn’t, but it certainly helps to add more functionality to an area of eBooks that has really needed it in order to unlock its potential. With a quick way to browse the pages of books and magazines, there should definitely be an increase in users who ordinarily wouldn’t have considered using eBooks.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The_Rocky_Horror_Picture_ShowIf you’ve never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you’re in luck. Tomorrow, October 24th, the Dover Public Library will be having a special after hours free showing of the film at 8:30 PM. Originally released in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is quite unique since it is categorized as a musical comedy horror. The movie stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick, each of whom put together a memorable performance throughout the movie, with a guest appearance from Meat Loaf.

Although the movie was a flop at the box office initially, it developed a cult following as a midnight movie and has stayed in limited release across the country for over four decades. Movie goers would return to see the film multiple times, dressing up like their favorite characters, interjecting their own dialogue, throwing objects at the screen, and even performing segments of the film (also known as having a shadow cast). Perhaps you’ve seen the film but haven’t had the opportunity to experience the addition of a shadow cast. Well, tomorrow night there will be a shadow cast on hand from Newark to give viewers the full Rocky Horror experience. Having just experienced the Newark production, I can firmly say that it really does add something extra to the showing. Props will also be provided by the library to help to create the best experience for participants.

There will be tickets available tomorrow at the door, or you can stop by and pick them up during the day. It is first come first served, with a limited amount of seats available I’d recommend getting them at your earliest convenience. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience such a classic film in such a unique way. You must be 18 years or older to attend, or have parental consent.

Upcycling Old Books

Completed Book ClutchThe books at the Dover Public Library are well loved.  Between 2012 and 2013 the number of items being checked out increased by over 15%.  A single copy of a popular title such as Gone Girl or The Hunger Games can be checked out 60 times or more.  It’s no surprise then that some of our books can become too damaged to read.  They are returned to the library with pages missing, spines broken, or with the art work of a two-year-old budding Picasso scribbled all over the pages.

These books can no longer be lent to the public, but we find it painful to discard them.  Seriously, the ghosts of books past haunt our dreams…  Our solution was to create an upcycling program at the library.

What’s the difference between recycling and upcycling?  Well, recycling involves breaking down materials to their base elements.  Cans, for example, get melted down and turned into other aluminum products.  Upcycing, on the other hand, means altering the material to make something new.  Ever hear your mom say, wait, don’t throw those jeans away, I can make them into a skirt? That’s upcycling.

So rather than throwing our damaged books into a recycle bin, we repurpose them and make them into something new.  Our first project was transforming a book into a purse.  Using an old book cover and scraps of fabric, patrons were able to create their own clutches.  The project only took a couple of hours and the results were great.  Pictures are below, but anyone interested in how we did this can find our instructions on the library’s instructables site.

Upcycling is great for the environment.  We’re generating less waste, we’re using less energy, and, best of all, we’re giving new life to the books we all love.  Our next program will be on November 16 at 2pm.  We’ll be making bracelets out of old book pages.  Hope to see you there!

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Gender Neutrality

Leckie_AncillaryJustice_TPIf we take a look back at some of our favorite books or movies, how important is the gender of characters to you as a reader? What kind of an impact does it have on how you view the different events that take place? Would those books or movies still be your favorite had the gender of the characters been an unknown?

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie has won quite a few awards, including the Nebula Award for best science fiction or fantasy novel, and is a fascinating example of gender neutrality in writing. Leckie challenges us again and again to think about the natural default words we use in everyday life, because often times they do carry a gender bias along with them, and it is usually masculine. Contrary to the norm Ancillary Justice uses feminine pronouns for almost the entirety of the story for both male and female characters, making it incredibly difficult to identify the gender of a specific character as the story unfolds. But it also does something else, it demonstrates how a very slight deviation from the norm can spark a reaction with readers. Most readers have a somewhat unique interpretation of what characters look like, even if they are described in detail to the reader, but not knowing the gender of a character allows for a much more open and interesting interpretation. Fan communities have had discussions about whether or not a particular character is male or female, leading to more analysis over the story, which can only be a positive thing. As Leckie’s story progresses some of the genders are actually revealed, which has a somewhat dramatic effect, as it causes the reader to reanalyze the characters actions. But should we reanalyze the story and the actions of a character simply because their gender wasn’t what we may have thought it to be? Why does it matter so much to us as a reader?

Perhaps Ancillary Justice isn’t the best example for complete gender neutrality, but it certainly provides enough substance to analyze ourselves and to ask some important questions. It is entirely possible that there are benefits from knowing the gender of characters in a novel, such as helping to make a stronger connection or understanding why a character may feel the way they do, but there should be a further exploration of the possible benefits in storytelling with gender neutrality.

Unlimited Google Drive

google_drive_600One of the most frequent issues I come across working at the library is people either forgetting or not knowing that they should bring their own flash drive with them when they are looking to do work on the computers provided. It happens to everyone at some point in time, but it happens with students more so than any other group. Now Google is looking to address that problem by offering unlimited Google Drive space for students and teachers.

The storage isn’t actually unlimited, as there is a 5TB cap, but that is more than ample for people who are mainly using it to hold text documents –  image and video editing take up a lot more space than documents and the space provided would still take quite a long time to fill up, probably years. The idea is that offering more storage online will allow students to rely less on physical books and decrease the cost associated with going to school. Unfortunately in order to qualify for the program the student or educator must be from an institution that supports Google’s education suite, but if you are unsure of whether or not your school does, now might be a good time to check.