Posts filed under Books

Cool Guy

Filed in Books, Memories

Actually, he wasn’t just a cool guy. He was a cool guy who was the CEO of the multinational conglomerate I joined in 1993. He bought books for the library that the company had at the head office for its employees. For a time, the library was one of my job responsibilities, as I oversaw its running and worked with the librarian (yes, we actually employed a full-time librarian just to run the library).

It was one of my responsibilities to look through book catalogs and make recommendations on books to buy. But I wasn’t the only one doing it. Occasionally, we would get a call from the CEO’s office to go and collect a package the CEO had brought back for the library from his recent overseas travels. After the first time it happened, I was soon looking forward to such calls as I knew it meant new additions to the company library.

He didn’t buy just books, and definitely not corporate books. He bought FICTION. The most memorable package he gave us happened just after Toni Morrison was announced winner of the 1993 Nobel Literature Prize. He gave us the entire Toni Morrison collection up to the time of the Prize – The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved – all of them hardcovers. Through his influence, we later added Jazz to the library when it was published. No, wait, his gift might have included Jazz, since that book was published the year Morrison won. In fact, I remember it was listed in her bibliography at the time of the Prize. But I digress.

The company library held a motley collection of books, both fiction and non-fiction. It was an initiative started by the employees’ sports club, and initially included book donations from its members, and later embraced by the company.

The fiction included a good selection of good writers, including Margaret Atwood and John Steinbeck. I remember Atwood especially – it was from the library that I borrowed Cat’s Eye (a book that still haunts me even to today) and The Robber Bride.

But perhaps the most unusual writer to feature in the company library was Jeanette Winterson. I remember borrowing Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. There was even a Winterson book purchased during my tenure as executive-in-charge of the library that I even wrote a review for the staff newsletter. I think it was Written on the Body, which was published in 1992. Well, in any case, it was the one which had this author’s photo.

Unfortunately, a few years later, the company decided to close the library (the reason, I think, was lack of space). All the while, the library had been managed by the department I was in, but because of the impending closure, the head of another department (the one related to employees) decided it came under his department, and gave permission for employees to choose books from the library for themselves. His staff had first dips. I managed to get Atwood’s Surfacing. I hope the ones who took the other Atwood, as well as Morrison, Steinbeck and Winterson, books are cherishing them.

The employees with children had the best picks – the library had a very good children’s section. At one point, we even had a monthly children’s story-telling Saturday and brought in a kindergarten teacher to read to the employees’ children invited for the occasion.

I have fond memories of the company library, especially of the cool guy who added books to it. I hope, through his generosity, some of the employees got to read more than just the pulp fiction they were usually used to.

Thank you, sir.

Another major player enters the ebook market

Filed in Books, Tech Stuff

I first found PeanutPress in 1998 while looking for sites that offered ebooks. Over the years, Peanut Press has been through various owners, including Palm, Inc, which renamed the ereading software PalmReader. Then PalmReader was sold (again) and became known as eReader. It’s still known as eReader today, but is once again under new ownership – Fictionwise, itself another ebook retail site, which wisely kept the two sites separate.

Fictionwise was recently purchased by Barnes & Noble, a major book retailer in the States.

All the above is my roundabout way to say there is now another major player in the ebook market.

For me, there have always been two major players – and Barnes & Nobles – maybe because I’ve purchased from them before, despite being located halfway around the world from them. There is a major difference between them – is a virtual bookstore, whereas Barnes & Noble is a traditional bookstore with a physical address and outlets around the States.

When I read the news, I thought for a while and realised that, as far as I know, the Barnes & Noble site does not sell ebooks. Well, according to an article in The New York Times’ Gadgetwise section, it used to, but stopped in 2003. The same article also said

The move positions Barnes & Noble to enter the e-book market and compete with as a distributor of digital content.

Aha …

Smart move.

Instead of starting from scratch, B&N has re-entered the ebook market through two established ebookstores.

According to another article in Trading Markets, “Barnes & Noble said it plans to use Fictionwise as part of its overall digital strategy, which includes the launch of an e-Bookstore later this year.”

When I first read of the purchase, I thought one of the things that would happen would be an update of the B&N site to include links to both Fictionwise and eReader. Instead, there will be an e-Bookstore … wait a minute, I wonder if that means Fictionwise and eReader will be merged into the store? Can only wait for further announcements.

The good news gets better. The Gadgetwise article ends with a mention of the news about Fictionwise being “named as a content provider for the company, based in Mountain View, Calif., which plans to release its own e-reader later this year.”

Ooo …

A hop over to the Plastic Logic site for more information got me very excited. The Plastic Logic e-reader hardware will support a wide range of document types, including PDF, DOC(X), XLS(X), PPT(X), TEXT, RTF, HTML, JPEG, PNG, BMP, ePub, and eReader Format.

eReader format – that’s the format of my ebook collection. I’ve been waiting for this ever since Amazon announced the Kindle.

Up to now, I’ve stayed away from any thoughts of replacing the eReader software in my Palm TX. One reason is because the Palm TX is still working very well. The other reason is because none of the ereading hardware so far (Kindle and Sony Reader) support the eReader format. Now, one is coming that will support it.

Hooray … except for one possible hardware flaw.

Plastic Logic has listed its ereader hardware’s specs as Thin (<7mm), lightweight (<16 oz), form factor of 8.5″ x 11”.

8.5″ x 11″?

That’s the size of a sheet of paper.

Too big, even tho’ thin and lightweight.

Hopefully, Plastic Logic will see the logic in making its ereader hardware smaller, or even offering two sizes – the 8.5″ x 11″ and half that.

Meanwhile, I’m still enjoying my growing ebook collection in my Palm TX.

I love Bluetooth

Filed in Books, Tech Stuff

This is one of those rare occasions when I feel technically competent.

I’d just purchased two books from eReader, (Rita Mae Brown’s Cat on the Scent and Pawing Through The Past, books #7 and #8 in her Mrs Murphy series, if anyone is curious), downloaded them to my MacBook and needed to transfer them to my Palm TX PDA.

Now, the usual way to transfer the two files would be to take out the memory card from the TX, put it in a card reader, plug the card reader into the MacBook, copy the files to the card, and reverse the process. But there’s an easier way.

Both the MacBook and Palm TX have Bluetooth (short range wireless). After pairing the two devices so they can “see” each other to exchange files, I proceeded to send the first file from the MacBook to the TX. A bleep from the TX told me the connection was successful. Within minutes, both books were on the TX, ready to be read.

No wires. No popping of memory card in and out of the two devices. No plugging in of card reader, etc.

I feel quite accomplished this morning.

Book Alert: Awang Goneng’s Growing Up in Trengganu

Filed in Books

At Borders The Curve:

And I have a copy.

On the Shelf

Filed in Books

It’s not a compliment for a female to be told she’s “on the shelf” , but when the same expression is applied to a book, it means the book is available for purchase, and just in time for the country’s 50th Merdeka celebrations, too!

It also means the arrival of another Malaysian author in our midst – Chong Kwee Kim, the author and illustrator, is a journalist with The Star in Penang.

I had promised her a blog entry about her book and asked her for a hi-res picture of the book’s cover to go with it. But nothing beats a picture of the book on the shelves, and once again, I “delivered” – this time, at the MPH One Utama outlet.

At first glance, Ah Fu the Rickshaw Coolie may seem a simple book – it’s only 32 pages thick – but remember, never judge a book by its cover! The story, set in large clear type, is told in verse and said to be suitable for readers of all ages, ideal for reading aloud, according to the blurb on the outside back cover.

Aha! Ah Fu is a great introduction to reading and also encourages quality family time together as parents can read to their kids.

The story is accompanied by well-drawn colour illustrations that tell a story of their own – one that is historical and a fitting addition to the numerous books published to celebrate Malaysia’s 50th Merdeka. For the history of the country is more than a history of politicians and extraordinary men and women, but also a history of the common person in the street, someone like Ah Fu the rickshaw coolie, who contributed in his own small way to the making of Malaysia.

This makes a great little gift – go get a few copies for yourself, your family, and friends, too.