Americans Do Read

People everywhere are talking about Steve Jobs’ recent comments on the Amazon Kindle:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is; the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

Yet business seems to be booming for those in the book publishing world. The NY Times reported that:

In 2008, book publishing will bring in about $15 billion in revenue in the United States, according to the Book Industry Study Group, a trade association.

Not such a dinosaur after all, are they Mr. Jobs? Speaking as someone who owns well over 700 books of all shapes, sizes and genres, I find it offensive that Steve Jobs thinks that Americans don’t read. My entire circle of close friends (nearly 20 people!) are all extensive readers and I have many more acquaintances who enjoy reading a book now and then– certainly more than one a year!

That’s why I plan on joining the rallying cry to prove Mr. Jobs wrong, along with everyone else who thinks as he does. See this post for more info on joining up. I’ll also be tracking my 50 books on this site. Please see my tracking page here.

If you have any comments on this, I’d love to hear them. Please consider posting a comment, some support, or a link to your own 50 book challenge.

Shelfari’s 50 Book Challenge

DIrect from Shelfari.com:

When asked about the new Amazon Kindle product, Steve Jobs CEO of Apple computer had this to say:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Welcome to the the 50 Book Challenge, where we fly in the face of Steve Jobs.

Basically …. the challenge is to read 50 books in one year. OR … establish a goal for yourself more or less, it’s up to you, just because we say 50 books doesn’t mean that has to be your goal too.

What a stupid, stupid thing to say, Steve Jobs. Do you have the data to support your statistics? I think not. So I will be participating in Shelfari’s call to action. Right here on this blog, I’ll be posting my progress toward reading 50 books in the next 365 days.

If you are a reader, please join us in fighting this assumption that Americans (or Canadians, or Martians for that matter) aren’t readers. If you don’t have a blog where you can track your progress, you can post from Shelfari’s forums, or start your own blog at WordPress.com (or similar). Whatever you do, if you choose to join us, post your link here and spread the word!

Shelfari's 50 Book Challenge

DIrect from Shelfari.com:

When asked about the new Amazon Kindle product, Steve Jobs CEO of Apple computer had this to say:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Welcome to the the 50 Book Challenge, where we fly in the face of Steve Jobs.

Basically …. the challenge is to read 50 books in one year. OR … establish a goal for yourself more or less, it’s up to you, just because we say 50 books doesn’t mean that has to be your goal too.

What a stupid, stupid thing to say, Steve Jobs. Do you have the data to support your statistics? I think not. So I will be participating in Shelfari’s call to action. Right here on this blog, I’ll be posting my progress toward reading 50 books in the next 365 days.

If you are a reader, please join us in fighting this assumption that Americans (or Canadians, or Martians for that matter) aren’t readers. If you don’t have a blog where you can track your progress, you can post from Shelfari’s forums, or start your own blog at WordPress.com (or similar). Whatever you do, if you choose to join us, post your link here and spread the word!

Review: The Twisted Citadel by Sara Douglass

I have to say that this book came at a most convenient time. I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed April 15th. (Yes, American Tax Day. I figured I should get all the pain over with at the same time.) A couple of days later I was in pain, unhappy with my medication and the fact I could barely eat. Or talk. Or sleep. I was impatiently awaiting Jim Butcher’s Small Favor to arrive from Amazon (more on that later). I’d already finished all four of the novels I’d purchased ahead of time, knowing I’d have not much to do but read while I convalesced.

Twisted Citadel is the 2nd book in what, if I remember correctly, will be a trilogy. Middle books are like middle children. They’re usually unobtrusive, yet puzzling, and in the end they tend to leave you surprised and a little bit impatient with their behavior. Who am I kidding? I don’t have children and I was never a middle child. That’s just the way this particular book makes me feel.

I have to admit that I was skeptical as to how believable Ms. Douglass’ could be in melding together what everyone had thought were two different worlds and what was definitely two entirely different plots. The Serpent Bride didn’t entirely convince me that the feat would be possible; yet with Twisted Citadel I’m starting to believe a little bit more. Axis, Stardrifter, and the skraelings seem to be meshing well with Darkglass Mountain and Elcho Falling.

In case you’re confused, this trilogy (termed Darkglass Mountain) is an attempt to merge the world found in The Wayfarer’s Redemption (also called the Axis Trilogy) with those found in Threshold and The Hanging Wall. It can get confusing if you haven’t read all the books involved, which I must admit I have not. While the Axis books were fascinating to me, I haven’t picked up the two stand-alones.

The tragedy of Maximillian and Isabel’s star-crossed love infuriated me in the last book. I thought we had another Faraday on our hands, and I was ready to be furious. However, I enjoyed and heartily approve of the direction this pair took with their relationship at the end of Citadel. I’ll stop there so I don’t ruin the ending for anyone; except to say that such a rebellious and courageous action is proof of an exciting third volume to come.

Overall, I believe Citadel does exactly what it was intended to do. It moves the story forward, provides hours of not-to-be-put-down entertainment and makes the reader impatient for the next installment. At the end of the day, I think that’s what any author could consider a job well done.

[xrr rating=3.75/5]

Review: The Undead Kama Sutra by Mario Acevedo

The Undead Kama Sutra by Mario Acevedo will be on sale March 11th!

Recently I had the opportunity to read a review copy of Mario Acevedo’s new novel: The Undead Kama Sutra. This is the third book in a series about Felix Gomez, ex-soldier and current vampire PI. Following The Nymphos of Rocky Flats and X-Rated Bloodsuckers, Kama Sutra is a somewhat chaotic adventure. In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say that I have not read the first two volumes in this series.

In this installment, Felix Gomez has traveled to the Florida Keys in search of the mysterious manuscript called The Undead Kama Sutra. This volume supposedly instructs the undead in giving their psychic and healing abilities a boost through various sexual positions. Felix thinks fellow vampire (and sexual Olympian) Carmen may have a clue to finding a few pages of the book. Distracted from his quest by the murder of an alien hidden within the body of an old friend, Felix begins to put together the pieces of the mystery: two plane crashes, three missing women, a golf resort, and the sinister retired Army Colonel Goodman.

Given the title, there’s a surprising lack of sex in this book. Felix seems to stumble from one dilemma to another without having a real plan for solving the mystery. He doesn’t appear to know how to be a hero, managing to get one woman killed and another kidnapped without having any idea of how to protect them. One could expect a vampire to be self-centered, but a supposedly higher being such as Felix shouldn’t be so damned ineffective.

There are a lot of details to Mr. Acevedo’s world. There are aliens, vampires, nymphomaniacs, and evil government officials. It’s an intriguing mix of genres. He makes a fine comment on the indifference and near outright malice of the American government toward it’s citizens. That aspect translates well to the real world. However the reader never has the opportunity to root for Felix. There’s too much else going on. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but neither does he go out of his way to make us love him either. Perhaps we were intended to fall in love with him in a previous volume.

The scene where Felix wastes his time wondering why one tryst only wanted a one-night stand when he merely wanted her for dinner anyway was a bit annoying. Did you forget, Mr. Gomez, that there are women missing? Or is your fragile vampire ego too important? That scene made for a great deal of frustration. I kept hoping for a spectacular finale in which Felix could heroically save the day with all his vampiric powers blazing. That didn’t happen. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, but that may just fuel my interest in purchasing the next volume.

I read this novel in less than a day, and may pick up the first two novels in the series to see if they’re more engrossing than this third installment. The lack of sex scenes, despite the title, was rather refreshing. This book is great fluff-reading;there’s not much there to force you to think. Acevedo didn’t make my list of must-have authors with this one, but this series would be great for those sick-in-bed-with-a-cold days.

[xrr rating=1.5/5]

Another Potter Novel? JK Rowling Says, ‘Maybe’

Harry Potter #7So if you haven’t heard, JK Rowling has said that she occasionally gets “weak” enough to say yes to an eighth Harry Potter novel. She says, however, that any further novels set in the world of Diagon Alley et al would not focus on Harry himself. Small miracles happen every day, I guess.

The author in me is half in awe and half bitter at the news. On one hand, it is very rare for a writer to be able to earn so much money on their work. I would be tempted to milk that popularity for all it’s worth too. On the other more acrimonious hand, JK Rowling is a freaking millionaire already. She doesn’t need it. Maybe she could– I don’t know… Pass off the torch to another fantasy author who might actually need to pay the rent? (Ms. Rowling, please keep in mind that if you do decide to pass off that torch, I’m available.)

The avid reader in me is torn as well on this news. I’d thought the series over and done. Things were all wrapped up neatly with a pretty little bow. I’d let go. I had moved on. To hear there may be more… Well, that is both blessing and curse. I was never overly fond of the Harry Potter craze anyway, despite being fond of the books themselves. As a matter of fact, I read the first few books only at great reluctance and only because so many people I knew loved them so well.

In any case, Rowling has said to “give it ten years” and so there may not be any additional news soon. But you never know. I’m sure the speculation at least will be entertaining.

Another Potter Novel? JK Rowling Says, 'Maybe'

Harry Potter #7So if you haven’t heard, JK Rowling has said that she occasionally gets “weak” enough to say yes to an eighth Harry Potter novel. She says, however, that any further novels set in the world of Diagon Alley et al would not focus on Harry himself. Small miracles happen every day, I guess.

The author in me is half in awe and half bitter at the news. On one hand, it is very rare for a writer to be able to earn so much money on their work. I would be tempted to milk that popularity for all it’s worth too. On the other more acrimonious hand, JK Rowling is a freaking millionaire already. She doesn’t need it. Maybe she could– I don’t know… Pass off the torch to another fantasy author who might actually need to pay the rent? (Ms. Rowling, please keep in mind that if you do decide to pass off that torch, I’m available.)

The avid reader in me is torn as well on this news. I’d thought the series over and done. Things were all wrapped up neatly with a pretty little bow. I’d let go. I had moved on. To hear there may be more… Well, that is both blessing and curse. I was never overly fond of the Harry Potter craze anyway, despite being fond of the books themselves. As a matter of fact, I read the first few books only at great reluctance and only because so many people I knew loved them so well.

In any case, Rowling has said to “give it ten years” and so there may not be any additional news soon. But you never know. I’m sure the speculation at least will be entertaining.

Book Review: Punching In by Alex Frankel

The author of this book has previously written for Wired and The New York Times. When I received this book as an advance copy, I was thrilled at the chance to read it. I spent nearly a decade in the customer service trenches, as a manager of a fast food restaurant. And although Frankel steered clear of such low-wage jobs as those, I was still excited to see a learned interpretation of the life that many Americans lead.

Punching In CoverFor the past six years, I’ve been a member of corporate America and I have been offered a glass of the ‘company Kool-Aid’ many times in my career. I don’t see myself as a gullible person. I am a cynic, and therefore I was intrigued by the thought that someone had actually researched how companies reach out and turn their employees into dedicated converts.

I must admit that the glimpse into the different worlds was interesting, and I could tell from Frankel’s writing that he had overall enjoyed his foray into the behind-the-counter aspect of commerce. However, there was an overlay upon some points in the retelling of the author’s experiences that smelled patronizing to me.

In this book, Frankel has bared the backbone of our country: the customer service employees who are nearly overlooked in their unobtrusiveness every single day of the year. These are the people that get the small but important things done. They deserve more reverence than to be reduced to some high school science experiment. I’m willing to believe I’m being overly sensitive on that point, however, so I’ll let it go.

Overall, the narrative was mildly interesting and the language was elegant. However, I expected more insights into the different companies than were offered in these pages. Each company philosophy was presented only briefly and then the author went on to complain of how long and hard the hours were. All I could think was, well what did he expect? It just felt like there should be more to the story than that.

Final conclusion: An enjoyable read; and I’m suitably thankful that I was chosen to review this book. If you’re in HR or corporate management, I would recommend it.

[xrr rating=1.5/5]

Sacred Space: 10 Rules For The Office Restroom

Heading to the restroom at work is a necessary evil; it’s one most people can’t avoid. However, there are ways to keep this evil from becoming a blight upon your day. Here are my personal tips for making ‘rest breaks’ a better place.Restroom Etiquette

  1. Do not make personal calls from the stall. People in the room to take care of business do not want to hear yours. The person on the other line does not want to hear flushing. This rule includes talking to your friend as well as calling the credit card company, the telecommunications company, or the video store. (Yes, I have heard all of these topics discussed in the next stall over.) The worst thing is being the person in the next stall needing to flush but not wanting to be rude. My rule on this? If you’re on your cell phone in the restroom, you’ve already proven you’re rude. Flush away, people.
  2. Do not do your business standing up (ladies’ room only). The person who comes in after you does not want to sit in your DNA. No, you aren’t talented enough to do this and not make a mess. Don’t even try it. And for Pete’s sake, make it into the toilet– not all over the floor! If your cheeks are too holy to touch the seat, that’s what the thousands of paper covers are for. Use them. This is an office building, not a rock concert and there should be no alcohol involved.
  3. Wash Your Hands. (This is for men, too!) Yes, I capitalized that one on purpose. This is just gross. Don’t want to be the only person in the office next week? Then prevent the spread of the next Black Plague by washing your freaking hands before leaving. WITH SOAP. Any teenage fast food worker could tell you: Proper hand washing consists of: warm water, antibacterial soap, disposable towels, and 20 seconds of scrubbing. Sing ‘Happy Birthday‘ twice if you have to. Just don’t do it out loud.
  4. No conversing through stall walls. This one is mostly broken by the ladies. There is a time and a place to gossip. This is not it. Not only is it revolting to be speaking with someone while doing #1, (Let alone #2!) but you never know who’s in the last stall listening in. It’s only smart to keep your conversations somewhere you can guarantee they’ll stay private.
  5. Brushing your teeth. The jury’s still out over whether this is a faux pas or not; but one thing is clear. Rinse the damn sink when you’re finished. This isn’t your personal bathroom, and the next person who comes in doesn’t want to stare at your used up toothpaste. Blech.
  6. Don’t spray buckets of perfume/cologne all over. Yes, we know what you’re trying to cover up. No, it’s not working. Sometimes, the perfume smells worse than what you were trying to hide. Not to mention that you have to spray a gallon of the stuff to make a dent, and by that time, the next person to come in ends up with an allergy-triggered migraine for the rest of the damn day. (Yes, that’s ME!)
  7. Follow the unspoken placement rule. This is an undocumented guideline. Count how many stalls there are. Four? Five? The last two are always used for… ‘longer downloads’. The first two or three are normally used for quick visits. This is adjusted, of course, based on current occupancy. As the saying goes, “If you gotta go, you gotta go.” If you must, take whats available; but try to keep this small piece of etiquette in mind.
  8. Leave your coffee mugs and water bottles outside. There’s nothing more disgusting then bringing something you put in your mouth into the space where you do your business. It may be one thing to do it at home, when you can be relatively certain of cleanliness; but at the office? How do you know the cleaning crew got around to wiping down that ledge below the mirror?
  9. Clean up after yourself. If you dribble on the seat, wipe it up. If you drop a paper towel pulling one from the dispenser, pick it up. Please don’t leave tampon wrappers on the floor. Each stall has a waste bag for that for a reason. Some of us like to pretend that we’re not stepping into a cesspool and risking our health every time we need to pee. Help maintain the illusion but not leaving anything disgusting behind.
  10. All users are created equal. What does this mean? It means your direct supervisor, the department head, and the company president (or anyone in between) probably does not want to chit-chat with you while they’re taking care of their own business. In this space, all people are created equal. Unless one of your superiors speak to you first, smile and nod and keep your trap shut. Do your flattering in the meeting room; not the restroom. Your boss(es) will thank you.

Things To Look Forward To

Schedule of Releases:

June 5, 2007The Harlequin, Laurell K Hamilton (book)
June 5, 2007Eat Me, Drink Me – Marilyn Manson (album)
June 14, 2007Kushiel’s Justice – Jacqueline Carey (book)
July 21, 2007Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (book)
August 28, 2007Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks (book)
September 25, 2007Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (book)
November 6, 2007Host by Faith Hunter (book)
November, 2007Holidays Are Hell – Anthology including Kim Harrison (book)
November 13, 2007Confessor by Terry Goodkind (book)
February 2008 – Dark Wraith of Shannara by Terry Brooks (a Graphic Novel illustrated by Edwin David and adapted by Robert Place Napton)
March 2008The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison (book)