Friday, 27 March 2009

Book trailers

Have you seen them floating around YouTube? Little one- or two-minute clips, designed to make your mouth water for a particular book: book trailers.

It seems logical, doesn't it? Like movies, novels are a form of story-telling. A good hint at the story should make people want to buy the book, right?

But how many people you know browse YouTube looking for books? Do you?

How many people buy books as a result of viewing a trailer? Do you?

Is it worth the time and effort and financial outlay to create a book trailer? Will anybody see them who is not already a fan?

Please answer the poll at the top of the left-hand sidebar, and then tell me why I should or shouldn't make a book trailer when the time comes. Or if you've made one, tell me what you've learned.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Nothing happens when I double click

Students wrestle with unfamiliar technology.

In all seriousness, I think it's time we gave students eReaders instead of paper texts. The texts are obscenely expensive and student backpacks obscenely heavy. It doesn't help that the publishing industry has followed an aggressive bigger-is-better policy regarding textbooks for years.

From the Practical Theory blog. Hat tip to Christa Allen.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Bunch of blithering idiots

Arab teenager in Umm al-FahmJust because you have a right, doesn't mean it is wise or desirable to exercise it in any place at any time.

In this particular case, I am referring to the Israeli marchers provoking riots in the town of Umm al-Fahm.
One of the leaders of the march was Baruch Marzel, who led the anti-Arab Kach party that was banned in Israel in 1994.

"All we are doing is waving the Israeli flag. All we are demanding is loyalty to the state," another march leader, Michael Ben-Ari Ben-Ari, a member of the Israeli parliament, told the Israeli news website Ynet."

Yeah right. Watch out for the words "All we" or "We just". They almost inevitably precede lies. They are like magician's diversions, trying to draw your eyes away from what is really important. This formulation is often an important step in the process of self-deception, eagerly used by obnoxious extremists of all stripes.

The ability to wave a flag in any street is not exactly essential to anybody's well-being. I'm all for safe-guarding human rights, but this march should never have been allowed by the authorities. Its goal was primarily provocation and its only result the souring of Arab-Jewish relations within the Israeli state. It is equally obvious that this is precisely what the marchers desired, despite all the protests of offended innocence. It puts me in mind of all those nasty Irish marches that used to cause annual mayhem until the Irish finally grew up and learned to live together without constant nose-thumbing.

A similar outburst of maturity in the Middle East is not likely to occur in the near future.

History of Umm al-Fahm from

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Monday, 23 March 2009

The Moonstone - a book review

The Moonstone by Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone by Wilkie Collins is a 19th century mystery that provided the template for mysteries for many, many years to come, with bumbling policemen, a master sleuth, and amateur detectives all making their appearance. Because it was written in 1868, I was expecting something a bit stuffy, but was thrilled to discover that it was a warm, entertaining book. This is due primarily to Collins' skill at narrating with engaging voices. One of the participants in the mystery decides to put together a written, first-person account of the events surrounding the disappearance of the Moonstone, a huge yellow diamond, and asks various people who were present at various stages of the events to record their eye-witness accounts. So we are treated to a variety of voices. It broke down a little with the testimony of Miss Clack, who is one of those purse-mouthed, religious zealots designed to give religion a bad name. Even so, it is entertaining to see how she tells it from her point of view, but we are capable of seeing through her delusions even though she is not.

Three reasons you might like this book,
1. As mentioned above, the character of Gabriel Betteredge in particular draws us right into the story with his down-to-earth charm and the misogyny that he professes but seems to be quite incapable of practising.

2. Every time we think the mystery is solved (and I was frankly wondering what the rest of the pages would be used for), a new wrinkle comes along and things get complicated once again.

3. Although it was a contemporary novel at the time of its writing, it now fits in nicely with historicals. Anybody enamoured of 19th century Britain will be well satisfied with the necessarily authentic atmosphere and details. And grateful you didn't live then and there...

Three reasons you might not like this book
This part is going to be hard again.
1. The afore-mentioned Miss Clack. I got so fed up with her, I almost stopped reading. Like I said, I decided to be entertained instead by her profound lack of self-knowledge and general cluelessness.

2. You don't like a book that has a succession of narrators. It would have been fun to stick with Betteredge, I admit, but obviously Collins preferred the freshness of the first person, eye-witness account, even if it meant shifting from one narrator to another. I have mixed feelings about it, myself.

3. There are some plausibility issues. I am very suspicious of the medical evidence, even for the times. And there are a couple of characters I don't quite buy, but it wasn't fatal to the enjoyment of the story.

Three sentences from page 33
"The wicked Colonel's will has left his Diamond as a birthday present to my cousin Rachel," says Mr. Franklin. "And my father, as the wicked Colonel's executor, has given it in charge to me to bring down here."

If the sea, then oozing in smoothly over the Shivering Sand, had been changed into dry land before my own eyes, I doubt if I could have been more surprised than I was when Mr. Franklin spoke those words.

Other reviews
A variety at Top Mystery
Victorian Challenge
The Sleepy Reader

This was on my list for the 1% Challenge, which I had more or less abandoned because of the difficulty of handling library books when you're shuttling back and forth across the border. But when I saw The Moonstone on Feedbooks, my problem was solved. I rather doubt I'll catch up in the challenge at this point, but at least I had a lot of fun with this book.

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Sunday, 22 March 2009


FeedbooksGet thee to Feedbooks, forthwith!

Two words: free books. Works in the public domain, available as free pdf's, no strings attached. Enough to make a booklover weep for joy. You can read them on your computer, on your iPhone, on your Kindle, or your addiction of choice. And if you fall in love with the book you download, you can go out and buy it on paper, knowing ahead of time that you love it.

And if you self-publish, they will distribute your manuscript too. Doubt if there's a payment model involved, but if you just want to get read...

This is one of the cool things I discovered on Twitter.

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