Book Review: Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques Bonnet


‘Phantoms on the Bookshelves,’ by Jacques Bonnet was translated from the French original by Sian Reynolds and has an introduction by James Salter. The copy I have is a Kindle edition. It was first published in Great Britain in 2010 by MacLehose Press. It is a relatively short book at 123 pages in length, so it won’t take too much to get through it.

Phantoms on the Bookshelves, by Jacques BonnetThe introduction to the book by James Salter is a good, brief read concerning the author of the book and his book collecting ways. It could easily describe me, though I have nowhere near as many books as Bonnet, even though I have thousands myself in traditional form and/or digital format. I see similarities between the description given of Bonnet by Salter and myself, with my far fewer volumes. I too struggle now to find room for them all, with my virtual bookshelves requiring expansion in the near future to accomodate my book collecting ways into the current century and digital age. Traditional books have long run out of room in this house, as I suspect they have in Bonnet’s apartment.

Bonnet is a man who loves books and his thoughts on what is normal in a home, the presence of many books, is something I can relate to. I also find myself in wonder when I see homes with no books, particularly in some of the circles in which I move or have moved. How can they get by without books? Mind you it is probably not as easy a situation to read (no pun intended – truly not) these days, with books now being able to be stored by the thousands on a home computer and/or on an external hard drive or two. Still, I have wondered this for many years and I think Bonnet would probably agree with me. Relating to others is made easier when discussing books for Bonnet and I find this an agreeable thing also. It is the way of Bibliophiles, whether we use that term or not (perhaps for some Bibliomaniac is a better term).

I did not find Bonnet’s chapter on cataloguing and organisation helpful at all, though I expect it would help some. This is probably because I have developed my own system which closely resembles that of the Dewey to almost certainly be called a Dewey system. The Bonnet decsription horrified me and I thought it would become far too confusing and disorienting for me. He is certainly right about the Internet making a major impact on libraries and the need to have as many books as he has in his collection. It is not only the storing of works on the World Wide Web, in the cloud and on other digital storage systems like computers, external drives, etc, where libraries are changing and/or have changed, but also in the cataloguing and organisation of books. I have a large number of books stored on digital devices and by digital means, but I also have access to far more over the Internet from vast libraries that I can access online. But I also have both offline and online digital methods for assisting me in cataloguing and organising my books, which I use as best I can and with great relief for being able to do so. Yet it boils down to individual choice and comfortableness, being able to manage these resources in a way that allows the individual to harness them to the greatest effect, which is indeed something of an indiviual matter and process.

The Bonnet method of reading will not be everyones cup of tea, but that’s OK too, because that is also a very individualistic thing. Bonnet likes lying down to read, I prefer sitting at a desk. Bonnet likes to underline and write in his books as he reads, I prefer to highlight and collate quotes via other media. There is no one rule for all, but many different rules for many different people. The thing is to retain what one reads in some way, that I think is the key to reading. It is certainly not a requirement to read each and every book from cover to cover, but to take a dip in each one to some extent and to achieve some purpose when doing so is required if you wish to say that you read your books and they aren’t just display items.

The manner in which Bonnet has collected his books is almost baffling to someone who has not done so in the same manner. He seems almost obsessed with completing lists and collections of books, of following every author/book line that comes up in what he reads or experiences. It seems any book mentioned must be obtained for his library. This is the way of a Bibliomaniac, that is for sure. His obsession with collecting ‘picture’ books is another seemingly crazed hobby which almost seems to be a driving force for him. I too collect books, but this insight into how another book lover and lover of reading goes about collecting his books is one that is beyond my experience. It is a fascinating world of book hunting and gathering if ever there was one. Something about one book leads to another which leads to another, or some conversation leads to a book which leads to another, etc.

Bonnet’s reflections upon his books shows someone who truly absorbs what he reads and imbibes the being of those written about. He seems to feel them, to know them, far better than any creator of them. Authors of books, whether fictional pieces or biographical/autobiographical works fade with the passing of time, if indeed a true reflection of them is left in the pages of the books they write or in the annals of history. However, those created and placed within the realms of literature remain the same and can be known almost completely. There are places to visit, whether real or ethereal, people to meet and to greet. Books bring a whole world to one’s home and experience, and even beyond that one travels into the realm of fictional lands and peoples. A plethora of experience that is only exaggerated when the library is swollen by multimedia resources. What an amazing world the library can become – is.

Buy this book at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms-Bookshelves-Jacques-Bonnet/dp/1590207599/

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Book Review: Currently Reading – Print is Dead, by Jeff Gomez


I have been reading ‘Print is Dead – Books in our Digital Age,’ by Jeff Gomez and have now reached ‘Readers in a Digital Future.’ In this chapter Gomez begins to expound the possible future of the digital world for book readers. It is a world that abounds with possibility and an experience of reading that bibliophiles of the past could only dream of (if they could look passed the traditional book format). The book reading future will allow the reader to carry an entire library on a personalised device that can be accessed anywhere and at anytime, with the ability to interact with other digital sources of information and other readers from around the globe, to share insights and to communicate via chat and discussion functionality on book-based social networks, web applications and sites. The reader will also be able to store notes within the book that will be able to be edited and shared, to highlight text, search within a document or an entire library and even expand his/her own library seemingly endlessly. The possibilities and richness of the digital future for bibliophiles is incredible to think about and should be within our grasp.

As the digital future approaches I know it is a future I look forward to being able to grasp with both hands as a bibliophile. My traditional book library can expand no further – I have no more space for it to do so. However my digital library has already grown beyond the capability of a home twice my current size to hold and it continues to do so. Will I be able to read them all – probably not. But they will be entertainment, as well as tools, that I can use as I please and they will provide me with experiences as yet untold. The future of reading looks amazing as it continues to appear and unfold on the horizon and as the first rays of the digital era break forth upon us.

Of course, if ebooks are handled poorly by authors and publishers, the rich future of reading that could be, may not be. Many of the possibilities of a digital future could be squandered and Gomez warns us of this possibility. What a wasted opportunity should greed and jealousy stand in the way of a richer reading experience. The reading public also need to understand what it actually costs to produce an ebook and the ebook then needs to be priced fairly and be fairly accessible to the reader across all of their devices.

See also:
http://www.dontcallhome.com/books.html (Website of Jeff Gomez)
Podcast (Excerpts from the Book)
Google Books
Amazon

Website: Pinterest and Pin A Quote


How to Use Pinterest for Quotes

The link below is to a website that allows you to highlight any text and pin it to a Pinterest board. There is a small cost for using the service. The site provides a video on how it works and also examples of how people use it. Pinterest is becoming even more useful.

For more visit:
http://pinaquote.com/

Book Review: Currently Reading – Print is Dead, by Jeff Gomez


I have been reading ‘Print is Dead – Books in our Digital Age,’ by Jeff Gomez. I have now completed the fourth chapter ‘Generation Download.’ In this chapter, Gomez begins by comparing what has happened with the music industry with what has begun to happen with books and reading. A generation that has embraced a digital way of life, along with the gadgets that go with it, is out-growing the traditional book and craving digital technology and digital forms of entertainment. Music itself did not die with the coming of the digital world, only the form in which it was presented. The same resistance that the music industry applied to digital technology before it embraced it, is now being witnessed in the book industry – though I would argue that ebooks are taking a little longer to take off. Gomez argues that it is only a matter of time before an acceptable digital format is found that will have ebooks off and running, along with some form or forms of digital devices on which ebooks will be accessed. Perhaps the growing boom in Tablets and Ebook Readers is an indication that that time is now upon us.

Certainly I am a convert, having been previously a doubter of ebooks and the way they were accessed. More mobile forms of accessing ebooks, such as the Kindle, iPad and even Notebooks, have enabled me to transform my thinking, from one in opposition to being one who has fully embraced the technology. Being able to carry vast libraries on mobile devices is simply breathtaking to me and incredibly appealing. Not having to have huge spaces devoted to a large library and actually having the space to store a huge library is simply brilliant – I had long ago ran out of room for my books and needed to cull quite a number, which I did reluctantly. Now I am able to recall those dismissed books via the digital medium and not loose them again. Old friends are again welcome.

In the following chapter, ‘Generation Upload,’ the focus is on the savvy Internet user (which is generally most connected folk these days) who not only downloads material but also uploads modified material, uniquely created material and so on. This has been so with music and video, with the various play lists, mash ups, parodies and the like, as well as comments, contributions, etc. Will the same happen with books is the question raised by Gomez and predicted. Just how far consumer interaction will be with ebooks is yet to be seen, as also the form it will take. There are opportunities already existing for commenting and reviewing, with developments being made in the way of sharing quotes (Pinterest interaction, Quotista, etc), and likely many more ways yet to be invented or passed on convincingly to the masses.

‘On Demand Everything,’ the next chapter in the book, brings the attention of the reader to what we already know – we expect to be able to get pretty much everything whenever we want it and that better be soon. No longer do we need to wait for our media to arrive at given timeslots on the television, our CD music to arrive in the mail, etc. We now have the ability to access it all as soon as we want it and then to keep it in mobile gadgets that we can take with us and access whenever we wish. This then is surely the future of books. Gomez believes we will want to be able to divide large books into bits and pieces that we can access and use in whatever way we like – which would certainly be true of some forms of literature. However, it is unlikely that we would want to divide up novels for example, into little pieces. The ability to bookmark, highlight and clip pieces of text (among other possibilities) for various uses, is certainly increasing the appeal of ebooks and bringing them a more familiar feel, which will I think increase their usefulness considerably. Being able to find quotes, parcels of text and the like via search capabilities, cataloguing, etc, will all be very valuable tools that will bring ebooks into the realm of what is now possible with music, videos, etc.

In the next chapter, ‘Ebooks and the Revolution that Didn’t Happen,’ Gomez examines the reasons why Ebooks didn’t take off when they first appeared – which doesn’t mean they won’t take off at some point (which I do believe will happen at some point). His arguments certainly capture some of my own thoughts at the time of their first appearance, so if I was typical of people (at least of my age) at that time he may very well have hit the nail on the head. Some of the original issues still exist, such as the number of file types and matching them with the various readers and access to the files across a variety of devices. Perhaps when these issues are thought through with a bit more commonsense ebooks will become more popular sooner rather than later.

See also:
http://www.dontcallhome.com/books.html (Website of Jeff Gomez)
Podcast (Excerpts from the Book)
Google Books
Amazon