The Apple Tablet is Here!

The ground-breaking, revolutionary equipment has arrived! Apple announced the iPad yesterday. Despite the many jokes regarding the feminine-hygiene-connotations of the name, it actually looks like a great product. Priced between $499-$850 (depending on size and capabilities), and weighing in at a mere 1.5 lbs, it looks to be a combination of an iPod/iPhone and a laptop... slightly more navigable than the small screen of the former (the screen of an iPad is 9.7" long), slightly more portable than the bulk of the latter. A full break-down of specs can be found on Apple's website or at Gizmodo.

It will run on the same OS as the iPod/iPhone, meaning the 100,000+ Apps in the App store will all work on the iPad. Sadly, as unlimited as the App store seems to be, this is in fact a bit limiting: software that runs on any 'normal' OS will not run on an iPad, making it more limited than a traditional laptop.

Sadly, the tablet does not seem quite as ground-breaking as it could have been. No camera, no multi-tasking (which means no web browser and e-mail app, no Pandora and web browser, no iTunes and iBooks). No word processor. It's still linked to the AT&T 3G network, which I think we've pretty much established is an excellent way to lose customers. AT&T cannot support the existing 3G demands from iPhone users, damaging its service to all customers. I shudder to think what an influx of iPad users will do to the network.

The best news for the publishing industry comes in the form of iBooks, a proposed e-bookstore that would come pre-loaded onto the iPad, and will (Apple hopes) parallel Apple's success with iTunes as an e-music store. The format looks like it will be similar to the Classics App (which I absolutely love). Books purchased will display on an e-bookshelf and as you read, you can flip paper-textured e-pages. You can see a sneak-peek here.

Currently, the store plans to launch with e-book content from Hachette, S&S, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins. Random House, you might notice, is suspiciously missing from the list. In a statement, however, Stuart Applebaum said, "Random House welcomes Apple's iPad and iBooks app and we look forward to our continuing conversations with them about how we might best work together." (from yesterday's PW announcement)

The iPad will run on the traditional e-Pub format, but it is still unclear if e-books obtained from outside the iBook store will work on the iPad as an e-reader (are you tired of all these vowels yet?). Technically, e-books in e-Pub work across various devices, including the Sony e-reader. Apple also has not clarified how it will address self-publishing (which Amazon offers for the Kindle).

Most importantly, it looks like Amazon might face some threats from Apple in the world of how-we-price-e-books. The first book shown at the reveal was Ted Kennedy's, priced at $14.99. This morning, one guest on NPR reported that Apple will allow publishers to set the price of e-books in iBooks, and will simply take a cut of each book sold. This would be a huge challenge to the Amazon Kindle way of doing things, which is $9.99-or-bust. Whether or not this will give publishers enough of an opportunity to stand up against the Amazon giant we have yet to see, but many are hoping that the launch of an e-book store with the backing of a major corporation like Apple will give the publishing industry a chance to hit the 'reset' button on the production, marketing and sale of digital books...

The iPad will be available in March... expect a lot of buzz (and bashing) before then.

Ultimate Nerd-dom Playlist

It's good to know I'm not the only uber-nerd out there. I have company in the folks at Flavorwire, a pop culture website and blog (as far as I can tell). One of their recent releases? The 10 Best Songs About Libraries and Librarians. No, I'm not kidding - I couldn't make that up. It's just too good.

The Apple Tablet Is Coming...

... and some (including today's NY Times article) are predicting that, as with the iPod and iTunes, the tablet will turn the status-quo of media consumption on its head. The days of free newspaper and magazine content online are coming to an end (not necessarily a bad thing). Amazon's days of mass power over digital content pricing are dwindling (definitely not a bad thing). Furthermore, this will hopefully give media companies - magazines, newspapers, websites, publishers - a chance to go back and fix the mistakes of digital content readers past (absolutely not a bad thing).

But what is a bad thing (I think) is the power that the tablet will hand over to Steve Jobs - yes, the selfsame man who claimed that the Amazon Kindle would go nowhere because "people don't read anymore." And how wrong he was -- book apps recently overtook game apps as the bestselling category on the App Store for iPods/iPhones. In light of Jobs' earlier comments on reading and e-readers, the tablet seems a bit like back-pedaling, no?

Despite my cynicism, however, I do believe that the tablet - whatever it may look like and however it may work - will revolutionize the world of digital access, and that revolution gives new hope to the media world: just as we knew the music industry could not continue to stand on its feet if Napster remained the main source of music for the world, we now know (perhaps a bit too late) that newspaper and magazines cannot survive if 100% of their content is available online for free. We also know - well, some of us do - that publishing companies cannot survive if e-books are valued at only $9.99; the price of book is more than the sum of printing and shipping costs.

The mere fact that the tablet has successfully created so much buzz before even being officially announced lends credence to the theory that it will stand the industry on its head. Amazon, look out - looks like you're not the only fish in the sea anymore. What that will mean in the long run, though, we have yet to see.

For more information on the (rumored) tablet:

The Exhaustive Guide to Apple Tablet Rumors
New Money in Old Media (Wall Street Journal)
New potential for Apps on the tablet (NY Times)
Will Apple have to compete with its own products - the iPod & iPhone? (NY Times)

What do you think the tablet will do to the market? Or rather, what do you hope the tablet will do?

Bookgasm Review: Cape Disappointment by Earl Emerson

Head over to Bookgasm for my review of Earl Emerson's Cape Disappointment, a new political thriller in the Thomas Black series...

A Hospital for the Mind (Quote of the Day)

In honor of my cousin, who just started library science school (I guess it's genetic), here is this week's Sunday quote:

"A library is a hospital for the mind." -Anonymous

I couldn't agree more. Happy Sunday!!

The Only Laptop Case That's Ever Made You Drool

In my many internet wanderings, I've stumbled across a fair number of odd and fantastic gadgets and gadget covers; this one takes the cake, by far. Thank god I have a MacBook (I never thought I'd actually be so glad to have a dysfunctional, out-dated and over-priced piece of gadgetry).

Read... set... turn your laptop into a book!

You can get this laptop cover (and some other, less cool, laptop accessories) at Twelve South.

Haiti Photography Raffle

Ok, this isn't strictly books-related, but a friend of mine is auctioning/raffling off one of her -amazing- photographs from Prague to support the relief efforts in Haiti. Rules and details are available on her flickr page, where you can also place your bid. If you aren't a flickr member, you can email your bid - information available in the rules.

Here's the image... I told you it was amazing.

Swans on the Vltava, Prague

Books and Haiti

It's been a week since the earthquake in Haiti, believe it or not. The country is now estimating a death toll of 100,000-200,000 people, over twice the original forecast by the Red Cross. According to an ABC article yesterday, the Haitian Prime Minister announced that over 70,000 people had been buried in mass graves. Slowly but surely, the search for survivors is being given up as we pass out of the window in which survival is even a possibility.

With over 1,000,000 homeless, and with little to no food, water or medicine available to those who have survived, the world has rushed to help. Governments, aid workers, charities, etc. Here's a quick round-up of the publishing industry's reactions, and what you can do to help:
  • Random House has donated $100,000 to the relief effort, and its parent company, Bertelsman, has donated 100,000 Euro. (from today's Shelf Awareness)

Not sure how to help? Charity Navigator will help guide your donation to the right place for you, and can prevent your money from going to a scam, which, sadly, tend to pop up left and right during times of need like this. You can also donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting "HAITI" to 90999. As a side note, this text campaign has been hands-down the most successful campaign of its kind, perhaps ushering in a new era of philanthropic giving. Read the full Washington Post article on the subject for more details.

Book Review: Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

George Bishop's Letter to My Daughter tells the shockingly candid story of Laura Jenkins, a struggling adolescent girl growing up in New Orleans. Written as a letter to her own runaway daughter, Laura's tale is one of love, loneliness and growing up, all bundled into a stark 126 pages - long for a letter, but short for a novel.

From the beginning, Laura's words are tinged with a sadness we can only begin to contemplate. Her story is riveting - she falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of town, and continues a relationship with him even after her father beats him up, kicks him out and ships her off to Catholic boarding school. But the haunting tone of her words constantly suggest the unhappiness and pain that the 15-year-old Laura still has yet to experience, making the reader terrified of continuing while simultaneously unable to stop.

Bishop's ability to craft an entire tale of adolescence in the context of a mother's letter to her own unhappy daughter is a demonstration of genius; his ability to accurately relate the horrors and insecurities and pains of a 15-year-old girl, the cruelty of her peers, and the struggles of heartbreak, family, and loss is downright shocking. I know nothing of Bishop as an author, but merely the fact that he, as a male author, can so precisely captivate these familiar yet foreign emotions, in addition to the tender love between a mother and a daughter, is an impressive display of fiction writing at its finest.

Bottom line: The raw emotion of Bishop's "letter" is at once heartbreaking and uplifting; the reader experiences every pain, every loss, every pang of guilt that Laura does. Readers of any age - single, married, young, old, parents or not - will find themselves touched by Laura's crisp honesty, her persistent drive, and the familiarity of some, if not all, of her experiences as both a teenager and a teenager's mother. A stunning and haunting work of masterful prose and storytelling.


Disclosure: Thanks to Ballantine for an Advance Readers' Copy.

Books Are Art

I always think it's cool when people come up with new, innovative ways to decorate with books. (Maybe I'm biased because my own dresser is lined with books at varying heights, atop which my makeup, jewelry, etc. are perched in precarious positions.) Artist Mike Stilkey, however, takes the cake for now, with his ingenious art-on-books display (featured in today's Shelf Awareness, and originally posted on This Blog Rules).

Here's a sneak peek of the work:

Check out the full article on This Blog Rules for more info and pictures.

Book Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

This second novel by Sarah Blake, The Postmistress, tackles the tricky questions of love, separation, war and persecution in a mere 330 pages. Too much, you ask? It easily could have been, but Blake's crisp writing gets to the heart of the matter, bringing home the heartbreaking story of four characters during the early years of World War II.

With Roosevelt's promise to keep American soldiers out of "foreign wars" still reverberating across the US, radio anchor Frankie Bard sets off for London to report on the Blitz. Her travels take her across Europe on trains as she follows the Jews fleeing their homelands; the fact that the reader knows the significance of the chaos on the trains while Frankie still tries to sort out its meaning only makes it more impressive. She captures her own voice, and the voice of hundreds of others, on her tape recorder, playing these stories back to America, bringing home the terrors and horrors of the Blitz and the impossible beginnings of the Holocaust.

These voices reverberate through the town of Franklin, Massachusetts, the farthest town on Cape Cod. The stories of the postmistress, Iris, the doctor, Will, and his wife, Emma, all carefully overlap with Frankie's, and the four become tied together by happenings as fine as a string when Will leaves for London to help the injured of the city. Iris relays daily letters between Will and Emma, and Emma and Iris continue to listen to Frankie's harsh tellings of reality in London. Frankie and Will meet in a bomb shelter, and Frankie and Iris both face the decision of what information to pass on to grieving, yet hopeful, families.

Blake's novel is historical fiction at its finest: it transports the reader flawlessly back into the year 1940, and simultaneously drives home the terrific human toll of the Blitz and the chaos and lack of understanding of the persecution of the Jews in Europe. This is World War II history, albeit fictionalized, on a very personal level, and it is the little stories buried with the larger plots of The Postmistress that make the story the masterpiece that it is.

The little boy in London who ran home after a night of heavy bombing only to find that his home - and his mother and grandmother - have simply ceased to exist in favor of a crater. The widow in Cape Cod recognizing her late husband's childhood overalls on a fisherman's son. A German immigrant staring East over the Atlantic, as though his missing wife would walk right off the water into his waiting arms.

The bottom line: The Postmistress is far from uplifting, but in addition to being an excellent story, and a well-written one at that, it is one that puts the reader in touch with an important, and often overlooked, aspect of history. There is more to war than battle orders and armored vehicles, and Blake's story ranks among the highest in telling the human side of World War II. That being said, the novel, and Blake's ideas, are fresh and lucid, not bogged down in repetitions or emotions of past accounts. Highly recommended.

Reviewer Rules

Well, I have another resolution to add to the (ever-growing) list: avoid reviewerspeak at all costs. In an entertaining and funny article in the The Book Examiner, blogger Michelle Kerns turned her pen to the top 20 (or 21) most hated words a reviewer can possibly use... and she's completely right about the list, and about the "black hole" of reviews that such meaningless, empty words create. You'll have to read the article to get the whole picture.

Though the article is written with a sense of humor, it is a worthy warning to herself and to any other reviewer out there, be it in the blogosphere or elsewhere. I will request the same thing here as Michelle did in her article: if you see any of these hated words in my reviews, please let me know. You'll be my favorite reader, I promise.

Books Are Threatening National Security

In a bizarre twist following the foiled Christmas Bomber (in case you've been under a rock since December, you can read the story here), Transport Canada has now limited all carry-on items to a restricted list (which includes medical equipment, laptops, musical instruments, and small purses). Ok, I guess that makes sense. But - and you knew there had to be a but - the list of allowed items quite blantantly excludes books, magazines and newspapers.

What? Really? Books and newspapers aren't allowed, but laptops and laptop cases are? Musical instruments pose less of a possible threat than printed matter? I'm not sure what kind of reading materials these authorities are used to seeing, but I'm going to venture to guess that most of it probably isn't going to harm fellow passengers. Ok, having to watch a woman bawl her eyes out while reading Nora Roberts might be harmful...

Don't get me wrong, I am all for safe flights, national security, baggage screening, limited items in carry-ons, etc (although it's a pain to find 3-oz cans of hairspray sometimes). At the same time, however, there is a point where it has gone too far - both because it starts to get absurd, and it makes for a really lousy flight.

Really, between the prospect of no snacks, $8 drinks, $20 baggage fees (mind you, carry-on luggage is now extremely limited even outside of Canada) and only an in-flight movie to keep me entertained, Amtrak and it's absurd prices are starting to sound more and more appealing.

For more information: National Post article, January Post blog.

Thanks to LitDrift for posting the link!