Daily Archives: February 22, 2012

I found it in the McNaughton Collection: Plugged by Eoin Colfer

I’m a big fan of Eoin Colfer. When asked what my favorite book series is, I always answer, without hesitation, Colfer’s young adult book Artemis Fowl. That particular book has spawned a seven (soon to be eight) part series, detailing the adventures of a boy genius and the fantastical creatures he encounters along the way. The fun characters, brisk pace, and sharp humor are what first attracted me to the series, and are what keep me coming back for more. However, just last week, I was browsing the McNaughton section at our library, and I found a new book by Colfer, called Plugged. Its cover read “If you liked Artemis Fowl, it’s time to grow up.”

 

Needless to say, I dropped everything and dove right in.

 

As the title implies, this is not the kid-friendly world of Artemis Fowl. Readers are thrust almost immediately in the dark, hard and grimy world of Slotz, a seedy and run-down casino in New Jersey. Readers experience this world through the eyes of Daniel McEvoy,  a doorman for this particular establishment. Things are business as usual for McEvoy, he begins the book beating up a particularly rowdy customer (who licked one of the bartenders). When one of McEvoy’s friends is found murdered, however, McEvoy can’t help but get involved. Along the way he meets a group of incredibly colorful characters, and attempts to piece together the puzzle before he finds himself dead as well.

 

Colfer injects his work with his trademark humor. Things are raunchier now than Artemis Fowl, but the humor is still there. The situations the characters find themselves in (you’ll never look at a plate of lasagna the same way) are so bizarre, yet you can’t help but keep reading to see how Colfer tops his last sequence. Looking back, the scenes are almost cartoonish in quality, which does clash with the (somewhat) realistic and dirty world the characters inhabit. But Colfer’s text is so sharp, and so quick, that when you’re reading it, you don’t notice. You just get swept up for the ride.

 

Characters are very strong all around. McEvoy is good company for the whole text, and his narration reminds of other iconic characters such as James Patterson’s Alex Cross. The people McEvoy range from realistic and sympathetic (Connie, who manages to make an impression in only a few pages) to the cartoonish lawyer Faber, who jabs his finger around his scenes and puts on a big show.

The plot is tight and never slows down, with plenty of action and laughs to keep you going. I don’t think the book will be exploding off the charts, because at its core, it’s a fairly typical detective story. However, it’s in Colfer’s voice that the text comes alive, and becomes something above the norm. If you like Artemis Fowl, or are just looking for a fun and creative take on a well-worn genre, give Plugged a look. It’s quick, funny, and a good ride. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.

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Shifting into Overdrive: The Library’s New E-book System!

There’s no use denying it. We live in the age of digital information. Smart-phones, iPods, iPads, laptops, and many other devices ensure that we are never disconnected, for better or for worse. Everything is becoming digitized in the name of ease, and now many things that were staples of the home have become quaint novelties of a bygone era. And, unfortunately, books seem to be falling into this same trap.

I’ll admit it. I am riding the e-reader bandwagon. I was fortunate to receive an Amazon Kindle for Christmas, and I have to admit, I’m a believer in the digital age. While I don’t feel that the Kindle can replace the feel of a good book in my hands, the ease surrounding the small device cannot be denied. I read three gigantic books over the summer, each close to one thousands pages long, and my back thanked me when it didn’t have to lug around those behemoths everywhere I went.

Of course, this is a Library’s Blog, not a personal one. How are these e-readers going to affect the libraries? Are they also doomed to vanish from this world? How do they keep up with this new technology?

It’s a problem that has already been written off by some. But, as a lot of people know, libraries are no strangers to technology. Instead of shunning e-books, they have embraced the new medium, and are offering a new method of digital book distribution, thanks to something called Overdrive.

Overdrive is basically a fancy way of saying “Online E-Book Library.” And it works just as the same, with few headaches. You go to a special section of the Minuteman Library Website, where a listing of all the digital books are displayed. You can search through them, or display them in a full list. When you find a book you want, you click it, select the format you want it in, and then download it. It’s really that simple, with only a few tweaks depending on your e-reader of choice. You then have the book on your device (or even your laptop!) and can start reading right away.

But they don’t stop at just e-books. They have a large selection of audiobooks as well, along with the potential for videos as well. These are just as easy to obtain, following the same process described above. Select, download, and enjoy.

Of course, there are limitations. Firstly, the selection, while constantly growing, is still limited. It is likely that a book you want just won’t be available, however the library is happily accepting requests. Secondly, the library can only loan out a certain number of copies of most books. Like the physical thing, if someone has the only copy checked out, you have to wait for it to be returned before you can take it. That, and there’s no way for the book to be renewed. After the loan period passes, you have to check the book out again, which is a minor issue, but one that should be noted.

However, there are a number of books that are “available anytime,” as it states on the website. This is exactly what it sounds like; the books can be checked out by an unlimited number of patrons. Of course, these are likely not “best-sellers,” and instead tend to be classics.

With that said, Overdrive is already a great service and only has potential to grow better with time. It’s somewhat limited now, yes, but what is there is very easy to use and surprisingly robust. Once the selection grows, I think it will become a staple of libraries everywhere. Unfortunately, it’s not quite there yet. But, I know if I see a book on there I want, or need for a class, you can bet I’ll be using Overdrive to check it out!

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E-Readers Now Available!

Did you know that the Whittemore Library not only has e-books available, but they also have three different e-readers available for checkout? Neither did I!

Yes, it’s true! And it’s one of the library’s most interesting secrets. Behind the circulation desk rests these three e-readers, available for checkout to any of the University’s students or affiliates. I recently had a chance to take one of these e-readers for a test drive, and will tell you my thoughts below.

The e-reader, to my surprise, was not of the more well known brands like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Instead, it is a Sony e-reader, but that should not deter you. This one is one of the nicer ones I’ve seen, and also one of the heavier. This gives the e-reader itself a very sturdy quality that feels good in the hands. It doesn’t feel easily breakable, which is good, as library technology tends to take a beating over time.

The e-reader comes with a wall-charger and some directions to help get you started. Finding the power button was a little tricky, but after turning it on, everything was smooth sailing. The menus are clear and easily readable, though the touch screen isn’t quite as responsive to the touch of my finger as I would’ve liked. Thankfully, after a quick glance at the directions, I found a stylus hidden on the side of the device, and using that made the menus much more responsive. I recommend using the stylus at all times, both for the menus and to keep fingerprints off the screen.

There is a small learning curve that comes with every e-reader, and this often catches new readers off guard. When you turn the page, the screen has to refresh itself before the next page can be shown. During this refresh period, the screen quickly turns solid black, before loading the next set of text. This sounds intrusive, but it’s not as bad as it sounds, as the whole process takes less than a second. But it does require some getting used to at first, and can be quite distracting. Having had my own e-reader for close to a year, however, I can say that this doesn’t bother me at all.

Turning pages, however, took me a few tries to figure out. Since the screen itself is a touch screen, I assumed that to turn the page I would tap on the edges of the screen. Not so. You can turn the pages two ways. Either by swiping the stylus across the screen  right or left, or by pressing the buttons on the bottom of the device. I found the buttons to be a more reliable method of page-turning, as the swipe didn’t feel as responsive to me.

The e-reader comes preloaded with sixty-six full texts, all of which are “classics” available in the public domain. A student checking out the device cannot purchase or rent new texts, as that feature has been blocked. The librarian can add new texts to the device, and is always accepting requests. The books are all formatted properly, and read fine.

The e-reader does some have restrictions. It can only be checked out for two weeks, with a high late fee of $10 a day. It also cannot be renewed, and has to be back to the library with all parts in tact in order to be checked out again.

With that said, if you are looking for one specific book, it might be better to just get that book itself rather than e-reader, if nothing else than to avoid the chance of high-late fees. However, if you read books quickly, or are planning a trip, the e-reader would make a worthwhile option. It’s certainly a good device, works well, and offers a good selection of books. Just be careful of the late fees!

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