Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nooks, Books, and Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble can't seem to keep from shooting itself in the foot. The latest news is that they'll be closing hundreds of stores over the next few years and the nook business is tanking. Year over years sales of both nook devices and books are lower.

This makes me sad.

I've always loved book stores and libraries. I love to browse, pick up new books, read the back cover copy, maybe sample a few pages. But, like many people, I now read more ebooks than paper. On my nook.

I have a nook 1st edition with the e-ink screen for reading and the little color touch screen at the bottom. It has worked well for me, but it is aging. I think about getting an ereader with a lighted screen for reading in bed, although I rarely read in bed any more.

Part of me wants a color device so I can read magazines and newspapers on it. And maybe watch movies. I wonder if reading on one will cause eyestrain, though. I'm not a casual reader. I laugh at the battery life statistics as quoted for ereaders. Ten days or two weeks or a month between charges--with the disclaimer that this is based on a half hour of reading a day. At a half hour, I'm just getting started on a reading session.

Barnes and Noble sent me another email today urging me to renew my B&N membership. They miss me. I let my membership expire at the end of last year. I had one for years and, when I was buying mostly paper books both online and at the store, the investment was certainly worth it. There was a member discount on the price of books and free shipping for those purchased online. Two years in a row when I renewed my membership, I told them they should offer a discount of some sort for ebooks, but they've never done that.

And what are they offering me as an incentive to renew? Twenty-five dollars off a nook tablet or ten dollars off an e-ink nook. While that might have been enticing in prior years, given the state of Barnes and Noble, I'm leery of tying myself to their proprietary device

I wonder if I'd get my full dollar value with a membership renewal today. I remember how quickly Borders shut its doors.

Amazon, with their Prime membership, offers the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which allows you to read one book per month free. That's a real incentive to join Amazon Prime, even if it is $79 a year as opposed to $25. Kindles aren't very expensive and it's tempting to give in and switch to Amazon.

But I'm reluctant to put all my eggs in one basket with one book vendor again. For a similar reason, I doubt that I'll go with Kobo, even though they seem to be the up-and-comer with a drive to challenge Amazon.

Which brings me to my real problem with ebooks. Why should I need to buy a specific device to read books I buy? I don't have a different television for each network I watch. I don't have a different radio for each station I listen to. (Although there did exist such animals in the past.) I buy a television or radio and consume content from multiple channels on it. If CBS goes bankrupt and stops broadcasting, I don't lose my investment in my television. And, when XYZ starts broadcasting, I don't have to buy a new television to watch it.

My sister has an iPad she reads on. My daughter-in-law does most of her reading on her iPhone. I started reading ebooks on my iPod Touch before I bought my nook. The screen on that is too small for me for lengthy reading sessions. The iPad is larger than I'd like and I worry about it being too heavy to hold. I've looked at various brands of Android tablets, but none of them excites me. I've become an Apple fan-girl and gotten very used to the interface.

Which brings me to the iPad Mini. It's close to the size of an e-ink ereader. It has color. It runs iPad apps and, since I already use an iPhone daily, I'd have familiarity with the interface. Currently, all the ebook vendors offer apps for reading their books on it. However, there is the price. Like all Apple products, it costs more than the competition. But I've found that I like what I get for that price. I've also heard rumors that a second generation iPad Mini is in the works with, possibly, a retina display, and other features its big brother iPad has that the Mini does not.

So I sit here, still reading on my 1st generation nook, procrastinating on making a decision. But I am hesitating a lot longer over the Buy button on www.bn.com. Do I really want to buy any more books from a source that may cease to exist within a year? I've already got a lot of DRM-locked books on my nook. Do I want more that I'll have to deal with if I buy a different device? I can't think that I'm the only customer with these concerns. Which can't be helping sales at Barnes and Noble at all.

Photo Attributions:
 
Nook: By http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Eno (original:Ajai Khattri) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Kindle: {{Information |Description={{de| Ein Kindle 4 - Im Browser die deutsche Wikipedia-Website }} {{en| a Kindle 4, showing the German Wikipedia website }} |Source=photo was taken by my self |Date=2011-10-15 |Author=CrazyD }} == [[Commons:Copy
iPad: By Matthew Downey (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Faith's House in Civano


Although I never specifically identify where Faith’s house is, I always pictured it as being in the Civano neighborhood of Tucson. This is a green community dedicated to, as Simmons Buntin calls it, unsprawl. There’s a full history of the community at that link you can read to find out about it.




Committed to sustainable living and a sense of community, private land space is limited. Instead, homes are built backing onto community areas with vegetation and walking paths.







Typically southwestern in style, most have flat roofs, and many have colorful doors, windows, and furniture. Lavender and red and yellow are common colors. The flat roofs make it easy to mount solar panels, both for hot water and for electricity.







You won’t see lawns in Civano. Instead, native or desert-adapted plants are the rule. Water is precious when you live in the desert and lawns are a terrible waste of this resource. The silver column in this picture of the neighborhood school is a catch basin for rain water, which is used to water the plants.



I’m not sure how much of a success the Civano concept is. I do know that one of the frustrations of the community is that they have never been able to get a bus route to run nearby. People who live in Civano don’t want to drive their cars everywhere, encouraging walking and public transportation instead. There’s a small business section near the community center that has very little parking. While admirable in theory, I’m not convinced this has been good for the businesses housed there. It limits the clientele when there are parking problems.

Still, I like the quirkiness of Civano, the dream of a more earth-friendly way of life. And I like the idea of Faith living there.


Photo Credits:
Civano School: photo credit: Design for Health via photopin cc
Civano Houses: photo credit: Design for Health via photopin cc
Other photos taken by myself.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Prickly Pear Cafe

Sorry to be a little late this week. This appears to be the winter of the cold for me. I've been sick three times since Christmas. I'm not the only one. There are several people I know who have come down with multiple colds. How many varieties of the common cold virus are there?

But on to this week's post:

Since setting plays such an important part in “Faith, Hope, and Murder,” I thought it might be interesting to talk about some of the places Faith and her friends experience. First up is the Prickly Pear Cafe, the coffee shop that Hope runs and where Faith always orders a vanilla latte. Unlike many of the locations in the story, the Prickly Pear is fictitious, made up of bits and pieces of other places I’ve been.
Old Ship Parish House

When I lived in Massacusetts, I used to volunteer at the Coffeehouse Off the Square in Hingham. There are lots of coffeehouses presenting live folk music in Massachusetts, most of them in Unitarian churches like Old Ship, run by volunteers who love the music. Refreshments are home-baked and whatever proceeds there are go to pay performers and for charitable causes.

At Coffeehouse Off the Square, the priority was always on community. The staff made a conscious effort to keep admission prices low so that local people could enjoy a night out for not too much money. And we always had an open mic where local musicians could perform in front of a live audience. These musicians might not be the most talented, but we felt they deserved a venue. And sometimes a performer would show up, do their song, and we’d be pleased enough with what they did to offer them a paying gig at a later date.

Another piece for the Prickly Pear came together when I signed up for a course in cooking native plants given by Carolyn Niethammer at Tohono Chul Park a few years back. Naturally I’d bought Cheri’s Prickly Pear Syrup at various gift shops around Tucson and read about mesquite flour made from the pods of the mesquite tree, but I wanted to learn more about these foods that I’d never eaten before. Carolyn did an excellent presentation, showing us how to scrape the needles off prickly pear cactus pads, cut them up, and prepare them. Nopales the Mexican population calls them. With somewhat the consistency of okra (never one of my favorites), she told us several ways to minimize the slimy nature of the plants.

After the class, I bought two of Carolyn’s cookbooks, found mesquite flour at Native Seeds, and tried making my own mesquite muffins. I also made the nopalito and French lentil salad. Yummy! Carolyn has a blog on which she alerts readers to what native plants are coming into season, how to harvest them, and how to cook them. Her recipes are my inspiration for the food at the Prickly Pear Cafe.

Last, but certainly not least, because it was the real inspiration for the Prickly Pear Cafe, was Javalina’s Coffee and Friends in Rita Ranch, run by Bonnie Vining. When I found Javalina’s, I felt as if I’d also found a little bit of the Boston folk music scene. Like the volunteer coffeehouses, Javalina’s featured local performers in a homey atmosphere for a reasonable price. It was the kind of place that encouraged you to sit at a table—or on a couch—and stay a while. I only went a couple of times because I lived so far away, but I was hoping to go there much more often.

Unfortunately, the decline in the economy forced Bonnie to sell Javalina’s to a local chain, Java Edge. I see now that they, too, couldn’t make a go of it. The store is empty. Sad-looking.

But Bonnie has kept up the music. She founded LAVA Music, with performances in a church during the spring and fall.

And I’ve tried to keep alive my version of Javalina’s in the fictional Prickly Pear Cafe.