Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Books and gadgets

I'm going to blog about books at some point, but I keep being interrupted by work or power cuts or traumatic alpaca births (Jemima is doing very well by the way, I am watching her frolic about as I write). The book I'm reading at the moment is by Eça de Queiroz. The blurb on the back says of the protagonist:
He lives in a mansion crammed with books and all the latest gadgets, for he believes that human happiness depends on a combination of erudition and the most sophisticated of mechanical aids.

I think happiness itself might depend on other things, but you can't deny that books and gadgets make a pretty strong contribution. Hurray for books and gadgets! So I've pre-ordered a Kindle. (It's not really pre-ordering obviously, it's just that it's going to take ages and ages for it to arrive.)

I have also come up with a genius idea. When people talk about eReaders vs actual books they always talk about a) can you read it in the bath and b) real books smell nice. Almost as soon as the Kindle appeared people started making clear watertight covers, or just using ziplock bags, so that the bath thing became less of an issue. I am going to make felt covers which are impregnated with the smell of real book! Either I will come up with my own somehow -- my copy of the Centaur press paperback of Lucy Toulmin Smith's 5-volume edition of Leland's Itineraries smells fantastic -- or I will use this spray by people who came up with the idea before me. Though I don't think they get it -- it's not new book smell, like with cars, it's old book smell you want. Those Leland volumes smell amazing because they just sat in a warehouse forgotten from the 60s. (You can't get them at a bookshop, you have to know the name of the man to write to, and I'm afraid I've forgotten it.) It's not a musty smell either, it's oddly sweet and slightly spicy. I read somewhere that the lignin in the wood-pulp paper breaks down into vanillin -- I don't know if that's true.

(I'm pretty sure the smell argument against digitisation of books was first made by Giles in the fantastic Buffy season one episode where Willow accidentally scans an ancient demon onto the internet. Then he gets in touch with her via a chat room. And Buffy says "He says he's a sixteen-year-old boy but you've never even met him! He might have a hairy back!" Excellent episode, you can watch it here if you either speak Italian or can read subtitles backwards. "Did you know in the last two years more e-mail was sent than regular mail?")

My other gadget news is sad news. There is a rumour about that Apple is dropping the ipod classic. When they announced all the new versions today they didn't mention the classic at all. But I need all 120Gb of my ipod space -- I can only get all my stuff on there because I tell it to sync to the ipod at a lower quality than my actual files. Trying to fit it onto a 64Gb iPod touch would involve thinking about what music I'm likely to want at any particular time, which would be a boring job. So I hope that they didn't mention the Classic because it's not changing at all. The standard 160Gb version is still there in the Apple store, which is hopeful.

In other things-contributing-to-happiness news, the Pet Shop Boys sang "I want a dog", and it's easy to agree. But they went on to specify that it should be a chihuahua and I've never really agreed with them about that until now:

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