This year, as I sat myself down to write the annual Halloween post (below), I traipsed, as is my wont, over to the Literary Gothic site. Only to discover that it's no longer there. It thus joins Black Mask as a vanished archive of frequently rare Gothic e-texts. Unlike the HorrorMasters archive, which can still be accessed in its entirety via the Wayback Machine, Literary Gothic is completely kaput. (The Wayback Machine only has the home page and, on occasion, additional pages with dud links.) While I suppose one could reflect on the irony of a horror site vanishing into the electronic ether (it's...a ghost!), the site's disappearance has obvious ramifications for anyone seeking to save their students a bit of money by linking to free texts. Or, to put it differently, the site's disappearance demonstrates why the promise of free e-texts for students rests on a fragile foundation. And that's before one gets into the problem of assessing the quality of such e-texts, which varies widely and wildly according to the site. Anyone who suggests "it's all on the 'net!" should be reminded that, really, it's all on the 'net until it suddenly isn't.
So, in theory, my blog updates my Twitter account whenever I post something. In practice, my blog updates Twitter when I post from IE, but not from Firefox. I am confuzzled. Does anyone know what the glitch is?
At times, my university's spam filter is, shall we say, over-efficient. Student e-mails have, on more than one occasion, been consigned to Circle Nine of the spam inferno, never to be seen again. One colleague reported that an interesting request for a collaboration was similarly dispatched to the chilly depths. However, this is quite possibly the first time that the spam filter has ever trapped university e-mails--from the bookstore, no less. I'm impressed, for some value of "what on earth...?"
Speaking of filters, as some of you may have noticed as my Twitter feed scrolls by, I have actually finished copyediting Robert Elsmere. I now need to find something productive to do with my time, although I suspect that Notre Dame will soon fill the void by sending me page proofs and requesting an index for Book Two. (Come to think of it, they're probably going to do that while I'm vacationing. Figures.)
Meanwhile, on an entirely unrelated note, I'll have an essay in this seminar over at Crooked Timber.
I've got Kindle software installed just about everywhere now--on the iPad, on my phone, on two laptops. Heck, I've even got an actual Kindle. Now that I've been kindled for about a year, what's the result?
1. I use it for books I wouldn't normally keep. I've yet to think of Kindle e-books as mine--since, strictly speaking, they aren't mine at all, just a lease that permits me to access them. Ergo, my Kindle purchases have been almost entirely of the "read it and toss it on the free books table" variety: genre anthologies, detective fiction, etc. The obvious downside is that students are no longer inheriting random anthologies involving zombies or the latest Charles Todd mystery.
2. It's more convenient for hefty texts. It's far easier for me to lug around the latest Datlow/Dozois/etc. genre anthology on, say, the iPad than it would be for me to pack one of those monsters in the flesh (er, the paper). Presumably, a Norton Anthology would be less liable to cause permanent bodily harm in e-book form.
3. It has yet to be worth investing in monographs on Kindle. Sure, there are some recent instances of academic e-books (e.g., from Continuum, or what used to be Continuum) retailing at $14.95, and I just saw a book of interest for $9.99. But...$60+ for a book that I won't own? And that I can probably get at half the price if I just wait around for a secondhand seller? Whatever for?
4. Search vs. browsing. On the one hand, the search function is helpful, especially when I'm trying to write a blog post. On the other, casual browsing around in the text feels far more difficult. (In general, I don't find that e-books affect my actual reading speed.)
5. My hardcopies don't run out of power. Requires no explanation.
The ASUS would like me to register it, which is the sort of thing new computers like to do. But. The sign-up page is so loaded with grammatical and typographical errors that I can't tell if I'm being directed to a malicious spam page or not. Does anybody out there know what the deal is?
Cutting and pasting footnotes (a meditational activity) becomes ever-so-much more exciting when your netbook sobs, wails, and groans over the manuscript. That is, when the netbook volunteers to load the manuscript, which it seems to have some compunctions about doing. As this thing (a Samsung NC-10) has been behaving problematically for some time now, its current misbehavior probably counts as the last straw, or the final nail, or something proverbial like that. I'm thinking about going back to Acer for an Aspire One, as I really don't want a full-sized notebook to lug around.
In the meantime, I'm about to trek to Santa Barbara, for reasons having nothing to do with Victorian religious fiction.
There I was, searching for the keyword "England" in a very out-of-copyright Victorian novel, and...strange results kept cropping up in the midst of my results list. How did "no preview...buy this book" keep getting into my free eBook?
And how did my author cite an article published several decades after the book was printed? Curiouser and curiouser. It would appear that the keyword search is randomly pulling up results from entirely different books, even though my search was specifically limited to one text.
I've noted before that all of my attempts to invest in an e-reader have been thwarted by plumbing. E-reader? Basement floods! E-reader? Pipe needs to be cut open! E-reader? Bathtub armageddon! (I swear, there's some sort of conspiracy. Either that, or a poltergeist.) However, my parents took the initiative, and presented me with a shiny new Kindle Fire for Hanukkah. Some thoughts, bearing in mind that I'm interested in an e-reader, and not in a makeshift tablet:
The touchscreen responds quickly, although it can be difficult to get back to the menu from a PDF file (one has to tap around a bit). It's easy to magnify or shrink the object on display. Print and images are sharp, without lots of pixellation. The display reorients from portrait to landscape automatically.
The pages "flip" fast enough to satisfy a fast reader like myself. There's a handy menu bar that tells you how far you've made it into the text, although page #s would be awfully nice (I don't think MLA style has quite evolved this far yet). Books reopen where you left off. Search-inside-the-book was accurate and fast. There's also dictionary access (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Download times were zippy for eBooks. However, it looks like you'll have to use a format converter to convince GoogleBooks PDFs to actually stay put once you've downloaded them (on my own machine, they vanished after one session). That being said, PDFs worked perfectly well otherwise. Video also streamed without problems, although the Fire's limitations as a tablet fill-in become obvious once you contemplate the picture quality; audio is about what you'd expect for an e-reader (i.e., tinny). Still, adequate enough if you want to stock up some TV for a plane flight.
The one real issue: the touchscreen keyboard. Eeeeeyarrrrggggh. Much, much too small; even a small woman like myself constantly hits the wrong keys, so I can't imagine how a large man would deal with it. The same problem emerges any time two command keys are grouped closely together, which is why there's a "cancel order" button. This flaw is not hugely important if you're using the Fire for its primary function, but it definitely does it in as a tablet substitute (too frustrating for websurfing, impossible for e-mail, etc.). ETA: You can enlarge the keys by switching to landscape.
Given what I usually write about, I frequently have to search for "popery." Google, however, does not want me to search for popery. Instead, it insists on turning my search into "property"--which, no matter how many interesting real estate links it turns up, does not fulfill my need for whatever no-Popery novel, tract, or poem I'm trying to find. Charles Dickens managed to anticipate this confusion in Barnaby Rudge:
In any event, this evening's search for "popery" proved most frustrating, without or without inappropriate property, as there's apparently no trace of H. Belcher's poetry collection The Portrait of Popery (1861). Not to be confused, mind you, with John Hill's A Portrait of Popery (1834), let alone William Warburton's sermon A Faithful Portrait of Popery (1745). Not only is there no trace of it via Google, aside from a couple of reviews, but it isn't turning up in the British Library catalog, WorldCat, or COPAC. The Bulwarkinforms me that the "sentiments are excellent" (this being The Bulwark, I'm guessing that's a polite way of saying "rabidly anti-Catholic") and, somewhat alarmingly, that the poet has elected to use the "Spenserian stanza" (which, given the usual standards of Victorian controversial verse, might be an interesting break from tub-thumping iambic pentameter quatrains...but might also be a disaster of near-apocalyptic proportions; experience dictates the latter).