Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I love Jane Austen.

Now, I know that's not all that controversial. Many people are inspired by her. I don't think you are dropping your jaws right now. But since I'm enjoying myself I thought I'd share the love. I believe I shall be rambling wildly in this post, so please bear with me.

You'll recall a few posts ago I mentioned the argument over the Pride and Prejudice films with my boss' wife. At that time, I suggested the movie Persuasion, and this sparked a conversation that could not be resolved without reading the book.

Sometime ago, in certain research I did for work, I discovered a great free ebook website, Project Gutenberg and they have all of Jane Austen's published works! Score! They have many others too. Check it out.

I read Persuasion, then P&P, and now I'm reading Sense and Sensibility. I'm struck by how unlikely it is that these works would have been published if Jane Austen were to write them today. But they're wonderful! I find that to be true of many books I love. I know that they wouldn't get snapped up the way that they should because they don't fit the popular formula. How sad. Or, how glad we are that Austen published her books when she did. :)

I had just begun reading S&S when my mother gave me what I will call a Jane Austen fan-fic to read, Suspense and Sensibility. My mother had the advantage when reading this book of not having just finished two wonderful Austen novels. In comparison, this book is dull. I'm not deep into it, so perhaps the plot will be pleasing, and it is not poorly written, but Austen's prose is such that the typical regency novel of today pales in comparison. Sigh.

So, ebooks. This is not my first foray into reading them (I read most of the Lord of the Rings that way), however, excepting one novel none of the ebooks I've read of late publication have impressed me. Now, I'm not saying I think that's a fault of the publication method. I wasn't really choosing these books as I might a paperback book, but there's the issue. Most ebooks must be purchased from the ebook publisher, right? Am I wrong on this? Is there in fact an ebook bookstore like Amazon (or even Amazon itself) that "carries" all the ebooks available from all the publishers? I don't think so.

Would that there were! Besides Jane Austen, guess what else I love. Netflix! Why? Recommendations and reviews! Just like Amazon does with books (which can end up being mighty spendy to me, if I'm not careful) Netflix lets you rate movies you've seen, and gives you recommendations for other movies to see based on the movies you rated. I'm addicted. I love it. Even better? I usually love my recommendations, even more so when it comes to Amazon than Netflix.

Gah! Okay... I just got sucked in over at Amazon. Good thing they have the Wish List now, otherwise I'd have quite a full cart, and no grocery money. I checked to see what their ebook section looks like, and it looks mainly like it's ebooks of books on dead tree, and some novellas possibly published in-house.

Where was I? Oh yeah. There's nothing like that for ebooks... is there? My impression is that each e-publishing house is an entity unto itself. No big warehouse of ebooks to peruse and compare--unless I want to hop all over the web to each publisher, what a chore! And what about finding what I like? I know what I like in books on dead tree, and so does Amazon! I know what I like in movies, and so does Netflix! I have no idea what I like in ebooks, and neither does anyone else!

Why does this bug me? Well, I really like reading ebooks... I mean, I like having them on my laptop. It's much easier to scroll through pages of electronic text while Eve nurses or while I struggle her to sleep than it is to read a paperback, or worse, a hardcover. First there's the lighting issue. Good reading light and good "night-night" light are two very different things. Then, there's the awkwardness of reading one-handed. It's almost as bad as typing one handed. Have you ever tried flipping pages with the same hand with which you hold the book? It's hard! And sometimes I drop the darn book. Additionally, you'd never believe how loud turning a paper page can be...it's much louder and more distracting than a little iBook mouse-click.

Why should I have to go without like this? So... if you're in the know, and you have the source for recommendations that correlate to what I like... let me know! I know there are e-zines and whatnot that rate books, but I want a service that works like the ratings on Amazon and Netflix. Does such a thing exist?

I think I'm done.