Books Books Books

Last semester, I had one textbook. I remembered textbook costs being astronomical when I was an undergrad, so I was pleasantly surprised that I only had to drop €30 on one book.

This semester is more complicated. In two of my courses we are reading a book each week, and in a third course the professor is e-mailing PDFs that he is scanning from the out-of-print book he wants to use for the course. It is so much more complicated than it needs to be.

I’m trying to get into a routine and – most importantly – stay on top of the reading, but right now, things are weird. I have this web stretching from the college library to the city library to my Kindle to my iPhone to Charlie Byrne’s to the campus bookstore to the college library’s website and back again.

For today’s reading, one professor said he would make copies of the excerpts he wanted us to read, but the copier broke so he couldn’t make enough copies. I found the books he was using in the campus library and the city library, but I didn’t know which passages he had assigned so I just started reading the complete books. I read much more than I needed to, and it was tough to bring my thoughts back to the specific passages we were discussing in class.

It is nice that half of the books are in the public domain, but in order to get the free Kindle version, I have to pay the international delivery charge because my Kindle is registered in the States. The charge is usually about $3 and for some reason Amazon always sends a nasty message to my Kindle reminding me that I have a monthly limit on download charges. I can get the same public domain books free on my iPhone, but I haven’t tried reading on that yet.

I go to Charlie Byrne’s every couple of days and squirrel away a few of the books on the syllabi. I’ll go in at some point and make a big credit card purchase. I guess the rest will come from the campus bookstore.

It’s a pain. Today, for example, I finally got confirmation that I get to take the class that was giving me so much trouble last week. Our book for next week is Kim by Rudyard Kipling, which I actually read as an undergrad but I also drank a lot as an undergrad so I should probably reread it. A group of us went to the college library after class and all the copies were already checked out. Charlie Byrne’s doesn’t have it, so I downloaded it on my iPhone for free. Still, I wanted a hard copy, so I decided to check the city library when I went there for an event tonight. Mistakenly, I sat through my whole event and then approached the lady at the circulation desk, who told me their only copy had just been checked out tonight.

Face. Palm.

Mall + Library

20121203-110854.jpg20121203-110841.jpgWe tried to get up early and go to the National Leprechaun Museum this morning, but the the tour schedule didn’t mesh with our travel plans, so we just bought some leprechaun gold from the machine out front.

Since we had some free time, I wanted to check out something I’d seen in passing on a previous visit to Dublin.


Basically, there’s a public library inside a shopping mall. I think this is genius, and really fascinating. As a former mall rat, I really could have used an arrangement like this.

20121203-110122.jpgWe were both surprised to find every possible seat full – with jobseekers, I’m guessing – so I found a shelf to browse while my boyfriend started reading a book about war.20121203-110138.jpgI kept returning to this German edition of Skippy Dies.


It was a box set of three paperback volumes, which is not how I read Skippy Dies, but is actually very loyal to the story and the structure of the book.


I suppressed the urge to pocket this handy little bookmark, which introduces all of the major characters (in German!), and left it in the case for the next reader – which should count as my good deed for the day, because it was really difficult for me.




When I arrived in Galway exactly six weeks ago, I had three places I needed to go before I went anywhere else: my hotel for a shower, campus for a day of orientations, and Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.

With a little help from Vinny, I walked out of the shop with a copy of I was a Boy in Belsen, the non-fiction account of one of Ireland’s two living Holocaust survivors. Tomi Reichental lived in Slovakia until the age of 9, when he and his family were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944. He survived, and has lived in Dublin for the past 50 years. His story was published by O’Brien Press.

I was a Boy in Belsen was the first book I bought in Galway, and it has been sitting on my shelf for the past six weeks. I kept meaning to read it, but there’s so much to read for my course, that I kept putting it off.

Then I heard that Tomi Reichental would be speaking on campus tonight. Since I didn’t have class today, I spent the whole day on the couch, reading his story. It’s heartbreaking stuff, even though Mr. Reichental and his family were some of the lucky ones – relatively lucky, that is.

He spoke for about an hour and a half tonight, before members of the university’s law society and other curious students. He revisited the story told in his book, but delved into some more thorough examinations of the political situation at the time. He presented a few articles and photos he had come across in his research, which may not have fit into the narrative structure of the book.

I felt a little sheepish asking him to sign my Charlie Byrne’s copy of his book, since he had several copies for sale tonight. He was extremely nice, though; he personalized the inscription and made sure I got one of his customized bookmarks.

I’m glad he came to campus tonight. I’m glad I already had his book on my shelf, and I’m glad his presence on campus motivated me to finally read it.

While I was waiting for his lecture to begin tonight, I logged into my campus email account, which I only do about once a week. I had an email from the library, telling me a book I have checked out has been recalled. I’ve had it for two weeks, and was supposed to have it for another two, but now I have until Monday to bring it back.

I guess if someone requests a book, the library can light a fire under the person who already has it checked out. I suspect the person recalling the book is somehow connected to the class for which I’m reading the book in the first place. Normally, I would be annoyed by this type of academic queue-jumping, but to tell the truth, I’ve been struggling to give the book the attention it deserves, so this deadline may be the motivation I need to finally get around to reading it.

Libraries, Academic Presses, and Ebooks

When I read How to Get a Job in Publishing last week, the chapter on academic publishing included a memorable line:

“…librarians assume that they are financially supporting the academic reward system…”

It seemed to address the issue that university libraries spend a large portion of their budget buying the books written by faculty. It’s more complicated than that, so I might need to revisit that chapter.

I was reminded of this today when Lisa Hyde from Irish Academic Press (and the imprint Merrion Books) came in to speak to us for Publishers on Publishing. She was very interested in our academic book buying habits, and whether we get books in our field on the Kindle.

The last academic book I tried to buy on my Kindle was Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards. I was disappointed when I couldn’t find a Kindle version, and because it was more or less an impulse buy, I didn’t end up making a purchase.

When I’m trying to broaden my horizons by reading something I normally wouldn’t, I don’t necessarily want the expensive hardback that most academic presses produce. I would rather have a trade paperback or, better yet, an ebook. Neither one was available, so I moved on.

Ms. Hyde explained that high rates of returned stock from booksellers are the biggest fear in academic publishing. It seems cruel that the major source of frustration could be easily cured by the advent of ebooks.

Ms. Hyde said academic publishers have to look out for their authors, and it’s likely that everyone is holding their breath until the Apple/DOJ case is decided. A big portion of this is also that academic publishers “have the library market to consider,” and not all libraries have adopted ebook lending.

On a final note: Ms. Hyde spoke a lot about her work with Merrion Books, the new imprint of Irish Academic Press that leans more toward a trade market. One particular title she spoke of was Glenveagh Mystery, coming from Merrion Books in time for the Christmas season.

Ms. Hyde said she has worked in almost all areas of publishing except for fiction, partly because she doesn’t want to ruin fiction for herself. However, every time she brought up the difference between regular academic titles and what she is trying to do with Merrion Books, she used phrases like “she’s told a fabulous story.” I found it interesting that a narrative structure seems to be the unifying feature of all these works that transcend the “academic” label and appeal to a wider audience.

“I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one.”

I finished my undergraduate degree back in 2004. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best student, but that was okay because I had no intention of going to grad school. I thought I would never write another boring research paper in my life, so I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to things like bibliographies or journal databases.

So I must have somehow missed the technological developments that allow programs like EndNote or RefWorks to format bibliographies automagically.

We had our library training session today, and every database we searched had the option to export all the bibliographic information into EndNotes or RefWorks. Project MUSE, which I vividly remember using as an undergrad, even has a feature that just spits out a Works Cited page, fully formed.

Has it always been this way? I feel like I spent my college years chiseling WORKS CITED into stone when all along there existed software that would have done it for me. Or am I so old that things really have changed that much?

A Bookstore in a Library


Yesterday was my last day volunteering at Second-Hand Prose, the used bookstore inside the Georgetown Public Library. SHP is the cornerstone fundraiser run by the Friends of the Library, who also led the bookmobile campaign and host the Hill Country Author Series.

I have been volunteering once a month for the past 18 months, at first filling in whenever I could as a substitute, then finally landing a regular 10am to 1pm shift every fourth Saturday. Georgetown is home to a Sun City retirement community, which makes volunteering a competitive sport. Not a bad problem to have, if you ask me.

It seems counterintuitive, selling used books inside a library, but the store turns a healthy profit. Since the library provides the space rent-free, the store is staffed entirely by volunteers, and all of the stock is donated by the community, there is absolutely no overhead. The money gets donated back to the library, and it is one of the best libraries out there.


Volunteering at Second-Hand Prose can be dangerous, as the books are ridiculously cheap and there is plenty of time to peruse the shelves. I still regret the book I let slip through my fingers; a Texas Monthly Press edition of Bud Shrake’s Strange Peaches. It sat in the Collector’s Corner for months as I waited for the price to go down so I could pay for it with my $5 Book Bucks; then one day, it was gone.

Not too long ago, I hit my quota for volunteer hours, which meant a bookplate in a library book dedicated to me. The book was a work of juvenile fiction called Kitten’s Winter by Eugenie Fernandes. I brought it into the library’s coffee shop one day to read with my Literary Latte, and I found the story delightful.