Monday, April 25, 2011

Abandon (book) by Meg Cabot

My post is based on an ARC I picked up from the publisher while at a library conference. This book doesn't come out until tomorrow, so I have actually made an effort not to include any big spoilers. I hope I succeeded - the structure of the first half of the book made it a little hard.

Synopsis:

When she was 15, Pierce died. She was resuscitated, but the experience changed the course of her life. Her parents got divorced, her mother blaming her father for her death. Everyone at school started thinking she was a little crazy, including her best friend. Pierce drifted away from everyone, emotionally, until finally a series of terrible events two years after her death led to her school suggesting that she might be better off somewhere else. Her mother packed her up and took her to the island where she grew up, Isla Huesos.

What no one realizes is that Pierce isn't really crazy, and that she saw a whole lot more when she died than just a light at the end of the tunnel. When she died, she went to the Underworld and met John, a death god who was going to keep her by his side for eternity. After she escaped the Underworld, Pierce might have been able to convince herself that her experiences had all just been a hallucination, except she still had the enormous diamond, meant to warn whenever evil was present, that John gave her. And also, whenever she was in danger, John showed up and did things that resulted in people either getting hurt or dying.

Pierce doesn't want anyone she loves to ever get hurt again, but trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes. She has to somehow sort things out with John, but her situation is much more dangerous than she realizes.

Commentary:

This is the first book of what is going to be a trilogy. Since I knew nothing about this book before I started reading it, I didn't realize this and, for some reason, thought it was a standalone novel. I expected an actual ending and was disappointed when I didn't really get one. So, now you're forewarned.

It always seems to take me a while to warm up to one of Meg Cabot's books, and this one was no exception. I spent the first half of this book annoyed with the enormous amount of foreshadowing. Pierce goes on and on about her death and the terrible things that happened after her death, and it just got to the point where I wanted her to finally, finally stop being vague and just say what happened. I actually found myself thinking, "I know dying must have been tough and all, but just get over it and get on with the story."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bacon...

This is the second night in a row I've had dreams I remembered when I woke up. In this one, I went to a small shop I could only get to via a long walkway. The shop looked like the sort that sells jewelry, only instead of jewelry in the display cases there were crispy slices of cooked bacon. I was apparently a regular at this shop, so, to show his appreciation, the shop owner gave me a single slice of bacon. I took it like it was a precious gift.

I'm really not sure what brought this dream on.

Anyway, switching gears, although I managed to write 3 posts in the past week I still have to write about 1 anime series, 2 books, 1 manga, and possibly 1 short story, so I'm still behind. My Hulu queue is going through another round of expirations, so I'm trying to finish up Spice & Wolf II (I highly recommend this series) and Soul Eater (Death the Kid is my favorite).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dreamland is an odd place

I had a dream last night in which I learned that someone thought it would be a good idea to turn one of Danielle Steele's books into a graphic novel. Thankfully, some brief Google searching indicates that my dream is probably not reality.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ghost Hunt (anime TV series), via Hulu

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Mai loves telling and listening to ghost stories. When Shibuya Kazuya (or Kazuya Shibuya, if you want to go with a Western name order) comes to investigate reports of ghosts and mysterious accidents in an abandoned building near her school, Mai ends up becoming one of his assistants. This would be a 100% awesome thing if Kazuya weren't so coldly arrogant and narcissistic (to the point that Mai nicknames him "Naru," which is what I'll refer to him as from this point on). However, the work is interesting and Naru grows on her, so, when she's offered a longer-term job with Shibuya Psychic Research (of which Naru is the manager), Mai accepts.

Although technically Shibuya Psychic Research is composed of Naru, Lin (Naru's mysterious assistant, who seems to take an instant dislike to Mai), and Mai, the group is almost always joined by several others: Hosho, a handsome Buddhist monk who develops a brotherly affection for Mai; Ayako, a Shinto priestess who seems almost useless during most of the 25-episode series; John Brown (I know he's the only one whose last name I'm giving, but his name is just so bland I have to include the whole thing), a cute Australian Catholic priest; and Masako, a 16-year-old spirit medium who has her own TV show and who, to Mai's annoyance, is obviously attracted to Naru. The group is later joined by Yasuhara Osamu ("Yasuhara," from this point on).

The group investigates supposed hauntings. The series is composed of several arcs, each of which deals with a single case. In the first arc, Naru, Mai, and the others investigate the possible haunting of the building by Mai's school. The second arc deals with a possessed doll. The third arc deals with a school that seems to be having a large number of supernatural problems, which may be due to an ostracized spoon-bending girl's curse. Then there's a one-shot in which couples who walk through a particular park together are mysteriously dowsed in water. The fourth arc deals with the spirit of a child who was left at an orphanage (or whatever it's called - the children who are left there aren't always without family). The fifth arc deals with a very strict school that's being overwhelmed by spirits apparently drawn in by widespread student Ouji boarding. The sixth arc deals with a strange, labyrinthine house. The seventh and final arc deals with something that is causing the members of a particular family to die and/or kill.

Commentary:

This series wasn't originally on my radar at all. FUNimation has these ugly S.A.V.E. editions that were on sale, and, to top my order off, I was debating between a couple different series. Tokyo Majin seemed pretty and had some snappy one-liners, but, after watching the first episode, I decided that the plot looked like a mess. Various reviews agreed with me. Jyu Oh Sei had potential, but then I looked at how long it was and started wondering how such a complex-looking series could fit into such a small number of episodes. After reading a few reviews, I concluded that the answer is, "It can't." Ghost Hunt was decently reviewed by several people, but I couldn't pinpoint why. Everything I read made it sound just like a bunch of other shows.

I decided to put off buying the show, at least until after I'd seen the whole thing on Hulu. FUNimation was going through a Hulu video yanking spree, but I still had about a week to go before Ghost Hunt was going to go away. I ended up finishing the whole 25-episode series with several days to spare.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Antique Bakery (anime TV series)

The image on the left is what one side of the box looks like - the original looks much nicer. I did terrible (but kind of cool) things in GIMP  to get this image.

Synopsis:

When Tachibana was a little boy, he was kidnapped. Although he was found and reunited with his family, with no apparent physical harm having been done to him, the experience affected him and his relationships with others for years afterward. All he could remember about his kidnapper was that the man liked cake and fed it to him every day. After he was found, Tachibana could no longer stand the taste of cake.

Years later, Tachibana suddenly quits his job in order to open a classy Western  bakery. His parents take it in a stride, and his father even finds him a genius pastry chef. That pastry chef turns out to be Ono, who, when they were both seniors in high school, confessed to Tachibana that he loved him. Tachibana told Ono that he disgusted him and should go die. The experience so upset Ono that he forgot what Tachibana looked like and went on to become the Gay of Demonic Charm - if he finds himself attracted to someone, that person, whether he is gay or straight, ends up pursuing him, something which has resulted in him being fired from numerous bakeries. Once Ono remembers who Tachibana is, he says he's relieved that he's finally found a bakery where his Demonic Charm won't work. In actuality, though, Tachibana and Ono still have some issues to work out.

Tachibana and Ono are joined by Eiji, an ex-boxer who adores sweets. Ono takes Eiji on as his apprentice, and Tachibana acts as the bakery's salesperson, beautifully and deliciously describing the bakery's pastries and cakes despite never having tasted most of them. The bakery's number increases by one more when Tachibana's childhood friend, Chikage, arrives. Although Chikage is generally useless, Tachibana prefers him in the shop to sitting in his car like a stalker.

The show deals with these four characters' relationships with each other, as well as their individual pasts and development.

Commentary:

Back when I was first reading the manga this anime is based on, I learned about the anime and was tempted to watch a fansubbed version of it. I never did, and then, when the anime was finally licensed, I wished I had, because I wasn't sure I would like it. I wasn't sure how four volumes of story was going to manage to fit into 12 episodes, and I hadn't entirely liked some of the screenshots I had seen. However, I'm a sucker for a sale, and when Right Stuf had a sale on Nozomi titles I went ahead and preordered the series.

Overall, I'm glad I own it, although I now wish I also owned the manga. I think the anime is fairly good, but I remember the manga being quite a bit better.

More painful Tokyopop-related news

Right Stuf & Nozomi Entertainment posted this on Facebook today, approximately 4 hours ago:
"Last week, TOKYOPOP announced its North American publishing division will shut down, effective May 31, 2011. We have since confirmed that titles scheduled for release after May 4 have been canceled, and we are removing them from pre-order on RightStuf.com,  until additional information is provided. (This will have the effect of canceling customer orders for these books.) Again, as far as we are aware, our supply of and access to most of TOKYOPOP's previously published titles has not been affected by the recent announcements."
 Although I suspected this might happen, there were a few things I tried ordering anyway. I've finished up ordering everything I'm willing and able to order, and the result is going to be a few series in my collection that will still have holes and a few series where I will likely never find out how they end. The holes can be remedied, but it will take time, effort, and/or a lot of money, so I'm not sure it's ever going to happen - I'm not a great OOP shopper. As far as the lack of endings go...that's particularly painful, since Tokyopop was so close to finishing up some titles.

UPDATE (4/21/11):

So far, my least stressful option for buying Tokyopop volumes that aren't yet out of print has turned out to be Amazon. In an attempt to get my money to go a bit further, I ordered as many volumes as I could from Right Stuf, making sure that almost all of them said "In stock and available." I think I only ordered 2 that said "we'll get it for you!", and only because they would have cost me $70+ to get them via Amazon or another method - I wasn't counting on getting those, but I figured I'd try.

By the time my order was processed, several of those volumes that used to be "in stock and available" had gone out of stock at Right Stuf. I'm now trying to decide whether I should bite the bullet and pay more to get them from somewhere else (if that's even possible for less than $20, which is the most I'd grudgingly be willing to pay for a single volume), or continue to wait. Of the volumes that I'm currently waiting on, most are from Future Diary (a series I decided I'd just flat-out buy, but which I don't technically know if I'll enjoy) and one is a standalone. I suppose I could just take a peek at the prices, without actually buying anything, but I'm kind of afraid to look.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Special A, Complete Collection (anime TV series)

Synopsis:

Until she was six years old, Hikari was the best at everything she did. Then she met Kei, who effortlessly beat her in a wrestling match. From that moment on, Hikari became determined to beat Kei at something. However, Kei is so unbelievably good at everything that Hikari may be doomed to be Ms. Second Place forever. That doesn't matter - Hikari is sure that all she needs in order to eventually succeed is hard work and determination.

In the present day, Hikari and Kei are in Special A (S.A.), a special group composed of the top 7 students in their high school. From what I could tell, students in Special A don't even need to attend class, as long as they do well enough on tests and assignments to maintain their school standing. Kei and Hikari are the number 1 and 2 students, respectively. Other students in S.A. include:
  • Tadashi - a goofball who likes exploring dangerous places
  • Akira - likes serving fancy teas and snacks, enjoys beating up on Tadashi, and would like to monopolize Hikari
  • Jun - very young-looking, but otherwise not very interesting until you learn that he's got something of a split personality
  • Megumi - the older twin sister of Jun. Her singing voice could be classified as a weapon of mass destruction, it is that powerful. In order to protect her voice, she does not speak, but rather communicates via writing on a sketch pad.
  • Ryuu - acts as Megumi and Jun's surrogate parent when their parents are gone, and loves and is loved by a variety of exotic animals
What Hikari doesn't know, even though it's obvious to everyone else, is that Kei is in love with her. Hikari treats Kei like both a rival and a friend, almost completely oblivious to the various signs of his feelings. As the show progresses and most of the other S.A. members pair off with someone, sledgehammer-like hints (actually, one particular character who repeatedly tells Hikari that Kei loves her) finally force Hikari to reevaluate Kei and her feelings towards him.

However, will her feelings about the status of their rivalry and relationship even matter in the end? Hikari may think hard work and effort can accomplish anything, but the fact remains that Kei is from a wealthy family and practically runs his family's empire on his own. The other members of S.A. are used to money and status playing a part in who they are supposed to talk to or even marry, but how will Hikari react when these outside forces start to separate the members of Special A?

Commentary:

I first watched a fansub of this show a few years ago. When it first came out on DVD in the U.S., I wanted it, but didn't get it, because the price was way too high and my bank account was still suffering from my long period of joblessness. I got this complete series boxed set on sale, at a price I still think was a bit high for a series that includes no dub and hardly any extras. If this had been put out by FUNimation, I probably would have waited even longer, until an even cheaper edition was released. However, I'm not sure Sentai Filmworks does that kind of thing.

This series isn't really all that original, and it's not good enough for me to rank it as one of my top favorite anime. Considering the price, there are several other anime I'd recommend to shoujo fans before I'd recommend this one. That said, this series is a bit like an eager puppy - it's got the same overall warm, happy, and positive feel to it that attracted me to anime like Fruits Basket and Ouran High School Host Club. It's fun, sweet, and full of energy, and, even though the humor, romance, and drama all felt like something I'd seen in several other anime, I didn't mind because it somehow managed not to feel tired and overdone.

ARCs are awesome

I am now in possession of 21 ARCs (advanced reader's copies - uncorrected proofs of books that will be published in the near future). Okay, so I'm already behind on my post writing, and my TBR pile is basically a mountain, but I'm still thrilled to have all of these. Almost all of them are YA fiction, and two of them are graphic novels. My plan is to read them all before they come out, or at least within the same month they come out, and have posts scheduled to publish close to their release dates. We'll see how that goes - when I arranged all the books in order of publication date, I realized that six of them are being released next month. The one I'm reading right now, Abandon by Meg Cabot (one of the few authors in my ARC pile whose name I actually recognize), is scheduled to be released in less than 2 weeks. I also have a small stack of ILL books to get through.

Of all the possible problems to have, having too many books to read in a short period of time is not really all that bad.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tokyopop

A few hours ago, I learned that Tokyopop is shutting down its North American publishing division. I've been trying to put together a list of Tokyopop titles I have been meaning to buy the remaining volumes of, titles I have been interested in but have not yet bought, and favorite titles I would like to own...and it is depressing. As things go out of print, they will likely become mind-bogglingly expensive, but I don't think I can actually afford to buy everything on my list even at current prices. Here's a sampling of the list right now (some of which may actually already be out of print):
  • Gravitation - I know I'm missing one or two volumes, but I don't know which ones. I'll have to take a look.
  • Loveless - Ok, so I have every volume currently published in the US, and I think the series must have stalled in Japan, but I'm sad that my chances of ever getting to find out how this one ends are now pretty much nil.
  • The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko - I found out about this one not too long ago.
  • Chobits - I'm not actually sure if Tokyopop owns the rights to this one any more. I hope not. It's a relatively short series, but still not cheap to buy all at once, and I own none of it. I had always intended to start collecting it.
  • Demon Diary - I own a few random volumes of this. I'll have to figure out which ones.
  • Future Diary - I found out about this one today and thought, "Hm, I'll have to hunt this one down." I haven't even gotten around to researching how long the series is or if it's even finished yet.
  • Kare Kano - I don't think I can afford to get all of this series, but it might be a good idea to get a few volumes, particularly the ones that take place after the point where the anime ends.
  • Tramps Like Us - I own several volumes, maybe half the series.
And some titles I'd at least like to get via ILL, which I will have to hope won't end up on my "I wish I had just bought them" list:
  • King of Thorn - It's been ages since I read any of this, but I think I was really close to finishing. I don't own any of it, and I don't know if I want to, but I need to at least get the volumes I haven't read yet via ILL.
  • Maid Sama! - The anime is on my "To Buy" list because I've liked what I've seen of this series on various AMVs. I don't know what the manga is like.
  • Off*Beat - I think I might own the first volume of this one. I remember reading that it was never finished. It's short, which may result in me moving it to my "To Buy" list.
  • Qwan - I read about this one not too long ago and thought it sounded interesting.
Happily, I own most of Gravitation, all of Loveless, and all of Fruits Basket (this one would be an absolute bear to buy all at once).

Tokyopop has licensed a lot of titles over the years. When Tokyopop first came into the picture, it was the first time I was able to buy manga on a semi-regular basis. I bought each volume of Fruits Basket as it came out (even as I began mentally begging Natsuki Takaya to finally end the series). I bought each volume of Loveless as it came out, and I've continued to wait for volumes to come out even though it has seemed like the series was forgotten (it's similar to the semi-hopeful, mostly resigned feeling that L.J. Smith's Nightworld series gave me). I bought my first two volumes of Gravitation while I was in Chicago, and read them on my last day there, while waiting for the cab that would take me to the airport. However things had been going with Tokyopop lately, I still had warm, fuzzy feelings for them. This is sad news.

Monday, April 11, 2011

As usual, I'm behind

Hopefully I'll get some of this posted this weekend, but currently my To Be Written About list includes 4 anime series, 1 manga, 1 short story, and 1 book.

I'm still on the fence about whether to post about the short story - I don't usually write whole posts about short stories, but it's a standalone thing I read on my Nook, and it's the reason I caved and bought a book by the author.

The lone book (Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves) has been in my To Be Written About list the longest, mainly because I needed a bit of mental distance before I could feel comfortable writing about it. It's one of those books that, if I were still part of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy book group, I would probably be recommending (as long as no one in the group minded a bit of gore) - I think it would make for an excellent discussion.

The 4 anime include Special A, Ghost Hunt, the second season of Maria Watches Over Us, and Antique Bakery. Out of them all, Ghost Hunt was the biggest surprise (it was better than I expected), and Antique Bakery was the one I was anticipating the most.

By the way, as far as my Nook goes, I'm still liking it overall (despite some of the things I've written below). It's going to come in really handy over the next few days. I finally got wireless Internet set up in my apartment, so I've been able to use aspects of the Nook that I couldn't before. Here's a quickie update on some thing I've learned and some things I think B&N should work on. If I'm wrong about any of what I write below, feel free to correct me.
  • Shelves: I was excited to learn that I could arrange my e-books into Shelves. I was less excited to learn that simply plugging my Nook into a USB port in my computer destroys those Shelves as if they never existed. I now have two very small, simple shelves (Reading and Finished), which lessens the frustration, somewhat, when they are destroyed. Still, I hope B&N fixes this problem in the near future.
  • Books have to be put on Shelves one at a time. That, combined with the "little" glitch mentioned in my first bullet point, makes me very sympathetic to those who already have many e-books, well organized using calibre or something else, who can't get that lovely organization and usage of metadata (like series titles!) to carry over onto the Nook. Well, I've read that some people can, but it sounds like their methods might invalidate the Nook's warranty.
  • Feeds: There's a section on the Nook called "The Daily" that appears to be an RSS feed reader. There's only one problem - you can't choose what feeds you're subscribing to. You get what B&N gives you. This would be an absolutely awesome feature if you could subscribe to feeds and read text-heavy blogs (like, for instance, mine) on the Nook.
  • Downloads not allowed: Once I got my wireless connection set up, I tried going to Project Gutenberg and downloading a book, just to see if I could. I couldn't. Downloads aren't supported, meaning that books from anywhere but from B&N have to be side loaded. Which kills the Shelves.
  • Until B&N makes it clear which books in their store have DRM and which don't, I refuse to pay for any e-books from them. If it's not possible to get something without DRM, I'll either do without it or get the print version. So far, I have bought 3 DRM-free books directly from the publishers. The two I could have gotten from B&N cost slightly more directly from the publishers, but they still cost significantly less than if I had bought print versions.
  • I'm annoyed that, while the My Library section of the Nook, which holds all books bought from B&N, is able to show covers on the touch screen, the My Documents section, which holds just about everything else, can't. I can't think of a single good reason why this is so.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar (book) by Maurice Leblanc

Read this for free via Project Gutenberg!

Synopsis:

This book contains 9 stories about Arsene Lupin, a thief who is so awesomely good at what he does that people just assume he can't possibly have left any clues at the scenes of his crimes. If Arsene Lupin is caught, it's because he wants to be caught. If he says he's going to steal something, he'll steal it, even if the job looks impossible. He's an expert at disguises and is more than a match for most of the great detectives of the world (except maybe Sherlock Holmes).

In several of the stories, he tricks people into giving him the exact information and openings he needs. In one story, it is revealed that his amazing exploits began when he was only 6 years old. His only weakness appears to be his complete confidence in his abilities - in a couple stories, this confidence allows people to actually get the better of him.

Commentary:

As part of trying out the Nook, I downloaded several Project Gutenberg books. I probably have never read, or possibly even heard of, many of the books available through Project Gutenberg - I ended up browsing subjects and downloading anything that caught my interest. I tried a few pages of several different books, but this was the first book that caught my interest and wouldn't let go. Even as I rolled my eyes and imagined the name "Arsene Lupin" said in melodramatic tones, I couldn't stop reading. Since I finally caved and ordered a Nook for myself, I imagine I'll be downloading the rest of the Arsene Lupin books on Project Gutenberg in the near future.

Less than satisfactory response

I received an emailed answer from Barnes & Noble about DRM-protected books on their site. The response basically boiled down to "all publishers require this of us, and no, it's not a security risk." I don't know enough about how the whole thing works to say anything about the security risks, although I'm still skeptical. As for the whole "all publishers require this of us"...I'm not sure I buy that answer. For one particular book I looked up, it seems like Barnes & Noble sells it with DRM (if I assume that the emailed response is correct and all books they offer, except possibly self-published books, have DRM), Fictionwise sells it DRM-free, and the publisher itself sells it DRM-free. Why would the publisher require Barnes & Noble to sell the book with DRM, but not Fictionwise?

The emailed response did not tell me how I would be able to judge, prior to buying an e-book via Barnes & Noble, whether it was DRM-protected or not. I already know that not all books available via the Barnes & Noble site are DRM-protected - I wasn't asked for my credit card number in order to open DEAD(ish) on the Nook, and I got that one via the Barnes & Noble website. Does that mean that I can assume that self-published books on the Barnes & Noble website are DRM-free? That books that say "Sold by SMASHWORDS" are DRM-free? I don't know, and the email didn't say.

If anyone out there more experienced with e-books has more information they'd like to share about any of this, feel free to share.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Nook: the verdict

I liked it. A Nook of my very own is due to arrive any day now.

That's the short response. Here's the long one:

It's possible that, if I had gotten to try the Kindle or another reader the way I got to try the Nook, I might have decided I liked something else better. I like knowing what I'm getting into, though. Reading about the pros and cons of a product isn't the same. I like personally experiencing those pros and cons, so I can get a better feel for what I can live with and what I can't.

For instance, whether the software on the Nook I tried was up-to-date or not, I learned that, as annoying as I first found the page refresh rate to be, I got used to it. The start-up time turned out to be significantly more annoying. I also learned that I missed being able to quickly flip through a book - I'll have to remember to add bookmarks to my favorite parts of e-books, the best thing I can think of to simulate being able to flip to and reread my favorite parts in print books.

The cover on the Nook I was trying out opened up so that it was a little like holding a hardback book. I liked that cover so much that I looked for a similar one for my own Nook. The cover wasn't so stiff that I couldn't fold the front part back. Although my tendinitis has healed to the point that I feel like normal, my hand and wrist is wimpier than it used to be. I learned that, if I'm not careful about how I'm pressing the button to go to the next page, the tendons in my wrist hurt after a while. I discovered I could fold the front cover back and use the buttons on the left instead - good to know.

I put a variety of things on the Nook, just to see what they would look like. I downloaded a couple free e-books from the Barnes & Noble website. One was DEAD(ish) - although I wasn't a fan of the book, appearance-wise it looked great. I tried the Nook's Notes feature on it - I was really unimpressed with that. Typing the letters was so annoying that I resorted to text message-like shorthand. It's a good thing that I'm used to writing any notes about books into a notebook I keep on hand.

Another free book I downloaded was a Harlequin romance. I ended up never even looking at it, but I still learned something from it - I learned I really dislike DRM. "Buying" the book (for $0.00) and adding it to the Nook worked just the same as it did with DEAD(ish). I don't have wireless Internet, so I first downloaded any book I planned on adding to the Nook to my computer and then plugged the Nook into a USB port and added the books that way. Then, with DEAD(ish), all I did was find the book on the Nook and start reading - nice and easy. The Harlequin book was more annoying. When I found it and went to read it, I was prompted to input my credit card number.

I'm assuming that I would only be asked to do this the first time after I added the book to the Nook, but one time was one time too many. Even if I had been using my own Nook instead of borrowing one, I wouldn't have liked being prompted for my credit card number. I plan on making a special effort to avoid getting DRM-protected e-books.

There are tons of options for getting e-books. As far as free e-books go, I learned that Baen has a few available, and I downloaded a couple by some of my favorite authors. If I like the look of them, it's possible I might buy some of Baen's e-books in the future. I also downloaded several books from Project Gutenberg. Just like when I check books out of a library, whether I think I'll like a book or not does not have to be a primary factor in whether I choose to download it from Project Gutenberg. Three of the four books I tried didn't grab me, but the fourth (the first of Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin books, which I will be posting about soon) was a lot of fun.

As I started to warm to the Nook, I began to wonder whether I should more seriously consider the Nook Color. The higher price tag bothered me, especially since I knew I would be adding the cost of a cover and the Barnes & Noble Protection Plan. I was able to take a look at the Nook Color at Walmart, but I really wish I could have tried it out for a more extended period of time. Because of my job, I spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen. On a bad day (massive, multi-hour record-editing projects, for instance), the eye-strain can give me a headache, and then when I get home I don't even bother to turn my computer. I worried that a Nook Color might only increase my chances for eye-strain-induced headaches. And, again, there was still the price to consider. The Nook Color would let me look at pictures, comics, and more, but I decided to wait until either the Nook Color or similar products dropped in price enough that I wouldn't mind it if I couldn't use it all the time, or some company put out an affordable color e-ink reader.

One of the Project Gutenberg EPUB files I downloaded had images, and they looked fine on the Nook. I had previously downloaded some PDFs to the Nook and was horrified at what happened to their formatting - the PDF with images in it was particularly mangled. The perfectly nice looking EPUB file got me to wondering, and my wondering led me to download and install two programs on my computer, calibre and JPEGtoPDF. From what I could tell, calibre can't take a JPEG image and turn it into an EPUB file (I could be wrong), so I turned a bunch of JPEGs into a PDF and then turned that into an EPUB file. It worked beautifully. I created an EPUB file of images of my niece - on the Nook they were grayscale, of course, but didn't look that bad. I also created an EPUB file of a fan comic I downloaded several years ago. This, I learned, works best when the comic has fairly large text - the screen size of the Nook is quite a bit smaller than, say, a page from a Tokyopop manga, so the text ends up being a lot smaller, too. At the moment at least, the Nook does not allow you to zoom in. This became especially painful when I turned a picture-riddled journal article PDF into an EPUB file - the text was so small it was impossible to make any of it out.

I'm not sure I would have ordered a Nook for myself if I hadn't gotten a good-sized check as a Christmas present, along with orders not to use that money on bills or groceries. I'm cheap, and I cringed at the cost when I hit the "order" button. However, I've bought several print books in the last year that cost 2-3 times more than what the e-book versions (these were from small publishers, NOT the Agency 5). With a Nook that book money will be able to go a little bit farther. Aside from that, I also like the idea of being able to download and read something from Project Gutenberg whenever I get the urge, and I was hugely excited when I figured out how to make my own EPUB files - I'm sure I'll think of lots of ways to use that skill. I'd like to experiment more with reading work-related articles on the Nook.

I don't expect or plan for my Nook to replace my print book reading, but I do expect it to expand my options.
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