Guilty As Accused

I have suffered from this phenomenon for a number of years, but I never had a word for it.

Abibliophobia-the fear of running out of reading material

I remember going on vacations while growing up.  I always was afraid I would run out of things to read.  (We had a great large van.  My dad built a platform for us to lay on while the suitcases were packed in underneath.  We even had a fan and small refrigerator in the van for those LONG driving days he so enjoyed.  With all the seat belt stuff these days, it would probably be a illegal…) Since I have gotten married, I still have enjoyed hauling more books along then was reasonable.  Even though I had my kids to entertain and take care of, I still seem to have a reading expectation programmed into my brain.  I would haul around a stack of books and not even get half way through.  I was always afraid I would start one of the books and find out it was too slow, too profanity laden, or too full of adult scenes.

Fortunately, I lived long enough to see the Kindle.  (The Nook is interchangeable, but I use the Kindle.)  I just have to pack my Kindle.  I have some religious, fantasy, and thrillers.  I even have a couple of games.  The Kindle has certainly eased my packing.  And, now that airplanes don’t make me shut it off during takeoff and landing, it is even better.  (Because I am eternally paranoid, I usually take at least one book should the Kindle every unexpectedly die.)

I will likely always be a little odd in this way.  Even with the Kindle, I will load up on a few extra books before a trip.  I know I will never get to them, but it is just seems like “old” times when I load the Kindle with a few new books before a trip.  The other part about being a abibliophobic is owning a book makes it half read!

How I Find Books I Can Enjoy

In the days prior to my Kindle, it seemed like it was much easier to find books I liked.  I attended a university in downtown Columbus, OH.  I commuted every day and worked a job as well.  (Maybe finding suitable reading material during this time of my life was easier because I had no time…??)  These are the techniques are remember using to try and find interesting books:

  • I was willing to try.  If it was the cover or the author or the topic or a recommendation.  I was willing to try a “free” book at the library.  During my college days, I would walk to the main branch of the public library.  I would try and get lost in the stacks of books.  They had a section for Science Fiction in both the paperback and hard cover books.  (I don’t remember there being a “Fantasy” section in those days.  Maybe most of  the “good” fantasy had not been written yet.  Regardless, this seems to be where I find the most reading success today.)  I would walk out with a stack of books.  If I didn’t like them, it was easy to return them.  And, the sheer volume of books available gave me confidence my persistence would pay off.
  • I do still buy books.  This technique is not always good either.  I would go into the fantasy section at Half Price books and make decisions on books based on the number of pages purchased per penny or dollar or whatever.  I did not necessary go in and say, “I love this author.  I must buy more books from them.”  I would think, “This book is 700 pages, and only $2.99.  I am getting over 2 pages per penny.” (No, it doesn’t make much sense, but my goal from a young age was to accumulate volume of books and not always quality.  My thinking, with my wife’s blessing, has evolved toward quality books rather than the filling of shelf page–the next move will be easier!)  My used book purchases is now a couple books or less a month.

Now, in the “kindle-age”, I have a couple of “favorite” ways to find books:

  • Lit map website: This is a fantastic tool.  If you like an author, you type in their name.  You click “enter”, and see what authors appear close by to your author.  I presently really enjoy reading Brandon Sanderson.  The Lit Map below is on him.  And, I have read a few of the authors close by as well as a few to the right (in the image) of him.  It certainly is worth considering this tool

http://www.literature-map.com/

LitMap-Sanderson

  • Amazon Reviews: These are many cautions here.  Many books I have read are 4+ stars.  A quick read of the first few pages will make one wonder who the reviewers really are–I suspect members of the authors family or someone else that the author has the ability to influence and/or threaten. Instead of reading the highest reviews, I often read the 1-Star reviews.  Some of the  these reviewers seem to have a personal vendetta against the author or author’s topic.  If this information is weighed in with any personal experience you may have on the author, it still should help you to determine if the book could be for you.  (Some people give reviews after liking the book but disliking something about the Kindle formatting.  If this is the reason for a low rating, it can be somewhat dismissed.  This is especially true if the review is older and there has been time to improve/update the formatting issue.)
  • If you don’t trust the lit map, you can read books that your author recommends.  As an example, I am a follower of Brandon Sanderson’s Facebook page.  He will post things frequently on what he is reading or what authors he likes are writing.  This method is not full-proof, but it has helped me expand my books to consider.
  • My local library does offer Kindle books.  Before I download, I will check reviews on Amazon to see how they rank.  (Using some of the logic described above.)  And, if I download a loser, I can always return it and try a new one.
  • Lastly, I sometimes troll through the list of free books in various categories at Amazon.  And, if not the free books, the top sellers in my favorite categories.  Sometimes authors are trying to make it look like their books are more popular than they really are.  (They lower the price or give it away for free.  When they raise the price back up, the book will still appear high on the list AND likely get some sales at the higher priced based simply on its present rank[the sales rank accumulates regardless of the price–it is copies of the book sold]—even if it was its rank while free/extra-cheap.)

I still have bought some duds, and even found a few treasures in the Facebook pages of sites making you aware of “free” or “discounted” Kindle books.  If you are willing to work a little bit and allow for a few mistakes, you can make sure you and your Kindle spend plenty of time together.

Where Are The Good Kindle Books?

I have had my Kindle for over 3 years.  I love my Kindle!!  (I say that even though my first Kindle was defective…rather the cover was.  The cover hooked into the Kindle in a particular way.  The hook was just a “little” too long.  Knowing that, explained why a slight bump at the wrong angle would reboot the Kindle.  I endured this off and on for over a year.  I missed the recall, but Amazon replaced everything and handled it perfectly.)  I have bought numerous books (mostly while at one day or short-term sales and while using Amazon Gift cards acquired from credit card points), picked up many books for free while trolling the Amazon-site or reviewing Kindle specific Facebook pages, received numerous free books every month as an Amazon Prime member, and finally, used my library account to get free books for a two week period.

Let us take for granted enough money and patience can allow you to eventually find a book to bring you reading pleasure.  Finding good free resources has been my recent problem!

Many of the free Amazon books are nearly unreadable.  (The exception are when an author permits a very popular book [usually the first book in a series to lure a reader in to the entire series] to be free with a plan of hooking the reader into a larger purchase additional items by the author)  Of the books I have read or tried to read, (I fancy books in the fantasy area OR the Christian area with dabblings in biographies, literature and history.  Business books are less than dabblings…better described as very occasional flirtations.), I have found it difficult to get past more than a couple of chapters. [Please note above exceptions]  The characters are flimsy; the reader is not engaged, and the lack of basic story telling skills seems to be VERY difficult to ignore.  Many of these books are written by individuals without an editor.  They are published without some professional feedback.  (Friends and loved ones have given feedback I am sure.  Unfortunately, they prefer to say “great” rather than hurt someones feelings.)  I am not saying the authors are failing.  As I see the covers of the “free” books, I have an expectation of the story the tome will tell.  Usually, the text of the book falls far short of the incredible journey painted by the cover.  (This has always been the case, but with access to so many free books where “fail” becomes the normal rather than the exception, the commitment to seek satisfaction within the “infinite” number of books available makes for a more demanding reader.  Why read a bad book, when you have access to so many other free books with possibly one you might like. Of the many books in the fantasy area, many seem to be urban fantasy and/or vampire books with strong elements of romance.  As a middle-aged man, those are not topics I am presently, or likely ever, seeking.)

Even with the “nearly” free Amazons books ($1.99), many of these books are also in the unreadable category. (After a recent quality reading drought, I read a book a called The Rithmastist .  It is well plotted and although written for a teenage audience, it reveals the story through a variety of methods-dialogue, observation etc. AND it was purchased while the price was reduced.) These books may be books offered to Amazon Prime members for free, but available at a cost to those who are not Amazon Prime members.  So, they are not free, but in most cases, they are not written by authors that have access to all of the tools available to a Dean Koontz or some other established writer.  There are some quality books in this mix, but it takes patience.

The greatest success has come from getting library books on my Kindle.  (Not a perfectly smooth process.  While the previous process allowed for checking out a book and returned prior to the 2 week checkout period, the process now demands you hold on to all checked out books for the full period.  If you get a book you don’t enjoy, there is no where to drive to return it.  You wait it out until the email comes letting your know your sentence has been nearly fully served.  “Would you like to renew?”)  To overcome logistic issues, I am able to checkout books on two separate cards.  I am able to reserve books I am pretty sure I want to read (the hold limit is 3 per library card).  And, I am able to check out up to 3 books on each card.  The problem is checking out a book (or 3 books) within a couple of days of each other.  If I completely read or don’t like the books checked out within the 2 week period, I am stuck until the two weeks expires. (This is where the second card has benefits.)

Due to the rather negative take on available options, I will try and propose solutions on my next post.  It is not impossible.  You just need a little patience!

Summer Project

The Gruenbaum’s read before this summer, but I do take a little pride in laying a plan to keep the Gruenbaum adults and kids reading for a few years…..

My wife:  She has always loved John Grisham books.  Once she was all caught up with his books, her reading was largely reading the next Grisham book as it came out.  After looking on Amazon and seeing many Grisham readers also read Micheal Connelly.  Although she has complained about some of the stories being a little gruesome, she has read 10 or more of these books.  And, she is still going strong…until she needs another new author.

The girls:  Besides doing the reading program at the library, I wanted to give them some additional incentives. Since they have enjoyed my Ipad, I wanted to give them something they could play on AND something they could read on.  After reading madly the first half of the summer, they both were nearly at 100 hours each…their Kindle Fire was nearly in reach.  I let them know if they would agree to read 125 hours each, I would upgrade them to the Kindle Fire with greater memory.  They blew past that goal, and they have earned “kindle” dollars with all reading over 125.  I told them the “kindle bucks” were for books and games during the school year.

The boys:  This program was tailored to the boys individual reading levels.  One son reads quite lengthy books without much effort.  The other son enjoys reading, but does not commit to it as fully as my other son.  So, to take advantage of Amazon discounts over Father’s Day, I went ahead and bought their Kindles.  They need to reach their reading goals by the end of summer.  If they don’t, they owe me for their Kindles.  Thankfully, I feel confident they will both reach their goals.

In total, we are now a 5 Kindle family.  We buy some Kindle books and share them around.  But, if the library has it and the book is to expensive on Amazon, none of us our to proud to read something borrowed.
Not all leaders are readers, but I hope the readers of this family will be!