Buy Books Online –

Buy Books Online –

It would take a lot to break me away from my brand loyalty to I have one or two quibbles with the site, for example the propensity for "gift vouchers" to disappear inbetween placing the order and the amount actually debited from your account. Also their DVD rental service, great when it first started, has stopped being quite so good in that they have started sending DVDs quite low down the list instead of reliably the top three. (Not that I would mind but the DVDs in question are for the girls and to them it is important to get Wedding Crashers before Herbie Fully Loaded (or whatever). )

But I digress (my usual fault). Amazon is great! I just read a post on Grumpy Old Bookman about’s books pages. I went to have a look, and found that Tesco tracks Amazon’s top sellers and offers them cheaper (about 10 p in some cases). Now I rarely buy books from Amazon’s chart list becuase I’ve either read them by then or I don’t want to read them. But this must be quite attractive to many people, especially if you can put books in the same basket as your weekly grocery shop (I’m addicted to, again despite a lesser service now than when it launched, so no temptations for me there).

Interesting. As GOB points out, the selection on is far more limited than Amazon. He asks an interesting question, as yet unanswered, about how Tesco does all this: did they build the site themselves or are they relying on someone else for the stocking and dispatching? (The latter, he thinks.) Although GOB says that Tesco is outselling W H Smith by 5:1, I wonder what Amazon is going to do about Tesco, if anything?

100 best first lines

American Book Review

Having a bit of a list phase at the moment. This page was given in a comment by Kermitthefrog on Jenny D’s blog Light Reading. It says it is the 100 best first lines from novels. Some room for debate there, I would have thought. Kermit is asking Jenny what she thinks, so maybe we will find out some the American Book Review missed.

10 books to read while at school

the Literary Saloon at the complete review – 21 – 31 January 2006 Archive

According to the Literary Saloon (link to posting above), the Royal Society of Literature has asked some well-known authors to recommend 10 books "that every child should read before they finish school". The posting carries some interesting links on this theme.

If anyone reads this entry, please put yours in the comments or link to your blog: I’d love to know your own recommended selection. Apparently the RSL article is not yet out, but the Daily Telgraph has revealed the choices of three authors, which I’ve reproduced below. Under that, I’ve put my own (in no particular order).

J K Rowling:
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Animal Farm, George Orwell
The Tale of Two Bad Mice, Beatrix Potter
The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger
Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Philip Pullman:
Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson
Emil and the Detectives, Erich Kastner
The Magic Pudding, Norman Lindsay
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Coleridge
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens
First Book of Samuel, Ch 17
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
A good collection of myths and legends
A good collection of fairy tales

Andrew Motion:
The Odyssey, Homer
Don Quixote, Cervantes
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost, John Milton
Lyrical Ballads, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
Ulysses, James Joyce
The Waste Land, T S Eliot

20,000 leagues under the sea Jules Verne
Tales of Robin Hood (and/or Troy/King Arthur) Roger Lancelyn Green
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Pride and Prejudice (or Emma) Jane Austen
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Far from the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy** I suppose this will have to go for Alice in Wonderland, see below. I guess FFMC will keep till later. (?)
David Copperfield and/or Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
*Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell — remove to make way for: Lion Witch and Wardrobe, C S Lewis.
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

I had not looked at the three authors’ lists above when I made my own list, which is based on books that were my favourites when I was at school. I think PP’s suggestion of fairy tales is essential. I wanted to include Catcher in the Rye, Birdy (William Wharton) and Nausea (J-P Sartre), but you can only have 10, and these three would be just as good or better read a bit later I suppose. Roald Dahl’s Matilda should be on my list (in my view his best book), but where is the room? Andrew Motion’s list is a bit heavy-going, I think.

I would definitely have included the brilliant and wondeful Harry Potters (I suppose book 3 if only allowed one) and His Dark Materials in my list, but I thought the books had to be "classics", or rather, not contemporary. Will try to get hold of the RSL article when it comes out to learn more, and find out more about other people’s lists.

*Note added on Wednesday 1 Feb: How could I have forgotten The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, one of my all-time favourite books as a child? Gone with the Wind will have to make way, I think, as GWTW is another one that will keep till later (I remember reading it because a girl in one of the "Chalet School" books was expelled for reading it, so I needed to find out why).

** Note added on Friday 3 Feb. I am going to give up on this "list thing". The "10 books to read at school" story has been picked up everywhere, of course. I was mortified (again) when I read an article on the phenomenon in today’s Times to realise I had omitted "Alice in Wonderland" from my list. As I’m not prepared to take a day preparing the absolute best list (considering and rejecting all the options), and can realistically spend only 2 mins putting together a list about anything, I realise I will never reach perfection and will just quit this list game. Read ’em all! And more!

Lost in translation

This is the heading of a "news in brief" in today’s Times. I reproduce it here in full:

Michael Moore and Diane Bell from West Yorkshire, booked a holiday to Tenerife but ended up in Tel Aviv. They went to Thailand but did not like it and went to a local travel agent, who misheard them. "I’ve never seen Tel Aviv spelt before," Ms Bell said. "I thought it was what people in Thailand called Tenerife."

Well, it made me smile on my train journey this morning, anyway, for more reasons than one. (Wonder why the Times put in that unnecessary comma in the first sentence, though?)

Maxine User Page –

Have not worked out what Shadows is yet, apart from something Connotea-like. (I discovered it via Connotea). This link is to my "shadows" page. Sounds kind of spooky.

My-journal – just-for-me publishing?

info NeoGnostic: My-journal – just-for-me publishing?

What a great idea. This takes further the concept of personalising your contact with a company, for example the "my area" pages of Amazon. In the case of science publishing, you come into the publishing company’s site onto a personalised page which shows you tracking for the papers you are authoring (submitted) and peer-reviewing for all the journals published by that company, graphs of your statistics (how many people have viewed your published papers, cited them and so on), shows you other products (articles) that might be relevant to you, using semantic matching software, and so on.
This neat idea of info NeoGnostic’s is to widen this concept to the whole world (well, Internet). Each person would have their own "journal" in which he or she would be supplied with articles and information of interest to them, via their own chosen keywords and tagging. Now that would be a journal I would pay money to subscribe to.
I think it could even be technically feasible, based on what Chris Armstrong (info NeoGnostic) says in his posting. Brilliant! Probably someone would eventually work out how to infiltrate ads, spam and so on, but maybe even not, even better!

Why the WP closed for comments – The Editors Talk About Site Policies, Design and Goals

This is the link to the Washington Posts’s blog editors explaining why they have shut off comments "indefinitely" (see posting "Web writing responsibility" via Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog below this one). They must have got a lot of comments to their post in response to their request for feedback ;-), as they have also posted some further clarification.

Sounds grim. I hope some debate about this issue (relevance of comments vs censorship of profanity, personal agendas and the like) will crop up on one of the Nature Publishing Group blogs.

Of course, in the pre-blogging, pre-Internet world, we editors judged submissions, then cut, rewrote and published them according to our criteria — or rejected them as not relevant, against policy, etc. Many people have induldged in consipriacy and paranoia theories about this (and when you read posts like the one on Books Inq. about the "Mary Poppins Affair", you can see why. Editors and publishers need to be responsible and ethical if readers are to trust them).

I guess what is happening on the Washington Post is the downside of the unfettered approach. Is there (yet) an answer? No, seems not – at least not one within the technical ability of the Web 2.0 folk. We’ll see what emerges.

Web writing responsibility

How can we best make the writeable web a responsible place?

Dion Hinchliffe asks this question on his blog. He says "Controlling anarchy on the writetable Web might be as simple asking that folks flash their Identity 2.0 credential right before they change something on the Internet. This ensures their personal identity is attached to the change. And creating a verifiable chain of evidence might be all it takes for people to act more responsibily. Wiki vandalism, comment flaming, and other forms of anonymous mischief on the writeable Web may be eliminated forever when you know that your ID will be attached to it in perpetuity, affecting your hireability, possible suitability for public office, and more, forever."

The link is interesting, apparently the Washington Post had to shut their site to comments on Friday. So how to make the web the way most people (says Dion) want it? He’s drawn a good diagram of what he proposes.

Challenging evolutionists and IDers

Another of the debates going on over at Books, Inq. is the old chestnut of science v religion, or in its current form in the USA, Darwinian evolution vs "intelligent design" (aka creationism). Orientation can be obtained by visiting Nature, one of the original proponents of Darwinism and still going just as strong on that front.

This debate will never be resolved before time ends, but I cannot resist posting Frank Wilson’s splendidly inflammatory (to both sides) comment:

"I think this debate over evolution and religion is a marvelous example of people talking and thinking at cross-purposes. On the one hand you have a group who are sort of like people trying to figure out the meaning of Hamlet by studying the carpentry of the Globe Theatre, and on the other a group who, having figured out the carpentry, conclude that Shakespeare never existed. "

Is this wonderful comment something that everyone who has any view on Darwin vs god would disagree with? 😉

Sharing Amazon reviews

Science Library Pad: reader2 web book thing, plus coding thoughts:

This is a nice idea:

"As I’ve said before, my recommendation is for libraries to get together, build a common front-end layer, then build your local community while transparently using Amazon’s data. (By transparently I mean: user enters review on your site, it also gets copied to Amazon; conversely, if a user in your area puts a review directly on Amazon, it should show up on your site.) The reason to do this is Amazon has the network advantage – they have way more info than you will probably be able to generate in your relatively smaller local library community. You should be able to easily switch modes: ‘what has everyone on Amazon tagged this book’ vs ‘what tags have local users put on this book’."