Archive for the 'Books' Category

Netflix-type service for books

December 13, 2007

grandcentral-4

Now, wouldn’t that be a killer? In fact, there are several services that already exist. But I’ll mention BookSwim here, because that is the one that I came across first at readwriteweb. It’s a simple service: you sign up, create a list of books you want, you get them shipped to you, you keep them for as long as you want, and you ship it back to receive more books.

The best feature at BookSwim is their ‘rent w/option to buy’. If you really really liked a book that you rented, you just pay the used-book price for that book and keep it for yourself. And the next book in your queue is shipped right away. This is pretty cool, because most of the time, the books that I get from the library turn out to be keepers, and books that I buy turn out to be a drudge.

However, the main inhibitor for this service is the cost. From the readwriteweb article on BookSwim,

BookSwim has plans starting at $14.99/month, which allow you to take out two books at once. Assuming your library is often out of the books you’re into, you’d need to read about three books (trade paperbacks cost about $6-7 each) per month, or at least one higher priced new release hardcover book to justify that cost.

Other similar services are PaperSpine and Booksfree. Both have identical price points.

And while on the topic of renting books, another fun activity with books is ‘catch-and-release’ at BookCrossing.com. Wikipedia defines bookcrossing as

the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.

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aNobii

October 11, 2007

aNobii

I have tried out various mechanisms to maintain a digital copy of my book collection. After trying out several desktop software, none of them seemed to have that right set of features. Delicious Library was close, but I thought it was too much money for a library software.

Recently, I stumbled across an online place to store and manage your book collection – aNobii. I thought it was a strange name, only to learn later that this was the biological name for the book worm (Anobium Punctatum). Here is a pretty good review of aNobii. The feature list not only includes the typical – maintain a list of books, ratings, comments, groups etc, but also some neat features like the ability to swap books with other members and import a list of books from another website or even Excel.

The user interface is way too cool, albeit a little slow. The feature that I like the most is the ability to select a geographic area (based on your location from your profile), which changes the whole content of the website – the people that have joined recently, books that were added etc. I only wish these guys added support for the Tamil language.

Here is my aNobii profile. It doesn’t have all the books I’ve finished, and I think it never will. But I feel it is a good start.

If you are interested in other places where you can maintain your library, try Google Library or LibraryThing.

India Unbound – Gurcharan Das

September 22, 2007

India Unbound

This is a book that I picked up at random during one of my vacations back to India, but couldn’t put down after I started reading. Gurcharan Das is a former CEO of Procter & Gamble India, and this is one of the main reasons I even laid my hands on the book. P&G is headquartered in Cincinnati, you see.

The book emphatically presents the problems and failure of Nehruvian Socialism and the positive effects of globalisation initiated by the Narasimha Rao government. The book does sound a little bit one-sided at some parts, mainly because Nehru’s vision did have some benefits for India – eduction reform which brought us such eminent schools like IIT and IIM, and a tightened national security policy. The entire concept of centralized planning, however, was a massive mistake and has been proved so wrong by the capitalistic forces of the past few decades.

The book is a very good read, if you are interested in the historical underpinnings of the Indian business immediately after the Indian Independence. The presentation is also very light and entertaining, and I haven’t come across an economic book that is such an easy read.

Never let me go – Kazuo Ishiguro

September 21, 2007

Never Let Me Go

Never let me go is a first person narrative by Kazuo Ishiguro, which happens to be my favorite method of story delivery. The book begins slowly, but suddenly turns so brutal – it is like waking you up on a early morning, slapping you hard and sprinkling your face with ice-cold water. What’s unique about this book is not the fact that you are now wide awake, but the fact that you might be wondering ‘Man! What a way to wake up?’.

The story begins in a quaint British countryside school in Hailsham, and is narrated by Kath. Throughout the novel, there is no mention of the time period during which the novel takes place, but once the story starts unfolding you become aware that the period is not really of much importance. The children in the school live their lives without any exposure to the outside world, and this is a continuing trend throughout the novel – the central characters are always detached from the external world. I think this is one of the most intriguing aspects of the book, as this characteristic alone makes you wonder about humanity, and what it really means.

Anyways, it is really hard to talk about the book without having to divulge any of its suspense. So I will stop right here, and let you enjoy it.

The Saxon Stories – Bernard Cornwell

September 17, 2007

I’ve always been a sucker to medieval war stories with battles on the sea, having been enthralled by the historic Tamil novels of Sandilyan. When I accidentally discovered ‘The Saxon Stories‘ by the popular English historic author Bernard Cornwell, I was hooked. So far, the author has released three books in the seven or eight book series.

The Last Kingdom The Pale Horseman The Lords of the North

 

The stories are set in the 9th century England (which coincides with the early Viking Age) with the The Viking Challenge and the Rise of Wessex as the backdrop. The anglo-saxons are lead by Alfred the Great, and the danes are mostly lead by small and big lords, some of whom are entirely fictional. The story is essentially a first person narrative, told by the Uhtred Ragnarson who is actually an ancestor of the author himself. It is apparent that a lot of research has gone into the books, as the lifestyle and customs of this period are vividly described. Even more thrilling is the description of the battles involving hand-to-hand combat with crude weapons.