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Posts from the ‘Ebooks’ Category

Google ebookstore – Research Tool?

[Unfortunately, the Google ebookstore no longer works this way.  A search for “W.G. Sebald” will still result in a very interesting and comprehensive assortment of books, but it is no longer always possible to easily discern why Sebald might be linked with certain titles.  The process of “mousing over” book titles no longer produces any result.]  The Google ebookstore provides an intriguing way to do an odd sort of research that anyone can take advantage of without ever buying a book.  Go to the ebookstore and type a search term in the search box at the top right.  For example, typing “W.G. Sebald” in the search box results in about 420 titles, although only a handful on the first screen (shown above) are books that are by or about Sebald.  Why the other 400+ titles?  Simple.  Somewhere in that book there is a reference to W.G. Sebald.   To learn more, simply mouse over any of the titles and a small box will pop up that contains a quote from the book using the term “W.G. Sebald”.  Now, mouse into the pop-up box and click on “View sample” and you will be taken to a sample page of the book.  (An alternate route is to click on the book in question and then click on the “View sample” button.)  Magically, to the left of the sample page is a scrolling sidebar (shown below) containing what appears to be the complete set of search results for “W.G. Sebald” in that particular book.  If the quotations fall within the free sample pages, the links will be live and you can click on those search results and go directly to the page to read the full context.  But if the search results are not in the sample pages, the search results are grayed down and the links aren’t live.  Either way, this is a nice tool to let potential readers gauge the potential usefulness of certain books to their research.

For example, I wondered about the connection between Sebald and J.M Ledgard’s book Giraffe.  In this case, the single search result led me to a page of blurbs called “Praise for Giraffe.”  And there we find two blurbs that likened Ledgard’s book to Sebald.  In the case of Eric L. Santner’s On Creaturely Life (shown in the screen shot below), there are twenty search results for W.G. Sebald, two of which are in the free sample pages, the others are not.

I’ve recently posted my first responses to reading Sebald’s Austerlitz via Google Ebooks here.

Sebald on the Phone

[Update October 2013.  Iceberg Reader seems to have gone out of business and the Campo Santo ebook discussed below – and which I paid for – no longer works on my iPhone.]  Last week I had a forty-five minute spell in a waiting room and I was glad that I had downloaded a few books to my iPhone.   I would have preferred to have a physical book on hand, but reading an iPhone book was a much better option than the selection of magazines nearby. I have tried several book apps on my iPhone, including Amazon’s Kindle, and I find myself longing for a better blend of the traditional book and the digital.  Making notes in an ebook should be as easy as penciling something on the margin of a real page.  And there should be real page numbers that correspond to those on the printed book so that readers of both formats can literally be on the same page with one another.  But there is no denying that it’s wonderful to always have several books buried in the memory of my phone and to be able to conduct a word or phrase search through entire books.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to find an ebook version of W.G. Sebald’s Campo Santo on iTunes.  As far as I know, this is the first ebook for Sebald.  So, of course, I had to buy it ($9.99) and play with it.  The publisher is Iceberg Reader, which provides a nice alternative to the Kindle app.  Iceberg’s version of Campo Santo follows the printed Modern Library edition almost exactly, including front cover, inside blurbs, copyright page, notes, and so on.  It only seems to lack an image of the back cover.  I was pleased to see that Sebald’s trademark illustrations appear exactly where they fall in the printed text.

Unfortunately, Iceberg fails to deliver when it comes to pagination.  The company’s website proudly states: “Iceberg maintains pagination. This means that there are individual book pages, just like in the print copy of a book. This helps keep you oriented while reading, and serves as reference points for our notes and search features.”  Frustratingly, however, the page numbers on Iceberg don’t match those of the printed book.  In the case of Campo Santo, Iceberg’s pages are about twice as long as the actual book pages.

One further suggestion for Iceberg while I am at it.  Iceberg’s website oddly does not offer a way to see all of the titles it has issued for Iceberg Reader.  Instead, it directs you to iTunes, where there are currently 9,679 items listed.  Anyone who uses iTunes, knows that it’s not a place for browsing.  Nevertheless, Iceberg’s website proclaims: “We… are thrilled to announce we will soon be bringing more than a million books, as well as more than 50 major magazines and over 170 daily newspapers to the iPhone.”  If that’s the case, then they’d better start providing a decent way to browse their selection – and not on iTunes.

Iceberg Reader doesn’t support highlighting, but it has all the other key tools that are integrated into the Kindle app.  It permits making notes, full text search, and the ability to cut, paste and email quotes from the book.  It took me less than twenty seconds to search for a specific section of Sebald’s text, copy a paragraph, and email it to myself.  Now that was fun.