My Summer of Abundant Reading: Musings and Reflections

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This is the first summer since 2012 that has not involved long-distance moves, major family illness, and/or other significant life upheaval.  It has been a godsend to have an extended period of time of self-care that has included regular exercise, plentiful sleep, quiet unhurried reflection time, minimal stress, and lots of reading!  I have probably read more texts (and I use a broad definition of texts) this summer than any other year of my adult life since I was last in graduate school at UGA over 10 years ago.  I have focused most of my text reading on books this summer—-it has felt like a luxury to have time and energy to do so.  Though I love reading, I have been a picky reader as an adult and have struggled at times to find self-selected reads that appeal to me.  I have been surprised by the volume of reading I have done this summer though I feel the gift of time, no professional commitments, my Kindle, a new job, and new connections on social media have contributed to my reading revival.

I have read hard copy versions of some books; however, I have read quite a few books on my Kindle Fire that I purchased last fall.   What do I love about reading on my Kindle?  I can:

  • Read while I am working out at the gym on the elliptical–exercise for the body and mind!  In addition, reading while I am on the elliptical makes gym time go MUCH faster.
  • I can sample many kinds of books thanks to the free preview feature of Kindle books—I am confident that I have tried many more kinds of books through the serendipity of Kindle book browsing than I would if I were physically browsing shelves in a library or bookstore.  This aspect of book discovery is one I find quite interesting and is making me think much more deeply about how readers connect with specific books.
  • I can use the “Blue Shade” feature on my Kindle to help ease eye strain (people seem to love or hate this feature, but I like it).
  • I can easily and seamlessly post updates from Kindle reads to my Goodreads account (and I have used Goodreads much more for book ideas this summer than ever).
  • I can easily highlight and take notes, and then export those for easy reference at a later time if I want.
  • I can add Audible narration when available (and in my budget)—I like this feature even though I don’t consider myself an audiobook person.

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With that said, there are times I want the hard copy of the book to read—this desire mainly occurs with professional books though sometimes I wish I could afford both the hard and copy the e-copy as I am trying to figure out the best method of taking notes on my professional reading that fits who I am as a learner these days.  With my professional books, I often want to flip to a specific section of the hard copy of the book not just for ease of reference, but also because sometimes I just need to SEE it right in front of me.  I still like highlighting and writing out notes by hand, but I do love the ease of highlighting on the Kindle, too.

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Other times a book may only be available in hard copy, but sometimes you also need the hard copy to better appreciate the graphics, art, or photography.

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Here are my summer reads; the ones that I have boldfaced are my favorites:

  • Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai
  • Hour of the Bees, Lindsay Eagar
  • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older
  • Road to Tara:  The Life of Margaret Mitchell, Anne Edwards
  • Eruption, The Untold Story of Mt. St. Helens, Steve Olson
  • Georgia, A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe, Dawn Tripp
  • The Atomic Weight of Love:  A Novel, Elizabeth Church
  • My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
  • Simple Dreams:  A Musical Memoir, Linda Ronstadt
  • Cumberland Island:  Strong Women, Wild Horses, Charles Seabrook
  • Losing Clementine, A Novel, Ashley Ream
  • Awash, Dawn Lee McKenna
  • Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande
  • American Ghost:  A Family’s Extraordinary History on the Desert Frontier, Hannah Nordhaus
  • Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley
  • Lab Girl, Hope Jahren
  • The Wright Brothers, David McCullough
  • Sally Ride, America’s First Woman in Space, Lynn Sherr
  • Blue Horses, Mary Oliver
  • The Beekeeper’s Lament, Hannah Nordhaus

As you can see, I read a pretty diverse mix of books including biography, nonfiction, memoir, fiction, and poetry.  I read some things that I normally would have never picked, but I stumbled upon them through my browsing experiences in the Kindle Store and Goodreads; there were also times I discovered books to read (or to add to the wish list) through colleagues on Twitter and Facebook.  Interestingly enough, I have been watching a lot of documentaries this summer, which seems to parallel my growing love for nonfiction.  I am thinking a good bit about the core of powerful stories at these genres of film and texts, but that is another set of reflections for another day.

Being able to sample books on the Kindle or to read a free excerpt online before ordering a hard copy of a book was critical to the choices I made.  Most of the books I read this summer I liked though there were a couple I thought I would enjoy more (they fell flat for me); there were also a couple I found incredibly disappointing and didn’t enjoy at all.  I still have quite a few in progress, and I have a “want to read” list that is a mile wide!

As I mentioned earlier, my summer reading experiences have me thinking a lot more about how people find and connect with specific books as well as the experience of contemporary “browsing” and book discovery.  What is that like in a digital environment compared to physical browsing?  What do those experiences have in common?  How are they different?  What does this mean for our students or our library patrons?  Ourselves?  How and why might it differ for children/teens from adults?  Interestingly enough, I did not go to my local library for any print or digital books, nor did I consult with anyone from my local library for a suggestion or help.  Instead, I relied heavily on Amazon browsing and Goodreads suggestions. However, my reads and “to read” lists not only came from these sources, but as I mentioned earlier, Twitter colleagues.  I also belong to two Facebook groups on teaching reading and writing that have provided lots of great professional “want to reads”; I have also gotten many ideas for children’s books to read from the Coastal Savannah Writing Project Facebook group.  All of these musings have me wondering how might I draw upon my experiences as a reader to help my students during the upcoming school year.

Most importantly, my summer of reading has helped me reconnect with myself in many ways.  To feel the joy of reading I felt as a child has been energizing and has helped me remember why as a child I declared I wanted to be an “author” or writer of some sort (more on that in a future blog post).

Buffy as a Child Falling Asleep with a Good Read
Buffy as a Child Falling Asleep with a Good Read

This summer of abundant reading has also helped me explore genres of writing and topics I like as well as discover new favorites.  On a more personal level, my reading has been therapeutic and helped me in many ways process and cope with the profound grief I still feel over the passing of my mother who has been gone two years but whose absence is still felt acutely in my heart and day to day life.  The act of reading and the actual books I have read (even the ones that seemingly have nothing to do with losing my mother) have all in some way been healing for me.  Many of my reads also have me thinking about new dreams for myself, seeing life in a different and positive way, or contemplating how a particular book might inspire/nurture a friend or future student.  I have re-discovered just how nourishing and sustaining reading genuinely is for me.

What have you been reading this summer?  How do you discover books to read?  What have been your favorites?  Where do you like to read, and what formats of texts do you enjoy?  What are you looking forward to reading next?  How are you helping your students or library patrons connect with books?  I would love to hear your experiences and reflections!

Why We Won’t Purchase More Kindles at The Unquiet Library

We’re back in The Unquiet Library this week as preplanning has begun, and I’ve been energized, excited (and a little happily exhausted) by the collaborative planning sessions I’ve been engaging in with several of our teachers as we’re planning some new units of study and lines of inquiry with students that will tie into content area standards as well as library program goals, themes, and targeted skills/processes  for learning (coming on the blog this week!).  Because some of these conversations began back in June at the end of the year, I spent the summer exploring options for expanding our eReader and eBook program (which I’ll also be blogging later this week).  I’ll elaborate in more detail soon why we are going to go with the new Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch for our “go to” device to integrate into instructional units of study as well as a medium for digital recreational reading, but an email I received last Thursday from Amazon Kindle Education sealed my decision.

In the email, Amazon Kindle Education wrote:

We discovered the FAQ on your Facebook post [my note:  they actually discovered the post from our LibGuides page through our library’s Facebook page] and wanted you to either update the information to be in line with Amazon’s End User License Agreement with the attached setup information.  Or to remove the information on registering 6 devices per account to share digital content.

The email also pointed me to the Amazon End User License  (updated in February well after we began our Kindle program and which was never brought to my attention in subsequent phone/email conversations with Amazon Kindle Education in June 2011).  The email included a PDF attachment of a draft “Kindle Education: Setup Guide” (which reflects a real lack of an understanding of the needs of K12 schools and libraries) and then concluded with this paragraph:

Amazon recommends schools register each Kindle to a single account.  If you are looking for a library solution, we are working to include Kindle books in Overdrive.com’s offering to libraries before the end of the year.

I emailed Amazon Kindle Education to make sure that I understood:

1.  They now require a separate email for each device, and subsequently, for managing ebook content which is now 1:1 for K12.  I immediately thought of colleagues who have much larger collections of Kindle devices and Kindle books and felt astonished that Amazon could be so ignorant (or indifferent?) of how ridiculously impractical this mandate will make it for librarians to manage the those devices and content.

2.  The 1:1 rule will now be enforced for K12 and school libraries, yet the only backend management tool being offered to us is to purchase a subscription to Overdrive, which is financially impossible for most school libraries, and for my colleagues who work in elementary and some middle school settings, not a feasible solution in terms of ease of accessibility for younger readers or a selection of interactive ebooks that are more developmentally appropriate for younger learners.  I don’t have a problem with the 1:1 aspect, but I do have a problem with Amazon not providing alternatives to help libraries and schools work within the confines of the licensing agreement that is now apparently being enforced (I was told via phone that in our case, they were responding to a concern shared by a publisher who apparently saw our LibGuides Kindle pages).

In a phone conversation with my Amazon Kindle Education rep Monday, the new terms of agreement were confirmed.  While the rep stated that Amazon is working on some type of backend management tool/system, it will not be available for several months, and I got the impression it won’t be comparable to what Barnes and Noble is now offering to K12 schools/libraries.   I had already planned to go with the Nook Simple Touch for 2011-12 (again, I’ll blog why later this week), but nonetheless, it was disappointing to walk away from this series of conversations feeling as though Amazon does not seem to value the needs of the K12 market and is not being terribly responsive to our needs as institutional consumers.  While we will continue to utilize our existing fleet of ten Kindles, we certainly will not invest any additional monies in the devices or ebook content under the current limitations that really will not work for our environment.

I share this information not to “bash” a vendor, but to help colleagues have as much information as possible as they prepare to make decisions about devices and providers of ebook content in the upcoming school year.  I’ll have a post up later this week about the options we’re exploring and how we feel they will meet the needs of our students and teachers.

From the Inbox: “Amazon Corporate Accounts Program Update”

I’m on spring break this week and just happened to check my Unquiet Library email account tonight that I use with my Amazon account for the library.  I was a bit startled (although maybe I should not have been?) to discover an email with the subject, “Corporate Accounts Program Update.”  Here is the email:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,We’re contacting you because you are the Primary Account Manager of a corporate account at Amazon.com. We wanted to let you know that effective May 15, 2011, Amazon.com will no longer offer the Corporate Accounts Program. 

This program allowed the use of identical sign-in credentials (the same e-mail address and password combination) for both personal and corporate account information.

You may continue to use this corporate account information and place orders at Amazon until May 15. To maintain access to the information (payment methods, shipping addresses, and order history) on the corporate account and continue placing orders at Amazon.com after May 15, a new e-mail address and password is required.

You can read more about this change and establish a new e-mail address and password for the corporate account information using the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/corporate/migration

We appreciate your business. Thank you for shopping at Amazon.com.

Sincerely,
The Corporate Accounts Team


WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?
Please click on the below link to create a new e-mail address and password for the corporate account information: https://www.amazon.com/gp/corporate/migration

WHAT WILL CHANGE?
After establishing a new e-mail address and password for the corporate account information, you will no longer need to select an account upon checkout. When shopping at Amazon.com, just sign in to either account to access that account’s information.

WHAT ABOUT CORPORATE ACCOUNTS FUNCTIONALITY?
To support the unique and specific purchasing needs of business, school, and library customers, Amazon will continue to offer the Amazon.com Corporate Credit Line, order history reports, and dedicated Customer Service.

WHAT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?
If you have questions or require further assistance, you may contact our Corporate Accounts Customer Service team directly. Please click here and sign in with the e-mail address and password associated with the corporate account. From the footer of the resulting page, there is an option to Contact Us. This interface will connect you directly.

WHAT IF I DON’T DO ANYTHING?
Effective May 15, 2011, a distinct e-mail address and password (sign-in) is required for the personal and corporate account information. If you do not create a new sign-in by May 15, 2011, the current e-mail address and password you are using will default to provide access to only the personal account information (including payment methods, shipping addresses, and order history).

 

Now as if I don’t have enough to worry about at any given moment, I’m now wondering what will happen once I am forced to associate the email address (one that I have specifically for The Unquiet Library) with the corporate or “personal” (which in this case, is still school, but it is the side of the library Amazon account I use for purchasing ebooks with gift cards).  Until now, you could use one email for your corporate and “personal” (in this case, “school”) account. Now that email has to be associated with one or the other. So here’s now what I’m now wondering:

1.  What happens if I associate the email with the corporate (which we only used to buy the Kindles and the covers)? Will I lose all my records with my “personal”/ (again, school) account that I used to buy the eBooks?

2.  How will I access all my records of my ebook purchases if that email is no longer associated with that side of my account?  Access to these records is extremely important for my library because of purchasing rules in my district.

3.  It sounds like the option to use purchase orders will still be in place for businesses/libraries/schools that already have a corporate account, but will new customers be able to get a corporate account for this purpose?  I’m not sure if I am missing something in the initial email from Amazon that clarifies that question or if the wording/language is as ambiguous as I think it is.

For those of you who work in libraries and have a corporate account, what concerns (if any) do you have about this news?