The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Posts Tagged ‘reading

The Netflix Of Books: Three Options

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The Netflix of Books: Three OptionsI remember the first time I heard about Oysterbooks.com because I jumped up and down for joy. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I mean it in a literal sense. I love to read, and living in a world where I can carry hundreds of books in my pocket brings me incredible amounts of joy. Shortly after discovering Oyster, I began to search for other services. My goal was to compare them and to find the right one for me. I wasn’t completely new to book subscription services. I have been a member of Marvel Unlimited and Audible for many, many years, but actual book services, not comics or audio were a completely new thing for me, and I wanted to see what these new fangled sites had to offer.

I ended up subscribing to three book services for at least a month each. At the end, I only kept one of them, and I think I made the right choice. I tried Oyster Books, Kindle Unlimited, and Scribd. Here is a brief overview of each one:
Kindle Unlimited
Kindle unlimited seemed, at first, like a really good deal, and it may be for some people, but to me, it seemed like the service really lacked. Don’t take me wrong. It has a large selection of both books and audiobooks, but the selection consisted mainly of the kind of materials you’d find at the discount rack at your local bookstore. The kind of bestsellers that were overprinted of overhyped. I also found a ton of Kindle Author books, which is cool, as I am a big fan of a few of them, but I could buy the books for less than $9.99 a month, so the deal didn’t seem worth it to me personally. I do admire the technical know how behind this specific service. That said, of you are a Kindle fan, and you do most of your reading in one of Amazon’s devices you might as well give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised, but it is not for me.

Oyster
Oyster introduced me to the world of book subscriptions, and it will always have a place in my heart. It is gorgeously built, and it manages to project a sense of community without being too social mediaey. I like that I can use the speak screen feature of my phone to listen to the books. You can tell that the folks at Oyster love literature. I actually kept my Oyster membership for a little bit more than a year. The service allowed me to expand my comfort zone, and I read stuff that I would not have picked up otherwise, but I found that I wasn’t really reading enough in the Oyster app to justify the $9.99 subscription cost. I always felt pressured to read more in order to feel good about the cost, minimal as it was. If I took longer than a month to read a book, or if I ended up reading an iBooks, Amazon, or Paper book that month, I always worried that I was wasting my membership, so I ended up canceling it. I usually read one to three full length texts every month, and about half the time they come from a subscription service, so I am actually paying anywhere between ten to twenty bucks for each one of them, which doesn’t make sense, I rather buy at that point.

I think Oyster is for people who read voraciously, and who want to have a beautiful typographical experience, and the best curation I have ever seen. Oyster is beautiful, and inviting, but not for me.

Scribd
Scribd isn’t ugly, but it isn’t as beautiful as Oyster. You can get a membership for $8.99, which isn’t that much less when compared to the other two, but Scribd has a lot of content. Not only do they have audiobooks, which is cool–though not enough to seal the deal for me, but they also have a ton of comics, which certainly sealed the deal. I can read a comic in between fifteen minutes to two hours, and then I can move on. This service is like the Netflix of books, because consuming its selections takes about as long as catching up on a show. With it, I read three to seven graphic novels every month, which adds up to more than $60.00, so I get an unbeatable value, and never feel guilty for reading stuff elsewhere.

Conclusion
While Oyster is pretty, and Kindle Unlimited may be a good deal for voracious Kindle Owners. Scribd provides me with a good enough experience that pays for itself every month. I think the secret sauce is comics—they make it possible for me to read enough to justify the price. No only that, but I have been reading stuff outside of my comfort zone again, and that is always a good thing. I think Scribd will introduce non-comic readers to comics, which is awesome. 

All of these services provide trial memberships, so try them out and find the one that’s right for you. 

I still have a Marvel Unlimited membership because it does have the largest Marvel collection in the market, and I still get my monthly audiobooks from Adible. Though I do most of my reading on my iPad, I still go to the library, and buy paper books, especially comics. Some companies even give me a free digital copy. The library has great events, and books I can’t get anywhere else, plus wise librarians who can help me find my next great read. My local Comic Book Store (Wild Pigs) is a fun place to go play board games, to build my actual physical collection of comics, and to hang out with a diverse and awesome group of geeks like myself. You don’t stop going to the movies because you have Netflix, and I won’t stop getting books from different sources because I have Scribd, but it sure feels nice to have thousands of books and shows in my pocket.

Note: I’d be remiss not to mention that another great place to get comics is humblebundle.com. They have crazy awesome sales, and your purchases help to make the world a better place.

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Written by Hector

July 4, 2015 at 12:20 am

Posted in books

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Myths Upon My LIfe

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I took this image from the Wikipedia, and it is in the Public Domain

Normally, I prefer to read science fiction, and science non-fiction, but all throughout the end of December and most of January, I’ve been consuming large amounts of mythology and Urban Fantasy.  Most of my reading falls under the umbrella of delicious escapism. I have particularly enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, The Dresden Files, and even Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, as we well as the more literary works of Charles De Lint and  Padraic Colum.

I think everyone needs the kind of fancy that comes from the raw imagination of humanity. When I was a child, I used to pretend that I was somehow related to Poseidon–way before The Lightning Thief. My first crush ever was Aphrodite (Venus), as portrayed by Uma Thurman in Terry Gillian’s The Adventures of Baron Münchausen. I think my early relationship with myths was a healthy one. Everyone needs to hear a good fairy tale, and to be terrified or elated by the unfolding images it brings into our consciousness.

By the time I was in my teens, my fascination with mythology had grown a little bit outside of the ordinary, and I became very interested in spirituality and religion. I think I might have tried almost everything under the sun, from astrology, to meditation, homeopathy, and prayer. I became suspicious of science, because it didn’t fit my world view, and I even had the audacity to believe that my improbable ideas had a better foundation than other people’s improbable ideas. I don’t know how many hours I spent working to understand the mysteries of the universe, by browsing  the religion and spirituality sections of my local bookstore. I am not about to count my early explorations as wasted time, since I did learn some valuable skills, some even based on fact, for example, lucid dreaming and relaxation.

My problem was that I expected too much from practices that time and time again have shown themselves to be useless. Homeopathy never quite worked, neither did dream interpretation, and, other than teaching me to feel amazingly relaxed, I do not think that meditation ever opened my “third eye.”

It wasn’t until my early twenties, after completing some of the basic biology courses required by the general education standards set forth by the state of California, that I began to look into science once again. Particularly, into the theory of evolution. The sweepingly beautiful saga of life blew my mind, and invited me to question the layer of stories I had placed upon my world. Many of the spiritual meetings I attended  began to feel like playacting. At one point, I finally quit going to them, especially after I was criticized, and even verbally attacked for believing in science.

Emergence theory, Information science, and the idea that we can test reality have enriched my life immensely, as well the reading of philosophy, neurology, and skeptic thought. I am oversimplifying my journey into skepticism, but I am glad to have made it.

I am enjoying, however, revisiting mythology and dreams in the form of metaphors, and playful wraiths of the imagination.

Stories are important. According to Paul Bloom, they teach us how to behave. I   sometimes feel like they imbue us with the ideals, and the patterns of their heroes and characters, as they stitch themselves into our minds. I am glad to once more feel the pull of the gods deep within myself, this time around, however, I do not fear them, for I know that they reside within me. Of course, most of my reading is just light fun, an escape into a world where the primordial personifications of our fears and hopes mingle with soapy drama, and inane tensions. It’s fun.

I am happy to have recovered a healthy relationship with the beautiful sights of the imagination, especially when they are personified by Uma Thurman.

The image comes from the Wikipedia, and it is in the public domain.

Written by Hector

January 30, 2011 at 1:29 am

Conffesions of a Slow Reader, or How to Make the Most of What you Read

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My wife is a librarian. She can read an average novel in two hous. I think I married a super hero. I, on the other hand, am not a fast reader. I’m not a slow one either, I’m just not naturally fast. For many years I have tried to correct this flaw, thinking that if I could get through more books, my life would somehow improve.

I’ve used methods like schematic reading and skeeming, and most of them have worked when I need to get through something quickly, and when that something is meant to simply increase my knowledge, rather than my appreciation of life, or my ability to pass the time doing something I like. I’ve been jealous of my wife’s superpowers for a long time, but recently, I have come to terms with my status as a mere mortal who is only capable of reading a couple of books a month.

I have learned that there are a few questions that I need to ask myself before I read something, and those questions have made my literary experiences allthemore enjoyable. Here they are:

Do I want to read this, or do I have to read this?

You’d be surprised at how many times I find myself rejecting a book because I neither need to read it, nor particularly feel like enjoying it. I think it’s important that non powered readers learn to choose what they want to read. There is nothing wrong with reading a few pages, and then giving up on something because it is just not good enough for us at the time. I don’t care how literary a work it may be. We may not be ready for it right then.

If you have to read a book, try to learn a speed reading method. Although most of them tend to ruin the contents of the book, but when you are just trying to gather information, and there is no need to worry about a plotline in a manual, or recipe, you can read through, not thorough.

How long do I want to spend with this book?

I am not talking about how many days do you want to devote to the book here, because if you are an average reader, the likellyhood is that you’ll end up devoting a week, if not more, so don’t sweat it. What I mean is daily. Do you think you’ll try to read for fifteen minutes? An hour? Make sure that you read from it often. If the book is good, every page should be a pleasure. It’s all about the journey. Who cares about the destination? Chances are, you’ll actually miss the characters once the book is done. So make time for them. I usually read during my morning exercise, my breaks, and before going to bed.

Is there a good audio version?

Audiobooks are not cheating. No one is grading you. You are only reading because you want to, remember?

I love audiobooks because I can listen to them when I am doing something else, like cleaning the house. Plus, since I try to only read one book at a time. Audiobooks provide me with a second choice at times when reading text would be impossible. Also, some times I read some sections of a book, and listen to others. That way, I can enjoy it throughout most of my day. Wether I’m cleaning or sun bathing, the book is always with me. That’s how I intend on reading War and Peace, and Les Miserables.

Do I have other stuff to read?

I love to read, and that is partially why I am happy to take my time with my books, but Les Miserables is a lot to get through, and while I love reading long classics, I do get tired of reading the same book all the time, so I supplement my literary diet with snacks. I always have access to short story anthologies, articles, graphic novels, and other stuff I can finish in a couple of hours. That way I can renew my interest in the longer works, and I can satisfy sudden interests without abandoning my current literary journey. As I said before, I try to read one book at a time, though I allow myself the benefit of an audiobook, thus maximizing my reading to two books, but I don’t think I’d have the dicipline to stick to the very long ones if I didn’t have these extras to keep me going.

While speed reading can be good for non fiction and learning, I’ve learned to take my time with fiction. I get a lot more out of my experiences with books when I just enjoy them thoroughly from beginning to end. It’s about the journey, not the destination, and I am glad to be sharing the journey of my life with a superhero.

Written by Hector

July 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm

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Fourth Hugo Review

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Anathem Anathem by Neal Stephenson

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an amazing temple of a book. It makes you think and opens up the world in new ways. As much as I enjoyed the text, it was clear that Stephenson’s strength isn’t plotting, but the book is so rich, that plot matters very little. If you are looking for a way to explore a whole new world of ideas and paradigm shifting thoughts, check this one out. Can’t recommend it enough. I hope it wins the Hugo.

View all my reviews.

Written by Hector

June 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Saturn’s Children, Third Hugo review

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Saturn's Children Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

My review


rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book was not for me. I didn’t have a problem with the concepts this book deals with, in fact it is a perfectly logical view of the Singularity, but I couldn’t get too much in to it, and ambivalence towards literature is a sure sign that I better move on. It seemed like the author used too many shortcuts and references to other science fiction to create anything truly original. I can’t say I wouldn’t have liked this book ten or even fifteen years ago, but while I enjoy cheesy movies, I like my books to make me think. Mr. Stross manages to throw in a few interesting ideas about ownership and life that really made me think, but they were too obvious to surprise. The setting did not feel real enough. Reading this book was like walking through a science fiction convention filled with cosplayers whose costumes allude to bad and obscure manga based on the one or two bad Heinlein novels out there. I could not finish the book, so, while it is possible that it gets better beyond the first half of it, I could not immerse myself in a world that verged on the interesting, but missed the mark by millimeters. Having started to read some of the other Hugo Nominees made it impossible for this book to hold my attention. It didn’t measure up, in my opinion, to the rest of the material. Again, some people may enjoy Mr. Stross’s style more than me, and I encourage anyone interested to at least read other reviews, it is not a “bad” book, just very clearly, not the book I like to be reading right now.

View all my reviews.

Written by Hector

May 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm

The Hugos

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I don’t know exactly when, but at some point during my career as a geek, I became aware that there was a thing called the Hugo Award, and that it looked like a rocket. The award list saved me from the endless tedium of bad science fiction. Most of my Science Fiction and fantasy reading habits are Hugo derived–I even had the opportunity to attend the Hugo Award ceremony in 2006, when Spin, by Robert Charles Willson, was the best novel. I am not going to make the ceremony this year, but I am going to read all the nominees for best novel, and for best short story. I am also going to enjoy all the dramatic presentations, in fact, I’ve already enjoyed four of them, but I’ll re-watch them, just because they were all awesome.

You can check out this year’s nominations for yourself if you want to, or go to the list itself, where you will find every novel to ever be nominated or to win a Hugo. So there, if you are looking for a good read, you can’t go astray anymore.

Written by Hector

April 25, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Books that grab you by the ears

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Most of what I read is the result of searching for my next hit of literature, or from recommendations by other readers, but once in a while a book will grab me. There are some books that yell your name very loudly as you pass by them. they pop out of the background and demand that you read them. These book are self confident to the point of indolence. They know that they will become a part of your mind. They will settle in some corner of your brain and set shop conformably. They will get to decide what other books can enter your brain from that point on. They will be the standard by which you will judge everything that will come afterwards, be it a book, person, or experience. These books do not have to be good, but they lodge their way in to your brain forever.

If you want to know a little bit about who you are look for these books. They do not even have to be your favorites, but they did something to define you. Here is my list–feel free to share yours.

1) Swords of Lankhmar

I probably should not have read this book when I did. I was only thirteen when I bought it. The book was definitely not intended for young audiences, but that is why I loved it. I’ve judged every fantasy book I’ve read since by this standard. I am happy to say that not even Tolkien comes close. The only other book that matches the this one is “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.” I reread it not long ago, and I enjoyed it even more.

2) Karmatron y los Transformables

This was actually a comic book from Mexico. It introduced me to meditation, zen, and what would eventually become a life long search for spiritual meaning. It also helped me to develop a taste for space operas, giant robots, and battleships.

3) Conversations with God

I was very interested in supernatural spirituality during a huge part of my life. I believed in UFOs, channeling, and the paranormal. This book introduced me to the idea of writing a dialog with myself. Although I no longer believe in the supernatural claims within the book, I still use the imaginary dialog tool from time to time when I feel like it.

4) Awakening the Writer Within

This book taught me to write. I got though college thanks to the authors.

5) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

This book came to me when I was trying to figure out what the meaning of life could be without the supernatural to back it up. It helped me to embrace practical psychology as a tool to guide my destiny. It also introduced me to the idea of the “good life” so that my actions actually began to have a much more positive impact on the universe. When I read this my mind was shifting gears between the supernatural and the natural. I truly believe that the naturalistic explanation of the universe eventually superseded the alternative because I found that science worked better than my previously held superstitions. I continue to avidly devour scientific books thanks to this one read.

6) Hardcore Zen

After abandoning my spiritual search, this book reignited it by showing me that it is possible to be spiritual even when you do not believe in the supernatural. It also made me feel okay about my love for giant monsters.

7) Daily Coyote

This book grabbed me by the ears yesterday. It is actually based on a blog. I really don’t think I can do it justice, so look it up and read it. It is a book about love, and about how maybe we are not so alone in the universe after all.

There are many of other great books out there, some better than the ones I mentioned here, but this list includes only those accidental friends I made along the way.

Written by Hector

December 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm