Sony eReader

The Library Enters the 21 Century

I did something that I hadn’t done in a very long time last week. I paid a visit to my local library.

Hit hard by the digital age it seems that they are fighting back and to see that for myself I needed to update my library card with my email address and a pin code.

It seems that libraries are refusing to take the advent of the ebook sitting down and are now lending ebooks just like they do the physical variety. Not only that you can borrow audio books and a wide selection of popular magazines too.

Once you have updated your card you can login on the library website and browse the selection of books on offer. Like any library the selection is limited, about 1,500 in my borough’s case and if someone else already has “borrowed” it then you can go on a waiting list just like with the physical counterpart. You checkout the book that you want and then download it where, using Adobe Digital Editions software, you can then either read on your desktop or on a variety of mobile devices and ereaders. However, the one exception to this is that you cannot upload the ebook to the reader that most people own – the Kindle due to the digital rights management employed.

The limited selection of books means that the latest blockbusters aren’t likely to be there and I found from my casual searching that some books in a series will be there but not all and not necessarily the first in the series which I found a bit odd. This service is therefore most likely to appeal to the casual reader who is just dipping their toe into the ebook reader waters and is less fussy about what they read.

Unlike the ebooks the magazine selection was first rate with many well known titles including Cosmopolitan, Practical Photography, Computer Shopper and The Economist. Surprisingly there didn’t seem to be any restriction on the number of magazines that you could download. You view the mags through the Zinio reader which is available on multiple platforms. Given that some magazine annual subscriptions can be well over £50 you could easily save quite a bit providing you can handle reading a magazine on a tablet.

Given that this is a “free” service (or at least one that is included in my council tax) it seems pretty good to me and something that it will continue to make use of.

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Is Reading Ready for ReadyBike?

So Reading has jumped on the local bike hire bandwagon with the launch of ReadyBike (surely it should be ReadiBike?).

This is a scheme similar to the one so popular in London where a number of bike stations have been placed around the town and you and pick-up and drop-off from these. Coverage seems quite wide extending out as far as Thames Valley and Green Parks, which makes sense.

Judging by the picture below the service is already proving popular but, for me, it has one flaw.

The scheme offers two rental models – pay by the day or an annual subscription, where you get lower day rates. Both of these are fine but crucially you cannot just turn up on any day having registered, grab a bike and go – you must have nominated the day you want to ride in advance. For a casual user such as myself this just doesn’t work. If I turn up and find it is chucking it down with rain I wouldn’t want to ride. Similarly I might get to the station and think I’ll grab a bike on the spur of the moment but it appears you cannot do that.

Having spoken to the company that runs the scheme the restriction placed on the service is by Reading Borough Council rather than the operator. Either way it is a shame and I hope that it will change over time to become more flexible like it is in London.

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Bikes are clearly the in thing in Reading right now as the Reading Bike Kitchen has opened up in the last month. This is a not for profit organisation that provides space, tools and help for people that want to mend their own bikes.

When the chain broke on my bike recently I could have taken it into a high street chain for repair but elected to go to RBK instead which for £4 and the help of Dave I was able to fix it myself. I came away with a mended bike and a sense of satisfaction that I wouldn’t have got elsewhere.

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Bikes are clearly the way to go in Reading!

Tracks Added – July 2014

Quiet month for music with only three purchases along with the Society of Sound downloads and these three are all the same artist.

This months additions are:

  • Amarante - The Problem was Me EP
  • Amarante – Udana Prana
  • Amarante – Elapsed Euphoria
  • Tom Cawley’s Curios - Captive (SoS)
  • LSO - Brahms - German Requiem (SoS)

Sometimes I come across music in the most normal of ways, through my sons, the radio or film soundtrack, for example. Othertimes it is more unorthodox such as my discovery of Amarante who I came across while watching a video on the BBC website about a girl with Trichotillomania. It was a great sound and fitted the video, which you can see below, perfectly.

I loved the track used, Don’t Look Back, and was pleased to find that they weren’t just a one trick pony either so I ended up buying three of their releases. I really like the sound and recommend you take a listen on their Soundcloud page.

That’s it for this month.

Those above marked (SoS) are from a subscription service called Society of Sound which is curated by Real World Records, Peter Gabriel and the LSO. This provides members with two downloads a month of which you get no choice. This means that some months you get something that you really love and other months not so.

Statistics

All my music is held in a web-based music streamer called Subsonic, a roll-your-own Spotify if you like. This provides statistics on number of tracks and size of collection, as you can see below.

1,240 artists
2,704 albums
23,632 songs
243.79 GB
1,909 hours

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Beautiful Plumage

I have to admit that I wasn’t old enough to see Monty Python when they were first shown on TV (Not the Nine o’Clock News was more my era) but I have watched them repeatedly since then along with the films.

When it was announced that the five remaining members where reuniting for a series of shows in London I knew that I wanted to get tickets. Unfortunately so did many, many others and the first round were gone in 43 seconds but to to me. So when the next tranche were released I tried again and could have got tickets but they were too expensive for my pocket and I passed.

Sometimes though things work out and I was lucky enough to be invited along with Helen by a colleague who was going with his brother and had a couple of spare tickets. Actually this was better than a couple of tickets as it was also in a corporate box!

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I hadn’t been to the Dome for 14 years so it was interesting to be back and what a transformation! It’s a really great space – pity it is the wrong side of London for us.

The five remaining members (Cleese, Idle, Gilliam, Jones and Palin) stepped out to much applause at 19:30 and over the next couple of hours went through all their favourites including the Cheese Shop, Australian Philosophy Department, Gumby Flower Arranging and, of course, the Dead Parrot. Between each sketch to give time for costume changes and the members to get their breath back there was a music number sometimes with Eric Idle singing his heart out and other times by a dance troupe.

On several giant screen between sketches we were treated to the best of Terry Gilliam’s work which looks as fresh and inventive today as it did when it first came out. I would buy a DVD of his animation should anyone be thinking of producing one.

Given that they are all in their seventies there was inevitably going to be some forgotten lines but the only one who seems to have any issues was Jones who during one sketch had to be prompted several times and loudly by Cleese, much to the latter’s amusement. All the other seemed pretty spritely.

No matter what they did the Pythons weren’t going to go wrong with such a partisan audience and I came away having throughly enjoyed the event as did all the others we were with.

The following night, the last night of the run, was televised and we watched the first ten minutes but it just wasn’t the same and some of the show was just too risqué  for TV (Penis Song (the Not Noel Coward Song) – for example!). I’m really glad that we got the opportunity to go and see them live. Thanks Andy!