Category Archives: Books

Pepys’ Book Presses – 350th Anniversary year

Follow the link below for a really interesting post on Samuel Pepys’ book presses, the first of their kind! I worked at the Pepys Library for almost a year and never got tired of looking at those lovely pieces of practical furniture (the books inside were pretty good too). I heartily recommend a visit to anyone, it’s a wonderful, wonderful place (and FREE!!!):

Source: 350th Anniversary year

A little post on e-books vs books

I’m not going to tackle the rather daunting debate on book vs e-books in any detail here, but I thought I’d just share a couple of recent posts I’ve seen that set out some stats on the issue quite nicely. This infographic presents a nicely balanced view on the merits of both. I particularly like what it says in regard to children’s books, if there is a point where I myself would put my foot down on the use of e-books it would be there. I’m sure picture books are available in e-book form, but there is nothing in this wide world to compare with cuddling up and reading a physical book with my son.

via the CILIP Multimedia Information Technology Group Blog

And from a nearby academic library, a couple of informative posts on their own internal survey of student opinion on e-book usage. It presents more evidence of a balanced view of e-book usage amongst those who use books (of both kinds) intensively. Though in the context of this academic library, it is clear that print is still winning out:

Education Faculty Library, Cambridge

Education Faculty Library, Cambridge

http://edfaclib.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/are-print-books-becoming-obsolete/

Photo by grandgrrl @ Flickr

Photo by grandgrrl @ Flickr

http://edfaclib.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/the-results-are-in/

A quick hello from library land

Library trainee caught mid-scan

Library trainee caught mid-scan

Hello. This poor little blog has been in hibernation since the summer, which is a polite way of saying ignored. If you read the post below you’ll understand why. I started my new job in Cambridge on 3rd September and so far it has been fantastic. The downside though is that the job, and accompanying commute, has sapped my time and quite frankly the blog slipped down the list of things to do. I’ve also become addicted to ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’, which doesn’t help.

I still don’t have any time to write anything but this brief missive for the blog, but my fellow Cambridge library trainees have begun to blog about their experiences on our very own Cambridge trainee website. I thought I’d advertise it here as some of you might be interested in our exploits or curious as to what library trainees get to do (aside from the above, entirely unrepresentative and deliberately cliched photo, which was in no way posed for).

So I recommend popping over to: http://www.catalog.group.cam.ac.uk/blog.html

Or click on the lovely picture of frosty Cambridge:

Frosty Cambridge

Frosty Cambridge

For those of you really interested in libraries here is my review of a talk on Cambridgeshire Library Service’s restructure (it’s more interesting than you’d think): Roots, Branches and Llama Biscuits.

The Eagle Bookshop -an historical adventure

The Eagle Bookshop on a sunny day

A good second-hand bookshop is balm to the soul for those of us who love research and love books. While the internet has widened access to out-of-print books, it is no substitute for the feeling of browsing in a real shop. The element of chance, of serendipitous discovery, when perusing the eclectic stock of  independent bookshops is what it is all about. Continue reading

Bibliophilia: Gandalf the Historian

Less welcome did the lord Denethor show me then than of old, and grudgingly he permitted me to search among his hoarded scrolls and books.

“If indeed you look only, as you say, for records of ancient days, and the beginnings of the City, read on!” he said. “…But unless you have more skill even than Saruman, who has studied here long, you will find naught that is not well known to me, who am master of the lore of this City.”

‘And yet there lie in his hoards many records that few can now read… there lies in Minis Tirith still, unread, I guess, by any save Saruman and myself since the Kings failed, a scroll that Isildur made himself…’ said Gandalf; ‘and that is not remembered in Gondor, it would seem.’

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

That’s a rather pleasant image; Gandalf as historian, seeking refuge amongst the dusty books for answers to the secrets of the One Ring. Surely there’s a thesis in that. Come to think of it, Denethor reminds me of a couple librarians I’ve come across down the years as well, grumpily bestowing access to their precious scrolls (look, but don’t touch). Of course, these days, Gandalf would have to submit reams of paperwork to the AHRC to get further funding into his ‘One Ring’ research. Quite how he’d justify its contribution to the Big Society remit, I’m not sure. Perhaps Sauron getting the ring back would count as a Big Society? Who knows. I suspect Saruman would gazzump poor old Gandalf the Grey to publication anyway.

I’ve written before about how Tolkien’s writing helped engender a love of history in me (here), and I came across something that reminded me again Continue reading

Autumn Days are here

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Today has been one of slow pottering and of calmly and deliberately ignoring the pressing and urgent things that I should be doing. Part of this is down to the definite change of seasons that has come a little early this September; Autumn is in the air. The changing over of seasons has a number of little effects on us. You start to notice that your wardrobe has been incrementally changing, out has gone the t-shirt in has come the jumper. Continue reading

Bibliophilia – Fighting Fantasy

No Paris Hilton this time, I promise. Instead I think its time for another bout of bibliophilia, a series of posts in which I dive into the dusty realms of the bookshelf for inspiration and discuss the primary symptom of the disease, our papery friend the musty old book. This time I give you a guilty secret (though perhaps not surprising given my already professed love for the hobbit): Fighting Fantasy.

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As it says in the blurb the Fighting Fantasy series of books were choose-your-own adventures that were:

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Who me? How could 10 year old Gentleman Administrator resist the temptation? Plus unlike actual role-playing games they were so simple to play, particularly as:

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Of course I’ve since discovered that constantly having to make decisions is one aspect of being an adult that wears thin pretty bloody quickly, particularly as you can’t leave your thumb in a previous page in order to cheat in real life. Actually, I’m still pretty convinced that most major decisions should be made with the aid of two dice, a pencil and an eraser.

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The books were written and designed by Ian Livingstone (some with Steve Jackson) in the early 1980s. Ian Livingstone was a stalwart of the Role Playing Game (RPG) game world when I was a child, having been the founder of Games Workshop. He was also one of the founders of computer games giant Eidos, which brought us the Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series of games as well as Championship Manager, the football management simulation game. On reflection it’s fair to say that over the years, and more than any other single factor, Ian Livingstone is to blame for a considerable proportion of the wasted hours and determined under achievement in my life. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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The books inhabit the wonderful, generic Tolkein-revival fantasy world of the late 1970s that gave birth to role-playing games and a cornucopia of fantasy titles with trippy artwork and illustrations. The artwork of the Fighting Fantasy books were a key factor in their appeal to me. The internal illustrations of ‘The Forest of Doom’ were drawn by Malcolm Barter and punctuate the book at crucial moments, bringing the tale to life:

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Illustration by Malcolm Barter

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The ‘Forest of Doom’ is the one copy I’ve held onto over the years for two reasons. The first is that I remember exactly when I first played it, as I was off school sick with one of my annual childhood bouts of influenza. I’m not exactly sure how I’d got a copy as my parents were quite opposed to fantasy books and role-playing games having recently become evangelical christians. They would not have been pleased with my choice of literature. I can distinctly remember being huddled on my bedroom floor, wrapped in a duvet, clandestinely and feverishly dipping my toe into this dark and dangerous quest. The sense of risk (the role of a dice!) and achievement (killed the forest giant, Yes!) was palpable at the time. The second reason that this particular edition sticks in my head is the front cover illustration by Iain McCaig (see above). Aside from being a great bit of art I was genuinely frightened by the picture of the changeling, I mean it’s looking straight at me… We all know how children love to be scared and that illustration has stuck with me as a cherished childhood memory (ok, ok it still freaks me out *turns book over and continued typing*).

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The funny thing is I never really graduated onto proper desktop role-playing games, but I suspect my initial love of interactive fiction is the root of my later, and ongoing, love affair with computer games.  So, having tested you luck and rolled a three, turn to 2:

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Damnit, I forgot to put my thumb in the page *grabs rubber and flicks back to the beginning*.

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