The conference halo effect

There’s a phenomenon that I call the “conference halo effect”.  I think it happens to most of us, or at least I certainly hope so. The alternative would be unbearable.

While I’m at the conference, I’m energized. This is in spite of the fact that my feet are usually speaking to me, and what they are saying translates into “expletive deleted”.



The panel discussion that I participated in on Leading Technical Services in 2011 was very well attended. The room held 150, and we nearly packed it, but didn’t overflow. It was just right. The audience laughed in all the right places, and asked great questions. And if the person in the second row on the right with the wonderfully encouraging face is reading this, my heartfelt thanks. I had practiced one last time while sitting somewhere in the conference center and the gentlemen in the chair next to me fell asleep while I was practicing somewhat sotto voce.  Having someone in the audience who looked eager to hear me was a much better confidence builder!

My fellow panelists, Anne McKee and Peggy Johnson, were terrific. Peggy even acted out her slides when the PowerPoint gave up the ghost. Her performance was truly inspirational in more ways than one. Peggy didn’t just talk about leadership, she demonstrated it right there. And the coverage by American Libraries in their blog was awesome.

But every moment in the conference presented opportunities to see or hear something new – be it in the form of workshops, stalls or pull down banners, or if it was something to take back and work on, or a commitment that needs to be met in the days and weeks ahead.

At the time I was in New Orleans, every time I was in a meeting, or right after I finished a meeting with someone, I would send myself an email labeled “note to self” with the action item in the email. The joy of a 3G iPad is that I always had connectivity. (My hotel room wifi was iffy at best) Because of the “halo effect” energy of the conference, everything seemed both easy and possible while I was in NOLA.

And the biggest problem with actually being on a committee (I’m incoming Chair of the new ALCTS Affiliate Relations Committee) is that I didn’t get to half the places I wanted or needed to get to. My list includes a lot of entries that say “find out what happened at X session” that I wasn’t able to attend. But it’s all part of the ALA experience–except for the no conflict times, every time slot has 3 things you want to go to, and they are generally as far apart as geographically possible.

Now I’m back, and that mountain of “notes to self” is in my inbox. The halo has worn off. Those things don’t seem so easy anymore. But they are still possible. Even more important, they are still necessary. They are commitments I made to myself, and to others, of things that need to be done.

Time to dig in. I think I see a LOT of Diet Coke in my future.



What does it mean to miss New Orleans?

I didn’t hear live jazz playing in New Orleans on this trip until Tuesday morning. The playback in my mind is of jazz spilling out of every open doorway in the French Quarter, usually accompanied by a street corner barker trying to hustle the crowd into his joint for a girlie show. Times change.

That memory is indelibly etched, but it was a long time ago. Anything pre-Katrina is a long time ago now. But for me, those memories represent a different watershed.

I was 19, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my parents took me along on a trip to New Orleans. Another couple went along on that trip, I don’t know why. But having them along changed everything.

When we arrived at the hotel, I asked at the desk if I would be able to go into the bars to listen to the music. The desk clerk looked at me and said, “you’re old enough”. For the first time, I was treated as an adult. Suddenly, instead of being on a trip with my parents, I was one grown up on a trip with 4 others. The difference was incalculable.

I’m aware, looking back, that I never went out alone. But on the other hand, I was treated as someone whose preferences mattered as much as anyone else’s. I was, and am, a night owl. My mom is not. My dad tried to stay up 20 hours a day, I swear, but that was pretty normal for him. The other couple were both night owls like me. I spent more time out with them because my schedule matched theirs. In retrospect, my mom was the odd one out.

I went everywhere. I was never carded. And yes, I ordered drinks if I wanted them. Hurricanes of the alcoholic variety in NOLA are infamously watered down. The music was amazing. I recognized absolutely nothing, and I didn’t care. Every bar had a band, and if it sounded good from the street, we’d just wander in and sit for a while. It was the way the players would play together, then solo in the middle, and then pick up the piece as a group that astonished me again and again.

But in walking the streets of the Vieux Carré, window shopping and music sampling, the seamier side of Bourbon Street was also on display. I may have been 19, but I was well read. I could see, even then, that every sin that mankind had invented, or possibly would invent, was for sale somewhere in the alleys of the French Quarter. That darkness was part of the gumbo that made New Orleans what it was, even though the city fathers and mothers tried to pretty things up for the tourists.

That trip was the last vacation I ever took with my parents. That winter break during my sophomore year in college was also the last time I ever went home to my parents’ house.  There is a saying that there are two things you need to give your children, that one is roots, and the other is wings. That trip was one of the times when I very much felt the wings more than the roots.

When ALA went to New Orleans right after Katrina, I did not expect to see much of the NOLA I remembered. The hurricane had been devastating, and the boarded up windows bore mute testimonials to that devastation. The anti-FEMA t-shirts were less mute but just as devastating in their own unique way.

I wondered what the city would be like this time. The Creole flavor that was New Orleans took multiple cultures a few centuries to simmer just right. Five years isn’t long enough to bring it back. But there was a jazz band at Jackson Square that had a good start.

Quarter Square

I picked up Quarter Square by David Bridger, because it looked like one of those books where the hero steps through a hidden door into a secret world that borders the world we know. I like those kind of books.  It’s a neat idea, to think that there is more to this world, or more beside this world, than we know. There are days when we could all use a little magic.

But Quarter Square only started out that way. Joe Walker does discover that the theater he is restoring in Plymouth is the bridge to a different, wilder world. And that the street performers who work in area surrounding his theater are all part of the magic.

Joe’s process of discovery would have made for a good story. He finally feels like he’s an insider in “The Wild,” not the outsider he’s been all his life. He falls in love with a woman named Min, who has real magic. Of course, he has a rival for Min’s affections who does not want to give her up. His reconstruction of the old theater he owns is going to be difficult in a lot of practical ways, as well as magical ones. That was the story I was expecting, and it made up about a quarter of the one I got.

Then Joe’s ex-wife and ex-partner got murdered, and Joe was hauled off as the logical suspect. They had become his “exes” after he found them in bed together, and it hadn’t been all that long ago. The story problem: well, they had been murdered by a werewolf. And some of the cops knew it. The story started heading for X-Files territory at that point.

But it didn’t stick with the X-Files, either. Joe was released from custody since what little evidence they had proved he wasn’t the murderer, and the police left him with a whole bunch of dire warnings. Then his new girlfriend tells him that she’s an 11,000 year old nature goddess and he’s her long-lost consort.  She’s been waiting about a century for him to reincarnate again. After this segue into mythology I just hung on for the ride, waiting to see what would happen next.

I thought my “willing suspension of disbelief” had been completely shot but there was one more blow coming. It turned out that the werewolf who murdered Joe’s exes was a powerful wizard who had been pursuing her Goddess-self for all of those 11,000 years. In other words, the werewolf was immortal too. And, they needed to run, straight into the heart of  the Wild, where there was a neolithic lost tribe that would hide them for a little while. They turned out to be werewolves, too.

At the end, everyone came back to the “real” world, into the middle of a biker gang war!

Escape Rating: C-. Any one of the threads in this book would have made a good story. The other world on the border of this one. The cops knowing about magic. The goddess bound to her one true love, waiting for him to reincarnate so they can be together. The lost tribes hanging on in the heart of the secret world. I just wish the author had picked one and stuck with it.


Opening day at ALA

No matter where it is the American Library Association conference always feels like librarian’s old home week. All the people look vaguely familiar, convention centers all look alike, and even the signs are pretty much the same from one year to the next.

Some of the content is even repeated. RDA has been a topic for several conferences in a row, and probably will be for several more. The budget squeeze on libraries has been an unfortunate ongoing theme for too many years. “Doing more with less” is a refrain that is heard over and over.

Moving right along, I spent most of the day in a truly fantabulous pre-conference– “Assembling your consulting tool kit” by Nancy Bolt and Sara Laughlin. For me, the topic was relevant and timely, and the presenters did a bang up job. Setting up as a consultant is just something that goes against the grain of us librarians, we’re all used to thinking of ourselves as publiic servants and not as businesspersons marketing a product, particularly not when that product is ourselves. Nancy and Sara made it sound imminently doable, and their tips from the pros were very much appreciated by this newbie.

When the exhibits opened this evening, there was one book that I was more than willing to carry home  in “dead tree” form, if I could get one. Penguin was supposed to have advanced reading copies of Lev Grossman‘s The Magician King, the sequel to The Magicians, in their booth. I beat a path to their proverbial door as soon as the crowds were let in, and managed to worm my way through the crush to get one. Score!

And ByWater Solutions had a “booth babe” that proved me wrong about the exhibit halls all looking alike. This particular lady could only have appeared in New Orleans.

NPR and the Top 100 SF/F

If I didn’t already love NPR, I would now. But I’ve sat in the car too many times laughing myself silly at the Car Talk brothers not to love NPR.

However, they just gave me a whole new reason to love them. NPR is putting together a list of the 100 best science fiction and fantasy (SF/F) titles “ever written”. The list will be based on recommendations submitted here.

There are, naturally, a whole bunch of caveats built into this kind of thing. NPR wants this list to be strictly science fiction and fantasy for grown-ups (admittedly that term alone can be pretty loosely defined). YA SF/F will be covered some other summer. Besides, as NPR put it best, won’t it be nice to have someone besides Harry Potter win for a change?

Also, they are limiting to purely SF/F, so no paranormal or horror. Stephen King is out, and so is Sookie Stackhouse. So is Twilight. On the other, and much more interesting hand, it is perfectly okay to nominate an entire series as a single entity. So the Lord of the Rings counts as one nomination. Five noms to a posting, probably just to keep the lists manageable.

But my brain keeps hashing over what to nominate. There are two lists running in my head. One list is of the books/series that I have read and loved. Those are ones I would recommend in a heartbeat to someone who was remotely interested in science fiction or fantasy. Or someone I could get to sit still for ten seconds and listen.

1. The Lord of the Rings. This is still a comfort read. Or a comfort listen. I have multiple copies in print, and both the unabridged recording and the radio play. Tolkien could write beautiful words, and there are parts of this thing that still ring in my head, and still wring my heart. The tvtropes wiki says there are 7 basic plots; 1)Overcoming the Monster, 2)Rags to Riches, 3)The Quest, 4)Voyage and Return, 5)Comedy, 6)Tragedy and 7)Rebirth. The Lord of the Rings has everything but a comedy plot. There’s comedy in there, but it isn’t a major plot thread.

There are still things in LOTR I would like to have a serious talk with Prof. Tolkien about, if he were still around. The lack of female characters in the Fellowship. The shortage of strong female characters, period. And that’s just for starters. But the quibbles stand out because the whole is so very, very good.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The premise caught me, and didn’t let go. Every deity that had every been worshiped on American soil was alive, if not well, somewhere in the U.S. Some are still active, and some are trying to blend in, but they are all still here. Then Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday on a plane, and everything starts to fall apart, or come together. American Gods is part of the great American road novel tradition, except it’s written by a British ex-pat who seems to have swallowed a mythopedic dictionary whole. The point where the Egyptian gods were running a funeral parlor in Cairo, Illinois, I think I had tears in my eyes, laughing. But there’s more pathos than humor, and every god and monster has his, or her, day. The ending took me by complete surprise. And I loved every second of it.

3. Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett’s Discworld can be seen as a parody of any number of fantasy worlds. Or all of them. When he’s funny, he’s screamingly funny. But it’s the kind of humor that makes you think, and more and more, makes you want to weep. Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of the city of Ankh-Morpork, makes Machiavelli look like an amateur. Death is personified as the bony gentleman with the scythe–on the other hand, his adopted granddaughter is considerably scarier than he is. After all, Death named his horse ‘Binky’. Start with either Mort or Guards, Guards. Just start.

4. Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I would include this because reading it once hurt so much I’ve never been able to read it again. Tigana is a country that is lost, gone. It was not just conquered, it was also cursed. The wizard who conquered it laid down a curse that no one who was not born there before the fall could say the name, or hear it spoken. Tigana, beautiful, artistic, advanced, lovely as it was, was doomed to be forgotten in a generation. There was only one chance to save it. A desperate group of survivors banded together to infiltrate the court of the wizard king and assassinate him before the last of those born in their beloved country before its fall became too old to recreate what they had lost. What they did not count on was how long it would take, or how much the part you are playing becomes you, if you play it for too long.

5. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi. You know up front that this is not a coming-of-age story. More like wish-fulfillment, at least up to a point, as all the major characters start out as senior citizens who suddenly get brand new young bodies. Then they have to go fight aliens with those upgraded bods. This reads like one of Robert Heinlein’s space stories at its best, updated 50 years and without Heinlein’s attitudes about women. Or maybe that’s the updating. This is a great space opera. And because the point-of-view character is older, his perspective gets to use that life experience to wonder what the hell is going on. It’s a very important part of the story. He questions, and he wants answers. As he gets them, so does the reader.

These books are ones I have read, finished and would recommend unconditionally. In another post, I’ll list the ones I want to read this summer, and why.

Goddess with a Blade

Vampire politics and sex. If that had been the sum total of Goddess with a Blade, Lauren Dane‘s latest book from Carina Press, it would still have been a fun read. But the story turned out to be a bit deeper than I expected, and that made it even better.

The Goddess named in the title is the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Her physical vessel is Rowan Summerwaite. Rowan is also, coincidentally, the licensed vampire hunter for the Las Vegas region. To complicate matters further, Rowan was raised by the leader of the Vampire Nation. And, there’s a new Vampire Scion in Las Vegas, and he and Rowan are starting their naturally adversarial relationship off on the wrong foot. She killed his predecessor very, very righteously, for not keeping his “people” in line. That’s her job.

But there’s a serial killer in town. A vampire who doesn’t care if he exposes the vamps and all of the other kindred to curious mortal world that hasn’t yet figured out they exist. All he wants is his next victim, and his next fix, after over 600 years of immortal ennui. Meanwhile, Rowan and the new Scion, Clive, try to negotiate whether their business relationship will turn out to be frenemies, frenemies with benefits, or something more.

Escape Rating A: I had a great time with this story, and these characters. Rowan’s relationships with all the people around her just kept drawing me in. Her love/hate/love thing with her foster father, who is, after all, the head honcho vampire, is a heart breaker. She kills rogue vampires for a living, and he trained her, and he is one, and he knew this is what she would become, and wow!

I want to see more stories in this world. It was a cool place to visit. And I want to find out if the romance between Clive and Rowan works out. And if Rowan’s cop friend ever gets his act together. As I said, I really liked these people, I want to see how they go.

Some of my first loves were vampires

Edward Cullen was certainly not the first sexy vampire–if he even makes the list at all.

I still remember reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire for the very first time.  I was in my college dorm room.  I remember sitting there, spellbound, turning the pages, just pouring through the book from cover to cover. I think I only got up once to go to the bathroom.  I still remember Lestat, and Louis, and the child vampire Claudia, and the steamy city of New Orleans as if it was a separate player in the drama.  And the poor interviewer who was mesmerized by the whole erotic, gory, glorious mess.  Even if you think you know the story from the movie, it is nothing like reading the book for the first time.  Or again. (Never judge a book by its movie.)

Other vampires have told their tales to other interviewers.  After all, a good story always needs an audience.  Dracula wanted to tell his side of the story, to let people know the “truth”—to counter all the “propaganda” that Bram Stoker published for Van Helsing.  So, after his true love Mina had lived her full life, on the night that she was ready to rise, the Count waited out the evening with yet another poor, unsuspecting journalist with a tape recorder, pouring out the true tale of his fateful meeting with Jonathan Harker, Mina, and Dr. Van Helsing.  Fred Saberhagen’s retelling of the Count’s own story makes compelling reading in The Dracula Tape.

Saberhagen went on to relate more stories of Count Dracula’s modern day adventures in The Holmes-Dracula File and An Old Friend of the Family, as well as later books. It was a very interesting family that included Count Dracula among its “old friends”. And a story of Sherlock Holmes not just meeting, but joining forces with, Count Dracula–it is absolutely delicious. Two alpha predators at the height of their powers joining forces for the greater good.

And last, but not least, there is the mysterious vampire known as the Le Comte de Saint-Germain, who first appears in Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and has appeared in many, many books since.  Saint-Germain rescues a woman from ruin, as he so often does, in a tale that blends history, romance, and mystery.  It is fitting that this story blends fact with the paranormal, as the fictional character of Saint-Germain was based on a true historical “worker of mysteries” who appears seemingly everywhere, in a spinoff of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, a Buffyverse comics miniseries, and more than one videogame. The Comte, like Count Dracula himself, seems to be immortal.

Father’s Day

We moved over Memorial Day weekend.

As we packed up our stuff, I found an entire box of old photos and other oddments that my mom gave me the last time we were in Cincinnati. Besides the usual assortment of old report cards (both hers and mine, strangely enough) there were pictures from vacations she and my dad took together after I grew up. And buried in the stack were photographs from before I was born, when my parents were young.

On Memorial Day, I found myself thinking a lot about my dad. He graduated high school in 1946. He turned 18 the spring after World War II ended. His high school yearbooks are different compared to any time later, because the teachers are universally older, because the young men were in the military and the young women were in the factories. My mom used to explain it to me that all the teachers had “one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel”. The entire country was mobilized, and that was simply one more effect that everyone accepted.

Unlike the Vietnam War era, which I remember, his generation mostly was willing to go to fight. But his turn didn’t come. My dad also wanted to learn to fly. After he graduated high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, as it was then. He lasted six months. Nothing terrible happened, but there was this one tiny, little problem. It turned out that, although he had 20/20 vision, my dad had no depth perception. He could fly the plane just fine, but he couldn’t find the ground terribly well. He tended to “bounce” the airplane, along with his flight instructor. This wasn’t very good for either plane or instructor. So, after six months of service, the Air Corps sent him home.

My dad’s six months of service was not enough to keep him from being drafted when Korea rolled around. But the circumstances had changed. As the book, movie and TV series M*A*S*H all depict, fewer service personnel really wanted to be in Korea. My parents were also married by the time my dad was drafted. So, my dad informed his draft board something about his medical history that he had neglected to mention when he volunteered for the Air Corps. He had chronic bronchitis (also flat feet). They sent him home again, for which my mom and I were, and are, both thoroughly grateful. I was not born until quite a number of years later.

But those pictures, oh those pictures! My parents were both younger than I can ever remember them being. My grandparents’ faces, that I haven’t seen in decades. Family gatherings that I recall from childhood. A manila folder of very old pictures of my dad’s grandfather from a visit he made to the US when my dad was a baby. A picture of my mom’s older sister from when she was a young woman, in the store she and my uncle owned. Glimpses of a vanished world that exists only in my memories.

I lost my dad to a heart attack in October of 1991. This is the only way I can send a Father’s Day card now. To remember.

Fox News discovers Romance

I wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or cry. Fox News has discovered that romance readers are the true power behind the rise in ebook sales. Romance books are among the hottest-selling titles for the Kindle, outside of the standard New York Times bestseller list titles.

The article is a classic case of “good news, bad news”. First, it panders to absolutely every single stereotype of romance readers that has ever been written, including leading off the article with a picture parade of some of the worst paperback romance covers ever spawned. Howsomever, if you look carefully, you’ll realize they are mostly parodies of what people think of as the typical romance book cover. One title reads “Okay You’re Taller Than Me…Happy Now?” I feel a little better, someone at Fox News has a sense of humor.

Second, it describes female romance readers as “Miss Lonelyhearts” while segregating technology-using, porn-surfing males into the group of four-eyed nerds. “Men are iPads, women are Nooks.” And I just caught the possible double entendre in the quote, and I wonder if Fox News intended it. Ouch.

But seriously, romance readers embraced ebooks a long time ago. I remember reading ebooks on my Palm PDA. It was small and clunky and gave me a headache, but the books were dirt cheap and I could carry a lot on a device I was already toting around anyway.

The Fox News article also totally missed the point that there are a lot of us “four-eyed nerds” who happen to also be female.  There may be differences between the sexes, but when someone starts throwing around statistics like 56% of tablet owners are male, and 55% of ereader owners are female and uses those to get to the equivalent of the old “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” argument, it stretches the analogy pretty far out of joint.

Nevertheless, once you get past Fox News’ arch tone, there is some meat in the article.   Magazines like US Weekly, Shape and Women’s Health, not to mention Cosmo and O, are enjoying a renaissance on the Color Nook AND iPad.  At my LPOW, romance ebook circulation outstripped any other genre in ebook circulation. Romance ebooks circulate more than twice as much as mysteries or non-fiction, which held the number 2 and 3 slots. They are quick reads, and a person can read a lot of them. There certainly is the factor of not having to display the covers of what you’re reading for the whole world to see, and I imagine that’s true for all sorts of things, including medical information, divorce books, bankruptcy planning, the list goes on.

An interesting side effect of the ebook revolution is that the ebookseller knows everything about what we buy, but the person next to us in the airport or on the train knows nothing. It used to be the other way around. Is this more privacy, or less?

Where ebooks? There ebooks!

Last night, we had our first guest come to the house since we put up our books. It reminded me of an essay I read in Wired a couple of weeks ago that has generated a lot of comments on the Digital Book World group on LinkedIn.

The essay, “5 Reasons Why E-Books Aren’t There Yet,\” by John C. Abell, came to mind because of his 5th reason: you can’t use ebooks as an interior design element. He’s right. One of the first things that people used to say whenever they visited us was something about how many books we had. They were everywhere. Every room in every house had bookshelves, overstuffed bookshelves, including the master bedroom. Every flat surface overflowed. We had boxes of books we never unpacked. And since new books we wanted to read continued to be published, we bought more. But in this move, we shed 1,700 books, and we’re down to 2,300, thanks to our iPads. So the impression of tons of books simply isn’t there. There are four bookcases in the front room, and all the others are in our offices upstairs. The physical collection is shrinking.

What did we lose? We lose that impression of being excruciatingly well-read. Possibly, we lose the impression of being insane. YMMV. In the decision of where to start the alphabet, we were conscious that the end of the alphabet and the miscellany that followed would be on immediate display to anyone who entered the house. Visitors see the Tolkien collection, and all our media books, so Star Trek, Babylon 5, Doctor Who, etc will be right by the door. Anyone who doesn’t know we both like Science Fiction and Fantasy will soon figure it out.

On the other hand, everything from 2010 onwards is missing. It’s on one of our iPads. Did we stop reading? Will anyone care? Or is it the mass of books that impresses? Who knows?  All that can be inferred from the iPads is that we’re both geeks. That’s fairly obvious anyway. We also have every game console known to geek-kind currently hooked up to the TV. But books, books imply an air of erudition that the iPads, consoles and computers just don’t match, no matter what’s concealed within them.

His other reasons were also interesting to think about. His number one reason was something I’ve written about before, that eTBRs don’t command your attention. There’s no pile of books in your physical space getting in your way to jump out at you and say “READ ME!” the way there can be with print books. I borrowed one print book from the local library last week. I finished that one pronto. But that may have more to do with my not owning the thing  (I have over 200 print books I own and haven’t read yet in my house) than it being print.

But Abell’s second reason is the one that I can personally get behind. He comments that a big problem to be solved in the ebook business in general is that if you read ebooks a lot, you don’t have one set of shelves, you have a set of shelves for every app, and no easy way to blend them. He’s right. and it is a right royal pain in the patootie. The joy of using an iPad is that it is supplier-agnostic. I can get ebooks from pretty much anywhere, and I do. But that means I’ve got ebooks in every app imaginable; Nook, Kindle, Google, Overdrive, Bluefire, iBooks, Stanza, etc., with no easy way to combine the lists. In the bad, old print days, my first choice TBR pile was the far end of the kitchen counter. I piled everything there. I need an ebook everything TBR app. Except that it isn’t in the ebooksellers’ best interests to allow me to combine my lists, so that app doesn’t exist yet. I’ll confess that I’ve started using the Overdrive Media Console iPad app as my ereader for any EPUB that isn’t tied to a particular company. It’s a surprisingly good general purpose ereader, and it eliminates my need for a couple of those apps. If only it read PDFs…

Ebooks are here to stay. There are still some issues to be resolved, but there’s no longer a question of whether enough people will adopt ebooks to make them profitable for publishers.

On the other hand, books are here to stay, too. Very few technological revolutions completely wipe out the predecessor. We still have radio, it’s just changed. We still have LPs, they’re just a niche market. We may not ride horses for everyday transportation, but horses are still ridden. Books, both to be read and as treasured objects, will always have a place. I recently watched Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, again. Early in the movie, Spock gives Kirk a copy of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities as a birthday present. Ebooks make good reading, but there’s no way to attach ceremonial weight to them.  For that, you still need a book.