Why haven’t portables caught on yet?

See this NY Times story about the importance of hardware usability.  It’s not enough to digitize books — you need hardware that’s as cheap and long-lasting as the printed page.

The Jane Austen Book Club

Seeing as I wrote about Jane Austen yesterday, I wanted to continue in that vein and write a bit more about an Austen spin-off I recently enjoyed. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler was published in 2004, but I did not read it until this past summer.

This was a book I had been somewhat interested in, but never felt fully motivated to pick up. Last summer I finally checked it out of the library, and read it while traveling to visit a friend. I became instantly absorbed, and found the novel both humorous and moving. I thought Fowler created a novel that was both innovative and entertaining, and which borrowed from Jane Austen, while still remaining subtle and original. I felt like she was really able to capture Austen’s style and wit, while using her own voice to create fresh stories and characters.

The novel follows the formation of a book club in the Sacramento area—a group comprised of six members who plan to read and discuss Austen’s six novels. The group is made up of five women, and one man, and an adventure of love and self-discovery results for each member of the group. While each section begins as they meet for book club, I found the character “flashbacks” the most interesting and poignant parts of the novel.

I found The Jane Austen Book Club to be one of those novels that’s just a real pleasure to read, and I’d thoroughly recommend it. (Though, as a houseguest, I did wander off a bit in my eagerness to keep reading!)

Web of Science!

There’s been some good “viral marketing” going on on campus already, but I thought it was also worth mentioning here — the NU Libraries now offer Web of Science! We’re super-excited to finally have this powerful resource available. For those who may not be familiar with this database, it’s actually a suite of citation indexes from ISI Web of Knowledge. It includes Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index — so it’s not just science, despite the name. The main reason it’s so great is how easy it makes citation searching. Say you’ve found a good article from 1994 and you want to see how many articles after that date list the first article as a reference. Web of Science makes this extremely easy. Just enter the info about the 1994 article — usually author’s name and the journal title will be sufficient — and voila, you’ll get a list of subsequent articles that cite it. Then you can see what publications cite those articles, and so on, tracking a trail of citations up to the present day. Why is this useful? Well, generally speaking, the more a source is cited, the more important it is within its field. Maybe it’s important because it first introduced some major new discovery, or maybe it’s important because it makes a controversial claim that many other people want to debate. Either way, citation searching allows you to quickly see who the major players are in a given field, and how the dialog is continuing. It can be more targeted than regular keyword searching, too, since you can use the citation trail to follow the discussion of a particular topic. I urge all you researchers out there to head on over to the Library website and check out this terrific resource. Enjoy, and let us know what you think, or what tips you have for using it!

The Complete Jane Austen

I heartily enjoy Jane Austen’s six novels (though I find Persuasion divine, and Sense and Sensibility merely good) and I also usually enjoy the manifold film and television representations of her stories. So I was quite excited for PBS’s new Masterpiece Theater season opening with The Complete Jane Austen—broadcasting adaptations of her six novels, along with a Jane Austen biopic. So far new ITV (a British channel) productions of Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park have aired. I’m not quite sure what to think.

If I love a book, I usually enjoy seeing an adaptation, even if I think it fails to fully capture the original. And one thing that I am frustrated by is how other ‘fans’ can often become a critical mob, eager to find faults, and unwilling to appreciate the unexpected or something that deviates slightly from their own vision. With these recent Austen adaptations I am a bit perplexed. I’ve read that they’ve trimmed down these versions to fit into a 90 minute running time. I know all the stories well, but I feel like if I didn’t I’d be quite confused. These seem less like complete stories than illustrated Cliffsnotes.

However, I don’t want to become too wacky of a fan. I studied English in college, and the late 18th century/early 19th century in particular, so I always felt a bit self-conscious about the zaniness of Austen-maniacs. In addition to film and television, there’s a whole cottage industry of spin-off books.

What do you think about Austen adaptations? How about the PBS series? And do you ever feel chagrin when you see your fellow fans (whatever your topic of interest might be)?