Monthly Archives

May 2016

Books

How do you read yours? (again)

This week’s blog challenge is less of a challenge and more of a cheat: to post something old. And I don’t mean a picture of the Queen. The lovely Kate and I are reposting something we wrote a while ago to fulfill this week’s blog agreement. This is to a) save time b) save time and c) save time.

Below is a post I wrote in January 2011 about reading: hard copy books versus ebooks. I’ll comment on where I stand on this now, in May 2016, at the end of the post. Enjoy.


 

‘I’m proud of my bookshelf’

I feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I’m currently reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (supposedly the next best thing to Steig Larsson). I feel guilty because I’m reading it on a kindle and not in paperback. And I feel even more guilty because I’m enjoying reading it this way.

I never thought I’d be able to abandon the good old paperback for an eBook. Reading on an electronic device just never appealed and can’t replace the real thing, the smell of a new book, the dog ears as you create as you work your way through it (yes, a bad habit but I like my books to look read) and placing it on the bookshelf when you’re done, creating another addition to your own personal library. I’m proud of my bookshelf, it’s a history of what I’ve read and says a lot about me.

With eBooks there is no smell, no dog ears and when you’re finished no one need know. But it’s not all bad.  Certainly not for Amazon who report selling more Kindles than paperbacks during the backend of 2010.

So, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app to my iPad and bought The Snowman. It cost me all of £2.92, a tiny saving of around 50p on the current listing price for the paperback version but it was available to read within a few minutes; no going to a bookshop, no waiting for an Amazon delivery. I could start reading straight away. I began reading in bed and find it much easier to hold an iPad comfortably than a book; in fact I can read it one handed (no traditional page turning required) so can snuggle further under the duvet when it’s nippy.

Whether I bookmark my page or not, the Kindle remembers the last page I was reading from so there’s no ‘I’ve dropped the book, shit, which page was I on’ business and I can change the font size for ease of reading. As old age encroaches (I’m all f 31 you know) I find really small type off-putting so making it bigger is a bonus. I can change the screen brightness so I don’t get bedazzled and I can make notes if I want to (good for research when I get back on the novel-writing trail) or link straight to an online dictionary if I want to look things up. I can also pop it in my bag, along with my emails, favourite social media tools, my blog and the wider web, all in one device. And I can see it will be really handy on holidays – no more packing three heavy hardbacks and lugging them around an airport, I can pop them on the Kindle and if I run out of books to read I just download another one without even needing to move from the poolside.

All that said, I do feel guilty. I love books, I love book shops and I love adding to my little library of literature and hope one day to have a home office lined with  shelves housing all the books I’ve read. So to say goodbye to books, the real thing at least, is a bit sad.

I’m far from saying I’m ditching paperbacks altogether but I’m going to give this Kindle business a try. I’ve yet to finish The Snowman and, in fact, have no idea how close to the end I am because I have no dog-eared marker to tell me as I would with a proper book. But technologies move on, times change and I’d like to be at least trying to keep up.  My main concern was that I’d want a break from staring at a screen all day but so far, this hasn’t bothered me; time will tell, I’m still only on my first eBook.

As I said in my last post, I think library closures are a sad but probably necessary thing in these cash-strapped times, but I’d be incredibly sad to think I might read to my children  (if/when they appear) stories off an iPad. I want them to experience real books, to carry them to school in their backpacks and keep their favourite ones on their bedside table.

Are we looking at a future without books as we know them?


Personal library of a lifetime of reading

Five years on – and after a couple of years growing, popping out and coming to terms with life with children – there was a decent period where I didn’t read very much at all. Apart from utterly shit parenting books too formulaic and nowhere near bold enough to report what parenting is actually like for humans, not robots, (the Unmumsy Mum rectifies this), I was more interested in turning over in bed than I was in turning the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. Now well and truly back into reading, both for my MA, for pleasure and in support of my good friend Tracy, how do I choose to immerse myself in the written word? I’m afraid it’s electronically.

I say this like its a bad thing, I’m still romantically attached to the idea of real books, their smell, their feel, their place on the bookshelf – a personal library of a lifetime of reading (although much of mine, I confess, went to the charity shop to create space when the kids arrived).

For me,it’s as simple as this… On the iPad (no kindle for me, thanks) I can read without the light on, easily prop it up on the pillow while I lie on my side in bed with a single fingertip required to turn the page. If I fall asleep, it remembers where I read to, bookmarks it for me and turns off. Reading a paper book in bed (or worse, on a sunbed) is awkward and uncomfortable. If I finish one book in a series I can download the next edition in seconds and I REALLY like that you can read a sample few chapters from a book before buying; we all know you can’t judge a book by its cover. So, for me, it’s as simple as convenience.

How do you read yours?

PS I don’t read ebooks to the kids and can’t see this changing anytime soon. My friend Kath recommended it to me and I’ll recommend it to you… You Choose has made bedtime stories more fun for the whole family. Oh, and if you want to know what I thought of The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, here’s my review.

topical, what I think, work

Why flexible working should be the norm

Man checking phone on the toilet. Image credit: Thinkstock

If you take away the suit and replace with jeans and a T shirt, this is totally my husband!

Way back when, when I was a cub reporter, it was the done thing to turn up to work before my editor arrived and leave just after they left (I say they, not because I had more than one editor at a time, but I have had both male and female editors and they covers both nicely). I digress… So, I’d rock up at 8.45am and head home around 5.15pm ish.

But times, they are a changing. I no longer subscribe to the set hours routine – not only because childcare arrangements mean it’s not possible, but also because it’s an outdated concept.

As a rule, those who are at their desks 9am to 5pm, five days a week, are no more productive than those who work flexible patterns, take time off when work is slow or work into the small hours when deadlines are looming. It just makes sense. Obviously, work rate varies according to each individual, their role, their ability and their ethics, but the pattern of working has moved on a lot from the traditional nine to fiver – to the benefit of us worker bees and the small businesses or larger organisations we work for.

Do you reply to work emails on the loo?

Today is Flexible Working Awareness Day, flagging up the pros of flexible working. Obviously. But the word flexible is also flexible in its meaning too – this can mean the hours and days we work, how we work – office, home, on the toilet even (my hubby replies to work emails on the loo frequently) – and how we float between work and home life at the touch of an app, scrolling our Facebook feed one minute and chatting with a colleague about deadlines via Messenger the next. And the image I’ve used below gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘flexible worker’ entirely. Ouch.

Research suggests nearly half the UK workforce, to the tune of 14 million people, want to work flexibly to fit around modern life. They key word is modern here, the way we work – made easier (to our benefit or detriment, you decide) by digital technologies.

Work-life boundary blur

The Digital Brain Switch project looks into these very things, the boundaries between work and home life, and how we juggle whose time we’re on. It’s difficult to know exactly how much work stuff I do at home and how much personal stuff I do at work (a phone call to sort a plumber for a leaky boiler, for example). For me, it’s a fair mix and I don’t sweat it it either way. I am, after all, the proud owner of good work ethics and get satisfaction from ‘good, big shit’ at work.

Young acrobatic businessman split while using laptop and phone. Image credit: Thinkstock

Ouch!

For me, being able to work a flexible pattern means I’m able to contribute more to my place of work – and get more enjoyment out of doing that while fitting that around childcare and other commitments. I work 31 hours per week, so not far off the full-time equivalent of 37.5 hours, but it’s spread over 3.5 days. That’s three days working 8am to 6pm and an 8am to 12pm shift on a Friday, leaving Mondays completely clear for children, washing and all the other things I don’t want to spend my evenings doing.

I’m lucky to be able to do this – in many organisations, such flexibility is still frowned upon, seen as messy, confusing to staff and unproductive.

Where I work, pretty much everyone is working some kind of flexible pattern, even the full-timers with long and short days, every other Monday off etc. It doesn’t confuse us (much) and we still get stuff – a lot of stuff, actually – done.

While there are specific organisations  aimed at recruiting parents (mostly mums) into part-time work, flexible or agile working is no longer for parents juggling childcare, it’s for anyone. For those who want to run a second business on the side like my friend Sarah who’s about to open up her own shop in Bridgnorth after upcycling furniture on her ‘agile Mondays’. Another friend uses a day a week for study. My husband, too, is a flexible worker – on a Friday, for example, his eight-hour working day begins when I arrive home at 12.15pm.

And it’s right for me, someone who wants to work full-time (or close to) but is restricted by family life and committed to wanting to be one of the two people largely responsible for raising my kids.

Are you a flexible worker or chained to the 9am to 5pm approach? What would work for you?