Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I came. I saw. I Scribd.

"Just sign up for the free trial," I told myself.

I have been curious about unlimited reading apps for a while.

I have a lot of books. I buy a lot of books.

More importantly: I have to find space for a lot of books.

Low cost, unlimited reading!

No more lifting boxes of books into the attic!

Doesn't it sound marvellous?

I had to find out for myself.

I'd originally intended to use the services offered by both Scribd and Oyster before choosing which to declare the winner of my unbridled affections. Unfortunately, Oyster have not yet made their app available to Android users in the UK.

Rejection is hard. 

If you haven't heard of Scribd before, let me fill you in:
Scribd is an app I can download onto my smartphone or mobile device and use to access as many book titles as I like for a tiny little price. 

When I first heard about this, I'm certain my brain pulsed a little with excitement. 

I read about Oyster before it was launched, and waited even longer for it to appear in the UK. Upon its arrival here, most of the platforms I would use were initially not supported. 

That's a lot of anticipation for a whole lot of meh

Fortunately, Scribd came to the rescue, and it has some good points:

  • Lowest (current) price point on the market at $8.99 per month
  • Biggest (current) selection of platforms upon which it is available to use
  • Over one hundred thousand titles to choose from, with over nine hundred publishers
  • Eclectic selection of titles available
  • Automatically syncs your titles across multi-platform usage
  • 'Save to device' feature allows you to save books for offline reading
  • Available to use in over one hundred countries

Unfortunately, all that glisters is not gold:

  • I am charged extra money by my bank for paying for a service that charges in dollars
  • Not all of the advertised platforms are available in the UK 
  • Included in the title and publisher count are documents you will likely never read
  • Not all titles are available in all countries
  • Some titles appear to be novels, but upon closer inspection are play transcripts
  • Some titles are only available in languages that are not English
  • I can't figure out whether authors are paid fairly by their publishers and Scribd for participating

You have to take the good with the bad.

Fortunately, it really isn't all that bad.

A plus point for Scribd is that the app works perfectly on my smartphone. I have never had any technical issues with it and I find it both appealing to look at and easy enough to use. I have managed to find some titles I had longed to read for a while; principally The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, which was inexcusably overpriced everywhere else I managed to find it. For me, this little gem was worth the monthly fee alone. I also managed to read Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, a title that both Amazon and Waterstones in the UK had repeatedly failed to provide me with. 

Depending on your priorities, Scribd is a good app if you will use it.  If you read a lot of books every month and you are not particularly hard to please, I think you will find that the pluses outweigh the negatives. If you are a literary fiction aficionado, you might struggle to keep your palate amused. I was pleasantly surprised by the choice offered, but with the rate I consume books, I am cautious that my appetite will not continue to be satisfied in the longer term. 

I signed up for the free trial. I even stuck around for a paid month.

I'm not sure I will ever use it enough to justify it yet, but like all of these services, I appreciate that they will grow with time and are going to experience some teething problems. 

For now, I'll gladly remain an impassioned book sniffer. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Inkblot Series - Daddy.

Sylvia Plath

The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

For the first Inkblot, I have chosen an Andy Warhol piece from his Rorschach series. In the post, I discuss Sylvia Plath's famous poem, Daddy. 

You can find it by clicking on the Inkblot tab of this page. 

The images I see in the inkblot test always remind me of poems I love. People get trapped by the idea that poetry is difficult. Poetry is just the lense over an eye. Focus on the image.

Thursday, 31 July 2014


You may be wondering about the inkblots.

"Aren't they for madmen? What do they have to do with books?"

Ink, my darlings, is the blood that keeps my bookish heart squeezing.

I have had a fascination with inkblots and specifically, the Rorschach test for my whole adult life.

Perspective is very important. It is said that, "No two people ever read the same book."

I agree.

When we are processing a piece of art, we unfold ourselves.

The Rorschach test, while now academically discredited, was previously used by doctors to assess a patient's inner state of mind.

The test has now become part of popular culture.

The background image for this blog is actually a painting created by none other than pop culture icon Andy Warhol in 1984. He had intended to write analytically about the inkblot painting series that he created, though he never found the time or inclination to do so.

When most people look at inkblots, they are reminded of nature; flowers, insects, animals and organs are common answers given by those who take the Rorschach Test.

When I look at inkblots, I see poems.

I see subjective, cryptic stains upon paper - art to some, rubbish to others, essential to many. 

By Leaves will have a weekly post featuring an inkblot, the poem it conjures in my mind, and a little background about the poet who authored it. You will find them on their own dedicated page. 

Unlike Andy Warhol, I have time and inclination in spades. 

'The coroner will find ink in my veins and blood on my typewriter keys.'

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Liebster.

I won a Liebster award!

I was nominated by the lovely Jasmine Angell, and most unexpectedly.

Thank you, Jasmine! You are most kind.

It may not be a Man Booker or a Nobel Prize, but it meant a lot to be noticed and I fully intend to pass on the honour.

From my research, I have surmised that the Liebster Award is a blogger to blogger award distributed to bloggers whose material you enjoy. Said bloggers should be new to blogging or have fewer than 200 followers.

In order to accept the award, I must answer 11 questions about myself, set by the person who nominated me. 

Here are Jasmine's questions for me:

Q1: What was the last movie you saw in the movie theatre, and would you recommend it to a friend?
A1: Transformers 4. I wouldn't recommend it - it's excessively long, empty and I am not particularly fond of Michael Bay's work!

Q2: What are your biggest pet peeves?
A2: I cannot stand when the kitchen sink is used as a bin. The bin is right there! I also get very frustrated when people interrupt me because they're scared they might forget what they're going to say. Your memory, or lack of it, is not my problem. Conversations have two sides!

Q3: When do you normally write posts for your blog, day or night?

A3: Usually during the afternoon or evening.

Q4: Take a step back in time and think about your high-school-aged self. What would that high school student think of you now?
A4: I think she'd be really excited to meet someone else who liked books. Academia wasn't as important as smoking, punching or sex at my school.

Q5: What is your personal philosophy about blogging?
A5: "Without passion, there is no purpose. Without purpose, there is no point, and what is a pencil without a point?"

Q6: Who was your favourite teacher during your school years?
A6: Susan Cook, my history teacher. She was the most helpful and knowledgeable teacher I had, teaching me how to learn and evaluate, not just what to learn.

Q7: What is the most unusual cake you've ever seen in real life?
A7: It was for a baby shower. It had a vagina giving birth to a baby, immortalised in icing, and contained more jam than was necessary. I politely declined to sample a slice!

Q8: If you were a super hero, who would you choose to be?
A8: I like Jean Grey / Phoenix. Telepathy and telekinesis are definitely on my Christmas list this year.

Q9: Which would you choose: a mountain retreat or beach escape?
A9: I would choose a beach escape. I love being by the water and feeling sand between my toes.

Q10: What is the most unusual gift you've ever bought someone?
A10: I once bought someone a garden gnome, and painted its' face to look like Gene Simmons when he performs with Kiss.

Q11: If you could immerse yourself in any foreign culture, what would it be?
A11: Norwegian. They really love books and writers in Norway. They have an adult literacy rate of 100%, university education is free, the government substantially funds culture, all published material is required by law to enter the National Library, who are currently digitizing their entire collection... I could go on. I'd love to learn the language and meet the people.

I must now include eleven random facts about myself, in order to accept.

Random facts about me:

1. I rode horses until I was thirteen.
2. I am a vegetarian.
3. My favourite book is Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
4. I cry every time I watch Short Circuit 2.
5. Unicorns are my favourite mythical creature.
6. I politely (and usually, internally) ask myself not to die whilst crossing the road, without exception.
7. I used to have an enormous crush on teenage Taylor Hanson. Ah, '97. Simpler times.
8. I am 5ft 0 and often have to stand on my tip-toes or chairs for things.
9. I am Scottish, with a lot of Irish and Highland blood in my family history.
10. I am never happier than when surrounded by books. (My family and friends are not too shabby, either.)
11. I am rather partial to a cup of tea.

I will do a separate post with my nominations, and questions for my nominees.

You'll excuse me, but I must go. I just heard the kettle boiling.

A New Leaf.

Hello humans, 'bots and cats sleeping on keyboards.

Do not adjust your screen. We've had a little makeover. 

Figuring out the specific goal for this blog was a little tricky. 

We did some research.

We've changed name, design and attitude. 

We've learned that even though we can make people laugh with our disdain and scorn for the things that we don't like, it is much better to be positive and authentic about the things that we do like.

We're turning over a new leaf.

A new leaf, a new page, a new day, a new opportunity.

Welcome to By Leaves. 

We live for books around here. We like new beginnings. 

You, too?

Then we certainly hope to see your type around here again soon. x