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Books, Friends, And Conversation

I was in the coffee shop last night reading Jacques Barzun's Simple And Direct: A Rhetoric For Writers. thecrimsonbat was there, and on his way out he asked me what I was reading. I showed him, and he mentioned  Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Traveled, another book about writing  which we had discussed before. He had it in his car  and offered to loan it to me.

I declined, even though I've been wanting to read it. A while back he'd given me a copy of  Poincare's Prize as a gift. I told him it didn't seem right to borrow a book from him when I still hadn't read the book he'd given to me. And that this would probably make a good general rule of etiquette (although it would probably not make it into any of the etiquette guidebooks due to rareness of applicability).He seemed to think that was a weird rule, but  was OK with my refusal.

The talk of borrowing books reminded him of a nifty new feature of e-readers. According to him, the Barnes and Noble e-reader has a feature that allows you to loan e-books to friends. This sounds simple, but only because it's easy to make a copy of anything electronic and then give it to a friend. The folks that sell you the e-books wouldn't like that. Apparently the way it works on a Barnes and Noble e-reader is that you don't have the book for the time it is loaned to your friend, so there aren't  any  intellectual property problems. I was impressed. It seemed like such a simple solution, but I knew it would not have occurred to me. That's always the sign of a great idea.

He  also pointed out that after the lending period is over the book is automatically returned to you (i.e. taken off your friends reader and put back on to yours.) This gets rid of the problem of getting the book back, which is a frequent one with book lending. So the e-book lending is actually an improvement on physical book lending. He was as impressed with this feature as I was with the idea itself.

We chatted a bit about the book he was reading. It was part of The Looking Glass Wars series. I'd heard of this series, but didn't know much about it. He explained it was a retelling of Alice In Wonderland. At first it sounded gimmicky, but as he told me about it in more detail, it sounded intriguing. I've got a lot of books in my to-read queue, but this may be worth squeezing in.

I usually don't like to interrupt my reading time for conversation. But on very rare occasions the conversation is interesting enough to be worth the interruption. And I may yet take thecrimsonbat up on his offer to loan me the Stephen Fry book. How could I not want to read a book on poetry by the most literate comic actor in the English-speaking world?