Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Textbooks on Reserve

Flat World Knowledge: Open College TextbooksImage by opensourceway via Flickr

Buying textbooks is a drag, lets be honest. I am sure you all found this chore as pleasant as getting your teeth pulled, but for the sake of a higher education, it had to be done (the book buying not the teeth pulling).

Maybe I wasn't that good of a planner back in my early 20's but I remember scrambling to get my finances in order to pay for my classes, then get hit with the dread of coming up with more scratch to pay for my books. I distinctly remember going to the first session of my classes to see if could get away with not buying the book so I could save some dough and put that towards next semesters' classes.

Now that I am on the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, working in a college, dealing with books no less, I see things, well....the same. I mean, honestly, I know the professors and writers that write the textbooks need to make money as well, but this is getting ridiculous. How often are revisions of a textbook really needed? Updates need to be made, I get that, but many of the updated versions of textbooks are almost identical to the previous version with only a very few changes of which many seem unnecessary. Add to that the skyrocketing costs of some textbooks, some cost an upwards of two hundred bones each, and the squeeze is on our college students.

One way to alleviate this cost on our students is to do what my school and many others have done and have a 'textbook on reserve' program. The way we handle that here in the library is we have a textbook budget line and we buy, just like the students, textbooks (with a minor discount, something like 10%). Since I am basically am in charge of the textbook purchases, I see how much the books are going for an how quick the publishers are to crank out new editions of the books. I also hear the complaints of students who can't sell their books back to the bookstore because a new edition is being put out so the store won't buy them back. So those looking to sell them back are, many times, out of luck, though when you think about it, is being "stuck" with a book that you studied from really being out of luck?

So the question is, what to do about the rising costs of textbooks? We offer the textbook on reserve program but we always end up with students who feel 'entitled' to have the textbook they need available when they need it. Ah, yes, the lament of many elders when referring to this generation, that they have a sense to entitlement. That's a rant I'll go into some other time. Getting back to it, a selling point of the school here is that the library has the textbook on reserve program but students rely on it too much, feeling that no one else will be using the book they want at the specific time they need it. Suckers! We always tell them to do their work early as there will be a rush around test time for students clamoring for textbooks to study from. As I sit here now, there are a few students in here that are waiting for books to be available.

I wish we had the budget dollars to accommodate the students in this regard but then I am sure that the publishing companies would be on us in a finger snap. Maybe ebooks are the way to go, I am sure they would be cheaper but there would be no selling back the book. I don't know, maybe if more students, and their parents who foot the tuition bill much of the time, were to complain to school administrators and they in turn could raise a stink with the publishers, maybe then something could be done to help the students.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - 13 Bullets

Cover of "13 Bullets"Cover of 13 Bullets

More vampires, that's what I always say. Ok, maybe I don't always say that and I probably shouldn't. Vampire books are an overcrowded genre to begin with (and that may the understatement of the millennium).

So, added to this almost beaten to death genre, is 13 Bullets which introduces us to Laura Caxton, reluctant vampire hunter. A Pennsylvania state trooper, who happens to stumble upon a vampire hireling, called half-deads, attempting to dispose of his masters' leftovers, Caxton is then teamed up with grizzled and cantankerous semi-famous FBI vampire hunter, Arkeley, to try and track down the lead vampire in the area.

Something that I really liked about this vampire tale is that the vampire here are monsters. They are vicious, vile, uber-deadly and have the looks of the Nosferatu-like vampires we've seen all too infrequently in recent years. The are dangerous predators, the top of the food chain and they know it. Kill a recently fed vampire? No chance, more likely he'll rip your arms off and drain from what's left of your arm stumps.

Beyond that, 13 Bullets takes some predicable twists and turns and in too many instances, you are waiting for someone, mainly Caxton, to do something intelligent instead of falling head first into the next dilemma. The writing is solid and the sections of the book are broken down nicely (if you read it, you'll see what I mean). Combined with some interesting plot elements that are hinted at but not fully resolved will make me want to pick up the next book in the series.

My Grade: B

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Writing on the Interwebs

RANT, this wayImage by Nesster via Flickr

So no sh&t, there I was, reading a bunch of blogs and such on the interwebs. Trying to spice up my own rarely seen blog, looking to glean (ok steal) some ideas from other places and jazz this joint up.

It was then I realized that a lot of people that write blogs and do review and the like, on the interwebs are a bunch of, and pardon my French, douchebags. I mean, the net is littered with the smarmy writings of a bunch of tools who think they are clever and hip with their sarcastic ramblings and esoteric references. Engaging in mean spirited "debates" and using excessive off color comments to make them look cool. Please.

Where are all the writers? Is blogging just a persons public journal, the "look at me" space on the internet where people try to show "the real you". C'mon, grow up already. If you are going to invest the time to write, then write for real. Who cares if it's not good writing, heck my writing is not good writing, but it is *me*. It's not some front that I want to put out to seem a lot cooler than I really am like all too many people do on the web.

I am sick and tired of reading blog after blog, review after review, post after post of people trying to show off. If I want to read someone showing off their writing skill then I'll read some Joyce again. Be yourself. Write for yourself. Blog for yourself.

Unless you really are just a douchebag then smarm away.

My (probably not well thought out) two cents.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Ed's Mini Book Review - The Dragon Factory

Action. Check.
Kick assery. Check.
Science mumbo jumbo. Check.
Decent but not great follow-up. Check.

The second book featuring ass kicker extraordinaire, Joe Ledger, surprisingly picks up shortly after the events of our first encounter with Joe and the DMS (Department of Military Science), Patient Zero. The fist book was a fast paced, zombie-esque thrill ride that was a breath of fresh air to the zombie book genre. Away from the 'survival horror' themed zombie books, the first Joe Ledger book are like a mash-up of Splinter Cell and World War Z (perhaps called it a 'viral thriller'). Shortly after dealing with the zombie virus in the first book, we have Joe and his team facing off against competing genetic manipulators, one faction making super soldiers while the other is making gene based bio-weapons.

A lot of this book feels the same, villains backstabbing each other, the cloak and dagger of Mr. Church and the DMS, and, of course, lots of action. Another problem with this Ledger adventure, is that a lot of time is spent not knowing what is going on and our heroes do very little to figure things out, the machinations of the bad guys are literally just handed over to them which makes the end game seem like a bit of a cop out. Also, I had a real problem with the actions of the main villain at the end.

Did all this mean I didn't enjoy it? Hell no! Joe Ledger kicks major a$$ in a Jack Bauer sort of way (Legder is actually compare to Bauer at one point). Bad Jack stories are still good stories and bad Ledger stories are good ones as well. This one even isn't a bad story, it's just a flawed one and not up to par with Patient Zero.

My Grade: B

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Monday, June 7, 2010

I'm sorry I pimp slapped you into that china cabinet.

Cover of "Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]"Cover of Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]

How the hell did I miss this?

And by 'this' I mean to pure awesomeness that is Black Dynamite.

Now, I grew up on the blaxploitation films of the 70's and this flick does the trick, ya dig? It manages to catch the essence of those films while keeping the parody edge without becoming too chessey or over the top, you follow?

With destined to be classic lines like 'And when you pop the top, the panties drop' and 'Kung-Fu treachery', Black Dynamite hits the spot solid.

So, go out and see this now or else I will not hesitate to lay the hammer down on any clown that comes around!

I said can you dig it!
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reading List - June

Pile of old books.Image via Wikipedia

Summer is upon us so the reading may be a little light with time spent on the beach and maybe a vacation or a stay-cation. Still there are some things I want to get to, just a matter if I do get to them.

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Mayberry
Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay
13 Bullets by David Wellington
Fables Vol. 5 by Bill Winningham
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