Why I Canceled Scribd

Scribd-200When the idea of subscription book programs first started, a number of people asked me about them. It seemed like a natural fit for me. I read a lot of books, these are subscriptions for unlimited book reading, what is not to like?

I tried Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Oyster’s (out of business), Scribd‘s and a couple other plans. The problems are usually similar. They often have books you want to read, but not all of them. All of them are rental plans, so you do not keep the books, just borrow them, similar to a library.

In order to make sense of a rental style subscription plan, you need to read a lot of books each month for it to makes sense, at least three but probably five.

What made Scribd different initially was a large selection of audiobooks. The audiobooks for a while kept me subscribed. But then Scribd had to restrict the books until now you can only listen to one a month. (Because they were losing money.) With a price of $8.99 to borrow one audiobook (there are still ebooks you can borrow) the price no longer makes sense. I pay just pennies more than that per book from Audible and that is a purchase program. And Audible has a much better selection of books.

I think subscription plans still make sense for some people. But it is unlikely to be a very large group of people. And at this point, the only real option is Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription plan. Amazon still does not have a large audiobook selection (not quite 3000). But it has a pretty good ebook selection.

Subscription plans need to be thought of as a month by month option. Get it one month, put it on hold for a month or two and then come back to it.  Scribd did have a good vacation hold option. I have been putting my account on hold so extended it for a lot longer than I probably should have.

But in the end, I am back to purchasing books through Amazon and Audible.

May Kindle First

Every month Amazon gives Amazon Prime members the choice of 1 of 6 kindle books for free (Kindle First Program). These books have not been released yet, but are pre-released for free (to try and build momentum, usually for new Amazon authors.) The May 2016 Kindle First Books:

May Kindle First

Silence and Beauty Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto Fujimura

Silence and Beauty Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto FujimuraSummary: Silence and Beauty is a profound reflection on the book Silence by Shusaku Endo, the role of art and beauty in Christianity, and a reflection of the impact of Christianity on the culture of Japan.

Silence by Shusaku Endo is one of those books that is not easily forgotten. I read it a couple years ago and I rarely go more than a couple weeks without referencing it.

Makoto Fujimura is a very well known artist, famous in many Evangelical circles for being a famous artist that is well known outside of Christian circles. Fujimura grew up in the US, but after college was accepted into a Japanese graduate program to study art. The first student to ever be accepted into this graduate program that did not grow up through the Japanese national art system. Fujimura became a Christian while studying art in Japan, a country with a very few Christians.

Silence and Beauty is fascinating. It opens with a bit is spiritual memoir. Fujimura details how  Shusaku Endo and his book Silence impacted his early faith. And unsurprisingly there is a long exploration of both Endo and his book Silence (as well as some of Endo’s other books.) That is done in the context of a rich sociological and historical study of Japan. And all of that is wrapped up in a defense of beauty and art as essential to Christianity. (I was reminded at times of of Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic and Brian Zhand’s Beauty Will Save the World.)

Free Audiobook – Delighting in God by AW Tozer

screenshot_52Christianaudio gives away one free audiobook each month.  This month the free audiobook is:

DELIGHTING IN GOD by AW Tozer

5 hrs and 11 mins, 83% of 40 reviews at Amazon are 4 or 5 stars, 5 of 5 review at Audible are 5 stars

A. W. Tozer’s Follow-up to The Knowledge of the Holy

We were created in the image of God, and to understand who we are, we need to understand who God is. His very character and nature are reflected through us. Unless we fully grasp who we are, we’ll never become all God wants us to be. 

Delighting in God is the message Tozer intended to be the follow-up to The Knowledge of the Holy. He demonstrates how the attributes of God – those things God has revealed about himself – are a way to understand the Christian life of worship and service. We are here to serve and adore him, but we can fulfill that role only by acknowledging who he is, which is the essence of the Christian life and the source of all our fulfillment, joy, and comfort. 

__________

The process of the free book has changed. You need to create a login. Once you have login, it saves the free book to your account and you can download the audiobook later. Or if you prefer, you can download the book from their very good iOS app.

April 2016 End of Month Reminders

51jU86eOLcL._SL300_Each month there are a number of sales and free books. This is your reminder to check out the sales and free books before they change.

2 Free Audiobook from Audible – Mansfield Park

Free Audiobook from Christianaudio.com – Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

Free Kindle Book from Amazon Kindle First (prime members only)

April 2016 Kindle Book Sale (which includes some of the following sale books)

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard RohrTakeaway: We need to think theologically about the importance of elders and sharing wisdom.

A few days ago on Facebook, someone that I know was lamenting the lack of wise elders in their life. I was reminded (in part because I was reading Rohr) that because one has acquired age, does not mean that one has acquired wisdom. The two sometimes go together, but not always. And in some ways I think age and wisdom are probably less associated now than previously (unwise people I think had a decent chance of dying because of their lack of wisdom in previous ages.) We are in an odd cultural place. We need wisdom, we are living longer than ever and culturally we embrace youth culture more than ever.

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest and popular speaker and writer. I have read several things by him and generally found him helpful and wise. I originally read Falling Upward when it first came out just over five years ago. I think that was my first exposure to Rohr. When I first read it, I found the book a bit difficult and was not as clear about some of his language. I did not re-read my review until I finished the book for the second time. My original review was one of the earliest reviews on Bookwi.se and it feels very dated to me. It is a sign of the progress of time that many of the things I found difficult on the first reading I did not find difficult on the second. I have read a lot more Catholic writers in the past five years and am much more comfortable with the subtle differences in meaning in some of the language of Catholics and Protestants. And where there are more commonalities than I   understood five years ago.

Rohr understands how to sound profound. That is not to say that many of the things that he writes about are not profound. His writing drips with significant insights. But Rohr is also obscure and opaque at time and I think that is sometimes seen as wisdom as well. Rohr is a mystic. And part of being a mystic is believing that the world is not completely understandable or describable. I agree with that, but I am also less satisfied with the esoteric descriptions of the world that Rohr gives in this reading. I think some of the book could have been tightened up and made less esoteric and more clear. And it would have been a better and more helpful book. But maybe viewed as a bit less wise.

The main organizing metaphor is the first and second halves of life. This is modeled in the difference between the Odyssey and the Iliad. The two voyages are examples which Rohr refers back to frequently of how in the first half of life we are interested in identity and personhood. Finding not only who we are, but also establishing ourselves, building families, creating careers, finding relationships (romantic and other). All of these are good and important. But in the second half of life we tend to be less dualistic, more about building up others and passing on wisdom. The first half of life is about understanding the rules and institutions of life and their importance. The second half of life is about understanding the role of grace in breaking rules and circumventing institutions for people.

Paris Street Style: A Coloring Book by Zoe de las Cases

Paris Street Style: A Coloring BookThe biggest trend in the publishing world last year was adult coloring books.  According to the New York Post, more than 2,000 adult coloring books hit the market since 2013. A quick search on Amazon will yield over 12,000 results for coloring enthusiasts and there’s something for everyone:

  • Garden Designs
  • Animals
  • Geometric Prints
  • Flowers
  • Scripture
  • Muscle Cars
  • Harry Potter
  • Doctor Who (I may have to get that one)
  • Tattoos
  • Irreverent (for those who are a little sweary)
  • Jon Hamm (yes, the Mad Men actor)

Adult coloring books are hard to miss and I’m finding people use them for a variety of reasons: a creative outlet, training their brain to focus, bonding with their teenage children, and as a stress reliever are just a small sampling of reasons I’ve encountered among enthusiasts. Even my retired parents jumped on the bandwagon as a way to keep themselves entertained during the long Midwest winters. I dove into coloring this past winter as well just to see what the fuss was all about and found myself enjoying the process.

Anxiety has been an issue for me and coloring has been a fantastic way to get my anxious thoughts off of the hamster-wheel-of-worry. Losing myself in the swirls and abstract images with a colored pencil in hand has gone in a long way in calming my spirit and as an added bonus, I’ve chosen to pick up a pencil instead of stuffing my worries under a layer of Doritos or M & M’s.

One doesn’t need to spend much money to experience this hobby. A small box of colored pencils from the grocery store and a free coloring page download from many websites is an easy and very inexpensive way to experience the benefits of the coloring trend. But if you’d like to splurge, some very nice options are available such as today’s review: Paris Street Style by Zoe de las Cases.

Paris Street Style is a charming coloring book that is designed like a journal. The pages are high quality; thick, glossy and smooth. The pencil glides across the page. The images vary from geometric patterns, fashion images and street scenes from Paris. The book also contains an elastic closure and a ribbon marker. I find it to be a very enjoyable and small indulgence.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down. In this crazy age of busyness and stress, give it a shot! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Paris Street Style by Zoe de las Cases Purchase Links: Paperback

 

I received Paris Street Style for free in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Ms Marvel (Generation Why, Crushed and Last Days)

51-nc1hixjL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Takeaway: The big stuff matters to good stories.

I participate in a private Facebook group with Christ and Pop Culture Magazine subscribers. There was a discussion the other day about the quality of writing of a popular series. The important part of the discussion for this review is that good stories transcend a particular telling. Elements of good stories are often found in other stories. The major themes of life, finding and loosing love, purpose and meaning of life, etc. are almost always found in some form in any good story. Good stories can be told in an original manner, but are rarely completely original in theme.

Ms Marvel made new in 2014 when it first came out because the main character is a 16 year old Muslim immigrant living in New Jersey. She was a unique voice in the superhero world. I read and reviewed the first volume just over a year ago. But the rest of the series has not gone on sale until this week. I enjoy the occasional comic book, but I am cheap.  Amazon/ComiXology is having a sale on Marvel comics through today. So Vol 1 is $4.50, Vol 2 is $5.50, Vol 3 is $8.00 and Vol 4 is $9.00.

Comics are something that I should read more carefully. I tend to fly through them too quickly because I want the story and then not go back and read them more slowly to really enjoy the art. But the art is one of the complaints that I have with this series. There has not been a consistent art team and so the art has varied and I have definitely liked some of it better than others.

The first volume was interesting because it was introducing a new character. The second volume I think lacked the punch of the first because it attempted to make a point. Ms Marvel was confronted with some of her peers that were willing to give up when faced with difficult problems. That could have been handled better but ended up being a complaint against her whole generation instead of a motivation for working hard to do what you can.

Housekeeping: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping by Marilynne RobinsonTakeaway: Life if not permanent.

I have had an odd reluctance to read Housekeeping (and Home) because Lila and Gilead have been some of the best fiction books I have read. I do not want to be disappointed. Marilyn Robinson has not written a lot of books. Authors that have written dozens of books I assume have a couple that are not all that good. Robinson has four fiction books and all of them are critically acclaimed, although not necessarily acclaimed by general readers. (All four books average four stars at Amazon and only have about 50% of the reviews as five stars.)

If you are looking for action or romance or really even much of a plot, you are probably not going to like Robinson as a novelist. Her strength is characters and description. The internal dialogue of the main character is always the focus.

In Housekeeping, Ruth is the youngest of two girls. They are growing up in their grandmother’s house. They were abandoned by their mother, who committed suicide in the nearby lake after she left them. They never knew their father. Their grandmother dies and two spinster great Aunts come to care for them before pawning them off on their odd Aunt.

Deep River by Shusaku Endo

Deep River by Shusaku EndoSummary: Story of four Japanese tourists on a trip to India and the Ganges River.

I picked up Deep River on sale from Audible a while ago but it did not listen to it up until Beauty and Silence by Makoto Fujimura was about to be released (reading Beauty and Silence now).

Even though I read Endo’s more well known Silence over two years ago, it is a book I still frequently think about. I wanted another book to give more context to Endo’s work because Beauty and Silence is largely based on Fujimura’s interaction with Endo. There are only three of Endo’s books available as audiobooks and only 3 other books available on kindle. Late 20th century authors often did not negotiate digital book rights and their estates seem to be slow to re-negotiate. I am hoping that the Martin Scorsese movie of Silence (expected to release in Nov) will bring out new editions of all of Endo’s books.

Deep River is not an easy book to describe. There are four interconnected story lines. The reader gets a brief introduction to the India tour before the separate back stories. I was bogged down about a quarter of the way through the book and set it aside for about six weeks before returning to it. The initial background stories are full of hard to like people. This is part of the set up for what might be transition and growth later in the book, but I really do not like reading about unlikable people.

These are four very different stories. One disconnected ‘modern’ Japanese woman that is happy to take advantage of sex starved men. One man the other end of life who has missed much of his life until his wife dies and he realizes what is gone. One veteran of WWII that is still suffering the effects of war (this is set in the 1980s). And a final man who’s sickness has left him isolated and lonely.