Reading recent and/or popular books for free

OK, yes, I know. Everyone knows about the Columbus Metropolitan Library. It’s freaking awesome.

If you know about the awesomeness of the CML, then you probably know that you can download books to your Kindle (or Kindle app), or your Nook (or other epub reader). That nifty feature is right under the “Explore” menu, under ECONTENT (sic), which is managed by

There aren’t millions of books available like there are in print (just under 100k at the time of writing), and I’ve recently been frustrated that several of my searches came up with ebooks that were all checked out. But, and here’s the cool part, you can filter any search on Overdrive to show you only the books that are available for immediate download. For example, here are all the ebooks in Non-fiction, Business, Available Now–with the most recent additions at the top.

But my favorite way to sort is by Popularity (Global). They don’t describe how they measure popularity, but that’s OK with me–I get to see all the top books that are available to download RIGHT FREAKING NOW. FOR FREE!!!

So lets summarize what it takes to get a new thriller onto your device:

  1. For Columbus Library members, you can go straight to
  2. Click Subjects in the top menu.
  3. Under Subjects, click EBOOKS so that you don’t see audio books or videos.
  4. Click the subject of interest. For example Thriller, under the Fiction heading.
  5. Under Availability on the left, click Available Now.
  6. The default list puts the most recent additions at the top. If you want the most popular titles at the top of the list, choose Popularity (global) from the sort list in the upper right.
  7. Click borrow. You may then have to give your library card number.
  8. A banner appears telling you to check your Loans page. Click the link.
  9. Now you need to choose your ebook format. Click read in browser to, um, read it in your browser.  If you want to add it to your Kindle, choose that format. You’ll be taken to where you’ll need to click Get Library Book to have it delivered to your Kindle (or other Kindle-app enabled device).

OK, its not sooper easy, but its only about 9 clicks to get a book on your device, free of charge. Score!


The ground

I find myself standing in a field. Or maybe a prairie. There’s wide open space all around me, with long grasses, waving in a gentle breeze. If I stand still long enough, I can feel the earth pushing up against my feet.

Sitting down, I feel comfortable. Its the kind of comfort I felt as a child with my head on my mom’s lap, her long narrow fingers stroking my hair. I look around the prairie, at the ground so close to me, and I notice beauty in everything–the tiny flowers, the seeds on the grasses, the subtle hues on the pebbles. And since this is my field, my prairie, there are no snakes. I feel safe knowing the snakes are only in someone else’s patch of ground.

When I lay back, feeling the cool earth on my shoulder blades, I look up at the sky. With deep slow breaths, I can, I believe, feel the planet rotating. The sky is blue, and the apex of the dome is the kind of deep blue you only see in your dreams. A few friendly clouds move very slowly. Or am I moving beneath the clouds? The sensation of movement–do I feel it or do I see it? I cannot see the sun, but I feel warm, like the warmth of a baby cradled in its mother’s arms.

My eyes close, and I can hear the cicadas calling to each other. The breeze blows through the grasses near to my ears, and dishevels my hair, just a bit. The ground is firm, but I don’t need a pillow. In a moment I could just fall asleep.

And then its gone. Did I jump? Was there a cliff? Its like I’m falling in a dream, but I’m too disoriented to be afraid. I was just enjoying the support of the earth, and the comfort of my prairie, and now, what? Is that Dorothy in a tornado? Am I falling or flying?

I try to look down, but I see nothing. Not black. Not white. Nothing. The people I love are all swirling around me. Jesus, I’ve transformed into my own Wizard of Oz metaphor. I look at each of their faces as they tell me “its going to be OK”, and “we love you”, and “we’re here to help”. But what’s happening to me? Where am I going? Am I going up or down or sideways? They answer, but I can’t really understand. I focus on their faces, trying to read their lips, but I can’t. I reach out, and my wife grabs my hand. I pull her closer, and she looks around with me. No ground. No prairie. No grasses or cicadas.

Other faces emerge. My dad. He joins us. My aunt. She gives me a hug. My children wrap their arms around me, and I wrap mine around them. We hold each other.

My mom’s face appears amid the chaos. I reach out to her, but I can’t touch her.


I’m still waiting

My mother died a month ago today. In that time, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff done: I’ve met with attorney’s for her trusts, put her will through probate, transitioned her bank accounts to my name, paid-off and canceled credit cards, and taken thousands of dollars worth of her things to local charities. And yet I keep checking my email and physical mail and Facebook like I’m going to get some message from her.

I’m waiting for her to tell me how happy she is with all the sorting I’ve done in her garage.

I’m waiting for her to come over and help me sort family photos.

I’m waiting for her to have an opinion on what I should do with her fine jewelry.

I’m waiting for her to tell me how cute my wife’s nieces are playing with her costume jewelry.

I’m waiting for her to ask if I’ve sold her car yet.

I’m waiting for her to tell me what her discharge date is.

I’m waiting for the tears to flow through the wall of responsibility.

I’m waiting for people to stop saying they’re sorry for my loss.

I’m waiting for my obsession over my own life expectancy, retirement, and financial condition to turn down from eleven.

I’m waiting for my nightly headaches and restless sleep to fade into distant memory.

I saw my mother’s ashen face, unbelievably motionless, not look up at me, and yet its like I’m still waiting for her to wake up, thank me for all I’ve done over the last month, and tell me she loves me.

I’m still waiting.

Facebook mockingly celebrates 25 years of the Web

facebook celebrates 25 yearsYou probably saw this image on Facebook today. My guess is that everyone on Facebook saw this image today. Surprisingly, it wasn’t linked to any content, like perhaps an interesting graphic depicting the evolution of the (World Wide Web), or about Tim Berners-Lee. Without even looking, I’m going to guess that Mr Berners-Lee isn’t pleased with this. But before I get to that, I’ll fill you in on a little experiment I’m doing.

A few days ago, I publicly posted a picture to Facebook and to my personal blog with the title “Columbus, from a Phantom”. As soon as I finished the posts, I did a Google search for that phrase, with quotes. This is what I got.

Google Columbus from a Phantom

The half-million results that Google reports at the top are for those four words, separately. But search for that phrase exactly, and no one on the Web had ever written that phrase.

Two days later, and there are three hits, two from my blog, and one from a blogger that had linked to my blog a long time ago and shows my recent posts.

Google Columbus from a Phantom 2 days later

Notice, still no hit for Facebook.

OK, perhaps its too soon. Perhaps Google hasn’t crawled over my Facebook post. So lets try something over a month old. I posted a picture to Facebook with this caption:

The view was awesome. Not a single Pokemon in sight.

Here’s the Google search result:

not a single pokemonZero hits. Nothing. I posted that image as “public” on Facebook. If you scroll down enough on my profile, you’ll see it. If you click the link above, you’ll see it, but there will be an obnoxious banner at the bottom imploring you to get an account already.

But Google doesn’t know about it. Think about it–considering all the content on Facebook, how many times has ANY search engine (other than Facebook) returned content directly on Facebook?

Now I know Google isn’t completely benign, but there is a reason that it has become a verb, and it means “to search for something on the web.”

But Facebook content isn’t “on the web” like Tim Berners-Lee imagined. He created the web and gave it to humanity, “with no patent and no royalties due.” Everything Berners-Lee has done has contributed to the open nature of the Web. Any person could post any thing on any server, and it would be available to all.

And yes, there have always been private spaces on the Internet. But Facebook is by far the largest private space there is. Yes, you can take your content with you. But you aren’t contributing to anything that others can find, outside of Facebook. If I post on Facebook how to solve a technical problem with some application, unless someone writes something outside of Facebook and links to my post, few people will ever see it.

One last thing: most every other content website out there allows you to “share” your content and will provide you with a direct URL.

Sharing in Tumblr
Sharing in Google
Sharing in Flickr

But not Facebook.

facebook sharing



So, to me, having Facebook celebrating the work of Berners-Lee seems disingenuous at best, and downright arrogant at worst.