By Heather Pisani-Kristl, Librarian
From the Enigma Project to the Berlin Wall
This month at the La Mesa Library, two guest speakers will relate their experiences of life during World War II and the Cold War.
On Friday, May 8 at 2 p.m., Margaret Francis will give a first-hand account of the Enigma codebreaking project, recently popularized in the film “The Imitation Game.” Francis was a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service and spent 18 months operating one of the decoding machines that gave the Allies an advantage over German forces.
On Wednesday, May 27 at 11 a.m., local author J. Elke Ertle will discuss her childhood and young adulthood in West Berlin, constricted by Communist East Berlin and her family’s high expectations. Ertle will sign and sell copies of her memoir, “Walled-In,” following the presentation.
Both free events are part of the Older Americans Month celebration taking place during May at all San Diego County Library branches. For more details, call the library at 619-469-2151 or check our website at SDCL.org.
A Tale of Two E-books
Just before my recent trip to Japan, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten announced their intent to purchase OverDrive, the e-book interface used by San Diego County Library as well as most major public library systems in the U.S. This piqued my curiosity about the state of reading and e-books in Japan. In cities, at least, Japanese readers seem to be engaged with printed text rather than e-books, and often read lightweight paperback reprints of major titles (known as bunko) while commuting. In March, nine of the top 10 bestselling titles from Japanese wholesaler Nippon Shupan Hanbai, Inc. were written by Japanese authors, while the American-authored bestseller was “Lessons from Madame Chic,” a guide to living elegantly à la française by California author Jennifer L. Scott. Bookstores are common in all urban shopping areas, and there are multiple bookstore chains in Japan, contrasting with a single remaining national chain in the U.S. I noticed only a handful of e-readers being used in public.
Despite its reputation for electronic wizardry, Japan has lagged behind the U.S. in adopting e-book technology for two reasons: the late arrival of standardized publishing software that could support vertical and left-to-right reading, and Japanese publishers’ reluctance to release e-book editions. However, with Rakuten owning both OverDrive and the e-reader company Kobo, Japanese consumers’ e-book options should increase. Some book industry watchers in the U.S. have expressed concern that Rakuten’s rivalry with Amazon will endanger OverDrive’s agreement to carry Kindle books. I am hoping that Amazon is not foolish enough to take its toys and go home, and that OverDrive users will have more, not fewer, titles to choose from in the future due to Rakuten’s buying power.
Perhaps this has reminded you about a neglected e-reader, smartphone or tablet computer sitting on your nightstand. If so, you can jump-start your e-reading by making a tutoring appointment with one of the La Mesa librarians. We work with all kinds of devices and will explain how to use OverDrive to borrow library books anywhere you have an Internet connection. Contact us at 619-469-2151 to make an appointment.
News from our Friends
Spring cleaning is upon us. The Friends of La Mesa Library are seeking like-new donations of fiction and popular non-fiction published within the past five years, such as novels, mysteries, thrillers, cookbooks, history and biography. Due to our small storage space, we cannot accept more than one box or bag per customer daily. Any items not added to the library’s collection will be sold in the Friends of the Library bookstore, and the proceeds will directly support library events and building improvements. We thank you for your generosity.
—Heather Pisani-Kristl is the manager of the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave. or get information online at sdcl.org.