Over the last six months, my acquisition of English-language books has increased considerably because of the ease of getting them through the local branch of Amazon. Meanwhile, for old stuff of a historical or genealogical nature, the Gallica service of the BnF (bibliothèque nationale de France) has been useful at times, but not as much as I would have hoped. [Click here to see this service.]
A new system named Europeana has just gone into action. It is the French contribution to a future European digital library with an ugly but logical name: BnuE (bibliothèque numérique européenne). It goes without saying that this European initiative aims explicitly to counteract the dominance of Google Book Search in this domain. If you want to read, not only Racine and Hugo, but also Shakespeare, Dickens and Dante, then Europeana is the place to go. [Click here or on the banner to visit the website, whose interface is only in French for the moment.] For the moment, the catalog of Europeana is not very rich, compared with Google's present achievement of a million scanned books. [Click here to visit Google Book Search.]
If everything goes as planned, the great advantage of Europeana, compared with Google Books, will be the possibility of downloading fragments of a book in text format, so that they can be pasted into the user's work.
For me, the subject of books reveals that I remain a very old-fashioned fellow. While I love to see stuff flashing up onto the screen of my Macintosh, I must admit that there's nothing better, on cold evenings, than to sit in front of my open fireplace, with my bare feet up on the hearth, and a good book in my hands.
I remember our potter friend Maurice Crignon pointing out that the "three eights" system applies, not only to ordinary folk (roughly: work, personal affairs and sleep), but also to monks (even more roughly: their daily schedule of prayers, worldly activities and sleep). Well, I've created a personal three-part breakdown for my daily existence. It's not an earthshaking invention. The early moments of the morning are for thinking. The main part of the day is for writing or working on my computer. And evenings are for reading, or watching a little TV. I'm convinced that the human brain functions in a way that encourages this particular time-based division of operations.