After racing through all three of Asimov's Elijah Baley/Daneel Olivaw novels in as many weeks, I feel right back in the reading game. I've regained momentum by reading something that slides into the brain the way ice-cream goes down the gullet (to borrow a comparison made by my friend Dave). Thus, I found it more important than ever to get my hands on a Pierre Berton book, so I could advance the Bunch of Authors project.
As I described in my last post, local bookshops left me without hope; three of Melbourne's regional libraries did have his work, but only one book apiece - one about Niagra Falls. Now, I could have caved and made the trek, but in the end I decided to punt for one of the books I really wanted to read.
Enter Booktopia. I first heard about them via a list of Amazon alternatives, following the so-called "Amazonfail" episode. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a pretty good explanation of "Amazonfail".) I was abstractly irritated by that event, but to be honest it was more the horrendous postage that prevented me from buying books on Amazon. Booktopia is unique, as far as I know; while it does have a warehouse, it's not really a traditional online bookshop. Instead it lists books from publisher catalogues, putting in a special order with the publisher when you order your book.
I like this approach, because the model allows them to sell virtually any book with low overheads. It also highlights a truth that many bookstores seem to like keeping quiet: they can order pretty much any book from any publisher at any time, assuming it's still in print. I knew this when I worked at a bookshop in the early 90s, back when we didn't have computerised ordering (we had a yearly phone-book sized publication which listed available books by author, publisher and title).
So, for the recommended retail price plus a modest postage amount - and it's a flat fee no matter how many books you order - I am now awaiting the arrival of Berton's The Invasion of Canada: 1812-1813. I've also been to the bookshop and bought the next book after that, so there'll be no delay. After all, I've only about seven months left to get through these books - and some of them aren't short, and many may not be Asimov-style ice-cream. Plus, I'll need to make sure I have the last one or two ready to go with me to New York - where I'm excited to say I'll be heading for three weeks in November/December!
One quick note about Booktopia: the URL, as linked above, is http://www.booktopia.com.au - and it's important not to leave out the .au, as the .com site has been reported for malware distribution (or so Firefox and Google tell me).
Hopefully I'll be able to let you know what I think of Berton in a week or three. In the meantime, I plan to keep up my momentum by reading some other books, possibly including Tim Richards' Mind the Gap (a print-on-demand published sci-fi/fantasy work which I bought at the launch a week or two ago) and Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas, a belated birthday gift from Scott, one of my best friends.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I have finally got around to reading one of the books I purchased from McSweeny's alongside Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country. It's titled Animals of the Ocean, In Particular the Giant Squid, and a more hilarious collection of anti-factual nonsense I have never seen. I've been reading it to my beloved in bed and she laughed so hard I thought she would die. It's the third volume in the "Haggis-on-Whey World of Unbelievable Brilliance", or "HoW?" series of books; kind of a literary equivalent of Peter Serafinowicz's Look Around You. Even though I particularly like cephalopods, I think I'll enjoy the rest of the series just as much.