Mixed Media

E-Reading: Mission Impossible?

The tuned in editor gave me a mission: read an electronic book and report back. I decided to accept this mission in the interest of keeping Banner readers informed and as a test of my e-ability.

I got technical support from Tim, a friend from church, who lent me a pocket-sized computer, otherwise known as a PDA (personal digital assistant). My plan was to download Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, which I had to read for a book club.

I had been told that e-books can be “borrowed” from the library for 21 days, after which the file becomes inoperative. But McEwan’s novel was not available, library offerings were limited, and I couldn’t figure out how to download anything.

Disappointed, yet undeterred, I forged up the Amazon—the dot-com one—and successfully purchased a downloadable version for $9.99. (Paperback copies are less expensive, so the savings is only over a hardcover edition.) Then I engaged in mortal combat with my computer mouse when I couldn’t figure out how to activate the e-reader program. Tim saved the day and my mouse: “Click where it says activate,” said he. And voilà, my very own e-book appeared.

On the PDA, with the font enlarged, the novel showed up as 2,925 screen pages! Unable to view an entire paragraph or physically judge the size of a chapter, I was disoriented. Once I figured out how to click ahead, reading was easier.

The PDA had its advantages. I could read anywhere, in line or between innings. I could read in bed, without light or the sound of turning pages—and without waking my wife. The main disadvantages were (1) not daring to read in the bathtub and (2) comments from my kids about “too much screen time.”

When I got into the novel, I forgot I was reading from a computer. Printed books and PDA screens offer different technology to transmit content, which, ultimately, counts the most.

A p-book is still easier to use than an e-book. Until electronic books offer the simplicity or savings of newer digital cameras or an iPod, I will continue to prefer print over pixels.  ¦


reviewed by Cara Daining

Artsonia.com, a website constructed to help children release their creative energy, showcases kids’ artwork from across the world in its online art galleries. Visitors can peruse the collection by searching countries, school names, or cities. Parents can not only monitor their child’s work, they can also censor comments left by viewers regarding their child’s masterpieces. Mugs, stickers, teddy bears, and other items adorned with a child’s art are available too, providing great gifts for Grandma or Uncle Larry. Schools can use Artsonia as a fundraiser, as 15 percent of the proceeds purchased from a school’s section on the website go to that school’s art department. Art teachers can set up a free account with Artsonia by visiting the website.

CDThe Builder and the Architect

by Sandra McCracken

reviewed by Robert Keely

Sandra McCracken has been leading a double life. While she has released three Americana/folk albums demonstrating her fine songwriting, compelling voice, and Christian worldview, she has also been active with the Indelible Grace projects, setting old hymn texts to new tunes. For her fourth offering, The Builder and the Architect, McCracken brings these two parts of her musical life together with an album of hymns. Many of these songs’ lyrics were crafted a century ago, but McCracken also includes hymns that she wrote and composed. McCracken’s sparse arrangements and warm vocals give the songs a delightful new dimension. The overall emphasis on God’s grace and his work in our lives makes this album encouraging and comforting. (Same Old Dress Music)


reviewed by Ray Wiersma

Much more than simple definitions, thefreedictionary.com website is easy to use and provides access to a variety of resources. The site includes legal, medical, and financial dictionaries, as well as an encyclopedia. Visitors can impress their friends by learning the word of the day, or they can practice vocabulary skills by playing a round of hangman. A unique aspect is the audio feature, which allows users to listen to the pronunciation of the words they are looking up. Finally, with a few simple clicks, visitors can customize the website’s homepage so that it fits their individual preferences and needs.


by Marina Budhos

reviewed by Kathryn Hoffman

Nadira is Bangladeshi, 14, and invisible. At least, that is how she feels next to her bright and beautiful sister, Aisha. For years, Nadira and her family have lived in New York City on expired visas. Because of 9/11, harsher immigration regulations push them to seek asylum in Canada. When their father is arrested Nadira and Aisha struggle to balance the facade of normal life with the mounting fear of deportation. Nadira must discover her strengths in an effort to reunite her family. This book reminds readers of all ages that the need to belong is universal. (Atheneum)

DEVOTIONALThrough the Bible, Through the Year

by John Stott

reviewed by Lori Vanden Bosch

Many devotional writers emphasize story over substance and feel-good inspiration over solid scriptural teaching. Not so John Stott. In this 365-day devotional, the well-known evangelical Anglican leader takes us on a journey through the Christian year, with readings from the entire Bible. The book is divided into three parts: September to December focuses on the Old Testament; January to April gives an overview of the life of Christ; and May to August introduces us to the writings and work of the apostles. Stott’s writing is sober and serious, attuned to modern scholarship and issues but solidly founded on traditional Christian teaching. (Baker)

About the Author

Otto Selles teaches French at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., and attends Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.