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Looking For Books on the Net

4 giugno 2003

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As the only reader this weblog has ever had probably knows, I’m Italian and live in Italy. What he (yes, I’m not politically correct) probably does not know is that I mostly read English books, since translations into Italian from a non-latin language are usually awful.

I regularly scout the few English bookshops in Milan where I live, but they mostly only carry serious literature, school books and the latest books in print. To find any good book published more than a year back takes time, and luck.

So I started buying books from the net as soon as it was possible (I still remember telnetting to in uhm 1993 or 1994), and later discovered that many books (well, a few if you don’t count technical or sf/fantasy books) are available on IRC to the great relief of my ever-empty wallet (but I try to buy the books I like in paper format anyway whenever I find them). I bought (well, bartered for a 1U rackmount server) a Compaq Ipaq and started reading e- books to save shipping costs and taxes, or the book price whenever I manage to find something on IRC.

One of the problems with buying on the net is that you can’t feel the books, which for me (as, I suspect, for everybody else) involves browsing the shelves, looking at the covers, reading a few pages. So I often find myself trying to coerce the Amazon recommendations engine into fetching decent results, then looking on IRC/Fictionwise/Amazon Ebooks. From time to time I come upon a good site or a good list.

A while ago I found (and posted as a comment on Slashdot earning a few karma points *rubs his hands*) the Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Works site, a huge collection of reviews cross-indexed by author, title, rating, etc.

Last night I spent a good twenty minutes reading the reviews on the Amazon list by mystery_ink (which, incidentally, is ranked 548th among the Top 1000 Amazon reviewers), and I agreed with many of them. The list features mostly hard- boiled mystery novels and is pretty extensive and very well done.