Friday, December 31, 2010

Event Schedule for January

We are off to a busy start at Paragraphs for the New Year. If you are looking for something different to do, please take advantage of one or more of the following opportunities. I think we have some talented and interesting authors lined up and an interesting schedule of book signings, discussions and readings, planned.

All events at Paragraphs are free and open to the public. We provide refreshments and no purchase is ever required. You are welcome to come, listen and visit with our guests. We just provide the venue and the speakers. It is your participation that makes these evenings worth the effort.

Saturday, Jan 1st 2-4pm – What a way to start the New Year and give your resolutions a chance! Come out and join us for some New Year’s cheer and spend time with Kathy Sparrow, a life coach, trainer and inspirational speaker. In addition to her presentation on her book, she will help inspire us with ways to keep our resolutions that so often fall by the wayside with the hectic and pressured lifestyle we lead.

Her book, On the Mother Lagoon: Fly Fishing and the Spiritual Journey (Wish Publishing, 2003), chronicles Sparrow’s development from novice saltwater fly fisher to a fully fledged, US Coast Guard Captain and saltwater fly fishing guide on the Lower Laguna Madre. In it, she shares her psychospiritual development, as well as the technical aspects, of mastering this quiet sport. Both male and female readers will identify with her ability to honestly share her struggles, setbacks, and successes of her fly fishing experiences.

Tuesday, Jan 25th 2-4 PM – Venselaar, who writes poetry and prose will be signing her novel, Musical Voyage. Musical Voyage demonstrates the enormous feeling and self-discipline which artists, musicians, writers and painters need to possess in addition to the great love for their art.

Nelly Venselaar, who also writes under the pen name Petra Van Slooten, has won awards for her poetry. She is a member of the Valley Byliners.

Friday, Jan 28th 6-7 PM – Poetry reading and reception with poet Kamala Platt.

Dr. Kamala Platt's first decade was shaped by family legacies in human rights work and life on the prairie in rural Kansas. She began writing as she learned to read, and her mother, herself a writer, encouraged her daughter’s interest through a summer class with octogenarian poet Cora M. Nicodemus.

Subsequently, Platt has studied poetry with Bienvenido N. Santos, Victor Contoski, Keith Ratzlaff, Raylene Hinz-Penner, Howard McCord and Al Young, among others.

Thursday, Feb 3rd 1-2 and 5-7 – Jenne Savery and Betty Hanawa romance writers and authors of numerous works will be at Paragraphs to sign and discuss the trials and tribulations of writing romance novels.

Thursday, Feb 10th 5-7 –Author, Daniel Dinges will return to Paragraphs to discuss and sign his novel Get Out of the Way. The book gives a front row-view of a young man's fight to stay alive during the cultural revolution of the legendary sixties. A panorama of the times, Tom struggles to endure the personal battles of love and family while avoiding being in the cross hairs of another man's gun. In a time when many would not survive either battle, Tom is determined to Get Out of the Way!

Author Daniel Dinges currently resides in the Rio Grande Valley after a varied career in business, consulting, and management. He holds degrees in economics and business. He is the father of two, grandfather of two, and enjoys golf, movies, music, reading, and travel.

Wednesday, Feb 16th 1-2PM and 4-6PM - Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas is for All Ages. Written by Jeanette Larson and published by Charlesbridge Publishing.

Jeanette Larson is a children's literature and library services consultant and trainer, currently serving as an adjunct professor for Texas Woman's University. She's the former Youth Services Manager at Austin Public Library and former Director of Library Development for the Texas State Library where she also served as Manager of Continuing Education and Consulting.

Jeanette's professional accomplishments include work with the Texas Reading Club, the Texas Book Festival, the "Mother Goose Asks Why" program, and the Reach Out and Read program. She has experience as a Children's Services Librarian as well as extensive community involvement with reading and education initiatives. The Texas Library Association honored her as Librarian of the Year in 1998 and awarded her the Siddie Joe Johnson Award for outstanding contributions to children's librarianship in 2002.

We are excited about having the opportunity to have Jeanette join us while she is in the area doing some work at the Port Isabel Public Library.

Ongoing Events:

Play Readers Anonymous:
The second Monday of each month (except March) the Anonymous Play Readers Group meets at 7PM. All are welcome to join us for this monthly evening of fun. Why not join us as we explore and read the character parts in a casual atmosphere? Everyone is welcome and scripts are provided. The next date is January 10, 2011.

Author’s Round Table:
With the beginning of the new year Paragraphs will be hosting a monthly gathering where experienced or beginning authors can meet, discuss and share their experiences with writing and getting publishing. Whether you have a manuscript prepared, have already been published, or still have all your ideas in your head waiting to be transcribed to paper, this is an ideal opportunity to meet others with similar interests and to get or give advice about anything to do with your writing life.

Held on the fourth Monday of the month at 7PM. The first meeting will be January 24th.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Gift of the Magi

I love listening to books. It is like having someone read a story to you and allows your mind to concentrate on the images represented by the words. I am too young to remember the radio shows which provided families with hours of entertainment before the popularity of television, but I can understand what attracted so many to gather around the radio in the evenings. Anyway, today, there are many ways of listening to books. The iphone, ipad, computers, CD players, ipod and a host of other audio devices makes this form of entertainment easy to enjoy. While the bestselling books, when released on CD, are sometimes a little too expensive for my budget, there are hours of enjoyment that can be had for free., is the audio equivalent to Both organizations, manned entirely by volunteers, work to give the public access to all works in the public domain. Those who volunteer for Librivox, read works and save them to an audio file which is then uploaded and combined with readings by others until a complete book has been recorded. The books are then made available for download or can be listened on any mobile device.

I am thinking about this now because I was sitting at my desk, listening to a short story as I entered used books into inventory.

O. Henry, the pen name for William Sidney Porter, is known for his short stories. He spent his young adulthood in Austin, Texas.

"The Gift of the Magi" is one of his most famous stories and the premise of the story has been retold and will continue to be a classic tale of love and the true value of gift-giving.

A young woman, Della, wants to buy her beloved husband a gift for Christmas, but has only one dollar and some change to spend. It is Christmas Eve and time has run out. She finally decides to cut and sell her beautiful hair to raise the money to buy her husband, Jim, a watch chain for his treasured gold pocket watch which he had inherited from his father.

I won't tell you the ending. You can listen to Betsie Bush read this classic Christmas story on Librivox here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More on Reading EBooks

I often have customers ask what effect the movement towards ebooks is having on my business. This is a hard number for me to identify, since Paragraphs is such a new store and our customer base is a little different than many. We are a tourist resort, and many of our customers are looking for the perfect beach read, and generally the idea of taking an expensive e-reader to the beach is not very popular.

But, like everything else, change happens and we will evolve. This year's step forward for us was setting up the online bookstore and creating an affiliate agreement with Audible. So now if you want to continue to support Paragraphs, but are unable to come in to the physical store on South Padre Island, you can order directly from You are also able to connect to Audible through our link, which gives us a commission on your audio book downloads.

But, currently, Paragraphs does not sell ebooks, online or in the store. We are looking at the alternatives and hope to eventually be in a position where if a customer comes in to the store they can visit with us, get a recommendation, and then if they want the book on an e-reader they will be able to buy and download it like any other book we offer.

The ebook model is evolving rapidly and I do not understand it as well as I need to, but I am researching and learning as much as I can. It is important to me to be able to give my customers the best information available about their reading choices -- whether it be which books to read or how to read them.

When you begin shopping for an ereader, as I know many of you will do over this holiday season, look for something that allows you to shop for and buy or download books from a variety of providers. My major complaint with Amazon and the Kindle is the proprietary nature of the device. With the Kindle, you can only buy books from Amazon. If Amazon decides not to provide a digital copy of a certain title, you cannot download it from a different source.

But what are the options? I would suggest you consider any of the following devices either for your phone, computer or as a stand alone ebook reader:

* BeBook
* BlackBerry
* Bookeen
* COOL-ER Reader
* EZ Reader
* iPhone
* IREX Digital Reader

* Kobo
* Mac
* Mentor

* Nook
* PC
* Pocket PC Device
* Sony Reader

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Electronic Books and Reading Devices

I am a little swamped right now and don't have time to write a complete post about what I, as an independent bookstore owner, feel about the rise of electronic books so I am going to copy parts of a post I read this morning by a fellow bookshop owner whom I respect and have become online friends with during our first two years of business.

Aaron's Books, is the true independent bookshop, in all the ways one thinks about when imagining a community bookstore, located in Lititz, PA. Sam, Todd, and son Aaron are all about sustainability, supporting the local community, and of course, encouraging people of all ages to read. Here are some thoughts they shared on the bookstore blog about electronic readers. With Christmas just around the corner I thought it might be helpful for those of you thinking about buying an e-reader for someone you love.

It may come as a shock but we are not “against” E-Reading devices. The staff here personally prefers good old paper books, but we fully understand in today’s fast moving and digital age that e-books are preferred by others. And honestly, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can easily by both!

Another shock, you can have an e-reader and still buy both paper and digital books from your local indie!

Today Google and the American Booksellers association launched Google-Ebooks. There are currently more than 100 indie bookstores participating in this endeavor, which just started today! While we are not, there are several in PA that are, and we recommend you download from one of them, as their tax dollars go towards the same state budget ours do (note: when shopping at Amazon ZERO dollars gets recirculated into PA!)
Here is more about this great announcement!

Paragraphs is also not participating in the Google ebooks program at this time, however there are several American Bookseller's Association member stores in Texas that do and I would encourage you to shop from them for the same reason. When you download from a Texas independent bookstore, your sales tax dollars stay in Texas, the same as when you shop at Paragraphs.

Participating Texas Bookstores include:

Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX

BookPeople in Austin, TX

Katy Budget Books in Austin, TX

A complete listing of stores is located at

So on with the post from Aaron's Books:

That all being said, if you’re thinking about gifting someone on your list an e-reader this holiday season here are some thoughts.

1) There are many machines that do more than e-read, ANY device with internet access can give the user the ability to shop locally while downloading e-books.

2) Lots of dedicated e-readers (meaning all they do is e-books/magazines) offer the ability to order books from multiple sources, EXCEPT the Kindle.

3) If you do buy your giftee a Kindle, know that they are no longer able to shop locally when buying an e-book. The Kindle is programmed as a device that WILL only download from Amazon (aka Evil River Empire). The Kindle, as a “locked” device does not allow for reading the book on more than one device.

(With the new Google e-books, your book is stored on the Google “cloud” allowing for multiple device reading).

There are also security issue with the Kindle - Amazon has the ability to track everything you read, highlight, and make notes on; and has the ability to remove any book from your device at any time they feel the need to.

So as you’re thinking about gifting an e-reader, please keep these things in mind.

Want us to help you pick out good e-books to download from an indie? We’re happy to help you, and can even get you started right here in the store!

Happy Reading (E- or Paper!)

I hope this will give you some information about the possibilities out there relating to buying an ereader. One thing not mentioned is the ability to download books from your library. Using a Kindle, this is not possible. My mother is a member of the Denver Public Library, as was I until moving to TX, and it is possible to download most new titles in ebook format and also as audio books. You cannot take advantage of library services with a Kindle.

As the technology becomes more mainstream I would consider selecting a device which gives you the most flexibility to take advantage of obtaining content from the greatest variety of sources.

And, like Aaron's Books, we at Paragraphs are here to help you pick out books that you will enjoy, no matter how you select to "read" them.

Christmas Time on the Island

I am getting ready to do my Christmas decorating today and was looking at the Island schedule for the season. There are events for everyone this year. Come by the store or stop at any retailer or the visitor center and pick up a bookmark with the 12 Days of Holiday Celebration schedule. You can also find the complete schedule on Facebook at SPI Jolly Days.

My hat is off to the brand new SPI Parks and Recreation Committee for the work they have done and the tremendous list of events they have coordinated. What is special about this committee and the 12 Days of Holiday Celebration is it is truly a community effort. Most of the activities are free or merely charge enough to cover the costs and all are sponsored by area businesses at venues across the island.

And I also want to remind everyone about the book signing and discussion with Daniel Dinges on December 11. His book, "Get Out of the Way" gives a front row-view of a young man's fight to stay alive during the cultural revolution of the legendary sixties. A panorama of the times, the main character of the novel, Tom struggles to endure the personal battles of love and family while avoiding being in the crosshairs of another man's gun.

Daniel Dinges currently resides in the Rio Grande Valley after a varied career in business, consulting, and management. He holds degrees in economics and business. He is the father of two, grandfather of two, and enjoys golf, movies, music, reading, and travel.

And then on Sunday, December 12, the Sandbox Inn will again present Raina Rose at 7 pm for another backyard concert. If you have not attended one of the events offered during the Sandbox Inn Concert series, you really must give it a try. Sitting under the stars, surrounded by swaying palms and fragrant vines, listening to some of the most talented singer songwriters from all over the country, this is a true opportunity not to be missed.

Yes indeed, it is looking to be a very busy Holiday season on South Padre Island.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

El Valle, The Rio Grande Delta

I remember talking with Nancy Marsden shortly after moving to the island, and she told me her nephew was working on a book about the Rio Grande Valley, but at the time I had no idea what a monumental project Seth was actually undertaking. I expected the beautiful photography and knew this would be a lovely coffee table book but did not expect the depth of talent and expertise which is represented in this volume.

I attended the launch party in Brownsville several months ago and was impressed with the wonderful turnout. Since purchasing my copy of El Valle, that evening, I have spent many enjoyable hours pouring over the pages and becoming more familiar with what makes this part of the country so unique. I know Seth has been busy in the area giving a series of presentations and slide shows to promote the book and what it represents. I am pleased to have the opportunity to welcome Seth Patterson, photographer for Gorgas Foundation and the book production manager for El Valle, to Paragraphs, to discuss his experiences in producing such a beautiful book.
A first of its kind, El Valle takes the reader on a visual journey through the Valley, from Falcon Lake to the Gulf of Mexico, exploring the rich biodiversity and cultural legacy that has taken root along the banks of the Rio Grande.
The volume is definitely a cross-border effort and much thought has gone into the bi-lingual presentation. Eugenio J. Hernandez Flores, Governor of the state of Tamaulipas, states in his introductory letter:
People from Texas and Tamaulipas are fortunate to share more than a border. Along the banks of the Rio Grande, we enjoy a historic diverse, and constructive relationship that has shown us the importance of working together in overcoming common challenges and harnessing our mutual strengths.

Many topics converge along this border, long considered one of the world's most dynamic. These include the vital goal of conserving and protecting our natural resources.
I cannot say enough good things about this book, you really need to see it and peruse it at your leisure to truly understand what a comprehensive view of the Rio Grande Valley the book provides. The photos are exquisite, but, the narrative, which was written by 28 well-respected specialists in their specific areas of expertise and all incredibly knowledgeable about the Rio Grande River Delta, gives the photography even greater depth.

As Laurence V. Lof, President and CEO of the Gorgas Science Foundation, Inc. states in his preface to the book:
We hope this book introduces you to the many faces of the Rio Grande Delta. These images provide a touchstone from which we hope you will explore beyond this brief introduction.
A new appreciation of the Rio Grande Delta is growing, and an increased pride in our unique heritage is taking hold, as is a commitment to help document and preserve our identity and the legacy for which we are all stewards.

Reading through this book I was amazed at the uniqueness of the lower Rio Grande Valley, and reminded how important it is that we respect nature and protect the fragile open and natural spaces which remain.

El Valle - The Rio Grande Delta is published by the Gorgas Science Foundation in collaboration with Earth in Focus Editions, the publishing arm of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and joins a prestigious collection of publications aimed at raising awareness to the importance of responsible land stewardship and conservation of our vanishing natural resources.

I hope to have a good turnout for the presentation and slide show tomorrow night, December 2, at 6:00pm. It will be a great learning experience and a lot of fun to have Seth, at Paragraphs, and I am thrilled that his mother, known on Facebook as Dolphinwhisper Scarlet Colley will also be joining us. So stop by, say hello, and share a glass of wine.