Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rain, Elbows, Blackberries, and Books

This has been the week of monsoon rain in NJ. We got rain and then more rain and then even more rain. Louisiana got snow, but oh no, we got rain. You can tell that I'm not particularly pleased about this...

Today, in particular, brings us another one of the entries in the ongoing series, "How to injure yourself". My great feat today was managing to swing my right elbow into the broken towel bar in our bathroom, which is waiting to be replaced with an intact towel bar. Elbow into towel bar=great pain. It's clearing up now, but I thought it particularly apt to warn any of you who might have rogue towel bars out there waiting to attack you.

I've also been debating with myself this week whether I need a Blackberry or not. I've grown sick of my tiny little phone, which is some model or other from Motorola. I'm stuck with Verizon for a number of reasons, service being the primary one. This lets me choose from the Storm (and how it has been panned), the 8830 (which I have heard is quite clunky), and the Curve. I'm leaning towards the Curve at the moment, but I'm still gulping at the thought of paying $150/month for unlimited minutes, etc. That's A LOT for phone and e-mail.

My father keeps trying to dissuade me from purchasing the Blackberry, since he insists that it's a "Crackberry", and I should never go near one. So, LIT SOUP readers, what is your take on it? Do you love your Blackberries? Hate them? Never want to go near one, and thus have never bought one? How useful do you find them? My primary rationale is that whenever I travel into the city for a business lunch, or even go do errands during the day, I lose massive amounts of time where I could be answering e-mail.

Finally, a lot of other authors and agents and editors have been making a similar plea on their blogs, but I haven't really done a full round of one yet... so, without further ado...

As the holiday season approaches, please consider buying a book as a gift for a friend or family member. They are cheaper than movies, and can be shared among multiple family members. They offer hours of entertainment, even for the fastest readers. They support your favorite authors and allow them to keep writing. They can be lent out; they can be traded; they can be sold at used book stores afterwards.

In my opinion, books are ready-made friends. They are waiting to whisk you off to a world of adventure or escapism or knowledge, whatever your cup of tea is. You can vicariously go to Morroco through a cookbook specialzing in tangines; you can go to the moon in a science fiction novel; you can help solve a mystery; or you can learn why Lincoln was a great president. They give you knowledge and entertainment and escapsim. Most importantly, they help you expand your horizons, by the simple act of turning pages, whether paper or electronic ones.

Please consider buying a book, especially this holiday season.


Thacher said...

I bought a smart phone (a Blackjack 2) about a couple of months ago to keep track of all my work stuff, as I was finding myself forgetting various due dates and meetings and the like (I own my own business) and it's quickly become a lifesaver. Having the appointment information is good, but the messaging and email is a real help. I don't write that many messages on it, but I'm a compulsive email checker. So much so that I could be in the middle of doing something else and idly think "Hey, I haven't checked my email yet this hour," and I'd log into mail and see that. Now I know that if I get a message, it'll come to my phone, so I can just relax. Plus the full keyboard has let me do some writing on the fly when I've got a few spare seconds. The extra amount for data and texting can be daunting, but after running over on both one month paying the extra was worth it.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

I heard the 8830 is good if you drop your phone a lot, or if it is often attacked by towel bars.

I've bought books for the entire family - except - the two teenage girls (13 & 17) I was going to buy Twilight but you put the kabootz on that idea. Any suggestions?

green_knight said...

Your other alternative is to take two months' worth of blackberrying (yikes!) and invest them in a dedicated e-book reader. This would allow you to use your travel time for reading and, AFAIK, note-taking. Might this be an option?

If I went for a smartphone I'm afraid it would be an iPhone. I haven't roadtested either, but the people I know are very happy with theirs.

BJ said...

I've heard that once you get a Blackberry, you have no freedom. You can't get away from work, and you wind up doing more work on your own time. This is why a lot of companies buy them for their employees - lots of work they don't have to pay for. Don't know how this would affect someone who works for herself, though...

I went into a store once to get a Blackberry or some such. I was going away and wanted something to do for the 8 hours I'd have to spend waiting for a connecting flight. I was looking at the ones with an attachable full keyboard, so I could write. The salesman suggested something else for the same price -- a tiny notebook computer called an Asus EeePC. Comes with a wireless card, and even a webcam. It's not a phone, but I think it's better. It weighs a couple pounds (if that) and you can do anything you can do on a computer - write, use Skype, e-mail, everything. I even use it to record interviews for articles. Need I say - I love it.

Don't know if this would be useful for you, but I'm glad I got it instead of the Blackberry.

Point taken about towel bars. Something else to watch for: counter corners. I've got permanent bruises on my elbows...

Lorien said...

I'm currently overseas, but when I return to the States next year I plan to go back to a standard cell phone plan and buy an iPod Touch.

The Touch has wireless, so it'll connect to whatever wi-fi is available. It also serves as a scheduler, e-reader, etc.

I don't need the constant access to the internet because wi-fi is available in a healthy number of the places where I go out and about town: university, bookstores, cafes, and downtown areas.

The data plans are intimidating. You are required with most of the carriers to purchase certain data plans. When I added it all up, I was looking at the price of the phone (iPhone or Blackberry, and preferring the iPhone for its versatility) plus approx. $150-200 a month. At this point I would rather limit my access to a medium degree and save the expense. The Touch, which is essentially a wifi PDA, seems like the best compromise.

Jenny Rappaport said...

green_knight, I have the ebook reader already. =) I really need something that will sync with a remote calendar too, since I am inundated with tiny appointment cards and am constantly misplacing them.

Which leads to much frantic rushing, the day of the appointment...

I much prefer being able to link my e-mail with my appointments, which I do now.

marikris said...

I was looking at the iphone for some time, but really it's just a glorified ipod+cell phone. It can't MMS or copy/paste, and since I have that on my cheap phone and use them a lot, I'd rather do without the iphone. Plus AT&T have the worst coverage in my area (my college is a dead zone, as well as random places in and around the road leading to my apartment). It's become making calls a chore.

My husband bought a Blackberry world edition (8830?) and he loves it. I should preface by saying he never once cared about cell phones and always bought the cheapest one, but since getting BB, he can't do anything but praise it. He goes out of the country a lot and when he's INCONUS, the GPS helps. The email capabilities are awesome, and best of all, he loves the QWERTY keyboard. The keys are not as big as he would like (he's got big fingers haha), but it's better than touchscreen where, surely, typing would be impossible for him.

The Storm seems like an awesome device, but I have read a lot about it since I'm also considering it. Apparently, it gets bogged down and lags badly, according to user comments. And their innovative click-touch screen (for lack of the right term) gets your fingers tired if you have to use it for a period of time. You have to push harder to type.

With all the features in smartphones these days, I guess it would just depend on what you needed. Myself, I realize I like to take pictures (and, like I said, I already have an ipod) and email, so I am also looking at the Samsung Omnia with its 5 megapixel camera. The email I'm sure is not as sleek as the Storm's, but I can sacrifice it for the camera.

Hope that helps ~

PS. Julie, have they ever read L.J. Smith's Night World Series? They reissued them in collections (3 books for the nine stories) and I've loved them (and reread them again and again) since I found the series in the library when I was 15.

Carl said...

I used to have a Blackberry Pearl. It was okay, but I like to use my phone for a lot of other functions like reading e-books, games, MP3 player, etc. Plus, I do use it for e-mail too, so the keyboard was an issue as well. The Pearl, with it's tiny screen, limited third party software, and scrunched keyboard just wasn't cutting it.

I had considered upgrading to the Curve, but it was still a Blackberry OS and they keyboard was still just a little small for my liking. So I switched over to the Windows Mobile world with an AT&T Tilt (similar phones are available from all carriers). It has a large touch screen, huge third party app support, and best of all, a large keyboard (you just slide the phone open and the keyboard is the length of the phone). I don't know how I ever survived with that little Blackberry.

As for price, well, my company pays for it (they get their money's worth too, like the other posted said, they get extra work out of me on my days off). But if price is a consideration, consider this... the phone can also be used as a tethered modem. Since it is a 3G phone, I get about 1.2 Mbps download speed on it. That's about 50% faster than my DSL connection at home. Perhaps something like that might add value for you?

Lorien said...

Careful with the tethered modem issue. You'll want to check the contracts thoroughly, and maybe even call in and ask about it.

I can't find the article just now, but there was a prominent case earlier this year (summertime?) about a fellow who used his cell data plan as a tethered modem. He assumed that unlimited data meant, in fact, unlimited data. Instead, the modem services cost extra. He was charged with over a hundred thousand dollars for a single month's usage.

It's possible that companies have loosened in the past months, of course, and it's also possible that not all companies have that policy. I'd check the contracts!

Also, I'd assume that using the phone as a modem would be a serious drain on the battery.

Carl said...

I agree, read the fine print carefully. And some "unlimited plans" aren't really unlimited and have usage caps in place.

As for the battery drain issue, it's not really an issue. Since the phone is tethered to the computer via a USB connection, the phone is charging while connected.

Publicist said...

I couldn't live without my blackberry curve simply for the email function. As long as I have cell service, I get all my important emails almost instantaneously and can reply immediately. I can't tell you how much work I've gotten done during my walking commutes, waiting in line, sitting at red lights (though that's probably not a great idea). I guess you could say that I'm doing work in my "free time", but by putting those three or four minutes to use throughout the day, it saves me the hours it would take to do it all at once.

I don't find the calendar and task functions on the curve very useful, but I'm a compulsive listmaker and scheduler. The "memo" function is extremely useful. Whenever I find myself struck with a great idea, there's never a piece of paper around, but I always have my blackberry to write it down. Now if only there was a way to use it in the pool...I always find myself brainstorming while I'm swimming laps.

So you're dad is exactly right. The blackberry will quickly become a crackberry, but for me, it's totally worth the addiction.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Definitely a win/lose life is driven by email, and not being able to check messages almost constantly puts me at a disadvantage. But, once you buy into that constant back-and-forth info dump concept as a part of your routine, the line between life and work has effectively been eliminated. If you are OK with that (which, as a small business owner, I'm assuming you're already there), it can make life so much easier.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I don't have a Blackberry, and I'm still alive. There's no doubt owning one could aid in you some way. Just be warned that there will always be the next big thing crying for your money. I'm afraid it doesn't end.

dylan72986 said...

Jenny, you might be able to lower your bill with the Curve to a more tolerable level through the website by a company called Validas. On average, Validas currently saves T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and US Cellular customers 22 percent, equating to $484 annually, off their cell bills. I personally save $230 per year through Validas off my Verizon plan and I have been so impressed with these results that I recently took a job with the company.

Here's a breakdown of how it actually works. Validas analyzes your online cell bill for free and calculates how much money you could be saving. It turns out that eight of ten wireless customers are paying more than they need to for their plans. Validas fixes these discrepancies by tailoring a customer's plan to fit their specific needs. If you choose, Validas provides your personalized cell bill adjustment report that is emailed, for five bucks, to your wireless provider in industry specific format so you can actually implement these cash saving changes. If Validas can save you more than $5 on your bill, this obviously provides a very cost effective solution.

Validas is rapidly gaining a reputation as the preeminent advocate for the wireless customer. Check out a feature about the company on The Big Idea with CNBC's Donny Deutsch at Any cell subscriber who wants to cut costs should consider Validas. It’s free to consult and you only stand to save.

Happy holidays, and enjoy the Curve.


Elissa M said...

I don't even have a cell phone. Service is spotty where I live. A citified neighbor says we live in the "third circle of hell". I think it's paradise (though it might be nice to have non-satellite internet). But of course I don't have a job that requires being connected to the world 24/7.

Meanwhile, I ALWAYS give books at Christmas. Isn't this a no-brainer?

Ryan Field said...

I don't have a blackberry and I tend to agree with your father. I'm a writer, and peace and quiet is very important. I have deadlines and I don't have a lot of down time.

But most of the e-mails I recieve from editors are from Blackberries. And my partner works in corporate, and he couldn't do business without his.

AC said...

I have a Curve and adore it! I think, as with anything, it will only control you and suck your "me" time if you let it.

A P Mullaly said...

I enjoy my curve a lot. But then I don't immediately respond to anyone's email whether I'm on my home computer or on the curve, unless I truly want to. My feeling is that the technology is there to serve me, not me to serve it.

Some people get on the hamster wheel of immediate response and never get off. All that tends to do is increase stress and creates an atmosphere of unrealistic expectations of response.

So in moderation (and in conclusion) the curve has been a great change from my previous small motorola (also on Verizon).

lotusloq said...

I don't know about the blackberry too much--my husband uses it all the time for work, but his is through ATT. Our family plan is through verizon though, and my daughter just got the LG dare at verizon and that is the coolest phone. She LOVES it. Touch screen with some slick features. It has a function for calendaring (as I understand it) and checking email. It's a thought. Good luck making the decision.

Anonymous said...

If I were you, I'd seriously consider a Treo. I've had them since the first version, and in my opinion no other Smartphone is as simple AND powerful to use. With a Treo you get more flexibility, TONS of software if you choose to utilize it (i.e. your phone can be turned into a multimedia player, ereader, etc.), the keyboard is pretty good, and the coolness factor is undeniable. Once you master it, you'll never want to have anything else.

On the topic of books, I love giving them as gifts during the holidays or on birthdays. Because I'm friends or acquaintances with many writers, I'm also fortunate to be able to give some signed books as presents. I recently gave a signed copy of the new Dean Koontz novel to a friend of mine and she was practically jumping up and down like a little girl. That was cool to see, because it was clear that her excitement had as much to do with reading a gripping story as it did with receiving the book signed one of her favorite authors. Excitement over books is always fun to see, and to experience, too.

I love books, and I can’t imagine living in a place without them. Now if only transporter technology existed like it does on STAR TREK, moving them would not be such a nightmare. If I continue to amass them (and I know I will, since I have been for more than 20 years), I’ll eventually need a truck for my stuff…and a truck for my books.

clindsay said...

The Blackberry Curve is great if you work on a PC; it has no support for Macs, which is why I got rid of mine.

I'm also on Verizon - a service I really like - but all the smartphone options are geared toward syncing with PCs.

Whatever you do, do NOT get a Palm Centro. They are very buggy. I have one, and while it has enhanced my productivity, I would swap it for an iPhone or BlackBerry anyday.

Pros of having a smartphone: Using your commute time wisely. I have a 90-minute commute each way into and out of Manhattann. I can't afford to waste three hours of my day every day. I use my smartphone to download email queries, read and respond to them. When I get above ground, I press "send" and a great deal of my inbox is cleaned up. I get through about 75 queries a day this way.

Cons: You do become addicted to having readily available email. Try to make yourself leave it at home if you are going out with your husband or friends and really don't need to be accessible. You'll thank yourself later.

Also, a data plan is expensive,
between $130 and $150 a month.

If you're using it primarily for emailing, test out the keyboards before you buy. Some keyboards are easy to use (like the Blackberry or the SideKick or any of the sliding-keyboard phones).

Also, I highly recommend getting the best bluetooth headset that you can afford. Totally worth it.

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