Books

Free books at the airport

Reading a book on a cross-country flight is a luxury that is too often replaced by a series of stupid movies offered (not always for free) on the seatback entertainment screen or on an app we’re urged to download before we leave the gate area.

But what if you’ve forgotten to bring a book from home or don’t want to shell out $29.95 for a bestseller at the newsstand near the gate?

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport there are currently two kiosks with hard-to-miss screens offering free downloads of e-books and audio books to people who have library cards – and those who don’t.

The kiosks are courtesy of the King County Library System and non-card holders are offered an instant two-day library card. Downloads are good for seven days.

People are enjoying the SEA airport book kiosks so much that the one of them already needs a tune-up, which I have been assured in underway.

Libraries in many other cities have installed e-book kiosks at their airports (some have permanent kiosks/others are temporary) and some airports have leave-a-book-take-a-book shelves.

I spotted this one at Washington’s Walla-Walla Airport.

Of course, if you already have a library card ( and you should) and your airport offers free Wi-Fi, there’s nothing to stop you from using your time at the gate to log on and scour the e-shelves for a book as well.

Or to just dream about the ‘good old days’ when an airport might have a library branch on site.

This one was at Nashville International Airport.

 

 

Souvenir Sunday: summer reading

Browsing for and buying a book – an actual book – in an airport bookstore is a treat I especially enjoy before a long flight.

Sometimes I choose a title that catches my eye, but most often I pick up something that’s been on my ‘to read’ list.

Today the choice is the just-out-in-paperback edition of Mark Vanhoenacker’s Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot (Vintage Departures)

Skyfaring

The New York Times review of the book says this is “an unusual entry into the air-travel genre. For one thing, the author is a commercial pilot, flying the Boeing 747 from London to cities across the globe. For another, he doesn’t speak of disasters, not even in passing…..”

Sounds promising and appropriate for in-flight reading, doesn’t it?

Vanhoenacker …”can put one in mind of Henry James,” the review continues.

“In “Skyfaring” we regularly come upon phrases like “the water gyre of the planet,” “technical rectitude,” “the ichthyology of our sea-sky” and “the light-filled clerestory of the world.” This is a volume that seeks to leave high contrails in your mental sky, and it does so in a manner that is nearly always appealing.”

Even better.

Now let’s just hope my seatmate isn’t a talker…

Souvenir Sunday: Fantastic Cities coloring book

Fantastic Cities cover

Here’s an activity book perfect for those lazy, hazy days of summer or those crazy days when you just need to take a break, focus on simple, creative tasks and chill out.

Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagined
– out in a few weeks from Chronicle Books – is a coloring book for adults filled with Steve McDonald’s intricate aerial views and bird’s eye perspectives of cities from around the world.

Large (12″ by 12″) detailed images inspired by places in Canada, Tokyo, Istanbul, San Francisco, Sydney and other cities around this world offer a great opportunity to get out the colored pencils, some markers, crayons or watercolors and dream about your next adventure.

Transportation revelations: how fast things go

Did you know that a sea horse can move as quickly (or as slowly) as a Galapagos tortoise? (.2 MPH), that a hedgehog and a millipede move at about the same pace (1 MPH) and that a swift and a Hughes MD 500 Helicopter can each travel at 125 MPH?

FullSpeedAhead_swift_Hughes MD500 helicopter

I didn’t.

But thanks to a book of ‘transportation revelations’ called Full Speed Ahead!: How Fast Things Go by Cruschiform (an Abrams Books imprint), I now know.

The brightly-colored, large format book is designed for young readers, but is perfect – and perfectly educational – for transportation fact-fanciers of all ages who might be curious about how fast things go – and how fast things go compared to animals.

A peregrine falcon, for example, can go as fast a Formula 1 Racer (217 MPH) but once we get to the tornado (310 MPH), the passenger jet (620 MPH), a Blackbird spy plane (2,175 MPH), the Apollo 11 spacecraft (25,000 MPH) and a shooting star (more than 60,000 MPH), no animals can keep up.

FullSpeedAhead_passenger jet

Buy it for the kids you know. And get a copy for yourself.

Playboy: airplane reading material?

airberlin playboy

Magazines are one of those on-board amenities that disappeared from domestic flights in the U.S. a long time ago. But many international airlines still offer a selection of reading material that includes newspapers, business, fashion and sports magazines, especially in business class.

On a recent airberlin flight I was a bit surprised to see Playboy on the counter as one of the options and asked about that when I visited the company’s headquarters in Berlin.

My hosts were a bit surprised at my surprise but told me that the cover of the issue I saw on the plane is a special airline cover that stays the same for each issue – and that Playboy is the magazine they need to replace most often.