Thursday, 25 April 2013

Spotlighting Book Drum

I’ve been contributing to a site called Book Drum, and today I just wanted to do a little spotlight post to let you know more about it, as I think my bookish friends will enjoy it.

 Book Drum is an interactive and, as far as I know, pretty unique way to explore books online. For each book the site provides reviews, a summary, a glossary of words and terms used in the book, author information, and some facts and info about the settings used in the book. There’s also a map with pins showing the locations used in all the books on the site – this is a feature you could find yourself browsing for hours!

The main feature of the site is the Bookmarks – these are facts, images, videos, links, trivia and more, associated with a particular quote from the book. These can be fun, informative, educational, analytical, or even critical. They provide context for what’s happening, and help bring the book to life.

 - For example, did you know that no-one really knows what the dodo looked like? We only have 17th century accounts to go on, and the birds brought back to Europe may have been fed the wrong food, or too much food, so that they lost their shape. They may have been thin birds, not the pudgy image that has been popularised by Lewis Carroll. (bookmark from The Eyre Affair)

 - Or what the various carriages mentioned in Pride and Prejudice looked like?

 - Or that in the last third of Dracula, Bram Stoker references four separate Shakespeare quotes, all from Act 3, Scene 4 of their various plays? A secret code maybe?

I find the bookmarks particularly useful when trying to imagine scale (I’m terrible at this for some reason – an author tells me how big a city is or how tall a tower is and I just blank), trying to follow journeys (just where are they in Europe right now, and how long would this journey really take?), and when the author is describing music (I’m not musical at all – I need to hear it).

Sometimes the bookmarks might reveal little in-jokes or clever references to other books that the reader could otherwise miss: “It is of power and the man that I shall sing” is a reference to an ancient Roman epic called the Aeneid (bookmark from Imperium). It can also be useful if the author has assumed knowledge that the reader might not have – not everyone grows up in the USA, and not every cultural reference can be easily looked up!

The bookmarks provide just what’s relevant to the story, with perhaps a little extra trivia for interest, which makes it much easier and more pleasant than having to navigate several Wikipedia pages on, say, Roman politics.

You can even sign up for daily Bookmark emails, which will send some book trivia to your inbox every day. These are pretty fun, and a great way of discovering new books.

Anyone can contribute to the site, meaning that it is constantly growing, and that pages can have several authors (a bit like a wiki). You can also flag anything that you think is wrong. Creating a book profile is pretty fun and addictive. I won the first ever Book Drum competition (how I first became involved with the site) with my profile of the Odyssey. I got to use a lot of images of ancient Greek vases, which is a particular love of mine!

So, interested in taking a look or even contributing something yourself? Go check it out!

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