GalleyCat posted a collection of Twitter responses to the image in question.
Perhaps books and ebooks can live in peaceful coexistence after all.
I love writing while standing up. Sitting at a desk all day might conjure up a romantic, monkish sort of image; but it’s unnatural to me. And apparently, standing is probably healthier for you than sitting all day, every day anyways.
Ernest Hemingway was perhaps the most famous proponent. Here’s an excerpt from the classic Paris Review interview –
“It is on the top of one of these cluttered bookcases—the one against the wall by the east window and three feet or so from his bed—that Hemingway has his “work desk”—a square foot of cramped area hemmed in by books on one side and on the other by a newspaper-covered heap of papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets. There is just enough space left on top of the bookcase for a typewriter, surmounted by a wooden reading board, five or six pencils, and a chunk of copper ore to weight down papers when the wind blows in from the east window.
A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.”
The whole interview is well worth the read by the way. Hemingway’s reflections on writing are timeless.
I think the bookcase is an inspired desk choice. And here’s a great photograph of Hemingway’s standing desk from kottke.org, who also notes: “Other famous users of standing desks included Winston Churchill, Lewis Carroll, Donald Rumsfeld, Charles Dickens, Otto von Bismarck, Henry Clay, Thomas Jefferson, John Dos Passos, and Virginia Woolf.”
For the multitasking sorts, there’s also treadmill writing. (Example: GalleyCat, “Do You Write While Standing Up?“) Too distracting for my tastes, though.
Yes — and so does online communication in general, as it turns out.
Some food for thought, from The Wall Street Journal: “Why We Are So Rude Online.” Some new research suggests that lower self control coupled with an inflated sense of self esteem could explain the rudeness –
“According to soon-to-be-published research from professors at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, browsing Facebook lowers our self control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say …
Most of us present an enhanced image of ourselves on Facebook. This positive image—and the encouragement we get, in the form of “likes”—boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.
Think of it as a licensing effect: You feel good about yourself so you feel a sense of entitlement,” says Keith Wilcox, assistant professor of marketing at Columbia Business School and co-author of the study. “And you want to protect that enhanced view, which might be why people are lashing out so strongly at others who don’t share their opinions.” These types of behavior—poor self control, inflated sense of self—”are often displayed by people impaired by alcohol,” he adds.
More interesting to me was the suggestion that perhaps online communication just seems less consequential; we think with our fingers and thumbs online and therefore are less likely to weigh the emotional consequences. Sherry Turkle (whose book is on my to-read list) weighs in:
“We’re less inhibited online because we don’t have to see the reaction of the person we’re addressing, says Sherry Turkle, psychologist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of the social studies of science and technology. Because it’s harder to see and focus on what we have in common, we tend to dehumanize each other, she says …
Astoundingly, Dr. Turkle says, many people still forget that they’re speaking out loud when they communicate online. Especially when posting from a smartphone, “you are publishing but you don’t feel like you are,” she says.”
“Dehumanizing” seems almost too strong a way to put it — but I have been wondering about whether the way we relate to people online could be similar to our emotional engagement with fictional characters.
But hey, it’s just a hypothesis. And here’s another, from Scientific American: “Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility” (and this makes sense to me).
None of that is to suggest that blaming technology is a good excuse for our own bad behavior, of course.
Here’s a fun way to pass 4 minutes, thanks to Brain Pickings for sharing the video: “The Science of Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg, Animated” –
“[P]hilosophers have pondered which came first, the chicken or the egg, as a causality dilemma exploring grander existential inquiries into the origin of life and the universe. But, it turns out, science has an answer that bypasses the metaphysical and dives right into the nitty-gritty of the tangible and concrete … like much of science — the solution may have more to do with semantics and nomenclature than with actual scientific evidence.”
AsapSCIENCE, the folks behind the video, do some excellent stuff. Definitely checking out their YouTube channel here. (Click on the image below to find out if you’re a Team Chicken or Team Egg proponent).
In case you missed it, “Google and the World Brain” (a reference to the H.G. Wells essay collection of the same name) is a new documentary project that made a few waves recently. It just screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and this is one I am quite keen on seeing.
The Google Book Scanning project is an incredibly interesting, complicated — and important — part of the near-future of books, all books. I’ve read a few early reviews on World Brain, alternating between vilifying and exalting, so it’s hard to form an opinion without being able to watch it firsthand.
In the meantime, The Hollywood Reporter (“Google and the World Brain: Sundance Review“) offers a few things to ponder –
“Beyond questions over how to deal with copyrighted work — manageable, one imagines, however tricky the negotiations — lie bigger worries. There’s privacy, obviously (a universal online library will always know what you’re reading) and unintended consequences, like the reshaping of global culture: If searches for Proust and Goethe prioritize English translations, will the originals fade from view? Like anyone acquiring great power, Google trusts itself to handle these issues wisely. But observers note a tendency within Google (seen in the Wi-Fi-collecting scandal tied to Street View) of building tech first and worrying over consequences later.”
‘Unfortunately, Google didn’t participate in this documentary other than to allow the filmmakers to speak with them about their Google Search function. Google Books was off-limits, and the only video from inside their scanning operation is just six seconds long, and it doesn’t show much. In an effort to try and draw you into the conversation, the film uses extensive video from other book scanning facilities around the world, notably at universities and large collections.
The main argument presented here is whether or not Google’s usage of the scanned book is ethical or not, given the fact that they were offering copyrighted works for free online and were also using the scanned books to improve their own search algorithms, and by extension, improve their business.”
And you can visit the documentary’s official website here.
From Publishing Perspectives: “Love Haruki Murakami? There’s An App For That.” The calendar/diary app is U.K.-only which is too bad, because it’s exactly the sort of thing I would spend £1.99 on.
“Vintage Books and Aimer Media have joined forces to create a Haruki Murakami inspired diary app, Murakami Diary, containing six new exclusive short stories by the acclaimed (and often rumored Nobel Prize candidate) Japanese author as well as quotes from earlier works … Quotes and images are found within the diary format. For example, accompanying the diary page for Sunday March 31 is a quote from the novel Norwegian Wood:“[The letter] was dated 31 March. After I read it, I stayed on the porch and let my eyes wander out of the garden, full now with the freshness of spring. An old cherry tree stood there, its blossoms nearing the height of their glory.”
Since I can’t get the first-person experience, I will live vicariously through The Guardian’s review (“Haruki Murakami? There’s an iPhone and iPad diary app for him…“) –
“Nor is it pure marketing content, although its release has been timed to appear alongside the paperback release of Murakami’s last novel 1Q84 and the repackaging of his backlist. Instead, Random House and its developer partner Aimer Media are part of a welcome trend for promotional apps that actually fulfill a useful function. In this case, it’s a calendar, which pulls in entries from Apple’s iCal system, while peppering the year with quotes from Murakami’s backlist of novels and short stories – all sharable via Facebook, Twitter and email.
… The geek in me (both literary and technological) would love to see what Random House might do with a fully-fledged interactive version of one of Murakami’s novels, more around contextual notes and perhaps the musical references.”
I’m always interested in new ways that people are using data to gain insight into readerly behavior. So here’s a neat idea: BookRx is a recently launched experiment from the Knight Lab, which crawls a Twitter feed (assuming one tweets about books), to make book recommendations.
The Huffington Post has a good interview, with some additional information –
“How does it work?
BookRx works in two phases. In the first phase, it analyzes your tweets (in terms of the words, Twitter usernames, and hashtags you use) and compares them to terms that are correlated with book categories. In the second phase, it looks within those categories to find specific books to recommend, again based on correlations with the terms in your tweets. The first phase is very fast but the second takes a few seconds.
What can people’s Twitter word usage tell us about their personalities?
That’s a really interesting question. We’re really interested in how Twitter can hold up a mirror to ourselves, and seeing BookRx’s recommendations might be one way to do that. That’s one of the reasons we show you the terms you used that made the system think you might be interested in a book it’s recommending to you — to make its operation a bit more visible.”
The Secret Sauce of book recommendations has always been rather mysterious, so I do like the BookRx approach. From Mashable, “New Web App Recommends Books Based on Your Tweets” –
“… For some, there is something innately unsettling about AI predictions. It is even more disturbing when the computer is accurate. Unlike sites like Amazon and Google, however, BookRx shows you the exact words you tweeted that led to its various recommendations.”
I think the idea for the experiment is very clever. It’s something to keep an eye on, particularly if they have good luck growing their user base — if BookRx is something that catches on, it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of information it can tell us about reading recommendations (and how good, or bad, those recommendations are).
Recently, Random House shared some of its insights into ebook reading habits: (“Who Reads eBooks?“). Younger, well-educated, higher-income women seemed to represent a healthy slice of the ebook reading population. I was surprised at how strong a source word-of-mouth (81%) remains for ebook discovery –
“Over a fifth of American adults have read an eBook. EBook consumers are likely to be book enthusiasts who read across digital and print formats. Most eBook consumers are women, are younger than forty-five, have college degrees or have had some college education, and have upscale incomes. EBook consumers are over 20 percent more likely to have household incomes over $100,000 per year than non-eBook consumers. Preferred genres include mystery/suspense/detective fiction, general fiction, and romance.
When compared to all Americans ages sixteen and up, they tend to rely more heavily on word-of-mouth (81 percent versus 64 percent for all Americans ages 16+) and bookstore staff (31 percent versus 23 percent for Americans ages 16+) for book recommendations.”
Here is the infographic breakdown below, and you can click on the image for more information from Random House.
What if we could gave away millions of books to children for free? Every day? This news story started to sound less crazy to me, the more I thought about it. Per The Atlantic: “The U.K.’s Biggest Distributor of Children’s Books Is About to Be … McDonald’s” –
“It’s easy to make fun of the experimental McLiterature initiative — in the way that it’s easy to make fun of McDonald’s itself. But the chain is, like it or not, a juggernaut … one that has, as such, immense power over the impressionable kids among its customers. And this could be one way — one small way that, via McDonald’s mass impact, could prove significant — to get kids excited about reading. The initiative, Yahoo Shine reports, was inspired by data from Britain’s National Literacy Trust
…finding innovative new methods of getting books into kids’ hands. And that’s a good thing. But it means a strange, telling twist: McDonald’s expects to distribute 15 million books over the course of its initiative, between now and 2014. Which means that it will become the biggest distributor of children’s books in the entire United Kingdom.”
Will kids go for books over toys? Sure, it’s possible. Most won’t. But, some might. And if even some small percentage of those children discover a love of books who might not ordinarily have picked up a book, then I would say McDonald’s would have done a damn good job. The upshot of the “Happy Readers” experiment, hopefully, is that this could inspire book publishers to think up more creative ways of getting books in the hands of more readers.
Apparently there are no current plans for a U.S. version, which is too bad. The L.A. Times (“Will the kids love it? McDonald’s swaps Happy Meal toys for books“) dreams upon such a possibility … 150 million free books to children? From Happy Meals? Wow.
Here’s some food for thought, courtesy of Salon: “Study: People can remember more about Facebook than real books” –
“Researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of California, San Diego,tested how well people could remember text taken from Facebook updates and compared it to sentences picked at random from books. What they found is that participants’ memory for Facebook posts was about one and a half times greater than their memory for sentences from books.”
I don’t know if I would necessarily arrive at the same conclusions mentioned in the article, though: “Responses to news stories, thoughts about the world. Usually casual, often gossipy, these posts, researchers say, are easier to remember than more formal, edited content.”
Is that really true? I would be very hard-pressed to remember what I read on The Facebook last year, or last week — but I tend to fare better when trying to remember what I read from books. If anything, I would have guessed our very different states of distraction and attentiveness when browsing social networks as opposed to reading a book would make Facebook much less easier to recall. Or, maybe I’m just starting to get old and forgetful.*
I can’t help but wonder if randomly chosen book passages are less emotionally salient than a Facebook status and therefore less memorable. I’d also speculate that the social component of what we read on Facebook probably helps with remembering; maybe it’s that we can put a face to a status update that makes it more memorable. Maybe, or maybe not.
So … what about a Facebook Book, then?**
Random things that I find myself googling: “Cognitive Decline Sets in Around Age 45”
** Speaking of the first image in this blog post, did you know that you can make a Facebook-book out of status updates? I’m actually very curious: why would someone want to do that?