infinite reading

As those of you who follow me on twitter might recall, I’ve been reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest for some time now (since the beginning of last August, to be precise).

For all of my nervousness that I might not finish it, I’ve made good steady progress and—much more importantly—I’ve really enjoyed the book. I love DFW’s writing and the characters and the loopy plot. I find that I think about them all when I’m not reading the book; they live in the back of my head and I carry them around with me as I go about my life. § continue reading

today’s post is brought to you by the letters k and e

screensaver from the newest generation Kindle

Do you ever get the feeling that something’s just not quite right, but you’re not sure what it is¿

If you’re curious what the other screensavers are on the new Kindle, scroll through the twenty I snapped. They’ve clearly moved on from the book illustrations and author themes they had in earlier models to writing implements. I’m not sure what larger message I’d want to draw from this, but they’re mostly very pretty. I just wish those turned letters didn’t bother me so much. Is it artsy or just wrong? I’m all for artsiness and playfulness. But I can’t help suspect it’s just wrong, or at least, less about art and more about a fear that people will fail to recognize the “kindle” embedded in the picture. § continue reading

even the digital is physical

Many of you will have already seen the news that the Internet Archive is preserving hard copies of each book they scan into their archive. Kevin Kelly’s recent piece likens this to the need for type specimen in biology:

Biologists maintain a concept call a “type specimen.” Every species of living organism has many individuals of noticeable variety. There are millions of Robins in America, for instance, all of them each express the Robin-ness found in the type of bird we have named Turdus migratorius. But if we need to scientifically describe another bird as being “like a Robin” or maybe “just a Robin” which of those millions of Robins should we compare it to?

Biologists solve this problem by arbitrarily designating one found individual to be representative and archetypical of the entire species. It is the archetype, or the “type specimen,” of that form. There is nothing special about that chosen specimen; in fact that’s the whole idea: it should be typical.

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exploring Google eBook pricing

Updates below (added images in post, link to tweet in middle, new links at bottom)

And more updates! Check out the comments for a generous response from @bookavore with useful context for how pricing works.

So, as you surely know, Google has finally opened their eBook venture, selling e-books (to use a variant spelling that has been dominating) both through their own eBookstore and through partnerships with independent bookstores. One of the big excitements about Google’s eBook program is the possibility of generating money for indies, who otherwise lose out the opportunity to generate revenue from digital books. So my first question was to wonder what it meant to go to an independent bookstore to get an electronic book. It’s not like you’re going to walk around the corner and chat with your local bookseller, right? I suppose you could do that, get their advice, and then go online and buy the book, but that seems odd to me. § continue reading

more thoughts on reading e-books

As I’ve spent more time reading on my iPad, I’ve come to more realizations about how I read. The most surprising thing is how much I miss sharing books. This is more complicated than it sounds. I knew, of course, that you can’t really share e-books, but I have never really been someone who likes to share books. I’m happy to borrow books, but I get nervous loaning mine out. They come back beat up, or they don’t come back at all and then I resent the person who has my book, or I can’t remember who I loaned it to and it’s gone forever. So I’m not a big book sharer. And since my family shares a single Kindle account, my spouse and my son and I can all share books across our devices–even better, we can read that book simultaneously on our separate devices. But what I failed to account for is the fact that I do actually loan out my books. § continue reading

false endings

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the experience of reading. Part of this is about the technologies of reading, but part of this is about the nature of reading and processing words.

Some context is helpful here: this spring we sold our house and moved into a new house. As part of this process, we overhauled the old house, cleaning it out and making it look fabulously inviting (those of you who watch a lot of HGTV or live in housing-market-obsessed areas will recognize this as “staging”, a term that deserves its own post on an entirely different blog). We bowed to the wisdom of our realtor, who went through our house and identified the furniture and clutter that ought to be cleared out. Right up at the top of the list were all of our bookshelves and, obviously, books. This is the point when my bookish friends yelp in horror–“Why are books unattractive?!”–but as someone who has been shopping for houses, I have to agree with the realtor on this point. § continue reading