Want to read books on a screen?
Up to now, two large companies would make that easy for you.
Option #1: Apple’s iBooks system. Chipper and colorful, iBooks is easy to use if you own an iPhone or iPad. In its zeal to convince you that, yes, you are reading a book!, though, it can cartoonishly oversell the reading experience. (Case in point: Apple has patented its page-turning animation.)
Option #2: Amazon’s Kindle devices. The retail giant has both its own line of gray, hardy e-readers and also makes reading software for other platforms, including Apple and Android phones/tablets. It has lots of books to read, but, once purchased, you can only read them on Kindles. Some of its software, too, suffers for its extensibility. At its worst, the Kindle system can feel like Windows 95: closed, hard to leave, and a bit stodgy.
As of this week, though, readers have a new option. Starting immediately, Penguin UK will sell its ebooks on the Readmill system. You can now read the works of best-selling authors—including George Orwell, John LeCarré, and Zadie Smith—on the lesser-known but elegant reading system, Readmill.
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In a 2005 speech to the American Library Association, then-senator Obama described his view of the importance of literacy: “In this new economy, teaching our kids just enough so that they can get through Dick and Jane isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The kind of literacy necessary for 21st-century employment requires detailed understanding and complex comprehension.” Education secretary Arne Duncan’s response to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress earlier this week reinforced a pragmatic approach to literacy: “If America’s students are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, our public schools must greatly accelerate the rate of progress of the last four years and do more to narrow America’s large achievement gaps. It is an urgent moral and economic imperative that our schools do a better job of preparing students for today’s globally-competitive world.”
Reading is indeed crucial to success in school and in careers. But we worry that discussions of reading, especially public policy discussions, focus almost exclusively on its utilitarian value. What’s missing is the pleasure readers derive from the reading they do.
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Every two years, hundreds of thousands of American fourth and eighth grade students take a test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The test evaluates students’ reading and math abilities through reading comprehension questions and grade-appropriate math problems.
The results of the test have provided a snapshot of American education since 1990. Over the last two decades, scores have been rising, but slowly. The 2013 results are out, and the national average scores have increased—just barely—since 2011. Here’s what this year’s score report says about the state of American education today.
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One of the signature aspects of the new Common Core State Standards is their tougher demands on reading: They require students to read texts that are on grade level, even if the all students in a class aren’t able to read the works without assistance.
Are America’s classrooms ready for this change? The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-policy think tank that supports the Common Core, has just released a report that attempts to answer that question. Fordham researchers surveyed 1,154 public-school teachers of English, language arts, or reading: 300 elementary teachers (fourth and fifth grade), 370 middle-school teachers (sixth, seventh, and eighth grade), and 484 high-school teachers (ninth and tenth grade). All the teachers are in the 46 states that have adopted the Common Core.
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The answer is complicated.
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Readers of fiction (romance more so than science fiction, suspense, or domestic) were better at picking up emotion in the eyes of others.
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As we move into the back-to-school months of autumn, the always-appealing smell of new books is about to reach peak irresistibility. This fall has already brought a handful of talked-about reads in fiction (Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam), in nonfiction (David Epstein’s The Sports Gene), and even in nonfiction about fiction writers (David Shields and Shane Salerno’s Salinger), and the remaining months of 2013 offer more promising picks. Whether they’re big releases from best-selling authors or works by lesser-known writers poised to delight or enlighten, here are 22 books we’re looking forward to.
A library puts one of its tiniest items under a microscope and finds the first chapter of Genesis
One winter day in 1869, Mark Twain took the stairs to the second floor of a building near Boston Common and introduced himself to the editors of The Atlantic Monthly. The meeting would change both Twain and the magazine, and begin a friendship between editor and author that would become one of America’s most important literary collaborations.
The pieces collected in our new ebook, The Mark Twain Collection, are the fruits of that partnership. Twain wrote for The Atlantic from 1874 to 1880, publishing essays, recollections, short stories, and even the memoir Old Times on the Mississippi which appeared in seven installments beginning in 1875 and was later released as the book Life on the Mississippi.
We’re thrilled to announce this new ebook series, which will spotlight some of the most-celebrated writers who have appeared in The Atlantic since the magazine’s founding in 1857. These exclusive collections will feature the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Muir, among others who’ve been delighting readers for generations.
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