The internet is wonderful and terrible in its volume. It allows us to read anything, but it gives us entirely too much to read. That memo. That email. This article. We are all bailing water out of a leaky info-boat.
Most smartphone apps contribute to this deluge of facts. “Save this to read later,” they offer, as though “later” you won’t have better things to read. Refresh your Twitter feed … or download our magazine app! (Seriously though, do it, if you want to be a thought leader.)
But one app promises to be part of the solution. Spritz, its creators say, will speed up reading time by flashing just one word of an article or book at a time inside a text box. It will center each word around its Optimal Recognition Point (ORP), the point at which most readers recognize its meaning. Users can set the pace at which the words zoom by—currently, the app can go up to 600 words per minute, about double the normal reading speed.
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Coming to the realization that loving a good book doesn’t make you a good person.
The founders of the social network talk about its success in 2013 and its goal of making literature a community experience.
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"Sensory fiction" offers yet another update to our sense of what a book is.
In the fall of 2012, Ann Morgan was wrestling with a problem few of us can identify with. No matter how hard she tried, she simply could not find a book to read in English from the tiny African nation of Sao Tome and Principe. At a loss, she appealed for help on Facebook and Twitter, only to be deluged with offers from around the world to translate whatever work she chose from the Portuguese-speaking island. A small army of volunteers in Europe and the United States ultimately came to her rescue, translating chunks of Olinda Beja’s 140-page The Shepherd’s House into English.
The crowdsourcing experiment was just one memorable moment in Morgan’s quest to read one book from every country in the world in one year—a goal she accomplished just around this time last year, as New Year’s Day approached. The London-based freelance writer defined her universe of countries as “all UN-recognised countries plus Palestine and Taiwan,” and added one additional territory—Kurdistan—based on a vote by readers of the blog she maintained for the project. That meant reading a grand total of 197 books, at a pace offour books per week and a cost of several thousand British pounds. (While Morgan bought many of the books, reading some on her Kindle and others in print, she obtained others by more unconventional means; the first book she read, from South Sudan, was written specially for her blog.)
Read more. [Image: Ann Morgan]
Just before the Supreme Court’s October sitting, Justice Antonin Scalia made national headlines by proclaiming that he believes in Satan.
But before the November sitting, Justice Stephen G. Breyer sparked widespread apathy when he revealed he has read Marcel Proust’s seven-volume masterwork, A la recherché du temps perdu.
Breyer made this startling revelation in an interview with La Revue des Deux Mondes of Paris, published in translation by The New York Review of Books.*
I suspect that many Americans, told of this accomplishment, would be baffled: Why read a book in French when there are good English translations available? Why bother with a work of thousands of pages and damned little action? (Before it was published, a reader for one French publisher rejected it, saying, “My dear friend, perhaps I am dense, but I just don’t understand why a man should take 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before he goes to sleep.”)
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Every so often, a grave and concerned person will ask (as, in fact, the New York Times asked last year): “Do We Still Need Libraries?” Hasn’t the Internet kind of, you know, ended all that? Aren’t libraries falling behind?
Tellingly, the Times could find no one to argue against libraries, and that mirrors American sentiment pretty much exactly. A new Pew study finds that not only do Americans adore libraries, but a majority of us think they’re adjusting to new technology just fine.
As my colleague Svati Narula reported, some 94 percent of Americans say that having a public library improves a community and that the local library is a “welcoming, friendly place.” 91 percent said they had never had “a negative experience using a public library, either in person or online.”
These sound like incredible approval ratings for any U.S. public institution. So I wondered: Just how incredible are they? How do other icons of Americana compare?
Using exclusive and highly accurate statistical analysis techniques, I endeavored to find out. Here are the results.
The public library in my hometown has been closed and undergoing reconstruction since 2011. This hasn’t much affected me, because somewhere around the time that I acquired a taste for coffee, I began eschewing libraries in favor of retail bookstores. Browsing at Barnes & Noble with a latte in hand is more pleasurable; ordering from Amazon seems more efficient.
But a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday reveals, somewhat surprisingly, given stories about the “death of print" as well as the scant resources sometimes devoted to these establishments, that the majority of Americans strongly value their public libraries. When asked whether the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their communities, 90 percent of American adults (ages 16 years and older) said yes, it would, and 63 percent said the impact would be "major." When asked if library closures would affect them and their families personally, only 32 percent responded the way I would have—with a "no."
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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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