Kindle for Book Editors: I'm doing it wrong

A while back, I smugly tweeted that I was using my Kindle to read early-draft books by friends of mine. (Hi, Curtis! Hi, Piaw!) These weren't detailed mark-up-every-sentence read-throughs. Just gathering initial impressions. You know, general stuff like "This story would be awesome if only it had some Morse code in it. Morse code is my obsession; it should be yours, too. Plz add."

One of these books is now ready for a detailed review. So on my bus rides, I sat down with the Kindle and typed in more detailed notes. E.g., "You should delete this phrase here; it has nothing to do with Morse code and therefore bores me." Today, I stepped back and considered: how far have I made it through the book? Not far. Not far at all. Why so slow? The Kindle is set up for reading books. But. It's not set up for rapid text entry. It feels like I type fast: my fingers fly. But... it's two-fingered typing. And to enter, say, a semicolon, I go to a little menu. And I keep messing up trying to enter quote marks. And I have a surprising amount of trouble with the teeny-tiny little shift keys. And... and and and it adds up.

Maybe I'm just doing it wrong. I was inspired to try it because Curtis mentioned that one of his reviewers used a Kindle—and handed over comments as a Kindle .mbp file. And that worked OK. Then again, maybe that was just going for a high-level reading, not getting into a red-pen rampage.

(This isn't a slam at the Kindle. It's not supposed to be a tool for book editors. I'm not sure anyone has ever designed a tool for that market. Would you want to design a product for people who complain about stuff for a living? Yeah, me neither.)

I guess I'll fall back to using a desktop computer for this, instead of reading on the bus. It's probably just as well. I find enough things to complain about when I'm marking up a manuscript; I'm probably insufferable when I do so while carsick. "I feel nauseous; it's either the bus' poor braking or it's this paragraph. Better delete this paragraph just to be on the safe side. Also: dot dot dot; dash; dot; dash." I'll go back to reading feeds on the bus and keeping my editorial remarks in my head.

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Kindle Thoughts

I tweeted Reviewed an early-draft novel via Kindle. It worked well for that. Search was handy. Highlighted lines of interest. Over on Facebook, my cousin Sierra asked some questions about that. And Alex Soe had a comment, too. (Yes, I looked at Facebook today. I was out IRL with the high school chums yesterday and one of them reminded me that Facebook sucks less than it used to. So I looked at it today. It does suck less than it used to. There wasn't any Farmville-clone-spam. And there were comments.) Composing a reply in the little window wasn't going so well, so here is a longwinded reply in a blog entry.

Peoples' comments are in italics. My replies are not.

Sierra writes:

Is a kindle really worth it?

Hey, Sierra, good to hear from you. So far, the Kindle has been darned nice, but not totally worth it. It's handier than a paper book. The search feature is darned nice, especially if you think you're going to read the book carefully.

On the other hand, it was $150. And I'm a cheapskate. And... the library has paper books for free. Of the books I want to read, I can find most of them at the San Francisco Public Library or in the excellent Link+ network of libraries. Of the books I want to read, I can find some of them for Kindle. But not most. So I tend to check the library first.

So... I've had the Kindle for several weeks now; I've read several books meanwhile, but only 2.5 of those on the Kindle. Reading them on the Kindle was better than reading them on paper. Let's say my increased enjoyment was worth, uhm, $5 per book. So maybe I've derived $12.50 of value from the Kindle so far. Say I keep using it for two years, extrapolate out... At the rate I'm going, maybe I'll get $100 of value. I shelled out $150 for my refurbished Kindle. Trotting out the balance scale—darned nice, but not worth it.

(Yes, Kindle fans, yes it's my fault for not giving Kindle a chance. I should get into the habit of checking the Kindle store before I check the library. As more books become Kindle-ified, I'll have more incentive to check the Kindle store first, as the odds will be more in its favor. I'll use the Kindle a lot when I travel. The next time Neal Stephenson writes a book whose paper version weighs 20 pounds, I'll read it on Kindle, and it will pay for itself in reduced wrist strain. Yes, yes, yes, all valid points. But so far, honestly, I'm still thinking: darned nice, but not worth it. I'm glad I got it, but it was a splurge, an indulgence. Like out-of-season strawberries or something.)

Do you miss turning pages?

Nope. Then again, I didn't have a sentimental attachment to turning pages. If you do, you might miss it.

Is it bulky?

Nope. The one I have (a Kindle, uhm, Classic. Kindle I? Kindle original? I forget what they call it) is about the size of a, uhm, normal hardcover book. It's a good shape for something you want to hold for a while without cramping your hands, wearing out your wrist, etc. Newer readers are smaller. That doesn't make much sense to me—some of them look like my hands would cramp if I held them too long. Then again, I have big hands. If you're not a mutant, your mileage may vary.

I'm sooooo hesitant to get on the bandwagon...

Yeah. I'm not surprised to find out it's a popular gift—it's a nice thing, but expensive.

Alex writes:

Yeah, I heard good things about Kindle from my co-workers. Lots of them got it as Xmas present from their wives. It was also a hot topic at this year's CES. I am kind of intersted in the flexible-but-resilient, paper-thin e-reader. No more dirty fingers from reading traditional newspaper. Heheh...

Hey, Alex. Maybe the Hawaiian newspapers need to learn about the newfangled printing methods that have non-smearing ink. We have that here in San Francisco.

Wow, how awkward. I Tweeted, people replied on Facebook, and here I am reply-replying on my Blog. I can hardly wait until the Salmon Protocol lets us have this conversation in a not-so-disjoint manner.

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Book Report: Amazonia

Memoirs by some guy who was employee #55 at He was an in-house editor. Amazon wanted to have some folks on staff who could write up book reviews. This was before they let any bozo with an account write a book review. Folks were supposed to trust these reviews--sort of like when you go to a physical bookstore and there's a piece of paper stuck to a shelf saying "STAFF PICK!". It seems like a silly idea, but these were the beginning days of Amazon, and nobody really knew how a retail site was supposed to work. Merchants and customers were still figuring that stuff out. Are still figuring that stuff out.

This guy used to pick some book that appears on the Amazon front page. I found myself thinking, how presumptious to think that he should do such a thing. But recommendation engines weren't so great back then. Having some human pick one book a day to show to everybody--that was probably the best option they had at the time... Nowadays, I ignore the Amazon front page and click through to the recommendations. It's not exactly clear to me why there's still a "front page".

What? Oh, right, the book.

The book. He talks about the scandal when customers found out about the payola. Book publishers wanted their books to appear on the front page and on category pages. Depending on which books the Amazon editors picked, the book publishers would fork over payola. You might think that the big publishers are sleazy when they lie to authors about copyright--but they're sleazy in plenty of other contexts, too. Anyhow.

So there was this big editorial staff at Amazon. But they weren't as good as crowdsourcing. There are too many folks on the internets who will write book reviews for free. (Maybe I should point out that I found Harriet Vane's customer review of this book particularly on-target.)

So there was this big editorial staff at Amazon. And then there wasn't.

So this is the story of someone working at a fast-growing start-up--who finds out that he's part of an experiment that's not working out... This would be a pathetic story, but the author, James Marcus, is an engaging writer.

And it's a reminder about the entrepeneurial throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach. I like this approach, it's a great thing to do with software. If you write some software that doesn't catch on, that's not a problem. But this approach, it doesn't work so well with people. If you say, "Hey, I know, let's hire a bunch of in-house editors" and that experiment doesn't work out, you're going to have to lay a bunch of people off. And that's hard. So I guess I'm saying don't throw people at the wall to see if they stick. Or something.

(Beware: Chapter 14 of this book is all about literary crap: What would Emerson have thought of the internet? You might not think you care about that idea now. You will care much less about it after you drag your eyeballs over Chapter 14. Things get going again after that, though.)

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Link: Bookarmy

Bookarmy is a book rating website.

Yes, I keep trying book rating websites. I keep hoping they'll turn into book recommendation sites. Bookarmy is a book recommendation website! Or, uhm, maybe. Hmm. Kinda. It hopes to be a book recommendation site?

You might remember a while back I mentioned I used a site called Wikilens. You'd tell it books you like and it would recommend others based on other people's recommendations. It was fun while it lasted; it was a school project and those people aren't in school anymore. The site shut down.

I'm on, where folks can rate things that they've consumed, e.g., books. I hit a milestone there this morning: I rated my 1000th book! But that site doesn't make recommendations. About a year ago, it gave me a list of five people who were "consuming the same things as Larry Hosken". OK, that's not the same as enjoying the same things that I enjoy. But maybe it's close enough. Let's see, is there some easy way for me to find things that these people rated highly, things that I haven't tried yet? Uhm, no. No recommendations here. Here's how I figure I'll celebrate rating my 1000th book: I'm stopping. No more rating books on AllConsuming. It's easy, they have a nice quick UI... but it's not getting me anything.

What? Bookarmy? I'm theoretically talking about Bookarmy? OK.

Someone at work pointed out a new site: It promises book recommendations! So I rated a bunch books on their site. And now I've got recommendations from them. But the recommendations so far... Uhm, they lack credibility.

Bookarmy has three ways of making recommendations:

  • "People like you are reading..."
  • "Your friends books"
  • "More from authors you like"

People like you are reading sounds like a good idea. Bookarmy looks over its list of users to find people who are similar to me, book-taste-wise. Then it looks for books rated highly by those people. I guess. I guess that's what's going on. Elsewhere in their UI, they have a list of people who are my "best matched". So what are the top-recommended books for me in this category?

  • Speak Young adult fiction. Bookarmy recommends this book because it was rated highly by user Twilightrose, who is my best-matched user in all of Bookarmy. How well are we matched? Twilightrose and I have read one book in common: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We are similar in that we disliked it. That's it. That's the extent of our well-matched tastes. This doesn't seem like a credible recommendation.
  • Friction, children's fiction. Also rated highly by Twilightrose. She seems like a nice girl and all. I'm just not sure that our tastes are really that similar. Just sayin'.
  • Looking for Alaska children's fiction. Highly rated by Nathanonline, the Bookarmy user second-most similar to me. What do I have in common with Nathanonline? We both read Crime and Punishment. I disliked Crime and Punishment and Nathanonline liked it. Yet we are considered similar. Maybe that's because Nathanonline rated C&P as "OK" while its average rating is five stars (the maximum). Relative to the rest of the world, we disliked Crime and Punishment. Maybe that's what's going on? Somehow, that's not enough to make me want to pay much attention to his book recommendations. No offense, Nate.

(If I scan down Bookarmy's list of people who are similar to me, at #4 I finally find someone who liked a book that I liked. That's one book that we have in common. On the other hand, if I look at a list of people who have rated many books, I can find someone named "Loosy" who has read a bunch of the same books that I have and we seem to agree more than we disagree. And I just found Loosy by stumbling around haphazardly. Hey, bookarmy people: I'd rather know about people who agree with me on 2/3 books than 1/1 books. I'm surprised Loosy isn't higher on my list of similar people than Nathanonline is.)

Your friends books If you're reading this, you're probably sad to see that Bookarmy recommends "friends books" to me. You're probably a friend of mine and thinking "Waaahhh Larry told other friends about this bookarmy site and now all those people are cliquishly trading book recommendations but they didn't invite me and they're leaving me out and I'm just going to go sit in the corner and eat worms". But I don't have any friends on Bookarmy. No, wait, I have eight friends on Bookarmy. No, wait, bookarmy's friend system is broken. Eight people have "friended" me on Bookarmy. Bookarmy is a social network site. You know how some people try to "win" on social network sites by having the most friends? So they "friend" everybody? Eight of those people have friended me. I said no to each of them. But but but bookarmy nevertheless says that I have eight friends. And it recommends books from them.

  • Twilight
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

These books have been recommended by people who "friend" people they don't know. The only thing I know about these people is that they have a hobby that I don't have: random "friending". Thus, I'm not inclined to pay much attention to these recommendations. Or I might take these as anti-recommendations--maybe if I read these books, I'll turn into an annoying random-friending-person.

The good news is that I learned some new punctuation today:
Your friend's books: apostrophe before the s indicates that "friend" is singular
Your friends' books: apostrophe after the s indicates that "friends" is plural
Your friends books: mising apostrophe indicates that "friends" is zero

More from authors you like Hey, they can alert me to new books written by authors I've rated highly, yay!

  • Interworld by Neil Gaiman , Michael Reaves. Huh. I like some Neil Gaiman stuff, dislike other Neil Gaiman stuff. I'm kind of surprised this showed up so high on the list.
  • The Web Architect's Handbook by Charles Stross. OK, I like his science fiction, maybe I'd like his technical writing, too. Hmm, according to his website, this 13-year old book on web design is "an historical artifact". Maybe I'll skip it. Still, this seems like the kind of book I'd want to show up on this list--there's no way an algorithm could know the book's out of date. Well done, Bookarmy.
  • How to be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. Why is this showing up in a list of books by authors I like? I've rated one Franzen book on Bookarmy. I didn't like that book. My rating reflects that.

Anyhow, if you're on Bookarmy and you know me, feel free to friend me. It's kind of embarrassing being on a social site with no friends. If you'd like to play around on a book-rating site, Bookarmy is fun. And maybe if enough people go there and rate books, they'll have better data. And maybe maybe they'll come up with some better recommendation ranking algorithm... I'm tempted to recommend it, because I would so much like it if there was a book recommendation service that had plenty of data to work with... But, really, it's not working well now.

I talked to a couple of folks about my bad luck on Bookarmy. One of them told me that if I rate books on Amazon, Amazon will tell me about similarly-rated books. Maybe I should try that. I tend to shy away from using Amazon because they oppress their coders. Maybe it's time I got past that.

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Book Report: Competing on Internet Time, Breaking Windows

Competing on Internet Time

This book is about the rise of Netscape including competing with Microsoft, contrasting Netscape's nimble pace to Microsoft's slow release cycles. I didn't finish the book. It talked plenty about the business side. Well, it didn't say that much about the business side, but it said it at length. Maybe if I'd kept reading there would have been something interesting about the software development process. But I couldn't stick with it. They kept saying "on Internet time" to mean "fast-paced". The Nth time I read it, I thought Oh, get over yourselves.

I tried looking in the index for bad attitude, it wasn't there.

I gave up and put the book down.

Breaking Windows

This book is about Microsoft's peak and downturn. It comes at the problem from the biz point of view, largely overlooking the technology. I guess. I didn't make it very far in the book. Maybe I would have made it past the discussion of how Microsoft needed to keep growing to sustain itself as a company. I guess it's very engineer-y of me to zone out during business discussions and only perk up when people talk about products and/or technology. I perked up when the book talked about Bill Gates' reason for getting into the software business when most companies were making software only as an excuse to get people to buy their hardware. Gates figured that Moore's law meant that hardware would become a commodity. So he didn't want to get into that business, just software. But in the first something something pages of this book, that was the only time I perked up. Eventually I realized this.

I gave up and put the book down.

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Book Report: The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah (Cometbus #51)

This is a 'zine, the latest issue of Cometbus. This is a history of Berkeley's Telegraph avenue--mostly of the shops which arose out of a place called Rambam, which predates my Berkeley days. But thence sprang Moe's Books, Cody's, Shakespeare & Co, Lhasa Karnak, Black Oak Books. It's a tale told by Aaron Cometbus, who grew up amidst this, but wasn't privy to the stories until he started asking around. It's the story of the slovenly Ken who runs Rasputin Records and Blondie's Pizza. The SLA is is in there; the riots of the 90s, the inter-generational tension between the hippies and the punks. There is reflection upon the nature of a pig in mud. There is bookselling, there are books, there are ideas, there are ideals. I recommend it.

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Site: Library Cart Graffiti Photos

Yesterday was a good day for a few reasons, few of which will make it into the permanent record. But one good thing was a visit to Doe Library. While there, I snapped photos of a few decorated book carts. I would have snapped more, but my camera batteries ran out and I hadn't brought spares.

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Unread Books "Meme"

via Journeywoman, a "meme" that's almost on topic with my recent whining about Russian novels:

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish.

Here's the twist: add (*) beside the ones you liked and would (or did) read again or recommend. Even if you read 'em for school in the first place.

OK, this is me again. In addition to the suggested notations, I added (link)s to Book Reports for those books upon which I have Reported.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment (reached the finish, but only read the odd-numbered pages)
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel (link)
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick (skimmed a fair amount)
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey *
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace (link)
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods (link)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Quicksilver *
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys (link)
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse *
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present (link)
Cryptonomicon *
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas (link)
The Confusion *
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values *
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow *
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island (link)
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers (link)

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Book Report: Leave me Alone, I'm Reading

Today at lunch, the conversation was all about web application security. No, wait, it wasn't even about web application security. It was about what sort of effort it would take to educate computer programmers about web application security. No wait it was about how to educate computer programmers about one paradigm of web application security without totally alienating any computer security experts. I found this conversation interesting. This suggests that you might not want to trust me very far about what things are interesting and/or boring. So you might not want to read about what I thought of the book Leave me Alone, I'm Reading. Nevertheless, here we go.

This book starts out with a little bit of autobiography, but then dives into literary criticism, an informed essay about Women's Extreme Adventure Stories. It turns out that I don't care that much about Women's Extreme Adventure Stories, no matter how cleverly Maureen Corrigan compares and contrasts instances of these stories.

Actually, of the stories that she mentioned that I'd read, I liked most of them. I guess I just don't enjoy reading book reports that talk about overarching themes and common elements and all that crapola. Wow, those of you who have read many of these Book Reports are probably really surprised to learn that, but it's true. I gave up partway through this book. It seems well-executed. But it's not my thing.

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Link: Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books Project

Unlike books juxtaposed = laughs. Sorted Books Project. Also: Sorted Books Project

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Site Update: More Library Handcarts

Yeah, I know you want a game report. Yesterday was BANG17, which was pretty awesome. Even if the game hadn't been awesome, it would have been a good excuse to hang out for a day with some folks who I hadn't seen in too long a time: Andrea took a break from her hectic almost-graduated grad student schedule; Lofty Dave recovered from a cold just in time; Paul Du Bois drove up from San Jose.

Plus it was good to meet some new-to-me folks. Paul's Double Fine co-worker Pete Demoreuille was introduced as "Smart Pete" and lived up to his nickname. I got wrapped in aluminum foil by The Smoking Gnu. I met Paul, the mysterious force behind the Bay Area Night Game wiki. I found out that Michael of team Taft on a Raft knows some Double Fine folks.

But I'm not going to try to write about that now. Today, I've been kind of a wreck. I didn't get much sleep Friday night, and so early Saturday I drank an excessive amount of coffee. I was doing my Buzzy the Hummingbird impression all day. Today, I went cold turkey on the sauce. I've mostly been napping. When I haven't been napping, I haven't been... effective. Like just now I opened up a big jug of orange juice to pour myself a glass, and tossed the jug cap. I didn't want to do that--I needed to re-cap the jug. What saved me from fishing the cap out of the trash? I was so spacey that my toss missed the garbage bin.

The only worthwhile thing I got done today was to prepare some photos from yesterday. These aren't the BANG 17 photos. I have a few of those, but they're not ready yet. You can look at Lofty's photos, starting with this one showing most of the team covering a Smoking Gnu with foil.

I have photos of what I did before the game: photos of book trucks from Doe Library. I now have two hand cart photos showing graffiti in languages I can't read. One in (I guess) Chinese and one in (I guess) Arabic.

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Site Update: Photos of Library Book Trucks

So far, this page of photos of library book trucks only has a few photos. But I'm setting it up anyhow. I've taken other photos of library book truck graffiti--and thrown those photos out because I didn't have a good place to put them. A few weeks back, I went to Doe Library and some of those decorated book trucks were locked up, look like maybe they were heading for the junkyard. I was regretting not keeping those photos. Didn't one of those carts have a label making a funny Sisyphus allusion? Maybe now I'd never remember.

From now on when I take goofy photos of library carts, I'll know where to keep them.

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Book Report: Cometbus #50

Yesterday, it was too hot. In the evening, the neighborhood finally cooled off--a breeze blew through. My apartment was still too hot. So I applied my Game equipment to writing about the game--I went outside to write. I had on my headlamp so I could see; I had my written notes on my clipboard so that they wouldn't blow away; I typed away on the laptop. I looked like a dork, but it was the longest stint of writing I got in this weekend that wasn't disrupted by heat prostration.

That was pretty hard-core. Which brings me to the latest issue of Cometbus.

The latest issue of Cometbus and it is, unsurprisingly, awesome. Which parts were awesome? There's an interview with Ian MacKaye which doesn't wallow in the same old talk about the True Meaning of Straight Edge, but instead delivers an anecdote around an old Ramones show in D.C.

Then there's an article about great (and not-so-great) used bookstores in NYC. I could have used this back when I visited New York in January. I wasted some time trying to find the Gotham Book Mart in the diamond district. But Cometbus would have steered me right: that store moved.

...For fifty years GOTHAM BOOK MART was a delightful albatross right in the heart of the diamond district. Then, in 2004, they found more spacious digs a block away (16 East 46th) but lost all their charm in the move. The store got a high-class makeover and came out looking like a cross between a museum and a funeral parlor. Two years later, the place still reeks of privelege and McSweeney's. Only on the second floor does the stench thin out a bit. There, past shelves of precious, mylar-wrapped first editions I discovered one relic, one remnant of old Gotham...

OK, so when I was looking for the Gotham Book Mart nestled amongst a bunch of diamond shops, it had long since moved. Have you ever stood on a street full of diamond stores, just stood there looking at a building and scratching your head? You will draw attention. You look like a jewel thief; you look like you're casing the joint.

Hopefully, the next issue will come out soon. Hopefully, the next issue will come out in time to save me from looking for bookstores in the wrong places.

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Publishing News: Opposite of Google Print

Today I went to a talk by best-selling author Neil Gaiman. There was a question and answer period. Someone asked for Mr Gaiman's take on the recent Google Print kafuffle. (Some authors did not deign to fill in the little "Please don't index my book" web form, but instead filed a lawsuit against Google.)

He raised some interesting points, including one I hadn't heard before. It's not just the danger-of-piracy vs. searchability-equals-higher-sales trade off. There might be some books which the rights holder doesn't want found at all. Back when he was young, unknown, and needed money, he wrote a book about the band Duran Duran. He is not proud of this work. He does not want any more copies of this book to sell. He wishes it would go away. (I'm interpreting what he said; perhaps I'm exaggerating.)

A couple of hours too late, I realized the solution to this problem. The embarassed author's best friend is: Google Purge.

Disclaimer: I do not speak for Google. I only speak for myself.

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Publishing News

Tom Manshreck is in town. Tom was living in NYC, working in publishing. There's a lot of publishing around there. Tom was working on engineering textbooks, but he still cares about the literary stuff.

Evidence: Tom came home from work one day and outside his apartmeent found an abandoned dog. He took in that dog. He named that dog Faulkner. I met Faulkner last night.

If this was a joke, then Tom would have told me, "This dog can speak English." And to prove it, he would have asked

"What's sandpaper like?"
"Ruff, ruff"

"Where is the chimney?"
"Roof roof"

"Name a fictional county"

...but this wasn't a joke. It was a good evening with old friends.

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Current Events

This is a blog; it is largely about books. Today the blogosphere is abuzz with news about a book: the new Harry Potter book is out.

I spent the day sailing. Thus, I had a fun time with Piaw and Lisa. Lea W. was there, awesome as ever. Speaking of blogs, I met pioneering blogger Eric Case. Vianna was there; I met her sweet patootie Dan. These were good people to spend a day with on a boat. There was fun sailing; there was relaxing sitting; there was enlightening conversation.

Afterwards, I got to meet Lea W's housemate Jonathan Blow. I've only been hearing about this guy for, like, forever.

We went to Lalime's, a restaurant which I'd heard about often, but had never tried.

Old friends, new friends. A restaurant I can cross off my list.

Have I made all of the Potter-reading people envious? I hope so. I hope they try to one-up me by going outside more often on nice days. Then I can borrow someone's copy of the new Harry Potter book.

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Summer Reading

For Fourth of July weekend, the U.C. Berkeley libraries are closed. Nevertheless, they recalled the book I was reading. I'm not sure how that works. In theory, I was returning the book because someone else had requested it. But the library won't be open for a few days, so that person won't have any way to check the book out.

Thus, I gave back White Mughals I wasn't finished with it.

I returned all of the books I had checked out from the U.C. Berkeley library. The BART train workers are threatening to strike, so it could be a hassle getting over to Berkeley to return those books later.

I checked some books out of the San Francisco library instead. Its books tend to be a bit less serious than those of UCB. I guess I've switched over to my light summer reading.

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Meme: Banned Books

Here's a list of the top 110 banned books. Bold the ones you've read. Italicize the ones you've read part of. Put an exclamation point by the ones you've never heard of before. Read more. Convince others to read some. (Meme via Journeywoman)

#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne - !
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio - !
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Das Kapital by Karl Marx
#37 Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire - !
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys - !
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus - !
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X - !
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke - !
#60 Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - !
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - !
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau - !
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais - !
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau - !
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - !
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence - !
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser - !
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck - !
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith - !
#80 Satyricon by Petronius - !
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Second et Baron de Montesquieu - !
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George - !
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle - !
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin - !
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene - !
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner - !
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig - !
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - !
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines - !
#102 Emile Jean by Jacques Rousseau - !
#103 Nana by Emile Zola - !
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier - !
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin - !
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - !
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck - !
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark - !
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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Found: Postcard

At the back of this copy of Jane Eyre that I checked out of the UC Library, there was a postcard. Names changed to protect the whatever.

Dear Ver,

It sux to write a postcard instead of the nice long email I've been meaning to write. But it sux more to fall out of touch 4Ever. [The 4E was rendered as a ligature.] Plus it's cool to get mail, no? Brief update on me: (1) JOB: NYCLU (ACLU of New York) Development Associate. (2) BOYFRIEND: Single, Tho I was dating Joel Steadman (from Amhurst) for a brief spell (he sux to date, too thinky + self-centered. Rilly liked him, tho. Damn shamed. No Good prospects. (3) Art: Making little books + MASKS. Also some printing. Hope you're well + looking foward to School starting. <3 Sophie. P.S. Give my love to all the folks I met while I was there! They're great!

Though she had been making little books, she sent a mass-produced postcard. Maybe she should have been making postcards.

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How it Would Have Gone Down

I think the conversation would have gone something like this.

Me: Let's trade books.

Her: Excuse me?

Me: Please trade books with me. Just for the duration of this streetcar ride.

Her: Wait, what?

Me: I finished reading my book. I have nothing to read. You have a book I haven't read. You probably haven't read my book.

Her: Uh...

Me: So if we trade books, each of us will have something new to read.

Her: That sounds dumb.

Me: Please?

Her: Is your book good?

Me: Uhm, well it's an architect talking about how to make buildings.

Her: I don't know...

Me: Except it turns out he's also a contractor.

Her: Mister, I think you should stop bothering me.

Me: But the library was closed.

Her: You think I won't call the cops? Because I will.

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I was sitting on the streetcar and reading Martyr's Crossing by Amy Wilentz. A young lady sat down next to me and started reading Camus' The Stranger. And we rode on, a two-seat survey of literature about wrongfully-dead Arabs.

I made a mental note to read something cheerier soon.


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