Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The year in translation

Three percent "a resource for international literature at the University of Rochester" and named after the oft-cited statistic (first established by Bowker) that only 3% of books published in the U.S. are translations, offers an overview of the year in translation, including a 2009 translation spreadsheet of the original fiction and poetry translations released in the U.S. during 2009.

In translations by country of origin, France tops the list, accounting for 32, or 9.2%, of 348 translations, while Spanish is the most translated language with 59 titles. 11 Norwegian titles in translation were released in the U.S. market in 2009 - the same number as lil'old Russia (lots of space and people, but evidently lacking in significant writers and literary tradition) and 1 more than measly China.

Three percent more than suggests that translations are a measure of a reading nations' insularity: The motivating force behind the website is the view that reading literature from other countries is vital to maintaining a vibrant book culture and to increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures. In this age of globalization, one of the best ways to preserve the uniqueness of cultures is through the translation and appreciation of international literary works. To remain among the world’s best educated readers, English speakers must have access to the world’s great literatures. It is a historical truism and will always remain the case that some of the best books ever written were written in a language other than English. 

According to statistics compiled by the Norwegian publishers association  279 adult fiction titles were translated into Norwegian in 2008, along with 333 titles for children.  In both categories, the number of translations exceeded the number of original Norwegian titles (275 and 233 respectively). Naturally, translations will be comparatively more numerous in nations of minor languages, but these are still striking figures: 279 titles for a population of under 5 million, as compared with 348 translations for a U.S. population of more than 300 million.

Free Technology for Teachers

I woke from troubled sleep this morning berating myself for neglecting to nominate the superb Free Technology for Teachers for the Edublogs 2009 awards. Rushed over to see if it was too late, which it was, but no matter...many others confirmed my excellent judgment and voted Free Technology for Teachers as the best individual educational blog for 2009. Congratulations!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The worst books

Pleased to see Vernon God Little picking up several endorsements in this contest by The Guardian.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Google works

I always suspected the secret behind Google was  something like this.

Preview new NYPL site

A video showing the new NYPL site (and three cheers for the absence of music!)

Access myLibrary for iPhone

The iPhone/GPS app AccessMyLibrary from Gale will point you to libraries within a 10-mile radius of your location. (libraries that do not subscribe to a Gale product are not shown, however). You can then select a library and obtain access to all its Gale electronic resources. You can also use this app to find the address or to contact the[Gale subscribing] library in your area directly. See a thorough review/explanation at Resource Shelf.

The new digital future

A nice nosegay of stuff on the new digital future at Bookforum.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Empowering the peanut gallery

Alan Jacobs at Text Patterns makes the brazen claim that concentration and distraction are incompatible entities. Actually that thought had occurred to me also, but I wrote it off to old age. Jacobs provides some good references on this topic, and his post is followed by a string of interesting comments. The Chronicle of Higher Education discussed this phenomenon recently in  Teaching with Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart - which is actually more about occupational health than higher education. In the video below, an enthusiastic faculty member notes that he now hears from students who were once to shy to speak up in class; once again, technology levels the playing field, this time taking away that unfair advantage formerly enjoyed by  ventriloquists. See also my earlier post  about backchanneling.

Friday, December 11, 2009

An outstanding Christmas decoration

A truly outstanding Christmas decoration! And testimony by the anonymous prankster about the response to this lifesize yuletide ornament (read it at Traveling Librarian) inspires faith in the goodness of mankind!

Letters of Note

What an attractive and interesting blog Letters of Note is! Here's the "about" blurb:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated every weekday.


For those interested in translations and the art of translation, The Quarterly Conversation has assembled "Translate this book"

We’ve talked to some of the top translators into English working today; we’ve talked to publishers big and small; we’ve talked to agents, journalists, and foreign-language authors. We’ve asked them all for the best books that still aren’t in English. And have they responded. They’ve told us TRANSLATE THIS BOOK!, and now we pass that on to you.

Google real time search

A few months ago, Google introduced a new feature that lets you limit search results to items added during the past 24 hours. Now they've also added a "latest" feature, that lets you filter down to items added during the past minutes and seconds. Very cool, and a useful supplement to Twitter and realtime search engines. Here's a demo video - without narration, but with annoying music, so turn your speaker off  (why do so many videos come with this kind of useless music?  Silence is golden.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A translation mystery, solved I think

There's an oddity in Louise and Aylmer Maude's translation of Anna Karenina that has puzzled me for some time. The passage in question is Part I, chapter 16, third paragraph, about Vronsky falling in love with Kitty in Moscow. Most translators  have something like this:  (from Constance Garnett's translation)
 "In Moscow, he had for the first time felt, after his luxurious and coarse life in Petersburg..." etc.

A newer translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhinsky is similar.."In Moscow, after the luxurious and coarse life of Petersburg, he had" and so on.

And Google Translate renders it like this:
In Moscow, the first time he experienced after a luxurious and coarse Petersburg life, the beauty of intimacy with a charming and innocent girl who fell in love. (Not bad!!!)

But then we come to Louise and Aylmer Maud's translation:
 "In Moscow, after this luxurious course of Petersburg life, he experienced" etc.

A Russian interepreter hearing the English homonyms "coarse" and "course" might conceivably confuse them, but here we're talking about a translation from Russian into English.  Is there a Russian homograph (word with same spelling, different meaning, like "bark") or  heteronym (word that has common spelling but different meaning and pronunciation, e.g  invalid and invalid) that could account for this gaffe? My Russian speaking friends said no, and having no further ideas, I tucked it away in my big store of things to wonder about.

Then last week I stumbled upon Jeffrey Trachtenberg's article Translating Tolstoy in the Wall Street Journal, about the translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I decided to send Trachtenberg a note about this little conundrum, and he graciously responded by directing me to David Remnick's fascinating 2005 New Yorker article "The Translation Wars" which discusses more generally the challenges of translating Russian, the famous feud between Nabokov and Wilson, and some of the translators (including Pevear and Vohlokinsky) and their translations. One detail in particular, about Constance Garnett's production line methods, grabbed my attention: She hired a secretary, who read the Russian text to her aloud; Garnett would dictate back in English.

Eureka, this is precisely the kind of method that could twist "coarse" into "course."  And although this was about Garnett and her secretary (who got the passage right), it is not implausible that the Maudes might have engaged in the same kind of mischief. I can think of no other explanation.

p.s. - in Russian, in case someone might have a better explanation, the passage looks like this:

В Москве в первый раз он испытал, после роскошной и грубой
петербургской жизни, прелесть сближения со светскою милою и невинною
девушкой, которая полюбила

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Non-librarians speak up for libraries; launch of ReadKiddoRead

Radical patron provides a summary of recent advocacy for libraries by non-librarians, including this bit:

Nov 6 Author James Patterson advocates for libraries at a national conference for school librarians. “It’s time for librarians to start making a lot more noise,” Patterson told the packed crowd. “School libraries are not a luxury, they are a necessity.”
Additionally, Patterson and a team of publishing consultants launch a new literacy website, ReadKiddoRead that beats library sites hands-down for content, discoverability and advocacy messaging.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More on snakes: Man caught red-handed trying to steal Giant Anaconda

This week is Geography Awareness Week!

National Geographic's MyWonderfulWorld  celebrates Geography Awareness Week,  a prelude to next month's more comprehensive National Awareness Month. Geography Awareness Week was  established by Presidential Proclamation in 1987. This year, to kick it off, "National Geographic invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory and to label at least three important places. Here's the gallery of maps from the brave Senators who took the challenge.The maps reveal home-state pride, personal history, and even some geographic humor."  So far, only 11 Senators have risen to the challenge...the rest were perhaps intimidated by Al Franken's performance at the Minnesota State Fair...

Monday, November 16, 2009

More on the smell of books

I've blogged previously about this ingenious spray for Kindle and other hand-held devices, but for those who want to know more about the research that lies behind household items like these, here's the abstract of a recent paper that appeared in Analytical Chemistry

Material Degradomics: On the Smell of Old Books
Matija Strli*†, Jacob Thomas‡, Tanja Trafela§, Linda Csfalvayov†, Irena Kralj Cigi§, Jana Kolar and May Cassar†
Centre for Sustainable Heritage, The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London, Gower Street (Torrington Place site), London, United Kingdom WCIE 6BT, Tate, Millbank, London, United Kingdom SW1P 4RG, Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana, Akereva 5, Ljubljana, Slovenia SI-1000, and Morana RTD d.o.o., Oslica 1b, Ivanna Gorica, Slovenia SI-1295
Anal. Chem., 2009, 81 (20), pp 8617–8622
DOI: 10.1021/ac9016049
Publication Date (Web): September 17, 2009
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society

We successfully transferred and applied -omics concepts to the study of material degradation, in particular historic paper. The main volatile degradation products of paper, constituting the particular “smell of old books”, were determined using headspace analysis after a 24 h predegradation procedure. Using supervised and unsupervised methods of multivariate data analysis, we were able to quantitatively correlate volatile degradation products with properties important for the preservation of historic paper: rosin, lignin and carbonyl group content, degree of polymerization of cellulose, and paper acidity. On the basis of volatile degradic footprinting, we identified degradation markers for rosin and lignin in paper and investigated their effect on degradation. Apart from the known volatile paper degradation products acetic acid and furfural, we also put forward a number of other compounds of potential interest, most notably lipid peroxidation products. The nondestructive approach can be used for rapid identification of degraded historic objects on the basis of the volatile degradation products emitted by degrading paper.


OuttaSight is a lightweight Windows desktop utility that hides running application windows to un-clutter the desktop, quickly hide private work, or secure your applications while you’re away from your computer. Read all about it at MakeUseOf Very handy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Venomous snakes

You're probably not obsessively interested in venomous snakes and animals, but I am, and was delighted to discover - in connection with my daughter's travels to South America - the Armed Forces Pest Management Board (AFPMB)Living Hazards Database. Wow!!! Includes a "venomous animals by country" list.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Psychedelic baseball, 1970

A charming and hilarious animation about psychedelic pitcher Dock Ellis...(boingboing)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Boing Boing on craziness

How excellent that the widely-read Boing Boing is not only promoting Richard Hofstaedter's must-read essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" but even quoting one of my favorite passages, the one about the scientific pedantry of the true believer's language and "the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality it invariably shows." That, mercifully, is one thing that people of other faiths normally don't bore us with, e.g exactly how their respective prophets worked their miracles.

Little Professor and bookless libraries

The Little Professor concludes that books in a library are a good thing.

Spreadsheet fiction

If you've ever been asked for a spreadsheet of all the short stories that have appeared in BASS (Best American Short Stories) 1978-2008, Jake has already obliged . More about best American short stories by the numbers at The Millions. And if your interest is New Yorker Fiction 2003-2008 by the numbers, there's a spreadsheet for that too, courtesy of Frank. See also analysis at The Millions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reverse image search engine

Sometimes you might like to know more about the origin of an image you've found on the web - or you might like to know if others are using images that you've uploaded, or if there are variations on a particular image, like Munch's scream.  TinEye is a reverse image search engine, and claims to be "the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wikimedia bookshelf project

Several strategies have been examined for improving the quality of Wikipedia. One is the vetting of user-contributed articles by qualified editors, a procedure explored by the German language wikipedia. Another is to make editing easier, and therefore more attractive to readers who may have something to contribute but are put off by the labor or technical difficulty of editing a page. Of course, that will encourage contributions from vandals and scholars alike, so the the new Wikimedia Bookshelf Project will employ a dual strategy; to simplify the editing process, but also attract more high-value Wikipedia editors through a focused public outreach program.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tom Peters on the future

Tom Peters's long piece on the Future of Reading provides a tidy summary of the issues, and suggests that "As the book changes form, the library must champion its own power base—readers [as distinct from its brand, which as been books]. But Peters so dilutes the meaning of reading that I wonder if it makes any sense to speak of it as a unique activity: The boundaries and varieties of reading experiences continue to expand and evolve. For example, perhaps the way gamers interact with highly structured, complex games qualifies as a new form of reading. It is more meaningful and accurate to state that these power players are reading the game rather than merely playing it.

The article concludes with a rousing call for a Reader Bill of Rights: Because readers are the power base of libraries (as well as of bookstores and other organizations), we also can serve them well by articulating and advocating for their needs, desires, and interests. Authors, publishers, aggregators, and distributors are not the enemies of readers and libraries, but nature abhors a vacuum. If readers don't assert their rights in the dawning e-reading era, someone else will snatch up those rights. To that end, I suggest that libraries and library associations develop, promulgate, and defend a Reader Bill of Rights for the Digital Era.  A "Reader Bill of Rights" doesn't strike me as a matter of great urgency, or something that libraries need to focus on; it seems more like a contrived ending to Peter's otherwise perceptive and interesting article, but more appropriate for an LJ cover story. A more logical conclusion points in the direction of obsolescence for libraries, but no  reason to stop providing services as long as people find them useful.

Lbrary bypass to reach St. Jerome in his pajamas

John Esposito writes: I live 100 yards from a campus of the University of California, but cannot get remote access to the UC digital collection at any price. This situation won’t last; the pressure of a knowledge economy, coupled with the incentives of enterprise, will bring the riches of the world of information to my study. My PayPal account is ready.

Esposito comments on Motoko Rich's recent NYT piece about ebooks and libraries which he says "raises the question of how publishers will come to terms with the possibility that the sale (or lease) of one copy of a book will lead to multiple readers of that copy." One answer is that epublishers will wish to bypass libraries altogether and reach their endusers  - the "St. Jeromes in pajamas" - directly. But Esposito puts a library-positive spin on it: "A bypass strategy is a prudent means to find other ways to derive revenue from publications without imposing a further tax on a library’s strained materials budget."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Congressional 140

Congressional 140 aggregates tweets from members of Congress who use Twitter, and provides a snapshot of what's on their minds.  Here's something  from the "about" page:

From Reagan's diary to Truman's journal, Lincoln's notes, and Kennedy's scribbling we are fascinated with the inner most thoughts of our national leaders during times of intense political discourse and national change. We look towards the unvarnished, un-spinned, raw, and truthful thoughts of the elected officials we have chosen to represent us in our American Republic as having more interpretive value then the highly sanitized speeches, releases, and talking points that strip away substance in favor of non-offensiveness. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baker's Anthologist

I'm reading Nicholson Baker's "The Anthologist". Although he's one of my favorite writers, I have trouble with the cutesiness Baker occasionally indulges in -  e.g. in the Story of Nory (never got past the first 10 pages) and, to some extent, in the Anthologist's protagonist Paul Chowder, who says things like "I hope to gimbleflap" and "God, I wish I was a canoe." Some people find that sort of thing  "amiably whimsical", while others find it more or less, offputting. I'm in the latter camp, though I'm glad I resisted the urge to hurl the Anthologist with great force after the first 30 pages....I'm now on page 169, and enjoying it more, and there are certainly some wonderful Baker moments.

When my Anthologist arrived from Amazon, I discovered that I'd inadvertently ordered two copies.  I don't rate this among Baker's best books,  and don't particularly want to give the extra copy to a friend as an introduction to Baker. However, if you think you'd like to read the book, send your mailing address to petter at gmail dot com and I'll mail it to you (anywhere in the world). My little tribute to St.Nich.  I only have one extra copy, so first come first serve...  Sorry, it's been spoken for!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Excellent use of "costive"

The word "costive" was new to me - I was very delighted to discover it in this context: 

from Intermezzo:
His opening Scriabin selections were cleverly juxtaposed so that he was able to run them together without any breaks. Unfortunately, this served mainly to expose the limitations in his expressive range, bathing everything in the same rhapsodic impressionistic gloss. His posture - head flung back, costive grimace - seemed more a substitute for real engagement than an expression of it. 

Google document viewer

You can use Google Docs Viewer to generate a link for viewing documents online without leaving your browser. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ebooks libraries

A proposal from Teleread.org founder David Rothman;  How e-Books Could Smarten Up Kids and Stretch Library Dollars: A National Plan
(excerpt)...But suppose a well-stocked national digital library system existed for Americans of different ages, along with the means to encourage schoolchildren and others to use it. Among those benefiting:
Students at small colleges without big budgets for either paper or electronic books.
Workers who want to upgrade job skills.
The elderly. In the future many baby boomers may face challenges of their own -- the inability to drive to the public library or read books of normal type size.
People in cash-strapped library and school districts.

With cost-savings in mind, a city council member in Los Angeles is already advocating e-books. "I just believe that with technology moving forward, we could save a great deal of money in not having to buy thousands of books each year when they could be made available online," a news account quotes Councilman Bernard Parks. He's off on some details, but yes, if nothing else, libraries shell out big bucks to store and manage paper collections. "E" could automate plenty.

Writers and publishers who are suffering from slumping book sales and could well stand a little economic stimulus, in the spirit of the old Federal Writers Project.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New York Times custom feeds

Check out the new New York Times Custom Feeds tool. An easy to use interface for creating keyword RSS feeds.

Area Eccentric Reads Entire Book

I missed this one when it originally appeared in The Onion, but delighted to discover it in Steven Johnson's anthology "Best Technology Writing of 2009".

NYT most frequently looked up words

From Nieman Journalism Lab

Bookserver - disrtributed lending and vending over the Internet


The widespread success of digital reading devices has proven that the world is ready to read books on screens.

As the audience for digital books grows, we can evolve from an environment of single devices connected to single sources into a distributed system where readers can find books from sources across the Web to read on whatever device they have. Publishers are creating digital versions of their popular books, and the library community is creating digital archives of their printed collections. BookServer is an open system to find, buy, or borrow these books, just like we use an open system to find Web sites.

The BookServer is a growing open architecture for vending and lending digital books over the Internet. Built on open catalog and open book formats, the BookServer model allows a wide network of publishers, booksellers, libraries, and even authors to make their catalogs of books available directly to readers through their laptops, phones, netbooks, or dedicated reading devices. BookServer facilitates pay transactions, borrowing books from libraries, and downloading free, publicly accessible books.

Who Benefits?

Authors find wider distribution for their work.
Publishers both big and small can distribute books directly to readers.
Book sellers find new and larger audiences for their products.
Device makers can offer access to millions of books instantly.
Libraries can continue to loan books in the way that patrons expect.
Readers get universal access to all knowledge.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Law.Gov "is an effort to create a report documenting exactly what it would take to create a distributed registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States.

By primary legal materials, we mean all materials that have the force of law and are part of the law-making process, including: briefs and opinions from the judiciary; reports, hearings, and laws from the legislative branch; and regulations, audits, grants, and other materials from the executive branch. Creating the system from open source software building blocks will allow states and municipalities to make their materials available as well."

I can help you

nice poster, via the Radical Patron

Motoko Rich on digital loans, and ebooks and the brain

Motoko Rich discusses the implications of ebook loans for libraries and a panel of experts* in the New York Times Room for Debate ask whether the brain likes ebooks.

*Alan Liu, English professor
Sandra Aamodt, author, “Welcome to Your Brain”
Maryanne Wolf, professor of child development
David Gelernter, computer scientist
Gloria Mark, professor of informatics

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Complete Review

If you're looking for a quick run-down of reviews of a new book, e.g. Ishiguro's short-story collection Nocturnes, The Complete Review is a very handy site. Here's an index of all the books currently under review at the Complete Review. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Article to video

Apropos of my my recent post about the transition from books to vooks and, ultimately, perhaps, the demise of text, I stumbled across something called the Article Video Robot. It takes tired old text and converts it to vibrant, compelling video. To try it out, I entered the text of a recent post here at Knowbodies about Wanting to want. See the ghastly end-product here.  Of course, some might object, what can you expect, with "garbage in, garbage out"? So I tried again with a bit of real poetry...Larkin's The Trees.   It didn't fare much better however...same lurid backdrop, same clumsy hybrid of spoken and written text, and same bass thumping in the background (Jaco P?). Sample it here (love that final message: "Philip Larkin is an 'Expert Author'  and a well known expert in the Arts-and-Entertainment field.")

To be fair, these "article to video" services are not intended for bloggers or  poets, but for article marketers (Article marketing - a genre new to me - "is a type of advertising in which businesses write short articles related to their respective industry").  But it's interesting to note that there are many such services - (just search for "article to video", e.g. www.videoarticlesecrets.com, www.article2video.com),  and they all seem to share the conviction that showing/telling is a more effective way of  getting a message across than writing. Is that necessarily true? Google seems to think so, and there is also a very compelling SEO rationale for marketers favoring video over text, explained with great urgency here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marcel and you

If you're the sensitive, introspective kind of person who has answers to questions like "When and where were you happiest" and "If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?," you can fill out the same  questionnaire that Marcel Proust responded to when he was 14 and 20, and see how you measure up. Questions like those were all the rage in 19th century Parisian salons - as they are on Facebook today -  and during the past 16 years Vanity Fair has been "asking some of the most celebrated figures of our times to respond to this set of probing personal queries as a way of taking their psychic measure."  I despise questions like that, and am far too out of touch with myself to respond with any sincerity,  but gritted my teeth and forced my way through...and found that my responses most resemble those given by Allen Ginsberg, followed by Bill O'Reilly. ?


This is quite amazing...a taste of things to come

Sketch2Photo: Internet Image Montage from Tao Chen on Vimeo.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Compare state data with Datamasher

From the "about" page:
How do the States Compare? Mash up some government data to find out!
The Federal Government produces an immeasurable amount of data each day. DataMasher helps citizens have a little fun with those data by creating mashups to visualize them in different ways and see how states compare on important issues. Users can combine different data sets in interesting ways and create their own custom rankings of the states. Want to learn more? Watch this brief screencast.

Google translate

Google translate is an amazing suite of tools. Check out the resources here or read this recent article at Pandia for an overview. Note the neat drop down I've added to this page under "Translate this page!" in red over on the right.

Google squared, squared

Google squared was reviewed here a while ago, but today Google announced several important improvementsto the service. I built a square for "Norwegian American organizations" - not perfect, but still quite impressive! Try a search for something that lends itself to tabular presentation, e.g. "British composers," "marsupials," or "astronomers"

Monday, October 5, 2009

Want to be a respected scientist?

Although my publication in LRB was not everything I hoped it would be, it did nudge the old "perhaps I'm not just anybody, after all" nerve and whet my appetite for more recognition. With that in mind, I was very happy to stumble upon MIT's (no less!) Automatic CS Paper Generator. All you do is enter your own name along with the name of your co-scientists and MIT takes care of the content. Print it out as a handsome looking pdf, and off it goes to your favorite scientific journal for peer review. Ingenious, and what a time-saver!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Swiss RapidShare is Pirate Bay for ebooks?

"Will books be Napsterized?" Randall Stross discusses an anticipated boom in e-book piracy that will accompany an anticipated boom in ebooks, and looks at the leading ebooks file-sharing site, Switzerland's RapidShare. I wonder - since this is a Swiss company - is there some way one could Napsterize the pharmaceutical industry? I keep thinking what a terrible shame it is that a great and noble idea like the Health Impact Fund doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

New Literary History of the United States

Harvard University Press has published  A New Literary History of the United States edited by Werner Sollors and Greil Marcus. This is not a conventional history of U.S. literature, but U.S. history as reflected in its literature, and much of its subject matter has been selected for historical significance rather than literary merit alone. A snippet from the WSJ review: “In this thousand-page compendium...it's clear that nothing remains of the boundaries that traditionally separated literature, history and popular culture. The book comprises more than 200 essays on American life...In snapshots of a few thousand words each, the entries...put on display the exploring, tinkering and risk-taking that have contributed to the invention of America.. Major media reviews are gathered here, and this cool website provides generous samples from the book. Looks absolutely fascinating, and 3.7 pounds and 1128 pages for $32.97 from Amazon, that's got to be a bargain!

10 best reference sites

Best Free Reference Web Sites 2009, Eleventh Annual List, RUSA Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) 
This is an annual series initiated under the auspices of the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of ALA to recognize outstanding reference sites on the World Wide Web. View selection criteria.

Among the winners: (for complete list and more info on each site, visit the ALA page)

Title: The American Presidency Project
URL: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/

Title: BBC Country Profiles
URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/country_profiles/default.stm
Title: BookFinder.com
URL: http://www.bookfinder.com/
Title: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
URL: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/
Title: English Short Title Catalog
URL: http://estc.bl.uk/
Title: ePodunk (TM)
URL: http://www.epodunk.com/

Title: Lexicool
URL: http://www.lexicool.com/

Saturday, October 3, 2009

MLA Language Map

A useful tool from MLA for anyone interested in distribution of languages in the U.S.: The MLA Language Map and its Data Center provide information about more than 47,000,000 people in the United States who speak languages other than English at home.

The Data Center now includes information from the 2005 American Community Survey, allowing for comparison between 2005 and 2000 data for 30 languages at national, regional, and state levels.

I checked Urdu, Scandinavian Languages, and German, and was surprised to find that the highest density by far for all three languages was in Los Angeles county?!

LRB and me

It would be churlish of me to complain about how a letter from little old me was published in the London Review of Books (my family and I, uncles and aunts included, have been out celebrating for days) but let me let you be the judge of LRB's editorial handiwork:

Here's what I wrote:

Mission possible

Michael Wood's wicked review of Mayer-Schonberger's Delete (LRB, 24 September) is great fun, and his description of the human predicament in the "digital age" - and other ages - is memorable: "Remembering things we would rather forget, and being remembered for them." Department of Homeland Security willing (probably not), there may now be a digital remedy for that problem; a team of scientists at the University of Washington have developed an intriguing system called "Vanish," that causes digital communications to self-destruct after a specified period of time. Needless to say, the implications could be enormous. Last I checked, the UW press release was still at http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=50973

and here's what LRB published:

Digital Remedy

From Petter Næss

Michael Wood’s description of the human predicament in the ‘digital age’ – and other ages – is striking: ‘Remembering things we would rather forget and being remembered for them’ (LRB, 24 September). Department of Homeland Security willing (it probably won’t be), there may now be a digital remedy for that problem; a team of scientists at the University of Washington have developed an intriguing system called Vanish that causes digital communications to self-destruct after a specified period of time. Needless to say, the implications could be enormous. The last time I checked, the press release was still at http:// uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=50973

Was that necessary? "Striking" instead of "memorable" (it's about memory, get it?)? Is "(It_probably_won't_be_!)" an improvement on "(probably not)"? (come to think of it, just plain (not) would have been best.) "The last time I checked" is certainly more awkward than "Last I checked", but perhaps easier to understand for some readers. Oh well, move on. Gift horse. Mouth.

Gadzooks! Vooks! So long text!

Just as some of us were finally reconciling ourselves to the idea of ebooks, along come vooks! How could one not see them coming? The debate about -and resistance to - ebooks has pretty much been about their capacity to render linear text, with enthusiasts persuasively pointing out that they can not only do that but many other things we like to do with text as well - index, annotate, share, update, etc. But how quaint and cloistered that discussion now seems, given that human nature will surely not settle for text when it can have multimedia...will it? Vooks are currently a hybrid of text and video - one commenter at Amazon said the videos “add to the [book] experience in a big way.” Yeah right, in the same way that video added in a big way to silent movie captions...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stuff for Twitterers

When people stop following you on Twitter, it's probably time to have a word with them.  Amit Agarwal's site suggests some options for finding out who they are, and has lots of other interesting stuff for Twitterers as well, including the "Twitter Guide"  and the indispensable Twitter Sheep, which creates a Wordle like tag cloud that describes your flock.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Best of the millenium, so far

For lovers of "best of" lists, TheMillions offers a juicy "Best of the millenium: Pros vs. Readers" list. The pros go for "The Corrections", while readers choose "The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."

In-page anchors on Google search results pages and (once again) CiteBite

Google has introduced some features on its search-result preview pages that take you directly  to the section of a page that contains the information you're (presumably) looking for. See examples at the Google blog.  The feature doesn't seem to be very well-developed yet, but it's a useful function...and one that has been available for several years (first reviewed here in 2/2007) to users of  CiteBite, a terrific tool that let's you add in-page precision to your own web referrals. For example, if you wanted to direct someone directly to Mark Twain's words regarding the opening of telegraph communications between Maine and San Francisco, which is at the very end of 1991 Vartan Gregorian speech, you could simply give them this link and take them directly to that part of the page. CiteBite also offers a bookmarklet or, if you're a Firefox user, an extension that enables you to generate a CiteBite link by highlighting and selecting CiteBite from the right-click menu. Very useful!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Applications for annotating websites and adding interactivity to the web have been around for a while (e.g. Fleck, and Dispute Finder) without really catching on, but that may change now that Google has introduced Sidewiki. The feature is an addon for the "enhanced" Google toolbar; as Google will tell you, "For enhanced Toolbar features to work, Toolbar has to tell us what site you're visiting by sending Google the URL." That might be a privacy issue for some people. Sidewiki, PageRank, and future page-related services are all part of the enhanced Toolbar. Also, Sidewiki reportedly does not work in Google's own Chrome browser (!) Jeff Jarvis makes the interesting point that "Google is trying to take interactivity away from the source and centralize it", and - for a clear explanation of what Sidewiki is all about - I find Philip Lenssen at Blogoscoped is more informative than Google's own learn more page. It will be interesting to see how this develops; will it be a useful feature, or will it merely generate even more worthless noise? Two years ago, Google introduced commenting on its news site, but only for a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question.(that feature never made much of a splash, and I can find no longer find any trace of it at the news.google.com.) Now, in the Web2.0 spirit, everyone is being invited to add their 2 cents.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Laughter and forgetting

There's an amusing - if somewhat catty- review by Michael Wood of Viktor Mayer-Schönberger's "Delete: the Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age" in the September 24 LRB.

Mayer-Schönberger explains:

All through the analog age, for humans it has been easy to forget, and hard to remember. In the digital age, the situation has reversed: today the default is to store and remember; forgetting has become the exception. This has profound consequences for individuals and society, from how (informational) power is allocated to whether and how we retain our capacity to act in time. In this talk I analyze these consequences as well as possible solutions - legal and technical - to address the challenge posed by comprehensive digital memory. 

(One technical  solution to such a problem might be the self-destructing-digital-data system Vanish, proposed by University of Washington computer scientists earlier this year.)

Wood points out that "almost every fault [Mayer-Schönberger] attributes to 'the digital age' could have happened, did happen, in other ages by other means", and thereby sets himself up for this memorable line about the human predicament: "Like remembering  things we would rather forget and being remembered for them."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


At the Kapittel festival in Stavanger last week I heard the crime writer Denise Mina talking about, among other things, psychopaths and criminal minds. She noted (with some glee - she is Scottish and her audience was Norwegian)  that psychological benchmarks for detecting psychopathic tendencies have to be adjusted upwards when testing American subjects,  because the degree of "grandioseness" considered normal in the U.S. far exceeds that which is normal (or even acceptable) elsewhere. Case in point: 


Artwiculate generates a word a day (much like Merriam Webster, OED, Wordsmith, and other such services), but then challenges you to use the word in a Tweet.  To take part in the game, "just use today’s word in context in one of your tweets. That’s it. Your tweet will appear here where people can tell you if they like it. You’ll get points if they like it or retweet it."  Today's (September 22) word is mellifluous. I tweeted "Ah, Belli White, such mellifluous singo, said Mitsuko." At the end of the day (11 hours to go), I expect that line should be at the top of the list.

Update: my entry got 19 points. The winning entry "Latin derivations are inherently mellifluous to the ear of the linguist, but to the tone deaf, it's all Greek." got 440 points. If at first you don't succeed etc.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Clandestine twittering

A while back I described Spreadtweet, a handy tool for people who wish to diguise twittering as spread sheet activity.Spreadsheets are not for everyone though, and systems people might feel more comfortable using Quitter, which dresses Twitter in retro DOS-shell clothing:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baron on dumbing down debate

Dennis Baron's new book "A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers and the Digital Revolution" brings a historical perspective to the "internet is making us stupid" debate. An excerpt from a Salon interview:

How is the criticism directed at computers, instant messaging and Facebook similar to the negative reaction directed at previous communication advances, from pencils to typewriters?

Historically, when the new communication device comes out, the reaction tends to be divided. Some people think it's the best thing since sliced bread; other people fear it as the end of civilization as we know it. And most people take a wait and see attitude. And if it does something that they're interested in, they pick up on it, if it doesn't, they don't buy into it.

I start with Plato's critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They're not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down -- the ultimate irony.

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won't have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there's no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant -- it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of "this is going to revolutionize everything" versus "this is going to destroy everything."

(lesson from history: books and bicycles turned out to be compatible after all!)

More on hard and not so hard novels

In response to my post about novels and plot - and Ian McEwen - J. Seliger was kind enough to alert me to Daniel Zalewski's beautifully turned and very interesting  article about Ian McEwan in the New Yorker.

Neat graphic of ebook universe

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hornby interview

Nice Nick Hornby style interview of Nick Hornby by Lucy Kellaway in FT. I wonder, is it - copyrightwise - OK to link to images, the way I've done here? One at a time, now.

A more masculine way of reading

Steven Johnson discusses some of the the pros and cons of our increasingly "skim and plunge" manner of reading in the introduction to "Best technology writing of 2009", (edited by Johnson), which looks like an interesting compilation. Those who follow this issue will have read many of the essays before, but nice to have them gathered in one place. It includes (of course) Nicholas Carr on Google and stupidity, and Sullivan on blogging (which he memorably describes as "writing out loud"), among others. Johnson sees a parallel between the erosion of deep, immersive, contemplation to "the mass migration from the country to the city that started several centuries ago in Europe: the bustle and stimulation and diversity of urban life made it harder to enjoy the slower, organic pleasures of rural living. Still, those pleasures didn't disappear. People continue to cherish them in mass numbers to this day." That thought - but without the optimistic bit at the end - was also developed by William Deresiewicz' in his essay The End of Solitude) Whenever the issue of distraction comes up, Seinfeld's "Men don't care what's on TV. They only care what else is on TV" comes to mind. Speaking of which, check out Google Fast Flip - a great new masculine way to read...or skim and plunge, rather. It let's you see the other pages right up front, without having to turn them first.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More on librarian roles

Some more thoughts on the CNN story about the future of libraries, on Michael Antman's ill-tempered dismissal of delusional librarians who are forsaking books for Facebook, Twitter and other hip technology,  and on the built-in obsolescence of the e-library. 
When I was a child, our good dentist Dr. Goldberg always rewarded a well-behaved session in the chair with a packet of sugarless gum. At that early age, I had no head for business (few would have imagined that I would go on to establish one of the internet's most widely read blogs!)  and it did not occur to me that Dr. Goldberg was undermining his own profession by promoting dental hygiene - as dentists generally do - and by giving sugarless gum to his patients. But Antman seems to be saying that librarians who favor new and in-demand technology/media at the expense of books,  are engaging in much the same kind of suicidal folly.  But isn't it commendable that conscientious practitioners of doomed professions make the most of technology to provide the very best service they can, even to the point of contributing to their own evolutionary demise? What wheelright worth his salt wouldn't be excited by pneumatic tires?  Wouldn't we be disappointed in a scribe who poopoo'd  moveable type?  No, if you ask me, Antman's call for librarians to ignore new technology is like asking a dentist to eschew sugarless gum! (forgive the long setup)

Silliness aside, I do think Antman's take on the rather innocuous CNN story about the changing role of the librarian is unnecessarily alarmist.  I just discovered a wonderful blog - the public-library-spirited "Radical Patron" (and  who better to remind us of the worth of libraries than a committed library patron?!) that has a perceptive analysis of the recent spate of articles about the new librarians (or "librarians," rather).  Those articles are more about what entertainment the media can wring out of a tired stereotype, than about what's happening in libraries.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bookorbit blog

Here's a message to this blog from the Bookorbit blog. Looks interesting, check it out!

Hi there, don't know if you're interested in this blog: www.bookorbit.blogspot.com. I'm writing about ebooks and the future of reading - but from a publisher's perspective! Should be of real interest to librarians. Come over and have a look. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

One who is slovenly and dirty, particularly in the undergarments.

According to Google's book search, Jamieson's dictionary of the Scottish language (Edinburgh, 1867) describes "blogger" thus:

I was concerned, and quietly closed the door to my office....did this apply to me? Thankfully, on closer inspection I noticed that Google had mistaken an S for a B, hence the word described is actually Slogger, not Blogger. Praise the lord.

As we well know, Google Books is raising all kinds of legal and ethical questions these days, but there other problems as well: in his presentation Google Books: the Metadata Mess Geoff Nunberg of UC Berkeley's School of Information demonstrates why he calls Google Book Search metadata "a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess." See also Nunberg's very enjoyable article about same in the Chronicle. Here's a sample:

Then there are the classification errors, which taken together can make for a kind of absurdist poetry. H.L. Mencken's The American Language is classified as Family & Relationships. A French edition of Hamlet and a Japanese edition of Madame Bovary are both classified as Antiques and Collectibles (a 1930 English edition of Flaubert's novel is classified under Physicians, which I suppose makes a bit more sense.) An edition of Moby Dick is labeled Computers; The Cat Lover's Book of Fascinating Facts falls under Technology & Engineering. And a catalog of copyright entries from the Library of Congress is listed under Drama (for a moment I wondered if maybe that one was just Google's little joke).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Librarians: hip, delusional, doomed

Michael Antman writes that librarians who buy into this vision of libraries are hip, delusional and doomed. He has a point, though if they're doomed, why not be hip and delusional?

Sometimes he wished he could gather all the dogs....

Artsy animation of a single sentence from Lydia Millet's short story, "Sir Henry." The sentence is "Sometimes he wished he could gather all the dogs he loved most and walk off the end of the world with them." (And who among us has not wished that?) This is from the YouTube Electric Literature channel. The Mission of Electric Literature "is to spark a revival of the short story by pairing captivating narratives from America's best contemporary writers with innovative new forms of distribution."

Monday, September 7, 2009


Tim O'Reilly says:  A lot of people equate the term with government use of social media, either to solicit public participation or to get out its message in new ways. Some people think it means making government more transparent. Some people think it means adding AJAX to government websites, or replacing those websites with government APIs, or building new cloud platforms for shared government services. And yes, it means all those things. But as with Web 2.0, the real secret of success in Government 2.0 is thinking about government as a platform.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The new literacy

Clive Thompson in Wired on the the "New Literacy." Thompson discusses the findings of Andrea Lunsford's Stanford Study of Writing  project, which suggests that "technology isn't killing our ability to write. It's reviving it - and pushing our literary in bold new directions." (another piece, in the Chronicle) The project found, among other things,  that young people in the web2.0 age are writing far more than any generation before them. The scholarly article "Performing Writing, Performing Literacy," assesses the findings of the first two years of the project, and argues that student writing is increasingly linked to the theories and practice of performance. That sounds plausible, even likely, given the nature of web2.0 as described by Lee Siegel and others: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

Education for education's sake

In "Dehumanized: When math and science rule the school" (Harpers, September 2009 - online for subscribers only), Mark Slouka asks "Why is every Crisis in American Education cast as an economic threat and never a civic one?" Slouka defends the value of the humanities, but not in the conventional way by arguing - as many liberal arts programs and professors (but not Stanley Fish) foolishly do - that a sound knowledge of Schoenberg and easy conversance with deconstructionsim  makes one more competitive in the global marketplace. Slouka objects to the instrumental "what's it good for?" conception of value altogether; we don't ask that question about a particularly fine view, or an orgasm (hah! let's see if that doesn't bring people to this blog!), so why is it always asked about literature or philosophy?  I'm completely sympathetic to his argument, though his overwrought and overly earnest prose is slightly off-putting. I find it be useful to strive for a posthumous perspective on such issues - what was it good for?  I'll bet you literature and philosophy score relatively higher from those quarters.  OK, that\s a trite observation, but a useful - instrumental - one.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Want to know what the bigshots are reading, and do you want to read the same stuff? Go to Powerreaders, and get with it! (click on image to enlarge)

News about news

Michael Massing writes about "A New Horizon for News" in the NYR of B. This is follow-up to his piece "The News about the Internet" in the previous issue.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Toogle is a text version of Google's image search - it creates ascii text images out of the images Google finds for you. How I got by without it I'll never know.

On good-novels-don't-have-to-be-hard-debate and eating grass

J. Seliger's blog,  The Story' Story,  points enthusiastically to a recent article by Lev Grossman in the WSJ, which suggests that the 21st-century novel will be shaped by "the ongoing exoneration and rehabilitation of plot."  And not only that, but "the balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place."  Predictably, Seliger also has high praise for A Reader's Manifesto, B.R. Myers disdainful critique of postmodern American fiction.  In a  rejoinder to Grossman at Conversational Reading, Andrew Seal  wonders whoever said good books had to be hard - and notes that this ground has already been thoroughly ploughed, not only by Myers, but also by Jonathan Franzen, Ben Marcus, Tom Wolfe , David Foster Wallace and others.

It strikes me that  "compromises with the public taste" don't necessarily enhance the entertainment value of a novel;  a writer like Ian McEwan, to take one example, is at his most mesmerizing in rambling, beautifully written contemplative passages, where nothing much is happening (e.g. the morning drive in Saturday before the action begins). But he can also pander to the public taste with a mean plot; thrilling, page-turner plots that suck you in, but which - if you can suspend your suspension of disbelief for a moment - are actually quite contrived and preposterous.  That's when you throw the book down in disgust (but not until you've seen what happens) and feel cheated, like Larson's cows....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beautiful libraries

Justin Menard has compiled a stunning collection of pictures of beautiful libraries, including the Lemuel Gulliver personal library (below)

Flying squirrel wannabe

(From Mike's posterous) A squirrel that doesn't mess around.

Crowdsourced gatecrashing

I've blogged previously about Carl Malamud's efforts to make Pacer information freely available by exploiting a free trial to the service to downloading as many court documents as possible and republish them on the web.  Ars Technica reports on an interesting project by the The Center for Information Technology Policy that takes a more incremental, automated approach; the Center has developed a Firefox addon, Recap, that captures the information Pacer subscribers view when using the site, and uploads it to a public domain mirror site at the Internet Archive. There's nothing illegal about it (so far), since the fee that Pacer charges is for its value-added (some would say value-deducted) presentation of the information, not the documents themselves, which are public domain. Pacer subscribers using Recap are thus replicating the database at IA, where it will be freely available, and with a much improved interface. Moreover,  Recap shows Pacer users when the documents they're looking for already exist, free of charge, in the replicated database. A very interesting and potentially controversial concept, that is being hotly debated at Slashdot.

Wanting to want; more on distraction

Like Nick Carr and many others, David Ulin has discovered lately that he has a hard time finding the focus necessary for reading (this bodes ill for Ulin, who is the LA Times book editor). Instead, he yields to "an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know" and "the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it's mostly just a series of disconnected riffs and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age."

I know what he's talking about, and am yielding to those very things at this moment. It must be said, however, that I did find the focus necessary to read his article - and lots of other stuff on the web - and am also now in the midst of a fairly focused internal dialogue about how to piece these words together.

Isn't the problem more that I went hunting for that article - or just anything to interest me - in the first place? There's a guilt associated with browsing the net for something to catch one's fancy that does not apply - unfairly, perhaps - when entering the world of a novel and allowing ourselves to be distracted inward.  Although  Coleridge likened the  reading of novels to idly to spitting from a bridge or swinging on a gate (digression: see his contempt for the unwashed readers of novels and "devotees of circulation libraries" below. He sounds like Mark Helprin!) -  immersing oneself in a novel is today largely considered a virtuous activity.

Sam Anderson's article in New York Magazine made the point that we, like Skinner's lever-pressing rats, are less attracted to rewards dispensed consistently and predictably than rewards that come to us randomly, according to what is known as the variable ratio schedule, or, as I like to call it, surfing on the internet.

The suggestion, of course,  is that seeking, wanting, is an object of desire in itself. Emily Yoffe puts a more scientific spin on this in an article in Slate, and argues that  internet surfers, driven forward by that unrelenting slavedriver and neurotransmitter dopamine, are more easily stimulated than satisified.  I can buy that, it explains many things. Not just why Ulin and I are surfing instead of reading, but also the shopper's most terrifying experience; discovering that far worse than not finding what you want, is finding nothing to want!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Get away from it all

Is Google and the Web grabbing more of your life than you (or your family) are willing to give? Now there's hope...at Opt-Out Village!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Legal, Factual and Other Internet Sites for Attorneys and Legal Professionals

A very thorough guide to legal information sources by Timothy Coggins, Associate Dean for Library & Information Services and Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Now for a real treat - Baker on Kindle

I've raved before about Nicholson Baker's reviews, and how they always put me in a good mood, and then make me buy another book. Now he reviews the Kindle...I'm only into paragraph two, but already he has delighted with knuckle-gnawer of a novel and [Kindle as]an alpenhorn blast of post-Gutenbergian revalorization and the Bowflex of bookishness (ie. something expensive that, when you commit to it, it forces you to do more of whatever it is you think you should be doing more of.) More than any writer I know, Baker reminds me - especially in his reviews and essays - of the pleasure of reading sentences per se. "The Size of Thoughts" (for example) is chock full of sentences that make you gasp with delight.

Now that I've read the whole thing, more quotables:
[decrying the difficulty of quoting precisely from the Kindle] If you want to quote from a book you’ve bought, you have to quote by location range—e.g., the phrase “She was on the verge of the mother of all orgasms” is to be found at location range 1596-1605 in Mari Carr’s erotic romance novel “Tequila Truth.”

[about the Kindle DX's presentation of newspapers] A century and a half of of evolved beauty and informational expressiveness is all but entirely rinsed away in this digital reductio.

[on night-reading from the iPhone, which Baker much prefers to the Kindle] Each time you need to turn the page, just move your thumb over it, as if you were getting ready to deal a card; when you do, the page will slide out of the way, and a new one will appear. After a while, your thoughts will drift off to the unused siding where the old tall weeds are, and the string of curving words will toot a mournful toot and pull ahead. You will roll to a stop. A moment later, you'll wake and discover that you're still holding the machine but it has turned itself off. Slide it back under the pillow. Sleep.

[going back to the Kindle from the iPhone] It was like going from a Mini Cooper to a white 1982 Impala with blown shocks. But never mind: at that point, I was locked into the plot and it didn’t matter.

So, ultimately, it doesn't matter...because before the power of the book (Michael Connelly's "The Lincoln Lawyer", which Baker forces himself to read on the Kindle out of a sense of duty) Poof, the Kindle disappeared, just as Jeff Bezos had promised it would.

Once again, a Baker review causes me to run out and buy something, this time a Michael Connelly paperback.