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“E-Reader Police?”

The New York Reviews of Books has an article reminding us that today in 2007 Amazon introduced its electronic reading device, the Kindle. Francine Prose is not concerned about paper vs electronic reader but on privacy of readers. E-book retailers are now able to tell which books we have finished or not finished, how fast we have read read them, and precisely where we snapped them shut. I’m not surprised or bothered by the fact. In the age of electronic devices, and with the aid of social media, every move of ours can be tracked and traced. Publicity means tractability. Our smart phones are really GPS by which the government can tract our whereabouts and ply into the information and sites we are looking at.

I digress. As per books the data show mystery/thriller and romance are the two most popular genres readers most likely to finish the books. But does that mean readers would feel guilty and shameful about not finishing a book? Will it ever happen that someone can be convicted of a crime because a passage that he is found to have read, many times, on his e-book? I think Francine Prose is way too opinionated and paranoid about how readers’ habit are being too transparent. Does it really matter? Does everything have implications?

On Booker Prize

The winner of Booker Prize 2015, Marlon James, has revealed that he briefly abandoned writing after his debut novel, John Crow’s Devil, was rejected nearly 80 times, before it was eventually published in 2005. Despite the success of his latest novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, James thought the publishing industry had not changed much since his first book was repeatedly turned down.

Which brings me to the point: how do publishers know what readers want to read? “There was a time I actually thought I was writing the kind of stories people didn’t want to read.” Marlon James said. But I think publishers, especially American publishers, are too panicky and fearful to go out of their comfort zone in picking what is to be published. We see a lot of formulaic thrillers like Gone Girl because publishers think books that are like Gone Girl will sell. In other words, sometimes it’s not all about the quality of the writing but the market. As readers we are being deprived of the opportunity to read refreshing new voices. Instead of a diversity of books, all you see at the bookstores is a table full of “If You like Gone Girl, you might also like . . . ” kind of books.

“Digital Distraction”

A thoughtful article about making time for books on the Harvard Business Review. Interesting the piece is filed under “Stress” section. maybe are less stressed out if we read more during our down-time? We live in an age of explosive easy information. What everyone is doing from grocery shopping to traveling around the world is at the touch of a finger. You sweep the screen of the electronic devices and all the information is there. The delight, indeed, abounds; but it’s not always delightful. I can get distracted at work or being with family and friends. The biggest disruption, I’m afraid, would be to forfeit my precious reading time.

I make a point to only check my Facebook the first 15 minutes in the morning, then devote the time to reading. I love reading and books are my passion and livelihood. I prefer to delve into the pages and allow myself to be enlightened or amused, depending on what I read, fiction or non-fiction, instead of poring over the ceaseless feeds of status updates. We are choked by this digital information stress, this obsession that held us imprisoned.

Another “virtue” of books is the slow retention time. As long as I keep reading, at my pace, I’m being possessed by the book and engaging in a conversation with it. When being engaged, my focus is sustained. I really enjoy the slower form of information delivery that is reading. Recently I was in France, and I noticed, in general, when the French are engaging in a conversation, they don’t check their phone. Readers abound at sidewalk cafes, poring over their newspapers or books. They don’t seem to fuzz over making or checking status updates as much as we do. I’m not trying to make any generalization. It’s just an observation and, to me, this observation is both encouraging and inspiring.

“Go Set A Watchman” Refund

Newsweek article reveals that Go Set a Watchman buyers get a refund at a Michigan bookstore. How absurd is that! According to Brilliant Books in Traverse City MI, refund is good for readers who pre-ordered the book based on the deceptive marketing and were misled as to what the book would be. Kudos to the indie bookstore owner. But serious readers should know that this book was a rejected manuscript and was published under very dubious circumstances. In light of this, those readers don’t deserve the refund. The publisher and this lawyer Tonja Carter should be held accountable for exploiting the readers.

Things Readers Are Sick of Hearing

Taking a break from Atlas Shrugged posts, I bring you a fun article on a list of things that people who love books are sick of hearing. See which one provokes you the most.

1. “You’re staying in tonight to read?”
Is there anything so exciting that would take me away from my couch and punkin in the evening? I won’t exchange my reading time for anything except for maybe a good cocktail.

2. “I wish I had time to read, but …”
…but you have to be glued to the phone and make sure you don’t miss every latest Facebook status updates. I gotcha!

3. “You’re buying more books?”
This is end of a date if this question pops up in the conversation. Buying books like grocery, and proud of it!

4. “Oh, I don’t really read.”
I have actually met a lot of people whose response to my question “what is your favorite book?” is “oh, I don’t really read.” How is that even a thing?! You are doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t let yourself get lost in some fictional world every once and awhile, or learn about real life things that have happened to other people. Reading is such an amazing thing, and it makes you so much smarter and someone I would actually want to have a conversation with.

5. “You must have loved [the only novel people who don’t read are talking about this year].”
“…”

6. “Can’t you just wait for the movie to come out?”
An Artist of the Floating World was published in 1986. I’m still waiting.

7. “Why do you always have a book in your purse?”
What am I gonna do while my espresso is being pulled? Books are my life!

8. “Fiction doesn’t count.”
It’s shown scientifically that human beings who read fiction are more empathetic and kinder people.

9. “Can I borrow your copy of…”
I will only loan my books to friends who love books. I’m livid about people passing my books on to others, or books coming back dog-eared, and stained with coffee rings and have crumbs stuck between the pages.

Harper Lee Hooha

1goset

An article in The Guardian says Harper Lee might have written a third book. Ever Tonja Carter discovered the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman in the autumn of 2014, I have been longing to read the new book. But the twists of events after the announcement of its publication, which is tomorrow, have made me very skeptical about reading the new book. At this point I’m not even interested in this second “novel” which to my impression, is just an early draft of a story that was never intended to see the light of day. The manuscript was said to be affixed to the draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. I believe Harper Lee told the story she intended to tell in To Kill A Mockingbird. Interesting that with Harper Lee incapacitated, lawyers and publishing agents are suddenly finding new manuscripts. Are we to believe that her material hadn’t really gone through in 40 years or longer? The whole business is very dubious. Greed. Greed. Greed. The money grubbing is got to stop. It makes me angry all the more that Goodreads falls into this muck that the rest of media is producing. I refuse to buy the second book, and this talk of a third just makes me scoff. This is a despicable circus of the money grubbers’ doing.

Reclaiming the “Real” Life

I found an an interesting article on reclaiming our real life from social media. It’s funny, true, and thought-provoking.

If Hemingway were alive in 2014, he might not have finished what he started writing that day. Realistically, he probably wouldn’t have even put a pen to paper.
Instead, he might have ducked into the cafe, pulled out his smartphone and proceeded to waste an entire afternoon on social media. Perhaps he would update his Facebook to discuss the rogue weather, snap a picture of his café au lait to post on Instagram and then lose the rest of the afternoon to Twitter.

While I enjoy to see what my friends and family are up to, increasingly, my time spent on social media (only limited to Facebook) is starting to feel like a lot of wasted time. Like a virus slowly invading its victim, social media has methodically started to consume the hours of my day. I belong to the age bracket that spends the second most time on social media a day, at 3 hours. Gladly and proudly, I spend far less than 3 hours. Morning coffees, lunchtime breaks, time before bed, are still cordoned off for books. I still read at least 100 pages a day and roughly two books a week. So even if I’ll spend all day on weekend on Facebook, I won’t feel as guilty—but, I rather read a book.

Addiction aside. There’s deeper issue. We live in the age of narcissism. Walking down the street you can count the number of people you see pointing phones at their faces (now with the 3-foot long selfie stick) for selfies. Social networks are the “culprit” for broadcasting narcissistic tendencies that otherwise may have gone noticed. Simply speaking, everything you eat, every act, every place you go, are accounted for and broadcasted to the world. User-generated content like Facebook, twitter, and Instagram encourage an endless stream of self-promotion. At what point does this become psychologically destructive? People can get caught up in cultivating their own image rather than interacting with others. My worry (other than that I would stop reading books) is that we will be faced with a generation where everyone acts like the star of their own reality show.

Don’t Bother Me I’m Reading

A bit of a rant today. I am 50 pages shy of the end of The Goldfinch but I should have been able to finish this morning, had it not been for this overly friendly personality at the coffee shop. This person is sort of the neighborhoody ambassador who hi-and-byes almost everybody who walks by the cafe, which commands the view of the sidewalk through a huge alcove window. My acquaintance with this person progresses from pleasantries in apropos of politeness to casual chit-chat. But as many of you would understand, morning time is a time for quiet and solitude, and I am defensive of my privacy when it comes to reading. Unaware of the need for this privacy, this person takes the liberty to install herself at my table (which is fine as long as she keeps to herself) and starts talking up a storm—about things that distantly concern me, or her. Besides a few polite banter, I decide on the tactic of just keeping to my book and smiling, and so not to encourage further conversation. That seems to work. My being silent has trumped her effort at any further conversation—and hopefully might help her finish the book that she started two months ago but never seemed to be able to finish.

How do you cope with intrusive people?

RIP GoodReads

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Regardless of how optimistic GoodReads claim that being incorporated into Amazon will help grow the site and invest more in the things that the members care about, I look at this sale with much dismay. Let’s be honest here, the scope of Amazon and GoodReads are completely different. Amazon cares only about sales. GoodReads is a user-generated platform functioning as a book recommendation engine. GoodReads is social media for book lovers so the reviews posted there could be more honest and commendable. Whereas Amazon controls and censors what books you can purchase and their feedback. GoodReads CEO Otis Chandler said the site will remain “an independently controlled subsidiary of Amazon” and noted it will keep “full control of editorial content and the recommendations.” Okay, but they skirt the subject regarding intellectual property. When you submit a review to the Amazon site, it becomes Amazon’s property–their corporate asset. I won’t be surprised if the reviews would be cross-posted on Amazon. Based on Amazon terms, reviews will be censored, altered, edited, or removed without notice, just like what happened to my review of a GLBT fiction 9 years ago. As for the Kindle users, they are most likely be able to integrate that device with their Goodreads accounts. To make a long story short, why should a greedy corporation care about what you read? This is devastating news for readers and authors because Amazon, which has already acquired Shelfari in 2008, is forming a hegemony that boxes readers into a corner. With bookstores closing, Internet sites have become critical places for informing readers about books they might be interested in. This deal further consolidates Amazon’s power to determine which authors get exposure for their work. I am sick to the stomach that Amazon claims itself to be the best place to buy books–and thus making it the perfect place to discuss them. That could be true if you’re into the popular crap and bestsellers.

Fifty Shades

No, I did not drink the cool-aid, but this book (the trilogy) has electrified women across the country, who have spread the word like gospel on Facebook pages, at school functions and in spin classes. It sets the women in my office abuzz (I’m the only man in the office). My interns pore over it as soon as they are on break. At lunch in the pantry conversation would nudge to the terrain of this book. I heard buzz about how unbelievable the story is but at the same time it is addictive. Like for many of the bestsellers, my curiosity of Fifty Shades of Grey limits to pretty much what the blurb conveys. I have no desire to peruse it. Fifty Shades of Grey and the two other titles in the series were written by a British author named E L James, a former television executive who began the trilogy by posting fan fiction online. The books, which were released in the last year, center on the lives (and affection for whips, chains and handcuffs) of Christian Grey, a rich, handsome tycoon, and Anastasia Steele, an innocent college student, who enter into a dominant-submissive relationship.

My interns confirm that the people (themselves included) who are reading this are not only people who read romance. It’s gone much broader than that. It’s flat erotica—graphic, heavy-breathing erotica. Online reviewers have criticized the author for her plodding prose. Some even go as far as calling the novel written by a teenager. Even my boss read it but she concluded that if you take out the parts where the female character is blushing or chewing her lips, the book will be down to about 50 pages. Almost on every single page, there is a whole section devoted to her blushing, chewing her lips or wondering “gosh” about something or another. I think the book will only get bigger in terms of its success. What I found fascinating is that there are all these motivated, smart, educated women saying this was the greatest thing they’ve ever read for a long time. The last great hype I read was The Devil Wears Prada, and i read it after I saw the movie with Meryl Streep. Soft porn or no, I do have to give the author the credit, for she has written something that gales up a storm of discussion all over since Pride and Prejudice.