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  1. Free Library of Philadelphia Possibly Closing

    jake on 2009.09.14 at 04:53 pm

    It’s a sad state of affairs when one of the original public library systems needs to shut its doors. You may know the Free Library of Philadelphia by the old stories of Benjamin Franklin starting the one of the first public library systems, the Library Company of Philadelphia. Sadly they’re also the first major library to close.

    We deeply regret to inform you that without the necessary budgetary legislation by the State Legislature in Harrisburg, the City of Philadelphia will not have the funds to operate our neighborhood branch libraries, regional libraries, or the Parkway Central Library after October 2, 2009.

    Via Daring Fireball

    Also seen on Boing Boing:

    Just look at that list of all the things libraries do for our communities, all the ways they help the least among us, the vulnerable, the children, the elderly. Think of every wonderful thing that happened to you among the shelves of a library. Think of the millions of lifelong love-affairs with literacy sparked in the collections of those libraries. Think of every person whose life was forever changed for the better in those buildings.

    And ABC News.

    Update

    After this was brought to a broader audience’s attention a letter-writing and email barrage has helped save the Free Library of Philadelphia. (via Boing Boing)

    Posted in: Books

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  2. Benjamin Button Has A Curious Graphic Novel

    jake on 2008.08.27 at 03:34 pm

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Hardcover You’re probably aware that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is being made into a movie (with Brad Pitt no less). But you might not be aware of its original form as a short story. And that, as usual, Hollywood has veered off in their execution.

    Surprisingly Kevin Cornell, illustrator of A List Apart articles, is the visual side behind a graphic novel treatment of the tale. The images he shares on his blog are gorgeous. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book in October.

    From i love typography

    Posted in: Books · Design

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  3. Harry Potter is saving reading? A Follow-up.

    jake on 2007.08.14 at 05:15 pm

    It’s nice to locate articles to emphasis your point. I wish the first article (print version with no ads) had cited its sources. It argues along side me against the issue I brought up recently. The author contributed to a book discussing the connection to the series and philosophy.

    These surveys also show that children who were not readers are now readers. They want to read more Harry Potter, but they also just want to read more in general. This is evident by the explosion of the children’s literature market. Go into any bookstore these days and one sees the more traditional books for young adults, such as Watership Down or Bridge to Terabithia, but also many, many new books such as the Lemony Snicket series or PJ Haarsma’s The Softwire.

    The second article is from a famous writer. Steven King defends Rowling to her critics in his piece and touches on the same basic idea. Harry Potter is not destroying reading but helping it.

    But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it’s probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious “literary novels” each year. While the bigheads have been predicting (and bemoaning) the postliterate society, the kids have been supplementing their Potter with the narratives of Lemony Snicket, the adventures of teenage mastermind Artemis Fowl Amazon Search, Philip Pullman’s challenging His Dark Materials trilogy, the Alex Rider adventures, Peter Abrahams’ superb Ingrid Levin-Hill mysteries, the stories of those amazing traveling blue jeans. And of course we must not forget the unsinkable (if sometimes smelly) Captain Underpants. Also, how about a tip of the old tiara to R.L. Stine, Jo Rowling’s jovial John the Baptist?

    Posted in: Books

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  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    jake on 2007.07.23 at 07:07 pm

    Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsThis past weekend the latest, and last, Harry Potter book was released. This is not news to most people. After my brother and I finished it I declared it a four out of five. I didn’t have a single problem flying through it in one day. The book flowed well for me.

    What is news is that sadly not everyone received their books promptly to enjoy the story. Jason Kottke, in particular, had issues with his order from Amazon. I know one person who had no issues. How did you fair? And did you enjoy the conclusionto the tale?

    Posted in: Books

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  5. Harry Potter is destroying reading?

    jake on 2007.07.20 at 07:20 pm

    Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsRon Charles doesn’t really succeed at making me dislike Harry Potter. I’m still going to steal the new book. from my brother tomorrow when his back’s turned. Though Ron’s not really attempting that, even if it seems like he’s putting down people who read about the boy wizard. His article is more about trying to get the public to read more than Harry Potter. The problem is he trips up repeatedly in his quest. His only actual argument is a study by Alan Sorensen and his assumption that There’s not much reason to think that things have changed since the reference data from 1994.

    Of course it’s easy for Mr Charles to seem stuffy to me. He’s an actual adult. I only play one on the Internet. I’m riding the wave of the Rejuvenile. I, at least somewhat, remember what being a kid was like.

    Schools now push standardized testing. But for a long while they’ve avoided creative thinking. They’ve always seemed to leave outside books behind. He even brings this up with his reflections on being a teacher.

    …I wish I’d spent less time dragging my students through the classics and more time showing them how to strike out on their own and track down new books they might enjoy.

    It’s not until college that most people start receiving more robust tutelage that doesn’t center on memorization and regurgitation. And that has nothing to do with reading for fun. As adults we need to relocate that interest all over again. Most of us don’t.

    And Mr Charles misses something when he brings up marketing and the long tail. He tries to promote the long tail as if it were to replace the big head. The head will never go away. The long tail is all about the smaller authors, who would never get picked up by a huge publisher, finding an audience. That’s their marketing.

    The long tail replaces his mistake in teaching. It also replaces the book sections of newspapers he mournfully writes about. It takes your interests and promotes books and authors you might find appealing. The trick is learning to critically follow the path. Explore and find. It’s not always correct. But it is how I found a book I love, a book he mentions, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel.

    It is sad that Mr Charles has such a bleak outlook on our society and reading. There are so many things he could do, like starting a book suggestion blog, that would be more productive than complaining. Everyone should read more. But you don’t accomplish that by attacking what novel they choose. Even if you think that book is childish.

    Does anyone have anything to add? I’m going to go pre-order the paperback of a book Mr Charles recommends, The Law of Dreams. ;-)

    Via Digg

    Posted in: Books

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  6. So it Goes, or, What I say when people ask who my favorite author was.

    brian on 2007.04.12 at 10:06 pm

    Kurt Vonnegut has passed away. He was 84. You very well may have heard about this already. I’m happy to see that he’s getting a lot of press in his death. He would probably find humor in this. I really should have read cite>Man Without a Country when it was published. Here are a few good articles on him,

    So now, what the hell this all means to me.

    I don’t tend to read novels. Why not, I have never really been able to nail down. I’m reasonably certain that people look down upon me over this. I mostly avoided reading them in high school. I think the main reason was I would pick them apart, “No one would really do that.” It was the fiction of it.

    When I was in high school, I had to write a book report. No way I was going to get out of it without actually reading something. (Not that I didn’t/don’t — I read too much — just not long fictional novels) A friend of mine suggested I look into his favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut.

    I ventured up to the school library and found Welcome to the Monkey House. There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it. Even Google had trouble finding it. That’s because KV was much more famous for his long fiction than his short stories. This was a collection of the latter. It became an instant favorite of mine. A satirical humor, a cutting wit, that just stuck a chord with me.

    Ever since that day, I’ve repeated in my head “I should really get one of those book of his that’s actually famous.” Today, I’m sad that I have not yet. I’ll have to choose one that’s not so science-fiction-y. To the chagrin many of my friends, I just can’t stand it. Ray Bradbury cured me of sci-fi books in middle school.

    When people ask me who my favorite author is, I cite Kurt. I feel a bit like a fraud having only read one of his books (but, heh, technically many of his stories) but it serves the purpose. Definitely my favorite fiction book. Plus, KV is a “cool” person to cite as your favorite author, so it’s a great cover. Guess the secret is out. But whatever my personal history with the guy, it’s clear his passing has had an impact on me, and so it goes.

    I think I’ll start with cite>Slaughterhouse 5, or, A Children’s Crusade. That seems like a safe bet.

    Posted in: Books · Recent Events

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  7. Reaction from Tufte's Boston class

    brian on 2007.02.24 at 12:47 pm

    I had the good fortune to attend Edward Tufte‘s roadshow in Boston this past Thursday.

    Edward Tufte Presents

    I enjoyed the class immensely. I didn’t even get drowsy. Now, why would I ever endorse anything by saying I didn’t get drowsy? Well, first thing to know is that I have a predilection for sleep. Even if I’m doing something that interests me, if I’m sitting still long enough, especially if the room is darkened, I start to yawn and my eyelids start to droop. It’s not a reflection of the content, just the way I’m wired.

    This might seem somewhat off topic, but I contend it’s not. An understanding of Edward Tufte’s topic is necessary. One of ET’s favorite topics is how PowerPoint is not a good way of expressing content (or Evidence, as he usually calls information). So this means from 10am to 4:30pm he pretty much just talked. Nothing projected behind him, except five images, and one 10 second (slow-motion) video. And those took up maybe (generously) 1% of the time. So for the most part I sat at a table behind about 500 other people about 50 yards from ET, in a grand ballroom at the Park Plaza. Sounds awful. I even had my nose in a book much of the time.

    However, that’s where ET asked us to place our noses. He gave us his four books and that’s where most of his content was. It’s was just like high school, “Please turn to page to 102-103 in Beautiful Evidence“ and we’d look at something Gallieo made, hundreds of years ago. Of course, his coup de grace was that he would then send someone around with Gallieo’s actual first edition of the book — that was pretty incredible.

    There’s much more to this post, so please read on!

    Read More

    Posted in: Books · Design · Web

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  8. John Hodgman's Book - FREE

    brian on 2006.12.19 at 09:36 pm

    The Areas of My Expertise
    I don’t know why, but I’m not questioning it… John Hodgman’s (aka the “PC” in the Mac ads, also of The Daily Show ) book The Areas of My Expertise is available form iTunes as a FREE audiobook download… John is also the narrator.

    Don’t walk, run to…

    iTunes Download:: John Hodgman – The Areas of My Expertise

    (That link will launch iTunes and bring you directly to the book.)

    This will expire in at an unknown time… so why are you still here? (Please come back and read more once you’ve started the 100MB download.)

    Posted in: Books

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  9. Coincidence—Or Psychic Phenomenon?

    jake on 2006.09.19 at 04:23 pm

    Emma Watson as Hermione GrangerToday… is Hermione Granger birthday. Happy birthday, you fictional character you. Although my reading list is too young to display any Harry Potter books I am indeed a fan.

    Tomorrow is my friend Meredith’s birthday. Happy—preemptive—Birthday Mer! She too is a Harry Potter fan. In fact Meredith was the first person I was able to discuss Book 6 controversial events.

    The funny part that at least I enjoy explaining to people involving me, Meredith, and a couple (they’re twins) mutual friends invloving Harry Potter. Sometimes the story comes off as interesting. Other times I recieve blank stares that can mean only one thing, “you need to get out more.”

    All of us have birthdays right after the three primary characters from the series. The twins, Liz and Jess, have the date right after Harry Potter, August 1st. And I have the date right after Ron Weasley, March 2nd.

    Naturally you can draw other lines between everyone in that I am a ginger and Meredith has a big brain and frizzy hair. Sorry Mer. ;)

    I’ve just always found these to be a fun little group of facts. How did J.K. Rowling come up with the dates? Are Liz and Jess going to save the wizarding world? Should I whine and be overly concerned about everything?

    I get out plenty! :P

    Posted in: Books · Movies

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  10. Harry Potter and the iTunes Store

    jake on 2005.09.07 at 06:11 pm

    Today we were introduced to a few new products from Apple. They all involved audio. We have a replacement for the iPod mini, the iPod nano. We have, finally, the announcement of the iTunes Phone, which is basically a phone with the iPod shuffle capability. And lastly we have an update to iTunes itself.

    Harry Potter on iTunes Accompanying the iTunes update is a branded Harry Potter iPod and all the audio books from the iTunes store. This is where I find a fault.

    I’ve never paid much attention to audio books, if I’m interested in a book I usually just read it. I had no idea how expensive they were. I had to clean the coffee off my monitor after reading the $49.95 price for the latest installment. You can get Half-blood Prince in book form for well below that even if you pay full price. At the iTunes store you’re basically paying the same price as the CD version bought at a reduced price at Amazon. Oddly enough the tape version saves you $25 bucks at full listed price. Wouldn’t you just convert a CD copy over and drop it on your iPod?

    Just because a narrator is being paid to record the whole book is it really justified to cost so much? It’s obviously not from pressing CD’s.

    The greatest problem I find with this is that when you’re going through Apple you are not only shunned from a big discount for buying the set of audio books but you are also denied a discount when buying the set along with the iPod. Usually bundles save you money. Is anyone who already owns all the books really going to pay $548 just to listen to something they’ve already read on a branded iPod. Just give me the special iPod and I’ll go pop open my books thanks.

    Posted in: Apple · Books

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  11. My Community Contribution

    brian on 2004.09.17 at 02:49 am

    Today I happened upon Jon Udell's LibraryLookup script. Very cool. Imagine you're looking at some page (say an Amazon or B&N page) and want to see if you can get that book at your local public library (peer to peer book networking?). Well with Jon's little bookmarklet (that's a bit of code that resides inside a bookmark in your browser) will scrape the book's serialized number, and search your local library's online catalog. Certainly cool.

    The one down side for me was it didn't work for my public library. It seems since Jon put this together in January (at least that's when his little how it works videos are from) Brookline switched systems. I'm guessing the whole MinuteMan library network (much of Eastern MA) is the same.

    So I fixed it. And as a public service, here it is:

    Search Brookline Public Library

    First, you can't click on this link, you must first save it to your browser. You can Ctrl+click (Mac) or right-click (Windows, others) on the link and choose to save it, preferably to your bookmarks bar. You'll want to rename the link once you save it so that it fits better in your bookmarks bar. Mine says simply BPL

    While I've got your attention, Brookline Public Library people: please address your website (not the search one, just the regular one.) It needs serious help. In 1995 it was OK to use FrontPage to design your website, no one knew any better. But today, letting aside the heinous visual design and usability, it simply can't adhere to accessibility standards (section 508, et al) and it takes much more bandwidth to serve and download than it should. It all starts with standards. The New York Public Library is an excellent example of standards and design in action for a public library website.

    Not one to simply bitch and run, I'd gladly speak with whomever oversees the site on what could be done with it so that it serves the community better.

    Posted in: Books · Web

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  12. Amazon is the new Napster?

    jake on 2004.07.14 at 05:48 pm

    The NYTimes raises this question and doesn’t realize it’s not a correct comparison. Simply because Amazon makes it easier to buy used books does not make it like ‘stealing music’. Buying a used copy of 1984 is not the same as using a copier to make a perfect duplicate of it.

    …There aren’t any easy answers, especially as no one is breaking any laws here. – Lorraine Shanley

    Astoundingly Kathryn Blough, the vice president for the Association of American Publishers, actually brought up the whole grey area debate for the stagnation of sales of new books.

    But Ms. Blough said the new-book market could be weak for several reasons, including a slow economy and a sharp increase in other media vying for the book reader’s attention.

    All I keep going back to in my head is libraries. I used to get told an awful lot to save my money and check out a book I wanted to read.

    Whether I’m a library or an individual I can remove from my posession a book I bought because I own it. Whether that be by giving it away, selling it, or throwing it in the trash.

    For some more thoughts…

    Posted in: Books · Technology

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  13. Locating the "Great Brain"

    jake on 2004.06.13 at 03:30 am

    I was just reminded of these books while cleaning some junk out of my parents basement. I saw all “The Great Brain” books lined up. I used to love these stories when I was a kid. I bought and read the whole series.

    Apparently a family is going around and trying to locate and document the real places integrated into the books.

    From: Boing Boing

    Posted in: Books · Cool Info

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  14. Some research on that last post.

    jake on 2004.04.16 at 01:53 pm

    After Brian asked me what the heck was going on I started looking around for info on that "game." I traced it back to a Livejournal post. But after it the second post, the content changed, from Page 18 - Line 4, to Page 23 - Line 5.

    It's a Meme. From what I just read, it can be changed like when you're playing Porno Password, which might explain Elkins decision to change it. It sifted down through a bunch of people, of course, this is all text so it doesn't get skewed like just telling someone would, and got here.

    So since I don't remember where I saw it first, and I'd hate to ruin the fun, I'll just say that Andy told me.

    Posted in: Books · Rant

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  15. Page Twenty-three

    jake on 2004.04.16 at 12:08 pm

    No one “told me to do this” as I keep seeing other authors say. I just noticed them all doing it, and after trying it came up with an interesting result, so I thought I’d share. The instructions are…

    1. Grab the nearest book
    2. Open the book at page 23
    3. Find the fifth sentence
    4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions
    If all else fails, tell the truth…

    This is from Stark by Ben Elton. I borrowed this from my distant cousins in Ireland. It’s a good book, I’m just having a hard time getting engrossed in it where I read for 6 hours straight and I’ve been trying to read it for almost a year.

    Posted in: Books

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  16. Libraries issuing chapters to entice readers.

    jake on 2004.03.26 at 07:02 pm

    I found out this great news from techdirt. A few years ago when employees complained of not having the time to read Suzanne Beecher started sending them a small portion of a book through email to inform them of good reads. It bloomed into a full scale company that works with libraries to get visitors interested in reading. This is a great story by itself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it expands and major publishers don’t try and stop something that obviously helps them make money.

    Posted in: Books · Service Announcement

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  17. Real life Hungarian Phrasebook Sketch

    jake on 2003.12.08 at 05:39 pm

    A practical joker released a Japanese to English phrasebook book with incorrect translations. I read the article over at Yahoo!

    "For instance, when the Japanese think they're asking 'Can you direct me to the rest room?' the book actually has them saying, 'Excuse me, may I caress your buttocks?'"

    This is similar to a sketch from Monty Python where a man publishes a Hungarian Phrasebook containing incorrect translations.

    Cop: What's going on here then?
    Hungarian: Ah. You have beautiful thighs.
    Cop: (looks down at himself) WHAT?!?
    Clerk: He hit me!
    Hungarian: Drop your panties, Sir William; I cannot wait 'til lunchtime. (points at clerk)
    Cop: RIGHT!!! (drags Hungarian away by the arm)
    Hungarian: (indignantly) My nipples explode with delight!

    Posted in: Books · Humor

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  18. Philip K. Dick in the news

    jake on 2003.12.02 at 07:33 pm

    This month't issue of Wired Magazine has an interesting article about Philip K. Dick. He is the brain behind a few of Hollywood movies like Minority Report and Blade Runner and the soon to be released Paycheck. Though Hollywood takes some liberties with their adaptations... I was reminded of this because I read the late writer has an official web site.

    Posted in: Books · Movies

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  19. Interview with Linda Bergkvist about her work in EXPOSÉ 1 book

    jake on 2003.07.10 at 05:39 pm

    Interesting interview where Linda goes through her work in the EXPOSÉ 1 book. I especially found this interesting since I ordered one of these nifty digital art books myself.

    interview [from Gfxartist]

    Posted in: Art · Books

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  20. Harry Potter and Raincoast Books

    jake on 2003.06.18 at 05:28 pm

    Boing Boing has a blurb about how in Canada they are printing the latest Harry Potter book on 100% recycled paper. While this is a very nice idea, more emphasis should be put on the publisher doing it. There is an entire movement to move production to be environment friendly.

    Posted in: Books

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  21. Bryson writes again

    brian on 2003.06.03 at 01:50 am

    Bill Bryson has written a new book A Short History of Nearly Everything, trying to bring the history of science to the lay person. I’ve read two Bill Bryson books which I enjoyed immensely, Walk in the Woods, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself. I hope to get this one, as well. Here’s an interview he did with New Scientist about the new book.

    Posted in: Books · Science

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