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A Book Club Walks Into a Bar

13 Aug
Book and Wine by QuinnDombrowski

Photo credit to QuinnDombrowski

Have you ever had a moment where you’ve thought, “I’ve found my people?”  That was me, Friday night, at the Booker T. Cleveland Society for the Learned, which might be one of the world’s coolest book clubs.  Meeting monthly in bars, the society’s rules are simple and basically boil down to, you must bring a book and swap that book before the night is out.

The group is pretty self-selecting.  Mainly young professionals.  Dorky enough to want to go to a book club.  Outgoing enough to talk to strangers in bars.  Snobby enough that they will judge your book, and you, by its cover, thank you very much.  So, clearly, I fit right in. Continue reading

Reclaiming Mary Poppins and the Characters We Love

28 Jul

Or, The Opening Ceremony Challenges Copyright Law, Whether it Means to or Not

Mary PoppinsLike millions of others around the world, I spent last night watching the Opening Ceremony.  Unlike millions of others, the part that captivated me wasn’t the parade of nations, but the “Second Star to the Right” theatrical sequence.

In this bit of public theater, director Danny Boyle reclaimed the British people’s ownership of their children’s literature, the rights to which have long since been sold off to various corporate interests.  Depicting Mary Poppins battling Captain Hook, Voldemort, and the Queen of Hearts, Boyle claimed these beloved characters as part of the broader British narrative.  In doing so, he challenged the idea that these characters, or any characters, can belong to someone. Continue reading

eBooks Reporting on You

23 Jul

#360 perhaps you do not need to write all over library books by romana kleeLast week’s On the Medina reported a new angle on ebook technology.  Now, when you’re reading an ebook, it’s taking notes on you.  “Ebooks that Read You” explained about technologies built into ereaders which record our reading habits.

Combining the data of individual readers, publishers now know how long it takes people to read specific books, which parts they get stuck on, and passages they highlight.  Before, these things were all done in relative privacy.  No one knew that I read To Kill a Mockingbird until the pages fell out.  Or that I, admittedly, skipped the Moby Dick chapters about dolphin behavior.  My marginalia was for me and me alone – or for the unfortunate soul who asked to borrow one of my books. Continue reading

An Angel On My Left Side and a Tech Nerd On My Right

18 Jun

Or, I Stole a Book

ebook reading by TheCreativePenn

Photo credit to TheCreativePenn

Oh, the twisty world of the internet, where a few clicks can take you somewhere you never intended to go…

The other day, I learned that Deadlocked, the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, had recently been published.  I love the books in that series, low brow and trashy as they are.  Reading them is the equivalent of having wine and chicken fingers for dinner.  Delicious, comforting, terrible for you, and not something that you’d generally like to advertize about yourself.  They’re a Southern, sexed-up Buffy, with an even greater wink at the audience. Continue reading

Could you break Harry Potter’s spine?

15 May

Wizard of Oz - Dorothy and Apple Tree

Would you destroy your physical book to get an ebook in return?

The other day, I was going on about the triumph of the digital form and how we should all give up or paper.  And then I got an e-mail about 1dollarscanAnd it seemed like the universe going, “Yeah, how do you like them apples?”

1dollarscan is a tech company out of Japan that does just what its name implies – scans and digitizes text, at a rate of $1 per 100 pages.  You send them your books and they scan them and turn them into ebooks, optimized for viewing on the device of your choice.  Sounds pretty great, right?  Continue reading

Sharing Scribblings in the Digital Margins

30 Oct
#360 perhaps you do not need to write all over library books by romana klee

Photo credit to romana klee

I’ve had a hard time getting excited about things recently, but was lucky enough to stumble across Findings and its gotten my head buzzing.

The newest advancement in digital, literary culture, Findings is a website/app/digital service/what have you that allows you to share your margin notes with others across the community of readers, opening up the potential for reading to be a more dynamic and engaging experience that ever before.

WritingEven since reading Good Omens, I’ve been interested in the possibility of interactive marginalia.  In the story, a family passes a book down through the generations, each scribbling his own notes in the margins, often having contentious discussion of particular passages that last for generations.  (Yes, I recognize that that’s a very selective telling of Good Omens, but I thought it’d take too long to explain angels, demons, and the new four horsemen of the apocalypse.)

Although it’s always seemed like marginalia was a conversation, it never truly was, it was always uni-directional.  The first person that reads a book writes something and the next is left to either ignore the comment or reply to it.  (I guess the first person could then read it again and they could go back and forth ad nauseum, but books that are worth that level of attention are rare, indeed.)  So, with marginalia, as it currently stands, there’s no true back and forth; there’s acting and reacting.  But, Findings allows us to all have our own clean draft to respond to, and then the ability to selectively turn on (and off) others’ comments.

As a society, we talk about where were you at certain moments, at those historical moments that so define our collective psyche (9/11, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), that the divide our lives into before and afters.  But, I’d argue that there are moments in books that can be those defining moments in our lives, too.  Especially those pivotal moments in the the bildugnsromans that we read as teenagers.  The stories of growing up that are part of every high school English curriculum.  How did you feel when they murdered Piggy?  Or when George killed Lenny?  When you first read The Lottery and realized what exactly the “prize” was?   Or when Boo saved Scout?  (Personally, I was really confused on that one and had to read it over a few times before I could get passed my initial reaction: Why is she dressed as meat?)  For readers, those are defining moments, but we analyze them after the fact, in a generalized way.  Respond to the events of Chapter 5.  What was the central theme of the novel?  Was this novel romantic, realistic, or naturalistic?  Discuss.

Marginalia by serikotik1970

Photo credit to serikotik1970

I want to have conversations with people’s real honest reactions, not those that they prepare for a teacher after the fact.  I want to get to know my friends (and thoughtful strangers) through their books and through their notes.  I want to read their scribbling in the digital margins.  I’ve written that I worry that the move from paper to digital paper will fundamentally change the way that we read, that sometime tactile and beautiful will be lost.  I still fear for the loss or musty paper and old fashioned type faces, for judging a book by its weight as well as its cover, but maybe well gain something wonderful in the move to ebooks, too.  Maybe books will become vehicles for true multi-directional communication.  Just think of the possibilities for choose your own adventure books…

Questions of the day: What book moments stand out in your life?  Do you write in your books?  And why is Scout dressed as meat?


MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

Hey Amazon, It’s Called a Library

12 Sep

Or, You can pry my free books from my cold dead fingers

Library by ellen forsyth

Photo credit to ellen forsyth

So, today I’m on LinkedIn and I see this as a “top headline in online media”: Amazon Working on a Netflix for Books.  You know, Amazon’s come up with this revolutionary idea: you can check books out and the return them and then get more books.  It’s gonna be big.  Um, hi, it’s called a library.

Except that actually, it’s a pretty sucky library.  According to Mashable:

“The details about the project are scarce, but it appears that the library would primarily contain older works with restrictions on how many books a user can access each month.”

So, it’s a library with only old books that limits how many I can take out – oh, and it charges me for the privilege?  Doesn’t really sound like a library that I would use, even if it were free.  (Okay, I lied, I’d use it, but I’d complain about it – a lot, probably on this blog.) Continue reading

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