Friday News: Books & the brain, digital sharing, comic book sales data, and sex in space
What If We Could Upload Books to Our Brains? – This article, along with this piece about “mentally owning books,” basically represent two versions of having books bond with the human brain. One article promotes “mentally owning” a book via manual rituals like taking notes while reading and putting the book down for at least a week, while the other addresses the possibility that technology can eventually allow us to “consume” a book almost instantaneously. Both methods are intended to improve the experience of reading, although I’m not sure either method is really focused on “reading” as much as imprinting content on the brain. Which for many power readers, at least, may not be an improvement in any way. As mathematician Cathy O’Neil laments about the idea of mentally “uploading” books,
From my perspective, the learning that we do when we read a book has little to do with knowledge — what would a pre-loaded version of “The Brothers Karamazov” constitute? — and everything to do with responding emotionally and morally to the story. As I’ve become older, I forgive hypocrisies more quickly, and I identify with decay more readily. I understand spiritual conflict but I’m not alarmed by it. Thus the book itself is different each time it’s read by a different version of me.
I’m not sure what Kurzweil thinks when he says our computer minds won’t need to bother to read the book, and I want to give him and his other futurist computer-brain friends some credit. They surely mean more than having the text of the book itself available to us, or even memorized. That wouldn’t represent knowledge. It must be something deeper, a representation of the book possibly as a narrative, or maybe a movie. But again, if we have access only to that movie, it doesn’t represent the same learning that would come through reading and experiencing the book. – Bloomberg and The Observer
The Bizarre Digital Book You Must Destroy Before Sharing – So this isn’t what I thought after reading the title of the article, which suggests that somehow the book will self-destruct upon sharing it. Instead, this Editions at Play volume must actually be re-shaped by each user before passing it on. Which is a pretty low-tech approach, and one that brings into question the point of actually sharing a book that isn’t the same from reader to reader. The project is described as “an experiment in what it means to own a digital book,” although it also seems to be about the nature of books, writing, reading, and sharing.
A Universe Explodes is an experiment in what it means to own a digital book. Let us explain how this works, because it gets sort of complicated. Only 100 people own original versions of A Universe Explodes, but each of those copies can be passed onto friends via email. The book, which has 128 words per page, can be handed off from friend to friend up to 100 times. There’s a catch, though: Before an owner can give her version away, she must remove two words and add one to every page, creating a personalized limited edition of the book.
That means the version of A Universe Explodes I gift to you will look different from the version I first received. And the version you gift to your friend will read differently than the version they gift to their friend. With every iteration of the book, more words disappear until there’s only one word left on each page. “Frankly, after 20 owners it will be unreadable,” Uglow says. – WIRED
WHY IS BATMAN THE BENCHMARK? COMIC BOOK SALES DATA, EXPLAINED – Sales numbers, especially as they are compiled to determine bestsellers, remains somewhat of a mystery to me. So I cannot pretend to completely understand this piece on how comic book sales data is calculated and made sense of. Still, I suspect it will be interesting to many of you who are either creators or retailers. As to why Batman is the benchmark title – read below:
Originally, the sales data was meant for retailers to use as guideline for ordering. The system of indexing titles against a benchmark title was developed by Milton Griepp at Capital City Distribution, using “Uncanny X-Men” as the benchmark title. Since “Uncanny X-Men” was usually the highest selling title at the time, and ordered by every comic book store, it was a logical choice to be the title against which all others’ sales were compared.
Keep in mind the original purpose of the list was to aid retailers in ordering back in the early 1980s. I was working at a comic book store at the time, and occasionally helped the store owner fill out the paper order form. Using a calculator, I would multiply the number of copies of the benchmark title the store was selling by the index value for another title to come up with an estimate of how the other title might sell. The owner then compared that with how the title was actually selling in the store and made his ordering decision accordingly.
When Diamond started up a few years later, it adopted a similar index reporting system, but used “Batman” as the benchmark title. – Comic Book Resources
Everything you always wanted to know about sex in space – You might want to read this article in Five Thirty-Eight first, but either way, the video is hilarious. – Aeon