posts about or somewhat related to ‘Books’

In Praise of the Humble Comma
The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said — could it not? — of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, of a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a thing, a pedant’s tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer’s smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as the comma — unless it be breath itself?
Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. Punctuation marks are the road signs placed along the highway of our communication — to control speeds, provide directions and prevent head-on collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light; the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down; and the semicolon is a stop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually starting up again. — Pico Iyer, 2001. Via Time.

In Praise of the Humble Comma

The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said — could it not? — of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, of a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a thing, a pedant’s tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer’s smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as the comma — unless it be breath itself?

Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. Punctuation marks are the road signs placed along the highway of our communication — to control speeds, provide directions and prevent head-on collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light; the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down; and the semicolon is a stop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually starting up again. — Pico Iyer, 2001. Via Time.

3D Printing Tactile Picture Books for Visually Impaired Children

A team from the University of Colorado Boulder is creating 3D printed tactile books for children with visual impairments.

Information about the Tactile Picture Books Project is here. Have a 3D printer? You can download the source files from MakerBot’s Thingiverse.

Images: Tactile Goodnight Moon, via Thingiverse. Select to embiggen.

Start Your Remix Engines: Millions of New Public Domain Images Now on Flickr
Over 2.6 million images from books published between 1500 and 1922 are now on Flickr thanks to a Yahoo! fellow who, in a sense, reverse scanned 600 million pages from the Internet Archive.
Via Open Culture:

Thanks to Kalev Leetaru, a Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University, you can now head over to a new collection at Flickr and search through an archive of 2.6 million public domain images, all extracted from books, magazines and newspapers published over a 500 year period. Eventually this archive will grow to 14.6 million images.

Via The BBC:

Mr Leetaru said digitisation projects had so far focused on words and ignored pictures.
"For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works," he told the BBC.
"They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.
"Stretching half a millennium, it’s amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time.

Geek Speak: Traditional book scanning uses optical character recognition to extract text from books but, in doing so, more or less ignores images. Leetaru wrote a program that went back through the scans and reversed the process, favoring images over text.
Back to The BBC:

The software also copied the caption for each image and the text from the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it in the book.
Each Jpeg and its associated text was then posted to a new Flickr page, allowing the public to hunt through the vast catalogue using the site’s search tool.

Read through to the BBC to learn more about how it was done.
Image: Partial screenshot, page 26,198 of the collection.

Start Your Remix Engines: Millions of New Public Domain Images Now on Flickr

Over 2.6 million images from books published between 1500 and 1922 are now on Flickr thanks to a Yahoo! fellow who, in a sense, reverse scanned 600 million pages from the Internet Archive.

Via Open Culture:

Thanks to Kalev Leetaru, a Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University, you can now head over to a new collection at Flickr and search through an archive of 2.6 million public domain images, all extracted from books, magazines and newspapers published over a 500 year period. Eventually this archive will grow to 14.6 million images.

Via The BBC:

Mr Leetaru said digitisation projects had so far focused on words and ignored pictures.

"For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works," he told the BBC.

"They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.

"Stretching half a millennium, it’s amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time.

Geek Speak: Traditional book scanning uses optical character recognition to extract text from books but, in doing so, more or less ignores images. Leetaru wrote a program that went back through the scans and reversed the process, favoring images over text.

Back to The BBC:

The software also copied the caption for each image and the text from the paragraphs immediately preceding and following it in the book.

Each Jpeg and its associated text was then posted to a new Flickr page, allowing the public to hunt through the vast catalogue using the site’s search tool.

Read through to the BBC to learn more about how it was done.

Image: Partial screenshot, page 26,198 of the collection.

Summer Reading from The New Yorker

The New Yorker is opening up its Web site for the next few months, letting visitors read everything currently being published — along with archives back to 2007 — for free.

The move comes alongside a site redesign.

Via The New Yorker:

Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall.

Images: Twitter posts from The New Yorker… and an ellipsis for good measure.

The Grammar of Weird Al

Word nerds haven’t been so excited by a grammar song since way back in the days of School House Rocks’ Conjunction Junction

That said, what to make of Yankovic’s grammar rules? A better grammarian than I would have to answer. Thankfully, there’s one over at Slate.

"[A]pparently Mr. Yankovic is quite a prescriptivist," writes Forrest Wickman. “Let’s examine a few of Yankovic’s Rules of Usage.”

Slight aside: you still won’t convince me to use the Oxford Comma. Let’s agree to disagree. — Michael

Images: Stills from “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Word Crimes video. Select to embiggen.

My Handwriting’s Crap, How ‘Bout Yours
Ever since personal computers made their way into the classroom, handwriting’s been on the way out. Many schools teach kindergartners and first graders how to print but don’t move on to cursive. Consider handwriting an increasingly obsolete art.
But research shows that writing by hand actually improves brain development. For example, Nancy Darling, psychology professor at Oberlin:

Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.

In Pacific Standard, Ted Scheinman explains, “The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that cursive especially can energize a more fluid and coherent process of thought.”
He then goes into this doozy of an anecdote from Valerie Hotchkiss at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:

Recently, an undergraduate asked me for help with a manuscript she was studying. I assumed it was something along the lines of a medieval Latin text or perhaps even a particularly difficult Marcel Proust letter (our library holds the largest collection of Proust letters in the world), but when I bent over the letter to help, I saw that it was in English and in the very neat, clear hand of John Ruskin. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t do cursive,” answered the undergraduate.

Takeaway: Practice your chickenscratch. — Michael
Image: Some words, written using the Dakota font.

My Handwriting’s Crap, How ‘Bout Yours

Ever since personal computers made their way into the classroom, handwriting’s been on the way out. Many schools teach kindergartners and first graders how to print but don’t move on to cursive. Consider handwriting an increasingly obsolete art.

But research shows that writing by hand actually improves brain development. For example, Nancy Darling, psychology professor at Oberlin:

Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.

In Pacific Standard, Ted Scheinman explains, “The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that cursive especially can energize a more fluid and coherent process of thought.”

He then goes into this doozy of an anecdote from Valerie Hotchkiss at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign:

Recently, an undergraduate asked me for help with a manuscript she was studying. I assumed it was something along the lines of a medieval Latin text or perhaps even a particularly difficult Marcel Proust letter (our library holds the largest collection of Proust letters in the world), but when I bent over the letter to help, I saw that it was in English and in the very neat, clear hand of John Ruskin. “What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t do cursive,” answered the undergraduate.

Takeaway: Practice your chickenscratch. — Michael

Image: Some words, written using the Dakota font.

Tsundoku
The closest word we’ve found to describe our bookmarking habits.

Tsundoku

The closest word we’ve found to describe our bookmarking habits.

#BookBenches

England’s National Literacy Trust commissioned artists to create 50 benches based on both specific books and the worlds authors create more generally.

Part of a literacy campaign called Books About Town, the benches are set throughout London across four different walking tours.

Visit Books About Town for more.

Images: Dr. Suess (top); Bridget Jones Diary and Dickens Liverpool (row two); Origin of Species and Paddington (row three); and Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes and Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (row four). Select to embiggen.

Happy Birthday, New York Public Library!

Staying gorgeous at 113-years-old today.

Here’s how Virginia’s Times Dispatch reported the opening back in 1911.

Bonus Video: Why Libraries Matter, via The Atlantic.

Images: Get a Library Card! via the NYPL on Pinterest. Select to embiggen.

Update, Age Clarification Edition: While the library opened in 1911, it was years in the making

Read it Four Times
Via Hoefler & Co.

Read it Four Times

Via Hoefler & Co.

She grabbed my anus and positioned my body in the direction of the east gallery and we started walking.

Automated transcription gone awry. The Guardian, Scanner for ebook cannot tell its ‘arms’ from its ‘anus’.

Evidently, high-end scanners using Optical Character Recognition technology can’t tell heads or tail – or arms and anuses – when going through old-timey type. 

Takeaway: You still need a copyeditor to tell your arms from your anus. With all the news about robots writing our print, there’s something reassuring about that.

Happy Teen Literature Day
As libraries across America celebrate Teen Lit Day, Readergirlz and some co-sponsors are hosting Operation Teen Bookdrop, which you can participate in too:

* Follow @readergirlz on Twitter and tweet #rockthedrop* Print a copy of the bookplate and insert it into a book (or 10!) On April 18th, drop a book in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?) Lucky finders will see that the book is part of ROCK THE DROP! (If you think people won’t pick up the book, slap a Post-It or note on the front cover that reads, “Take this book - IT’S FREE!” Bonus points for using recycled paper and/or making your own funky design!)* Post the banner at your blog and social networks. Proclaim that you will ROCK THE DROP! * Snap a photo of your drop and post it at the readergirlz Facebook page. Then tweet the drop at #rockthedropwith all the other lovers of YA books.

See books that people have been dropping all day via the Twitter hashtag #rockthedrop.
Bonus: Our (well, Jihii’s) favorite teen fiction? Everything by Sarah Dessen but especially this and this.

Happy Teen Literature Day

As libraries across America celebrate Teen Lit Day, Readergirlz and some co-sponsors are hosting Operation Teen Bookdrop, which you can participate in too:

* Follow @readergirlz on Twitter and tweet #rockthedrop
Print a copy of the bookplate and insert it into a book (or 10!) On April 18th, drop a book in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?) Lucky finders will see that the book is part of ROCK THE DROP! 
(If you think people won’t pick up the book, slap a Post-It or note on the front cover that reads, “Take this book - IT’S FREE!” Bonus points for using recycled paper and/or making your own funky design!)
Post the banner at your blog and social networks. Proclaim that you will ROCK THE DROP! 
Snap a photo of your drop and post it at the readergirlz Facebook page. Then tweet the drop at #rockthedropwith all the other lovers of YA books.

See books that people have been dropping all day via the Twitter hashtag #rockthedrop.

Bonus: Our (well, Jihii’s) favorite teen fiction? Everything by Sarah Dessen but especially this and this.

Harvard’s Looking for a Wikipedian
Via The Atlantic:

The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus holds the university’s collection of rare books. Inside its walls—in addition to objects culled from the old “Treasure Room” of Widener, the school’s principal library—you’ll find Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; information about the creation of books; and collections of papers from, among many others, Louisa May Alcott, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry James, William James, Samuel Johnson, James Joyce, John Keats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Theodore Roosevelt, John Updike, and Gore Vidal.
The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus is awesome, is what I’m saying. And now it’s looking for a little love. From, and for … Wikipedia.
Yesterday, John Overholt, Houghton’s Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, posted a job listing. He’s hiring a Wikipedian in Residence—someone who can serve as a kind of liaison between Wikipedia and the academic, cultural, and intellectual institutions whose source material its entries rely on. In this case, Harvard.

The job’s only three months, pays $16/hour, but still: Wikipedia, rare books, internets. Tingling. Further details here.
Image: Via Cyanide and Happiness.

Harvard’s Looking for a Wikipedian

Via The Atlantic:

The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus holds the university’s collection of rare books. Inside its walls—in addition to objects culled from the old “Treasure Room” of Widener, the school’s principal library—you’ll find Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; information about the creation of books; and collections of papers from, among many others, Louisa May Alcott, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry James, William James, Samuel Johnson, James Joyce, John Keats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Theodore Roosevelt, John Updike, and Gore Vidal.

The Houghton Library on the Harvard campus is awesome, is what I’m saying. And now it’s looking for a little love. From, and for … Wikipedia.

Yesterday, John Overholt, Houghton’s Curator of Early Modern Books & Manuscripts, posted a job listing. He’s hiring a Wikipedian in Residence—someone who can serve as a kind of liaison between Wikipedia and the academic, cultural, and intellectual institutions whose source material its entries rely on. In this case, Harvard.

The job’s only three months, pays $16/hour, but still: Wikipedia, rare books, internets. Tingling. Further details here.

Image: Via Cyanide and Happiness.

Lessons from Alice

[T]ied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words “DRINK ME” beautifully printed on it in large letters.
It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison or not;” for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is most certain to disagree with you sooner or later.
However, This bottle was not marked “poison,” so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.

Alice ventured to taste it and found it very nice.
Image: Alice in Wonderland from Read.gov, which is putting classic books online.

Lessons from Alice

[T]ied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words “DRINK ME” beautifully printed on it in large letters.

It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison or not;” for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is most certain to disagree with you sooner or later.

However, This bottle was not marked “poison,” so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.

Alice ventured to taste it and found it very nice.

Image: Alice in Wonderland from Read.gov, which is putting classic books online.