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What is the point of the best-seller list? Depends who you are. If you're a reader, it's a guide to what's popular — what's new, what your neighbors are buying, and what you might like to read next. If you're a publisher, it's a source of feedback and a sales tool: It tells you how your books compete, and gives you triumphs to crow about on paperback covers.
If you're an author, however, the best-seller list can feel awfully personal. It tells you how much the world values your work. It may be a sign of your economic future — say, whether you're going to be able to buy an apartment. It speaks to your professional future as well: whether your career is working out, and whether you're going to be able to sell your next book. And, unlike the private sales data reported to publishers or tracked by Nielsen through their BookScan service, the best-seller list lives in public. Your mom will see it; so will your high school nemesis. If your book makes the list, you can forever after be accurately described as a "best-selling author."
"They remind me of my childhood the way music reminds you of things when you were younger," she said. "The reason we cling to these books isn't because they were fun and we grew up with them; we cling to them because of deeper themes, because of friendship and because of loyalty and because of human connections."
Digging through the clutter of the online world: A Q&A with TED Books author Jim Hornthal
The latest TED Book deals with an issue we all can relate too: the difficulty of finding answers to complex questions on the Internet when a simple search can lead you down a rabbit hole of impersonal data. In A Haystack Full of Needles: Cutting Through the Clutter of the Online World to Find a Place, Partner or President, Jim Hornthal explores groundbreaking new approaches to discovering the useful insights buried deep within our complex and noisy datasphere. Hornthal, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, introduces us to innovators who are pushing the edges of data science and data visualization by applying the principles of pattern recognition to isolate relevant signals in the noise. Their efforts will have enormous implications for the way we practice medicine, discover music and movies, and even identify our romantic partners.
Curious to hear more about the ideas he explores in his e-book, the TED Blog asked Hornthal a few questions over email.
Syrian journalist and writer Samar Yazbek, who was forced into exile after criticizing President Bashar al-Assad, has won PEN's Pinter International Writer of Courage Award.
Yazbek, who fled her homeland late last year after repeated run-ins with the state security services, was recognized for her book, "A Woman In The Crossfire", an account of the early stages of the Syrian revolution.
In line with the late playwright Harold Pinter's Nobel speech in which he spoke of casting "an unflinching, unswerving gaze upon the world", the prize is awarded annually to a writer who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs.
"The great thing about this prize is that it highlights figures who might not otherwise get the recognition they deserve," Heather Norman Soderlind, Deputy Director of English PEN, told Reuters.
Yazbek insists, though, that while grateful for the honor, she doesn't see this as a personal accolade. "I felt that beyond me this was a prize for the Syrian Revolution," she said.
Story from Reuters.
Americans are paying high prices for poor quality Internet speeds — speeds that are now slower than in other countries, according to author David Cay Johnston. He says the U.S. ranks 29th in speed worldwide.
"We're way behind countries like Lithuania, Ukraine and Moldavia. Per bit of information moved, we pay 38 times what the Japanese pay," Johnston tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "If you buy one of these triple-play packages that are heavily advertised — where you get Internet, telephone and cable TV together — typically you'll pay what I pay, about $160 a month including fees. The same service in France is $38 a month."
In his new book, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind, Johnston examines the fees that companies — such as cellphone and cable — have added over the years that have made bills incrementally larger.