March 2008

What’s He/She Reading?

Most of us will take the opportunity on a bus, trolley or train to see what our neighbors are reading…but e-books make the snooping that much harder.

The New York Times profiles the illicit pleasures of riding the subways and looking over your shoulder to see what your neighbors are reading:

“On the subway, sometimes the person with the book is sitting close enough, and the typeface is large enough, that you can peer onto the very page. At home, reading over someone’s shoulder merely constitutes annoying behavior; doing it to a stranger on the subway feels close to illegal, or at least illicit. To read a page, a paragraph, a line from someone else’s book is to bypass the common curiosity about what might be on a stranger’s mind; it’s to know with great certainty; it’s to appropriate the language floating around in his or her thoughts. Regardless of how banal the book, those stolen words practically shimmer with intrigue.”

The top 100 free Gutenberg Project books

Life Hacker Points The Way to The top 100 free Gutenberg Project books: “To determine the ranking we count the times each file gets downloaded. Both HTTP and FTP transfers are counted. Only transfers from are counted as we have no access to our mirrors log files. Multiple downloads from the same IP address on the same day count as one download. IP addresses that download more than 100 files a day are considered robots and are not considered. Books made out of multiple files like most audio books are counted if any file is downloaded.”

Can Social Bookmarking Improve Web Search?

From the abstract of Can Social Bookmarking Improve Web Search?:

Social bookmarking is a recent phenomenon which has the potential to give us a great deal of data about pages on the web. One major question is whether that data can be used to augment systems like web search. To answer this question, over the past year we have gathered what we believe to be the largest dataset from a social bookmarking site yet analyzed by academic researchers. Our dataset represents about forty million bookmarks from the social bookmarking site We contribute a characterization of posts to how many bookmarks exist (about 115 million), how fast is it growing, and how active are the URLs being posted about (quite active). We also contribute a characterization of tags used by bookmarkers. We found that certain tags tend to gravitate towards certain domains, and vice versa. We also found that tags occur in over 50 percent of the pages that they annotate, and in only 20 percent of cases do they not occur in the page text, backlink page text, or forward link page text of the pages they annotate. We conclude that social bookmarking can provide search data not currently provided by other sources, though it may currently lack the size and distribution of tags necessary to make a significant impact.

Link stolen from Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.”

Book Club Awards Author for Best Sex Writing

Icelandic book club Krummi awarded author Elísabet Jökulsdóttir with the Red Raven’s Feather last week for the most interesting sex description in literature in 2007. The award is granted annually at the book club’s general meeting.

In her book Heilraedi lásasmidsins (“Advice from the locksmith”), Jökulsdóttir describes her relationship with Algea, a man whom she met while traveling in New York. Her book begins with the words: “I had sex in Central Park.”

BC Library deal in sight, union says

The Greater Victoria Public Library labour dispute could be over by Monday after talks yesterday went “extremely well,” according to union representative Ed Seedhouse. Locked-out library workers and their employer sat down for a six-hour session yesterday, and plan to meet again Monday.

Seedhouse said he’s feeling “very positive,” noting the main issues have already been hammered out. He said he thinks the union will have an agreement it can recommend to the membership on Monday.