Reading roundup for Wed Sep 8: he Kindle, she paperback, University goes overboard with Facebook, John Grisham’s repeated failures, degrading ambition and more

Today in tech, we’re reading about couples who’re split between physical books and reading on the iPad or Kindle. The larger story, of course, is about how publishers are walking the delicate line between appealing to adopters of digital books and avoiding alienating the larger audiences that reads ‘real books’. (“We used to go to the beach and we’d both take out books, but he had an iPad, and it was almost distracting because it didn’t feel like he was reading with me.” Whoa.)

Then, the Irish web apps company Contrast argues that before you create a ‘community’ site for your niche, start a simple blog or suchlike with great content and no network. Only after you’ve gotten a critical mass of regular readers can you add those ‘community’ features like profiles, galleries and more. (“…you’ll need a large crowd before you get worthwhile content from them. You know what they call a content driven site without any good content? A load of bollox. So you need great content from the start.”)

Finally, the University at Kentucky has gone nuts with Facebook’s new Places feature (where you can ‘check in’ and broadcast your location to your friends). It’s put up giant wooden pointers resembling the ‘Places’ icons on its campus that are supposed to remind students to ‘check in’ on Facebook, that will be broadcast to their friends network, so that “maybe their friends still in high school will see it over and over again”. And come to UKentucky. To check in themselves, I suppose.

In non-tech, we’re reading how the author (well, we’ll forgive him for Theodore Boone) John Grisham stumbled upon his calling – after failure after failure. (“I applied for a job at a Sears store in a mall. The only opening was in men’s underwear. It was humiliating. I tried to quit, but I was given a raise. Evidently, the position was difficult to fill. I asked to be transferred to toys, then to appliances.”)

Then, a college professor find out that letting students pick their own due date for coursework actually resulted – contrary to rational behaviour – in earlier deadlines, and higher grades. (“When resolving to reach a goal—whether it is tackling a big project at work or saving for a vacation, it might help to first commit to a hard and clear deadline, and then inform our colleagues, friends, or spouse about it with the hope that this clear and public commitment will help keep us on track and ultimately fulfill our resolutions.”)

Finally, a short post about how our ambitions keep shifting downwards, as the years pass. (the blogger quotes a book where the author went from wanting to be Einstein to “the point where I merely envied the postdoc in the office next door because he had been invited to give a seminar in France.”) Your conversations with kids will be all about what they want to be when they grow up. And you won’t hear developer, mid-level manager, or –horrors – HR executive.

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