Category Archives: reading

Make Mine Local — with Lots of “Likes”

According to an article in Salon, the American Booksellers Association reported an increase in the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. in the last five years. This is certainly surprising news considering the seemingly increasing popularity of e-books and the convenience and low prices of Amazon.

The article claims that two things are driving the increase in indie bookstores:

  • a desire for authentic local experiences
  • social media marketing

The “local movement” of the last few years has done wonders for our communities. People care about consuming local food and using local services. When local businesses thrive, so do communities. In my own ‘hood, neighbours banded together to form a community association — DECA — that has brought new life to the area by offering incentives to local businesses and by creating and promoting local events like farmers’ markets.

Even big builders have seen the error of creating unwalkable suburban neighbourhoods where driving to large chain stores is the only option for residents.  People want to live near hubs offering something local and unique, and builders now attempt to emulate just that.

As for social media, the Salon article rightly points out that small businesses thrive when their customers create word-of-mouth buzz. Sophisticated consumers don’t trust advertising, but they do trust their friends — real or online — who let them know where the good restaurants are, what pubs have the best craft brews, and which new books they can’t put down.

Smartphones, of course, allow us to find the best stores and restaurants in any ‘hood in which we find ourselves. No longer is there a need to play it safe by sticking to the big chains. A unique small business with great online ratings can be found in seconds.

Authenticity and word of mouth: sounds awfully old-fashioned, doesn’t it?

Leave a comment

Filed under authenticity, books, future of publishing, new books, online life, online resources, reading, the Internet and us

Stop Subvocalizing and Start Spritzing

So many books, so little time.

I’m envious of people who — like my husband and seemingly everyone on Goodreads — effortlessly finish book after book after book. I admit I’m a slow reader. I notice the structure and the copy editing choices of a text, and sometimes I read a powerful sentence over and over again to mine its nuances. My dalliance costs me dearly in books read per year.

I recently picked up (good thing I’ve been working out) Eleanor Catton’s Luminaries. Weighing in at several hundred pages, the book is longer than an Ayn Rand novel. Really? I thought. She couldn’t tell a story in 500 pages? (Her first novel is a perfect 300 pages of pure pleasure.) I couldn’t commit to spending so much time on one book, so I passed the book on to my husband, and now it’s back on the shelves of the public library — just like that — while I’m still lingering over my latest Ali Smith novel.

A big part of my problem is subvocalization: I read printed words at the rate of speech, which is about 180 words per minute (wpm). To increase my reading rate, I need to stop reading like I’m mouthing each word — simply a matter of practice.

But to read even faster? There’s an app for that!

Spritz Inc. has created a reading app for digital devices that allows users to read from 250 to 1000 wpm. Words — in red and in an appropriate font — are flashed one at a time in a “redicle,” a special visual frame. “Spritzing” saves time by eliminating saccades, which are the movements of the eye as it seeks out words from left to right. Readers choose the reading rate they feel comfortable with; apparently, five minutes is all it takes to adapt to this way of reading. Spritz claims that retention is just as good as with traditional reading.

(Eye problems, brain changes, privacy issues? Not to worry, the company says: Spritz works for good, not evil. So if your Spidey senses are tingling with visions of Big Brother spoon-feeding propaganda to the masses, stop it. Stop it, I said.)

Unfortunately, spritzing won’t automatically cure my subvocalization. To do that, Spritz suggests humming while reading. Sounds like madness, quite literally, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Leave a comment

Filed under reading, technology