Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-31

  • Why you shouldn't update Instapaper on your iPhone to version 2.1: #
  • Nicholson Baker re Kindle: "Where were sharp black letters laid out like lacquered chopsticks on a clean tablecloth?" #
  • I guess I'm slow, but I just realized that the Kindle doesn't actually reproduce the looks, layouts, or even fonts of printed books. Boo! #
  • What if Apple gave AT&T another year of iPhone exclusivity in exchange for free wireless for all Apple tablets? Yes! #
  • Hilarious test of speech recognition using classic works of literature: #
  • Finally, someone in business–Paul Graham–locates the value in being uninterruptedly alone: #
  • PW reviews Nabobov's Original of Laura. I can't wait to see the facsimile index cards! #

PW reviews Nabokov’s The Original of Laura

Publisher’s Weekly has the first review of Valdimir Nabokov’s last book, The Original of Laura. The magazine calls the book a “very unfinished work [that] reads largely like an outline.” What’s most interesting and exciting is how the book will look:

Knopf is publishing the book in an intriguing form: Nabokov’s handwritten index cards are reproduced with a transcription below of each card’s contents, generally less than a paragraph. The scanned index cards (perforated so they can be removed from the book) are what make this book an amazing document; they reveal Nabokov’s neat handwriting (a mix of cursive and print) and his own edits to the text: some lines are blacked out with scribbles, others simply crossed out. Words are inserted, typesetting notes (“no quotes”) and copyedit symbols pepper the writing, and the reverse of many cards bears a wobbly X. Depending on the reader’s eye, the final card in the book is either haunting or the great writer’s final sly wink: it’s a list of synonyms for “efface”—expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out and, finally, obliterate.

Don’t update your iPhone’s Instapaper to version 2.1

As many of you know, one of my favorite iPhone applications is Instapaper. I use it to read pretty much anything I don’t want to read when I find it on my computer—generally long essays from the New Yorker, Atlantic, and New York Review of Books. Unfortunately, the latest version of Instapaper Free is simply a downgrade masquerading as an upgrade. This version removes the ability to save your place if you quit the application while in the middle of reading a saved article. However, it has two other qualities that are far worse: it shows ads and it only allows you to keep your ten most recently saved articles on the iPhone. I’m still running the old version of Instapaper, and will continue to do so because it’s allowed me to save over 100 articles from the web to my phone. Whenever I need something to read, I just go to Instapaper. Some articles are months old, but I frequently dig into my archive for reading material, especially if it’s a long essay or short story from the New Yorker. I really like the old Instapaper and hope that I’ll be able to continue using it. If not, I guess I’ll go back to paper—that is the kind that comes from trees.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-17

  • Any other auction sites that people use now that eBay has moved to more fixed price listings? #
  • "… the main thing you need as a writer is a sense of certainty that you won’t be interrupted." –Roxanna Robinson in today's NYT #
  • One thing fiction does is that it fosters the belief that what's possible in the world is more rather than less. #
  • A nice display of books at Liquor Bar in TriBeCa. #
  • How to read PDF books and other large PDFs on the iPhone? The best answer is GoodReader: #
  • The standards for getting a word into Webster's are very low: #
  • Let's see Obama's arm! #
  • Ted Williams in a Pepsi commercial? Noooo! #
  • "There is no real way to deal with everything we lose." –Joan Didion #

The NewsHour on the future of publishing

Yesterday on the NewsHour Ray Suarez discussed the future of the book publishing business and its handling of e-books with Jonathan Karp of Hachette’s Twelve, one of my favorite imprints. Karp likens the publishing business to gambling, but what business isn’t like gambling? I found his analogy between the Kindle and the Walkman to be a little misleading, however. Sony, though it had a music library when the Walkman came out, didn’t have the same retail relationship with customers. The comparison would be more apt if Karp’s employer, Hachette, was the one behind the Kindle and not Amazon.

Suarez prefaces the conversation with a brief segment about the book business as a whole, including a story about layoffs at Tattered Cover in Denver and a customer’s book buying binge of a response. More →

How to read large PDFs—books, articles, etc.—on your iPhone


In the past, I’ve tried emailing large PDFs to myself to read using the iPhone’s native PDF viewer. Unfortunately, it’s extremely slow with any sort of large file, so reading books is out of the question. I also tried importing PDFs of books into Stanza. However, the files tend to lose all formatting and line breaks, giving you large continuous paragraphs of text with page numbers and headers embedded in the text of the work itself. One of the reasons why I would like a Kindle DX is to read PDFs of books and journal/magazine articles. However, there are also several reasons why I don’t want a Kindle. More →

Why health care is so expensive

A couple weeks ago I finally got around to reading Atul Gawande’s excellent New Yorker essay on why health care costs vary so wildly throughout the country. His conclusion—that this variance results from whether doctors approach their profession as a business or as a commitment to caring for patients—is so simple that many seem to have a difficult time accepting it. His article and follow-up are must reads for anyone who cares about health care in America.

Habitats – For a Writer, a Home With a Hideout –

Today’s New York Times profiles novelist Roxana Robinson. I can’t agree more about the need to have times and spaces where you know you won’t be interrupted.

Ms. Robinson, whose works include an acclaimed biography of the painter Georgia O’Keeffe and most recently the novel “Cost,” realizes that in choosing the unprepossessing small room over the more generously decorated bigger one, she has rejected a space most writers would kill for.

She can explain.

“I did everything but write in that room,” Ms. Robinson said. “I paid bills. I printed things out. I sent faxes. I was connected to the Internet.

“The assumption is that writers can write wherever they can sit down,” she added. “But the main thing you need as a writer is a sense of certainty that you won’t be interrupted.”

Distance from the Internet is part of the issue, but so is having a space that offers minimal distraction. For a writer living in New York, distraction can be the unwelcome flip side of inspiration.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-10

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-03

  • I timed my run last night to arrive at Three Lives & Co. just before 8:30 closing to pick up Bruno Schulz's stories, but they closed early! #
  • How great a song is "Back to the Old House" by the Smiths? Really, really great. #
  • Has anyone used Google Street View to help them write about a place they've never been? #
  • Tired after sitting on the plane for two hours before leaving New York, but back to save the universe. #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-26

  • Returning from four days in Woods Hole with Boone and Lori, testing @pandora_radio on 2g. Quality is good,, but how do I expunge the ads? #
  • Sublet my large studio next to City Hall Park in Manhattan for the month of July. Send me an @ reply if you're interested. #
  • What happens when #IranElection tweets start disappearing from search results because too many days have elapsed since posting? #
  • Check out the work of @joshto
    Josh! Big Water! #
  • RT @EliseBlackwell: In praise of the print journal. Thoughts from Granta's new editor: #
  • Just downgraded @TwitterFon to remove the ads. #
  • Picked up Rhett Miller's "The Believer" at Newbury Comics last week. Really enjoying "Fireflies": #
  • Banana, date, and lime smoothie and falafel sandwich at Taim. Yum! #
  • A rough list of my favorite #iPhone apps: What are your favorites? #

How to make your own ringtones for the iPhone

One odd limitation of the iPhone is that you can’t use songs from your iTunes library as ringtones. However, there’s an easy way around this restriction. Just create AAC files of 30 seconds or less that you want to use as ringtones and change their extensions from .m4a to .m4r and import them into iTunes. A full step-by-step guide is available here. What’s my ringtone, you may ask? Currently, I’m using the opening 30 seconds from Radiohead’s song “Fog.” Here’s a live version for those of you not familiar with the song.

My favorite iPhone and iPod Touch apps

I’ve been playing around with these devices for most of the year and have come to some conclusions about my favorite applications. Because Apple’s App Store is a bit of a mess, I’ve picked up most of my recommendations from other blogs and forums. So, here’s the list of apps that I wish I hadn’t had to spend time discovering because my iPod is better with them than without them, in no particular order:

  • The New York Times – I previously posted about this application and how I would be willing to pay a fair amount for it. The only things I can fault this application for are that it’s not always clear when it’s finished downloading the day’s paper and it runs sluggishly on the iPhone 2g. Otherwise, the ability to save and email articles is great, and the interface makes browsing the paper easy. This is probably my favorite app, in part because it downloads the paper for offline reading and because I love the New York Times.
  • MLB At Bat 2009 – This app costs $9.99, but it’s awesome. You can watch two live games a day and listen to any broadcast of any game live. I remember when I was a kid, I could barely get reception on the AM radio at night to listen to Vin Scully call the LA Dodgers games. Now I can listen to the Dodgers and the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Giants whenever I want. This app also features in-game video highlights from almost all games, which are nice, but the key feature is being able to listen to live broadcasts. More →

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-12

  • Anyone know a good place in NYC for a vegetarian dinner + watching the NBA Finals? #
  • RT @PublishersLunch: New Generation Is Sprucing Up Paris’s Shakespeare & Co. #
  • It seems like @mcnallyjackson has been recording its events, but how can I listen to them? #
  • The one time I got up during the game in the 8th, my favorite player hit a homer. Nonetheless, a fun night in the Bronx, Mo saves a 5-3 win #
  • Looking to buy a used iPhone 3G for $200. Tips, anyone? #
  • Goooooooaaaaaaal! Go Pens! 2-0. #
  • RT @GrantaMag: We have video of Mavis Gallant and Jhumpa Lahiri reading and talking in Paris #
  • Penguins! #