On 19 June journalist and media blogger Jim Romenesko posted a short piece on his website detailing how writer and author Jonah Lehrer had apparently recycled portions of a recent article for The New Yorker from an essay that had he had previously written for the The Wall Street Journal. Comparisons between “Why Smart People Are Stupid” and “The Science of Irrationality”, revealed that both pieces begin with three essentially identical opening paragraphs.
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Penguin Press has recently announced that the works of celebrated novelist Thomas Pynchon are now available for download for the first time as e-books. For years the author, whose works, like Gravity’s Rainbow and Against the Day, have long been daunting yet satisfying reads for fans of literary fiction, has been an opponent of the digital revolution in publishing. The New York Times’ Julie Bosman, reported that the move “…is another step toward the ubiquity of the e-book, even for authors who stubbornly resisted,” in a 12 June 2012 article that speculated that the change of heart could have been prompted by the simple desire to get more readers.
In a recent article at the Daily Beast, writer Mark Wortman made the argument that books are simply too long, and that size has become a deterring factor for him in choosing what to read in a world with countless worthy selections but a finite amount of time. While many of the books he cites are biographies and other works of non-fiction, which oftentimes (but not always) are by necessity hefty tomes, and his speculation that e-book price-per-page analysis and the ready access of massive amounts of corroborative data for author’s via Google and the Internet has led to this unnecessary increase in voluminous monographs, might strike some as unconvincing – large books are certainly not a modern phenomena – bibliophiles and armchair scholars might be sympathetic to the angst underlying Wortman’s piece: that there’s simply not enough time to read all the things one wants to.
This has been a rough month for Amazon.com and its dominant position in the e-book market following a series of recent setbacks involving the company’s e-reader, the Kindle, and its tablet, the Kindle Fire. The e-reader, which more than any other device sparked the long anticipated digital revolution in the world of publishing, is no longer going to be stocked in any of Target’s stores across the nation. Although a New York Times’ article, “Target, Unhappy With Being an Amazon Showroom, Will Stop Selling Kindles” (Stephanie Clifford and Julie Bosman, 2 May 2012) speculated that the move is going to be little more than a minor irritation for Amazon, it means that the device is going to be pulled from the shelves of almost 2,000 brick and mortar locations.
Quite often when I read mainstream American social science, especially of the “quantoid” variety, I’m reminded of much I appreciate literature. While acknowledging the importance of objective data collection and analysis in distinguishing social facts from all-too-fallible everyday perceptions, I also can’t help thinking that deeper, perhaps more significant meaning goes missing in the process.