Einmal im Jahr ist es in den Niederlanden ‘Bücherwoche’, wenn alle Autoren und Buchhändler einladen zum Lesen und natürlich zum Bücherkauf. Wir waren in Amersfoort in der Buchhandlung, und ich fand dort mehrere übersetzte Bücher Deutscher Autorinnen. Da ich die lieber im Original lese, habe ich sie gerade bestellt. In der kommenden Zeit werde ich dann wohl wieder viel Deutsch lesen:

Um nicht mit leeren Händen Heim zu kehren, haben wir natürlich auch einen (laut Kassenmitarbeiterin ‘herrlichen’) Stapel Niederländischen Bücher ausgesucht für uns alledrei.

Bookmarked Web Annotation Data Model by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

I wasn’t aware of it, but there’s a W3C model for annotations (in JSON). It was mentioned in the book Annotation I’ve been reading in the past weeks. Not sure if this is something I have a use for, but it may be an interesting way to transform and share book notes on this site. It was suggested that Hypothes.is uses this model. There’s also a Hypothes.is API which suggests it might be possible to pull annotations from there, although I don’t suppose you could push them there as a way of publishing annotations.

The Web Annotation Data Model specification describes a structured model and format to enable annotations to be shared and reused across different hardware and software platforms. … The specification provides a specific JSON format for ease of creation and consumption of annotations based on the conceptual model …, and the vocabulary of terms that represents it. This specification was derived from the Open Annotation Community Group’s outcomes. … This document was published by the Web Annotation Working Group as a Recommendation


Next Sunday evening the MicroBlog Republic of Readers will have their second session. The first was a very pleasant conversation with group spanning 12 timezones.

Last time I had promised to share the way I tend to make notes after reading something. Now the date is set I can’t participate (a weekend away with extended family from E’s side). What I aim to do this week is to at least for myself write out what I actually do in practice, and what I would like to do in theory, when it comes to making notes about my reading.

Mapping out how from the various reading devices highlights and remarks get collected, the difference between non-fiction and fiction, between books and articles, etc. It will be useful to myself as well.

Similarly I hope the session gets taped so I can watch the way others approach this afterwards.

Yesterday a pop-up IndieWeb meet-up (event page) took place on Personal Libraries / distributed libraries.

It was a nice group of people, and I was able to put some faces to names of people I’ve had in my feedreader for a good while. I had to miss the start, which was family dinner / putting our 5yo to bed time in our timezone, but was able to join three sessions afterwards. The conversations were interesting and gently paced. Thank you to Chris Aldrich for organising, and to all participants for their contributions to worthwile conversations.

The videos and notes are / will be linked to on the event page (see link in first sentence).

The sessions were:

  • Ad hoc book discussion clubs and sessions (how to use personal libraries to facilitate ad-hoc discussion of a book with other current active readers of the same book?) Moderated by Maggie Appleton
  • Decentralised bookshelves (What conventions do we need to reach a useful level of interoperability between the different ways people and platforms make such data available) Moderated by Manton Reece
  • Book Identifiers (There are multiple identifiers in use for books, ISBN, OLID, ASIN, WorldCat etc. How can we interact with them, how are we supposed to, how is it useful?) Moderated by Tom MacWright.

While these were three distinct sessions, to me it felt like basically the same ongoing conversation, so my impressions aren’t tied to specific sessions as such.
Elements that stood out for me, or that I realised listening to the other participants:

  • OpenLibrary is a good neutral way to link to a book (I avoid Amazon as well as Amazon’s GoodReads links, and publisher’s or author’s links aren’t always available), and they have an API. Missing books can be added, as OpenLibrary is a wiki. They also make a useful difference between the work (the book written) and the editions (the book version you’ve read) that they list for the work. I may want to check out their API and see if I can use that for my internal book notes and/or public book postings.
  • Calibre, an app to manage e-book collections I use for my non-Kindle books, has an API as well. It makes me wonder the same about Delicious Library, of which I have a 2012 database somewhere, from the 500 or so physical books we did away with that year.
  • Discovery to me requires both information about the book and about the readers, so I can navigate triangles, the key element in social media. To evaluate recommendations they require information about the person making the recommendation more than about the book being recommended.
  • I’m not interested in pretend-social information around books that really are masked statistics. They may seem to provide what I seek in the previous point, but actually provide a meaningless regression to the mean. Things like ‘others who bought this book also bought’ don’t increase the space of discovery but will eventually always limit the space of discovery to the fat head of the long tail. The stuff far down the long tail sees too little interaction for such ‘also bought’ algorithms to aggregate.
  • Whatever you want to do with book information, you need to first publish data about your reading in each case. So that is the focus. I’ve been collecting a list of some URLs where people share book lists they’ve read. They are all different it seems to me, but at least the data is out there to try and consume in a personally meaningful way.
  • Whatever is consuming book related data or posts, needs to take on the burden of figuring out what identifiers are used, or what other meaning can be gleaned from it. A to me key remark made by Jacky Alciné. The flip side for me is, I only need to concern myself first with publishing information that is meaningful and useful to myself.
  • It is possible to help others though by providing multiple formats. Specifically now that I have automated generating OPML from my booknotes for my booklists. Creating the same lists in CSV, in RSS, or JSON for instance is easy enough to do now. This I added to my list of small side projects.
  • Book lists are basically just spreadsheets Drini Cami of the Open Library / Internet Archive remarked. This ties into the above. I also realised it’s true for pulling together the data about books I bought and read from the various platforms I use. So this morning I pulled the information about the 800 or so books I bought with Amazon over the past 15 years into a spreadsheet. This is a first step to backfilling my book notes and reading lists, as well as my anti-library, using a script.
  • I’m not very interested in algorithms across the reading patterns of the general population of readers. This is another statistic basically, not a socially meaningful thing. I would be very interested in running algorithms or analysis across the information about other people reading, who are within my scope. E.g. the bloggers I follow in my feed reader, or the bloggers they follow. An algorithm that serves me, not describes or commodifies me, an algorithm as personal assistant. That way my own preferences can be its default.
  • We talked about ad-hoc book clubs, both where a book is the key point, as well as where the socialising is more important. I’m on Bookwyrm.social which aims to be a federated GoodReads, something that is in itself not appealing to me as just a means of replicating the same data as on my site. But I have seen instance form around an established group or niche themes. That is a more appealing usage. Only afterwards I thought of how this ties into the Micro.blog Readers Republic we recently formed. A next meeting is in 2 weeks, I’ll think about how to feed some of these discussion back to that group.
  • Amazon with their ASIN numbers is messing up the discovery value of ISBN numbers, by deliberately removing the relation between the two. That frustrates interoperability with other platforms and resources, which is their point I’m sure.

That’s a good list of take-aways from a few hours of conversation!

(also posted to Indienews)

In reply to a remark by Chris Aldrich

I think the point of an anti-library is not to read it all. In that sense it is not problematic that it grows faster than one can ever read. Adding something to a personal anti-library is not an expression of the intention to read it. It’s not a ‘list of books to read’. It is a preselection of things that might be interesting to read for future you. When future you is pondering a question, or exploring a topic, they can use that as filter to actually select a few books to read. Adding to the antilibrary is preselection, picking to read from it is the actual selection. For each of those 574 books you preselected Chris, do you write down why you think they’re interesting? Keeping the preselection arguments available to yourself cements its effect, aiding actual selection later. Since a year or two I jot down my motivation and associations with books as well as web articles I clip and save. It helps me a lot selecting things to read later on.

In looking at a target for how many books I’d like to read this year, I realize that I added 574 books to my list of book to read in 2021. At this rate, my anti-library is growing exponentially with respect to the books I’ve actually been able to read

Chris Aldrich

I find that I feel writing a non-fiction subject oriented book is nonsense for non-academics. I feel a strong aversion to the idea of writing a non-fiction book, as people have suggested to me occasionly since university.

Different elements are part of that aversion:

  • There’s a plethora of non-fiction books that to me seem 300 to 400 pages of anecdotal padding around a core idea that would fit on the backflap. Many such books lack tables of content and indexes, seemingly to better hide that one or few core ideas, so you need to go through all pages to find them.
  • The motivation for non-fiction writers to write a book I often find suspect. Aimed at marketing and PR, in support of selling themselves as consultant for instance. Written not to serve an audience, or even find one, but as a branding prop. That makes the actual content often even thinner. Such as taking something anecdotal like “I had this great project I enormously enjoyed doing” and anointing it as the new truth, “Organise all your projects like this, it’s a universal method!”
  • I equally find my own favourite topics suspect as material for writing a book. I don’t think any of the topics I work on, and have been working on, are deep enough or have enough solid foundation to stand on their own as a book. It could only become a range of anecdotes around ideas that themselves fit in a sentence or two. In my activities context and environment are key in working out how an idea can be made to work for a client, and that’s the work. That’s a good source of anecdotes, but not more. See the first bullet. A book about it would be a collection of opinions, and in my eyes would take a rather large amount of work to give those ideas a more solid footing.

In a conversation with E about this a few months ago, she said that’s a very arrogant stance towards authors (they have nothing to say), as well as belittling myself (I have nothing to say). I think those are both the same things, that most people, including me, don’t have enough to say to fill a book, to spend tens of thousands of words on. Many have enough to say on enough moments to at that time fill a great blogpost, article, a pamphlet (like the one about birthday unconferences shown in the right hand column), or an essay. But not a book, an artefact that seems such a heavyweight creation and production process in comparison. There are those who write a book by collating material that was previously written as blogposts, or as internal notes, and then somewhat rearranged. I see that as case in point more than counter argument.

As stated at the top, I make exceptions for academic books, explaining or introducing a field or actual research and their popular science counterparts, and for non-subject non-fiction, that e.g. describes a journey (geographically, or through life for instance, ‘true stories’, the history of a topic and how we ended up in the current situation, that sort of thing).
I also don’t mean fiction. Fiction’s role is very different, and any story that makes you read the next sentence and the next and the next is not what I mean here.
In that sense I very much appreciate the work of Cory Doctorow, who writes articles, essays, columns and blogposts about the topics he cares about, and writes fiction books to explore those same topics along different and novel routes.

Yet, our house holds many non-fiction books. A stack of books that keeps ever growing. So, why is that? Is it that there is more value in the whole, the collection of books read, and those unread, as opposed to the lack of value I perceive in any singular book in itself? Or maybe I don’t understand what writing a non-fiction book is, and what it is for. There are people reading my blog who have written non-fiction books. What were your motivations and aims? Why a book?