I have now read several non-fiction books on my Nova2 reader. This is a marked improvement from before. I dislike reading non-fiction on my Kindle. Part of it is in the slightly bigger screen of the Nova2, and easier flipping back and forth between parts of a book. Part of it is that it’s a separate device, and not the same screen I read on for relaxation. An important part is also the ease of taking (handwritten) notes while using it.

A very pleasant additional side-effect of this e-reader, compared to the Kindle, is that in the past few weeks I have bought several e-books outside of Amazon. Because the tablet is a generic e-reader, I can now shop around for a much better mix of price, absence of DRM, and local/independent bookshop. This allows me to go outside the silo Amazon wants to lock you into more easily/often.

Two useful things I found out today about my Nova2 e-ink reader/tablet, while trying to figure out how to retrieve and use notes made on it:

  • Any markings / scribbled note I add by hand to a book or pdf, are accessible as a table of content (under the TOC button even). These can be exported to PDF for all notes, or for selected notes.
  • Next to marking things in a text, you can split the reader’s screen to have the text on one side and a notepad on the other (it doesn’t automatically set it to the left hand side when the reader is set to left handed, don’t know yet if I can change that manually). Hand written notes are then connected to the book and like the notes made in the document itself can be exported and accessed as pdf.

Bryan Alexander has been holding online book club readings for both fiction and non-fiction books. The next edition will be reading Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. I recently bought a copy, and I will read along with the rest of the group in the coming few weeks. (I’m also thinking about a recently read book list here on this site. I track my reading anyway, and might as well share some of that here.)

Replied to Lezersblock by an author ( )
Frank reageert op Elmine's posting over lezersblock met herkenning en "Misschien een tip voor je Elmine? Timeboxed lezen."

Zo’n lezersblock, mooi woord van Elmine, herken ik wel. Vooral als het om non-fictie gaat. Ik heb een stapel papieren non-fictie boeken liggen nog van jaren terug, en een nog veel grotere virtuele stapel e-books, waar ik maar niet toe of doorheen kom.

Voor fictie heb ik dat timeboxing van Frank succesvol toegepast. Twee jaar geleden ongeveer ben ik begonnen met hoe dan ook voor ik ga slapen nog een half uur tot een uur te lezen. Dat zorgt ervoor dat ik gemiddeld een boek per week lees, soms iets sneller bij dunnere werkjes, soms langzamer bij kloeke werken.

Voor non-fictie is die timebox voor het slapen gaan ongeschikt. Dan wil ik geen input die me aan het denken zet. Voor het slapen gaan is een non-fictie boek een soort blauw licht voor me. Ik heb echter nog geen andere timebox kunnen bepalen. Misschien ook wel omdat ik nog niet weet waar ik heen ‘moet’ met alle associaties en ideeën die lezen in de regel bij me oproept. Die niet afgehechte draadjes blijven dan maar onrustig in mijn gedachten ronddwalen, en daar kijk ik niet naar uit. Een paar jaar geleden heb ik daarom heel bewust geen non-fictie boeken gelezen, want er was al veel te veel dat mijn persoonlijk en beroepsmatige aandacht nodig had. Te druk in mijn hoofd voor nog meer input.

Maar daarna is het niet gelukt wel weer te gaan lezen. Ik probeer het o.a. met Blinkist, een app die een soort samenvattingen van boeken geeft in hapklare brokken. Dat is alleen wel een beetje als een Michelin-kok die zijn naam onder vliegtuigmaaltijden zet. Het is niet voedingsloos, maar het geeft geen voldoening, en je hebt erna al snel weer trek. Het helpt me wel om snel door boeken heen te komen die op dat moment ‘de ronde doen’ en waar je een mening over ‘moet’ hebben, zodat ik in ieder geval weet wat de centrale ideeën in zo’n boek zijn. De stapel boeken die ik wil lezen wordt er alleen niet kleiner van.

One way I can estimate how stressed I am is looking at how much I read, and how I read it. Stress means much less to no reading overall, with sudden bursts of reading several books back-to-back as escapism. So I keep track of how much fiction I read throughout the year. The first half year looks good and stable when judged by my reading. I’ve read 32 books in the first 26 weeks, an average of 1.25 per week. My aim is to at least average one per week, but sometimes a bigger book slows me down, or an easier read speeds things up. Reading more I see as better, but only if it’s at a steady pace. Bursts are a sign of something being off, or of summer holiday, when I usually voraciously read books.

The pace of reading was stable at 1 per week until late May (21 books in 20 weeks), and a bit higher at almost 2 per week with 11 books in the final 6 weeks of this first half of 2018. This I don’t regard as ‘bursty’ reading just more books in the same steady pace, as it included several shorter reads.

The best reads this half year I think were, these Science Fiction books:

Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow (which felt like a literary version of what I call Networked Agency)
Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

And these general fiction books:

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, this year’s Pulitzer price for fiction winner.
The Scent of Rain in the Balkans, by Gordana Kuic, sketching 20th century Yugoslavian history through the eyes of one family
Perfume River, by Robert Olen Butler, of trauma and faulty communications through the generations
Ellbogen, by Fatma Aydemir, the raw story of a Turkish-German girl between Berlin and Istanbul.
After Dark, by Haruki Murakami, who takes you on a surreal night trip through Tokyo.

Gogbot 2015: Google's AI DreamsThe dreams of Google’s artificial intelligence

I read lots of science fiction, because it allows exploring the impact of science and technology on our society, and the impact of our societies on technology development in ways and forms that philosophy of technology usually doesn’t. Or rather SF (when the SF is not just the backdrop for some other story) is a more entertaining and accessible form of hermeneutic exercise, that weaves rich tapestries that include emotions, psychology and social complexity. Reading SF wasn’t always more than entertainment like that for me, but at some point I caught up with SF, or it caught up with me, when SF started to be about technologies I have some working knowledge of.

Bryan Alexander, a long time online peer and friend for well over a decade, likewise sees SF, especially near future SF, as a good way to explore emerging future that already seem almost possible. He writes “In a recent talk at the New Media Consortium’s 2016 conference, I recommended that education and technology professionals pay strong attention to science fiction, and folks got excited, wanting recommendations. So I’ve assembled some (below)“. His list contains a group sourced overview of recent near future SF books, with some 25 titles.

I know and read half of the books on the list, and last night loaded up my e-reader with the other half.

If you want to discuss those books keep an eye on Bryan’s blog, as you’re sure to get some good conversations around these books there.

Gogbot 2015: Google's AI Dreams Gogbot 2015: Google's AI Dreams
The dreams of Google’s artificial intelligence

(photos made during the 2015 Gogbot Festival, the yearly mash up of art, music and technology into a cyberpunk festival in my home town Enschede.)

Related: Enjoying Indie SF, March 2016