Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spying on How You Read

          Did you know that while you are reading an e-book your e-reader is reading you?
          Your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or whatever takes back information about what you have highlighted, where you bookmarked, how long it took you to read a book, when and where you stopped and started reading.
          Getting into your private reading space provides valuable information to the publishing industry. How long does it take readers to read a certain book? How many stop after Chapter Four? How often do they pick it up and put it down? Authors also likely would be interested in how readers are reading their works.
It's Watching You!
          All the data collected from E-readers is aggregated and supposedly anonymous. What is worrisome, however, is that the E-reader companies do not tell you clearly and precisely what they are collecting from your reader and why. It is a huge privacy issue that few people seem concerned about.
          Most disturbing, however, are the insights into reader mentality. For instance, Amazon Kindle reports that a sentence from the Hunger Games Trilogy is its most highlighted passage ever with 17,000-plus readers marking it.
          The sentence: "Because sometimes things happen to people and they're not equipped to deal with them." Wow, isn’t that profound?
          George Orwell’s famous passage in his Ninety-Eighty-Four has been highlighted by only 349 Kindle users. That passage: “'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. '”
          Now that’s profound.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Mystery Now 95 Years Old

         Ninety-five years ago this week the Great Canadian Mystery began. On July 8, 1917, Canadian painter Tom Thomson went missing in Ontario’s bush country. To this day, no one knows for sure how he died, or what exactly happened to his body after his bush country burial.
          Thomson was a moody bachelor who spent much of his time in Algonquin Park, canoeing, fishing and painting. His art work always is associated with the Group of Seven, founded after his death, because all these artists shared a vision of distinct Canadian art connected to the Canadian landscape.
          On the morning of July 8, Thomson went fishing on Canoe Lake in Algonquin and disappeared. His body was found floating in the lake eight days later. A quick investigation ruled his canoe had overturned, or he had fallen out of it.
          There have been decades of speculation that he was murdered by a summer resident from Buffalo, New York, or died the night before in an accident during a drinking party.
          It was a hot week and Thomson’s body was buried almost immediately at the lake because it was decaying rapidly. His brother George was notified and he sent an undertaker to the lake to disinter his brother’s body and return it to his parents’ home near Owen Sound for burial. There is speculation that the undertaker, who went to the Canoe Lake gravesite at night, did not dig up the body and sent an empty coffin back to George Thomson.
          It is a fascinating story that has intrigued Canadians for almost a century. People continue to try to figure out how Thomson died, and whether his remains lie at Canoe Lake, or near Owen Sound.
          More on the Thomson mystery can be found in my book: Tom Thomson: The Life and Mysterious Death of the Famous Canadian Painter, available at Amazon or wherever you buy books.