Nobel Prize Winner Reads From His New Novel

J.M. Coet­zee won the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 2003. This com­ing Decem­ber, Viking will release his lat­est nov­el, Sum­mer­time. The New York Review of Books recent­ly pub­lished two excerpts from the book (here and here). And you can now lis­ten to Coet­zee read the first of the two excerpts. It’s called “Undat­ed Frag­ments.” It’s avail­able in the fol­low­ing for­mats: MP3iTunesRSS Feed. In the mean­time, we’ve added the New York Review of Books pod­cast to our col­lec­tion of Ideas & Cul­ture Pod­casts, which can also be accessed through our Free iPhone App.

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In Memory of Les Paul

Les Paul, the gui­tar mas­ter and inven­tor, passed away today at the age of 94. The clip above shows Paul at 90, just a few years ago, liv­ing a still vig­or­ous life. He’ll be missed.

Introducing “Book Oven”

The folks who brought you Lib­rivox (one of our favs) are now rolling out a new site: Book Oven. The beau­ty of Lib­rivox is that it has used crowd­sourc­ing to pro­duce the largest col­lec­tion of free audio books on the web (and we’ve fea­tured many of them in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books). Book Oven takes crowd­sourc­ing and does some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent with it. It gives book lovers the pow­er to par­tic­i­pate in the writ­ing, sales and dis­tri­b­u­tion of new books. Above, Hugh McGuire, founder of Lib­rivox, explains the con­cept of Book Oven more ful­ly. (You’ll need to turn up the vol­ume a bit.) The site is cur­rent­ly in alpha, and I sus­pect that you can watch it evolve dur­ing the months ahead. Watch Book Oven Blog to track its devel­op­ment.

Top Ten Reasons Why the Kindle Won’t Be an iPod for Books

A lit­tle side­bar to our pre­vi­ous post that won­ders whether Ama­zon’s Kin­dle can rev­o­lu­tion­ize the book indus­try

1) When you buy an iPod, you can trans­fer all of your cur­rent music onto it. With Kin­dle you have to start buy­ing all new books.

2) The paper-form book (aka “dead tree ver­sion”) is still the best tech­nol­o­gy for read­ing: ful­ly portable, a nice thing to own and put on shelves, great for shar­ing, good in bed, at beach, etc. If you lose it or get it wet, no big deal—easily replace­able.

3) Music has con­stant­ly found new for­mats that improve on the old. Same for the iPod. It’s unques­tion­ably bet­ter than that big­ger, skip­ping CD play­er. Books haven’t been able to improve on the form for cen­turies.

4) Hold­ing 100 albums in your hand is great. Hold­ing 100 books? Not as much.

5) How often do you real­ly go away for so long that you need 10+ books? (Book­stores are every­where.)

6) Kin­dle is too expen­sive (see #1) and too big.

7) Books take much longer to con­sume, don’t work well in indi­vid­ual (shuf­fled) parts, and we often only read them once.

8.) Now that you can car­ry music on your phone, and the iPhone has bun­dled music, email, inter­net, and tele­phone in one small size, is any­one real­ly will­ing to buy a big­ger iPhone or Kin­dle just to read books on it?

9) Most of us spend more time lis­ten­ing to music than read­ing. We just do; it’s eas­i­er to do while we’re involved with oth­er things.

10) Books: they’re bet­ter!

Seth Har­wood pod­casts his ideas on the pub­lish­ing indus­try and his fic­tion for free at He is cur­rent­ly fig­ur­ing out how pub­lish­ers should best approach the new, emerg­ing e‑book mar­ket. Hear his ideas in his lat­est Hot Tub Cast™ and read them here soon. His first nov­el is JACK WAKES UP, in stores now.

Will Amazon (or Apple) Cut Publishers Out of the Loop?

If you’re won­der­ing where the book/publishing mar­ket is head­ing, then you’ll want to give this insight­ful arti­cle a read.  Fast for­ward five years, here’s what you’ll like­ly find: Ama­zon, using the Kin­dle and on-demand pub­lish­ing, starts work­ing direct­ly with authors and cut­ting tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ers out of the loop. It will dom­i­nate the book/e‑book mar­ket, much as Apple does the music mar­ket. The only thing stand­ing in Jeff Bezos’ way? Steve Jobs. Why? Because Apple can pro­duce an e‑book read­er that actu­al­ly appeals to a mass mar­ket, and Ama­zon can’t. And guess what? Apple is rumored to have a new device com­ing out this year. More on that here. Thanks to Seth Har­wood for send­ing this along.

Science Catches the Eye of the Police

Rather humor­ous. You can catch more of Steve Span­gler’s sci­en­tif­ic work on his YouTube chan­nel and web site. We’ve also added him to our list of Intel­li­gent YouTube Col­lec­tions.

English and its Evolution

A lit­tle some­thing for the lan­guage buffs among us. The Struc­ture of Eng­lish Words (iTunes) is anoth­er Stan­ford course. To be exact, it comes out of the Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies pro­gram (my day job), and we’re open­ing enroll­ments for our Fall term next Mon­day. (If you live in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, give our offer­ing a look. If you live out­side the Bay Area, then you may want to check out our pop­u­lar series of online writ­ing cours­es.) You can find the course descrip­tion for The Struc­ture of Eng­lish Words, taught by Pro­fes­sor Will Leben, direct­ly below. To find hun­dreds of oth­er free cours­es, then check out our col­lec­tion of Free Online Uni­ver­si­ty Cours­es:

Thanks to his­tor­i­cal, cul­tur­al, and lin­guis­tic fac­tors, Eng­lish has by far the world’s largest vocabulary—leading many of us to have greater than aver­age dif­fi­cul­ty with words, and some of us to have greater than aver­age curios­i­ty about words.

Our his­tor­i­cal and lin­guis­tic study will cov­er both eru­dite and every­day Eng­lish, with spe­cial atten­tion to word mean­ing and word use, to both rules and excep­tions. Most words orig­i­nat­ed with an image. “Reveal” = “pull back the veil,” “depend” = “hang down from.”

Change is con­stant. “Girl” once meant “a young child of either sex;” an ear­ly syn­onym for “stu­pid” was “nice.” Despite resis­tance to change among some experts and some mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic, new words are enter­ing at an accel­er­at­ing rate, from “Franken­food” to “ungoogleable.” Are there good changes and bad ones? And who gets to decide? Explor­ing the his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary rich­ness of Eng­lish will sug­gest some answers.

Hendrix Plays the National Anthem

In hon­or of the 40th anniver­sary of the Wood­stock Fes­ti­val, we have Jimi Hen­drix play­ing the U.S. nation­al anthem. It’s not your usu­al anthem. Nope, this is the anthem played dis­so­nant­ly in a new counter-cul­ture style, the anthem turned into a blis­ter­ing com­men­tary on the Viet­nam War. No doubt, con­ser­v­a­tives and the silent major­i­ty did­n’t like it. But, like it or not, it remains one of the mem­o­rable rock state­ments of the 60s. For more Hen­drix at Wood­stock, check out here, here, and here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.