How to read a book a week

Books, Business, Thought Provoking

Useful tips on reading non-fiction books from the Harvard Business Review

  1. Start with the author. Who wrote the book? Read his or her bio. If you can find a brief interview or article online about the author, read that quickly. It will give you a sense of the person’s bias and perspective.

  2. Read the title, the subtitle, the front flap, and the table of contents. What’s the big-picture argument of the book? How is that argument laid out? By now, you could probably describe the main idea of the book to someone who hasn’t read it.

  3. Read the introduction and the conclusion. The author makes their case in the opening and closing argument of the book. Read these two sections word for word but quickly. You already have a general sense of where the author is going, and these sections will tell you how they plan to get there (introduction) and what they hope you got out of it (conclusion).

  4. Read/skim each chapter. Read the title and anywhere from the first few paragraphs to the first few pages of the chapter to figure out how the author is using this chapter and where it fits into the argument of the book. Then skim through the headings and subheadings (if there are any) to get a feel for the flow. Read the first sentence of each paragraph and the last. If you get the meaning, move on. Otherwise, you may want to read the whole paragraph. Once you’ve gotten an understanding of the chapter, you may be able to skim over whole pages, as the argument may be clear to you and also may repeat itself.

  5. End with the table of contents again. Once you’ve finished the book, return to the table of contents and summarize it in your head. Take a few moments to relive the flow of the book, the arguments you considered, the stories you remember, the journey you went on with the author.

Designing for Average doesn’t fit anyone

Books, Design, Thought Provoking

From a story of how the US Air Force discovered a design flaw

It is an excerpt from a new book The End of Average by Todd Rose.

Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions. One pilot might have a longer-than-average arm length, but a shorter-than-average leg length. Another pilot might have a big chest but small hips. Even more astonishing, Daniels discovered that if you picked out just three of the ten dimensions of size — say, neck circumference, thigh circumference and wrist circumference — less than 3.5 per cent of pilots would be average sized on all three dimensions. Daniels’s findings were clear and incontrovertible. There was no such thing as an average pilot. If you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one.

This is similar to material that I have read in some copy-writing books recently. Target a specific person and not to a general audience for a product.

Here is the book mentioned.

Amanda Filipacchi’s fourth book


The Looks
I found this article by accident and didn’t realise that it was written by Amanda Filipacchi until a reference to her previous books came up. It seems that she is bringing out her new book in February titled “The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty”.

None of my novels had been autobiographical, but after writing them, I was starting to feel that while I wasn’t writing from life; life was writing from me.

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

Copyright restrictions just lost another sale

Arts, Books, Thought Provoking, Web

I love reading Seth Goldin’s blog for tips and interesting reading material. He posted a list of interesting books that he recently read, of which the first book on the list – The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau looked really interesting. When I go to the Kindle app and look to buy the book, I get the message that the book is not available in my geographical area. Now the moment is lost and I may never buy this book. Those copyright restrictions just cost the author and publisher a sale.

Asus Tablet

Books, Tech, Thought Provoking

Now this is an interesting device which was reported by laptop mag has reported. The article also mentions a device where a 12 inch table can attach itself to a keyboard to transform itself into a notebook. However, I’m a fan of devices becoming as small as possible but also to be usuable. The iPad (which I saw for the first time yesterday) is too heavy and too big for my liking. That’s what makes the third device to interesting.

As a note-taker, the Eee Tablet could hardly offer more functionality. Its stylus uses Wacom technology to give it an incredibly smooth drawing / hand writing experience. But if writing down notes or drawing diagrams when you’re in a meeting or class is not enough, why not take a picture of the whiteboard? The Eee Tablet has a back facing camera that will take photos of anything and let you annotate it. You can also record sound while you take notes. So just imagine recording a college lecture and then playing it back while you read the notes and look at photos of the whiteboard.

It seems to me to be something business people would take to in droves. The iPad is notoriously unhelpful for productive tasks like writing, there is no camera and as far as I’m aware, there is no microphone. The ASUS tablet has all three. It seems that ASUS has stolen a march on their competitors yet again. Watch them try and catch up.

Sony and the standardisation of the ebook format

Books, Tech

The Financial Times reports that Sony will standardise the format of their ebooks.
That brings up 2 questions for me.

  • Will they update the software on existing readers to allow the new format to be used?
  • Will this mean that for customers outside the US will be able to buy their books from more than one source?

I like the sony ereader but the whole experience of getting books that I actually want has been a frustrating experience. Customers from Ireland are restricted to the Waterstone’s site and the selection of books that I actually want to read there is really small. In addition, the interface on the Waterstones site is bad. I’m not interested in buying physical books from them. If they want my business, they need to have those books in ebook format. Otherwise, I buy from Amazon or physical bookshops.
If I can buy physical books from the Amazon US site, why can’t I buy books from the central Sony store? Sony, Waterstones and publishers in general need to wake up to make this experience as easy and straightforward as Apple can make it.