The Horror of The UnRead

This is an interesting article. Go read it and then come back and we’ll talk about it.

There are several things of interest in the article: (a) Oyster’s business model, (b) this thing called the Hawking Index, and (c) the invasiveness of e-readers and software and Certain Large Internet Retailers. I’m most interested in talking about the Hawking Index (HI). (While I think e-readers and e-books are interesting, I don’t use e-books. I listen to e-audio books, but I’ve stopped reading books on my tablet. I’ve tried it and found I prefer a physical book.)

So the Hawking Index. This is an index of how far readers progress in many books. It is named for Stephen Hawking, physicist of great renown, who wrote a book called A Brief History of Time which, it seems, not many people read. The HI estimates an average percentage read using e-reader data.

Interestingly, here is a list of books people pretend to have read, a list based on a reader survey over at that trendy and hipster book site, Book Riot. I wonder what the HI is for those books? Anyhow, there’s all kinds of news out there about the HI, which, as The Guardian points out, is clearly statistically flawed. But it is kind of a fun idea. Which book do people actually give up on? How far do they get? I can tell when assessing used books — if the underlining stops after the introduction and the rest of the pages are clean, then probably the person didn’t get much further than that introduction. But if the book is unmarked, it is harder to tell.

When do you give up on a book? (Me? Hardly ever completely. I just put it down for a while and try again. If the first page or two doesn’t work then I might drop it entirely.)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Horror of The UnRead

  1. Christine

    The last book I gave up on was Stephen King’s The Stand — and I read 800 pages before I decided that I wasn’t going to finish. Before that I can’t even remember the last book I abandoned. But I tend to re-read books in a high percentage, so perhaps this is a reflection of my habits — I tend to stick with things I know I’ll enjoy to the end.

    I don’t really understand the concept of pretending to have read books. The closest I’ve come is that for a long time I thought I had read Mansfield Park but hadn’t… a thorough synopsis from my mother had lodged in my brain somewhere and convinced me that I had. (But that was less pretending and more genuine confusion.) I have read 13/20 on BookRiot’s list.

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