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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: Books
October 19, 2013 at 9:22 PM

Do apps hold us back? ‘App Generation’ finds big concerns in small packages

appgeneration

Are apps hurting us?

It wouldn’t seem to make much sense. Apps are designed to help; that’s the whole point. The best of these portable programs solve daily problems and promise routes to solutions so direct that they sometimes seem extensions of our minds. What’s the fastest way to my house? What’s happening around me right now? What do I do with this free moment?

Use apps long enough and “Is there an app for that?” is less curiosity than expectation. Couldn’t all of life be a series of apps — every question mapped, every path to an answer charted? You start to wonder how we’d get along without apps, and why we’d ever want to.

That, according to University of Washington professor Katie Davis and renowned Harvard social psychologist Howard Gardner, is where the trouble starts.

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Comments | More in Books, Column, Habits, Mobile, Relationships

May 7, 2013 at 11:13 AM

‘Reverse’ showroomers browse online retailers to support local businesses

(Photo by MorBCN on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by MorBCN on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

You know about showrooming, the practice of browsing brick and mortar stores for items you buy later online.

But have you heard of reverse showrooming?

Not one, not two, but three readers of my Sunday column on the rightness or wrongness of showrooming wrote in saying they did just the opposite. They browse online for things they like then go to local stores to pick up the items.

And they’re glad to put in the work.

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Comments | More in Books, Reactions & Resources

May 4, 2013 at 8:00 PM

Smart shopping or petty theft? Caught in the act of ‘showrooming’

Stores, online retailers and showrooming: The 'art of power' indeed.

Stores, online retailers and showrooming: The ‘art of power’ indeed.

Most days I go to Third Place Books in Ravenna, I walk right past the merchandise and sit down to work at the Vios Cafe in the back.

But one day last month, I had a minute to look around.

Sitting on the corner of the new hardcover section was a book about Thomas Jefferson that looked awesome. “The Art of Power,” it was called.

What I did next was pure instinct. I took out my phone and snapped a picture of its cover, intending to put it in my Evernote as a reminder to buy it later on Amazon.com.

Instantly, I felt awful.

I checked the price on the book. $35. No way it’s that expensive online, I thought. I wanted to keep moving. Had any employees seen me snap the pic?

The week before, I’d walked through Elliott Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill while waiting for my husband to meet me for lunch. “I miss not seeing bookstores as beautiful endangered species,” I’d posted then on Facebook.

Ah shoot, I thought. I have to buy the book while at Third Place Books, don’t I?

It was a classic case of showroomer’s dilemma. “Showrooming,” if you haven’t heard the term, is the act of treating physical stores as showrooms for products you later buy online.

It’s price-conscious shopping. But is it also, morally, petty theft?

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Comments | More in Books, Column, Disruption, Habits, Seattle

July 4, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Not to rag on The Hunger Games, but THIS is the most highlighted Kindle passage of all time?

Amazon, the king of the eBook world, has been publishing data about the habits of its readers. The fact that “your eBook is reading you,” as the headline of a recent Wall Street Journal story put it, means that we have access to self-knowledge that’s pretty interesting.

(Image: Amazon.com)

And maybe a little embarrassing.

For someone.

After we saw the first Hunger Games movie in theaters, my husband, who was new to the series, decided to get the second book on Kindle, “Catching Fire,” and give it a read.

A couple days later, he leaned over and pointed at his Kindle, incredulous.

“15,000 people highlighted this?”

This was the following line from that book: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.”

I’m no literature snob, but I value good writing and appreciate some good book-born wisdom. I’d read all three books a couple months before my husband picked them up and when I read that line, it hadn’t risen very high in either category for me, either.

I shrugged. This is a popular series and a fun one, I told him. It’s not like it’s the most highlighted passage in the whole Kindle library.

But lo and behold, it is. Amazon keeps a ranking of the lines most often highlighted by its users, and the line sits comfortably at the top, with, now, 17,784 reader highlights.

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June 5, 2012 at 9:10 PM

Daily Show, doing something on this? Man whose digital ‘War and Peace’ turned the word ‘kindle’ into ‘Nook’ found it funny – at first

Philip Howard’s poker buddies thought it was hilarious. The 67-year-old craft gallery owner from tiny Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, had found that his $.99 Nook edition of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” had replaced every instance of the word “kindle” with the word “Nook.”

So when the “flame of the sulphur splinters” burned up on page 3,401, they hadn’t been “kindled by the timber,” as the English translation read, but “Nookd” by it.

“Oh my God they got a kick out of it. That’s everybody’s first reaction,” Howard said on the phone today from the porch of his gallery. “Then they talk a bit longer, and it’s, wow — that’s really disturbing.”

Howard shared the discovery with readers of his island living blog on May 22, not knowing whether he was the only one to notice. By now, it’s spread across the tech newscape, picking up affirmations and likely explanations and going down as another telling skirmish in the e-book wars between book giants like Barnes & Noble and Seattle’s own Amazon.

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