Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Regulator's"'Twas the Week Before Christmas"

'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the shop
Keith Richards is rockin’, his book sales won’t stop.

Cleopatra’s in pearls and Bill Bryson’s at home,
While Mark Twain dishes dirt in a weighty old tome.

Bestsellers are placed on the bookshelves with care,
In hopes that our customers soon will be there;

Squirrels meet Chipmunks all snug in their beds
while Crafts for Poor People dance in their heads

There’s Griftopia Grinches and Jon Stewart’s Earth
Franzen’s Freedom, – just see what they’re worth!

With Southern Pies and La Cuisine for the belly,
Keys to Good Cooking with a bowlful of jelly.

A pair of Sedarises can be bought by the half,
we’re settling in for a long winter's laugh.

Then out on 9th Street, there arose such a clatter.
We sprang from the store to see what was the matter.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
A Sustain-a-Bull bull and eight tiny reindeer!

And we heard the bull roar, as the team rose ascendant
Happy Christmas to all, and Shop Independent!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We have met the future and it's lost the ability to read and concentrate

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT's famous Media Lab, quoted in the New York Times a few weeks back:

I love the iPad,” admits Mr. Negroponte, “but my ability to read any long-form narrative has more or less disappeared, as I am constantly tempted to check e-mail, look up words or click through.”

A few weeks before this, Negroponte was quoted as saying the physical book will be dead withing 5 years, when all reading will be digital.

Or is it deep reading itself--and the concentration that makes it possible--that's going to be dead, as it obviously is already for Mr Negroponte?

But what the heck. The ability to concentrate is SO overrated. With constant access to the net, you can learn to be a doctor, an engineer, a scientist, a computer programmer even, all without ever having to seriously concentrate.

"I never really learned how to read texts," says a character in Gary Shteyngart's prophetic new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, "just to scan them for data."

Of course we can't expect Nicholas Negroponte to have read this. It's 277 pages into a long-form narrative..

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Five Things Jeff Bezos Doesn't Want You to Know About the Kindle

1) You read slower on a Kindle. A recent study by digital design guru Jakob Nielsen showed that people reading a short story read more than 10% slower on the Kindle, compared to reading on paper. And that was just for a short story. How much slower might it be reading a whole book? See

2) You almost certainly read stupider on a Kindle. There is a large body of peer-reviewed research which shows that people reading from screens don’t understand as much and don’t remember as much, compared to reading from paper. The differences have been significant. The Kindle’s display is somewhat different from the screens these studies tested, but it is still a screen…(Amazingly, no one has yet to submit the Kindle to these kind of tests. Maybe we should ask Jeff Bezos to fund the research?!). See

3) The Kindle flunked out of Princeton. Last year, Princeton gave free Kindles to students in three undergraduate courses, pre-loaded with the required reading. The response of the students was pretty much universally negative. “Many students and faculty in the three courses said they found the Kindles disappointing and difficult to use,” reported the Daily Princetonian. At the end of the semester 2/3 of the students said that if their Kindles broke they wouldn’t replace them. Slower and stupider doesn’t make the grade at Princeton. See and

4) Amazon can play Big Brother with your books. You may think you own the books you buy for your Kindle, but Jeff Bezos has shown that he can-and will-do anything he wants with the text that you’ve loaded on your device. Amazon has already remotely deleted digital editions of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 from the Kindles of readers who had bought them. George Orwell would not be amused—and he would not be a fan of this technology.

5) Governments can play Big Brother with your books. If you’re doing your reading on a Kindle, you’re making it really easy for governments to play Big Brother as well. You can tell a whole lot about a person from what they read. Read on a Kindle, and everything you’ve read is listed in one place on one computer system. As Orwell would tell us, authoritarian governments everywhere are going to love this technology. (Of course government snooping like this would never happen here…)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New R-Book will "leave current e-book technologies in the dust"

The e-book and publishing industries were thrown into turmoil yesterday by a little noticed announcement from an upstart technology company.

Reeve Hobbs, CEO of tiny Kumquat Technologies, unveiled his company’s surprising new “R-Book,” which seems likely to leave current e-book technologies in the dust.

“Unlike the competition,” Hobbs said, “The R-Book is designed to do just one thing--to serve as the best possible platform for reading books. And it quite simply kicks butt at what it does.”

Current e-book technologies, Hobbs pointed out, are forced to make compromises because they are trying to do many things at once--be a reader not only for books, but also for newspapers and magazines; be able to surf the web, send and receive tweets, check blogs, email, facebook, etc., etc. “These devices bring the distraction factor of the internet into what should be the focused activity of reading a book. Who wants to be interrupted by their girlfriend’s tweet about this hot guy she just met, when they are totally absorbed with their own affair with the smokin Mr. Darcy?”

But the ultimate compromise of e-books, according to Hobbs, is in their use of a screen as their reading delivery system. “When it comes to reading, there’s been research available for years that shows that screens are totally lame. You don’t remember as much and you don’t understand as much when you read on a screen. Who wants to invest hours reading a book--and then not remember what they’ve read a few days later?

“It’s pathetic, really. Smart guys like Bezos and Jobs set out to re-invent the book, and all they can come up with is another stupid screen? It looks like that’s all they know anymore. They’ve lost the ability to think outside the screen.

“From day one in designing the R-Book we knew we had to come up with something better than the screen. And we have. The R-Book uses the best display for reading that’s ever been invented. Period. If you’re reading from any other display, you’re reading the dummies version.”

Then, picking up a small, rectangular gift wrapped package, Hobbs announced: “Here it is folks. The R-Book. The best reading device on the planet. Accept no second-rate substitutes.” Unwrapping the package, he placed the R-Book on a small, spot-lit table.

The audience drew in their breath as they got their first look at the future of reading. The R-Book. Printed pages handsomely bound together, creating a small, light object. A Real Book.

Real Books. If it’s worth reading...THINK OUTSIDE THE SCREEN.

--For more on the digital distraction factor see The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Published by W.W. Norton, 2010.

--For more on research into the deficiencies of reading from screens see The pages can be printed for better understanding.

--For help in finding an R-Book that’s right for you, see your local bookseller.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

6 of 20 under 40 equals The Regulator!

Quoting from The New York Times:

"The New Yorker has chosen its “20 Under 40” list of fiction writers worth watching, a group assembled by the magazine’s editors in a lengthy, secretive process that has provoked considerable anxiety among young literary types. The list was published in the double fiction issue of The New Yorker that arrived on newsstands Monday. All of the writers were told three weeks ago that they had made the cut.

They are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; Chris Adrian, 39; Daniel Alarcón, 33; David Bezmozgis, 37; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38; Joshua Ferris, 35; Jonathan Safran Foer, 33; Nell Freudenberger, 35; Rivka Galchen, 34; Nicole Krauss, 35; Yiyun Li, 37; Dinaw Mengestu, 31; Philipp Meyer, 36; C. E. Morgan, 33; Téa Obreht, 24; Z Z Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.

Beyond their age, the writers on the list have nothing in common, said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker."

Now we have great respect for David Remnick, but there are some things he clearly doesn't know about these young writers. Six of them share a little-known, common history. The six--Chris Adrian, Joshua Ferris, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nell Freudenberger, Gary Shteyngart, and Wells Tower--have all done readings at a little bookshop in Durham. At 720 Ninth Street in Durham, to be precise. A place called The Regulator Bookshop...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's a Bonobo Handshake?

A new book I'm really excited about is coming out this week--and its author is coming to The Regulator Thursday night for her inaugural event. The book is Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo, written by a young Aussie/citizen of the world/current resident of Durham named Vanessa Woods.

Bonobo Handshake? I thought you'd never ask... Bonobos are an endangered primate, similar in many ways to chimpanzees. But where as chimpanzees can often be aggressive and even war-like, bonobos are founding members of the "make love, not war" approach to life. Bonobos are into cooperation and the uninhibited enjoyment of the physical pleasures of life. A bonobo handshake turns out to be a common bonobo greeting. When two bonobos meet they... Well we won't get into the details of this here, let's just say that a bonobo handshake is wonderfully x-rated and if I described it fully it wouldn't make it past some of your spam filters.

The story is that a few years back Vanessa Woods fell in love with and married a primate scientist named Brian Hare. In short order she found herself living in the only bonobo sanctuary in the world--in the jungle, just outside of Kinshasa, in the Congo. It was the best of places (because of the amazing people running the sanctuary, and because of the amazing bonobos themselves) and the worst of places (because it was in the Congo, for God sakes).

Bonobo Handshake is Eat Pray Love meets The Poisonwood Bible. Add some incredible bonobos. Stir with a voice that is fresh, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking. I read an advance copy and I loved it. I think this book has the potential to be a Really Big Deal. See more at And come meet Vanessa Woods and hear her talk about her book next Thursday night at 7:00. With an author and a book like these, this is sure to be quite an evening! Refreshments will be served.
--Tom Campbell

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The best novel I've read in years

I had to fly to the west coast back in January, and as I left for the airport I faced a crucial decision. What book should I take to read on the flight?

I had just started an advance copy of a novel that seemed highly promising, but it was big (597 pages) and heavy to carry. (Two copies of this would weigh almost as much as an i-Pad, but I digress...). I finally decided to go with it, though, and opened the book back up once I settled into my seat on the plane.

More than six hours later, I found myself annoyed that my flights that day had run on time. I hadn't had such a long block of time just to read since I don't remember when, but I still wasn't quite finished with the incredible novel I'd been reading. The book had everything you look for in fiction-great stories, deep, finely drawn characters, romance and love, families, history, struggle, suspense, exotic settings. And writing that draws you into the depths of the world it is creating without ever getting in the way.

The novel, just published, is called The Invisible Bridge. Its author is a young Brooklyn-based writer named Julie Orringer. The main protagonist of The Invisible Bridge is a Hungarian-Jewish student named Andras Levi, who, as the book opens in 1937, travels from Budapest to Paris to study architecture. I found The Invisible Bridge to be completely engrossing and captivating; transforming in the way that only the very best fiction can be.

And, most unusually, I fully agree with the blurbs the publisher has reprinted on the back of the book:

"The sheer joy of storytelling fills each moment of Orringer's novel...It transports us completely into its world-that of young Andras, his friends, family, and loves-and a landscape of war and redemption. Thrilling, tender, and terrifying; a glorious reminder of how books can change lives. It is the novel of the year."
Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage

"To bring an entire lost world-its sights, its smells, its heartaches, raptures, and terrors-to vivid life between the covers of a novel is an accomplishment; to invest that world, and everyone who inhabits it, with a soul, as Julie Orringer does in The Invisible Bridge, takes something more like genius."
Michael Chabon, author of Manhood for Amateurs
--Tom Campbell

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One More Theory About Happiness

Paul Guest is a prize-winning poet who lives in Atlanta. He grew up as a gifted, smart, but “normal” kid—until his 6th grade graduation party. That day, a ride on a bicycle with failing brakes left him with a broken neck, a bruised spinal cord, and paralysis from his neck down.

In One More Theory About Happiness, Paul Guest tells his story, from the day of his accident to the present. I started reading this book two days ago, and couldn’t put it down. I was even reading it here at the store yesterday, and I never read while I’m at work. This is not a feel good book, but it’s certainly not a feel bad book either. In spare and beautiful prose Paul Guest just tells his tale straight on, leaving us with a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive.

Paul Guest will read from his book here at The Regulator Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Come to hear a remarkable story, told by a remarkable story-teller.

Bret Lott on “One More Theory About Happiness”

“I read this book in one sitting, staying up well past midnight to see how Paul Guest learned—and continues to learn—to navigate the life he has been given to live. Ostensibly a memoir of one man’s growing up inside the inescapable solitude wrought by a devastating accident, this exquisitely crafted story turns out to be a tale of love, of life, and of language’s ability to eclipse the crushing presence of the physical world. Heartbreakingly funny, pitilessly honest, One More Theory About Happiness is above all a quiet and bold and loving work of art that renders beautifully what it means to live. You must read this book!”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dave Isay and StoryCorps

A really fine evening at the bookshop Friday night with StoryCorps founder Dave Isay. StoryCorps does such an amazing job of getting people to talk about the things that are truly important in their lives--which turn out to be the things that are truly important in all of our lives.

The new StoryCorps book, their second, is Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. I can't imagine a more meaningful Mother's Day present for anyone.

Go to to learn more and to listen to folks tell their stories. Hearing some of the stories in the book in the original voices can be especially powerful.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Send us your "Reunion Story"!!!

We're sponsoring a contest in conjunction with Elizabeth Berg's reading at the Regulator on May 20th. Her new novel, The Last Time I Saw You, centers around a high school reunion; so we're looking for brief (one page or less) high school or college reunion stories. Funny, sad, startling, warmhearted, whatever.

We'll pick the winning story and Elizabeth Berg will read it aloud at the start of her own reading. The winner will also get a bottle of champagne and a $25.00 gift certificate!

Email your story to:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Only on Ninth Street:
The trash can in front of the Regulator, Friday morning, March 5th:

In the hopes of
Reaching for the Moon
Men fail to
see the
that blossom
at their feet

Albert Schweitzer

Amazed thanks to Mandy D. and the NCSSM Mini Term 2010!