BEYOND THE COVER
Here's something I ran into today that should be of interest to any fan of books, either reading them, and/or buying them to fill up one's bookshelves. Author Peter Sacks wrote this piece in the Huffington Post a while ago**:
"I received an interesting invitation the other day. It was from Marshal Zeringue. Marshal runs a wonderful website called the Campaign for the American Reader, and he has a blog that he calls the Page 99 Test, which is based on this Ford Madox Ford quote: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." Marshal's challenge, if I cared to accept it, was to respond to the Ford quote regarding page 99 of my new book, which he had just learned about in a magazine.
At first, when Marshal asked me to do this, I read page 99 and thought, "Oops, it's not very sexy." There were a lot of other pages of interesting writing and storytelling that I would have picked to reveal my book's whole. But I discovered that Ford Madox Ford was right in a sense. I looked more closely at 99, and there it was, the genetic code of my book. In fact, I could pick any page at random, and I would be able to find the same strands of DNA that held my book together."
The blog he refers to is interesting to peruse, offering at the very least a quick way to get impression of a book mostly by the author applying the page 99 test to his/her book.
It's not unlike how most of us decide on a book in a book-shop, or how in recent years, we've been able to see sample pages of books digitally on Amazon for a while with it's "Search Inside" feature.
Incidentally, a minor problem comes up trying to apply this test to books on
e-readers like the Amazon Kindle. Since the Kindle's software
translates all the "pages" in a book into a location code, so that
readers can change the size of the type up or down at will, there are
no hard and fast page numbers, and thus no easy way for the reader of a book in
one Kindle to cite a "page" number to another.
For that matter, there's no easy way to cite a reference from a Kindle book, a topic that will surely become more important for researchers over time, as this discussion in the Amazon forums indicates*.
But picking on one specific page to judge a book by more than it's cover, is an interesting idea.
P.S. *Suppose a possible solution for this might come with the way to highlight any page in a Kindle book, and have that translated into a page number in the hardware and/or the paperback version of that book, at the touch of a button, all done in software. The action would be similar to getting definitions for a word in a Kindle book today, but would just give the page numbers in a "real" book, to use in citations.