Welcome to your weekly roundup of book news and literary highlights from The Thread.
It seems quality writing is still the domain of humans, but for how long? Also, Bill Gates has a new role in the book world.
What happens when a computer writes a book?
You may have heard of NaNoWriMo — that would be National Novel Writing Month — in which people attempt to write an entire novel in the month of November.
There's also NaNoGenMo — National Novel Generating Month. It's "generating" instead of "writing" because the idea is that computers are coming up with the stories.
Darius Kazemi proposed the idea two years ago, and challenged others to write a code that would generate a 50,000 word story. Participants then have to share both the story and the code at the end of the month.
Hundreds of coders took up the challenge, and you can browse through the results on GitHub.
As Cory Doctorow notes, the coders played fast and loose with the definition of "novel."
This particular example isn't likely to make The New York Times bestseller list any time soon. It's called "The Cover of the Sun Also Rises," and it literally describes the pixel colors:
Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Drab. Drab. University of California Gold. Brass. Brass. Dark tan. Dark tan. Dark tan. Brass. Raw umber. Raw umber. Coffee. Dark brown. Olive Drab #7. Seal brown. Olive Drab #7. Olive Drab #7. Bistre. Bistre. Café noir. Raw umber.
Bill Gates, book reviewer?
First, there was Oprah's Book Club, which could propel a book to the top of bestseller lists. Then, there was "The Colbert Show," where Stephen Colbert introduced authors to new audiences on his satirical talk show.
Now, publishers are looking for the next person with the power to boost a book, and it may be Bill Gates.
The Microsoft tech magnate has been casually reviewing books on his blog, Gates Notes, since 2010. Books are just one of the many subjects he writes about — including science, philanthropy and education — but people are paying attention.
The New York Times interviewed author Evan Thomas, who experienced "the Bill Gates bump" in sales for his biography of Richard Nixon after Gates reviewed the book. Thomas was as surprised as anyone.
"I've never met Bill Gates," Thomas said. "I had no idea he had a books blog."
According to the Times, Gates reads approximately 50 books a year, and his list is predominantly nonfiction. This December, he unveiled his favorites of 2015.
German vending machine gives out books in exchange for unwanted holiday presents
According to The Bookseller, a German publishing house and a bookstore chain collaborated on the best book swap system of the year. After the holidays, they set up vending machines outside several bookstore locations. The machines doled out books in exchange for unwanted presents.
If you received a pair of earrings but don't have you ears pierced, or you got a sweater that you'll never wear in public, you could trade them for a book.
Present swappers were given one of seven newly released books. All the presents collected were donated to charity.