Tiny Books, an Incredibly Long Piano, and “Why Are Boss Fights So Damn Hard?”

This week’s “Linkfest”, wherein I hunt down finest online reading material

Clive Thompson

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Yesterday, I skipped my usual Monday pub-date for the Linkfest, because in the US here I was on holiday!

But I couldn’t leave you folks all stranded. So here’s a good fun hour’s worth of intriguing reading material …

1) 📚 Tiny pocket books

Isolarii is a press that produces these adorably tiny paperback books. I’m a fan of really small paperbacks — back in 2013 I wrote a piece for Smithsonian magazine about how “pocket books” of the 1940s were the hot entertainment tech of the day, and how they presaged our love of portability with today’s smartphones.

If you subscribe to Isolarii, they send you a new book every two months — this one I’m holding (in this photo) above is by Can Xue, an avante-garde Chinese author; it’s a collection of wonderfully dreamy short stories. I’ve also got the wee book Street Cop by Robert Coover (illustrated by Art Spiegelman) and the novella Modern Animal by Yevgenia Beorusets.

In addition to being delightful to carry around, they are, quite like those tiny 1940s-era pocketbooks, pleasantly glanceable: The small pages have the dimensions of a mobile-phone screen. This, as it turns out, is not so much a new innovation as a very old one; in the 18th century, the “octavo” format was similarly tiny, pocketable, and the go-to dimension for mobile readers. In fact, you could argue that our modern books, forbiddingly crammed full of hundreds of words per page, are the historic design aberration — and this older format, which prizes portability and quick, lightweight reading, is the original spirit of publishing.

2) 🌞 Beaming solar energy from space down to earth

Could we mount solar panels in orbit and beam the energy down to the planet?

It sounds nutty, but the idea has been around for decades, Daniel Oberhaus makes a case for it in this report for the Innovation Frontier Project. One big upside, he notes, is that you could on-the-fly alter where you beam the power down — adding some useful resilience…

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Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”. @clive@saturation.social clive@clivethompson.net