zola books

Aaron Swartz’s Top 40 Books

Over at Zola Books, they posted the top 40 favorite books of the recently deceased computer whiz and activist, Aaron Swartz. He was a great lover of books and often wrote short personal reviews (you can see his lists over at his blog). Aaron’s list ran from great literature (Kafka!), fiction (Wolfe, Wallace, Franzen), to all kinds of non-fiction.

This list over at Zola is an interesting one. They have included snippets of Aaron’s opinions of the books. Also, there was a well-written and insightful article written by Columbia Law School professor, Tim Wu, over at the New Yorker titled, “How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz–and Us.” The article ends with,

Today, prosecutors feel they have license to treat leakers of information like crime lords or terrorists. In an age when our frontiers are digital, the criminal system threatens something intangible but incredibly valuable. It threatens youthful vigor, difference in outlook, the freedom to break some rules and not be condemned or ruined for the rest of your life. Swartz was a passionate eccentric who could have been one of the great innovators and creators of our future. Now we will never know.

Zola Books, the “anti-Amazon”

Last week, I was kindly invited to the launch party for Zola Books. I was unable to visit their booth at BookExpo America but all was explained to me at the company’s little shindig. I had heard of Zola about a month ago but I had a hard time understanding the concept because 1) I can be super dense when it comes to technology and 2) I’m not quite sure if there is any other service that is comparable so I had nothing to relate it to. I chatted with a few people but it wasn’t until I got the rundown from founder, Joe Regal (formerly of Regal Literary), was everything illuminated. He and his small group of employees are super passionate about what they are doing (especially about the aspect of Zola that will give more revenue to the author and smaller “brick-and-mortar” bookstores). According to Publishers Weekly,

Zola’s interface, Regal said, is designed to make book-buying a more pleasant and cleaner experience than it is on Amazon…Zola’s e-books are platform agnostic (meaning they can be downloaded on all major devices, including Kindle) and can be read off the site, but readers can also opt for a more interactive experience…Regal is not alone. A number of authors have invested in Zola. One writer who put her money where her mouth is, is Audrey Niffenegger. The e-book edition of her bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife will be available exclusively at Zola when the site launches.

The article continues with a breakdown of some of the other features that Zola Books will offer. One of its goals seems to be a more positive experience for the author, readers, and indie booksellers. The website is not live yet, but I am looking forward to seeing the direction this company takes.