The Null Device

A lot of people give and receive books at Xmas. However, one of the great unspoken truths of our day is that a lot of these books are never read; some are ponderous, impressive tomes, chosen to reflect well on the giver and receiver (Joyce, Rushdie and Stephen Hawking are favourites for this); and others are opened but never finished, victims of declining attention spans and the age of multitasking:

In America, efforts have been made to measure the unread book phenomenon. In 1985, Michael Kinsley, then editor of New Republic magazine, hit upon the idea of slipping coupons redeemable for $5 in the back pages of 70 selected books in Washington bookstores... It could have been a costly experiment, but thankfully for Kinsley not one coupon was returned.

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