Word of the Week: E Ink

E Ink, also known as electrophoretic or electronic ink, is a proprietary type of electronic paper. Made by E Ink Corp., which was founded in 1997 as a spin-out of MIT Media Lab, E Ink is the current market leader with its technology being used by companies such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, and Samsung.

What makes E Ink mimic real paper? A two-pigment system. Displays are made of tiny capsules that contain positive and negative particles. Using electricity, particles rise to the top of the screen, changing the color of the pixel and displaying the proper content. This also means that, so long as the screen is static, no power is being consumed (more on that next).

When pitted against LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, E Ink has a couple advantages.

  • Because E Ink displays reflect ambient light rather than emit light, content can be read easily in sunny conditions. If you’re concerned about your ability to read in low-light, some ereaders, like the Kindle Paperwhite, come with a built-in light that shines on the screen, similar to using a booklight.
  • E Ink uses bistable technology, which means that the device only consumes power when the screen changes (e.g. you turn a page in an ebook, open a new app, etc.) and will even remain when the power source is removed. This significantly increases the battery life. In contrast, a standard LCD screen refreshes approximately 30 times per second.

Of course, one of the reasons that people choose E Ink readers over LCD tablets is the eyestrain controversy. Basically, many people experience eye fatigue when looking at an LCD device for extended periods of time. But a 2012 study at the Institute for Research in Open-, Distance- and eLearning in Switzerland concluded that there is no significant difference in visual fatigue between E Ink and LCD tablets. However, there may be a connection between eye fatigue and devices with poor resolution. Because most devices nowadays have a high-res screen, people should feel comfortable reading on any device. That being said, there is still a case to be made for not using LCD devices before bed – a team from Harvard Medical School found that “it took longer to nod off with a backlit ereader, which led to poorer quality sleep and being more tired the next morning. Original Kindle readers do not emit light, so they should be fine.”

While most people think of ereaders such as the Kindle or Nook when it comes to E Ink, it’s important to note that E Ink has many applications to daily life outside of reading. Current uses of the technology include indicators such as those found on some flash drives, electronic shipping labels and luggage tags, and WiFi-connected retail displays. Eyecatcher, a Kickstarter campaign currently running (it ends on November 19), promises a smart bracelet with E Ink display that could last up to a year on a single charge. The campaign has well-surpassed its funding goal.

Even more so are the future implications of E Ink technology. Conceptual product designs on E Ink’s website detail cutting boards that show recipes, baseball mitts that record pitch speed, toll passes that display balance and charges, music stands that automatically turn pages, and more.

Despite statistics that reveal ereader purchases are down, it’s clear that E Ink technology will have a lasting place in society. The advantages it presents over LCD screens make it the right option for many display uses, and an excellent option for those who just want an ereader.

Other sources:

"E Ink Technology," http://www.eink.com/technology.html

Word of the Week: Crowdfunding

Kickstarter's Founder Perry Chen

Kickstarter's Founder Perry Chen

Who hasn't, when considering their favorite band, wished that they'd come play in a town or city near them? That logic, or the desire behind it, is what started the modern concept of online crowdfunding as we understand it today.

Perry Chen is credited with founding Kickstarter, the most famous and lucrative of a number of online crowdfunding sites like it. And Chen's inspiration for reaching out to likeminded strangers was a desire, in 2009, to get a band he enjoyed to JazzFest in New Orleans. Though reaching out and finally finding funding (say that three times fast), he realized that the web provided a means whereby people with similar interests could fund projects that would in turn improve the quality of their media experience.

Forbes defines crowdfunding as "The practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet."

And while there are many crowdfunding sites, each of which works slightly differently and with different stipulations, Kickstarter is by far the most famous. Since its launch, Kickstarter has inspired more than 9.8 million contributors to donate more than 2.1 billion dollars to various projects.

Kickstarter's 5% profit that they take from funded projects might seem small, until numbers get that big. Kickstarter defines themselves as follows:

"Kickstarter helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality. To date, tens of thousands of creative projects — big and small — have come to life with the support of the Kickstarter community."

The rules and regulations behind a crowdfunding project might seem intimidating or daunting, and the technology used to advance these campaigns is relatively new, but the soul of the concept is as old as humanity, it's simply the idea that together, we can be, we are, more than we might ever be separately.

The number of projects that have come to life in a relatively short period of time since the origin of online crowdfunding is proof that we're more connected than we've ever been, and with those connections, we're more powerful to dictate and shape our own futures than we've ever been as a species before.


The Lively Show

The Lively

The podcast I discovered is called The Lively Show. You can find it on the iTunes store in the Society & Culture section of podcasts, or visit creator Jess Lively's homepage to explore her blog, podcast, and other facets of her mission: "to help people live with intention."

Before she began producing her podcast, Lively was a jewelry maker, then an online business coach, and then a blogger. Lively started the blog in 2009, with the aforementioned mission "to help people live with intention." The blog evolved and became a weekly podcast. (Lively's webpage says she started the podcast this year, however she has over 100 episodes, which suggests bi-weekly posts or almost 2 years of podcasting!) By skimming some of her podcast titles, I saw that a number of her podcasts feature guests, and monthly "favorites" blogs are a summary of Lively's interests for that month.

Among 102 episodes, the one that caught my eye was episode 100: "Elizabeth Gilbert on curiosity, epic self-compassion, & creativity ('Big Magic')." This episode appealed to me because Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, is one of my favorite books. In the episode they discuss Gilbert's upbringing and creative development, and her latest book, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. 

I really enjoyed listening to Gilbert's thoughts on creative passion. She and Lively explore today's societal pressures to live your passion 100% everyday. Gilbert has reached international acclaim as a writer, and it was great to hear her say not only is it unhealthy to attempt this type of "all in" life, it's completely unrealistic.

Something I didn't love in this episode was that Lively sounds extremely scripted, and there is a weird quality to the audio when she talks. It almost sounds like she's speaking into a microphone in an auditorium, whereas Gilbert sounds normal, just as if she's sitting having a conversation. Despite these oddities, I really want to continue exploring Lively's podcasts. They're all listed on the iTunes website, but her podcast page breaks them down by episode focus or guest and then beneath that title, there are subcategories notifying her audience what types of topics are covered. For the episode I listened to, it was titled Elizabeth Gilbert, with career/wellness subcategories. This type of breakdown is really great for people that might be searching for podcasts related to specific areas. I'm particularly interested in the ones related to "career!"

NaNoWrimo Support in the Form of a Podcast

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Not everyone may know this, but November is a special time for some writers. During November the insanity of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrimo) takes over the life of thousands of writers across the country. The traditional goal of NaNoWrimo is to start writing a novel on November 1st  that reaches 50,000 words by 11:59pm on November 30th. Last year there were  325,142 participants and that number is constantly growing. Some amazing novels have come out of this month long exercise including Water For Elephants by Sara Guen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. For a longer list of authors who have professionally published their NaNoWrimo novels click here.

I have participated in this exercise in insanity sporadically for the last eight years and every year I take part I look for sources of support to help get me through the month and keep writing. This year I turned to podcasts. The forums on the NaNoWrimo website are helpful and participants get pep talks everyday via email, but there is a missing human element in these forms of support. NaNoWrimo tries to address this by hosting “Write-Ins” all over the country, but I never seem to be able to attend these. The podcast NaNoWripod has become my solution to this problem this year.

NaNoWripod is created  by Ben Alexander and co-hosted by Jim Markus. This podcast was started last year. They publish mostly in November during the process of NaNoWrimo, but they do some posts throughout the year as well. Most of their posts last anywhere from fifteen minutes to sometimes an hour. The reason that this podcast is so helpful is that the hosts are doing the same thing as their targeted audience. So their episodes usually are a mix of whatever the hosts NaNoWrimo journey looks like, suggestions other people have told them, guest interviews, and writing in general.

The two hosts offer consistent characters that the listener get to know well throughout the month. These specific hosts offer two different viewpoints. Ben only started doing NaNoWrimo a couple years ago, but Jim has been doing NaNoWrimo for over six years. Last year Jim started the month with the goal of doubling the standard goal of 50,000 words to 100,000. Having a newer NaNoWrimo writer and a more experienced NaNoWrimo writer offers a better connection to the wide audience of NaNoWrimo.

While listening to the podcasts from last year’s NaNoWrimo I became invested in the hosts stories almost as much as my own. This year they are classifying themselves as what NaNoWrimo refer to as Rebels. A rebel is someone who edits the standard rules of NaNoWrimo and make their own set. The average NaNoWrimo writer creates a new novel, but a Rebel may do anything from work on an old project to instead of a novel structure they may do a bunch of sketch stories. This is a departure from last year when both hosts were working on  more standard projects.

The quality of the podcast is well done. My only critique per say is that the hosts don’t always edit out what they say they will edit out. For instance in episode 6 one of the hosts’ connection cut out and when he came back the two hosts discussed cutting out that part of the podcast, but it was published with that hiccup included.

I look forward to this year having the voices of Ben Alexander and Jim Markus as my companions through NaNoWrimo 2015. To see an example of a novel profile on NaNoWrimo click here to view my NaNoWrimo 2015 novel.


Podcast Discovery: Radiolab

Radiolab image

Since I haven’t really listened to podcasts before and didn’t know much about them, I asked my boyfriend for a recommendation. Turns out he only listens to one: Radiolab. This is a podcast produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR. And I absolutely loved it. For some context, WNYC’s description on their website is as follows:

“Born from the team that created some of the most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts of the last decade, WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with high quality storytelling that informs, inspires and delights millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile and broadcast platforms.”

So, this program is very experienced with creating podcasts and reaching their audiences. Radiolab alone is broadcast on over 500 member stations. Radiolab is summarized in this way:

“Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”

Each episode is about something different, either following a particular story or a theme. When I starting browsing through their episodes, I was a bit turned off by the length. The first one I clicked on was 70 minutes long…The episodes vary in length, the shortest one I saw being about 28 minutes. However, I was working on a design assignment for another class at the time, and had the time and capacity to listen to/absorb words, so I pressed play anyway. And I’m very glad I did.

They are incredible storytellers, and their use of background music and effects blew me away. Music is a great way to set a mood and help viewers feel relevant emotions (like movie scores that can make us feel afraid or sad, even when separated from the visual component). The radio hosts will begin telling the story and seamlessly play music that puts the viewer in the time period or region/setting of the story, creepy or hopeful music, sound effects that reflect what the hosts are saying, and so on. The key word in that sentence is SEAMLESS, because their editing is AMAZING. They overlap music and sound effects and transition to different voices of interviewers and collaborators with ease. There are so many layers of sound and I was engaged the entire time.

The ways their stories are structured are wonderful and interesting. This is made even better by the hosts, who have excellent inflections and tones and exude energy and interest in the content. I also admire how they incorporate interviews and guests. If they have many in a short amount of time, they will have the guest begin talking and then in the middle of their the host will briefly cut that audio, jumping in to say “This is Susie Ann.” As the person continues to talk, the hosts will interrupt to give more background information on the person. And again, this is all seamless and feels very natural.

The content itself is enlightening and intriguing. My favorite one so far is that first one I listened to, call “Update: New Normal?” This episode included three stories relating to this theme of having a “new normal.” One of the stories was about Stu Rasmussen. The hosts talked about who Stu is and how he impacted his town as a kind and involved community member at the local theater. Then the story evolved, showing how Stu was transitioning from male to female in a small conservative town. Then the story evolved even further, and revealed that Stu had become the first transgender mayor. I didn’t anticipate this in the beginning because the story was focused so much on Stu as a person, which I thought was fantastic.

Radiolab also invites viewers and collaborators to recognize sponsors in between segments read the credits at the end. It gives me a flash of nostalgia, because it reminds me so much of when the TV show “Arthur” would show kids and community members during commercials and say “PBS is sponsored in part by viewers like you.” I enjoy this a lot, as a charming way to acknowledge contributors, invite others to support the show, and get more people to feel involved with and responsible for the success of the program.

Essentially, I am a huge fan of Radiolab now. I love that it exposes me to new information and stories, helping me feel connected to other humans around the world. I will definitely continue to listen to it in the future.

It is available on several platforms, including iTunes and their website.

Podcast Discovery – Welcome to Night Vale

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Yes, it's the podcast you've all heard about – Welcome to Night Vale.

As someone who has never listened to podcasts before, this is the first place my mind went when asked to find a podcast to sample. I admit, I wasn't quite certain what I was getting into at first – while I was aware of the basic premise, which the podcast's homepage bills as "a local radio show in a town where every conspiracy theory is real," I was hesitant about the particulars. Would it be funny? Would it be scary? Would it be presented as a coherent narrative, a mystery series, or a journey into cloud-cuckoo-land? Here is what I can say after listening to a few episodes.

The podcast's main strength is the voice of the narrator. The versatility of this man is amazing, as he presents the twenty minute podcast in a slow, sonorous tone of voice that manages to switch effortlessly back and forth between soothing, small-town suburbia and deeply chilling, even downright disturbing, menace. The show's trademark style is its ability to conflate the two, often leading the narrator to be alarmingly sanguine about very nightmarish themes and events; one reviewer described it as a mix between Garrison Keillor and H.P Lovecraft.

The stories themselves capitalize on the same small-town weirdness that brought similar success to the television show Gravity Falls. Both shows revel in presenting slices of Americana (the cartoon takes place in tourist-trap Oregon, while this podcast is set in a small town in the middle of an undisclosed desert) where bizarre creatures, shadowy organizations and occasional genuine horrors are all mutely accepted by the town's inhabitants, normalizing the abnormal with frightening indifference. Gravity Falls, however, is a Disney show, marked by strong family themes and heavy comedic moments to break up the weirdness. Welcome to Night Vale faces no such constraints, and while the show does not use this as carte blanche to throw eldritch abominations in the listener's ears, it does mean that what is unsaid is used just as much as what is said to instill a sense of eerie dread throughout the show's twenty minute running time. The humor is much darker, taking on an existential bent as dark, unwholesome things such as animal corpses raining from the sky are presented with the same casual air as the small-town PTA meetings and football games.

Personally, I greatly enjoy the sense of weirdness that permeates the show. Storylines turn up again from week to week, allowing the show to devote a minute one week giving you another tiny clue as to what happened at the post office, and another minute on the strange cloud hovering over town the next week; this clever twist allows it to introduce new stories and keep the old ones going in little twists and turns, keeping them fresh all over again. Welcome to Night Vale is a wonderful podcast to listen to if you enjoy a little shiver, if you like hearing stories of of reality becoming just a bit more unreal. If you've ever spent time on the internet trawling for creepypasta stories or enjoy a good urban legend or campfire tale, this is the podcast for you. It's dark, wickedly clever in its writing, and all presented by a narrator with a voice as smooth as butter…if the butter were also staring back at you with serpentine eyes.

And now, the weather.


All Things Considered: Hemingway

Hemingway perfecting his prose.

Hemingway perfecting his prose.

I was once told by former fishing editor of Field & Stream John Merwin that loving Ernest Hemingway's writing was akin to liking the first toy you saw when you walked in the toy store. "At least I'm in the store," I replied, and truth be told I have wandered throughout the store in my years reading outdoor literature and journalism, but nothing has ever been as enchanting as that beautiful writer in the window in the ten years since I first picked up The Sun Also Rises for a fiction class at Syracuse University.

When I finished The Sun Also Rises, I got on the Hemingway highway, reading everything he's ever written. I've been to see his famed former home in Key West, I've stood aboard a replica of his fishing boat, The Polar, I've read three biographies of the man, and he still amazes and enchants me today in the same way he did when I first discovered his work.

NPR's All Things considered always does a great job of approaching its subject matter in great detail, with some degree of levity, and with a good pacing to the delivery of the content. They seem to understand and demonstrate with each podcast or radio segment that "brevity is the soul of wit." Their approach to subject matter is direct, informative and well paced. And their coverage of Hemingway is no exception.

I am not fascinated by the macho figure that reportedly drank 14 daiquiris in one sitting in Key West, the brute who shot any and every game animal in Africa or the womanizing war correspondent in Paris. I am not amazed by the man who understood Bullfighting like it was a science. I am fascinated by the man underneath the armor, the man sensitive enough to write about Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, and the problems he had readjusting to life after war. I am in love with the work of the man who describes Santiago, the frail but resilient cuban fisherman fighting a marlin of epic proportions. I am intrigued by the man who traveled the world but, as we all found out in 1961, couldn't escape himself.

This Podcast describes Hemingway the man, and gives some insight into the person behind the persona, and who he might have been. It talks about how his style: short, terse sentences, stripped of everything they don't need, changed modern American writing.

It is fascinating to hear the man's actual voice, which is almost exactly how you'd picture it reading his work. The experts go on to delve into the man behind the words and what made him tick.

There is fascinating detail. We find out that Hemingway wrote 47 different endings to one of his novels. This entire podcast was interesting, well done, well paced, and to me… intriguing.


Welcome to Night Vale (Dun, DUn, DUN!!!)

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 3.40.54 PM WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE

This is my first time listening to a podcast. I was intrigued by Serial last December when I heard various friends and strangers discussing it, but I never tuned in because I would need to focus on it completely and I never had the time to dedicate. Driving or spending an extensive amount of hours doing something mindless would allow me to focus, but I do not drive and I am rarely doing mindless tasks (cleaning, cooking, etc.) for long enough periods of time to be able to keep up with a series. I know many people listen to podcasts at work, but that is just a bit too distracting for me, and if I am free at night I will turn on Netflix or read (or do homework like I am right now). A few years ago, when I had a car and would spend two hours commuting I listened to books on tape. If I had known about podcasts back then I probably would have listened to them instead because books on tape can be so hit or miss.  I set aside some time to listen/focus on the first couple of episodes of Welcome to Night Vale. I selected this podcast because A. Someone mentioned it was popular in class and B. Because I like spooky things, and the title made me wonder what the show was about. So here is my fast-take of what I liked and what I did not.

Things I liked:  The intro music is dramatic and fun. Well selected.

The narrator/news anchor has a great voice.

The dry and witty humor was a surprising. Some comments were well done while others a little over-the-top, but maybe that's the point. I'm sure I would have to listen to than the first couple of episodes to find out.

Story: felt a bit disjointed, but again I am sure I would understand more if I continued listening to the show. A lot of interesting questions were raised and I am curious how they will progress.

Best lines: in reference to the new man in town, the scientist, "His hair is perfect."  and "No one does a slice like Big Ricco. No one." So great, especially with the news anchor's voice!

Things I was not a fan of:  The song/weather report was super annoying. The song was fine I guess, but I was pretty invested in what the news anchor was saying and did not like it interrupted to listen to a meh song.

A lot of different story opportunities were raised. We had lights, a new man in town with great hair, warnings about keeping an eye on your children, etc. I wanted just a tiny bit of closure on at least one of those topics. Just because when I first episode ended I felt like I knew nothing and that was a bit frustrating. I should not finish listening and say to myself, "What did I just listen to?" There needs to be slight closure.

Easy to see the aspects I liked far outweighed what I did not. After some consideration, I think I would like to see how this show turns out in the end (I would also enjoy having something to discuss when the people around me bring up podcasts). If I can figure out how to take this series with me on my flight home in a few weeks I will continue to listen. I give podcasters a lot of credit. As I was listening, I was thinking about how much fun it might be to have a podcast but I would imagine that depending on the content, it would be a huge commitment. Something interesting to keep in mind though.

Podcast Discovery: Stuff Mom Never Told You


Until this assignment, I had neglected podcasts, allowing notifications to stack up in my iTunes. A few years ago, I began listening to Welcome to Night Vale, the popular fictional radio show. I followed the story sporadically, downloading episodes for long drives. Around the same time, I discovered I could download my favorite radio show from home, The Kevin & Bean Show on KROQ 106.7, via podcast, which subsequently led me to a few other comedy talk shows I would tune in to on occasion. This assignment has not only refreshed my interest in my old favorites, but has encouraged me to add a new subscription!

I was particularly interested in the gender statistics on podcasts presented in the last class meeting, and I wanted to find a more serious and educational podcast to add some variety to my other subscriptions. The podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You, hosted by HowStuffWorks.com, immediately caught my eye. I was especially drawn in by the latest episode title, “The Gendered Chef,” as I recently read a great essay on the same subject.

Stuff Mom Never Told You, hosted by Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, is a feminist talk show that explores gender roles and informs listeners on gender-related issues. Sometimes this topic will be women in a particular profession or a hot topic in the media, while other episodes are based on lifestyle questions from listeners. Cristen and Caroline conduct an open, multi-faceted, and inspired discussion on a chosen topic of the week, in a light and conversational manner. The hosts are funny and thoughtful, and I was easily able to remain entertained, even through hour long episodes.

Cristen and Caroline also take care to create a community with listeners and include their thoughts. The end of each episode provides time for letters from the listeners, usually providing thoughts and opinions on the previous episodes. This feature invites an open discussion, and prevents the podcast from being one-sided, as talk shows often may be.

My favorite part of the podcast is how well-informed Cristen and Caroline are on feminism and their topic of choice. Both women cite specific references, statistics, and studies for their history and current findings. I especially enjoy how they frequently cover the women’s history related to the topic at hand. For example, “The Gendered Chef” begins with an overview of the female role in the kitchen at home and in the cooking profession.

I would highly recommend this podcast to anyone interested in women’s history and a light conversation on modern feminism. The show is produced weekly and can be found on their website and on iTunes.

More Frightening than Fiction

Lore album artBefore this class, I was subscribed to eight podcasts of various themes – mostly books and politics, but also such popular ones as The Bugle and Freakonomics – so the task of finding one I was interested in and hadn’t yet listened to was both exciting and daunting. I ended up subscribing to another seven podcasts.

Of those seven, my favorite is probably Lore, a bi-weekly podcast with the tagline “Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.”

I’m fascinated by myths and legends (a fascination that prompted me to also subscribe to the podcast Myths and Legends). While I love the stories themselves and have an ever-growing collection of folklore from cultures around the world, I’m also intrigued by those legends’ connection to reality. This is where Lore steps in.

Hosted by supernatural thriller author Aaron Mahnke, each episode of Lore explores a different scary story or popular myth and tries to give us the facts behind the fiction. The first episode, posted on March 18, 2015, for example, is unsurprisingly about vampires. While Mahnke touches on well-known sources like Vlad III of Wallachia, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, he also gives us older myths from across the world that allude to what could be an early version of the vampire. In Norse mythology, for one,  the draugr is an undead creature that possesses superhuman strength and can enter the dreams of the living.

Not only does Mahnke summarize cross-cultural legends of vampires, he pulls in historical, real-life stories that could explain why the vampire myth exists at all. Porphyria, rabies, and tuberculosis have all been used as evidence for the steadiness of vampire lore. While all these seem like a stretch when we live in an era of such readily-available medical knowledge, Mahnke details how tuberculosis in particular became connected to vampirism. It’s a truly amazing story that I encourage you to learn by listening to episode.

The latest episode, posted to iTunes on Monday, November 2 and detailing horror stories of home life, brings the total count so far to twenty. Mahnke's soothing voice, refreshingly crisp and clear, and the eerie soundtrack keep you engaged and slightly frightened, even disturbed by the acts human beings have committed throughout time. Informative and addicting, episodes clock in at around 15-25 minutes per episode, perfect for the average commute. But maybe you'd prefer to listen just before bed.

For anyone who loves folklore and history – and isn’t too squeamish – Lore is an excellent podcast to listen to.

Podcast: Book Riot

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 3.25.13 PMMy first experience with podcasts came some four to five weeks prior to today, when I determined that my commute home on the T could benefit from a certain level of entertainment, and that books weren’t always the best option when standing squashed between other late-night commuters. In just a few weeks, I burned through the Serial podcast, enthralled by the true crime story set in the city in which I used to live.

So I was ready to find another talk-entertainment subscription for this next assignment. Having spent so much time on the Book Riot site during my usability assignment, I thought it was about time I gave one of its podcasts a try. The site has five affiliated podcasts, but I settled on the main one, the Book Riot podcast, which is a weekly podcast discussing news in the world of publishing and books. The podcast is run by editors Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky, and the two exchange banter as they run down a list of things new and important to readers and the world of books.

In the first of the two most recent episodes I listened to, Jeff and Rebecca discuss news surrounding the world of Harry Potter and JK Rowling, including the extension of the Harry Potter series in a play in London and JK Rowling’s exploits as alter-ego Robert Galbraith. They also change tacks to discuss a recent survey that pulled statistics from employees in the publishing world, addressing the massive wage gap (even in a largely female-dominated industry) and the demographic issue (poll results show the industry is largely Caucasian). In the second episode, they move from the topic of a romance novel-only store opening in LA to several stories of book banning in schools.

While Jeff and Rebecca don’t get as impassioned about some of the political and social topics they broach as I expected, they do highlight the injustices and their own opinions on what that means. I like that they make a point to approach these topics, whether it’s the racial demographic of the publishing industry and what that means for diverse books or the injustice of banning books in school. They seem intent to bring issues in the publishing and book industry to the forefront in at least part of each episode.

I also enjoy the topic at large. It feels like a broad sweep of the most important things in the publishing industry, something that (obviously) appeals to me very much. The news is timely and delivered by two hosts with a deliciously bookish sway. For example, Rebecca hooked me with her description of a “bed party” (“you get in your bed, you pile up your books, and you’ve got movies queued up on Netflix, or whatever, and you’ve got your snacks nearby”), that cozy image putting me right in that fireside mindset this book news discussion warrants.

One thing that did turn me off a bit was the sponsorships. Now, remember, my only experience with podcasts to date has been Serial, which is an NPR podcast and a spin-off of This American Life. It therefore did not have advertisements peppered throughout and wouldn’t be expected to. But Jeff and Rebecca stopped an average of three times to devote time to their sponsors. Most of these weren’t long, but I had the unfortunate experience of picking the episode in which the first sponsorship lasted for six minutes—six minutes of Jeff talking about mattresses. Again, I don’t know how common this is with podcasts, and when I persevered, I realized not all of Jeff and Rebecca’s sponsorships lasted quite so long. But it did put a sour taste in my mouth before I really jumped in.

I ultimately really enjoyed the Book Riot podcast, lengthy sponsorships or not. I learned a small percentage of the proceeds from each podcast goes to a partnered charity organization, so that put my mind a bit more at ease about the ads (plus, they have to make money… but still, six minutes?). And the topics were right up my alley. I’m glad to have found a second podcast I can enjoy on the train (and washing dishes, and folding laundry, and during any number of other tasks), particularly one that still comes out regularly. I’ll continue to listen to the Book Riot podcast, and I’d recommend it to my other bookish classmates as well. Go check it out!