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Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs, writing in The Atlantic, asks if ereader samples — which give readers a free taste of the start of a book — will lead more writers to put cliffhangers or key plot questions at the point where the sample ends. He also asks if Kindle user data, shared with authors, could lead to more reader-friendly structures:

Here’s the value: if a significant percentage of readers are running out of steam at the same point in a book, then perhaps the text needs to be sent back to the author for tweaking. A second edition — or a third, or a fourth: there’s no necessary limit to the iterations — can perhaps fix the problem, which can get more readers to finish the book, which can get the book higher ratings on Amazon, which can lead to higher sales. Unhappy readers of the first edition can be informed that there’s a freely downloadable New and Improved Version, which may induce them to give the book another try.

Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen, meets agile development and lean startup.

— Joshua Benton
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John Wihbey    
When journalists factcheck politicians (or don’t), how to flag bad behavior on social media, and getting past slactivism: all that and more in this month’s roundup of the academic literature.