Daily reading
November 28, 2007 4:19 AM   Subscribe

I want to send to few people (myself included) few pages from a book of my choice, every working day, so we could for example, read complete "Catcher in a Rye" in a month or so. Does anyone know some online service that I could use for such purpose? I found only "Chapter-a-day" services, but I want to use book of my choice.
posted by leigh1 to Education (14 answers total)
If it doesn't have to be recent books, you could just use email and Project Gutenberg.
posted by beerbajay at 4:28 AM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Yes, but I don't want to write new mail each day, I want to do it one time only...
posted by leigh1 at 4:36 AM on November 28, 2007

Sounds like a grand idea, but I doubt your going to find a product do exactly what you need. I had a do-able suggestion, but I don't want to be shot down like beerbejay, so I am going to say, in short, that the answer to your question is 'no.'
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 4:45 AM on November 28, 2007

DailyLit is as close as you are going to get.
posted by rentalkarma at 4:53 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm sorry for the shot down... It's just that I found something very similar, FutureMe.org, and I'm sure there must be an online service out there, that does exactly what I need... this isn't too much to ask considering the possibilities of internet today... and I'm also sure that this kind of script would be a piece of cake for any respectable programmer....
posted by leigh1 at 4:57 AM on November 28, 2007

That Daily Lit seems pretty cool, rentalkarma. Thanks for the recommendation.
posted by bluefly at 5:37 AM on November 28, 2007

There are a couple of things that complicate this: you brought up "Catcher in the Rye." That's in copyright. You can't do what you want to do legally, which means it's unlikely you'll find a service to do it for you. So you'll have to stick to public-domain texts, like those on Gutenberg.

The other problem is how to divide the text up. Let's say there's a form that you paste a whole book into. An application then emails a bit of it to you -- and some friends -- each day. That's easy. If no app exists, you could get someone to create one for you (hire a programmer on Craigslist or whatever). I think it's about half-an-hour of work. So you should expect to pay $50 for it or so, and you'll have what you want.

But how much of the book should it send to you each day? 200 words? 300 words? If won't have artificial intelligence or human intelligence behind it. It will have to break at the end of a random word, sentence or paragraph. That strikes me as jarring. That strikes me as something that would be better done by a person, going through the whole book, and dividing it up logically. But then you're talking about a whole lot of work.
posted by grumblebee at 5:54 AM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Well, I already have books I want to read in digital form, so choice of books is not a problem.
I don't need an online service that hosts these books, I need an online service that hosts this app.

And text splitting isn't really a problem. Let's say I need 10-minutes read, so I want 3-4-5 pages per email. I can calculate that in words, so let's say I need 600 words per email. I don't mind if the last sentence is incoherent, I can finish reading it in the next e-mail.
I can also split text myself if necessary.

I also don't mind if the script I need is the local script (sends me a pre-designed emails from my Drafts folder in Outlook at 8 AM each day). I just want some kind of automation so I can forget about it.
posted by leigh1 at 6:42 AM on November 28, 2007

Perhaps have them read a few pages each day from an Amazon.com online preview of the book? I know Amazon.com has limits on how many pages you can read and how often, but they keep it secret just what they are.
posted by shivohum at 7:52 AM on November 28, 2007

Here's a hacky but straightforward shell script approach to do it in 100 line chunks:

1) Make a copy of your text file called, say, "foo.txt".

2) Make a header file like:

Subject: Today's Reading
To: your_email_list_here
From: ReaderBot@yourhouse.org

3) Write a shell script like:

# generate the excerpt:
head -100 foo.txt > todays_excerpt.txt;
# send it out
cat header.txt todays_excerpt.txt | sendmail your_email_list ;
# remove the part you read from the file
tail +100 foo.txt > temp.txt ;
# replace the file for next time:
mv temp.txt foo.txt ;

4) Run this each morning, with a cron or its equivalent.
posted by freebird at 8:15 AM on November 28, 2007

if you are going to do it with a shell script
split --lines=100 my.file MAIL
should do the trick. (it will give you MAILaa, MAILab etc)

But csplit is probably a much better tool for the job. It splits a file into sections determined by context lines. So you could use a regular expression to split on chapter headings.

(regular expressions not included)
posted by tallus at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2007

yep, but splitting will still require some trickery to email regularly in order.
posted by freebird at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2007

While I love your idea, I think that Grumblebee is correct and that there are two separate and significant problems that you need to overcome. Those problems, as Grumblebee described, are technical and legal.

Technically, making a series of arbitrary splits in chunk of text is very easy, and while adding logic to only break at the end of a sentence or paragraph is also straight forward, the parser will have no understanding of what is happening in the story at the time of the split. It is likely that you'll get splits in the middle of a conversation or a tersely written action sequence - not good.

More importantly, it sounds like you want to do this with books that are still within their copyright periods. Your proposal would most likely fall outside of the Fair Use provisions in Copyright law and definately breachs the "no electronic reproduction" stipulation in most books . I strongly discourage you from doing this.

Your alternatives are to either source material that is already in the public domain, like Project Gutenberg, to purchase separate copies for each reader or to get written permission from the publisher for each title that you wish to distribute this way.
posted by dantodd at 6:41 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: I haven't found solution to my problem yet, but thank you all for your time and effort.
posted by leigh1 at 12:46 AM on November 29, 2007

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