Kudos to Scribd, the ‘Netflix for Books’

Good news, fellow Scribd fans! The “Netflix for Books” is proving that the subscription model also works for digital books.

According to this Fortune article, Scribd now has one million paying subscribers around the world.

In 2018, Scribd introduced an unlimited subscription model, which has since grown the paid base by 40% year-over-year. Scribd also boasts that more people are listening to audiobooks on its platform more than ever before, at 100% increase in audio users over the course of 2018.

Scribd has also expanded its digital library and padded its subscription service through bundles and test programs with a variety of other digital publishers, such as The New York Times, Waze Audio Player, and Spotify.

How about you? Do you love digital books?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The comic book reboot

Vampire: “The Slayer! The rumors are true!”

Buffy: “Oh? What would those be?”

Vampire: “That you really work at Tunaverse?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is back. In high school, that is.

As a huge Buffy fan, I’m excited that BOOM! Studios has launched a new comic book series that reboots Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This new series, which is different from the planned TV reboot, is set in contemporary times instead of 1997, which is when the TV show debuted.

So why did BOOM! Studios decide to reimagine Buffy for a new generation? Check out this IGN article — spoilers if you haven’t read the first issue yet.

Surviving the apocalypse

Do you also love science and technology? One non-fiction book I highly recommend is Annalee Newitz’sScatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction”.

This beautifully written book, which I’ve read twice already, is truly inspiring. Yes, I know that’s ironic, considering that it’s tackling the inevitability of one apocalypse or another causing mass extinction on Earth. Yet it fills me with pragmatic optimism that humanity will survive, not because of some vague hope, but through science and the strategies that our ancestors and different species have employed in order to avoid extinction.

As Newitz put it:

“My point is that regardless of whether humans are responsible for the sixth mass extinction on Earth, it’s going to happen. Assigning blame is less important than figuring out how to prepare for the inevitable and survive it. And when I say ‘survive it,’ I don’t mean as humans alone on a world gone to hell. Survival must include the entire planet, and its myriad ecosystems, because those are what keep us fed and healthy.”

We are survivors. We must never forget that.

Zen and the art of self-maintenance

Breathe.

It’s a simple reminder from Zen Habits author Leo Babauta. But one that has helped get me through a lot over the years.

“If you are worried about something coming up, or caught up in something that already happened, breathe. It will bring you back to the present.

“If you are discouraged and have forgotten your purpose in life, breathe. It will remind you about how precious life is, and that each breath in this life is a gift you need to appreciate. Make the most of this gift.”

It’s not easy to stay zen all the time. But coffee helps. So does having a wonderful wife and daughter.

Breathe.

AI demolishes StarCraft II pro gamers

Notable Protoss gameplay screenshot courtesy of Blizzard press site.

Game over.

In the latest victory for Google’s DeepMind subsidiary, its AlphaStar AI defeated human pro gamers in a series of test matches.

Though to be fair, the pro gamers weren’t world champion caliber. And the AI was beaten when it had to use the same restricted camera view as a human. But still, this is just the beginning.

“Beating humans at video games might seem like a sideshow in AI development, but it’s a significant research challenge. Games like Starcraft II are harder for computers to play than board games like chess or Go. In video games, AI agents can’t watch the movement of every piece to calculate their next move, and they have to react in real time.”

So, which arena will AI conquer next?

What if you’re not the Chosen One?

If you haven’t read “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness, do yourself a favor and check it out.

The premise? Telling the story not of the stereotypical Chosen One, but of his or her ordinary companions and other normal people who are usually on the sidelines.

This is my favorite quote from this book:

“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”

Cyclops returns

More than two years after he died, Cyclops is back!

Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 is a beautifully written and wonderfully illustrated story that reveals how Cyclops came back from the dead. It’s one of the most inventive, if convoluted, methods for resurrecting a comic book character.

Cyclops is my second favorite superhero after Spider-Man, and I grew up reading the X-Men, which is my favorite superhero team, so this issue was quite poignant for me. Here’s hoping Scott Summers will lead the X-Men back to glory. But first, he has to rebuild the X-Men, after what happened in Uncanny X-Men #10.

Check out Polygon’s article about the return of Cyclops. Spoilers, of course, if you haven’t read this annual and Uncanny X-Men #10.

“After Marvel teased his return all fall, we got our first glimpse of the resurrected mutant leader in the final issue of the Extermination miniseries. This week, Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 gives us the full story of how Scott Summers, killed in 2016’s Death of X #1, is back among the living.”

Reboot

Sometimes, we just want a fresh start. A blank slate. A reboot, if you will.

I suppose I should have relaunched The Babel Machine on Jan. 1, but I’m just glad I’m blogging again. When I first started blogging in 2004, my daughter Sam, who will be 18 this December, hadn’t even turned 3 yet. My wife Ellen was still with her old company. And I was still a tech journalist.

Time flies.

Science actually explains why the years seem to pass by even more rapidly the older we get.

As my idol Steve Jobs said about Bill Gates in 2007 when the two of them were being interviewed on stage, quoting the Beatles song: “You and I have memories/Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”

So don’t waste time. Don’t fill your life with regrets. Make every day count. One day at a time.

Time waits for no one.

I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions anymore. As my wife often reminds me, it’s better to just do things. Instead of saying we’ll do something, just go ahead, take the plunge, make that small change. One day at a time.

Time to move on.

The past is the past. We can’t change the past. What we can do is live in the present, and do what we can to make the future better. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but it’s better than wasting time.

Life isn’t easy, and things will never be perfect, but we can start living the life we want. One day at a time.

As Leo Babauta of Zen Habits puts it: “It’s a beautiful time to reimagine your life.”