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Book Fair Blog

Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

Getting Into Genes

I suppose someone else has done it already, but one day, I would like to find a family with the right number of siblings so that each one can send a sample of DNA to a different service. You’ve seen the ads; “Wasn’t I surprised to find out I wasn’t French at all, but two-thirds Merovingian!” I don’t want to debunk anybody—I dislike debunkers, even when they’re doing good deeds—but my curiosity is piqued by the member of the Book Fair Volunteer Corps who reports that HER test came back marking her as one tenth of one percent Neanderthal. (I’d think that was pretty high, considering the millennia since pure-blood Neanderthals were felt to have become extinct, but then I recalled Chicago artist Stanislaw Szukalski, who insisted Neanderthals walked among us. “Look at Nixon, Look at Brezhnev,” he suggested, writing in the 70s.)

Be that as it might, I’m wondering, as always, if there isn’t someone the Book Fair could cash in on these online analyses. What if we set up some computer system by which people could pay a little extra to register the books they were buying in July to be compared to some database? (This idea will need considerable finagling: we don’t want to do anything to slow progress through check-out, especially this year, when we’ve got an entirely new set-up.)

After all, it is obvious that if you buy 45 DVDs of British mystery television series and eight of these sequels to Pride and Prejudice, you fit a different profile than if you picked up eight books on military uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars, three books on woodcarving, and one on new ways to sell your crafts online. But what about the person who buys three cat mysteries, six chili cookbooks, and five books on the Zombie Apocalypse?

The form would have to take account, as the DNA sample does not, that you are probably going to buy a few books for other people. We’d need to specify a split between the books you bought for yourself and the ones you bought for somebody else. For example, you might say you were buying the two hymnals for yourself, and the five books of Playboy Party Jokes were for your Uncle Barney. This would make you easier to classify (in the “Big Old Fibber” category.) In fact, the percentage of books you bought for yourself, compared to how many you bought for each of your nieces and nephews might be enough to place you in the database (I expect a LOT of our customers fall into the Eccentric Aunt/Uncle category.)

Of course, in imitation of the DNA Test results, we couldn’t put anybody into a single category. It would be more along the lines of percentages. These in their turn would be based on decisions at the philosophical level. Is somebody who buys actual sheet music more “musical”, for example, than someone who buys ten tell-all biographies of rock drummers? (I heard that: “What do drummers have to do with music?” You have just put yourself in the retired clarinetist category.) Is someone who buys classic detective stories more “analytical” than the customer who wants only the ones where the hero is the one with the biggest gun? Is the customer with the stack of books on computer security “safety minded” or just looking for loopholes?

It’ll take a while to get the algorithms worked out, but I imagine the result would be something along the lines of:

Analytical 12%, Creative 27%, Contemplative 8%, Active 32%, Crazy Cat Person 31%

That comes to more than 100%, of course, but I expect our customers to be vast, containing multitudes. Except the Neanderthals (the ones who come around, look a while, use the new restrooms, and then leave without spending any money.) They’re just half…multitudinous.

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