Want $300 to read a book? Same

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An American non-profit organization is recruiting New Zealanders to read and take notes on New York Times bestsellers. They pay US$200 per book. Book editor Catherine Woulfe has questions.

I thought the first email was spam. One of those tricky tricks is to get you to click on links. I thought that mostly because it was very hard not to click on the links.

Hi Katherine,

I am [Redacted], research director at WordsRated. We lead studies who analyze the contents of hundreds of books.

We are looking to improve our research and for that we need help. We outsource our research and pay people to do what they love: read books! This is how it works:

– We send them books

– They take notes on specific areas of interest

– We pay them $200 per finished book

It’s not often you get the opportunity to get paid to read, so I thought this might make for a fun short story or lifestyle story. Is this something you might be interested in covering?

The complete job offer is available here – https://wordsrated.com/bibliophile-at-large/

Thanks,

[Redacted]

You can actually click on the links, they are legit and work too. They are looking to hire five, possibly up to 10 New Zealanders. I know this because immediately after Googling “convert 200 USD to NZD” (that’s 300 USD, my friends), I looked at this gift horse right in the mouth, long and hard.

Of course, even at first glance, it’s not really a gift. It is work, there is a task to be done. Reading is nothing. When you do it for work, it feels like work. And close reading, where you take notes and tick boxes, is a very different and more intense job. But at the same time, as anyone in the New Zealand book world will tell you, $300 to read a book and, as the job posting says, “take notes on specific details” sounds always as a gift.

You could, apparently, spend a good 12 hours as one of highest paid librarians and not receive $300. You could definitely write an entire book and not make $300. We pay $300 for The Spinoff reviews but reviews in general, at least as of 2018, are paid fuck everything. There is the strange exception but generally, if you work in books in Aotearoa, so you are don’t cream it. Ask the poets.

When my friends go to public relations or editorial, for about a good year, they’re basically in a state of ecstatic shock. They cannot believe the money they receive. At first, this job felt a bit like this – like someone finally recognizing the value of books and reading and leaning over the fence, benevolently waving a wad of cash.

There are obviously other good things about the role, mainly the fact that it’s flexible – you can read at your own pace, whenever you feel like it, which is perfect for those of us who are always calibrating children against work against everything else. It’s also for a good cause: Words Rated studies things like representation in children’s literature and the state of American public libraries; its mission is to “advance public discourse and understanding of major industry issues”. And it’s gaining traction: its findings have been cited by the BBC, The Guardian, Wired and Forbes, among others.

But I had two burning questions. What books should you read and what sort of notes should you take, exactly?

The section “Which books?” part was easy. I emailed the guy at Words Rated and he said these would be NYT bestsellers, at least initially, and yes you can give them an idea of ​​what kinds of books you like and fire the ones you hate. cool cool.

But the “What sorts of notes do you need to take, exactly?” the part is more slippery.

Here’s what you’ll glean from the ad:

(Image: wordrated.com)

Hmm. Just a little wiggle room in this description.

Eventually, after pestering him to the point that he’s definitely not giving me a job anytime soon, the guy sent me an excel sheet as an example of what you would be required to do for your $300. Let me explain to you:

Read the book.

List the name of the book, author’s name, author’s gender and race.

For each character, list their name, gender, race, and age.

So far so good, huh. You can totally do it for $300 a pop. But then, for each character:

Please list all adjectives/adverbs used to describe them.

That… could that be okay? OK now:

Please insert the number of times each character dialogues/talks throughout the novel.

You haven’t finished:

Please insert the number of words each character says throughout the book.

Oooof.

At this point, what you are doing is not reading, it is pure analysis. You have to detach yourself from the story and think only of the marks on the page. You might as well look at a screen full of code and count all of those.

The Words Rated guy said he knew it was a lot of work, and very decently warned me that they might get readers to fill out two different worksheets for the same book. “It will be trial and error to start seeing how things work and how difficult it is for people.”

I tested myself on Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of ​​Tranquility, at the time number 5 on the NYT’s list of hardcover novels. It was an exercise in eliminating joy and depth; I love Emily St. John Mandel but “reading” this way, I didn’t feel anything. And it was even harder than expected to turn words into data. Too many gray areas. Do “three children” mentioned only in passing, but living in the same house as the protagonist, count as characters? If an adjective is used to describe a character’s thought process or tone of voice, does that count as describing them? What counts as a new piece of dialogue? Etc. It took me 35 minutes to do the first 16 pages, and I’m not at all sure I did well.

I had actually applied for this role, thinking it would fit in well with the other things I do. But after this sad little trial I bailed out. For me, it was a lesson in reading the fine print, I guess, and asking questions, and a reminder of that eternal shitty truth: no job is ever as cool as it seems.

Brains are funny old things though. Maybe some of you are reading this and think I’m a jerk, and this job is child’s play, and you’d love such a number reading job and rush into it. In addition, the extreme flexibility of work is difficult to overcome. So good luck to everyone applying – hope you get it and it’s great and you smirk as the free books and cash roll in. I hope it’s the work that breaks the rule – the work that makes the books pay.

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