Today in Books

New AI App Turns Famous Authors Into Reading Guides

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Rebecca Joines Schinsky

Chief of Staff

Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the executive director of product and ecommerce at Riot New Media Group. She co-hosts All the Books! and the Book Riot Podcast. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaschinsky.

Welcome to Today in Books, where we report on literary headlines at the intersection of politics, culture, media, and more.

New AI App Turns Authors Into Virtual Lit Professors

Roxane Gay, Marlon James, Margaret Atwood, and John Banville are among the well-known authors who have lent their voices and expertise to Rebind, a new AI-powered app intended “to replicate the dialogue between a student and teacher.” Rebind is the brainchild of John Kaag and Clancy Martin, philosophy professors and friends who believe that studying the classics can improve people’s lives if only they’d actually read them.

Drawing on their own experiences in the classroom, Kaag and Martin theorized that more people would be more willing to engage with classic texts if they could do it with the help of a knowledgeable guide. The solution? The pair spent the last two years having lengthy conversations—sometimes up to 20 hours—with authors and experts who agreed (for pay) to let Rebind turn them into chatbots. When Rebind launches on June 17, you’ll be able to read The Age of Innocence with guidance from Roxane Gay, get Marlon James’s take on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and consult John Banville about James Joyce’s famously difficult Dubliners.

This is the most creative and interesting book-related AI tech I’ve seen so far, and I’m happy to see big-name authors leading by example with their openness to exploring generative uses of this technology. What a refreshing change of pace from the publishing industry’s experiments with consumer-facing AI, which have been almost exclusively limited to (pretty disappointing) book recommendation tools to date! Yesterday, I told one such tool that my favorite book is Beloved by Toni Morrison, that I read for education, exploration, and curiosity, and that I wanted my next book to make me feel informed. Its top suggestions were The Alchemist and The Night Circus. So. The bar is low. Whether Rebind will clear it remains to be seen, and I’ll be watching with great interest.

I’m curious, readers: what do you think about Rebind and other book-related AI experiments? Have you seen anything awesome? Are you ignoring them in hopes they’ll go away? Let’s talk.

6 of Netflix’s Top 10 Shows Are Based on Books

I was today years old when I learned that the Addams Family originated in 1938 in single-panel comics for The New Yorker. If you think that’s interesting, you’ll be 👀 at the number of minutes folks spent watching Wednesday within the first 91 days of its release. Can you guess the other book- and comic-based shows that makeup Netflix’s most popular programming?

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