This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on weekdays.

The talk and texting app Discord is popular with video gamers who use it to develop strategies for blowing up virtual enemies.

But Mieke Göttsche and Bianca Visagie, avid readers from South Africa, use Discord to hold thoughtful discussions in book clubs.

I spoke to Göttsche and Visagie to better understand the appeal of Discord and why there have been talks with Microsoft about a transaction that could exceed $ 10 billion. When I talked about how their book club uses the app, I got a better understanding of what it was about.

They said they considered hosting book discussions on Zoom and trying Instagram group meetings, but Discord is the ideal combination of being flexible, collaborative, and relatively easy to use.

“Discord seemed to be the most widespread, and we could talk about several topics at the same time,” said Göttsche, 25, who was finishing her Masters in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Like group texts with family – but organized

Göttsche and Visagie took me through using Discord in their Read Better Book Club. Think of the app as if you were doing group texts with your family members, except that they are carefully organized by topic and have options to switch from text to voice chat seamlessly.

Each month’s book selection has its own thread of text called a channel. The women break each book down into four parts, and participants hop on Discord at the same time every Monday to discuss the chapters, mostly in angry flaps of text and emojis.

“I sit in my bed every Monday at 11pm and talk about books I love,” Visagie, who is 24 and lives outside of Johannesburg, told me in a conversation on Discord.

Quiet members are also welcome

Göttsche and Visagie tell participants to feel free to just watch. This is more welcoming to some readers. (One library in Ontario has a text-based “Introverts Book Club” on Discord.)

There are several channels within their book club, including one for members to talk a little about themselves and one for those playing the online collaborative game Among Us to get group voice calls about what’s going on.

Books other than this month’s selection are discussed on the channel “Current Read”. Recently there has been a debate about whether it is worth continuing to rummage through books or adding them to a “DNF” pile (not finished).

With tools to hide spoilers

They also use a feature in Discord to avoid ruining plot changes. A club member asked in “Current Reading” if anyone had read “Legendborn,” a fantasy novel for young adults. Visagie replied that she did, with details of what she thought of the book – but she chose to darken her text so people wouldn’t see spoilers. Only people who clicked on Visagie’s post could read her full message.

Discord is most commonly used by video gamers to collaborate on multiplayer games. However, users also use the screen share feature to play board games, and students have used it to work on homework together. (Discord also struggles with people who use their app for harm.)

A “salvation grace” in a difficult year

Göttsche and Visagie both blog about books and founded the club last year when they found they were less able to remember and digest what they were reading due to the pandemic life.

Like many others who have started virtual communities over the past year, the book club proved to be particularly valuable as normal life was disrupted. Göttsche mostly completed her master’s degree in Ireland virtually. And Visagie put her plan to move to China on hold after she recently completed her Masters.

“I miss the physical interaction,” said Visagie, “but the digital book club saved the pandemic.”

Intel, one of America’s pioneering tech companies, has been falling in the face lately. Competitors led the way in making the most advanced computer chips. It got so bad that Intel asked the US government for taxpayer help, and it seemed possible that the company was no longer making at least some of its chips. Can you imagine Ford having to outsource the production of cars to Toyota?

But on Tuesday, Intel did something bold. Rather than throwing in the towel to making computer chips, Intel said it would do the opposite: get bigger.

The company said it will spend $ 20 billion to build two new chip factories in Arizona. And surprisingly, wrote my colleague Don Clark, Intel plans to take orders to manufacture computer chips for other companies. This is something the global chip kings are doing in Taiwan and South Korea.

Intel’s choice may prove wise or misguided. We will see. But you have to give Intel some credit for chutzpah. We want giant companies to take risks that could pay off – to help themselves, but hopefully this will make better products for the rest of us.

The timing isn’t bad either. For both political and business reasons, this can be an ideal moment to get bigger in computer chip manufacturing.

Government officials in the US and Europe have become nervous about the pandemic-induced shortage of computer chips. They believe industries and the military would have more reliable supplies if more chips were made within their borders rather than in Asia.

Intel essentially promises to give these governments what they want, and the company wants something in return. Don reported that Intel hopes to negotiate with the Biden administration and other governments to help pay for these chip factories.

  • A financial service that doesn’t protect people’s money: What if young companies are sometimes not good at the basics? My colleague Kellen Browning wrote about horror stories of people whose accounts were frozen or looted by attackers using the Coinbase cryptocurrency savings app, and they said they couldn’t get Coinbase’s help.

  • A knife stab in Israel that calls into question online speaking rights: American internet companies have legal protections for what their users say online. However, my colleague David McCabe is investigating a novel legal argument that the powerful algorithms used by Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter could lead them to engage in offline crimes.

  • Selling a New York Times column for journalism: My colleague Kevin Roose explains the mania for NFTs, a type of digital collector’s item that represents the newest frontier in the cryptocurrency gold rush. Kevin has turned his column into an NFT and will be auctioning it off for charity.

This aging pet spider was having a hard time getting to their favorite hangout for plants. A small spider ramp helped him find his way. (Many thanks to my colleague Adam Pasick for discovering this. And um, don’t click on it if you’re going crazy with spiders.)

We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you would like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

If you do not have this newsletter in your inbox yet, please register here.