Sunday, January 18, 2009

Media Week 2

In the Wall Street Journal this weekend an article on Dash Hammett's, The Thin Man. Tom Nolan explores the deeper purpose of the book that many at the time of its publication thought of as a cast off. Many of us will know The Thin Man from the William Powell Myrna Loy movies. (Myrna is one of Mr. PND's favorites).

The author himself made no great claims for his creation. "Nobody ever invented a more insufferably smug pair of characters," he said of the book's married protagonists, Nick and Nora Charles; and in 1957, four years before his death, he would claim that "'The Thin Man' always bored me."

Yet Hammett -- often as hedonistic in life as the heavy drinkers in his stories -- was sober and industrious while writing the novel during his tenancy in an unimpressive New York hotel managed by his friend and fellow author Nathanael West; and, one way or another, the book and its characters would earn Dashiell Hammett (according to biographer Richard Layman) close to a million dollars.

The subsequent success of half a dozen MGM screwball-comedy movies inspired by "The Thin Man" and starring William Powell and Myrna Loy perpetuated the impression among serious readers and critics that Hammett's last effort was in all ways a lesser work and maybe even a worthless one. But a careful reading of this novel (and what better birthday present could a book receive?) reveals a still-sparkling comedy of manners within which lurks a vision of human affairs as grim as any social realist's.

Ann Patchett in the same newspaper (WSJ) pays respect to her library but more importantly sees some impressive changes in the reading habits of the youth (or as Vinnie would say Yoots);

According to a recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts, our Nashville library is bearing out a national trend. For the first time in more than 25 years, the number of people reading fiction is on the rise.

Am I surprised? No, but then I see the world of reading from a very particular angle. I spend a lot of time speaking in schools and town halls and public libraries where people who read and read and read pack the auditoriums because they want to talk about literature. Inevitably someone in the audience raises their hand to ask me how worried I am about the crisis in publishing, the rise of electronic books, and the death of the reading. "What death of reading?" I say. "Look at all of you." I have long refused to participate in the last rites of what is both my passion and my profession. I meet too many people who stay up half the night racing towards a final chapter. We are a hardy bunch, we readers. The rumor is we'll play around with a Kindle or an I-Book for awhile but eventually give up on the whole endeavor, the logic being who would want to read a book when there are so many enticing video games to play and Web sites to surf. But I'm more of the Charlton Heston school: you'll get my paperback of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" away from me when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

One of the largest Public Television companies WGBH Boston has sold its Music catalog to a Canadian company. (I am not sure if we should be pissed about this or not - not because it is a Canadian company but isn't this a public asset since public dollars fund public television?)
Canadian music publishing firm ole has purchased a worldwide majority ownership interest in the music rights of the catalog of WGBH Boston, the producer of television and on-line programming for PBS. The amount paid for the deal was not disclosed.

The terms of the deal include co-ownership of the music in 1,200 individual episodes and programs, as well as a substantial stake in the music rights for all WGBH programming in the near future. WGBH programs include "Antiques Roadshow," "American Experience," "Nova," "Frontline," "Masterpiece," "Arthur" and "Curious George."
Reed Elsevier sold $1.5billion in debt to fund the Choice Point acquisition. Telegraph

OCLC bows to significant (or at least vocal opposition) to the revision of its data usage terms and will convene a review board to examine the terms all over again. This time will a little more openness.

The purpose of this Review Board is to engage the membership and solicit feedback and questions before the new policy is implemented. In order to allow sufficient time for feedback and discussion, implementation of the Policy will be delayed until the third quarter of the 2009 calendar year.

In November 2008, OCLC announced that it was implementing the new Policy to update the existing Guidelines for Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records. The goals of the new Policy are to modernize record use and transfer practices for application on the Web, foster new uses of WorldCat data that benefit members and clarify data sharing rights and restrictions. The Policy is intended to foster innovative use of shared records, while protecting the investment OCLC members have made in WorldCat, and ensuring that use of WorldCat records provides benefit to the membership.

"We have listened to questions and concerns about the revised Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records and have concluded that the issues surrounding the Policy needed further review and discussion,” said Larry Alford, Chair, OCLC Board of Trustees, and Dean of University Libraries, Temple University.

Lesson to publishers: When you run out of space don't simply drop content - especially when the content may be of interest to a key demographic: (MediaPost).
TV Guide is dropping the listings for youth-oriented channels the CW and MTV, reports Variety. CEO Scott Crystal said it was a space consideration. The magazine can only run 70 channels in its prime-time grid. The trade mag speculated that younger viewers who watch CW and MTV may get their information from set-top box listings.
Eminence Gris Jason Epstein has An Autopsy of the Book Business in The Daily Beast and he concludes:
The effect of this post-Gutenberg Revolution will be to radically decentralize the marketplace for books and greatly reduce the cost of entry for would-be publishers. Because these changes imply a superfluity of books—some readable and valuable and many others not—the need for filtering and branding is a vital task for future librarians and bibliographers. Meanwhile, through today’s gloom we may discern a spectacularly bright future in which the rewards to writers and readers and even to publishers will be unprecedented as world-wide multilingual backlists expand online in a cultural revolution orders of magnitude greater than Gutenberg’s world-changing technology generated five centuries ago.

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