Sunday, June 14, 2009

Media Week 23: Book Titles, E-Books and Text Books, Orphans,

Some of these appeared on The Twitter.

Robert McCrum does some thinking about book titles: (Observer)

Actually, if you're stuck for a title, Shakespeare is a good place to start: Brave New World (The Tempest); Remembrance of Things Past (The Sonnets); The Sound and the Fury (Macbeth); The Dogs of War (Julius Caesar); Cakes and Ale (Twelfth Night). Apart from quoting Donne (For Whom the Bell Tolls) or the Bible (The Power and the Glory) or TS Eliot (A Handful of Dust), you can fall back on theory. Some say a good title must contain a conflict (Crime and Punishment); others that one word is best (Atonement; Money); or that exotic confections (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) make good box office.

The truth is, as William Goldman has it, "nobody knows anything".

Seth Godin rants about Marketing textbooks.
The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you're done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester. Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.
Burning a 'gay teen book' in Wisconsin could become a legal matter (Observer):

Siems said there was clearly "a bit of theatre" in the lawsuit which followed. "They've filed a lawsuit which has little possibility of going forward legally, and they're asking for damages which include the right to burn a book. It does seem more to gain publicity than a real serious challenge." But, he said, PEN remained very concerned about the impulse behind the claim. "This is a group of people trying aggressively to rid the library of these books and that's very serious - it needs to be fought."

The claimants, he said, "have a right to continue to express their views, and this in a way is a creative attempt to express those views". But it's "also a dangerous game when you're talking about something like book burning, calling on the law to burn books. It's certainly completely un-American, and if they paused, I think they would agree."

JISC (UK) produce a report that suggests that the potential Orphan work problem in the UK could extend to 50mm items. It's not just about books.
The scale and impact of Orphan Works across the public sector confirms that the presence of Orphan Works is in essence locking up culture and other public sector content and preventing organisations from serving the public interest. Works of little and/or variable commercial value but high academic and cultural significance are languishing unused. Access to an immense amount of this material, essential for education and scholarship, is consequently badly constrained, whilst scarce public sector resources are being used up on complex and unreliable ‘due diligence’ compliance. Without any kind of UK or European Union-wide legal certainty, there will remain a major risk for all users of Orphan Works. The quantity of Orphan Works and their impact is only accelerating as content is being created and digitised without adherence to any single internationally recognised standard for capturing provenance information.
Six lessons from an e-Book project at Northwest Missouri State college: (Chronicle)

Then the university ran a pilot study with the Sony Reader, a device much like the Kindle (Sony was more responsive to the university's calls than Amazon was). University officials learned some sobering lessons about electronic books. Students who got the machines quickly asked for their printed books back because it was so awkward to navigate inside the e-books (though a newer version of the device works more gracefully).

Mr. Hubbard still dreams of lighter bookbags and lower costs, but the university is now moving more slowly — and running tests involving several different types of e-books. Publishers are clamoring to be part of the experiment.

Peter Olson examines what the Kindle really means: (BookBusiness)

The real issues are:

1. How can we enhance the reader’s overall experience—not just reading, but browsing, purchasing and library-building, and not just through print or digital media, but through a combination of both?

2. How can we create pricing options that will increase demand for books and offset the decline in book readership?

3. How can we build a new business model that is attractive to authors and sufficiently profitable for publishers and online retailers?

Asking baby boomers whether they will forego their affinity for printed books is irrelevant. The key to the future is whether e-books will be interesting enough to Generations X, Y and the millennials to capture a significant portion of their entertainment spending.

In Connecticut they take the development of Math courses into their own hands: (NYTimes)
So the district’s frustrated math teachers decided to rewrite the algebra curriculum, limiting it to about half of the 90 concepts typically covered in a high school course in hopes of developing a deeper understanding of key topics. Last year, they began replacing 1,000-plus-page math textbooks with their own custom-designed online curriculum; the lessons are typically written in Westport and then sent to a program in India, called HeyMath!, to jazz up the algorithms and problem sets with animation and sounds.

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