Sunday, September 27, 2009

Media Week 38: Carver, Google Scholar, Espresso Books, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek

Per usual most of the following were on the twitter (@personanondata).

Long feature article on Raymond Carver and long time editor Gordon Lish in the Observer.

The pair had worked together for years – Lish, a dashing, influential literary figure once known as Captain Fiction, had published Carver's first stories in Esquire magazine. (They had met in Palo Alto, when Carver was, as his wife later put it, a "practising alcoholic" working at a textbook publisher's.) Lish later became an editor at Knopf and championed many other writers whose styles were unlike Carver's – Don DeLillo, for instance, and Richard Ford. He went on to give writing workshops at which he managed, by all accounts, to be gnomic, crushing and inspiring in relatively equal measure. Lish's own fiction – he wrote stories and novels – is compact, antic and self-reflexive, with titles such as Wouldn't A Title Just Make It Worse?.

Carver was about as far from this world – both in content and style – as it was possible to be. His characters worked in diners and motels; they had amputated limbs and their families had left them, with or without furniture; their working lives, their cropped, half-understood thoughts had not been seen in fiction. Lish had edited Carver's first collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? and together they had composed a taut new voice full of left-field desire and hopeless dread. As Carver put it in the letter of 8 July: "You've given me some degree of immortality already."

Ex-Reed Elsevier CEO Sir Crispin Davis now favorite to become ITV Chairman (Guardian):

"The committee has therefore concluded that it would not be in the best interests of the company to appoint Mr Ball as ITV's chief executive," it added.

ITV insiders maintain that Ball expressed an unwillingness to work with the committee's leading candidate to replace Grade, the former Reed Elsevier boss Sir Crispin Davis, and expressed doubts about another potential candidate, the former Channel 4 chairman and founder of BMI, Sir Michael Bishop. After meeting Ball, Crosby is understood to have got the impression that Ball wanted a mere figurehead as chairman.

"The board was close to appointing Ball and told him about some of the chairman candidates and he told them he did not like any of them," said a source involved in the talks. "The board just felt like it could no longer go on dealing with this man."


PD James is interviewed by The Telegraph:

She has a crack at explaining the genre’s appeal in Talking about Detective Fiction, an idiosyncratic and entertaining primer written at the suggestion of the Bodleian Library, which is publishing the book and to which James is donating hardback royalties. It is not a comprehensive history – she does not read much contemporary crime fiction apart from books by Ian Rankin and her old friend Ruth Rendell – but an imaginative response to some of her favourite authors.

The 89-year-old Lady James is trying to recall what first drew the teenage Phyllis, along with millions of other readers in the Thirties, to the so-called Golden Age detective stories.

“Those books suggested we live in a moral, comprehensible universe, at a time when there was a great deal of disruption and violence at home and abroad, and of course the ever-present risk of war. And we live in times of unrest now, so perhaps we may soon enter another Golden Age.”

Peter Jacso writing in Library Journal takes a long critical look at Google Scholar (LJ):
Google’s algorithms create phantom authors for millions of papers. They derive false names from options listed on the search menu, such as P Login (for Please Login).

Very often, the real authors are relegated to ghost authors deprived of their authorship along with publication and citation counts. In the scholarly world, this is critical, as the mantra “publish or perish” is changing to “publish, get cited or perish.”

Compounding the problem, the inflated publication and citation counts produced by GS will embarrass those who take the reported numbers at face value, as they discover that many of the publications, randomly scattered in the detailed result lists, are just variant formats of the same paper, and the citations are mismatched.

While GS developers have fixed some of the most egregious problems that I reported in several reviews, columns and conference/workshop presentations since 2004—such as the 910,000 papers attributed to an author named “Password”—other large-scale nonsense remains and new absurdities are produced every day.

On-Demand Books' Espresso Machine continues its glacier like expansion with the addition of the Harvard Bookstore (UWire):

The Espresso Book Machine—produced by New York-based firm On Demand Books—has been rolled out to a select few stores to date, but the one at Harvard Book Store will be the first with access to the 2 million public-domain texts digitized by Google, which also announced a deal with On Demand last Thursday.

After the unveiling on Sept. 29, Harvard Book Store customers will be able to order a printed copy of Google’s titles or On Demand’s 1.6 million works—all in public domain because they were copy-righted before 1923.

Store Marketing Manager Heather Gain said owner Jeffrey Mayersohn ’73 bought the machine in pursuit of a broader vision for the store—which he took over from long-time owner Frank Kramer last October.

“He would like to provide customers with every book ever written,” Gain said.

The Espresso Book Machine will be able to print a 300-page paperback book in four minutes, according to Gain, who added that printed books will be competitively priced and indistinguishable from those sitting on the shelves.

Customers will be able to request a book to be printed online or in the store, after which they can either pick it up in-store within minutes or have the book delivered by bicycle either the same or next day. Books can also be shipped to domestic or overseas locations.

See also The NYTimes.

JISC (UK) has undertaken a market study of the impact of eBooks in higher education and their initial reports indicates some startling and unintuitive results (JISC):
The current estimate of revenue generated from publishers selling textbooks direct to students in the UK is £200 million. Publishers are therefore extremely cautious about making e-textbooks available, free at the point of use, through the university library, in case it cannibalises print sales. During the course of the project, the impact on the sales of the print equivalents of the 36 e- books licensed and made freely available to all UK higher education intuitions has been monitored. The data we have suggests that the availability of the e-versions has no impact on the print sales and that, certainly at the moment, e-textbooks are a back up to the print and will co-exist. JISC Collections is encouraging publishers to think of e-textbooks not as a threat, but as a new and different market.
Readers Digest announced it is consolidating its international web presence onto one digital platform (RD):

The Reader's Digest Association is launching a major new global initiative to bring its flagship iconic brand into the international digital arena, it was announced today by Eva Dillon, President, Reader's Digest Community. The company is rolling out a new Global Web Platform in over 40 international markets including China to debut live this week. The launch is a key part of a wider digital monetization strategy that will see Reader's Digest leverage its branded content on a variety of platforms.

Dillon said, "As one of the world's largest producers of original content, Reader's Digest continues its transformation in creating a global brand experience online. This new platform allows each of our international markets to focus on driving digital revenue via advertising sales and e-commerce, and creates a compelling online experience for new and existing customers."

Content re-packaging is a key component of the new Global Web Platform and the company is looking to leverage its existing material, as well as developing Web-exclusive content going forward.

Pressure builds on the commercial activities of the BBC particularly with respect to the company's purchase of Lonely Planet (Bookseller):

A report published on Wednesday (23rd September) by the Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Committee branded BBC Worldwide's purchase of Lonely Planet "the most egregious example" of the company's expansion beyond its existing remit. The committee added that if the Trust had been "a more responsible oversight body" more thought would have been given to the impact of the purchase on the sector as a whole.

The acquisition was originally resisted by rival publishers, who called for a review by the Office of Fair Trading at the time. Time Out guides m.d. Peter Fiennes said that this report had really "upped the ante". He added: "It's really significant that they have singled out the Lonely Planet acquisition. Before it was just one of a number of things . . . they've said it's quite clearly wrong." Fiennes said that there is now "so much more pressure" on the Trust to do something about the acquisition.

Adam Hodgkin makes some suggestions for Bloomberg in their thoughts over the acquisition of BusinessWeek and he concludes, (EE):

Many of these recommendations amount to saying "Make Business Week more like The Economist". One can be sure that The Economist does feature in a competitive analysis of what has gone wrong with BW, but The Economist also has not yet figured out how to deliver a solid audience of digital subscribers. BW will have some advantages in getting this right first. This sale is a break with the past. So much has not been working out well for BW in its digital initiatives that it is time that some sacred cows were sacrificed and some simple steps taken. Building digital subscriptions is the obvious path that needs to be developed.
Great to see Little Dorrit do so well at the Emmys (Guardian):

Little Dorrit, starring Matthew Macfadyen and Sir Tom Courtenay, was named best mini-series and won a brace of awards for writing, directing, art direction and costumes, chalking up more prizes than any other programme. But many of the most prestigious Emmys went to familiar US favourites. The sitcom 30 Rock, starring Alec Baldwin as an egotistical television executive, was named top comedy for the third consecutive year while Mad Men, a critically acclaimed depiction of politically incorrect 1960s advertising executives, won best drama for the second year in a row.

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