World Book Day is a wondrous hive of activity. There are exhibitions, school visits by authors, storytime sessions, the distribution of vouchers, trips to libraries and book shops, and all of this is, of course, A Very Good Thing, pointing as it does the way for many to an unfamiliar source of entertainment. But it does all have that slightly worthy, top-down feel that only heightens the real problem with reading, which is that it is and always has been terminally uncool (even in Victorian times, the boy with the hoop and stick got more kudos than the one who got the third volume of Jane Eyre before anyone else). What it really needs to get kids reading en masse is a few initiatives to rupture that link. A free Bacardi Breezer with every book next year, perhaps. Or black T-shirts for everyone that say, "Fuck off, I'm reading." Or borrow a trick from cigarette advertising and warn that this volume might give you cancer.Hand wringing over celebrity books (Guardian):
John Sutherland He rejoiced to concur with the common reader, said Dr Johnson. I don't exactly rejoice at the triumph of celebrity books, any more than I rejoice at the Economist, Spectator and New Statesman being elbowed off my local newsstand by the latest instalment of the Katie Price / Peter Andre / Alex Reid saga. But it's a fact of life. Live with it. We don't have much choice.The book world's not so mystery bloggers (Guardian):
The most venerable of these is more of a traditional newspaper diarist rather than a faceless guerrilla blogger, but as Horace Bent has embraced the internet and does appear on his (we must, of course, presume masculinity from his name) Twitter profile with a bag over his head (though this has, in an indication that publishing is rising out of the recession, recently acquired a drawn-on face and a couple of authorial cats).Informa has moved its tax domicile to Switzerland to save £12mm per year in UK tax. They are following the example set by others including UBM who relocated to Dublin. (Times)
Bent writes for the Bookseller and is, in his own words, the custodian of the Diagram prize for the oddest book title of the year.Bent's nuggets are often drawn from the dry sales figures the Bookseller avails itself of, with a nice line in arch commentary: "Sales of Andy Murray's memoir were up 150% last week – to 45 copies sold. Cripes, even A Scattering [small press Costa winner] sold more than that!" and sotto voce asides: "I wonder whether the three bespectacled members of Channel 4's TV Book Club went to Specsavers?"
The Times reprints the last interview with Dick Francis from September 2009 and in it he talks of collaboration with his son Felix who will keep the books coming no doubt (Times):
The Dick Francis way of doing things is clearly a winning formula and Francis has sold more than 75 million books since he first put pen to paper in 1957 for his autobiography, The Sport of Queens. “You know what you’re going to get with a Dick Francis,” says Felix. “Horses, jockeys, danger, good triumphing over evil, but not on a smooth and even path. I like to think, or at least I hope I’ve made the books a bit younger, and given them slightly more humour.” Though Francis senior can hardly be accused of losing his sense of fun - since having a foot amputated two years ago, he signs his letters “Legless Dick”.The Mail on Sunday is reporting 'significant interest' from possible buyers for Reader's Digest UK (Mail):
Richard Stanley Francis was born in Lawrenny, south Wales, in 1920, and grew up in Berkshire with horses and racing in his blood. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been steeplechase jockeys and horse breeders.
“I always loved riding, ever since I was so high” he says, stretching out his hand close to the floor. The outbreak of the Second World War delayed his foray into racing and in 1940, he joined the RAF, working as part of the ground crew repairing planes in the Middle East, before completing his pilot training and returning to England to fly Spitfires and Lancasters.
The administrators of Reader's Digest UK said today there was "significant interest" from potential buyers of the business and confirmed the magazine would continue to be published until at least April.The 72-year-old British edition of the magazine collapsed into administration earlier this month when its embattled US parent Reader's Digest Association (RDA) said it was no longer able to support it following a crisis in its pension fund.Today, administrator Philip Sykes, of Moore Stephens, said there was "significant interest" as he sought a buyer for the business.Mr Sykes said: 'While we are reasonably optimistic, it is difficult to predict a timescale, but negotiations with interested parties have begun.'Research suggests free on-line content does not hurt paid student enrollment (Chron HEd)
New research takes a close look at what happened when one institution, Brigham Young University, experimented with granting free access to the content of some of its distance-education courses. The study examined the cost of opening up those materials and the impact their publication had on paid enrollments, a concern for institutions worried that giving away free courses could cannibalize their ranks of paying students.And from the twitter (@personanondata) this week:
The data suggest they needn’t worry. Opening the courses “provided neither a large positive marketing effect that boosted enrollments nor a large negative free-rider impact decreasing enrollments,” wrote Justin K. Johansen, who conducted the study as a dissertation in instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young, where he also serves as director of independent study.
“Really, the OpenCourseWare ended up serving as an advertising tool,” Mr. Johansen said in an interview. Over all, the six opened courses attracted 13,795 visits and 445 paid enrollments in four months. But Mr. Johansen cautions that the limited length of the pilot study meant that a “statistically significant” measure of the impact of opening the classes on paid enrollment “was not possible.”
Guardian:Teenage fiction's death wishes "why are teenagers so fascinated by tales of death and dying?" (Guardian)
Seattle Public Library opens conversation on its future: Seattle Times "We want people to think big about the library," (ST)
A Win For Publishers: Gain an injunction against German file-sharing company Rapidshare AG (Inside HigherEd)
I've finally cracked Meacham's American Lion and hopefully I can find the time to finish it quickly.