Monday, May 31, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 22: Censorship, Liquid Textbooks, E-Books, Revenge Reviews.

Sometimes your censor is someone you know from the NYTiimes:

But sometimes, depending on the country, the story is more nuanced — not genocide or crude repression but a more subtle chronicle, the fine shadings of control.

So it was for the South African-born writer and Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee, as an audience at the American University in Paris learned recently when he spoke of his experiences to students, faculty members and at least one American icon — the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 91, who was also, coincidentally, visiting Paris.

“Until I was 50 years old my books could be read by my fellow South Africans only after they had been approved by a committee of censors,” Mr. Coetzee, 70, told his listeners. But it was only around 2008 that an academic researcher offered to show him files he had unearthed relating to three of the author’s works from the 1970s and early 1980s.

In those years, apartheid pervaded the land, prescribing where people lived and worked, where they were born and buried, how they traveled, whom they loved: a law called the Immorality Act made miscegenation a crime. Yet one file, concerning Mr. Coetzee’s “In the Heart of the Country” (1977), seemed to find a way of bypassing those pseudo-moral strictures, noting that “although sex across the color line is described,” the book “will be read and enjoyed only by intellectuals.”

Comments and dedications on the fly leaves of books are lost in an eBook world (NYTimes):
If e-books end up largely replacing traditional books, where would the extra personality that comes with an inscription go? Where would the future Rings and Willies leave their personal markings? Would you really ask Tom Wolfe to type a note on your Kindle?
In a Times editorial Verlyn Klinkenborg hints at a big potential issue (NYTimes):
When it comes to digital editions, the assumption seems to be that all books are created equal. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the mass migration from print to digital, we’re seeing a profusion of digital books — many of them out of copyright — that look new and even “HD,” but which may well have been supplanted by more accurate editions and better translations. We need a digital readers’ guide — a place readers can find out whether the book they’re about to download is the best available edition.
A reuters (all over the place) recap of BookExpo (Wired):

Eileen Gittins of Blurb, which helps authors and companies self-publish, predicts e-books will make up half of all sales in five years. In 2009, the global publishing business, including print and digital, was worth $71 billion, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

“We’re seeing now in book publishing what had happened previously in the music publishing industry. And that is, a massive disruption of the business model,” she told Reuters.

The problem is that the cost of printing is a minor cost of publishing whereas developing work with an author and marketing it consume the lion’s share of costs.

That means, she said, that the book industry will become more like the movie business. “The book publishing industry is becoming more blockbuster focused,” she said.

Susan Petersen Kennedy, president of Penguin Group USA, said publishers will not make the same mistakes as the music industry, which had an epic struggle over electronic distribution and piracy and lost huge market share.

“It’s always treated as if the publishers are the Luddites,” she told Reuters in an interview. “The devices have not caught up with the content. Contrary to popular opinion, the book is actually so far more flexible.”
Canadian company Symtext has launched a product for educational publishers that attempts to "weave together print and electronic" content. (TheStar):

After graduating, Barker found financing through Flow Ventures, a tech startup accelerator that gives seed capital and operational support to early-stage ventures, which then helped to develop a more sophisticated version of the Liquid Textbook. Barker returned to the publishers he had initially approached and asked them for permission to feature chapters of their books in Liquid Textbooks.

In exchange, the publishers would receive royalties, similar to those paid for print course-packs. So far 70 publishers have agreed, including Oxford University Press Canada. Liquid Textbooks respect “the place of the publisher in developing content and also offer something beyond what the printed book offered to its end users,” says David Stover, president of Oxford University Press Canada. “We really feel it represents an alternative revenue channel.”

The interactive nature is exciting, Stover says. In a Liquid Textbook, instructors can post summaries or questions about the material. Students can then post comments on what instructors – and other students – wrote. “It allows an ongoing discussion around the material,” Stover says.

That’s exactly what Amanda Goldrick-Jones experienced when she used a Liquid Textbook to teach business writing at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. “Many of the students’ [online] comments were very insightful and so we would bring the comments into class discussion and students would elaborate on them, agree, disagree,” said Goldrick-Jones. “That added more depth and a bit more richness to class discussion.”

Recap of a eBook forum panel discussion at Buying and Selling e-Content (eContent):
So yes, it is time to rebuild the ebook infrastructure from the ground up-from author contracts to licensing models to delivery networks and mechanisms. Yet I would also propose that unlike other content types that have already faced much of the pain in this transition, text-based content must look more deeply at the user expectation developed through years of internet use. As we seek to rebuild publishing, let us reconsider what experience digital delivers to our readers that its page-flipping predecessors did not. Let's not become obsolete middlemen in the content value chain. Ebooks are crying out for nonlinear editors who can push the form and format to create a nonprint experience that will resonate with readers steeped in short-form, stone-skipping, socially intermediated digital reading experiences. These, like the potential I saw in The Elements, will deliver a user-optimized, multidimensional user experience that could do a lot more than save books. It can reinvent them ... and the industry along the way.
Information Today journalist Marydee Ojalga recaps the timeline and process in selling the Reed Business Information magazine titles and also speculates on issues for librarians with respect to archive content. (InfoToday)

Has PND favorite Philip Kerr gone off the reservation in posting a review on Amazon of his critics book? At least he appears to have used his own name (Telegraph):

“Good manners and honesty prompt me to mention that Alan Massie [sic] has reviewed my last two novels with a distinct lack of enthusiasm,” the post said.

“For the first review I say good luck to him. If he didn’t like my book, then that’s fair enough.

He’s entitled to his opinion which is that I can’t write for toffee. Maybe I can’t. “He should however, have excused himself from reviewing me a second time. In my opinion that’s bad manners. I’m of the opinion that authors should avoid reviewing the books of their peers and, usually, I stick to this principle, but I’ve made a special exception in Mister Massie’s case. . .”

Kerr is the creator of the Bernie Gunther books about a German private detective. The reviews by Massie concerned the two most recent instalments, A Quiet Flame and If The Dead Rise Not, published in March 2008 and October last year.

In the first, Massie concluded: “The novel is enjoyable enough, good-quality airport fiction. But that’s all it is, which is sad, because the early Bernie Gunther novels were so much more.”

If The Dead Rise Not featured “an unconvincing plot and a still less convincing love affair” but remained “an agreeably readable novel”. Last night, Massie was taking the matter in good humour.

“I am quite amused to find that Mr Kerr has taken such deep umbrage that he has clearly gone to the trouble of reading my book in order to slate it in an unsolicited review.

1 comment:

Radu Prisacaru said...

very well