Sunday, June 13, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 24 Freak Show, Penguin's Canadian Problem, Textbook Reinvention

On the road with an economist. Steven Dubner and the Superfreakonomics show (Observer):
It's bizarre to think that the crash might have made economics sexy.

I'm thinking it was less like sex appeal and maybe more like a sexually transmitted disease: it made people pay attention. There are a lot of guilds in the world still, professions that want to make their work appear as complicated as possible to protect their ability to charge a price for it. Lawyers, obviously. And macro-economists certainly. They want to seem like the Wizard of Oz. What the crash showed is that the magic doesn't work as well as they wanted us to believe.

Malcolm Gladwell pioneered this kind of roadshow; does he have a lot to answer for?

We owe Malcolm Gladwell a great debt. The Tipping Point made the world safe for a book with many different tales in it that are connected. I like to think we took it one stage further: we have no grand unifying theme. We don't even have a thesis.
Anthony Bourdain: My war on fast food (Observer) and an extract from his recent book:

McDonald's has been very shrewd about kids. Say what you will about Ronald and friends, they know their market – and who drives it. They haven't shrunk from targeting young minds – in fact, their entire gazillion-dollar promotional budget seems aimed squarely at toddlers. They know that one small child, crying in the back seat of the car of two overworked, overstressed parents, will more often than not determine the choice of restaurants. They know exactly when and how to start building brand identification and loyalty with brightly coloured clowns and smoothly tied-in toys. From funding impoverished school districts to the instalment of playgrounds, McDonald's has not shrunk from fucking with young minds in any way it can.
The Toronto Star's headline says it best regarding the resignation of the head of Penguin Canada (Star):
The Plot Thickens:

Last Tuesday, Davidar announced he was stepping down from his position to pursue writing and planned to relocate to his native India. The announcement shocked literary observers who saw the move as a sign the company was retreating from the Canadian publishing scene. Three days later, Penguin and Davidar, clarified the circumstances around his abrupt departure. In a statement Friday, Penguin Canada said Davidar was “asked to leave the company last month.” Davidar went a step farther: “The truth is that a former colleague accused me of sexual harassment and Penguin terminated my employment.”
Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) is not happy with book prizes and the industry generally (Independent):
"It'd be totally hypocritical to discourage people from joining my profession, which was good to me in the end, but I have qualms about being encouraging. The odds are stacked against you. I want to give people enough of an idea of the capriciousness of the industry." She went on to cast aspersions on the successes of some best-selling authors whose writing was simply not very good, she thought, but whose books were aided by the benefit of the powerful publishing publicity machine – citing Bret Easton Ellis' latest book, Imperial Bedrooms, as one such example. "There are a lot of books that end up selling that aren't very good. I've just read Bret Easton Ellis' new book and it's awful but it's had a big publicity campaign. "I'm writing a 1,500 word review of it – the size of which alone will overwhelm what I say. It's not a case of cream rising to the top but skimmed milk rising – of the 'no fat' kind. The book doesn't deserve the attention. It's ghastly. In the meantime, there are lots of books that will not be reviewed," she said. Shriver's Orange Prize-winning novel has gone on to sell over 600,000 copies in Britain since publication and is currently being adapted as a film starring Tilda Swinton.
Source Books CEO Dominique Raacah is profiled in Naperville Sun:
Sourcebooks was launched in 1987 and has produced more than 2,000 titles in its history, including a number of New York Times best sellers. But in the past two years, the company has been positioning itself to move into the digital age -- a time that Raacah says "we as a company have been very communicative about."

"The subject of the digital transformation of books is something we have been engrossed in and find the work very compelling," she said. "We've wanted to be aggressive about the digital era and were the sixth publisher of over 20,000 in the nation to sign on with Apple allowing access downloads of our titles on the iPad. The digital era will be a very important one for publishing."
In Inside Higher Ed: Reinventing the textbook (IHEd):
The higher education industry should at least agree on one thing when it comes to textbooks: the current system for publishing, distributing and pricing them is rather broken. The challenge lies in reimagining the textbook so that faculty construct the right set of learning materials that engages their students in deep learning, without bankrupting them. The open educational resources movement is already laying a foundation for that type of radical change. We need to move beyond and away from the textbook concept altogether.

In its place I recommend the term Curricular Resource Strategies (CRS), which I first heard used by Mark Milliron, deputy director for postsecondary improvement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to describe the new thinking in learning materials. CRS affords faculty greater freedom of choice and flexibility in delivering learning material to their students, offers the possibility of using everything across the content spectrum from costlier traditional print texts to the latest open digital formats, is drastically more affordable for students, allows faculty greater control of their intellectual property -- and still offers revenue streams for traditional textbook publishers and college bookstores.

While it may require more personal effort from faculty, the reward is a unique opportunity to create a new model for publishing academic learning content that avoids the mistakes of the old system. Faculty can learn from their librarian colleagues, whose past experiences in managing scholarly communication offers a lesson in how not to structure a publishing model.
From the twitter:

Demi Moore memoirs set for 2012 BBB news $2mm from Harpercollins.
Why Apple’s iBooks Numbers Are Meaningless - NYTimes
Self-pub and online services, e-books, and digital demand printing are joined into a new and powerful sector. Book Business Mag

And in Sport, Lancashire opened the first stage in their their redevelopment plan (Crains)

oh, and something about butter fingers (Guardian)

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