Monday, September 06, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 36: Graphic Conrad, Books and Houses, Television, Disney's Education Play and Twitter

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness has been published as a graphic novel (Guardian):

To reinforce the geographical and historical immediacy of Conrad's tale, the graphic novel is interspersed with excerpts from The Congo Diary – the journal Conrad kept of his 1890 voyage up the river.Anyango's research also led her to the story of a man from a village in the Upper Congo called Nsala. She came across a photograph of him sat on a step contemplating the hand and foot of his daughter, which had been cut off by guards sent to his village by the Anglo Belgian India Rubber Company.

The men, ordered to attack Nsala's village for failing to provide the company with enough rubber, devoured his wife and daughter, leaving only the child's hand and foot."I put him on one page, and similar portraits on others, so the Congolese characters have resonance at least for me, even if they remain stereotyped because of the existing narrative," she said.

In her efforts to ensure the authenticity of the uniforms she drew — the protagonist, Marlow, is given a cap with a prominent Belgian lion badge — Anyango was shocked to discover how markedly Belgian perceptions of the occupation of Congo still vary.

For some, it is a shameful episode in the country's history, while others still view it as a benign experience despite the evidence uncovered by recent histories such as Adam Hochschild's 1998 book, King Leopold's Ghost, which laid bare the barbarism inflicted on Congo.

Contemplating the end of the physical book (WaPo):

But what a loss to the ways books represent, bedevil and impeach us. They represent us, of course, as anyone knows who has made basic decisions about which books go in the living room and which get confined to less public places. That they bedevil us is clear if you have moved recently or live burdened with closets filled with books -- books under the bed, books in the attic -- or if you have ever saved a book for years or decades only to discover, upon desperately needing it, that it has been lost in the general deluge of too many books. But they also impeach us, and it is that function that electronic readers can never replicate.

A wall of books is mortality made geometric, a pattern of hope and loss, ambition and failure. There's so much fraud lurking on our shelves, fraudulent books such as "My Sister and I." Purported to be by Nietzsche, it is suspiciously more readable, lurid and fun than anything by Nietzsche. But there's also the record of our own fraud, the books we intend to read but never will, the books of which we remember no more than what is printed on the dust jacket -- yet claim to possess in some deeper way.

There are books we pretend to keep for reference, but in fact keep only because they look so damn fine on the shelf. And then there are the books where should-have-read blends with may-have-read, and we're too embarrassed to confess we can't remember which is the case ("Catcher in the Rye"). There are also the books of hollow triumph, the great tomes of philosophy read in college, which remain on the shelves like snapshots taken from the summit of Everest or like pants in the closet that will never again slide up our thighs without tearing.

The noise about online TV may not matter: Old line media firms are firmly in control of internet video (Economist):

Even Google, the arch-disrupter, is looking tame. The firm is building its browser and search bar into high-end televisions, hoping that couch potatoes will use it to look for programmes. If some of them can be directed to shows on YouTube, Google will be able to siphon advertising away from television.

It would be a fine plan if YouTube had lots of high-quality programmes, but it hasn’t. (The Onion, a humorous website, once imagined a YouTube contest challenging users to make a “good” video.) So YouTube will probably have to pay top dollar for films, limiting its appeal and turning a once subversive force into a humdrum distributor. Old-fashioned television is hardly being swept away.

At present people watch online video for three hours per month, according to Nielsen, compared with 158 hours for old-style television. And the early evidence suggests that those whizzy new connected sets are not always connected. A recent poll for Forrester Research found that many people didn’t fully understand the devices they had bought, and only a few had recommended them to their friends. They may learn. But such apathy from early adopters suggests that content owners will have plenty of time to prepare for the revolution.

Looking at Disney's education play in China (Economist):

The initial development costs, which Disney has not disclosed, must have been huge. Within a decade the programme will have a material impact on Disney’s results, predicts Andrew Sugerman, who runs it. Disney hopes to keep doubling the number of Chinese students it teaches every year for a while. This is a risky venture—long-term, complex and in an area China considers sensitive: education. Yet the potential rewards are huge.

The very complexity of education means that it is less vulnerable to the piracy that usually stops Western media firms from making money in China. A bootleg copy of “Mulan” is much cheaper than the real thing and possibly just as good, other than the fact that it is stolen. It is harder to fake a good education.

Disney’s focus groups find that for Chinese parents, “education means everything”. English, in particular, is viewed as a ticket to the wider world, says Mr Sugerman. Studies commissioned by Disney estimate that the market for children’s English-language education in China is growing by 12% annually and will reach $3.7 billion by 2012. That may be too modest. Adele Mao, an analyst at OLP Global, a research and consulting firm, reckons the market is already nearly $6 billion a year and is growing by 20%.

There is an equally dynamic market for adult education. One Chinese company which caters to all ages, New York-listed New Oriental Education, has a market valuation of $3.8 billion. Dozens of others have entered the business.

From the twitter:

Grisham Dreams of a Desk Job - NYTimes. His own #jobsivehad

Source Interlink Takes on Massive Photo Digitization Project Folio

PND Blogpost: Elsevier Introduces SciVerse PND A significant change for the platform.

Los Angeles Times: Our 12 favorite non-book literary oddities on EBay Jacket Copy

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