Sunday, January 16, 2011

Media Week (V4-N2): ISBN Identification, UK Libraries under threat, Historian Hobsbawm, The Internet and Authors

We released a summary of the BISG study on eBook identification this week: BISG

Education in the UK is migrating away from the 'academic year' construct (Independent):

Many of the courses recruiting for January/February starts are for vocational areas, in particularly nursing degrees, which can be followed at several universities including Thames Valley, Sheffield Hallam, and West of Scotland. These are popular among the growing number of applicants in their late twenties and thirties, who are no longer locked into the traditional academic year milestones.

But several other factors contribute to the growing popularity of a winter start. More students want to have their A-Level results before applying to university; some want to transfer from a course that started in October but hasn't quite worked out; and some want to start a course fitting in with a six-month break rather than a full gap year. A large proportion of winter start places go to overseas students, particularly those from countries where the academic year runs from January to December, a prominent example being Australia.

Students from abroad make up a large slice of the 700 or so joining winter start courses at Middlesex University, based mainly in the departments of business and engineering and information sciences.

"The delayed start is attractive to our overseas students for two main reasons," explains Margaret House, deputy vice-chancellor at Middlesex. "Firstly they may have had problems getting visas in time for a start in the preceding September; and secondly because it, in effect, saves them half a year's living costs."

Libraries are under serious threat in the UK (Independent):

Encouraged by David Cameron's Big Society philosophy, councils across the UK say volunteers must replace paid staff if libraries are to be saved. This week the Government will unveil its plan to give communities the right to bid to take over state-run services. But experts say that politicians have failed to understand the social, cultural and educational importance of libraries, and the role librarians play in providing services.

The Labour leader Ed Miliband said yesterday his party would back campaigns to save libraries as "a place where community is built, as families get to know each other and form friendships". A national day of action is planned for 5 February in libraries serving poor and affluent areas, countering claims by a quango leader that libraries are the preserve of the "privileged, mainly white middle classes".

Lib Dem and Tory ministers have privately expressed concern about the threat posed to libraries, but remain anxious to make clear that under the coalition, local decisions are taken without Whitehall interference. Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, has warned councils repeatedly against cutting frontline services without first looking for savings elsewhere. "The Government has delivered a tough but fair local government settlement that ensures the most vulnerable communities are protected," a spokesman said.

Library emptied in effort to fight closure (Independent)

A staple of any English history class: Eric Hobsbawm: a conversation about Marx, student riots, the new Left, and the Milibands As he publishes his latest book, 93-year-old historian Eric Hobsbawm talks communism and coalition with one of Britain's newer breed, Tristram Hunt, now a Labour MP (Guardian):

And after one hour of talking Marx, materialism and the continued struggle for human dignity in the face of free-market squalls, you leave Hobsbawm's Hampstead terrace – near the paths where Karl and Friedrich used to stroll – with the sense you have had a blistering tutorial with one of the great minds of the 20th century. And someone determined to keep a critical eye on the 21st.

Tristram Hunt At the heart of this book, is there a sense of vindication? That even if the solutions once offered by Karl Marx might no longer be relevant, he was asking the right questions about the nature of capitalism and that the capitalism that has emerged over the last 20 years was pretty much what Marx was thinking about in the 1840s?

Eric Hobsbawm Yes, there certainly is. The rediscovery of Marx in this period of capitalist crisis is because he predicted far more of the modern world than anyone else in 1848. That is, I think, what has drawn the attention of a number of new observers to his work – paradoxically, first among business people and business commentators rather than the left. I remember noticing this just around the time of the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, when not very many plans were being made for celebrating it on the left. I discovered to my amazement that the editors of the [in-flight] magazine of United Airlines said they wanted to have something about the Manifesto. Then, a bit later on, I was having lunch with [financier] George Soros, who asked: "What do you think of Marx?" Even though we don't agree on very much, he said to me: "There's definitely something to this man."

Laura Miller believes authors have avoided "dealing with the Internet" but this is now changing she says (Guardian):

Venturing back in time isn't the only option for novelists loath to address the mass media that most of us marinate in. There are also those populations cut off from the mainstream for cultural reasons, such as recent immigrants and their families – a very popular choice of fictional subject these days. And then there are those at the geographical margins, living in remote rural areas where broadband access is hard to come by. It's remarkable how many recent American literary novels and short stories are set on ranches, from writers as established as Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy to newcomers such as Maile Meloy and CE Morgan. And this is especially curious when you consider that the vast majority of the people who write and read these works live in cities and suburbs. Perhaps it's because the characters in ranch novels spend most of their time contemplatively driving long distances in trucks or climbing up snowy mountains to rescue stranded animals, scenarios in which there's absolutely no danger that a TV will be switched on or a laptop flipped open. (Real-life ranchers, of course, treasure their satellite dishes.)

As the showdown in Wallace's graduate workshop indicated, the American novelist is buffeted by two increasingly contradictory imperatives. The first comes as the directive to depict "The Way We Live Now" Рa phrase whose origins in the title of a Trollope novel have been almost entirely obscured by countless deployments in reviews and publisher's blurbs. Clich̩ it may be, but the notion that no one is better suited to explain the dilemmas of contemporary life than the novelist persists. After the 9/11 attacks, every fiction writer of note reported receiving dozens of calls from magazine editors, each looking for insights and ruminations that a whole industry full of accomplished journalists was apparently insufficiently thoughtful to summon on its own.

Melville and Hawthorne (Telegraph):

We don’t have all the information we might like to possess about their friendship, but we do know that once, in a snowstorm, Hawthorne appeared at the back door of Arrowhead and was invited to spend the night. The two authors sat in Melville’s study all night, talking in low voices, arousing the curiosity of his wife, mother and sister, who listened closely at the door.

The extent of their intimacy is unknown, though it has intrigued biographers for a very long time. For the most part, as Sophie Hawthorne said, Melville poured his heart out, and Hawthorne listened. Certainly the few extant letters of Melville to his mentor are full of yearning. In one, he imagined the two friends sitting down together in Paradise in eternal conversation: “O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so distress us.”

iDiots' Guide To Publishing On The iPad (MediaPost):
Print publishers are screwing up what could be their biggest opportunity. Many continue to botch their Web strategy, and are now doubling down by getting their iPad strategy completely wrong.

The core of the problem lies in how publishers think about the iPad. Just look at the headlines: "Will the iPad save print?" asks one; "Savior crucified" proclaims another.

These headlines make two huge assumptions, both of which are totally wrong.

Chasing History: The first mistake is the belief that print should be "saved."

"Saving print" is the wrong goal, and chasing it will almost certainly kill publishers. Survival in the face of new technology often requires us to abandon our old ideas. We don't need a print experience on the iPad -- we need a better content consumption experience for the iPad.
And from the twitter this week:

The photography of Vivian Maier Amazing found collection of unknown photographer

Downton Abbey book rights spark £1million bidding war -

The Guardian: Librarians:'We do so much more than shelve books and say shhh' Provide "raw materials of social mobility"

New MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative Aims to Improve Independent Online Learning -

Library Journal - CES 2011: Up Close with the Kno Tablet

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