Monday, April 16, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N16): Texas Custom, Apps For Education, William Boyd, Official Chinese Authors, + More

Tarrant county (Texas) attempts to save students money on textbooks runs into faculty resistance (IHEd):
The push for cheaper textbooks isn’t new, and the spat in Tarrant County frames larger debates about the use of open-source texts and the best way to increase student learning while controlling costs. Some community colleges have saved money by working with publishers to create custom books for widespread adoption. Some textbook writers have started making their materials free on the Web, and a recent Rice University effort expanded that medium. Tarrant County administrators hope that using a common textbook in every class will help push costs down, which will allow more students to buy the books and in turn perform better in the classroom.
But some professors aren’t convinced. The faculty resolution expressed agreement with the goal of reducing textbook costs, but questioned whether this was the best way to do it. We "ask that the 'common course textbook' plan be suspended and that the college faculty be allowed to develop meaningful, realistic strategies for reducing student textbook costs to be implemented by the fall semester of 2014," the resolution reads.
Efforts to open up education information might create an App culture which has educators and technologists keenly interested (Chronicle):
In the case of the MyData button being promoted by the Education Department, it's not clear how many different types of information will be made available, although the data will exist in machine-readable, open formats. Participants will be required to specify how the exported data are formatted. Because participants are not required to export data in an identical format, a department official explains, developers may have to do more work upfront, but the information will get into students' hands more quickly.
At least one company, Fidelis Education, has committed itself to use the data students can download from the Veterans Administration's blue button.
As an enterprise that helps veterans pursue higher education and training for civilian careers, Fidelis plans to use the blue button's military-service data in the admissions process to verify that applicants are who they claim to be. Gunnar Counselman, a co-founder and chief executive of the company, says having access to an even more robust set of data about alumni satisfaction and employment could provide students with a personalized way to pick colleges that goes beyond rankings.
He's not convinced that such data will be available anytime soon. But the emergence of start-ups has had a "Hawthorne effect" on universities, he says—they're more open as a result of being observed so intently by outsiders.
 Profile of William Boyd who has been tasked with giving James Bond some new assignments (Independent):
They're still reviewed, however, in the serious, literary-fiction pages of the national press. Although Restless was a "Richard and Judy" selection in 2007, it won the high-profile Costa Award. Literary editors and judges refuse to relinquish their view of Boyd as a superior literary being, a writer of subtlety, poignancy and psychological nuance, as his earlier novels revealed him to be. He is, they admit, a 21st-century avatar of Graham Greene, who blithely interspersed "serious" works (The End of the Affair, A Burnt-Out Case) with action-thriller "entertainments" such as Brighton Rock and Our Man in Havana. The reading public couldn't care tuppence about such matters. They buy Boyd's books in hundreds of thousands because they know him to be the most reliably page-turning of modern English novelists, full of old-fashioned storytelling virtues, of place evocation, pace, drama and sex.
Of the generation nominated "Best of Young British Writers" by Granta in 1983 – the generation of Amis, Barnes, McEwan, Rushdie, Rose Tremain, Pat Barker, A N Wilson, Adam Mars-Jones et al – Boyd's probably the author for whom ordinary readers feel the most fondness. The Queen is known to be a fan, though possibly more because of his Commonwealth background and blue-eyed charm than his prose style. He lives in a handsome Chelsea townhouse, with his wife Susan, editor-at-large at the American Harper's Bazaar magazine (he married her at 23 – they've been married for 37 years, and have no children) and in a converted farmhouse in Bergerac, where he owns a vineyard, Chateau Pecachard. For a chap who turned 60 in March, it seems an enviable life.
China is the focus at London Bookfair which predictably has raised some commentary about how some authors where chosen over others (Independent):
Did the BC have any alternative? Almost certainly not. But, via its literature director, it has chosen to tell us, chillingly, that "There was no disagreement with the Chinese government about the final list of... writers who regularly appear on well-respected lists of the best novelists and poets in China." Indeed. But so do many other Chinese writers - who live not only in exile but also at home, where they may have a vexing relationship with the cultural authorities. That's not to mention the dozens brutally silenced in the courts. At Amnesty International, the Tiananmen Square veteran Shao Jiang has greeted the run-up to the Book Fair with an invaluable day-by-day log of imprisoned Chinese writers: learn their stories at blogs/countdown-china.
The non-state Chinese Independent PEN Centre comments, with grave courtesy: "We cannot but ask: to understand Chinese literature, should the British people rely on... recommendations by the Chinese government alone?" The Centre has objected to the British Council's collaboration with the GAPP, saying that if it "wishes to promote an authentic cultural exchange in a free and civilised way, please do not disregard the independent writers whose works are dedicated to shaping Chinese civil society".
Juicy gripping true crime story reviewed in the Observer:
In 1877, Harriet Staunton's husband and three others were accused of starving her to death and lurid newspaper reports of the Penge murder trial held the nation's rapt attention. A bestselling novel about the affair – written in 1934 and now republished – proves as gripping today .
Creating, writing editing and producing a magazine as performance art (Observer):
The idea to create twenty-four began selfishly: I wanted to make a magazine. For me, print magazines are a fascinating medium, combining content, design, a crafted physical object and the opportunity to curate an ongoing conversation around a single idea. Twenty-four is simultaneously a print magazine, an online experience and a creative challenge. The goal is simple: a small team of creative professionals conceptualise, design, write and photograph a print magazine in 24 hours and document everything via Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, Storify and Kickstarter, making the process part of the product. Time-restricted projects have been done for comics, art shows, albums and other magazines before; it seems we increasingly invest in experiences over products and we want more transparency from the artists we love. This is why twenty-four was designed with documentation in mind; revealing our process live meant that we were not only producing a magazine for print but also creating a sort of online improv show.
From Twitter this week:

Amazon Massively Inflates Its Streaming Library Size

(In case you missed it) BBC News - US sues Apple and publishers over e-book prices

ALA Releases State of American Libraries 2012 Report.

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