Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N22): Orlando's "History"; Preserving Digital Archives, Publisher Apps + More

Apparently some relatively standard fact checking of the 2007 book by Orlando Figes The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia which was being translated into Russian has thrown up some 'minor and major' errors.  The project has been abandoned. (The Nation)

In 2004 specialists at the Memorial Society, a widely respected Russian historical and human rights organization founded in 1988 on behalf of victims and survivors of Stalin’s terror, were contracted by Figes to conduct hundreds of interviews that form the basis of The Whisperers, and are now archived at Memorial. In preparing for the Russian edition, Corpus commissioned Memorial to provide the original Russian-language versions of Figes’s quotations and to check his other English-language translations. What Memorial’s researchers found was a startling number of minor and major errors. Its publication “as is,” it was concluded, would cause a scandal in Russia. This revelation, which we learned about several months ago, did not entirely surprise us, though our subsequent discoveries were shocking. Separately, we had been following Figes’s academic and related abuses for some time. They began in 1997, with his book A People’s Tragedy, in which the Harvard historian Richard Pipes found scholarly shortcomings. In 2002 Figes’s cultural history of Russia, Natasha’s Dance, was greeted with enthusiasm by many reviewers until it encountered a careful critic in the Times Literary Supplement, Rachel Polonsky of Cambridge University. Polonsky pointed out various defects in the book, including Figes’s careless borrowing of words and ideas of other writers without adequate acknowledgment. One of those writers, the American historian Priscilla Roosevelt, wrote to us, “Figes appropriated obscure memoirs I had used in my book Life on the Russian Country Estate (Yale University Press, 1995), but changed their content and messed up the references.” Another leading scholar, T.J. Binyon, published similar criticism of Natasha’s Dance: “Factual errors and mistaken assertions strew its pages more thickly than autumnal leaves in Vallombrosa.
Some may remember Figes as the classy guy who was writing derogatory reviews on Amazon of books by his colleagues.

Who collects the 'memories of a nation' in the digital age? Dame Lynne Brindley CEO of the British Library has an opinion. (New Statesman)

It is a matter of great regret that it will never be possible to plug the gap in our understanding of UK opinion about major social and cultural issues at the very beginning of the digital age. Will academics in the future feel the same sense of loss about some of this material that we feel today about the missing works of Ancient Greece’s greatest writers and thinkers?
The UK has been in the slow lane when it comes to preserving digital material. Non-print legal deposit is now widespread internationally, including much of Europe, Canada and New Zealand. It is two years since the United States Library of Congress announced that it would be keeping copies of every Tweet. The latest version of the UK Government’s proposed regulations is less than perfect. It would exempt start-ups and micro businesses from depositing offline publications or the need to provide passwords to enable us to harvest their websites.

The head of McGraw Hill Education got some press in the past week or so for suggesting that textbooks are on borrowed time. Only a little self interest of course.  (Converge)

And what they want from us is, "Help me improve my performance. You improve my performance, learning company McGraw-Hill, then we will improve your performance." So it allows us to more aggressively invest back into our learning materials, and other kinds of things as well.

For example, we're probably where IBM was in the early- to mid-90s. IBM had their mainframes and is the ubiquitous case study. Then they had to move into services or products that their customers valued more.
In the end, it's not only about investing more in materials that will improve performance, but it's investing in our capability to provide other services to colleges and institutions, like retention services or online enablement services. The move toward e-materials allows us to change our business model entirely in many ways.

 More about magazine publishers but Tech Review on "Why Publisher's Don't Like Apps"

But the real problem with apps was more profound. When people read news and features on electronic media, they expect stories to possess the linky-ness of the Web, but stories in apps didn't really link. The apps were, in the jargon of information technology, "walled gardens," and although sometimes beautiful, they were small, stifling gardens. For readers, none of that beauty overcame the weirdness and frustration of reading digital media closed off from other digital media.
Without subscribers or many single-copy buyers, and with no audiences to sell to advertisers, there were no revenues to offset the incremental costs of app development. With a couple of exceptions, publishers therefore soured on apps. The most commonly cited exception is Condé Nast, which saw its digital sales increase by 268 percent last year after Apple introduced an iPad app called Newsstand that promoted the New York publisher's iPad editions. Still, even 268 percent growth may not be saying much in total numbers. Digital is a small business for Condé Nast. For instance, Wired, the most digital of Condé Nast's titles, has 33,237 digital replica subscriptions, representing just 4.1 percent of total circulation, and 7,004 digital single-copy sales, which is 0.8 percent of paid circulation, according to ABC.

Bookseller Waterstones will begin selling Amazon's Kindle e-readers. Critics think the move is mad

Alain de Botton to make highbrow porn 

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