Tuesday, September 24, 2013

MediaWeek (V7, N38): John D. MacDonald, Banned Books Reviews, Google & edX, Author Franchises + More

Random House if bringing back a load of John D. MacDonald books. (WSJ)
He had in fact a grand theme, which he nibbled at in book after book: the ruinous postwar overbuilding of the Florida Gulf Coast. (It even runs, much subdued, through the McGee series.) MacDonald knew the landscape well; it was where he lived for most of his adult life, and he was horrified by what he saw happening to it. He wasn't a passionate environmentalist, and he spared his readers any laments for drained swampland. He had no objection to sensible development as such. But he saw the mechanics of the Florida land boom from the inside; he was able to write knowledgeably about county boards and real-estate investment trusts, building codes and rezoning applications. He was fervently certain that the countless petty instances of greed and corruption and fecklessness and indifference and incompetence were sooner or later going to add up to a disaster, and he was right. When Hurricane Andrew destroyed a large swath of Florida in 1992, six years after MacDonald's death, the catastrophe was multiplied several times over by the astonishing shoddiness of the housing there, of whole communities constructed in open defiance of the building codes, almost exactly as MacDonald had described.
The New Republic is publishing reviews of banned books (New Repub):  Here is Slaughterhouse 5 reviewed by Michael Crichton
Only the commercial explanation, which is really no more than a simple observation of verifiable fact, holds water; the others are demonstrably wrong. For example, nearly all fictional forms have come from pulp, or its equivalent in previous generations. The majority of "classic" authors were very popular in their day. And when one surveys the great triad of pulp writing—science fiction, westerns, and detective fiction—from the early part of this century, the results are interesting. Westerns, being closest to the heart of American mythology, have been almost entirely absorbed by the ubiquitous tube. Detectives have done well in films, less well on television; in straight fiction their standards have been raised markedly, partly because "real" authors like Conrad and Graham Greene have dabbled in the form and partly because talented writers have been drawn to it—Raymond Chandler, David Cornwall, and Georges Simenon. But science fiction has remained impervious to such influences. It is still as pulpy, and as awful, as ever.
 Inside Higher Ed considers a A Google E-Learning Ecosystem (IHEd)
Up until the edX - Google deal it would have been difficult. Smarter people than me were able to get Course Builder (the platform that Google is putting into maintenance) to work, but for mere mortals (read non-programmers), Google never really had any platform that was workable for online course development and teaching.  Now the edX Open platform is going to evolve and improve, as Google is putting developer and infrastructure resources behind the project.  Nobody from edX is saying that edX open or MOOC.org is intended to be an LMS replacement. Why pick that fight? But it makes perfect sense.  Why wouldn't a school want to use the same platform for their campus (private) courses as their open courses?  Wouldn't it make sense to easily be able to designate some parts of a course that are open (such as the course content, formative assessment or public discussion boards), and wall-off other parts of the course (such as internal discussion boards or graded assignment areas) for only those matriculated (and tuition paying) students?
Is there a lesson for big name authors in the actions of the All Things D staff? (CJR)
These new franchise raise the important question of whether and by how much power is shifting in journalism from publishers to authors.  I’d argue that these franchises are to a large extent sui generis and not indicative of a generalized power shift in journalism. In fact their high visibility tends to distort our view of the author-publisher, that is to say, labor-management, power balance.  First, it’s important to note that these particular franchises were (for the most part) all nurtured within big, traditional news organizations, which provided salaries, health insurance, tech support, legal backup, etc. etc., plus and importantly the imprimatur of their brand names built up over decades. So these are not autonomous operations, but in fact highly dependent ones.  It’s significant, for instance, that when Nat Silver moved his Fivethirtyeight franchise in July (which prompted Jay’s post), it wasn’t to go off on his own but to join another big company, in this case, Disney. In that sense, his move wasn’t so different from past jumps by media stars such, as, say, in 1984 when Mike Royko left the Sun-Times after Murdoch bought it and joined the Tribune. True, Silver was already a success before he went to the Times in 2010—he was on one of Time’s most influential of 2009. But the Times’s perch certainly helped to propel him to new prominence, and his next destination, even if it’s not his last, turns out to be within the MSM.   People wonder if Andrew Ross Sorkin will ever make his DealBook independent. Not only is there no sign of that, in order to expand his influence, he took a second job at another MSM outlet.
From twitter this week
Conan Doyle estate seeks to preserve US copyright of Sherlock Holmes's 'complex personality'  
Netflix looks at pirate sites to decide which shows to buy
Fairfax County libraries under fire after 250,000 books are tossed

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