Saturday, August 07, 2010

MediaWeek (Vol 3, No 32): End of Print, Education, Dom DeLillo, Quercus, Changing Libraries,

Contemplating the end of print books in Newsweek:
Paperbacks and public libraries made books cheap or free but certainly available to millions who might otherwise not have been able to afford them, and all that happened long before I was born. Nevertheless, I was brought up by people who had been taught—and who taught me—that books were valuable things, things to be cared for and cherished, and I have owned some volumes for close to half a century (almost none of them, I should point out, qualify as “collectible” or valuable to an antiquarian book collector; owning a rare book makes me nervous. I like books I can hold, read, and even—here my mother is spinning in her grave—write in). I come from a generation for whom the books and records on the shelf signaled, in some way, who you were (starting with the fact that you were a person who owned books or records or CDs). If you visited a friend, you took the first chance you had to surreptitiously scan that friend’s shelves to get a handle on the person. I suppose I could sneak a peek at a friend’s Kindle, but is that the same? And try that kind of snooping on a bus or in a coffee shop and you’ll probably get arrested. For a sense of the diminution of this sort of information gathering, click through this Tumblr of covers (scroll until you get to the e-reader included in the mix, to fully plumb the difference).

Looking at course (learning) management systems in higher ed (Gartner):
Campus Technology recently spoke with Gartner Research Director Marti Harris, who focuses on the higher education market, about an annual report from Gartner, "Gartner Higher Education E-Learning Survey 2007: Clear Movements in the Market," by Harris and two other Gartner higher education research analysts. Campus Technology: In the survey, Gartner found "clear movement in the market" toward more open-source platforms in 2007--26 percent of platforms on surveyed campuses were on open source e-learning system such as Moodle or Sakai, and Gartner projects that number will grow to 35 percent by the end of 2008. .....
CT: What is it about open source in general that appeals in higher education? Harris: There are several things. For one, there is sometimes the perception that open source is cheaper. But we really don't know that's the case yet, other than the fact that [institutions] are not paying a license fee. Certainly, unless it's something that's turnkey or ready out-of-the-box, [any system] will require additional resources to keep development going. You do have to determine how you're going to handle service and support in any case. Some of the open source products, like Moodle, have third-party providers that you can contract for service, support, and even for further development. We've yet to really know how much cheaper these open source apps are. We haven't been doing this long enough to really know the total price tag on migration, for one thing, and then the ongoing total cost of ownership.
From Australia but of relevance to all markets - Libraries and ebooks: tough issues that it’s time to debate (ABS&P):

So far, libraries’ digital activity has mostly been confined to research uses. The prevalence of the cumbersome PC as the main reading platform means the bread and butter of the book trade, fiction and general non-fiction, has barely been touched. But mobile reading devices and a surge in availability of popular ebooks are pushing libraries into the digital mainstream. The few libraries experimenting today with ebook downloads typically have very thin collections. This is partly due to tight budgets but also stems from concerns by publishers and authors about how—indeed whether—libraries should lend digital editions of their books. It’s the latter that has prompted the UK government to legislate so that patrons in libraries can download digital editions to their ebook readers without libraries infringing copyright. At the same time, it will issue an order under legislation “preventing libraries from charging for ebooks lending of any sort, including remotely.”

From OCLC a series of videos from ALA on The Future of Publishing: Libraries and the changing role of consumers and creators (OCLC)
From scholarly journals to eBooks to print-on-demand “vending” machines, publishing is more complicated than it once was. Thousands of individuals, companies, schools and businesses have taken the tools of literary and scholarly production into their own hands. How does the role of the library change when our users go from consumers of content to creators? What do these changes mean for academic activities such as peer-review, collection development and inventory management? How will new publishing platforms—from Amazon to the iPad—alter the public’s expectations for reading, writing and sharing?
Don DeLillo, in a rare interview, talks about living the American dream (Observer)

DeLillo has devoted his writing to the shadow side of American life, painting a dysfunctional freaks' gallery of the wrecked (David Bell in Americana), the sick (Bill Gray in Mao II), the mad (Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra) and the suicidal (Eric Packer in Cosmopolis). In White Noise, the protagonist, Jack, who teaches Hitler studies, riffs hilariously on death and mass murder. It is said that DeLillo used to keep two files on his writing table, labelled "Art" and "Terror". In Mao II, he writes: "I used to think it was possible for an artist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory." On some readings, his characters occupy this no-man's-land. His vision has been described as "paranoid" in the sense that it connects everything about his society.

In the process of exploring America, DeLillo has become credited with extraordinary powers of literary clairvoyance. The war on terror is said to be foreshadowed in Mao II. The planes that flew into the Twin Towers are possibly alluded to on the cover of Underworld. Parts of White Noise are echoed in the anthrax scare of 2001, and so on.

Fellow writers talk with admiration of DeLillo's creative radar. The truth is that DeLillo is wired into contemporary America from the ground up, spookily attuned to the weird vibrations of popular culture and the buzz of everyday, ordinary conversations on bus and subway. According to Joyce Carol Oates, he is "a man of frightening perception", an all-American writer who sees and hears his country like no other.

The publishing house that Stieg Larsson built (Independent)
Quercus started life modestly in 2004 after Mark Smith and Wayne Davies defected from Orion Publishing Group. Suitably, for a company that would later publish a phenomenon in crime fiction, they rented a small office round the corner from the fictional premises of Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street. "I wanted to start my own business and foolishly thought it would be easy," Smith recalls. The company focused on non-fiction books that could be nicely illustrated. Its first success was Universe, followed by Speeches that Changed the World. But Smith had an appetite for risk and two years after launch moved into fiction, signing 10 titles from first-time authors. One of its early successes was The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, a mystery set in the snowy wastes of Canada in 1867. The novel won the Costa Book Award in 2007, driving it up the bestseller charts and allowing its publisher to expand. What had been a staff of 15 people has since grown to 40. The turning point for Smith came when he recruited Christopher MacLehose, who had a reputation as a master at finding foreign fiction by writers such as Henning Mankell and Haruki Murakami and turning them into English language hits.

On the twitter this week (@personanondata) Some Colleges to Test Dual-Screen E-Reader Devices - Wired Campus Chronicle New IEEE Standards Initiative Aims at “Digital Personal Property” Copyright and Technology And comments 'Hollywood: A Third Memoir' by Larry McMurtry First class, private planes, cash what's not to like? LATimes Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries NPR Random House CEO on the E-Book Age: 'The Printed Book Will Still Dominate for a Long Time to Come' Spiegel Online Frankfurt SPARKS "conferences and events on the future of media and the creative industries" Frankfurt Book Fair In arts this week: Photography. New York City’s Waterfronts, Covered - NYTimes. This is my contribution.

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