Sunday, October 30, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 44): Books in Browsers, Photography, Drivel + More

I pride myself somewhat on how I organize these posts, only to find that those of you receiving this in the email version will think I am careless and disorganized.  In truth, it is the blogger editor which while never very good has gone from bad to worse.  I spend at least 50% more time putting these things together now versus how long it took prior to the 'upgrade'.  So my apologies to those of you who care about these things but it's just not my fault.

At the Books in Browsers conference hosted by the Internet Archive attendees debate "what is a book" NYTimes
The challenge will be to sort all of that material into ephemeral and semipermanent baskets, some of which might be called, for lack of a better term, books. But at the moment, as Mr. Hellman said, online books are largely stuck in the “pretend it’s print” model. That works for traditional publishers because it offers a model that looks a lot like the past but ultimately depends on a notion of false scarcity.
Mr. Hellman’s own idea, which he is developing as, is to crowd-source the money to digitize individual titles and basically set them free. It sounds like a dreamy but impractical idea, but he added this to ground it in reality: “Have you ever given a book to someone? Have you ever given the same book to multiple people? Would you like to give this book to the entire world?”
From the Observer a look at how British museums are embracing photography all of a sudden (Observer)
The culture around photography – festivals, book publishing and selling, workshops, websites and prizes – has grown exponentially, making London a centre of contemporary photographic practice. Finally… 
Inevitably, if belatedly, the major art institutions have responded in kind. Last week the Victoria & Albert unveiled its new Photographs Gallery, a permanent space to show highlights from its extraordinary collection, chronicling the history of photography from 1839 to the 1960s. Ironically, the exhibition harks back to a time when London embraced what was then a revolutionary new medium that threatened to make painting a thing of the past. The V&A was the first museum to collect photography and, in 1858, to exhibit photographic prints. The oldest photograph on display in the new gallery is a daguerreotype of Parliament Street from Trafalgar Square by an anonymous photographer, and many of the pioneering giants of photography, from Margaret Cameron to Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray to Irving Penn, are represented. What's more, the exhibition will be re-curated every 18 months to show off the scale of the museum's archive of original prints.
"We play to our strengths," says curator Martin Barnes, "which, in photography, is the fine print. We are not showing the history of photography, nor charting a chronological story with examples along a linear trajectory, but nevertheless the collection is deep enough that the historical reach will always be evident in the exhibition."
And again from the Observer a review of a book that looks at the history of some of London's ritzy hotels during the war (Observer)
At the Savoy, journalists filed articles from makeshift offices carved from the carcasses of once-expensive suites. Con artists and swindlers, invigorated by the opportunities brought by war, hunted for victims among the potted palms. Illegal abortionists, profiting from the wartime increase in unwanted pregnancies, conducted their business behind locked hotel-room doors. Spies and spymasters made the grand hotels into thriving centres of espionage, using quiet suites for debriefings and interrogations and picking at the plasterwork for hidden microphones. MI5 booked a suspected Nazi double agent called Stella Lonsdale into a room at the Waldorf, and waited for her to crack. Guy Burgess installed a pair of spies at the Dorchester, one a painfully handsome 19-year-old with 10 targets on his watch list – mainly homosexual Magyars (Hungarians) who were charmed by his unfingermarked good looks. "The whole place," shuddered the head of Special Branch, "is crawling with foreigners." 
The photographer Cecil Beaton made a gleefully snobbish inventory of the Dorchester's inhabitants: "Cabinet ministers and their self-consciously respectable wives; hatchet-jawed, iron-grey brigadiers; calf-like airmen off duty; tarts on duty; actresses (also); déclassé society people; cheap musicians and motor-car agents." At the front of the hotel, General Eisenhower plotted the progress of the war behind a concrete barrier installed for his protection. Beneath the hotel, the foreign secretary Edward Halifax slept beside his wife and his mistress in the Turkish bath – not realising that the chamber projected out from the main body of the hotel and was therefore one of the most vulnerable spots in the building.
Will games replace reading? The Author answers his own question (Observer):
As an author who also plays games, and the father of three boys who read books and play games, I often get asked whether I think games will kill off the novel, and the answer is no, of course they won't. Books have survived the coming of films and TV, rock'n'roll and sudoku, and they will survive the coming of computer games. But they will be influenced by them, just as all those other media had their own impact and influence on books and, let's not forget, were hugely influenced by them. 
The best games have taken stuff from books (where would computer games be without Tolkien, for instance?) and any novelist worth their salt should be taking stuff from games. What you don't want are books that slavishly replicate the experience of playing a game because, well, why not just go and play a game instead? In the same way, you don't want a game that gets bogged down with interminable cut-scenes and has only one, very rigid, way of being played. There are cleverer and more elegant ways of designing them, as demonstrated by the brilliant GTA series.
More mindless drivel (Telegraph)
It is reported Miss Middleton has had two meetings with publishing executives at HarperCollins and has met with several other publishing houses. There are predictions that she could make more than £1m from royalties and the sale of international rights and spin-off projects.
A well-placed publishing source told the Sunday Times (£): “Pippa is very serious about the project and has been going to meet publishers personally. Pippa hasn’t signed a contract yet but I don’t think it will be far off. She is a good writer but I expect she would be offered the services of an experienced ghost writer.” 
Movie and theatrical performance rights may follow if all goes well (This bit is a lie).

From The New Republic, why authors should embrace Amazon's push into publishing (TNR):

THE TIMES WONDERS if Amazon can “secretly create its own bestsellers.” Actually, it already has, although they aren’t the books in its publishing program. Of the current top ten e-book bestsellers on Amazon, four of them are self-published. These aren’t flukes: They’ve been in the top ten more than 50 days on average. They’re books by authors you probably haven’t heard of—Darcy Chan, Chris Culver, Michael Prescott, Douglas E. Richards—right up there with James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks. At 79 to 99 cents a copy, they’re priced to sell. But considering that sales estimates for some of the top indie e-book sellers start at 2500 copies a month, that’s money most authors would be quite pleased with. Self-published e-books occupy several slots of the top ten on all the genre lists, too—sci-fi, romance, mysteries.

This is staggering, and it’s a part of the story that hasn’t yet been fully explored. When nontraditional e-books are taking such a large cut of the market, why on earth is Amazon building an editorial apparatus? It would seem to be exactly the wrong move—unless there’s some other piece of the puzzle we don’t know about.

Amazon can be faulted for a lot of things, but making bad business decisions isn’t one of them. If the company has calculated that the gain of bringing edited books to market is worth the investment in an in-house editorial staff, that’s not an assault on the publishing industry. To the contrary: It’s a signal that the services the industry has traditionally offered are still of value. What’s under assault, rather, is the bloated, arrogant, and conservative culture of the publishing conglomerates that for so long have enjoyed far too much control over what we read.
Notes on a voice from More Intelligent Life takes on Conan Doyle:
“Dr Watson doesn’t write to you, he talks to you, with Edwardian courtesy, across a glowing fire.” So said John le Carré, one of many writers in thrall to Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). His most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes, provides the excitement. But his second most famous, John Watson, provides the voice.

The stories (1887-1927) are infinitely re-readable. Fans focus on Holmes himself, that perfect assemblage of cold calculation and eccentric tastes—the violin, the cocaine, the tobacco in the Persian slipper. “Every writer owes something to Holmes,” wrote T.S. Eliot in 1929. But Holmes would be precious without Watson’s direct, manly presence. A late story narrated by Holmes was hopeless. The prose lost most of its energy and all of its suspense, and became smug.

Watson, the medic ever ready with a pistol and a flask of brandy, was a conduit for Doyle himself, who had been a GP. The doctor is decent, and, contrary to popular belief, not stupid. He shares the reader’s breathless bemusement at Holmes’s lightning deductions. “What can it all mean?” Watson gasps in “The Speckled Band”, the most terrifying story of all. “‘It means that it’s all over,’ Holmes answered.”
From Twitter:

Lonely Planet looks to digital publishing

Philip Pullman: Using the internet is like looking at a landscape through a keyhole - Telegraph

Tom Waits: 'I look like hell but I'm going to see where it gets me' – interview

Editing Wikipedia at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts:

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