Monday, January 27, 2014

MediaWeek (V8, N4): Textbook Prices (Again), Predicting Novel Success, Airport Bookstores, JD Salinger + more

Research indicates that more textbook options haven't changed student behavior appreciably (IHeD)
The survey, which includes about 2,000 students from 150 campuses, indicates that while cheaper alternatives such as rental programs and open-source textbooks have gained traction in recent years, 65 percent of students had still opted against buying a book because it was too costly – and 94 percent of them were concerned that their grade would suffer because of it.
Another 48 percent of students said the cost of textbooks affected how many and which classes they took each semester. At the same time, 82 percent of students said free online access to a textbook (with the option of buying a hard copy) would help them do “significantly better” in a course. The paper therefore argues for widespread use of open textbooks, which are designed in this way and which PIRG estimates save students an average of $100 per course.
“Students should be focused on taking the classes they need, not kept out because they feel they have to choose between their textbooks and rent,” said Senack, the report’s author. “We know that if more campuses and if more states made the commitment ... we would be able to save students millions in dollars per year.”
Similar to the article I posted a few weeks ago about predicting which movies will be successful he's a similar article from Salon looking at whether a novel's success can be predicted.  (Salon)
The truth is that tailoring books to reader preferences has been going on for decades, and the Internet is only making this process more efficient. That doesn’t mean that, in the future, literary novelists like Donna Tartt or James McBride are going to be expected to market-research their books like a Hollywood filmmaker forced to submit his would-be blockbuster to the scrutiny of a test audience. While the editors who work with such writers are not above suggesting a sunnier ending or more intelligible plot points every now and then, for the most part, authors like these are signed on because of the originality of the work they produce. Only Donna Tartt can write a Donna Tartt novel, and it would take a very foolish editor to interfere overmuch with her process.
And here's someone trying to do it with math (InsideScience)
They said it is the first study to correlate between a book's stylistic elements and its popularity and critical acclaim.  In a paper published by the Association of Computational Linguistics, Vikas Ganjigunte Ashok, Song Feng, and Yejin Choi said the writing style of books was correlated with the success of the book.  The researchers used a process called statistical stylometry, a statistical analysis of literary styles in several genres of books and identified characteristic stylistic elements more common in successful tomes than unsuccessful ones.  They began their research with Project Gutenberg, a database of 44,500 books in the public domain. A book was considered successful when it was critically acclaimed and had a high download count. The books chosen for analysis represented all genres of literature, from science fiction to poetry.  Then, they added some books not in the Gutenberg database, including Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities," and Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." They also added Dan Brown's latest novel, "The Lost Symbol," and books that have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and other awards.  They took the first 1,000 sentences of 4,129 books of poetry and 1,117 short stories and then analyzed them for various factors. They looked at parts of speech, use of grammar rules, the use of phrases, and "distribution of sentiment" – a way of measuring the use of words.
Update on how Airport Bookstores are adapting to a changing industry (DesertNews)
Airport bookstores may be on the front lines of the transition to eBooks. Cheaper prices and new methods of reading are causing concerns among booksellers, experts say.  But the future isn’t all bleak, said Sara Hinckley, spokesperson for the Hudson Group, which owns several airport bookstores throughout the country.  “Bookstores across the country, including Hudson, are doing everything they can to give customers a reason to look beyond price as the only deciding purchase factor: a hand-picked selection, personal service, a pleasant shopping environment, convenience, community support and the most aggressive pricing we can afford,” she said.
In the New Republic a 'repost' of an article written in 1973 reconsidering JD Salinger (New Republic):
I have no idea why Salinger has not in recent years graced us with more stories. It is no one's business, really. He has already given us enough, maybe too much: We so far have not shown ourselves able to absorb and use the wisdom he has offered us. Today the man I have quoted, Jim, finds Salinger "as important as any writer" he has read; in a sense he has come full circle—from Salinger to Salinger. A dedicated if somewhat offbeat school teacher, his mind and spirit are not unlike Zooey's: sarcastic at times, tender and vulnerable at other times; now indignant, now resigned and intensely prayerful. A while back one could read Salinger and feel him to be not only an original and gifted writer, a marvelous entertainer, a man free of the slogans and clich├ęs the rest of us fall prey to, or welcome as salvation itself, but also a terribly lonely man. Perhaps he still feels lonely; but he is, I think, not so alone these days. The worst in American life he anticipated and portrayed to us a generation ago. The best side of us—Holden and the Glasses—still survives, and more can be heard reaching for expression in various ways and places, however serious the present-day assaults from various authorities.
From the twitter:
Why Classic Movies Have Terrible Trailers - Adrienne LaFrance - The Atlantic
BBC News - Pearson shares hit after profit warning  
The Decline of the American Book Lover - Jordan Weissmann - The Atlantic

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