Category Archives: Professional

I’ve moved!

I’ve finally taken the plunge and set up a real site for my book reviews. From now on, you can find me at Melody & Words!

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Free Work

Josh Olson, writer of the screenplay A History of Violence, explains (in vehement detail) why it is so difficult, yet necessary, to turn down unwarranted requests for reading beginning writers’ work.

The whole article is great, but this sums up the argument:

[W]hen you ask a professional for their take on your material, you’re not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you’re asking them to give you–gratis–the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.

The Evolution of Publishing

Joni Evans reminisces about the past of publishing in The New York Times.

She concludes by asking some (if not all) of the important questions facing publishers today:

“Is the screen the new paper? Will publishing houses go the way of the old-fashioned record store? Is digital delivery the new bookstore? Is Google the new library? Is the author the new musician, playing directly to the audience? Is the audience the new author?”

Google “Library” a Scholarly Miss?

Geoffrey Nunberg writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education of the inadequacies of Google’s Library Project. While he concludes that the project is useful for googling, it is less helpful for scholarly research, for the scanning process is error-ridden and fraught with miscategorization.

Nunberg complains,

. . . you need reliable metadata about dates and categories, which is why it’s so disappointing that the book search’s metadata are a train wreck: a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess.

Start with publication dates. To take Google’s word for it, 1899 was a literary annus mirabilis, which saw the publication of Raymond Chandler’s Killer in the Rain, The Portable Dorothy Parker, André Malraux’s La Condition Humaine, Stephen King’s Christine, The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf, Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society 1780-1950, and Robert Shelton’s biography of Bob Dylan, to name just a few. . .

“Charles Dickens” turns up 182 results for publications before 1812, the vast majority of them referring to the writer. The same type of search turns up 81 hits for Rudyard Kipling, 115 for Greta Garbo, 325 for Woody Allen, and 29 for Barack Obama. (Or maybe that was another Barack Obama.)

Some of these errors, along with an interesting slide, accompany Nunberg’s article.

Nunberg believes that nothing

“. . . should relieve Google of the responsibility of making its collections an adequate resource for scholarly research. . . . Google has, justifiably, described its book-scanning program as a public good. But as Pamela Samuelson, a director of the Center for Law & Technology at the University of California at Berkeley, has said, every great public good implies a great public trust.”

Freelancers Union Providing Insurance and Benefits

Amy Wilkinson writes in the Stanford Social Innovation Review of the mutually beneficial entrepreneurial power of the Freelancers Union. Wilkinson reports that the union covers self-employed workers, such as Web designers, software developers, financial advisors, artists, writers, musicians, and consultants, with benefits that extend from health insurance and retirement plans to community events and political representation.

Google and Libraries: Friend or Foe?

Publisher’s Weekly writes of the increased opposition to the Google Book Settlement from librarians and libraries:

With the Google Book Search Settlement’s September 4 deadline to object or file comments with the court fast approaching, libraries have ramped up efforts to have the deal altered. This week, the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), a member organization of medium and large public libraries called for changes in the settlement plan, as did New York State librarian Bernard Margolis, in a separate open letter to leaders in the library community.

Interacting with Art: The Possibilities of eReaders

Luke Bergeron passionately demands that ebooks, and by extension ereaders, provide a more complex experience:

E-books need more interactivity. I want to be able to read a book then be instantly able to participate in a discussion about the book, right from my device. I want forums devoted to the book, or the ability to tag comments in the book and share them with my friends. I want to buy (or borrow, preferably) a book and see the comments my friends made about it via a social networking interface built into the device. If my buddy reads a copy of Jim Butcher’s Storm Front and thinks page 57 is awesome enough to comment about it, I want to be able to access his comments right from the reading interface, and be able to respond.

I want to be able to read a classic like Shelley’s Frankenstein and see the annotations by famous literary scholars, if I choose to follow them, almost like the tagging system photo websites use. I want to be able to read a new novel right after it comes out and share my thoughts about that novel with my friends who are reading it too.

I want interactivity built into the book and I want to do it all from the device I’m reading on. The current e-readers don’t come close to that.

Amen!