In this issue:
The Atlantic • November 5, 2010
Order out of chaos. David Rothman reiterates his case for a U.S. national digital library system that would serve as the umbrella organization for the current "hodgepodge" of public and private digitization ventures. Suggested contractors for such a system include the Internet Archive, JSTOR, ARTStor, the Art Museum Image Consortium and HathiTrust.
I wanted this to be a well-thought-out essay that would reach an enlightened population of influential readers. It's all that except for the adjective. He's right about a lot and wrong about a lot in my opinion. Most of what I think he's wrong about—potential providers, the prognosis for the Google Book Settlement, the costs of producing ebooks, using "libraries" as a substitute for "public interest"—come from a value perspective shared by librarians. Worth reading down to the comment string where the push-back and correction occur. ( Michalko)
TeleRead • November 2, 2010
The human factor. Distributing a book in digital format isn't easier—it's harder, says Sourcebook publisher Dominique Raccah, who estimates that the quality control involved in accurately rendering digital text into multiple formats has added six new workflow processes with 80+ steps to the publishing process—with almost all of those processes requiring hands-on attention. There's definitely a need for ebook quality control—how does that figure into the struggle to find a sustainable e-publishing business model?
A calm exposition of why publishing ebooks is harder than outsiders perceive that rings true to me. What do publishers do? They "handle the ugly, not easy stuff." This article appears on the Web site TeleRead which was founded by the author of the previous article. To quote the site: "A little about the history of the name 'TeleRead.' TeleRead goes back to the early 1990s when David Rothman wrote about a "TeleRead" proposal for a national digital library for Computerworld and then used CompuServe and the Net to distribute his proposal. TeleRead in that sense is a proposal for well-stocked national digital library systems in the United States and elsewhere. But nowadays TeleRead also means this e-book site, to which you can contribute even if you don't believe in the cause." ( Michalko)
Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 blog • November 1, 2010
Food for thought. Blogger Joe Wikert argues for ebook owners' right to resell their ebooks, just as book owners can sell their hard copies. Paradoxically, such a strategy might serve to raise the price of ebooks (which publishers desperately want to do) because buyers might pay a bit for more for something they could sell later.
Well, maybe I'd pay more. I know I'd pay more for an ebook that didn't carry around social annotations (or advertisements). Leasing the book to you seems like it would be a much more attractive strategy for a publisher. ( Michalko)
The Guardian • October 30, 2010
"We have public libraries. We need a public search engine." Guardian columnist Micah White says Google's de facto dominance of Web search is a danger to a public long inured to the insidious bias of advertising: "The danger of allowing an advertising company to control the index of human knowledge is too obvious to ignore." White's screed is a bit hyperbolic, but his underlying point is valid. Google's "do no evil" mantra is increasingly anachronistic in its quest for market hegemony.
True, we have public libraries. At least for now. Not clear to me that leads to the need for a public search engine. Again, I think what underpins this call to action from a non-librarian are values with which librarians self-identify—access, objectivity, quality, authority, etc. ( Michalko)
NPR • November 5, 2010
Fair use? A magazine editor takes an author's work (in this case, an apple pie recipe) and publishes it with a credit but without permission, claiming everything on the Web is in the "public domain." The facts in the story are still unfolding, but the editor's purported assertion raises the question: is this an isolated incident or a sign the public really needs another round of education on fair use and Web etiquette?
A good story that features the inability to recognize the distinction between "publicly available" and "public domain." I'm afraid that there are lots more people than we'd like who see this as a distinction without a difference. ( Michalko)
Just for fun. Enjoy this fascinating series of insightful interviews with 40 British authors. Listen to W. Somerset Maugham defend his choice of "the 10 best novels"; T.H. White's recriminations against his critics and the British tax system; Iris Murdoch on philosophy and writing; and why there's no sex in P.G. Wodehouse novels.
A great effort that releases some of the BBC's wonderful video archives. That's the recently-deceased Frank Kermode interviewing Murdoch. I went straight for the Virginia Wolfe clip. Taken down for copyright reasons. ( Michalko)