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Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

April 18, 2011
Vol. 4, No. 15
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


A Sea of Words  (External site)

The Smart Set (Drexel University)   •  March 30, 2011

The end of Great Literature? Jessa Crispin, founder of Bookslut.com, says of today's publishing scene: "The deluge of writers is not new. The widespread publication of them is." Read on for Crispin's acidic view of publishers, editors, authors and everyone in between.

I'm afraid that "puddle of vitriol" might be a better title for this piece. The author is wearing her cranky pants this time around, and she's not at all happy about the many bad books being published these days, nor about the legions of clueless, optimistic hacks who insist on writing them. Reading this harangue felt like sharing a taxi in from the airport with a seething misanthrope. Funny, she never mentions the one thing wrong with publishing today that, if corrected, might have prevented this meandering diatribe from being inflicted on anyone: an editor with enough time at her disposal to actually edit. ( Massie)


Designing for the Future Web  (External site)

Smashing Magazine   •  March 29, 2011

Consistency counts. Digital strategist James Gardner touts the benefits of designing a unified look and feel to your digital content that is accessible across a wide range of devices: "(W)e mustn't allow ourselves to think in terms of devices. Right now, we are producing mobile apps and standard Web sites to deliver our services, but in a few years' time, we may be looking at a completely different landscape, one where knowing where and how our content is being viewed is impossible." Read on for a fresh viewpoint on designing for portability.

Here is a well-considered and wide-ranging discussion of the primacy of content over design. It reminded me of the great insights I encountered back in the Web's wonder years, in Rosenfeld and Morville's Information Architecture for the World Wide Web . I still keep my copy from 1998 handy. And I'm enjoying how the advent of HTML5 is prompting us to think again about those first principles. ( Washburn)


'Big Content' Is Strangling American Innovation  (External site)

Harvard Business Review   •  March 31, 2011

Sounds familiar. Historically, the movie and music industries have done their best to stymie new technologies through legal maneuvering, despite the fact that innovations like the VCR and MP3 downloads have expanded their markets—and revenues—significantly. Publishers are on the same misguided track.

This piece is an object lesson in the damage that ensues from not understanding that technological change is an opportunity, not a threat. This is a lesson that libraries would do well to heed as we face some of the greatest changes in our organizations that we've ever faced. Another lesson: you can kick and scream all you want, but change is inevitable and inexorable. Better to be leading the way than eating the dust. Along those lines, consider our research reports to be signposts in the wilderness—not exactly a road, but reassurance that you're going in the right general direction. Now I'll cease with the bad metaphors. ( Tennant)


eBook Pricing Problems  (External site)

The Digital Reader   •  March 30, 2011

The six-dollar question. Blogger Eric Landes suggests the sweet spot for eBook pricing is somewhere between $2 and $6: "It might not sell the most copies compared to other prices, but that price range will bring in the most revenue." Check out Landes' analysis of where eBook pricing has been and where it's heading.

Has the publishing industry ever been fair? Never mind the authors, how about fair to readers? I'm not an MBA, so I wonder how business models and pricing relate to quality. Sometimes I'm puzzled that we debate the success of eBooks, the survival of publishing, and the demise of print, without much reference to the value of the contents of books themselves. I'll buy a book if it's a good read. This article suggests that indie publishers and small presses—because they are not protecting historical business models for publishing—are taking advantage of the decline of print. Good news for readers and their pocketbooks. ( Schaffner)


Future Tense: The eBook Also Rises  (External site)

Maximum PC   •  March 30, 2011

The eBook experience. Why buy a Kindle when downloading a Kindle app to your laptop, netbook or smartphone gives you access to the Kindle store, says writer David Gerrold. "The Kindle isn't a product as much as it is a delivery channel," and like television, eBooks are a "unique way of creating and sharing experience."

Why buy a Kindle indeed? (Note: I confess that I have yet to read an eBook on any form of e-device. I contend that having spent 25 years working with rare books isn't to blame; I'm just not motivated to change. And the other usual reasons.) Gerrold contends that "the eBook reader as a standalone product may be a short-term phenomenon. It could be wiped out by widespread adoption of tablets." Geez, I sure hope so. Device-specific readers and apps seem like such a giant step backward relative to the wide-open maneuverability of the Web. I'll probably live long enough to accept e-reading of monographs some day, but not on a device that restricts my access to one proprietary sector of the e-corpus. And I feel so validated by the fact that my colleague, Roy Tennant, has been saying beware for more than a decade. ( Dooley)


Grand Theft Attention: Video Games and the Brain  (External site)

Rough Type   •  April 1, 2011

Everything is bad for you. Nicholas Carr tackles the cognitive effects of videogames, disputing numerous claims that gaming sharpens mental acuity. He notes that while attention and memory may improve with practice on a specific game, the gains are generally limited to the requirements of that game. And, like other media that fracture our attention span, excessive videogaming can trigger disorganized thinking and inability to concentrate.

Yes, video games help add to what I'd call fractured attention syndrome but they are far from the only things that lead to this. So why the fuss? Video games are an increasingly important part of culture and society, and part of Carr's "the Internet is making us stupid" thesis. I find it very telling that video games will be featured in the GRAMMY Awards, at the same time that classical and jazz categories are being consolidated. (It's like television is saying, "Hey, look, I'm still hip!") To show that I'm with it I should probably say "I would have had something smart to say about this lengthy blog posting if I wasn't so distracted by blowing up pigs in Angry Birds," when in reality, it's Outlook and Twitter alerts that keep me from sinking into tasks that require focus and attention. ( Proffitt)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are some strategies for providing efficient and economical delivery of digital copies of materials in special collections?

Click here to find the answer.


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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