How America Learned to Love Summer Reading

The Boston Globe • August 12, 2012

On a lighter note. The concept of summer reading as a frivolous seasonal indulgence began more than 100 years ago, fueled by the growing popularity of the vacation industry. Check out this fascinating glimpse into the storied world of grand hotel ballrooms, beachside resort, and the debate over lightweight lit's debilitating influence on moral character.

This is as much a brief history of how the concept of a vacation took hold and developed in America as it is about reading. I suspect most of the US readers of this newsletter participated in a library summer reading program. And that was always about fun—delight more than teaching. Glad to see that those programs have continued to be library features and participation is growing. (Michalko)

How Algorithmically Created Content Will Transform Publishing

Forbes • August 13, 2012

Instant gratification. Algorithmic content creation is making inroads into the publishing world, generating books that are essentially compilations of available work on a selected topic, produced in seconds for pennies. Read on for a thoughtful perspective on what Nimble Books CEO Robert Zimmerman calls "combinatorial publishing"—the idea is not new, but Zimmerman hopes his information harvesting algorithms and bare-bones business model may succeed in carving out a niche in the content farm market.

Well, maybe. The algorithms will have to rock for this to be genuinely useful. The early Nimble Books offerings don't impress. (Michalko)

Does Copyright Matter?

The New York Review of Books • August 14, 2012

Let them read poetry. Novelist Tim Parks's essay on copyright ascribes the major benefits to writers who, without the guarantee of royalty income, might be disinclined to produce bestselling works. In defense of his position, he cites Samuel Johnson's piquant observation that, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." In Parks's view, this distinction sets novelists apart from musicians, who are driven to perform, and poets, whose tormented psyches compel them to compose. Read on for an atypical view on the motivating force behind copyright law.

Worth a read for its contrarian justification of the need for copyright. I had not thought about the ameliorating impact that the performative element in music has for musicians but doesn't really exist for authors. Here's a nice look at how US-based musicians' revenue streams are changing. Note how few of those potential streams are available to authors. (Michalko)

Humanities Aren't a Science. Stop Treating Them Like One.

Scientific American • August 10, 2012

De-quantifying the qualitative. Psychology student Maria Konnikova takes aim at a recent trend toward "science-fying" history, literature and sociology, pointing out that the process often involves generating evidence to support a foregone conclusion. "We're held back by those biases that plague almost all attempts to quantify the qualitative, selection on the dependent variable and post hoc hypotheses and explanations." With statistical analytics emerging as the next new hot job category, it's important to remember that quantification has its limits, too.

Another contrarian view or at least a loud cry above the quantification chatter that seems to characterize a lot of public discussion of the humanities. Shouted out in a particularly influential venue where the reader comments are sensible and worth your attention. (Michalko)

YouTube Re-Imagined: 505,347,842 Channels on Every Single Screen

Wired • August 15, 2012

Channeling success. YouTube is paving the way for Google's takeover of your home entertainment system, ramping up its viral video phenom power into a device-agnostic, multi-channel juggernaut fueled by Google's deep pockets. "The benchmark for what makes mass-market television has changed," says a YouTube product management VP. "Cable has run out of space. If you're going to broadcast content to everybody whether or not they watch it, you can only afford to broadcast a few hundred channels. But if you move to a world where you can broadcast on demand to only whoever wants it, now you can support millions of channels." The move harbingers a whole new platform for digital content creation and distribution.

This does seem to be the direction. A lot of performers are positioning themselves and their craft as YouTube channels. See these examples that range from the Smart Girls channel (Amy Poehler) to Soul Pancake channel (Rainn Wilson). The comedians seem to have figured this out. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, where can you learn about a variety of Wikipedia in Residence positions and the opportunities for libraries working with Wikipedia?

Get the answer.