Blogged to death

I am going to build off of my post from last week about libel and slander. With the lines between what is and is not socially acceptable to publish online being heavily blurred by the digital hurricane that is social media and the blogoshpere, it is sometimes difficult to step back and analyze the sometime serious repercussions of electronic publishing. Free access to information and freedom of the press are coveted rights in many nations but mere hopeful beacons on the horizon for much of the world. Historically, having free access to information has been a privilege granted to only the most wealthy and powerful of people. Electronic publishing is a serious game changer in this sense.

I am pleased to know that I live in a place where I can openly call a current or past leader an inarticulate buffoon without worrying about disappearing in the night, where satirical news like “The Onion” can exist peacefully. However, this is not the case for many people, and living in a privileged bubble sometimes causes us to forget that. We have all recently seen the dangerous power of a single controversial Youtube video. This is a monumental and historical clashing of culture and it was, many claim, initiated by open form electronic publishing. As Grant mentioned in his blog last week, governmental censorship in the digital age could be frightfully simple. On the other hand, it can be very difficult. Clashing cultures can no longer isolate themselves from one another in the way they could not so many years ago.

According to a report by Freedom House, a Washington advocacy group, the tiny nation of Estonia has the highest marks for internet freedom. This is fantastic for Estonia: however, the other side of the spectrum is gloomy. In nineteen of the forty-seven countries reported, bloggers and other online writers were “tortured, disappeared, beaten or brutally assaulted.”

19 out of 47! That’s 40%!!

Also, I think it is important to know that this isn’t only happening in far-off places. Mexican bloggers and internet journalists who write about organized crime are regularly targeted by the gangs they write about. Freedom of speech is taking on new meaning in an age where our voices can reach unforeseen distances.

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/estonia-gets-highest-marks-for-…

 

cheers.

Matt

one book, two book, good book, bad book

1. What do you think makes a good book?

2. Is there a difference between a good book and a book that sells?

3. What would make a book sell

I am fascinated by the idea that among readers and publishers there lies a general split in ideologies about what exactly a book should be, a cultural artifact or a commodity. It’s not until recently that I’ve realized where my personal preferences sit in this duality. I prefer books to be mostly cultural artifacts. I tend to read a lot of factual nonfiction or philosophical literature because I like to feel as if I am learning something or gaining new perspective while I read. However, most of my family tends to read for fun or pure entertainment. Books are like printed television shows. My father is on #217 of a never ending western book series. I keep and hoard my books while my family trades them, resells them, or uses them to heat the house. I mostly view books as cultural artifacts and they view them as commodities. Are my books somehow better than theirs? Who is to say?

In addressing the questions above I would argue that a good book is one that can be obviously tagged as a cultural artifact. However, a cultural artifact is hardly such if it doesn’t sell and nobody has access to it. The best books are the ones that can perfectly balance the line between being a cultural artifact and a commodity. Commodity books tend to be more widely marketed and also tend to appeal to larger audiences, while cultural artifacts tend to be poorly marketed and be very audience specific.

When a book can make a significant contribution to a population’s culture but also sell like a hot commodity, it is a great book. You might all hate me for this, but this is what I attribute The Hunger Game’s success too. In the sense that The Hunger Games navigates this balance between artifact and commodity so well, makes it a great book. As much as many of us would like to deny it, this book does appeal to the sentiments of a generation and encapsulates the emotions of many. A once great nation, divided by war, succumbs to brutal and belligerent class wars. Society is stripped of its middle class, pitting the lowest class against itself even though there is an overwhelming sense that the mysterious and far away hyper-rich are manipulating everything. The future is left to be decided by the youngest generations whose formal education is largely left to the family.

It’s no wonder why these books sold the way they did. Not only does it have a compelling concept, though a fairly common one,  it is culturally time-stamped in order to yank on the attention and nerves of a generation. It may not be a great cultural artifact or even a great commodity, but it has just enough of each to be a great book.

Reselling used E-textbooks?

Hello everybody! I thought I’d kick off the class blog with an issue that, as students currently enrolled in higher education, concerns us all. If we are inevitably going to be forced to buy electronic copies of our college textbooks, why can’t we resell those E-textbooks as we would a regular hardback textbook? I am always trying to get a little bit of my money back from my wildly overpriced textbooks and, I don’t know about the rest of you, I wouldn’t want an electronic copy of my 783-page Psychology 101 textbook haunting my E-reader for all eternity.

I’ve been scrolling through some of the articles on our resource page over my morning coffee and I found a couple very interesting topics. On Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 blog, Mr. Wikert brings up the very interesting concept of being able to resell your used e-books. In his blog titled, “Why a Used Ebook Ecosystem Makes Sense,” Wikert discusses a start up company that is looking to eventually help E-book owners resell the books they don’t intend on reading again. While I am unsure if there would be a market for used e-books, (how do they differ from new e-books and how can you make them cheaper?) I believe the idea to be logically sound and potentially a big motivator for me to finally buy an e-reader. If I spend ten dollars on a paper book, I can then turn around and give it to a friend or sell it for three dollars at a used bookstore. Why shouldn’t I be able to manipulate my e-book purchases as well?

I wasn’t incredibly excited about this idea until I came across an article by Stephanie Brooks titled, “Should Universities Force E-textbooks on Students?” Apparently, according to Brooks, some colleges are already making E-textbooks mandatory. If I were still an undergraduate and regularly purchasing textbooks costing $100 or more, this decision would make me outraged simply because of my inability to trade and resell those E-textbooks the way I can regular textbooks. Brooks goes on to explain why the current generation isn’t ready for an E-textbook only college experience, and I agree with her here. However, she is also confident that as the up and coming generations who have had exposure to electronic reading devices as young as kindergarten age (eek!) approach their college education, they are going to prefer the E-textbook format simply because it is what they are accustomed to ( 😦 ) . I guess my question to all of you and to the up and comers would be; Are you willing to buy overpriced E-textbooks if you cannot resell them or at least trade them in for the newer (and required) edition that will come out next week?

-Matt

If you’d like to read on about these topics, here are the links.

Joe Wikert’s article “Why a Used Ebook Ecosystem Makes Sense”

http://jwikert.typepad.com/

Stephanie Brooks’ article: “Should Universities Force E-textbooks on Students?”

http://www.teleread.com/university/should-universities-force-e-textbooks…

What did you call me?!?

This is the latest question on the mind of a one Ms. Buttina Wulff. Ever heard of her? Yeah, me neither. Apparently, she is the former First Lady of Germany and author of a newly published memoir making waves on German bookshelves. The exciting part is who she is directing this question at, Google, or more specifically, Google’s autocomplete function! This in and of itself is not terribly interesting, I’ll admit that, however it opens the door to what I believe to be an increasingly important topic in regards to electronic publishing; the definition and roles of slander and libel.

Ms. Wulff has brought a suit against Google due to the fact that the autocomplete function on the monster search engine not so kindly suggests that users search for “Buttina Wulff prostitute” or “Buttina Wulff escort.” If I were any sort of public figure with a reputation to protect, I would be similarly offended. Google denies responsibility of these unkind suggestions due to the fact that the autocomplete function only suggests what other users have already searched. Essentially, if the rest of the world thinks you have ties to prostitution, Google is not responsible for perpetuating the rumor. Or are they?

With information being tweeted, posted, blogged, reported, linked, paraphrased, and repeated in a million different ways at the speed of light, who is to say what constitutes libel? We live in the golden age of libel, slander, and the invasion of privacy. We can’t go a week without a cyber bulling scandal, a celebrity apologizing for an insensitive tweet, exposing a princess’ goodies, or undermining 47% of a nation. With an onslaught of satirical and comedic “news” sources constantly outselling and out distributing their genuine counterparts, libel laws are struggling to keep up. To be honest, the first time I read an article by “The Onion,” I believed it to be genuine news reporting. Redistributing satirical reporting as hard fact unknowingly could not only be embarrassing but have legal repercussions also, depending on who your are.

Did you all hear what Romney said in his apology to the nation last week?

“Let me make this absolutely clear: I have the utmost respect for all of the filth-encrusted, lesion-covered degenerates of this nation,” Romney said. “In the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting real Americans in their squalid, roach-infested hellholes in every corner of this country. I promise to stand up for every one of you, even the 47 percent of you huddled together for warmth, fighting your own family members for moldy crusts of bread as you wallow in your own excrement.”

Added Romney, “And I look forward to serving you as your next president.”
-The Onion 9/18/2012

 

Cheers.

Matt

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/world/europe/keystrokes-in-google-bare-shocking-rumors-about-bettina-wulff.html?ref=technology&_moc.semityn.www

http://www.theonion.com/articles/romney-apologizes-to-nations-150-million-starving,29603/

First impressions of Boston

Like nearly all youngsters who grew up in a small rural community, I dreamed of one day living in a big city, if only for a short while.  Finally, that day has come and here I am sitting comfortably on my new apartment floor in Boston, Massachusetts. I say my new apartment floor because I haven’t yet been able to purchase a sofa. The logistics of getting a sofa up four flights of stairs in a building built during a time when people were significantly smaller, is daunting to say the least. Perhaps a bean bag would be nice. I would like to present to you now, the first impressions of Boston as seen through the eyes of a guy who grew up at the end of a dirt road in a town with less than a small handful of people.

Boston is a fantastic city on the whole and is a very easy place to assimilate into quickly. Unlike many other metropolitan areas I have visited and meandered through, Boston has a very relaxed and mellow feeling to it that is reminiscent of a much smaller town. I get the feeling that even though I am lost 85% of the time, I am not burdening anybody by being so, unlike New York City and Chicago. Boston seems welcoming to lost people. In fact, I think that most of the people who live here are lost.  This could be due to the huge influx of college students. Hardly anybody seems to actually be a native Bostonian. We are all lost and dependent on the person next to us to be only slightly less lost than we are. Just yesterday I discovered a whole new neighborhood only a short walk from my apartment. This ability to rediscover parts of my immediate surroundings on a regular basis is fascinating to me. I think that by the age of 14 I knew exactly where everything in my entire home County was located and how long it had been there. Discovering something new in your own backyard only happened when a building was demolished or a new lot developed, and this rarely happened. I can still remember the order in which our four stoplights were installed, and I still don’t understand why the fourth one is there. But in Boston I could discover something new and unique every fifteen minutes. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to visit Boston for an extended period of time, let me impart upon you some useful information I have learned in my first week.

 

1. Like anywhere else, don’t talk to someone if they are already involved in a full-fledged conversation with themselves or a sign post, and if they intently ask you if you are “keeping it real?”,  just say yes.

2. If you rent an apartment on the top floor of a walk up, choose your furniture wisely. That stand up gun-safe can stay home.

3. Never just jump on a train because it is about to depart and you are panicking. You would be surprised how long it can take you to realize what direction you are going.

4. Never reach into your pockets while riding on the subway during rush hour. You may accidentally reach into someone else’s pocket. Nine times out of ten this is an unpleasant and awkward experience.

5. Don’t tease a Bostonian about their accent. They are likely to hit you hard enough that you’ll start tahhking like them.

6. The food and drink scene in Boston is amazing. I can throw a rock from my fire escape and hit any style of cuisine, except Mexican, for that I’d have to throw a rock to Mexico.

7. If you visit Boston in the summer, prepare for a mix of heat and humidity that will cause your sweat to sweat.

8. Don’t bother driving. Public transit and your feet can get you anywhere you want to go (Buy comfy insoles). Plus, I have personally witnessed at least four accidents this week. (Anybody want to buy a Tacoma?)

9. Know that Allston looks and feels as if all control of the neighborhood was relinquished to the 21 year-olds of the world. Creative, fast-paced, friendly, diverse, and somebody didn’t pick up his room and smokes too much.

10. Come play with our apartment’s buzzer, it is awesome. I guarantee that I will call you Bosworth or Bitterman over the intercom and encourage you to pour my afternoon tea.

 

There are a thousand and one other things I could tell you about Boston, like how wonderful it is to stroll through The Commons at dusk or walk under the Green Monster during a Red Sox game, but I don’t want to sound like a tourist book. All-in-all, Katie and I are thoroughly enjoying our new lives in Boston and learning more about it every day. For all of you who are thinking about visiting us, I can comfortably say that we can show you a good time. For those of you already out here in Boston, you should either be my friend or offer me a job.

Cheers.

Matt