Thursday, December 18, 2014

Citizenfour and Cory Doctorow

Citizenfour (2014) is a documentary film directed by Laura Poitras concerning Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. (Wikipedia)

Science fiction author Corey Doctorow wrote a book called Homeland.

Overview: In Cory Doctorow’s wildly successful Little Brother,(prior book to Homeland) young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco—an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state. 

A few years later, California's economy collapses, but Marcus’s hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. Soon his former nemesis Masha emerges from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing a Wikileaks-style cable-dump of hard evidence of corporate and governmental perfidy. It’s incendiary stuff—and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world. Then Marcus sees Masha being kidnapped by the same government agents who detained and tortured Marcus years earlier.

Marcus can leak the archive Masha gave him—but he can’t admit to being the leaker, because that will cost his employer the election. He’s surrounded by friends who remember what he did a few years ago and regard him as a hacker hero. He can’t even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. He’s not at all sure that just dumping the archive onto the Internet, before he’s gone through its millions of words, is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they’re used to inflicting pain until they get the answers they want.

Fast-moving, passionate, and as current as next week, Homeland is every bit the equal of Little Brother—a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

Well here is the real world meets book. Edward Snowden had a copy and he had it in his hotel room as he was disclosing information about the NSA. At his website Doctorow has a clip from the film where you can see the book sitting in the hotel room.

I have to wonder if the Doctorow book was what actually pushed Snowden over the edge to disclose the NSA information. I don't say that it a way like Doctorow was insighting illegal activity or that Doctorow was the cause. But books can influence and I have to wonder if that influence had been removed would we be in the same place we are now.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Unique gift inscription in book

I purchased this used book at a thrift store. I had never read a work by this author before but I had read numerous positive reviews of her work. I was just going to buy the book on that basis but then I found the gift inscription in the front of the book and I had to buy it.

Usually a gift inscription is positive (e.g. I loved this book.) not it left me paranoid and apprehensive.

If you think you know what the book is leave a comment to this post with your guess. I will reveal the title of the book on December 12th unless someone guesses it first. If a correct guess is provided in the comments I will confirm that it is the correct answer within 24 hours of the guess being posted.

Another hint about the book - It was published in the 1990's.

Update - The book is --- "The Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler

No More Word Puzzles: Google Can Tell You're Human With One Click

A squiggly word puzzle pops up as you're trying to buy concert tickets. You stare at the words, scratching your head, as time disappears for you to purchase those tickets. Your first few attempts are utter failures, and you wonder why confirming your humanity on the Internet has to be so difficult.

Those mind-bending days are over. Google announced Wednesday the launch of "No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA," which gets rid of CAPTCHAs — those complicated distorted word puzzles — and can tell you're not a robot with just one click. Now the person just has to click a checkbox next to the statement "I'm not a robot."

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control

 Ted Striphas argues that, although the production and propagation of books have undoubtedly entered a new phase, printed works are still very much a part of our everyday lives. With examples from trade journals, news media, films, advertisements, and a host of other commercial and scholarly materials, Striphas tells a story of modern publishing that proves, even in a rapidly digitizing world, books are anything but dead.

From the rise of retail superstores to Oprah's phenomenal reach, Striphas tracks the methods through which the book industry has adapted (or has failed to adapt) to rapid changes in twentieth-century print culture. Barnes & Noble, Borders, and have established new routes of traffic in and around books, and pop sensations like Harry Potter and the Oprah Book Club have inspired the kind of brand loyalty that could only make advertisers swoon. At the same time, advances in digital technology have presented the book industry with extraordinary threats and unique opportunities.

Striphas's provocative analysis offers a counternarrative to those who either triumphantly declare the end of printed books or deeply mourn their passing. With wit and brilliant insight, he isolates the invisible processes through which books have come to mediate our social interactions and influence our habits of consumption, integrating themselves into our routines and intellects like never before.

Link to book on Amazon: The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century

For nearly five centuries, the world of book publishing remained largely static. But at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the industry faces a combination of economic pressures and technological change that is forcing publishers to alter their practices and think hard about the future of the book.

John Thompson's riveting account dissects the roles of publishers, agents, and booksellers in the United States and Britain, charting their transformation since the 1960s. Offering an in-depth analysis of how the digital revolution is changing the game today, Merchants of Culture is the one book that anyone with a stake in the industry needs to read.

Link to book on Amazon: Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century

Monday, November 03, 2014

Saccharin ebooks

What if a company paid to have their product placed inside the story line of a book?

If this idea leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you may find it ironic that this idea has been done and the company that did the sponsoring was Sweet 'N Low. The book is titled Find Me I'm Yours and the previously mentioned sugar substitute has been worked into the story line in several places.

The book is tied in with a series of websites. A small alternative media universe has been created to go along with the book. NYT article with additional details - E-Book Mingles Love and Product Placement

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Disclaimer in the book "In Cold Type"

The book titled "The Book Publishing Industry" had the following paragraph about "In Cold type" and the disclaimer.

Mike Shatzkin, son of the author, has the following blog post - Why Dad’s book had a disclaimer from the publisher

Leo's Book and Wine -- In Cold Type

I bought a copy of the book "In Cold Type" by Leonard Shatzkin. The book was published in the early 1980's. The sub-title of the book is "Overcoming the Book Crisis." For those that do not know crises in the book industry did not start with

When the book arrived the first thing I noticed was the sticker on the front that at one time it had been sold at "Leo's Book and Wine Shop".

I knew nothing about Leo's but I found it interesting that a book about the publishing industry would be sold by a wine shop. I did some searching online and found that Leo's was a bookstore in Toledo, Ohio and was open from 1967 - 2009.

I found a 2009 article - Leo's writes final chapter for family's bookstore - that discusses the closing of the bookstore. The founder's son Daryl had taken over the business for his father. In the article he does attribute the current problems with the store to the changes in the publishing industry and online book sales but he also mentions another significant issue PARKING.

Excerpt from the article - Mr. Yourist said aggressive parking meter enforcement also contributed because it lessened customer traffic. He had a parking ticket on his desk that he said he would pay for his attorney, and lamented that the only way small businesses could survive in the area is to have their own parking lots.

“When people get a $10 parking ticket because they've stayed longer than an hour, they're not going to come here to shop,” he said. “And until something is done about that, there won't be any retail downtown for a long time.”

A picture of the closed Leo's store with a FOR SALE sign in the window. (Note the parking meter - please read the full article because I readily concede that the parking was only a piece of multiple things that impacted this business)

Leo Yourist, the store's founder, passed in 2011. Nice article with some details of his life and store can be seen here - Leo Yourist, 1920-2011: Bookstore owner a downtown fixture

Friday, October 31, 2014

Roger Ebert's 4 Star Movie Guide and Serendipity

In the late 1980's BASF had a package of videotapes that included a book of movie reviews by RogerEbert. The guide had the same dimensions as a videotape.

What I like about Ebert reviews, actually more than like - but am amazed by, is how in a relatively short review there is meaningful insight. Sometimes the insight is into the movie or an actor but sometimes it is about life, the world, or humanity.

Found books have always interested me. The serendipity of books beguiles me. How many people have been influenced or changed by a found book?

Numerous people bought these tapes wanting the book. But then others were exposed to the book because they just wanted some blank videotapes.

Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, was one of the people that found and was influenced by the book. Excerpt from his article Learning From Ebert - In the nineteen-eighties, when I was in high school, my parents bought a VHS player, and, with it, an Ebert video guide, in which various of his Chicago Sun-Times reviews were collected. Through that book, I found dozens of my favorite films. 

I also think of the book-less homes that ended up with a book because the 4 package set of videotapes was a good deal. I wonder how many kids, teenagers, or adults, who like Alex Ross, found this book and discovered bigger worlds because of what they read. The movies that were seen/rented that never would have been seen had this book not fallen into their lives.

The chaos theory butterfly flapped its wings, a page was turned, and the world ended up a little different because of a book falling into odd corners of America.

I ran into a copy on a thrift store shelf a few years ago. I bought that copy because I remembered seeing the VHS/book set in the video store when video stores were a thing. Thanks to Amazon and the Internet, if you had any interest in getting a copy, one can now be easily found.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The scale of Wikipedia in print

NPR has a story about a group that is looking to create a print copy of Wikipedia to allow people to see a physical representation of how big Wikipedia is. Here is the estimate of how big a print version of Wikipedia would be - One thousand volumes, 1,200 pages each — more than one million pages in all — about 80 meters of shelf space.

The article has this additional quote about Wikipedia - "Nobody can imagine this number. It's only when you see this in print or in a physical form that you realize how large it really is."

What is ironic is that when you get this in physical form it is really not that big. The following picture shows a range of books in a library. In this picture there are 771 volumes. Each volume is 1300 - 1500 pages. If we use the low end of the page range and take that times the number of volumes - 771 volumes X 1300 pages = 1,002,300 pages.

Admittedly this is bigger than your average set of printed encyclopedias. So comparing the picture above to the picture below you get the difference between Wikipedia and a regular encyclopedia set.

But to the scale of a library Wikipedia is not that huge.