Absolutely smashing read from a few weeks ago on Scientific Publishing, Robert Maxwell and the implications for Science itself:
And no one was more transformative and ingenious than Robert Maxwell, who turned scientific journals into a spectacular money-making machine that bankrolled his rise in British society. Maxwell would go on to become an MP, a press baron who challenged Rupert Murdoch, and one of the most notorious figures in British life. But his true importance was far larger than most of us realise. Improbable as it might sound, few people in the last century have done more to shape the way science is conducted today than Maxwell.
Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science? | The Guardian
I can’t say I agree with this argument
But there’s another downside, which is the negative impact on thousands of writers the public has never heard of or, more importantly, had the opportunity to read. In that sense, it could even be argued that Rowling’s well-intended hoax has backfired, turning into yet another story about fame in the modern world.
via JK Rowling’s book ruse is a cautionary tale for unknown writers | Joan Smith | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.
For one thing, readers always have the opportunity to read debut authors, though they may never consider them and they may choose not to read them, given that readers’ time is limited and the chances of getting a bad book are high, it’s understandable that they often pick authors they already know and like.
Secondly the publishing industry has always been hit driven, there’s some argument that it is becoming even more so with the bandwagoning effect of the internet, but that’s a question of scale rather than kind. New writers always struggle to get exposure in this environment. But even the hits start small until something or someone pushes them over an edge, that can be advertising spend, celebrity endorsement, top line publicity, word of mouth or just dumb luck, but even JK Rowling started at the bottom with Harry Potter, the initial print run for The Philosopher’s Stone was around 1,00 copies!
Finally no writer is entitled to success, just as no publisher or bookseller is entitled to it. We all have to work to reach readers and entice them to read book (hopefully our books). Sometimes that means publishing a few books before gaining a readership, sometimes it may mean a writer never gains that readership despite being talented. There’s no foolproof way to guarantee success, you just have to keep plugging away at it and finding good partners to work with and hoping you can do everything right so that if success comes, you’re ready.
Interesting piece by Robert McCrum. Not sure I agree entirely with him, but there’s much to like, and a good recommendation or two as well.
There’s a lot that’s passionate and useful in Schiffrin’s anguished analysis. He is right to identify a healthy market as the key to a vital culture and vigorous democracy. His heart is certainly in the right place, but strangely, for a book entitled Words and Money, he never fully addresses the thorny question of “free”, as articulated by Anderson, James Boyle (The Public Domain) and Lawrence Lessig (Free Culture). I wish he had because this goes to the heart of the crisis faced by print at the moment.
Books, like newspapers, are an essentially middle-class phenomenon whose market is the self-improving professional. As a bourgeois medium, books and their authors depend on the cash nexus. Johnson went straight to the point with: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
via Google’s publishing free for all undermines our literary tradition | Books | The Observer.
In what seems like a smart play to me the Guardian has created an API and a data tool. The API puts articles and news features (and crucuially advertising from The Guardian) onto partner websites and the data tools allows access to a number of curated datasets. All very smart and digitally I think you’ll agree. From the piece:
The Cass Sculpture Foundation is using the service to add Guardian articles about British artists to its site.
Other partners for the launch of the service include web design firm Stamen and OpenStreetMap, a free, open alternative to commercial map data services. Stamen and OpenStreetMap developed a service that they hope will encourage Guardian readers to “geo-tag” the newspaper’s content, positioning every article, video and picture on a map so users can find news, commentary, video and other content related to their area.
The Data Store launched with 80 data sets from trusted sources, including figures on child poverty in England and world carbon emissions by country. Simon Rogers, news editor, graphics, at the Guardian, will highlight some of the data sets in a Datablog, suggesting ways that the sets could be combined, or mashed up. It will also be a place where the Guardian highlights some of the best projects from its partners.
This seems like an intelligent play and I’d expect to see it copied by other major newspapers and media players. I can see the first mover being able to lock in considerable space from a program like this!
I’m sure there will be much more discussion on this!