Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday


I think I'm all set for the holiday season.

(Note: the tiara is for upcoming academic projects... not simply because I've always wanted to wear a tiara. Honest.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Odds and Ends Staring With Romance

I feel quite pleased with myself. In discussion with students, we decided that eBooks and romance novels would be the ideal partnership. According to Julie Bosman in The New York Times, we were dead right:

"Romance is now the fastest-growing segment of the e-reading market, ahead of general fiction, mystery and science fiction, according to data from Bowker, a research organization for the publishing industry."

Since Romance accounts for an enormous portion of the publishing industry, this is significant news.

I haven't yet been reading romance on my iPad, but I am reading Terry Pratchett and downloading many more books to read over my upcoming break. My only concern is that the price for many academic eBooks is still high. I'm not sure of the thinking behind that. Academic books do not generate large print runs or high sales figures generally and authors rarely receive more than a few dollars in royalties, so it seems to me that eBooks are an excellent opportunity to make academic books both cheaper and, thus, more readily available. Of course, this could impact academic libraries, but the ability to, for a small cost, download an academic book you'll be working with for a few months versus the inconvenience of repeated renewals of library loans (and the inevitable trip to the library to return and reborrow when you've used up your renewals) is tempting. Likewise, as I'm working on my own academic book, the inbuilt search facility of an eBook is much more convenient both for researchers (who may be looking up terms not considered for the index) and authors (who have to laboriously create their own indexes).

Earlier this morning, however, I was rather grumpy. I received another request for revisions for an article I'd submitted to a journal. Revisions in themselves are not bad things. You have a fresh opportunity to go over your work. Since the vetting process of most journals takes at least a couple of months, this is beneficial. You likewise receive suggestions and notes from referees and these can help you improve the article no end. However, one of the trials with academic life is that at times, you can appear to be in the 'Pit of Revision' (think 'Pit of Despair'). You long to work on a nice, new, pristine article, but instead, you're back revising something written months earlier. The previous pleasure of attaching a file and clicking send to clear your life of one piece of scholarship dissipates as the file comes winging back with referee reports attached.

Finally, I was reading one student's heart felt lament that a teacher who had encouraged them during a course had seemed to have forgotten who they were when they asked about their final grade. Speaking from experience, don't be too hard on teachers. After a couple of weeks living with a spread sheet, we forget who our nearest and dearest are at times. It's usually only after the horrified expression that we realise our mistake and the memory comes flooding back. If you say hello a month later, we'll know who you are. But during the final marking and grading push when everything has turned to percentages and codes... please be forgiving.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Will It Work?

I read in The New York Times this morning that a website has been set up to encourage teenage literary activity. The website encourages teens to upload their own writing:

"'We wanted people to be able to write whatever they wanted in whatever form they wanted,' Mr. Lewis said. 'We give them a piece of paper and say, ‘Go.’ ' He added that so far contributions had included fantasy, science fiction, biographical work and long serial novels. 'There’s a very earnest and exacting quality to what they’re doing.'"

I wish it success, although I'm always a little wary of the word 'earnest' and attempts in the area of what I'll refer to as 'organised encouragement.' Some organisation is a good thing, but there has to be room for users to participate in the evolution of the thing.

There are sites out there offering similar opportunities to adult authors.