29 July 2007

Marginally Amusing

Things start out amusing, then sort of deteriorate...

  • The old argument over "What would geniuses of the past do with modern computers"? is interesting enough. Would Shakespeare perhaps have blotted a word — or even a thousand, as Ben Jonson wished — if he had been word-processing his plays instead of (largely) having them written down afterward from the recollection of marginally literate actors? Would Bach have sat in Starbucks with a laptop, and possibly finished working his name into his last work? I'm not certain about them, but I'm pretty sure that Mozart would front a punk-revival band and party with Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan (unless they couldn't keep up with his partying).
  • I always find it disturbingly amusing when employees at newspapers — who own no intellectual property that they produce, thanks to the work-for-hire doctrine — completely miss out on justifications for certain things that freelance authors do. Like epilogues. (And Shakespeare pokes in here, too, with another out-of-context quotation that does not mean at all what the writer of the article implies.) For freelance writers, there is a good reason to employ an epilogue at the end of a series: Amadis of Gaul. That is, an epilogue does a lot to cut off the ability of others with crasser motives — sometimes commercial, sometimes self-aggrandizement — to continue the main story line in some damaging or offensive-to-the-author ways. Rowling's epilogue in HP7, for example, cuts off any real chance of this kind of abomination.
  • Speaking of HP7, Bloomsbury (the UK publisher) is delaying reprints in an effort to minimize returns. Over on this side of the pond, no word from Scholastic on any similar efforts; if Scholastic is watching the latest nonsense in the AMS bankruptcy proceeding, it will shortly do the same.
  • Unfortunately, returns aren't the only problem with the book distribution system. There's also the little matter of oligopolies, both in practice and otherwise.
  • Then there's this report (PDF at link)and commentary on "shaking up academic publishing." All of this begs yet another question, though: Is there a difference between immediate searchable access to other scholars, which would be met by an SSRN-like system, and later access by nonscholars and scholars-in-training, which probably would not, that should make a difference? I'm not certain of the answer to this question, or even whether it is the only question unanswered by the report and commentary.