10 November 2010

Midweek Link Sausage Platter

Filled with tasty treats and sawdusty goodness!

  • The real problem with the current generation of e-books is that — unlike a dead-tree edition — they're not yours. Instead, distributors are using "software licenses" as a model. The obvious problem is that when a legal preference meets an incompatible behavior-set, both get undermined, requiring changes in the underlying statutes. For example, many people don't realize that until fairly recently in the US, lending or renting sound recordings violated the Copyright Act... which didn't prevent anyone from doing so.
  • A Japanese economist compares obsessive bargain-hunting to self-cannibalism through a Stephen King analogy... and, of course, both understates and overstates everything. If nothing else, this interview illustrates the gap between theory and behavior — or, to use one of my own analogies, it illustrates that the existence of a single economic/financial Maxwell's Daemon implies the existence of a whole bunch of them working at cross-purposes.
  • It's really disturbing that getting a balanced, realistic description of an American copyright suit requires recourse to a UK newspaper, but, that said: Musical's producers sued for not properly crediting/acknowledging a factual biography as their source. The interesting thing for a nerd like me is the Feist question: How much of the musical copied original expression from the biography? Not having seen either, I'm unwilling to even venture a guess... because in biography, more than any other form of "historical"/"factual" work, the selection and arrangement of facts to tell a story resembles the narrative fiction-writer's art more than it does the uninventive chronicler's reportage.
  • At least according to the Grauniad, literary periodicals don't seem to be doing all that badly in this 'net-influenced publishing environment. Unfortunately, the article does not grapple with the underlying problem: How are the authors of works appearing in those publications doing?
  • A major UK-based literary agent almost gets it with a diatribe against the egregiously-misnamed "agency model" for e-book pricing. Ms Green properly compares the "agency model" to the UK's former Net Book Agreement, under which everyone agreed that list price was the selling price — that is, there was an industry agreement not to discount from list price. Being in the UK, she's probably just not familiar with the American antitrust term "resale price maintenance agreement"... or with the horribly mistranslated equivalents in EU law that led to the demise of the Net Book Agreement.
  • Realms of Fantasy tries — again — to rise from the dead. I predict no more success this time than under Mr Lapine without a zero-based rethinking of format, content, and editorial style... not to mention elimination of conflicts of interest. Major hint: This isn't the 1980s any more, and even People has moved away from the 1980s People look-and-feel that RoF (and Science Fiction Age) attempted to emulate in the 1990s. The remaining exponents of that meme are Vanity Fair and Vogue... and that says far, far more about contempt for the readership than anything else, on top of the problems with the particular mix of editorial content.

    I'm setting the over-under on the next hiatus — absent such a significant reenvisioning — at seven issues: Just over a year for a bimonthly. I actually hope I'm wrong... but I have a pretty good track record on these sorts of predictions.

  • Some fascinating neo-Whorfism involving bilingual speakers. I would suggest that there needs to be another variable controlled: The subjects' perspective of the dominant language in the vicinity of the testing is a significant variable, as it partially controls whether they are immersing themselves in a given language or "just visiting."