Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What a Roads Scholar Learned

I got a cheerful email message yesterday from our excellent friend and colleague Kevin Leander. He was chosen to be one of Vanderbilt's Roads Scholars for 2006. This sounds like a pretty fun concept with a faint ring of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters to it. Well, maybe not.

Anyway, the concept is that Vanderbilt selects members from the university community to get on a bus and 'go meet the community'. They made a wee video of the event. If you're fast you'll catch Kevin near the end hitting a line from 'This magic moment' right on key.

Anyway, one of the places they went to was an outfit called Lightning Source. This company provides a print on demand book service and one of the key contract users is Kevin reported that oftentimes when one orders a book from Amazon "the order goes out to this place in La Vergne, Tennessee, and they print the book in something like 18 hours, and ship it out in a box that makes it look seamless". There's also a Lightning Source in Milton Keynes, England.

Kevin says that the books produced by Lightning Source -- "The Power of One" -- have barcodes near the back of the book as well as on the cover -- so that the book contents can be matched to the right covers at the right time. So if you are a regular purchaser from Amazon it might be that some of your books have the multiple barcodes that indicate it has been produced in this kind of way.

Thinking about this from an author's perspective, it makes for interesting questions about 'print runs', and sales, and distribution and costs, and royalties and so on. Imagine all that correspondence running between Amazon and the publishers, telling them they have sold X copies of book Y so that all the records can be kept up to date.

How long's your print run?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Liquids on my mind...

I've just come back from Newark airport where Colin caught a plane home to Mexico (we arrived at 3am--the recommended 2 hours plus 1 for good measure in advance of his 6am flight--along with a planeload of others, only to have the check-in crew arrive at 4:30am... (Of course, as soon as the lights and computers blinked into life, a kind of quiet bedlam broke out as people hustled for spaces at the do-it-yourself check-in computers while an official kept calling out, "Who's next? Who's next?" but not actually explaining what "next" meant...). Anyway, liquids are very much on my mind at present (I'm going to spend today seeing if there isn't a powdered form of eyedrops or something like that to take with me on my bazillion-hour flight to Oz on Wednesday. BoingBoing's recent post about the reviews of Tuscan milk (the 128-ounce jug of Tuscan Grade A Milk, that is) on show that reviews are potentially not only good for you, but they can get you thinking deeply about (a) when is a review a review, and (b) just what to call this kind of phenomenon, where people collectively "hijack" one intended purpose and make it over into something entirely different (we've blogged about a similar event on eBay, but this was a lone user making his own poetry/fiction/whacky narrative). Anyway, the Tuscan milk thingy is not a meme; it's not a swarm in terms of product/outcome. Maybe it's a kind of collaborative genre-jacking (hmmm, that term doesn't quite work, either). What is this practice?!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Towards Normal

Almost ready to leave the Cove and head back to the smoke -- and regular internet access. Am keying this from the YMCA in Corner Brook, Newfoundland -- one of 200 community spaces in the province that offers free broadband.

Three things to cover in this post. First, we'll catch up asap with those of you who have responded to the chapters of "New Literacies".

Second, here is the link to Chapter 5 of the draft, on weblogging as participation.

Third, it's a risk posting the chapter because the hosting site is a geocities 'freebie' and it sometimes goes over its limit. So if you get a message saying the site has exceeded its limit please just try again later. We will be upgrading the site as soon as we get a chance so get around the overload problems.

Meanwhile, there is a 6 hour ferry crossing in a forecast stromy sea and a 20 hour drive back to New Jersey beckoning.

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