Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Good Work Continues Onward

Remember when Dr. Burton's 295 class wrote and published an eBook over the summer? Remember the lightning fast marketing campaign we did to find people who would actually care about what we were trying to do?

Well, yesterday one of the people I contacted about our webinar, Anna Smith, mentioned me on Twitter to let me know about a project students at NYU are doing this semester. It looks really interesting and the students' "response/analysis will be posted as a response to Writing About Literature in the Digital Age (Silvester, Nelson & Rutter, 2011) and will be patterned after their chapters." How cool is that? This just emphasizes the importance of learning and sharing in today's digital culture. It's also fun to know people are actually benefiting from our efforts, check it out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Download the free eBook here!

Writing About Literature in the Digital Age is now up and ready to be downloaded. Go here and check it out!

Learning Outcomes of English 295

The 3 C's... what are they? Did we meet them? 

This semester has been spent trying out the new tools of the digital age. To consume the required texts I wanted to use a variety of mediums. I read Vinge's Rainbows End the old-fashioned way, a nice new paperback book. I tackled Darnton's The Case for Books via audiobook and for Card's Ender's Game I used a mix of both the physical book and the audiobook. I came to really appreciate the audiobook format and now I listen to them everyday at work. 

I also learned useful tools for researching in the digital age. I discovered we are not limited to scholarly databases to find useful information about literary texts. Goodreads, Diigo, and Twitter played a key role in my research. Those websites provided great starting points for finding even more information. 

The create learning outcome was essential to this class. Each of us was required to create a blog and produce daily blog posts. I struggled a little with this requirement. I really like blogging but it has been hard for me to get past the mindset of having to compose perfectly crafted pieces of writing before putting it online for everyone to see. I discovered that if I let myself write, spend a few minutes tweaking it here and there and quickly click the "publish" button I can produce relatively interesting content without much stress. 

While blogging is less formal than a traditional research paper it is still very possible to create content that is meaningful and insightful. When the blogging medium is used for more academic purposes the content being created is more likely to be read by a larger audience because of its accessibility. The blogger has to catch your attention quickly before the reader has a chance to click away. Learning to write in this style has been very rewarding.

Connecting with others interested in the work we are doing turned out to be easier than I thought. I am a pretty reserved person so when Dr. Burton told us about this section of the learning outcomes I was a little apprehensive. As the semester went on I discovered how fun it is comment on other people's blogs and how exciting it is to look at the stats of your blog and see who is viewing it and from where.

Connecting to people through marketing our (now complete!) eBook has been a lot of fun. I felt a little bit like an explorer when I was searching for  people who would be interested in what we have to say. When I sent out invitations and got a few responses from people saying they planned to attend, I saw just how important it is to connect with others. What is the point of creating something if it will never reach a audience? It is nice to know that our eBook is accessible to all right now and will continue to be there in the future. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Navigating the Ways of Marketing

Our eBook is finally ready to be brought to the world!

If I had been told I would be involved in producing an eBook in under 3 weeks I never would have believed it. This has been quite an adventure.

I was part of the marketing team. I really wanted to search for real people who I thought would care about our book and the topics it deals with. I got really lucky when I attended the webinar with Troy Hicks and found Anna Smith. Her website led me to people who's work she is following, as well as people who are following her. I sifted through all of them and came up with a pretty good list of contacts. I sent out an email earlier today and also contacted a few people via Twitter.

Can I just say how great Twitter is? I got a Twitter account a few years ago but never really did anything with it. I'm glad I found out what a wonderful marketing tool it can be! For example, I contacted Ryan Rish through Twitter and he quickly answered with a promising response:
When I thought about our webinar I saw such potential but also thought it would only be attended by our friends and family, which is nice, but not as impactful as I was hoping. But contacting people and sending out emails has given me hope. Even with our brief advertising campaign it looks like we are getting the word out.

I'm very excited for our webinar and the launch of our eBook.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Webinars and Marketing

My plan for today was to go to class, to work, then to the BYU CEO Club to get a free J-Dawg. I wasn't really expecting to enjoy myself at the club meeting but I figured it would be worth it for the J-Dawg.

While I was at the club meeting I also attended the Classroom 2.0 webinar with Troy Hicks. Attending a webinar was a first for me so I didn't know what to expect. I liked the format. It was interesting, and at times, challenging to both listen to the speaker and read the chat stream generated by the other attendees. I thought the chat stream was a great way for people to connect instantly with others about the things that were being said. Many people contributed to the chat with links to other sites that they thought others would find interesting.  Overall I really enjoyed it. It was pretty cool to see the moderators take notice of what was being said in the chat window, then address it with their next comments. It showed they were actually engaged with their audience and they cared about what the audience thought.

I think conducting a webinar would be a worthwhile use of our time and would definitely spread the word about our eBook. From some of the comments at the webinar, I got the feeling that teachers are very interested in engaging in the digital tools available but are not sure if those tools are considered scholarly enough for some of their purposes. If we hold a webinar to showcase our eBook and the things we have written concerning that issue we can help convince them of its legitimacy.

At the end of the webinar one of the participants, Anna Smith, gave her twitter name so people could continue the discussion. I checked it out and also discovered she had a website that is a companion to a "soon-to-be-published" book, Developing Writers: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. She sounds like someone who would be very interested in our eBook. We should keep her in mind and reach out to her and see if she has other contacts who would also be interested.

After the webinar, one of the speakers at the CEO club was talking about how to find people to market a product to. It seemed like fate that I had decided to attend. The speaker said the trick to marketing is to find one source and then "explode it." He said you just have to go at it with all you have until the source knows exactly what you're offering and gets onboard. We should look into his advice and focus on very specific markets then explode them with information about our eBook.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Online Identity - Ready to be Edited?

Here's the link to the final draft of my chapter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Possible Teaser Pictures?

here are a few I like:

Flickr - grafikspam
(creative commons licensed)

Flickr - Marcin Wichary
(creative commons licensed)
Identity with a scifi flair

Flickr - JD Hancock
(creative commons licensed)

I think I like this one the best. It gives off the vibe I'm going for: science fiction mixed with creating an identity to showcase your personality

I don't know, any suggestions?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Beginning of the Age Anonymity: Ender’s Game and the Question of Online Identity

“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” 
(Card 231)

Today’s digital age easily allows us to make connections with others who share the same interests. This instant communication has forced us to change the way we consume and connect with literature. Gone is the conventional research paper written for an audience of one. We are able to quickly spread our ideas about a piece of literature and receive meaningful feedback. With the emergence of the internet, and its prominent place in our lives, it is almost mandatory to create an online identity for one’s self. Whether that identity is similar to your own or not is entirely up to you. Our online identities and the way we communicate with each other set the stage for all interactions on the internet. Students studying literature are responsible for sifting through these identities and using the best sources for research and learning. 

Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, Ender’s Game, was groundbreaking. Amid the story line of a six year old boy, named Ender Wiggen, who leaves his family to train at the Battle School in preparation of the third and final war with the alien race called the Formics, or Buggers, Card created a world where people interacted with each other through the “nets,” a forum-based digital environment where people met to discuss important political and social issues. Students were also given handheld desks used for school research as well as for sending other students private instant messages. While Card got a few of the details wrong (he wrote his novel five years before the first web page was launched (Source)), he successfully captured the essence of what is happening in our digital world today; from the importance of establishing an online identity to the multi-channeled way we tend to communicate. (better transition..)

Instead of focusing on the main character Ender, I wanted to examine two of the minor characters in the story, Ender’s older brother, Peter, and his sister, Valentine. Peter and Valentine have extremely opposite personalities. From the first mention of Peter the reader senses the rocky relationship between Peter and Ender. Card artfully uses Ender’s thoughts to easily develop Peter’s character, a much more effective device than reading an outsider’s description. We immediately pick up on the fear Ender feels and the obvious resentment Peter has toward Ender from the negative connotations and short flashbacks he experiences as he thinks about Peter, “I’m practicing piano, Ender. Come turn the pages for me. Oh, is the monitor boy too busy to help his brother? Is he too smart?” (Card 2). Peter is motivated by his thirst for power, and is ruthless and extremely intelligent. He will use whatever force or leverage necessary to achieve his goals.  “[Valentine] couldn’t think of anything so terrible that she didn’t believe Peter might do it...[but] he would only do it if the advantages outweighed the risks...he always, always acted out of intelligent self-interest,” (Card 125). 

Valentine is his foil. She is full of compassion and would never deliberately harm someone else, but she is also intelligent and understands how to manipulate people and their thoughts, “writing was something Val did better than Peter...[she] could persuade other people to her point of view–she could convince them that they wanted what she wanted them to want. Peter, on the other hand, could only make them fear what he wanted them to fear,” (Card 127). Peter, intent on ruling the world, manages to enlist Valentine to assist him in his plan. They create identities for themselves on the “nets” and use their pseudonyms as a way to share their ideas with others. “They used throwaway names with their early efforts, not the identities that Peter planned to make famous and influential...They were deliberately inflammatory. ‘We can’t learn how our style of writing is working unless we get responses – and if we’re bland, no one will answer,’” (Card 133).  

While Card uses Peter and Valentine’s alternate identities to comment on the capability of  the digital society to manipulate the thoughts and actions of others, he uses Ender to illustrate the need for effective, honest communication. Ender, unknowingly, destroys the Bugger race. We find out later that the Bugger invasion only occurred because of a lack of communication, “We are like you; the thought pressed into his mind. We did not mean to murder, and when we understood, we never came again. We thought we were the only thinking beings in the universe... How were we to know? We could live with you in peace,” (Card 321). Effective communication is vital to our society today. Much heartache and confusion can come from simple misunderstandings and the digital age only emphasizes the problem. By applying what Ender learned about communication to our modern predicaments we can avoid similar misunderstandings today.

Connecting to the Digital Age
When I made the connection between what everyone in my English 295 class was doing and what Peter and Valentine were doing, creating online identities, I could hardly contain my excitement. Had we really moved into a time that emulated something from a science fiction novel? I was amazed at the similarities and by the possibilities. Peter and Valentine were children when they gained notoriety, “'Peter, you’re twelve.' 'Not on the nets I’m not. On the nets I can name myself anything I want, and so can you,'” (Card 129), on the internet it is easy to pretend to be anyone...
In the digital age “students exist in both worlds simultaneously with the IOL [Institues of Old Learning] promoting instruction and learning based on a relatively static, restricted set of print texts and using tired, extrinsic motivation approaches tied to narrow, academic, disembodied goals while NLS [New Literacy Studies] and new literacies document  that children and youth are shifting from the page to the screen,” (O’brien). It is important to continue looking toward the future to avoid being trapped in “the increasing gap between literacy practices embraced by schools and policymakers and new literacy practices,” (O’brien). In the digital age, understanding literature goes beyond merely reading and writing about it. We must study and experience it in it's social and cultural contexts. When we do so, we engage with the text and draw more meaningful analysis and conclusions from it. We share these insights with others who are also interested and we become part of an online community. When we interact and share with others our online identities begin to take shape.

Works Cited:

Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLc, 1985. Print.

O'Brien, David G, and Bauer, Eurydice Bouchereau. "Review: Essay Book Review: New Literacies and the Institution of Old Learning." Reading Research Quarterly 40.1 (2005): 120-131. Web. May 27 2011.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Promising Direction

Thoughts I am having about where to take my research:

After learning about many of the new techniques that are emerging for literary criticism in our digital age, I could not help but see connections found in Ender's Game. I found an article that turned out to be an essay book review of the book New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning. I checked it out from the library and, while it is not specific to Ender's Game, I have been pleasantly surprised with the ideas it poses about informing people of the new literacy practices that are emerging from the digital age.

 The article focuses more on how "literacy educators can bridge the gap between New Literacy Studies (NLS) and what we characterize as the Institution of Old Learning." I did a little research and found that NLS emphasizes studying reading and writing within the context of it's social and cultural practices rather than focusing on literacy only being the ability to read and write. From what I gather, NLS is interested in employing ways of consuming literature (print, audio, video, etc.) because it allows more people to be exposed to the literature.

I want to tie the new things I am learning about NLS to Ender's Game and the importance of effective communication in the new age of digital literacy.

 I found a professor at Arizona State University, James Gee, who was involved in the idea of new literacies a few years ago. I want to email him to learn his opinion of the way our uses of digital literacy have evolved.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Helping Ashley with Jane Eyre through LION

2. As mentioned before I love the novel Jane Eyre. My goal is to help my classmate Ashley find useful research using the online database Literature Online (LION).

It looks like she is focusing on connections between Jane Eyre and the author/reader response to it of other literary and artistic works.

3. LION is a database that compiles full_text articles from nine other literary databases that deal with English poetry and drama, 18th century fiction, American and African poetry, and Shakespeare. 

4. I wasn't sure where to start so I typed "Jane Eyre" AND criticism AND response in the search box. I found a few articles that looked interesting from the Bronte Studies Journal but could not find the text online. Bronte Studies is dedicated to research and further study of everything relating to the Bronte Family. If any of the articles look interesting to Ashley she may be able to request them through the Interlibrary Loan. I continued searching and found something interesting.

5. Source Citation:
McKee, Patricia. "Racial Strategies in Jane Eyre." Victorian Literature and Culture 37.1 (2009): 67-83. Web. 27 May 2011. <http://lion.chadwyck.com/searchFullrec.do?id=R04175916&area=mla&forward=critref_fr&DurUrl=Yes>.

6. Glancing at the title of this article, it seems to have little to do with Ashley's topic, but reading the summary gave me another avenue of research. The summary mentions Ann Laura Stoler who "has argued [that] racism in the nineteenth century depended on flexible rather than fixed criteria." This may be helpful at looking at how people responded to Jane Eyre when it was published and why Bronte included some of the things she did.

7. While I'm not sure how helpful the actual article I found will be to Ashley's research, I discovered a few useful searching techniques that I had not really considered before. Looking through an article related to what you are searching for can lead you down the path to finding other articles that are more useful and focused on your topic.

Exploring JSTOR for Criticism of Ender's Game

2. I have been having kind of a hard time trying to come up with something to research that relates to both Ender's Game and the things we have been talking about in class. I was so focused on the battle school part of the novel that I overlooked the Peter/Valentine aspect. I looked back at those chapters and realized that Peter and Valentine were basically doing what everyone in my English 295 class is doing, establishing an online identity. Granted, while Peter wanted to use the influence he gained through the "nets" to take over the world, we are trying to establish ourselves and our ideas in new ways in order to communicate with others who have similar interests. I think I want to focus on the communication issues Ender's Game raises, both digital and traditional.

I have discovered literary criticism on Ender's Game to be slightly scarce. This was surprising to me. The book is over 25 years old and I thought it was popular enough to be of interest to at least a few scholars. Luckily, a few of the themes and issues in Ender's Game are being discussed in conjunction with other novels. I chose to use JSTOR to further my search and see if my topic is worthwhile.

3. JSTOR: doing a quick Google search I discovered JSTOR is an acronym for "journal storage." JSTOR is an online database dedicated to the humanities and social science titles that, according to the blurb from the HBLL, "have proven themselves vital to these disciplines and which have many years of publication." 

4. I went to the JSTOR home page and typed in "Ender's Game" to make sure I would get at least one result. After I was pleasantly surprised at the number of articles, I refined my search by also entering "AND (communication)." The results yielded an abnormal amount of articles about terrorism so I further refined my search with "NOT (terrorism)." As I searched, I found the "save citation" option to be quite helpful. There is also an email option, allowing you to send a list of your sources to yourself if you need to. After sifting through a couple pages of articles I ended up with a few that look promising. 

5. Source citation:
 O'brien, David G, and Bauer, Eurydice Bouchereau. "Review: Essay Book Review: New Literacies and the Institution of Old Learning." Reading Research Quarterly 40.1 (2005): 120-131. Web. May 27 2011.

6. This article discusses the digital divide, new forms of learning and briefly incorporates Ender's Game. 

7. I was happy to find this article because it discusses many of the topics we have been touching on in class. I think I am starting to have a better idea of where to go with my research.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If it's Popsicle, it's Possible!

Tonight I went to my friends' wedding reception (Congrats Sam and Dallin!). It was super cute and a lot of fun. They both looked very happy and Sam's dress was gorgeous. The cool thing about the reception was that it was held in a plant nursery. What a neat idea! I love going to wedding receptions and looking at the creative things people come up with.

Before we headed off to the reception, we decided it would be best to stop by Target and get a few gifts. Have you ever realized just how ingenious gift registries are? I guess the down side is you already know ahead of time exactly what you will be getting, but what did we do before people could tell us precisely what and how many of something they wanted? I imagine there were many more gifts returned than were actually kept. For example, I would have never known that my friends had the desire to own the eclectic mix of movies including The Neverending Story, Goonies, Robots, Becoming Jane, and Star Trek. They also wanted a rather large cooler that my friend conveniently stocked with popsicles, hence the coupon. Technology is making our lives ever easier, but is it taking away the little surprises in life? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure gift registries save lives.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Audiobook vs The Comic Book

I have really enjoyed talking to Matt Harrison the last couple of class periods about Ender's Game. We both chose this fantastic book for our personal literature book. If you don't know anything about him you should probably know he is a huge comic book fan, as evidenced by his blog. Encouraged by Dr. Burton, we both wanted to read Ender's Game in a different format than we previously had. Because of the recent success I've had with audiobooks I thought I would try it again with Ender and Matt chose to check out the comic book version.

Today in class Matt showed me a youtube video someone made by incorporating scenes from the comic book and dubbing the corresponding audio from the audiobook over top of them (although, the audiobook I'm listening to is much better than the one used in the video).

 Here's his post about it.

 I thought this was a really cool idea. Experiencing books in different formats sort of forces you to focus on different things. Reading a traditional book allows the reader to go back and reread sections as many times as he wants. I've noticed a difference in how I picture things while listening to the audiobook. Probably the most noticeable difference is during the fight scenes. When I'm reading a book I tend to read fight scenes faster so I can discover what happens sooner, which inevitably leads to me skipping over minor details. When I listen to an audiobook the narrator retains his steady pace and calmly reads the passage. I get more out of it and create a more detailed picture in my mind.

I thought the comic book was an interesting format choice. At first mention I didn't think a comic book could convey everything the reader needs to know about Ender, things like why he does what he does, and how he thinks and feels. To me, those are some of the most interesting parts of the book. But Matt told me Orson Scott Card was very involved in the creation of the comic book. Card had to approve everything and apparently he thinks the comic book story line would be the best adaptation to use for a movie. I am interested to see how Matt feels about the comic book format when he's finished reading it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It Began With An End[er]

One memorable day, sometime during 8th grade, my mom brought Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card home from the bookstore and suggested I read it. I was slightly skeptical about it at first, "A science fiction novel?" I thought, "Isn't that pretty nerdy?" Not that I wasn't a nerd already, I watched Star Trek quite diligently and was caught up on every season except for Deep Space Nine (my least favorite), but I thought thoroughly immersing myself in the genre of SciFi was going a little too far. But the more I looked at the cover the more I intrigued I became. I finally gave in and set out to read my first science fiction novel.

From the first page I was captivated. The world Orson Scott Card created was fascinating, thought provoking, and sometimes frightening. I loved learning about and experiencing the future through his eyes. When I was finished I immediately got the sequels and began to read everything Card had ever written. I was hooked. But was I only in love with Card's writing style or was it the genre itself? When I finished all of Card's books I moved on to the master of science fiction, Isaac Asimov. I thought his idea of Psycohistory was so inventive and I loved his Robot Series. Douglas Adams closely followed Asimov and I began to realize how easily science fiction can combine ridiculous humor with serious social commentary. I felt I had found my niche.

Reading Ender's Game was a turning point in my life. I had always liked to read but Card's novel won me over and opened my mind to a genre I would never have given any thought. Thanks Ender!

Monday, May 16, 2011

*Slightly belated* Goodreads Review of Rainbows End

Rainbows EndRainbows End by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Rainbows End for my English 295 class a few weeks ago. I'm a pretty big fan of science fiction so I was excited to be reading a science fiction novel for a class. The beginning was great. I loved the espionage and the secret technology that was being developed. Right when I was really getting into all of it Vinge switched gears and threw me into the life of a recovering Alzheimer's patient who is trying to rediscover the world in which he lives, which is interesting and thought provoking, but not in the same way as the section that came before it. Overall I liked the book. I enjoyed learning about Vinge's new technology through Robert Gu and watching him try to understand and come to terms with everything, but I was a little disappointed that he left a lot of loose ends untied.

If the book's purpose was to ignite discussion about what is in store for books and the new technology that may replace them, then I think it does that well enough. I was intrigued by few of the ideas Vinge brought up and the fight scene set in the library was interesting.

The book, while lacking a bit in plot, was good at presenting Vinge's ideas in an easily accessible form.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Goodreads review of Bossypants

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This audiobook was so entertaining! I love Tina Fey and was very excited to discover she was the narrator. It was great to hear her read her own memoirs. I felt like she was sitting next to me just talking about her life. Her stories are a great mix of sarcasm and sincerity. She also covered a wide array of time periods, from her kindergarten days to becoming the head writer for 30 Rock and everything in between.

I was glad I chose the audiobook as the format to "read" this book. It was great to hear Fey imitating other people's voices and the other sound effects really helped hold the reader's attention, especially the clip from the Sarah Palin/Hillary Clinton SNL skit. The audiobook also includes a helpful PDF with pictures Fey periodically refers to throughout the book.

I don't like to generalize, but I think her book may be more entertaining for women rather than for men. I made the mistake of recommending Baby Mama, one of my favorite movies, to a few guys and after they watched it they were slightly appalled I had recommended it. I feel like this book may fall into the same category. But who knows, I could be completely wrong.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking to be entertained for a few hours.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Digital Inundation

Strange things happen during Humanities when the BYU Basketball team has a chance at the Elite 8

Did anyone else notice the unnatural number of articles relating to digital culture in The Daily Universe today?

On the front page:
Provo Mayor Connects with Community Through Blogging
Politicians Discovering Benifits of Social Media

In the Opinion section:
Twitter-pated: In Resounding Defense of Twitter
Accompanied by a survey:
"What piece of technology could you not live without?"

And finally, what would The Daily Universe be without at least one story about sports?
Social Media Playing a Bigger Role in Sports

Am I becoming paranoid about digital culture? I pointed out the unusual number of articles to my friend and she hadn't even noticed.  I find it interesting how my perspective has changed since starting this blog. I was an avid facebook-er before but I did not know about all of the other tools that can be used to share one's ideas with a larger audience. I really enjoy exploring the digital frontier and am excited for what is in store.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are Bookstores a Thing of the Past?

Today a girl at work asked where the closest Barnes & Noble was. Her query was quickly answered and sparked a discussion about our favorite bookstores and what we liked the most about them. The scent of brewing coffee, the soft rustling of pages, and the muted voices of fellow customers, to name a few.  Out of nowhere, one guy, let's call him "John," piped up and said, "I always laugh when I see people buying books at bookstores." Excuse me? I thought, what do you think bookstores are for?? He went on to say he thought it was pointless to buy a book when you can borrow it from a library. I was a little shocked by his attitude. I just can't imagine someone who loves reading not understanding the emotional journey you go through while you read a new book. And when you've finished it it's not just a book anymore, it's an old friend, a reference (if you're like me and make notes in the margins), and a fond memory. Can a library book really be all of those things? And who likes to say good bye to a good friend?

I think "John" sensed my indignity and quickly said, "I mean, books just take up so much space. I don't want to have to lug them around with me everywhere I go. I have enough stuff already."

hmm... yeah, well I guess that's a good point. But, wait, is it not everyone's dream to have a gorgeous library, reminiscent of the one from Beauty and The Beast, in their house someday?

I guess not. While I appreciate the new formats books are taking (e-readers, audiobooks, etc.) I'm not sure the new technology will ever replace the traditional book for me. But maybe people like "John" will be more willing to own and cherish books if hundreds of them fit into a small handheld device.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Is There Still Hope for the Good Old Fashioned Book?

I chose to read Robert Darnton's The Case For Books for the digital culture reading assignment. I decided to listen to the audiobook version, I thought it would be ironic if I listened to, instead of read, a book that advocates the continuing need for physical books in our society. Overall, I enjoyed it. The book made some interesting points.

Darnton brought up a few good arguments for why the codex, the traditional book, will continue to be around in the age of E-readers and portable computers. He says the number of new paper titles published each year will soon reach a million. Darnton also says books have proven their durability, while new technology is quickly overshadowed by even newer technology almost daily.

Another interesting point he brought up was that newer technology does not always replace the older. For example, the radio did not replace books, television did not replace the radio, and so on.

I recently got a job at the Harold B. Lee Library and, consequently, that is where I spent most of my time listening to this book. It turns out I expanded my library vocabulary just in time to easily understand the difference between monographs, serials, and research journals. I was amazed by some of the figures Darnton presented about how much money goes into buying library materials. Apparently some research journal subscriptions (online content) cost more than $10,000 a year, this leaves less and less money available to be spent on printed books. It also puts librarians in the difficult position of deciding whether to ignore books in favor of more readily available and up to date content. This is a hard choice, the type of person who becomes a librarian, I assume, loves traditional books but also yearns for continuous knowledge. Will books be able to keep up with the many breakthroughs that are being discovered?

We all know one of the best parts of a book is how it smells, well, Darnton says, "According to a recent survey of French students, 43 percent consider smell to be one of the most important qualities of printed books—so important that they resist buying odorless electronic books. CafeScribe, a French online publisher, is trying to counter-act that reaction by giving its customers a sticker that will give off a musty, bookish smell when it is attached to their computers.” CafeScribe launched its scratch and sniff stickers back in 2007 , sadly I don't think they caught on because I can't find anything about it now... too bad.
Flickr -King's College Library (Creative Commons)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Goal for the Semester: Get Engaged!

...but not in the way you are probably thinking, unless you were in Professor Burton's class today where he read us his "Mussolini" speech.

My 295 class is all about consuming, creating, and connecting. Simply stated, it is vital that we take what we see and experience every day and turn it into something worth sharing and, in this case, worth blogging about. Through this process we gain valuable experience in working with the tools of the digital age. Publishing a blog post every day seems a bit daunting to me. I've never been the best at keeping a journal but I'm willing to give daily blogging a try. One of the hardest parts of blogging for me will be getting past the idea of having to compose a perfectly crafted piece of writing every time. Another aspect of blogging that makes me a bit nervous is just throwing my writing out there and having other people actually read it. On the up side, I will definitely have the motivation to blog about things that are, at least somewhat, interesting.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One of the Many Books That Has Changed My Life

In 10th grade I thought I was pretty cool. If anyone asked what my favorite book genre was, I would immediately respond with "the classics," as if appalled anyone would think anything else. For all my claiming to love classic literature I had really only read a handful of them. I struggled through to the end and was not really interested or engaged, but read them for the sake of being able to say I had.

One day my English teacher, I think she was on to me, suggested I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I was, of course, excited that someone had noticed my supposed obsession with classic literature. I began to read it eagerly in places where I could be easily seen, but as I continued reading I was quickly drawn into Jane's world. I pictured myself at Thornfield getting to know Mr. Rochester along with Jane and trying to figure out the secret of the mysterious Grace Pool. I was obsessed. It was the first of many times in my life that I wanted to read rather than sleep. Charlotte Brontë made her characters come alive for me in a way Jane Austen never had. I really felt a connection to the characters and wished for everything in their lives to work out wonderfully by the end. I liked it so much I promptly reread it when I was finished.

Once I discovered how great the classics really were I went back to the ones I had neglected and reread them with a zeal never seen before. Jane Eyre opened the door for me to explore many pieces of literature that are staples in our society.