An American Editor

October 17, 2014

Worth Reading: The Future of the Book

As long-time readers of An American Editor know, one of my favorite and highly recommended magazines is The Economist. I find it interesting that it is a British “newspaper” whose largest subscriber circulation is in the United States. Sadly, there is no U.S. news magazine that even comes close to the quality of The Economist.

But I digress.

One of the virtues of The Economist is its high-quality, in-depth special reports and essays. The topics vary but the essay in the October 11 issue is near and dear to my heart as an editor:

The Future of the Book: From Papyrus to Pixels.

When I have spoken about the business of editing at conferences, I have said that editors, like all businesspersons, need to try to predict future trends for our business and plan for those trends. Of course, that is easier said than done, but for those of you who do try to identify trends and plan for them, this article is a must-read. It doesn’t give answers, but it certainly gives clues.

The article is the Essay in the October 11, 2014 print edition of The Economist for those who prefer the print version.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

October 10, 2014

Worth Reading: On Work

Occasionally, I read an article that I think is particularly enlightening. Today’s recommendation is such an article. It is a review of two books on the role of equity finance (or what we used to call LBO [leveraged buyout]) in the debasing of labor. It provides the first cogent explanation for the change that has occurred in the workplace from using/hiring employees to outsourcing to freelancers. More importantly, from my perspective, it provides an explanation of why I have been uncomfortable with Republican Party economic and government theories (not that the Democrat Party theories are exponentially better albeit they are better) and generally tend to vote Democrat.

The books and review also provide at least one explanation why freelance editor rates have stagnated since the mid 1990s, why offshoring became (and continues to be) the first choice among publishers, and why, for publishing, these phenomena are easily traced back to the consolidation by merger and/or acquisition of publishing houses that occurred in the late 1980s to mid 1990s.

The article is “Why Work is More and More Debased” by Robert Kuttner (alas, the article is locked and only a small portion is available for free online; if The New York Review of Books is available at your local library or bookstore, this issue — October 23, 2014 — has many articles that are is well worth reading); the books are The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad For So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It by David Weil and Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street by Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

August 30, 2014

Worth Reading: Steven Pinker on 10 “Grammar Rules”

Steven Pinker is one of my favorite authors. I have many of his books in my library and have his forthcoming book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, on preorder (publication date is September 30, 2014).

A couple of weeks ago, Pinker wrote an article for The Guardian. The article, “10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s OK to break (sometimes),” is well worth reading. In the article, Pinker outlines the questions you should ask to “distinguish the legitimate concerns of a careful writer from the folklore and superstitions” and the questions to be asked — and if answered “yes” — to reject a grammar “rule.”

The 10 “grammar rules” Pinker addresses are:

  • and, because, but, or, so, also
  • dangling modifiers
  • like, as, such as
  • preposition at the end of a sentence
  • predicative nominative
  • split infinitives
  • that and which
  • who and whom
  • very unique
  • count nouns, mass nouns and “ten items or less”

I’ve saved the article for future reference. What do you think of it?

January 19, 2014

Worth Reading: Lifting the Ladder

Mercia McMahon’s essay, “Lifting the Ladder,” is well worth reading, especially if you are interested in targeting the indie author market. McMahon offers an interesting idea, writing, “Instead of trying to lift the ladder up from the working classes, these middle class authors should seek their validation in a simpler and more traditional answer; establishing a publishing house.”

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 22, 2013

Articles Worth Reading: More on Ransomware

Recently, I wrote about being attacked by ransomware (see Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses). It appears that the problem is getting worse. I thought you would be interested in this short Ars Technica article (and the comments that follow it):

Soaring price of Bitcoin prompts CryptoLocker ransomware price break.”

The ransomware mentioned in the article is even more frightening (to me) than the ransomware I “caught,” and makes clear that it is more important than ever to regularly backup and image my hard drives.

Although the article is short, it is worth spending a few minutes to read. There are a lot of comments, but the first few are enough to emphasize the danger of ransomware and the need to be increasingly vigilant.

August 30, 2013

Worth Noting: Are You Less Satisfied?

Are you less satisfied with life than you think you should be? The answer as to why you are and I am not may well surprise you.

The culprit may be Facebook!

How much time do you spend on Facebook?

Past researchers found a link between Facebook use and jealousy, social tension, social isolation, and depression, but those studies were cross-sectional, making them unreliable for drawing broad conclusions. Those studies may have confused correlation with causation: It is equally possible that those spending more time on Facebook are generally more prone to negative emotions than those who spend less time as it is that the cause of the negative emotions was spending time on Facebook.

In an intriguing study published August 14, 2013, researchers from the psychology departments at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and University of Leuven (Belgium) found that the more time one spends on Facebook, the less satisfied one is with life (see Kross E, Veduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, et al.  Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PLoS ONE 2013;8(8):e69841). From the Abstract:

Over 500 million people interact daily with Facebook. Yet, whether Facebook use influences subjective well-being over time is unknown. We addressed this issue using experience-sampling, the most reliable method for measuring in-vivo behavior and psychological experience. We text-messaged people five times per day for two-weeks to examine how Facebook use influences the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives. Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Interacting with other people “directly” did not predict these negative outcomes. They were also not moderated by the size of people’s Facebook networks, their perceived supportiveness, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.

Another study was conducted by social science researchers from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany) and Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany), which was presented at a social science conference in February-March 2013 (see “Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?”), and which found that Facebook aroused envy of others in users, leading to dissatisfaction. From the Abstract:

The wealth of social information presented on Facebook is astounding. While these affordances allow users to keep up-to-date, they also produce a basis for social comparison and envy on an unprecedented scale. Even though envy may endanger users’ life satisfaction and lead to platform avoidance, no study exists uncovering this dynamics. To close this gap, we build on responses of 584 Facebook users collected as part of two independent studies. In study 1, we explore the scale, scope, and nature of envy incidents triggered by Facebook. In study 2, the role of envy feelings is examined as a mediator between intensity of passive following on Facebook and users’ life satisfaction. Confirming full mediation, we demonstrate that passive following exacerbates envy feelings, which decrease life satisfaction. From a provider’s perspective, our findings signal that users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform sustainability.

According to both of these 2013 studies, Facebook has a negative effect on the emotional well-being of the young adults who were studied and surveyed. Unanswered, of course, is whether older folk who are frequent users of Facebook fare better than the young adults studied. (I wonder what the researchers’ results would be should they study LinkedIn users.)

Perhaps it is time to kickback, relax, enjoy a cup of tea, say goodbye to Facebook, and do more face-to-face social interacting. I can only conclude that my satisfaction with life is enhanced because I am not a Facebook user. Perhaps that accounts for my generally upbeat disposition :).

February 2, 2013

Worth Reading: A Must-Read Story About a Hand

Filed under: Articles Worth Reading — americaneditor @ 8:21 am
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The following link will take you to Ars Technica, which reported the story. This is a heartwarming story of what good people can do for others just because they want to. I urge all of you to read the story and watch the very short videos that are included.

Replacing a Hand

January 18, 2013

Worth Reading: Why Online Book Discovery is Broken (and How to Fix It)

I came upon the following article thanks to a lead from The Digital Reader, one of the blogs I read regularly. The article is from paidContent; I think the article makes some interesting observations and raises some interesting questions. I encourage you to read the article and consider its implications for the future of books.

Why online book discovery is broken (and how to fix it)

Worth Noting: Building a Death Star

Filed under: Articles Worth Reading,Worth Noting — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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Someone got the bright idea to petition the White House to build a Death Star. In order to evoke an official response from the government, the petition needs to be “signed” by a minimum of 25,000 Americans. As expected, this petition crossed that threshhold. And so we now have the government’s official response, which is well worth reading:

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For!

December 17, 2012

A Must Read in Light of Newtown

Filed under: Articles Worth Reading — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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The following blog article is a must read in light of the recent Newtown, Connecticut massacre. I urge everyone to read this mother’s story:

http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html

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