JSTOR for books

by John Holbo on October 23, 2008

BoingBoing links to a Safari Books Online special offer: pick a free book for a month , plus 10% off a subscription to the full version of the service. Looks good. In the basic package, Safari gives you generous (not total, unless you pay more) access to a truly vast range of titles from “O’Reilly Media, John Wiley & Sons, Addison-Wesley, Peachpit Press, Adobe Press, lynda.com and many more top publishers.” It looks like you can have 10 books ‘checked out’ per month. You have ‘slots’. Plus there are extras and goodies of various sorts. Yearly rate: $252. Monthly rate: $22.99. For me it doesn’t quite make sense, but almost. I’m sure for a lot of people, and institutions, this makes total sense. Often when you are learning something new you would like to have not just one but five books (because you aren’t sure which Photoshop book will be best). And 18 months later there’s a new version and you would like new books. (How many thick, obsolete technical titles do you have on your shelf? I have: enough.) It might make sense to subscribe for a few months when I’m learning something new, then unsubscribe for a year and subscribe again when the next bout of learning hits.

But mostly I’m thinking how nice this would be for academic books in the humanities in particular (in the social sciences, too, but the humanities seems more monograph-driven – or ridden.) JSTOR for books. Your institution subscribes, or you subscribe individually. You get access to everything from all the major publishers. It would make a good deal more economic sense than what we’ve got, and would be a lot more functional. Also, it would be good for independent scholars and ordinary citizens who don’t have the privilege of institutional access, which I think is a real problem. It’s bad that the (often tax-subsidized) productions of academics get locked in university libraries. If you could buy a month-long library membership for $22 – maybe Joe the Plumber gets it in his head to read all the latest scholarly work on Plato – that would be reasonable. Free culture is best, but affordable culture is second best. Of course it won’t happen. JSTOR for scholarly books in the humanities. Damn, that would be nice.

Le Plan returns?

by Henry Farrell on October 23, 2008

“Arthur Goldhammer”:http://artgoldhammer.blogspot.com/2008/10/france-inc.html (whose blog on French politics is one of the treasures of the blogosphere).

Sarkozy has announced the creation of a French investment fund with a capital of $200 billion. He is also temporarily suspending the taxe professionnelle. Call it an investment fund or sovereign wealth fund. Call Sarkozy a socialist in wolf’s clothing (as one MEP did the other day). Mock his inconsistency or praise his political versatility. In fact he’s merely doing what leaders of all the advanced industrial countries will be doing shortly, if they are not doing it already: trying to minimize the damage of the recession by turning on massive government investment. This can do a lot of good, especially if it is seen not solely as countercyclical spending but as a chance to do something about decaying infrastructure and make foundational changes with a chance for long-term impact. In France it’s hardly unprecedented for major capital spending to be directed by the state, whether under the Commissariat au Plan, through state-controlled-or-influenced enterprises, or directly by the Ministry of Finance. Sarkozy always danced nimbly between the neoliberal and state-capitalist camps. If the last two decades were the neoliberal decades, the coming two are likely to consecrate the hegemony of state capitalism. Sarkozy has been quicker than most to draw that conclusion and try to get ahead of the tsunami. Let’s see what happens next.


by John Q on October 23, 2008

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been very interested in the relationship between technical and cultural innovation. Among other things, I make the point that this is now a two-way street: the development of the Internet is driven as much by cultural innovations, like the manifold uses of blogs, as by technical innovation, and in many cases it’s hard to distinguish between the two.

I gave a presentation on this at the Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCi) Conference a few months ago, and was invited to turn it into a paper for a special issue of a new journal, Cultural Science.

I was very favorably impressed by the issue when it came out, and also by the interval between submission and publication, which was quite a bit shorter than I’ve experienced in the past. To be precise …

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Public Spheres, Blogospheres

by Eszter Hargittai on October 23, 2008

Public Spheres Blogospheres Flyer I’m on my way to UC Irvine to participate with some very cool folks in a meeting called Public Spheres, Blogospheres hosted by UCI’s HumaniTech. I’m on a panel about Blogging and the Academy.

I suspect the question of whether or how junior faculty should blog will come up. While it’s a topic we’ve gone over numerous times around here and it may make some people yawn at this point, I believe it’s still worthy of discussion with some points that haven’t been considered sufficiently yet. More on that when I get around to organizing my thoughts about it (this conference would be a good opportunity for that, hah). Academics from different fields will be represented at this meeting, which may lead to different takes on the topic. I look forward to the conversations.

UPDATE (11/6/08): Podcasts of the sessions have now been posted, they are available here.