The recession hits Harvard…with interesting changes – more money to undergrads, less to books

Harvard isn’t belt-tightening everywhere. Since 2007, its investment in financial aid to undergraduates has risen by more than 78%, which Harvard said is “significantly outpacing increases in tuition.” Undergraduate tuition for the 2012-13 year climbed 3.5% to $54,496.

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As it looks to economize, Harvard has turned some of its attention toward the more than $160 million it spends each year on its nearly 375 year-old library system, which holds 17 million volumes, and includes 73 separate libraries. Widener, the flagship library, alone has 57 miles of shelving.

Harvard is also changing its philosophy on owning books. The goal: Provide access to them rather than collecting each one, which can lead to costs for storage and preservation, a 2009 Harvard task-force report said. The library will extend partnerships to borrow from other libraries, and further digitize its own collection so it can share with others.

The university is finding it “increasingly painful” to manage academic-journal subscriptions, which annually cost it about $3.75 million, Harvard Provost Alan Garber said.

In a move watched throughout academia, Harvard in April urged its faculty members to publish in open-access journals. “Move the prestige to open access,” a memo said.

 

Keep reading: Wall Street Journal – Economy Tests Harvard

 

 

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The 7 best books on the science of happiness

1. In The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, psychology professor Jonathan Haidt unearths ten great theories of happiness discovered by the thinkers of the past, from Plato to Jesus to Buddha, to reveal a surprising abundance of common tangents.

 

 

 

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Albert Einstein’s letter to a little girl who wanted be a scientist

From the delightful Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children comes the following exchange between Einstein and a bright, witty South African girl named Tyfanny, who reminded Einstein of his own granddaughter and with whom he exchanged several letters despite being at the height of his career and cultural prominence.

In a letter dated September 19, 1946, Tyfanny writes:

I forgot to tell you, in my last letter, that I was a girl. I mean I am a girl. I have always regretted this a great deal, but by now I have become more or less resigned to the fact. Anyway, I hate dresses and dances and all the kind of rot girls usually like. I much prefer horses and riding. Long ago, before I wanted to become a scientist, I wanted to be a jockey and ride horses in races. But that was ages ago, now. I hope you will not think any the less of me for being a girl!

Sometime between September and October 1946 — a snappy response time by the day’s standards — Einstein replies:

I do not mind that you are a girl, but the main thing is that you yourself do not mind. There is no reason for it.

 

Source: Brain Pickings – Women in Science: Einstein’s Advice to a Little Girl Who Wants to Be a Scientist

 

 

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Historical film from 1947 – How a book is made (an unbelievable amount of labor!)

How about a book? Find out, 1947-style! We must say, despite the labor-intensive type-setting process, they make the publishing process look easy – Paris Review

 

 

Back before inkjets, printing was a time-comsuming laborious process, that took teams of people working together to produce just one book. Now days, any crabby person can sit at home and crank out stuff on a blog or even make internet video. This movie will make you happy as you watch others toil for ‘The Man’ under primitive conditions.

Wikimedia Foundation votes to start a travel guide – as Wikitravel implodes

The Wikimedia Foundation has decided to create a travel guide in the mold of its non-profit, user-written and search engine results-hogging Wikipedia.

The foundation’s board of trustees on July 11 approved a proposal to launch an advertisement-free travel guide and noted that 31 of the 48 administrators of the Internet Brands-owned Wikitravel have pledged to join forces with the Wikimedia Foundation’s travel guide website.

The foundation indicated that Wikitravel is the current leader in travel wikis, but its advertisements and monetization efforts may turn off travelers and would-be contributors.

In addition, the foundation argues that Internet Brands has failed to keep pace with the times and that Wikitravel suffers from a “lack of technical support/feature development.”

Jani Patokallio, a Wikitravel admin based in Melbourne, Australia, wrote about the editors’ mass exodus from Wikitravel, and told Skift that the situation there had reached “the boiling point.”

 

Source: Skift – Wikipedia Parent to Launch Travel Guide with Wikitravel Rebels

 

 

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Real-time stats revolutionized journalism – what will they do to books?

It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy on the Kobo e-reader—about 57 pages an hour. Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” And on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the first thing that most readers do upon finishing the first “Hunger Games” book is to download the next one.

In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.

For centuries, reading has largely been a solitary and private act, an intimate exchange between the reader and the words on the page. But the rise of digital books has prompted a profound shift in the way we read, transforming the activity into something measurable and quasi-public.

 

The full story – Your E-Book Is Reading You

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The stop-motion story of a bookmark that comes alive – Much Better Now

Narrative:

The main character is a bookmark, stuck in a forgotten book. Both are connected by chance, in a life marked by standstill in a deserted room.

One day a window is pressed open by a gust of wind, knocking over the book and blowing the bookmark onto the table. As they become separated, the journey begins. While the bookmark watches from a distance, the wind catches the pages, turning them into ocean waves.

Unfolding hands and feet, the bookmark is swept back into the book. With a surfboard taken from the book, the character is given the opportunity to experience its environment in a new way – wipeouts, washouts and nosedives in a wild ocean follow. Just as our hero is willing to resign, the ocean carries it higher and higher on a wave frozen in time – they become one. The wave breaks, releasing everything back into motion.

The bookmark enjoys the ride of its life, carving and floating its way in and out of tubes, until the last page is reached. The book cover closes with a snap, spitting out the surfer. The journey through this episode of its life is over. As the protagonist tries to get back into the book, light reveals other parts of the room, fully packed with bookshelves. It faces endless challenges in its newly gained freedom.

 

A short video – Making of…

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An explanation for the multi-million dollar books on Amazon – algorithmic pricing

At first I thought it was a joke – a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each offered for well over a million dollars. And the two sellers seemed not only legit, but fairly big time (over 8,000 and 125,000 ratings in the last year respectively). The prices looked random – suggesting they were set by a computer. But how did they get so out of whack?

Amazingly, when I reloaded the page the next day, both priced had gone UP! Each was now nearly $2.8 million. And whereas previously the prices were $400,000 apart, they were now within $5,000 of each other. Now I was intrigued, and I started to follow the page incessantly. By the end of the day the higher priced copy had gone up again. This time to $3,536,675.57. I continued to watch carefully and the full pattern emerged.

 

 

Once a day profnath set their price to be 0.9983 times bordeebook’s price. The prices would remain close for several hours, until bordeebook “noticed” profnath’s change and elevated their price to 1.270589 times profnath’s higher price. The pattern continued perfectly for the next week.

But two questions remained. Why were they doing this, and how long would it go on before they noticed? As I amusedly watched the price rise every day, I learned that Amazon retailers are increasingly using algorithmic pricing (something Amazon itself does on a large scale), with a number of companies offering pricing algorithms/services to retailers. Both profnath and bordeebook were clearly using automatic pricing – employing algorithms that didn’t have a built-in sanity check on the prices they produced.

via Michael Eisen

Amazon strikes another blow on publishing industry – $20 million for audiobooks

Amazon continues to upset the publishing industry, this time going around publishers to offer authors $20 million for going audio. If an author is willing to let Audible, the Amazon-owned audiobook powerhouse, sell their book then Amazon will give them $1 per book:

The Amazon-owned digital audiobooks site Audible.com is launching a new program, “Audible Author Services,” that pays audiobook authors $1 per sale through Audible.com, Audible.co.uk, and iTunes, out of a $20 million fund. The audiobook publishers do not receive any of the funds.

To sign up, authors must make their titles available as audiobooks through Audible.com. Once they enroll their books in the program, Audible says, they will:

  • Receive an honorarium of $1 per unit sold.
  • Obtain samples and links from Audible for use in social media, blogs, or on their websites.
  • Gain direct interaction with Audible marketing and merchandising teams; and
  • Obtain a free copy of their audiobook from Audible.

via Paid Content

All of this amidst a Department of Justice probe into e-book price-fixing that charged many major publishing houses and Apple, yet, conspicuously left Amazon out.

It certainly does appear that Amazon has a death wish for certain areas of the publishing industry and is largely succeeding at that.