E-Books and the Future of Publishing
I missed this a few days ago, but Timothy Egan has a thought-provoking piece in the New York Times on e-books and the future of publishing.
E-books, and the way they are currently produced and distributed, are not an unalloyed good. They have their drawbacks, but Egan’s main thrust is quite correct. The doomsayers who evoke the specter of a coming cultural wastelands are flat out wrong. There is this:
In their annual report last August, the Association of American Publishers reported that overall revenues, and number of books sold in all formats, were up sizably in three years since 2008. Without e-books, the numbers would have been flat, or declined.
One-fifth of all American adults reported reading an e-book in the past year, according to an optimistic report from the Pew Center. And those digital consumers read far more books on average—about 24 a year—than the dead-tree consumers.
Another surprise: e-book readers also buy lots of paper books. The buyers of digital tomes “read more books in all formats,” Pew reported.
And Egan also notes the resurgence of independent bookstores.
The lesson here is not to confuse the business model with the thing itself. The traditional business model used by publishers is doomed, not publishing itself.
[Tip ‘o the Hat: Andrew Sullivan]
The Oxford English Dictionary has 344 words with first citations from 1970. In that year, while the counter-culture was busy getting its ya-yas out, police on power trips were resorting to pepper gas; Reaganomics was sweeping California while liberation theology reigned in Latin America; corporate America introduced the Amex card and the Big Mac; in Vietnam, scared newbies were fragging their officers; and the strains of funkadelic and punk rock music began to compete over the radio airwaves.Read the rest of the article...
The Oxford English Dictionary has 365 words with first citations from 1968. In that year, the first North American case of a strange, new immunodeficiency disease is reported; techies were hands-on using new microchips, debuggers, and telnet; homophobia and ageism were new names for old bigotries; Imax films made the silver screen even bigger; and Neil Armstrong moonwalked fifteen years before Michael Jackson.Read the rest of the article...
The Oxford English Dictionary has 392 words with first citations from 1968. In that year, you could be amped on uppers; the Cold War brought us SALT and Reforger; Yippies and Hare Krishnas were seen by many to be signs of the downfall of Western Civilization; pagers, routers, and uplinks were at the cutting edge of communications technology; and if you ate too many chimichangas, you could work it off by doing aerobics.Read the rest of the article...
The Oxford English Dictionary has 395 words with first citations from 1967. In that year, all sorts of things were in, be-ins, love-ins, and even laugh-ins; after consuming cannabinoids in doobies, one might want a hoagie or a fry-up; Mao jackets and Denver boots represented the iron heel of authority; in academia, refereed papers could go through peer review; and codecs, word processing, and minicomputers made their high-tech debut.Read the rest of the article...
The Oxford English Dictionary has 382 words with first citations from 1966. In that year, adults could ralph after drinking too much kir and Stolichnaya, while teeny-boppers who were too young for keggers had to settle for Shirley Temples; druggies were having mind-blowing freak-outs on meth and Quaaludes; Mace and MIRVs represented advances in both low and high ends of weapons technology; you could pay for your upscale timeshare with your Master Charge card; yada yada.Read the rest of the article...
Hen: Swedish Gender Neutral Pronoun
Slate has an article on Sweden’s “new” gender neutral pronoun. Hen can be used when one wishes to avoid han (he) and hon (she).
First a couple of comments about the journalistic style. For one thing, the headline gets it wrong. There is nothing “new” about the pronoun. Right there in the article it says that the word has been floating around the edges of Swedish for half a century. Second, the lede is buried. If the article is about the pronoun, as the headline suggests, why is it not mentioned until paragraph five, after discussing how the Swedish Bowling Association promotes gender equality? It turns out the article really isn’t about the pronoun; it’s about the politics of gender equality in Sweden, which is a perfectly fine topic, but in that case have the headline emphasize that and not the linguistic angle.
It is good to see, however, that idiotic language commentary is not confined to Anglophones. Whatever your opinion of the advisability of hen might be, the addition of the pronoun won’t destroy the Swedish language or confuse children about sexuality, as some quoted in the article suggest. Both language and kid’s brains are resilient and highly adaptable. They both will weather this tempest just fine.
Will the pronoun succeed? It’s unlikely. Structural words, like pronouns, articles, and conjunctions, are the most resistant to change. The last time English added a pronoun was she in twelfth century, and even that was just a shift in pronunciation of the Old English sio, not the wholesale adoption of a new word, and as the article notes, hen has been around since the 1960s and really been nothing more than a curiosity. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs invade and rampage through the language like marauding Huns, but pronouns, conjunctions, articles, and prepositions are bulwarks against the raging hordes of lexical fashion. A major push to get Swedes to start using hen might have an impact, but probably not. It’ll be easier to revolutionize bowling.
The Oxford English Dictionary has 368 words with first citations from 1965. In that year, you could get a log-in to a computer system and have access to a whole megabyte of memory; at-risk addicts were ODing in needle park; late-night reruns of old movies on television gave birth to gaslighting and Godzilla; students could learn all about free-fire zones and de-escalation at teach-ins; and zombiefied globetrotters suffered from jet lag.Read the rest of the article...
The Oxford English Dictionary has 363 words with first citations from 1964. In that year, mack daddies consorted with skanks and hos; Japan gave us both ninjas and yakuza; schlubs and dorks occupied the lower rungs of the social ladder; newbie programmers were tossing bad BASIC programs into the bit-bucket; and the frug was the coolest thing at the disco.Read the rest of the article...
Do We Need Stories?
Tim Parks has a nice reflection on the importance, or perhaps lack thereof, of the novel and stories in our lives over at the New York Review of Books Blog.
You may wonder what this has to do with word origins. To answer that, here is an extract from Parks’s piece:
But there are also words that come complete with entire narratives, or rather that can’t come without them. The only way we can understand words like God, angel, devil, ghost, is through stories, since these entities do not allow themselves to be known in other ways, or not to the likes of me. Here not only is the word invented—all words are—but the referent is invented too, and a story to suit. God is a one-word creation story.
It’s an engaging piece, and I largely agree with Parks’s conclusions, but I’m not sure I would frame the essay in the same way. It’s not that stories are important or necessary, it’s that they are inescapable. Humans are storytelling organisms. It’s what we do.
[Hat tip to Chris Pugh]
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton