Internet choice: May 2012

Although I share links to interesting articles at Google +, I try to write a round-up post here once a month, to provide a little more detail of what I’ve enjoyed or found annoying over the past month online.

The Good Library blog: in an excess of Jubilee and Olympics celebrations, a succinct view of why we should instead be spending the money on books and libraries. No hope of that of course, but it’s a sentiment with which I have sympathy.

Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet, sounds as if it is a fascinating book from this brief Observer review. There is a more in-depth account in a Q&A with the author at Metropolis (for which the author is an editor), in which the book is described as “an evocative trip to the heart of the Internet, a look at both the physical connections behind the web and the complex almost ad hoc infrastructure supporting it”.

I’ve stopped reading the Language Log a good while ago as it has lost its way in a wealth of judgemental detail. Nevertheless, this post about e-book “editing” is hilarious. “The Nook edition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (in its English translation) has been de-Kindled, quite literally. Every instance of the text string kindle has been replaced by Nook.” This is one of the problems with our current “spell check” generation, where nobody can spell any more as they all rely on auto-correct (see this BBC article). However good an auto-spell-checker (and my colleague Jeremy tells me that Swipe for Android is “almost making the ‘art’ of spelling redundant”) I would challenge any of them on matters such as “out” or “are” for “our”, “their” for “they’re” and so on, but now I’ve read the Language Log post, I’d also challenge it on nonsensical commercial censorship grounds!

From the plethora of (mostly silly) articles about the James Daunt/Waterstone’s decision to sell Kindles and provide free wi-fi for customers to download directly in-store, perhaps the best was one by Martyn Daniels of the UK Booksellers’ Association, who writes “the reality is that the deal is not just about digital, and online it about really knowing what your customers want and not what you think they want.” (His point being that Waterstone’s have now kissed their customers goodbye, though of course many people already browse in bookshops and order the books they want from Amazon on their smartphones while in-store.) Indeed, the commenter who writes that the next step will be that Amazon will buy Waterstone’s may have a point! For another perspective, see “James Daunt “doesn’t get” reaction to Amazon partnership, denies ever calling Amazon the “devil,” and lashes out at publishers”, an article at Melville House.

The Guardian carried an interesting comparison between the original (1963) and updated selections for the new Penguin English library.

Mad Bankers part 94. Via the BBC, “Andrew Bailey, a director of the Bank of England who will soon become the City’s top regulator, has said that free banking is dangerous and needs to be reformed by the government.” How ridiculous. Personal customers are a cheap resource for banks, as branches disappear and everyone performs their transactions with machines – yet are subject to constant targeted marketing. How about Mr Bailey doing something much more important, concerning the billions of pounds the banks have lost owing to their own greed and incompetence? Too hard for him, I suppose, whereas it is easy to flick a switch and charge personal customers unfair fees. Incidentally, there is an informative post at Sifting the Evidence blog at Nature Network, by two economics students, on real vs nominal interest rates and how the economics editor of the Sunday Times gets it wrong. And if you are really into all this stuff, or are like me and reading about it in frozen but fascinated horror, the Huffington Post has a blog on A Survivor’s Guide to the End of the Euro, by Simon Johnson.

“When the Guardian was print-only, subs had three or four deadlines a day. Now every minute of the day is a deadline.” Excellent, and true, article by the Corrections editor on the changing role of the sub.

Finally, the latest visualizations. Tornado tracking at O’Reilly Radar – beautiful. And the Guardian is creating an interactive map of Britain’s best bookshops (while they exist!) and literary locations (a better long-term bet). Take a look.

Internet choice: previous posts.