Readability Problems? Ebooks to the Rescue!

Kassia Krozser at Booksquare ruminates on the age-old problem of readability in the layout and design of books. Her solution? Read the work in ebook format instead.

With print books, there are definite limitations to what you can do to make the actual reading easier. It is amazing how hard people will work to read, despite the challenges. Ebooks are different. Here is how it works in ebooks. I’m going to mess up your book. After you spend all that time on formatting and typesetting and getting the kerning just right, I’m going to mess with it. Not out of malice, of course, but there you have it.

Does Journalism’s Future Come at the Cost of Accountability?

Shirky: The transition to a new news model won’t be seamlessShorenstein Center
"We are headed into a long trough of decline in accountability journalism because the old models are breaking faster than the new models will be put in their place," Clay Shirky said Tuesday at Harvard. || More on the media futurist’s talk from Dan Kennedy and Ethan Zuckerman.

 [Poynter Romenesko]

Lawmakers Further Define ‘Journalist’

An update from Nieman Journalism Lab on how government defines a "journalist:"

Shield law: Definition of “journalist” gets professionalized

On Thursday, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered an amendment to the Senate version that hews toward the professional definition in the House. Under the amendment, which was adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a journalist is defined as someone who:

(iii) obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity—
(I) that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means; and
(II) that—
(aa) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;
(bb) operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier;
(cc) operates a programming service; or
(dd) operates a news agency or wire service;

As I observed last week, the shield law obviously needs a definition that limits its scope, but the professional definition, which now seems inevitable, would exclude student journalists as well as bloggers with a day job.

[Nieman Journalism Lab]

Congressional Hearing on Newspaper Financial Woes Set for Thursday

Congressional hearing on newspapers set for ThursdayEditor & Publisher
The hearing will "examine contraction in the newspaper industry, the economic impact of the changing media landscape, as well as the future of the industry at large," says an announcement. Pew Research Center’s Tom Rosenstiel will be one of the witnesses. 
[Poynter Romenesko]

From the E&P article: 

"The witnesses will review alternative funding options for newspapers in our new and ever-changing electronic age. Since the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the federal government has acknowledged that the press is an institution which is afforded special protections by name. In this spirit, I think that the government can help foster solutions for this industry in ways which protect the independence of newspapers and enables their objective reporting to thrive in a new economic and media climate."

All of which prompts the question: how involved can government truly be in its watchdog’s welfare without harming the watchdog’s objective watchfulness?

Open Book Alliance: Digitization of Books Must be Open and Transparent

Victory for the Public Interest – New Process Must Be Open + Transparent

“We hope that Google and its partners learn the right lessons from this fiasco and start over in an open and transparent manner.  They must create a robust process that includes input from all stakeholders, including authors, libraries, independent publishers, consumer advocates, state Attorneys General, the Justice Department, and Congress.  This opportunity cannot turn into another negotiation behind closed doors.  

“The promise of the mass digitization of books is too important to be left to another round of secret negotiations, and that promise must be realized through an open and transparent process.”

[Open Book Alliance]

Google Book Settlement Hearing Postponed

Breaking: Google Book Settlement Hearing Is Postponed

News is spreading fast that Google and its partners have filed a motion and a memo asking the Court to postpone the October 7 fairness hearing.

This is a huge victory for the many people and organizations who raised significant concerns that this settlement did not serve the public interest, stifled innovation, and restricted competition. It’s also an enormous loss for Google, which had been saying for months that no changes were necessary to the settlement. Now, that settlement, as we know it, is dead. [Open Book Alliance]

In Spite of Industry Predictions, It Ain’t Over

Has newspaper advertising reached rock bottom? Probably not.

During the last few months, as newspaper stock prices rebounded somewhat from  their lowest points, and as newspaper execs suggested, in conjunction with second quarter results, that having made all the cuts they did, they would be in good shape “once advertising rebounds,” I found myself nevertheless thinking the same thoughts as the crystal ball-gazers consulted by the New York Times who said that the bottom, for newspaper advertising revenue, had not yet been reached. [Nieman Journalism Lab]

OBA Optimistic that Google Books Settlement in Current Form Won’t Go Through

“One thing is for certain – the proposed Google Book Settlement, as it’s currently written, will not go through.”

Now that we’ve had a chance to review the Justice Department’s filing in more detail, we recognize that one thing is certain – the proposed Google Book Settlement, as it’s currently written, will not go through. Even Google seems to agree with this — after months of fighting against any change to the settlement, they acknowledge that the settlement must be profoundly altered. That’s good news for anyone who wants to protect innovation, competition, and the public interest as we evolve the world of books to the digital age. [Open Book Alliance]

Obama Expresses Concern About the Non-objective Direction of Journalism

The potential problem, of course, with "bills that would help newspapers" is that it creates the appearance, if not the reality, of government-owned media.

Obama’s "happy to look at" bills that would help newspapersToledo Blade
The president told Dave Murray that "I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding." He added: "What I hope is that people start understanding if you’re getting your newspaper over the Internet, that’s not free and there’s got to be a way to find a business model that supports that."
[Poynter Romenesko]

Have We Ever Paid for Content?

Paula Graham says the much-discussed "pay for content" online news model may be fundamentally flawed in that newspapers and magazines never really charged for their content, even in print. Subscriptions and newsstand prices have been traditionally used to pay for the medium, and the means of distribution, and not for the content of the articles.

In fact consumers never really were paying for content, and publishers weren’t really selling it either. If the content was what they were selling, why has the price of books or music or movies always depended mostly on the format? Why didn’t better content cost more?

One could argue, however, that via iTunes, Apple has successfully transitioned music from consumers paying for medium to consumers paying for content. Could the same happen for online news and online books? Graham says that iTunes is actually more of a "tollbooth."

Discovered via New Business Models for News and @freddieoconnell.