Fellow Johns Hopkins Alumni come join us as we welcome Linda DeLibero, Director of the Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program, and current Film majors from the Film and Media Studies Intersession Course for a diverse and dynamic panel discussion featuring creative and successful Hopkins alumni working in the industry. Learn relevant information, make connections with fellow LA area alumni and talk with the current students.
Over the past several months, I’ve been helping to set up an affinity group for the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association to bring together alumni who work in areas related to the entertainment industry.
For the past several weeks, we’ve been making plans for our first official event to be held in conjunction with a week long Intersession course being offered by the Film and Media Studies Program at Hopkins. We’re happy to announce the details for this event on January 7th and hope everyone can join us. There will be a panel discussion as well as ample time to chat with a variety of fellow alumni, current students, and faculty.
Are you a member of the Arts, Entertainment, Media, or Entrepreneurship communities in Los Angeles?
Join us as we welcome Linda DeLibero, Director of the Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program, and current Film majors from the Film and Media Studies Intersession Course for a diverse and dynamic panel discussion featuring creative and successful Hopkins alumni working in the industry. Learn relevant information, make connections with fellow LA area alumni and talk with the current students.
This week-long course in Los Angeles gives students inside access to the entertainment industry through daily meetings and workshops with key figures in film, television, new media, and music, many of them JHU alums: directors, producers, screenwriters, studio executives, agents, exhibitors and more. We will visit studios, major agencies and production companies, and will end the week with a JHU networking event and panel discussion with alumni who work in film and television.The course runs from January 4 -8. Open to all Film and Media Studies majors and minors, with preference given to seniors. Students outside FMS may apply if slots remain open after all FMS students have registered.
On Veteran's day, a memoriam of writer Millard Kaufman.
n Veterans Day this year, which lands very near the release of the film Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston, I thought I’d take a moment to remember my old friend and mentor Millard Kaufman.
Millard not only fought for us in the war, but when he came back home he helped to defend our right to free speech and our ability to pursue happiness in a very fundamental way in his career as a screenwriter. I often hear friends in the entertainment industry say, “This isn’t brain surgery, we’re not saving lives, here.” but in a great sense Millard was doing that in small steps throughout his career. Millard Kaufman enlisted in the Marines in 1942, served on Guadalcanal, landed at Guam with the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) where he wrote an article for the Marine Corps Gazette about the battle, then participated in the Battle of Okinawa with the 6th Marine Division.
I met Millard 20 years ago in 1995 on a trip to Los Angeles with Matt Gross while we were ostensibly programming the 1995 Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium entitled “Framing Society: A Century of Cinema” which coincided with the 100th anniversary of film. Dr. John Irwin, the long-time head of the Writing Seminars Department at Johns Hopkins, had provided us with a long distance introduction as Millard was a Hopkins alum from the class of ’39. So we met him at his home in the Hollywood Hills looking out over a forested sanctuary. Over our first simple tuna fish sandwich lunch, we began a friendship that spanned the next decade and a half.
Most may remember Millard Kaufman, if at all, as the co-creator of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, who he based on his uncle, while many others will know his Academy Award nominated films Take the High Ground (1953) or Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). I’ll always remember him for his charm, his wry wit, his ability to swear comfortably in any company, and his sense of fairness.
Apparently Hollywood itself has glossed over his contribution to helping to maintain Dalton Trumbo’s writing career in the recent release of Trumbo (2015), in which he isn’t mentioned (or portrayed on screen). [I’ll note here that I haven’t yet seen the movie, and may boycott it for the slight.] It is here in which Kaufman’s strong internal moral compass pressured him to help ensure Trumbo’s freedom of speech and, in part, his writing career. In short, the House Un-American Activities Committee’s (HUAC) pressured Trumbo which resulted in Trumbo’s being blacklisted in Hollywood and effectively destroying his writing career.
Trumbo and Kaufman shared the same agent at the time, George Willner. One day, relatively early in Kaufman’s career, Willner approached him to see if he would be willing to put his name on the script Gun Crazy that would turn into the 1950 film-noir crime classic to allow it to get made. As Millard told me many times, “I didn’t have much sense then, but at least I had sense enough to say, ‘Let me talk it over with Laurie’ [his wife].” “But we discussed it and we believed it was rotten that a man couldn’t write under his own name,” Kaufman told Daily Variety in 1992. That same year Kaufman, a board member of WGAw, officially requested that the Writers Guild take his name off the credits and replace it with Dalton Trumbo’s name. Kaufman’s fronting for Trumbo helped allow the film to get made, and Trumbo’s career to continue on, even if in the dark. As a board member of the Writer’s Guild Millard helped to restore credits to many writers of the blacklist era who were similarly slighted as a result of their politics at the time. It’s a travesty, that a film gets made highlighting this exact period in Trumbo’s life, but Millard’s small contribution to it has been all but forgotten. Fortunately there are enough who do remember to tell the story.
When I think of Millard and his various contributions, my favorite is always that he wrote the stunning script for Bad Day at Black Rock (MGM, 1955), a superb Western suspense film starring Spencer Tracy as a one-armed veteran facing mysterious enemies in a small desert town. The film shows how post-World War II America could be be both horrifyingly racist and cowardly, but it also showed a way out through Tracy’s character which always reminds me of Millard’s high-mindedness. It was such a great film, I was personally honored to screen it on November 3, 1995, as the premiere film in Shriver Hall after we had mounted a year-long renovation of the film equipment, screen, and sound system. The day before we were all honored to have Millard speak on “Censorship in Film” as part of the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium.
For those who never had the chance to meet him, I’m including a short 3 minute video of several clips of him talking about a variety of topics. The Millard portrayed here is the no-holds barred man I’ll always remember. Thanks for fighting for all of us, Millard!
For those looking for more information about Millard Kaufman, I’ll include the following articles:
It’s almost like they write some of this stuff just for me. Though I was already aware of most of the movies they mentioned, they did miss a few:
Washington Square (1997) directed by Agnieszka Holland in Hollywood Pictures/Caravan Pictures production has a stunning cameo of the interior of the Peabody Library – this cameo is the only reason I vaguely remember the film at all.
The Johns Hopkins Science Review (1948-1955) This production is also particularly notable as being the television debut (October 8, 1951) of actor and alum John Astin who now heads the JHU Drama program and for whom the eponymous theater in the Merrick Barn is named.
Fratricide (1966) – A very independent short black and white film (with no credits) starring professor Richard Macksey that was produced by a group of students which included later Hollywood luminaries Walter Murch (who just a few years later co-wrote THX 1138 with George Lucas), Caleb Deschanel, and Matthew Robbins, who coincidentally co-wrote Crimson Peak with Guillermo del Torro which comes out in theaters today.
I have a nagging feeling there are a few more, but they’re just not coming to me at the moment…
By the way, for those suffering through Head of State, you should know in advance that the Shriver Hall scene doesn’t appear until the very end of the movie and then plays through the credits.
As a birthday present for Henry James Korn, I'm announcing the ability to pre-order his debut novel Amerikan Krazy.
Happy Birthday Henry!
The more I read of Henry James Korn‘s work, the more I love both it and him. Nothing pleases or honors me more than to be part of the process of not only re-releasing several of his prior works, but to be part of the team releasing his debut novel. Toward that end, I’m happy to announce (on what I hope to be his best birthday yet) the availability to pre-order his forthcoming novel Amerikan Krazy on Amazon.com! If anyone loves it half as much as I do, it’s guaranteed to be a best seller.
I’ve helped him to edit and shape it for several months now and somehow never tire of reading his characters, his plot, or re-experiencing his never-ending wit or his truckloads of snark. Somehow, between the two of us, I think I’m always getting the better end of the deal in working on his book. Either way I’m proud to call him my friend.
For its 45th anniversary, we are truly proud to present a new and unlimited edition electronic Pontoon powered by a web-based randomizer which reorders the paragraphs at the click of a button.
A DIGITAL PONTOON
ack in the late sixties, my friend Henry James Korn wrote an experimental and formally innovative work of fiction entitled The Pontoon Manifesto.
It’s had various print incarnations, some better than others in terms of relaying the intended meaning of his experiment. Forty-five years on, we are truly proud to present a new and unlimited edition electronic Pontoon powered by a web-based randomizer which reorders the paragraphs at the click of a button. This gives The Pontoon Manifesto new life in a technological form unavailable at the time of its writing.
This late 1960’s literary experiment anticipated major themes, characters, and plot points in Korn’s forthcoming debut novel Amerikan Krazy (Boffo Socko Books, 2015). The Pontoon Manifesto was initially floated in a pair of early 1970’s paperback offshoots of New American Review.
For the Print Purists
In 1975, his experiment was reprinted by the poet Larry Zirlin as a limited edition artist book in the form of a deck of cards to be shuffled and read in any order. This may be one of the best ways to read the manifesto, and limited copies of this original collector’s edition are still available — drop us a note if you are interested in acquiring a numbered/lettered and signed copy. Physical copies should also be available on Amazon.com shortly as well.
We would love to have your reviews and thoughts once you’ve had the chance to check out the new “manifesto.” Feel free to post them on GoodReads.com at your leisure. Additional information about The Pontoon Manifesto including selected exhibitions, selected collections, and its publication history can be found here: The Pontoon Manifesto.
REVIEWS & COMMENTS
‘Thirty-three fictional beginnings to be shuffled and read in any order?’ I did it and I’m hooked.
-Alexandra Garrett, NewLetters, Beyond Baroque Foundation Los Angeles, 1975
Korn’s persona is a latter-day Huck Finn on his raft riding out of yesterday into today, graduating from innocence to the no-sense world of Tanguy, Ernst, Dali and Kafka. This post-McLuhan Shandyesque card-read, play-book is elegant, whimsical, politically satirical and truly surreal.
-Arlene Zekowski, Small Press Review, Dustbooks, Paradise, California, 1975
A fictional house of cards designed to destroy the everlasting sanity of librarians everywhere.
-Bill Katz, “Best Small Press Titles of 1975” Library Journal, New York, 1975
The Pontoon Manifesto can be read as many ways as it can be shuffled, creating a new plot with every reading. In trusting his reader to create the fiction, Korn appears to believe my mind contains as many interesting possibilities as his own.
-Tom Montag, Learning to Read Again: Some Notes on Eight Recent Books, Cat’s Pajama Press, Chicago, 1976
Free from an established view of art and literature, Henry James Korn challenges us to take up the gauntlet and write our own stories.
-Loris Essary, Assembling Assembling, Pratt Graphics Center exhibition catalogue edited by Richard Kostelanetz, Assembling Press, New York, 1978
What's wrong with the economics of the textbook industry, and what students, parents, professors, and universities can do to mitigate the ever-rising price of textbooks.
t’s the beginning of yet another quarter/semester (or ovester, if you prefer) and a new crop of inquiries have come up around selling back used textbooks and purchasing new textbooks for upcoming classes. I’m not talking about the philosophical discussion about choosing your own textbooks that I’ve mentioned before. I’m considering, in the digital era,
What are the best options for purchasing, renting, or utilizing textbook products in what is a relatively quickly shifting market?
The popular press has a variety of evergreen stories that hit the wire at the beginning of each semester that scratch just the surface of the broader textbook issue or focus on one tiny upstart company that promises to drastically disrupt the market (yet somehow never does), but these articles never delve just a bit deeper into the market to give a broader array of ideas and, more importantly, solutions for the students/parents who are spending the bulk of the money to support the inequalities the market has built.
I aim to facilitate some of this digging and revealing based on years of personal book buying experience as well as having specified textbooks as an instructor in the past.
Most current students won’t have been born late enough that electronic files for books and texts will have been common enough to prefer them over physical texts, but with practice and time, many will prefer electronic texts in the long term, particularly as one can highlight, mark up, and more easily search, store, and even carry electronic texts.
Before taking a look at the pure economics of the market for the various forms of purchase, resale, or even renting, one should first figure out one’s preference for reading format. There are obviously many different means of learning (visual, auditory, experiential, etc.) which some will prefer over others, so try to tailor your “texts” to your preferred learning style as much as possible. For those who prefer auditory learning modes, be sure to check out alternatives like Audible or the wealth of online video/audio materials that have proliferated in the MOOC revolution. For those who are visual learners or who learn best by reading, do you prefer ebook formats over physical books? There are many studies showing the benefit of one over the other, but some of this comes down to personal preference and how comfortable one is with particular formats. Most current students won’t have been born late enough that electronic files for books and texts will have been common enough to prefer them over physical texts, but with practice and time, many will prefer electronic texts in the long term, particularly as one can highlight, mark up, and more easily search, store, and even carry electronic texts. It’s taken me (an avowed paper native) several years, but I now vastly prefer to have books in electronic format for some of the reasons indicated above in addition to the fact that I can carry a library of 2,500+ books with me almost anywhere I go. I also love being able to almost instantly download anything that I don’t currently own but may need/want.
The one caveat I’ll mention, particularly for visual learners (or those with pseudo-photographic or eidetic memory), is that they attempt to keep a two-page reading format on their e-reading devices as their long-term memory for reading will increase with the ability to place the knowledge on the part of the page(s) where they originally encountered it (that is, I remember seeing that particular item on the top left, or middle right portion of a particular page.) Sometimes this isn’t always possible due to an e-reader’s formatting capabilities or the readability of the size of the text (for example, a .pdf file on a Kindle DX would be preferable to the same file on a much smaller smartphone) , but for many it can be quite helpful. Personally, I can remember where particular words and grammatical constructs appeared in my 10th grade Latin text many years later while I would be very unlikely to be able to do this with the presentation of some modern-day e-readers or alternate technologies like rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP).
Purchasing to Keep
Personally, as a student and a bibliophile (read: bibliomaniac), I would typically purchase all of the physical texts for all of my classes. I know this isn’t a realizable reality for everyone, so, for the rest, I would recommend purchasing all of the texts (physical or electronic, depending on one’s preference for personal use) in one’s main area of study, which one could then keep for the long term and not sell back. This allows one to build a library that will serve as a long term reference for one’s primary area(s) of study.
Renting vs Short-term Ownership
In general, I’m opposed to renting books or purchasing them for a semester or year and then returning them for a partial refund. It’s rarely a great solution for the end consumer who ends up losing the greater value of the textbook. Even books returned and sold later as used, often go for many multiples of their turn in price the following term, so if it’s a newer or recent edition, it’s probably better to hold on to it for a few months and then sell it for a used price, slightly lower than the college bookstore’s going rate.
For tangential texts in classes I know I don’t want to keep for the long term, I’d usually find online versions or borrow (for free) from the local college or public library (many books are available electronically through the library or are borrow-able through the library reserve room.)
Often college students forget that they’re not just stuck with their local institutional library, so I’ll remind everyone to check out their local public library(s) as well as other nearby institutional libraries and inter-library loan options which may give them longer term loan terms.
General Economics in the Textbook Market
One of the most important changes in the textbook market that every buyer should be aware of: last year in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.the US Supreme Court upheld the ability for US-based students to buy copies of textbooks printed in foreign countries (often at huge cut-rate prices) [see also Ars Technica]. This means that searching online bookstores in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. will often find the EXACT same textbooks (usually with slightly different ISBNs, and slightly cheaper paper) for HUGE discounts in the 60-95% range.
Example: I recently bought an international edition of Walter Rudin’s Principles of Mathematical Analysis (Amazon $121) for $5 (and it even happened to ship from within the US for $3). Not only was this 96% off of the cover price, but it was 78% off of Amazon’s rental price! How amazing is it to spend almost as much to purchase a book as it is to ship it to yourself!? I’ll also note here that the first edition of this book appeared in 1964 and this very popular third edition is from 1976, so it isn’t an example of “edition creep”, but it’s still got a tremendous mark up in relation to other common analysis texts which list on Amazon for $35-50.
For some of the most expensive math/science/engineering texts one can buy an edition one or two earlier than the current one. In these cases, the main text changes very little, if any, and the primary difference is usually additional problems in the homework sections (which causes small discrepancies in page number counts). If necessary, the problem sets can be easily obtained via the reserve room in the library or by briefly borrowing/photocopying problems from classmates who have the current edition. The constant “edition-churning” by publishers is mean to help prop up high textbook prices.
Definition: “Edition Churning” or “Edition Creep“: a common practice of textbook publishers of adding scant new material, if any, to textbooks on a yearly or every-other-yearly basis thereby making older editions seem prematurely obsolete and thereby propping up the prices of their textbooks. Professors who blithely utilize the newest edition of a texbook are often unknowingly complicit in propping up prices in these situations.
One may find some usefulness or convenience in traditional bookstores, particularly Barnes & Noble, the last of the freestanding big box retailers. If you’re a member of their affinity program and get an additional discount for ordering books directly through them, then it may not be a horrible idea to do so. Still, they’re paying for a relatively large overhead and it’s likely that you’ll find cheaper prices elsewhere.
These are becoming increasingly lean and many may begin disappearing over the next decade or so, much the way many traditional bookstores have disappeared in the last decade with the increasing competition online. Because many students aren’t the best at price comparison, however, and because of their position in the economic chain, many are managing to hang on quite well. Keep in mind that many campus bookstores have fine print deals in which they’ll match or beat pricing you find online, so be sure to take advantage of this fact, particularly when shipping from many services will make an equivalent online purchase a few dollars more expensive.
There are fewer and fewer of these around these days and even fewer textbook-specific stores that traditionally sprouted up next to major campuses. This last type may not be a horrible place to shop, but they’re likely to specialize in used texts of only official texts. Otherwise, general used bookstores are more likely to specialize in paperbacks and popular used fiction and have very lean textbook selection, if any.
Naturally when shopping for textbooks there are a veritable wealth of websites to shop around online including: Amazon, Alibris, Barnes & Noble, AbeBooks, Google Play, Half/EBay. Chegg, Valore, CampusBookRentals, TextBooks.com, and ECampus. But in the Web2.0 world, we can now uses websites with even larger volumes of data and meta-data as a clearing-house for our shopping. So instead of shopping and doing price comparison at the dozens of competing sites, why not use a meta-site to do the comparison for us algorithmically and much more quickly.
There are a variety of meta-retailer shopping methods including several browser plugins and comparison sites (Chrome, Firefox, InvisibleHand, PriceBlink, PriceGong, etc.) that one can install to provide pricing comparisons, so that, for example, while shopping on Amazon, one will see lower priced offerings from their competitors. However, possibly the best website I’ve come across for cross-site book comparisons is GetTextbooks.com. One can easily search for textbooks (by author, title, ISBN, etc.) and get back a list of retailers with copies that is sortable by price (including shipping) as well as by new/used and even by rental availability. They even highlight one entry algorithmicly to indicate their recommended “best value”.
Similar to GetTextbooks is the webservice SlugBooks, though it doesn’t appear to search as many sites or present as much data.
When searching for potential textbooks, don’t forget that one can “showroom” the book in one’s local bookstore or even at one’s local library(s). This is particularly useful if one is debating whether or not to take a particular class, or if one is kicking tires to see if it’s really the best book for them, or if they should be looking at other textbooks.
From an economic standpoint, keep in mind there is usually more availability and selection on editions bought a month or so before the start of classes, as often-used texts are used by thousands of students over the world, thus creating a spot market for used texts at semester and quarter starts. Professors often list their textbooks when class listings for future semesters are released, so students surfing for the best deals for used textbooks can very often find them in mid-semester (or mid-quarter) well before the purchasing rush begins for any/most titles.
And finally, there is also the black market (also known as outright theft), which is usually spoken of in back-channels either online or in person. Most mainstream articles which reference this portion of the market usually refer tangentially to a grey market in which one student passes along a .pdf or other pirated file to fellow students rather than individual students being enterprising enough to go out hunting for their own files.
Most will know of or have heard about websites like PirateBay, but there are a variety of lesser-known torrent sites which are typically hosted in foreign countries which extend beyond the reach of the United States Copyright law enforcement. Increasingly, mega-pirate websites in the vein of the now-defunct Library.nu (or previously Gigapedia) or the slowly dying empire of Library Genesis are hiding all over the web and become quick and easy clearing houses for pirated copies of ebooks, typically in .pdf or .djvu formats, though many are in .epub, .mobi, .azw, or alternate e-book formats. The typical set up for these sites is one or more illegal file repositories for allowing downloads with one (or more) primary hubs that don’t necessarily store the pirated materials, but instead serve as a searchable hub which points to the files.
Creative advanced searches for book authors, titles, ISBNs along with the words .pdf, .djvu, torrent, etc. can often reveal portions of this dark web. Naturally, caveat emptor applies heavily to these types of sites as often files can be corrupted or contain viruses to unwary or unwitting thieves. Many of these sites may attempt to extract a small token monthly fee as a subscription or will rely heavily on serving banner advertising to help to offset large web hosting and traffic fees associated with their maintenance, though it is posited that many of them make in the millions of dollars in profit annually due to advertising arrangements, though this is incredibly hard to validate given the nature of these types of markets and how they operate.
Rather than stoop as low as finding textbooks on the black market this way, students should place pressure on their professors, the faculty of their departments, and their colleges or universities to help assist in smoothing out some of the pricing inequities in the system (see below). In the long run, this will not only tend to help them, but many future generations of students who will be left adrift in the market otherwise.
Long Term Solution(s) to Improving the Textbook Market
The biggest primary issue facing the overpriced textbook market is that the end consumers of the textbooks aren’t really firmly in charge of the decision of which textbook to purchase. This is why I advocate that students research and decide by themselves which textbook they’re going to use and whether or not they really need to make that purchase. Instead, individual professors or the departments for which they work are dictating the textbooks that will be purchased. The game theory dynamics behind this small decision are the massive fulcrum which allows the publishing industry to dictate their own terms. Students (and parents) should, in a sense, unionize and make their voices heard not only to the professors, but to the departments and even the colleges/universities which they’re attending. If universities took a strong stance on how the markets worked, either for or against them and their students, they could create strong market-moving forces to drastically decrease the cost of textbooks.
The other larger issue is that market forces aren’t allowed to play out naturally in the college textbook market. Publishers lean on professors and departments to “adopt” overpriced textbooks. These departments in turn “require” these texts and students aren’t questioning enough to use other texts for fear of not succeeding in courses. If the system were questioned, they’d realize that instead of their $200-300 textbook, they could easily purchase alternate, equivalent, and often even better textbooks for $20-50. To put things into perspective, the time, effort, energy, and production cost for the typical book isn’t drastically different than the average textbook, yet we’re not paying $250 for a copy of the average new hardcover on the best seller list. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that universities, departments, and professors are colluding with publishers, but they’re certainly not helping to make the system better.
I’ve always taken the view that the ‘required’ textbook was really just a ‘suggestion’. (Have you ever known a professor to fail a student for not purchasing the ‘required’ textbook?!)
In past generations, one of the first jobs of a student was to select their own textbook. Reverting back to this paradigm may help to drastically change the economics of the situation. For the interested students, I’ve written a bit about the philosophy and mechanics here: On Choosing Your Own Textbooks.
Basic economics 101 theory of supply and demand would typically indicate to us that basic textbooks for subjects like calculus, intro physics, or chemistry that are used by very large numbers of students should be not only numerous, but also very cheap, while more specialized books like Lie Groups and Lie Algebras or Electromagnetic Theory should be less numerous and also more expensive. Unfortunately and remarkably, the most popular calculus textbooks are 2-5 times more expensive than their advanced abstract mathematical brethren and similarly for introductory physics texts versus EM theory books.
To drastically cut down on these market inequities, when possible, Colleges and Universities should:
Heavily discourage “edition creep” or “edition churning” when there really aren’t major changes to textbooks. In an online and connected society, it’s easy enough to add supplemental errata or small amounts of supplemental material by means of the web.
Quit making institution-specific readers and sub-editions of books for a specific department
If they’re going to make departmental level textbook choices, they should shoulder the burden of purchasing all the textbooks in quantity (and taking quantity discounts). I’ll note here, that students shouldn’t encourage institutions to bundle the price of textbooks into their tuition as then there is a “dark curtain,” which allows institutions to take the drastic mark-ups for themselves instead of allowing the publishers to take it or passing it along to their students. Cross-reference Benjamin Ginsberg’s article Administrators Ate My Tuition or his much longer text The Fall of the Faculty (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Discourage the use of unpopularly used textbooks written by their own faculty. Perhaps a market share of 5-10% or more should be required for a common textbook to be usable by a department, and, until that point, the professor should compete aggressively to build market share? This may help encourage professors to write new original texts instead of producing yet-another-introductory-calculus-textbook that no one needs.
Discourage packaged electronic supplemental materials, which
are rarely used by students,
could be supplied online for free as a supplement,
and often double or triple the price of a textbook package.
Strongly encourage professors to supply larger lists of relatively equivalent books and encourage their students to make their purchase choices individually.
Consider barring textbook sales on campus and relying on the larger competitive market to supply textbooks to students.
Calibre: E-book and Document Management Made Simple
As an added bonus, for those with rather large (or rapidly growing) e-book collections, I highly recommend downloading and using the free Calibre Library software. For my 2000+ e-books and documents, this is an indispensable program that is to books as iTunes is to music. I also use it to download dozens of magazines and newspapers on a daily basis for reading on my Kindle. I love that it’s under constant development with weekly updates for improved functionality. It works on all major OSes and is compatible with almost every e-reader on the planet. Additionally, plug-ins and a myriad of settings allow for additional extensibility for integration with other e-book software and web services (for example: integration with GoodReads or the ability to add additional data and meta-data to one’s books.)
Be sure to read through the commentary on some of these posts for some additional great information.
What other textbook purchasing services and advice can you offer the market?
I invite everyone to include their comments and advice below as I’m sure I haven’t covered the topic completely or there are bound to be new players in the space increasing competition as time goes by.
A big "Thank You!" to all those who helped make our Little Free Library Grand Opening so successful.
First a major note of thanks to everyone who helped to make the launch of Little Free Library Branch #8424 a fantastic success. Everyone’s support and encouragement is truly appreciated.
When I was setting up, I naturally brought a book to read, but I did it mostly thinking that only two people might actually stop by. (Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a pretty nerdy and a very local pursuit. It’s easy to click “like” on a post; it’s a whole other thing to visit a small neighborhood library even one with free oatmeal cookies.) Fortunately and very pleasantly, there was a steady stream of people from start to finish, so much so that, as the host, I didn’t get to chat with the visitors as much as I would have liked. Apologies to those I couldn’t chat with more, and even moreso to those who heard answers to the same questions multiple times.
In the end, we had over 20 people and a few pets stop by our little event.
A Double Drive-by… booking?!
Under the heading of “Only in LA” I’ll mention that, the highlight of our grand opening was what I can only describe as a double “drive-by booking.” Fortunately no one was hurt.
About 20 minutes into the event a car drove up with two bibliophiles. They each had a book to donate, but apparently didn’t have the time to park and actually stop for a glass of tea or any cookies. So they simply dropped off their books anonymously and then drove immediately off into the sunset. A few minutes later, another car drove up and did the same thing: they donated a book, said hello, and then proceeded on their way without joining the party! Maybe they had an important book signing or a library event to rush off to? Maybe the library police were chasing them for late fines? The mafia probably would have called foul as they didn’t technically put a foot on the curb or call us out, but hopefully this is as dangerous as things get in the Little Free Library world. One of the donated books had its South Pasadena Library serial number filed off, possibly to keep it from being traced, but authorities are working diligently on the case.
As if the double drive-by wasn’t odd enough, we also had a minivan drove by with a brief stop to ask what was going on. The driver mentioned that the car of several people happened to include two librarians, so apparently we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for possible additional drive-by bookings.
Thanks for the Donations!
Special thanks go to Adam and Darren who dropped off 3 books. And to Delilah from down the street who was responsible for our first children’s book donation. And we can’t forget the massive donation of 8 books of literary fiction from Jeffrey Stewart making the largest, single one time donation. Several other neighbors dropped books off, and many browsed and found something interesting to take with them. I have to admit that I’m glad that I live in a neighborhood with such great taste in books.
The award for the longest distance donation goes to Samantha Marks who donated a signed copy of her new book A Fatal Family Secret which she shipped from Ellicott City, Maryland just in time for the Grand Opening. It counts as the newest book in our collection as it was just published in May. Since it was checked out almost as soon as it entered the collection, it also rates as our quickest check out; those in a rush may want to pick up a copy at Amazon or other fine booksellers.
In all we had a total of 26 donations for our Grand Opening, bringing our grand total to 49, so far.
As a special mention, the award for the furthest distance traveled to make our grand opening goes to Jocelyn, who came from London on her way to Oklahoma!
Again, a big “Thank You!” to everyone who helped to make our Grand Opening such a lovely success! We look forward to seeing everyone come back soon!
Website and Social Media
For those who weren’t able to stop by, we’re now open 24/7 365 days a year. You can visit our branch online at its own website or by means of your favorite social media platform:
After I've suffered almost two years of Little Free Library envy, you're cordially invited to the grand opening of the first Little Free Library in Adams Hill (Charter #8424) on Sunday, August 9th, 2015 from 4pm - 5pm.
About two years ago while surfing online I came across the concept of the Little Free Library and instantly fell in love. It turned out I had been driving by one on my commute regularly and had always wondered what it was and what was going on. I immediately had big dreams for building my own. I surfed their website for ideas and building plans. I registered for my placard. I received my placard. I drew up elaborate plans for building my own. I debated buying new parts versus recycling or upcycling parts. [Trigger warning for bibliophiles: addictive material to follow] I spent hours surfing photos of Little Free Libraries on their Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Flickr pages. This is when Little Free Library Envy set in… for almost two years.
Come chat with your neighbors, say hello, and check out the library. If you’re so motivated, feel free to bring a book (or two) to help stock the library.
More information about the Adams Hill “branch” can be found at our library’s page Little Free Library #8424, but the scant basics are below:
The books in our library are always free and never for sale.
Feel free to take a book.
If you have a book you’d like to share, please feel free to donate it.
When you’re done with your book: return it, pass it along to a friend, or release it back into the wild.
You don’t need to “check the book out” or “check it in”, but we do encourage you to sign our guest book and participate via Book Crossing.
More Details About Little Free Library #8424
First, What is a Little Free Library?
It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!
If you want to learn more about the movement or host your own Little Free Library, please visit their website.
Little Free Library Charter #8424 is located at 1411 Dartmouth Drive, Glendale, CA 91205. It is located at the dog-leg on Dartmouth on the west side of the street. It is just west of S. Adams Street, roughly at the top of the hill.
Our Library Philosophy
Though Chris built and hosts the library, he’s simply a steward or caretaker, of the branch. The library is free and open for the use of our friends and neighbors in Adams Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods. If you’ve stopped to check things out, you’re automatically an associate librarian. It is appreciated if everyone helps to care for and maintain the library.
The books in our library are always free and never for sale.
Feel free to take a book.
If you have a book you’d like to share, please feel free to donate it.
When you’re done with your book: return it, pass it along to a friend, or release it back into the wild.
You don’t need to “check the book out” or “check it in”, but we do encourage you to sign our guest book and participate via Book Crossing [see below].
Arrangement of Books
Since there isn’t a full time librarian and only so much space, there isn’t (usually) a set order to the arrangement of our books. Since it’s been a long trip up the hill, feel free to stop for a minute to cool off, consider yourself an associate librarian, and rearrange them to suit your whimsy – it is your neighborhood library after all. We only ask that you try to keep any children’s books on the lower shelf for short legs and arms to be able to reach, and that your arrangement ensures all the books fit into the library just in case it rains.
Possible suggestions for arrangements might include:
by the order in which you’ve read them
by author’s first name
by publication date
by publisher or imprint
by topic in reverse alphabetic order
by best to worst (in your opinion or someone else’s)
by those you’ve read and those you haven’t
The options are infinite, so be creative.
All of our books in the Adams Hill Branch are “traveling” books. We try to register all of them on Book Crossing. This is a free web service for watching the journey of individual books as they meander about the world. If you’d like to, you can enter the BCID number inside the front of the book to see where it’s been and even where it goes after you’ve read it. You can also enter any data, thoughts, reviews, etc. for the book on your own, as well as create a note about where you re-released it. (Note that we don’t expect all of our books to necessarily come back to our branch, but we do ask that you pass them along when you’re done with them.)
Pending people updating the location of books removed, check availability at our Book Crossing Zone.
We gladly accept your donated books.
If you have more books than the little library will fit, please don’t simply dump them! You can leave them in a covered box preferably on our stairs/landing – this will keep our sprinklers and the elements from ruining them or you can contact me through Nextdoor.com. If the library has more books than will fit, we’ll occasionally rotate them to help improve the diversity of the available collection over time.
If you’d like to, please write the titles of your donations into our guest book as this will help us to register them on Book Crossing. (You’re welcome to register them on book crossing yourself prior to donation as well.)
Our library has guest book and a pen. Feel free to write down any thoughts, comments, or suggestions you might have about the library and leave them in the library for the other associate librarians who happen by.
You’ll find a red composition book (and pen) inside our library where you can leave your thoughts and comments. Kindly leave the guest book in the library – it’s the one book we have that doesn’t circulate!
In some part the guest book is meant to help catalog the progress of our library. Below are some suggestions for what you might write into our guest book when you visit:
Patrons/Associate Librarians are encouraged to (optionally) write in the books they donate or check out.
Say hello to your fellow neighbors! You can simply write down the day and time of your visit along with a note for future visitors.
Bringing back a book? Feel free to write in a short review of the book you’re returning so others will know what they’re getting into. (If you give it a number of stars, be sure to indicate out of how many possible, so we know your scale.)
Liked a book you borrowed? Flip back into the guest book to see who made the donation and write in a thank you to the donor.
Have a book you’ve been longing for? Write it in and maybe a fellow neighbor has a copy they can donate on a future visit.
Visiting our branch from far away? Be sure to write down your hometown and country so we know how far away our books travel.
Maybe you’re waxing poetic when stopping by? Feel free to write a short poem or haiku about our library.
Our wish list has two functions:
Write down any books you’d love to see come to our library so you can borrow them in the future.
Read the list to see if you have any of the books you might donate so that others can enjoy them.
A Tiny Library with Its Own Social Media
To help support the neighborhood library (in the digital age every library needs a blog right?), I’ve created a website for it at: http://lfl8424.boffosocko.com/. The site has a variety of resources relating to our branch. For those that prefer to follow and interact with the content via social media, there are also the following:
For those interested in my particular process, here’s how I did it.
Recently I saw something a bit more quirky and interesting than my original plans that I could up-cycle, so I made the purchase (happy belated birthday to me)! It was a nice little metal newsstand that Cost Plus World Market had put on clearance as they’re no longer going to carry it. The last one the store had was a bit dinged up and had some scratches, so I negotiated an additional discount. It’s got two spacious shelves with two doors including a glass fronted one, and it’s got the capacity for at least 6 linear feet of books.
A trip to the hardware store for a small sheet of plywood, an 8′ post, and some wood screws, machine screws and nuts finished up the material needs. I cut the post down to 54″ and cut the plywood down to fit underneath the newsstand. I pre-drilled some small holes in the plywood to screw the plywood down onto the post. Then I drilled holes into the bottom of the newsstand and fit it down on top of the plywood and attached with the screws and nuts.
I posted a note on Nextdoor.com and within just minutes had an offer from two neighbors to loan me a post hole digger. (Thanks Rob and Scott!) The following day the 2 foot hole was open and the library was planted. (And I returned the post hole digger to Rob.)
Following this, I dug up a handful of seeder books, registered them with BookCrossing.com and put them on a GoodReads.com shelf, and put them into the library. We’ve technically been open for a week and without any publicity at all, we’ve had over a dozen books flow through the library already.
To take advantage of the functionality, append a # and the text you’d like to highlight on the particular page after the address of the particular web page. Add a + to indicate whitespaces if necessary, though typically including a single, unique keyword is typically sufficient to highlight the appropriate section.
Let's get one thing straight: the Chris Aldrich on VH1's upcoming new season of "Dating Naked: Playing for Keeps" is NOT me -- first of all, I'm way better looking.
ver the past couple of months leading up to to the launch of VH1’s new season of “Dating Naked: Playing for Keeps” , I’ve been entertained by friends who have seen little snippets and notices about the show and wondering why and how I got involved in front of the camera. Honestly, it’s mostly been the why question. Ego-bruisingly, only one so far has wanted to know if they could get the “unblurred” cut of the show.
Let’s get one thing straight: the Chris Aldrich on VH1’s Dating Naked is NOT me — first of all, I’m way better looking.
Fortunately as we’re getting closer, there’s now “artwork” to support the fact that it’s not me.
Once the show launches on the 22nd, I almost can’t wait to see what happens to the Google ranking for my searches on my name. I’m sure I’ll have some further entertainment in relation to my twitter account @chrisaldrich and other parts of my social media presence. I’m almost tempted to make a few changes in the bio sections to increase the ambiguity and cause some trouble.
I’m reminded of Wes Moore’s book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates“, unfortunately I’m not quite sure that my writing a book about my experience with “The Other Chris Aldrich” would be so uplifting or inspiring to others. I’d also be more worried that I’d have to change the subtitle to “One name, One Fate.”
My Little Free Library is getting closer to launch...
Almost the same moment I saw my first Little Free Library, I decided that I wanted to host one of my very own, so I registered with the intent of building one in my free time. The registration arrived and I’d drafted some very serious custom plans, but just never gotten around to purchasing the supplies and building it.
Recently I saw something a bit more quirky and interesting than my original plans that I could up-cycle, so I made the purchase (happy belated birthday to me)! It’s got two spacious shelves with two doors including a glass fronted one, and it’s got the capacity for at least 6 linear feet of books. We’re nearly ready to go.
I’m hoping to get some mounting materials and have the library up and running soon. My plan is to specialize in literary fiction, though I’m sure we’ll also stock a fair amount of popular science and non-fiction as well as thriller, mystery, and suspense as well.
Invitations to the “launch” party should be coming shortly! If you’ve got some books you’d like to donate toward the cause, let me know in the comments below. Be sure to include a Book Crossing ID number on them if you’d like to track where your favorite objects head off to in the future.
A series of articles by producer Gavin Polone can serve as an excellent introduction to the business of Hollywood.
Dearth of (Great) Textbooks on The Entertainment Business
In having previously taught several classes on the business of the entertainment industry, I was never quite able to pick out even a mediocre textbook for such a class. There are a handful that will give one an overview of the nuts and bolts and one or two that will provide some generally useful numbers (see the syllabi from those classes), but none comes close to providing the philosophy of how the business works in a short period of time.
A Short Term Solution
To remedy this problem, I was always a fan of producer and ex-agent Gavin Polone, who had a series of articles in New York Magazine/Vulture. I’ve recently gone through and linked to all of the forty-four articles, in chronological order, he produced in that series from 9/21/11 to 5/7/14.
I’ve aggregated the series via Readlists.com, so one can click on each of the articles individually. Better yet, for students and teachers alike, one can click on the “export” link and very easily download them all in most ebook formats (including Kindle, iPad, etc.) for your reading/studying convenience.
My hope is that for others, they may create an excellent starter textbook on how the entertainment business works and, more importantly: how successful people in the business think. For those who need more, Gavin is also an occasional contributor to the Hollywood Reporter. (And, as a note for those not trained in the classics and prone to modern-day stereotypes, I’ll make the caveat that I use the title “Machiavelli” above with the utmost reverence and honor.)
I’m still slowly, but surely making progress on my own all-encompassing textbook, but, until then, I hope others find this series of articles as interesting and useful as I have.
Gavin Polone is an agent turned manager turned producer. His production company, Pariah, has brought you such movies and TV shows as Panic Room, Zombieland, Gilmore Girls, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Follow him on Twitter @gavinpolone.
Revision (or version) control is used in tracking changes in computer programs, but it can easily be used for tracking changes in almost any type of writing from novels, short stories, screenplays, legal contracts, or any type of textual documentation.
Marginalia and Revision Control
At the end of April, I read an article entitled “In the Margins” in the Johns Hopkins University Arts & Sciences magazine. I was particularly struck by the comments of eminent scholar Jacques Neefs on page thirteen (or paragraph 20) about computers making marginalia a thing of the past:
I actually think that he may be completely wrong and that current technology actually allows us to keep far more marginalia! (Has anyone heard of digital exhaust?) The bigger issue may be that many writers just don’t know how to keep a better running log of their work to maintain all the relevant marginalia they’re actually producing. (Of course there’s also the subsequent broader librarian’s “digital dilemma” of maintaining formats for the future. As an example, thing about how easy or hard it might be for you to read that ubiquitous 3.5 inch floppy disk you used in 1995.)
A a technologist who has spent many years in the entertainment industry, I feel compelled to point everyone towards the concept of revision control (or version control) within the realm of computer science. Though it’s primarily used in tracking changes in computer programs and is often a tool used by large teams of programmers, it can very easily be used for tracking changes in almost any type of writing from novels, short stories, screenplays, legal contracts, or any type of textual documentation of nearly any sort.
Example Use Cases for Revision Control
As a direct example, I’m using what is known as a Git repository to track every change I make in a textbook I’m currently writing. I can literally go back and view every change I’ve made since beginning the project, so though I’m directly revising one (or more) text files, all of my “marginalia” and revisions are saved and available. Currently I’m only doing it for my own reference and for additional backup not supposing that anyone other than myself or an editor possibly may want to ever peruse it. If I was working in conjunction with otheres, there are ways for me to track the changes, edits, or notes that others (perhaps an editor or collaborator) might make.
In addition to the general back-up of the project (in case of catastrophic computer failure), I also have the ability to go back and find that paragraph (or multiple pages) I deleted last week in haste, but realize that I desperately want them back now instead of having to recreate them de n0vo.
Because it’s all digital, future scholars also won’t have problems parsing my handwriting issues as has occasionally come up in differentiating Mary Shelley’s writing from that of her husband in digital projects like the Shelley Godwin Archive. The fact that all changes are tracked and placed in a tree-like structure will indicate who wrote what and when and will indicate which changes were ultimately accepted and merged into the final version.
Screenplays in Hollywood
One particular use case I can easily see for such technology is tracking changes in screenplays over time. I’m honestly shocked that every production company or even more likely studios don’t use such technology to follow changes in drafts over time. In the end, doing such tracking will certainly make Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitrations much easier as literally every contribution to a script can be tracked to give screenwriters appropriate credit. The end results with the easy ability to time-machine one’s way back into older drafts is truly lovely, and the outputs give so much more information about changes in the script compared to the traditional and all-too-simple (*) which screenwriters use to indicate that something/anything changed on a specific line or the different colored pages which are used on scripts during production.
I can also picture future screenwriters using services like GitHub as platforms for storing and distributing their screenplays to potential agents, managers, and producers.
Redlining Legal Documents
Having seen thousands of legal agreements go back and forth over the years, revision control is a natural tool for tracking the redlining and changes of legal documents as they change over time before they are finally (or even never) executed. I have to imagine that being able to abstract out the appropriate metadata in the long run may actually help attorneys, agents, etc. to become better negotiators, but something like this is a project for another day.
In addition to direct research for projects being undertaken by academics like Neefs, academics should look into using revision control in their own daily work and writings. While writing a book, paper, journal article, essay, monograph, etc. (or graduate students writing theses) one could use their own Git repository to not only save but to back up all of their own work not only for themselves primarily, but also future scholars who come later who would not otherwise have access to the “marginalia” one creates while manufacturing their written thoughts in digital form.
I can easily picture Git as a very simple “next step” in furthering the concept of the digital humanities as well as in helping to bridge the gap between C.P. Snow’s “two cultures.” (I’d also suggest that revision control is a relatively simple step one could take before learning a particular programming language, which I think should be a mandatory tool in everyone’s daily toolbox regardless of their field(s) of interest.)
Start Using Revision Control
“But how do I get started?” you ask.
Know going in that it may take parts of a day to get things set up and running, but once you’ve started with the basics, things are actually pretty easy and you can continue to learn the more advanced subtleties as you progress. Once things are working smoothly, the additional overhead you’ll be expending won’t be too much more than the old method of hitting Alt-S to save one of your old Word documents in the time before auto-save became ubiquitous.
First one should start by choosing one of the myriad revision control systems that exist. For the sake of brevity in this short introductory post, I’ll simply suggest that users take a very close look at Git because of its ubiquity and popularity in the computer science world and the fact that it includes a tremendously large amount of free information and support from a variety of sites on the internet. Git also has the benefit of having versions for all major operating systems (Windows, MacOS, and Linux). Git also has the benefit of a relatively long and robust life within the computer science community meaning that it’s very stable and has many more resources for the uninitiated to draw upon.
Once one has Git installed on their computer and has begun using it, I’d then recommending linking one’s local copy of the repository to a cloud storage solution like either GitHub or BitBucket. While GitHub is certainly one of the most popular Git-related services out there (because it acts, in part, as the hub for a large portion of the open internet and thus promotes sharing), I often recommend using BitBucket as it allows free unlimited private but still share-able repositories while GitHub requires a small subscription fee for keeping one’s work private. Having a repository in the cloud will help tremendously in that your work will be available and downloadable from almost anywhere and because it also serves as a de-facto back-up solution for your work.
I’ve recently been playing around with version control to help streamline the writing/editing process for a book I’ve been writing. Though Git and it’s variants probably seem more daunting than they should to the everyday user, they really represent a very powerful tool. I’ve spent less than two days learning the basics of both Git and hosted repositories (GitHub and Bitbucket), and it has been more than well worth the minor effort.
There is a huge wealth of information on revision control in general and on installing and using Git available on the internet, including full textbooks. For the complete beginners, I’d recommend starting with The Chronicle’s “A Gentle Introduction to Version Control.” Keep in mind that though some of these resources look highly technical, it’s because many are trying to enumerate every function one could potentially desire, when even just the basic core functionality is more than enough to begin with. (I could analogize it to learning to drive a car versus actually reading the full manual so that you know how to take the engine apart and put it back together from scratch. To start with revision control, you only need to learn to “drive.”) Professors might also avail themselves of the use of their local institutional libraries which may host small sessions on learning such tools, or they might avail themselves of the help of their colleagues or students in the computer science department. For others, I’d recommend taking a look at Git’s primary website. BitBucket has an excellent step-by-step tutorial (and troubleshooting) for setting up the requisite software and using it.
What do you use for revision control?
I’ll welcome any thoughts, experiences, or additional resources one might want to share with others in the comments.