Borders Bookstores are the greatest!!!1!!1!

PWxyz blog reports this morning that ailing megabookstore chain Borders has the solution to their financial woes. Teddy bears!

According to Bloomberg, Borders has stuck a deal with Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc., and will sell that company’s build-your-own-stuffed-animal kids and other related products in a special section of Borders stores.   Borders CEO Michael Edwards told Bloomberg, “As more books are bought online or in digital format than bought at retail, it creates really the ultimate strategic challenge in terms of redefining the bookstore…We are totally rethinking it.”


Unless, of course, this exclusive leaked photo is representative of what Borders is planning; in that case, buy Borders stock now, because the sky is the limit.


More bs about cutting and pasting.

Thanks a bunch, rap culture. Excerpts:

[An unnamed professor notes that] “This represents a shift away from the view of education as the process of intellectual engagement through which we learn to think critically and toward the view of education as mere training. In training, you are trying to find the right answer at any cost, not trying to improve your mind.”
Like many other professors, he no longer sees traditional term papers as a valid index of student competence. To get an accurate, Internet-free reading of how much students have learned, he gives them written assignments in class — where they can be watched.
…Nationally, discussions about plagiarism tend to focus on questions of ethics. But as David Pritchard, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me recently: “The big sleeping dog here is not the moral issue. The problem is that kids don’t learn if they don’t do the work.”
…The Pritchard axiom — that repetitive cheating undermines learning — has ominous implications for a world in which even junior high school students cut and paste from the Internet instead of producing their own writing.
If we look closely at plagiarism as practiced by youngsters, we can see that they have a different relationship to the printed word than did the generations before them. When many young people think of writing, they don’t think of fashioning original sentences into a sustained thought. They think of making something like a collage of found passages and ideas from the Internet.
They become like rap musicians who construct what they describe as new works by “sampling” (which is to say, cutting and pasting) beats and refrains from the works of others.

Maybe it’s specious to say, but the ratio of paintings to collages in the world’s art museums probably is indicative of something. Anyone who wants a cheap copy of David Shields’ Reality Hunger – and doesn’t have a remainders table within driving distance – is welcome to mine.

The week in plagiarism and inspiration.

First came news of the discovery of a diary –

The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered.

The original manuscript, a diary from the mid-1800s, was written by Francis Terry Leak, a wealthy plantation owner in Mississippi whose great-grandson Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr. was a friend of Faulkner’s since childhood. Mr. Francisco’s son, Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, now 79, recalls the writer’s frequent visits to the family homestead in Holly Springs, Miss., throughout the 1930s, saying Faulkner was fascinated with the diary’s several volumes. Mr. Francisco said he saw them in Faulker’s hands and remembers that he “was always taking copious notes.”

Specialists have been stunned and intrigued not only by this peephole into Faulkner’s working process, but also by material that may have inspired this Nobel-prize-winning author, considered by many to be one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century…

Especially surprising is that the diary wasn’t technically discovered this week – E. Wiggin has had the diary in his possession for many years, and it seems unlikely that he didn’t at any point put one and one together. Then again,

The original documents have been used by Southern economists and social historians for their insights into Mississippi’s plantation life, but no one has previously been aware that Faulkner, who died in 1962, had any connection to them.

So much for the value of a liberal education.

Meanwhile, some ridiculous tool gets linked to Faulkner (my bad) for lazy cut & paste “mixing” –

Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing,’ Not Plagiarism
BERLIN — It usually takes an author decades to win fawning reviews, march up the best-seller list and become a finalist for a major book prize. Helene Hegemann, just 17, did it with her first book, all in the space of a few weeks, and despite a savaging from critics over plagiarism.
The publication last month of her novel about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin’s drug and club scene after the death of her mother… was heralded far and wide in German newspapers and magazines as a tremendous debut, particularly for such a young author. The book shot to No. 5 this week on the magazine Spiegel’s hardcover best-seller list.
For the obviously gifted Ms. Hegemann, who already had a play (written and staged) and a movie (written, directed and released in theaters) to her credit, it was an early ascension to the ranks of artistic stardom. That is, until a blogger last week uncovered material in the novel taken from the less-well-known novel “Strobo,” by an author writing under the nom de plume Airen. In one case, an entire page was lifted with few changes.

Here’s her “apology” – it’s in German, but here’s a little Google Translation magic.  Here’s a little Condalmo Translation magic: “Mixing is cool, it’s what the young people do, which I don’t expect you to understand, but I’m sorry you’re so upset, which is my way of apologizing and simultaneously making it clear that you’re the one with the issue here, not me.”

If she wanted to use big chunks of this other writer’s work, why didn’t she just get permission? Why didn’t she be up front about it with the publisher, with her readers? Is it okay to misrepresent oneself and one’s work, and when caught make arty excuses and get a free pass? If she wins the prize, what percentage will go to the writer from whom she stole borrowed remixed?

Obligations of book reviewers.

Mark Athitakis sums it up:

Earlier this week the FTC released new guidelines on how bloggers must disclose their relationships with commercial entities. I haven’t spent much time thinking about this—unlike smart people who have—mainly because I suspect any battle between the gummint and bloggers will attack women and children first. Relatively speaking, me and my modest stack of advance reader’s copies aren’t worth anybody’s attention and trouble. I’ve always considered ARCs as a tool to do my job, not some great prize; I receive them, but, like editors at newspaper book reviews, I feel no particular obligation to review them, acknowledge their existence, or announce their provenance if I do get around to mentioning them.

I received a review copy – the finished book, not an ARC – the other day that the publisher paid over $20 to have shipped to me. I feel no obligation whatsoever to name it, or to attempt to review it (as it’s likely way over my head, and I would not do the book the justice it may well deserve) despite the outlandish expense incurred to send it to me. It’s one of many, and there are only so many hours in the day. It will likely get passed on to a reviewer at Identity Theory.

You know Mark is on the straight and narrow, because if he was making any profit whatsoever from ARCs, he wouldn’t be drinking Folgers. No way

Prescription for libraries.

This article in CSM is a must-read for those of us interested in books and libraries.  I’d like to build on Mr. Wisner’s thoughts with a few off-the-cuff ideas.

  1. Throw out the computers.  When was the last time you saw someone at a library using a computer for anything library-related?  At my local libraries, it’s chat, e-mail, gaming.  I understand and value the service provided here for people who cannot afford a computer, DSL line, and printer in there own home; and yet, who are these people?  They belong to a rapidly shrinking demographic.  I’m typing this on a netbook that cost under $300.  When I was working as a case manager, I spent a lot of time in the homes of people who would be considered “low-income”, and without an exception they had large-screen televisions and stereo systems.  Take the public access  computers out of libraries.  Trust me; they’ll get access at school.
  2. Limit the wi-fi hours.  I like the wi-fi at the library; I use it.  I’m also willing to accept limitations placed on that free service – I should need to be a patron of the library, a card-carrying, dues-paying member.  Weed out the riff-raff!  But seriously: can you find nowhere else to mooch the free wi-fi?  Set certain hours for the wi-fi access to be available.  Have it be during the school day; designate space in a reading room for laptops and netbooks.  
  3. Shhhhhhhh.  I don’t care if it’s old fashioned, shut the F up.  Take your cell phone out to your car.  Leave your mp3 player out there as well.  My two-year old understands what a “whisper voice” is; I’m sure she’d conduct some instructional seminars for a small fee.  Librarians should not be swayed by the forces pushing them to “lighten up,” “adapt,” “change with the times.”  That’s doublespeak for turn the library into a free-for-all hoo-hah.  Or something like that.
  4. Audiobook storytimes.  Not to supplant the librarian-facilitated storyhours for children, but to broaden the concept.  The idea that Mr. Wisner’s library had a video playing in the childrens’ area gives me a splitting headache.  Why not set an audiobook playing instead?  An audiobook, with a few paper copies of the book if people want to follow along, would provide the best parts of the video concept (assuming for the moment that there are some) in the library.  Parents uncomfortable with reading aloud, or that feel like they can’t do it in an entertaining enough manner to compete with other entertainments, would no doubt pick up some tricks from the professional narrators.  And it would provide a daily destination for parents and children looking for low-cost, air-conditioned summer entertainments.
  5. Partner up with local universities and colleges.  I’m sure this already happens in some places, but not around here: make it a requirement of senior year to have students from all majors provide free seminars at the libraries.  Sharing knowledge should be one of the primary goals of libraries, and what better way to prepare students to use the knowledge they’ve gained than have them find interesting ways to share it with other adults and children?  

Ben Greenman on hating and not hating social networks.

An interesting and entertaining editorial at Fictionaut’s blog by Ben Greenman, editor at The New Yorker and author of Correspondences and Please Step Back:  Is/are Twitter – Facebook – etc. damaging to society?  Excerpt:

Information wants to be free, and everyone wants to be enslaved to that free information, irrespective of its truth, its value, or its appropriateness. These extroverted introverts are more exposed than ever, but also more protective than ever because that exposure cannot be sanely or safely regulated. The result is a broad ontological shift, a turning inside-out, where the information that should be hidden is shared and the information that should be shared is hidden. My friend Roddy feels perfectly comfortable tweeting or changing his status update to tell me that he is ambivalent about baths, or that he is watching a lizard on his windowpane, but he is reluctant to introduce me to his new girlfriend. More interestingly, he may add his new girlfriend as a friend on Facebook and possibly even change his status cryptically to indicate that he is involved, but he will not bring the real human around. If this is any indication of future trends, and I think it is, these social-networking technologies will prove corrosive to coherent identity and narrative…

As I noted in the comment section, I agree completely, both with his conviction that social networking should be banished from the earth, and yet that hey, this is useful and fun and levels the playing field of celebrity culture, at least a little bit.  Last time I nearly pulled the plug on my various internet pursuits, I logged into one of them to learn that a new novel by a favorite author is coming.  Would I have learned about it if I had pulled the plug?  I don’t know.

I’m hoping his piece sparks some interesting discussion in the comments section.