Wednesday News: more on the Hong Kong mystery, ads and the Internet, books by robots, and book of Reddit AMA’s
A book linked to the disappearance of Hong Kong booksellers focuses on Xi Jinping’s “six women” – More information has emerged related to the disappearance of five men linked to Causeway Bay Bookstore and its publisher-owner, Mighty Current, which has been preparing for publication a manuscript on Xi Jinping’s love life. Among the missing men is Lee Bo, who disappeared just last week. Bo apparently sent a letter to his wife and his colleague indicating that he was “assisting with an investigation,” which an NPR article claims is “is often a euphemism for being in the custody of mainland authorities.” An article in the South China Morning Post reports that another Hong Kong bookseller, Page One, has removed books that are banned on the mainland, deepening concern over the safety of the missing men and the political freedom of Hong Kong in general.
It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party. This past October, those rules were changed to forbid “improper sexual relationships with others,” a tweak that state-run news agency Xinhua said makes “the regulation stricter.” . . .
China’s state-backed tabloid Global Times said in an editorial this week that the bookstore sells books that contain “maliciously fabricated content,” which enter the mainland, become the source of political rumors and “have caused some evil influence to some extent.” A Chinese-language version of the same editorial also accuses the bookstore of harming the “ of mainland society. Quartz and NPR
How to Save the Internet from Ads–and Ad Blockers – David Pogue contemplates the new wave of ad-blockers that provide for users to pay websites for ad blocking. Pogue covers services like Google Contributor, YouTube Red, Word Press Premium, and app upgrades, ultimately concluding that
Overall, pay-to-remove-ads services will be only part of the future. Add them all up, and you wind up with a Web that nickel-and-dimes you, a Web that’s far more expensive than it is now. – Scientific American
Bedtime Reading, Written by a Robot Just for You – With so much focus on digital books as the terrain of technological innovation, this article focused on Lost My Name, which uses code to personalize children’s books in ways that allow a generic story to be uniquely individualized to some degree. Some publishers and educators express concern that personalized books interfere with “empathy” for other types of characters and experiences and offer little value beyond novelty.
Since the codex format was invented more than 1,900 years ago as an alternative to the scroll, printed books have not evolved much as a creative medium. Most of the technological advances in publishing have been digital, as publishers and app designers experiment with e-books that are enhanced with videos, music and other interactive elements. . . .
With its software-generated stories, Lost My Name has carved out an unusual niche within children’s publishing. Instead of relying on audio and visual bells and whistles to engage children, like three-dimensional pop-ups or buttons that play music, Lost My Name aims to make the narrative itself more captivating, by using computer codes to weave personal details into the storyline. Despite all the technology driving it, the resulting product looks and feels oddly, and charmingly, traditional. – New York Times
You can now buy a hardcover book filled with Reddit’s best AMAs – Speaking of print books, Reddit has now created its own coffee-table book of AMA’s. Could anything be more mainstream and traditional than this? Apparently “some of the proceeds” from the 10,000 printed copies will go to charity, according to the Reddit Blog.
Ask Me Anything is 400 pages of AMAs from celebrities like Bill Gates, Chris Rock, Louis C.K., and Martha Stewart, to low-key heroes like the Waffle House Grill Masters. The physical book, illustrated by u/youngluck, costs $34.99, but you can also buy an ebook version for just $4.99. – The Verge
Didn’t there used to be similar “send kid’s name, fave food, fave color & we send you a personalized book” offers in magazines, 30-odd years ago? They were just a bit expensive because they were basically printing (typing??) the data at appropriate places in the story & binding the result…
Heck, one of those figured in a plot of one of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder graphic novels. Unusual in the “not typical” sense, sure, but not unique at all.
This is the first I had heard about the Hong Kong booksellers. Holy smokes.
There are plenty of personalized kids’ books around. I think it can be empowering for kids to see themselves as the heroes. :)
“books by robots”
I don’t think this rises to the level of saying a robot wrote the book. The script isn’t smart enough for that.
Wonder how much “some of the proceeds” works out to be.
As an aside the new menu bar is frustrating me, scroll down to comments to read and it barges in from the left and shoves everything over by half the available screen space. Using iPad mini running iOS 8.3 if that helps.
@Elizabeth McCoy on the Mobile Device:
Yes, I remember having one as a child in the early 80s. The story was horrible and the plot was about aliens abducting my dog. I don’t know where they got it.
Call me cynical — but I think the biggest problems with the new personalized books is just what might happen to the data on the child and his/her family that is being compiled to make these books personal and individual. It’s hard not believe that the companies won’t be tempted to use the data for other purposes (e.g., marketing) or that companies won’t be tempted to build books that require specific data that is desirable for commercial reasons.
The NY Times vaguely acknowledges this issue (“. . . major publishers, authors and children’s entertainment companies dabble in personalization in hopes of extending their brands and forging more intimate connections with young readers”), but that is all.
Perhaps I (and my children) are outliers, but the LAST thing we wanted to read about were “people just like us.” We’re around people just like us all day. How much cooler is it to read about kids who are DIFFERENT, with different kinds of names and faces, who live in different places and eat different foods, who face different problems and achieve different triumphs?
I think Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul, & Mary fame) was on to something when he predicted that soon magazines and books will be called ME, and consist of nothing but shiny foil pages, so we can gaze admiringly at our own reflections all day long.