Non-Fiction

Amazon Launches Kindle Textbook Creator

22 January 2015

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon.com today announced KDP EDU, a new segment of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) designed to help educators and authors easily prepare, publish, and promote eTextbooks and other educational content for students to access on a broad range of devices, including Fire tablets, iPad, iPhone, Android smartphones and tablets, Mac, and PC. Educators and authors can use the public beta of Amazon’s new Kindle Textbook Creator tool to easily turn PDFs of their textbooks and course materials into Kindle books. Once the book is ready, authors can upload it to KDP in just a few simple steps to reach students worldwide.

. . . .

Books created with Kindle Textbook Creator offer features for students and other readers that enhance the learning experience, including:

  • Multi-Color Highlighting—Highlight and categorize key concepts for easy reference.
  • Notebook—Capture key passages, images and bookmarks and automatically add them to the notebook. Students can add their own notes and easily access them from one location.
  • Flashcards—Create flashcards and study important terms, concepts, and definitions in each chapter with a simple, easy-to-use interface.
  • Dictionary—Find definitions and Wikipedia information for difficult terms to improve retention.
  • Buy Once, Read Everywhere—Read eTextbooks on the most popular devices students use, including Fire tablets, iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, Mac, and PC.

. . . .

With KDP, authors can earn royalties of up to 70%, while keeping their rights and maintaining control of their content.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

proairesis

22 January 2015

From the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

proairesis, n.

. . . .

Practical deliberation or reasoning leading to choice; the power to choose or make a decision.

. . . .

Etymology: < ancient Greek προαίρεσις choice of one thing before another, considered by Aristotle as characteristic of moral action < προ- pro- prefix2 + αἵρεσις choice (see heresy n.), after προαιρεῖσθαι to choose deliberately, to prefer.

. . . .

1644 Milton Of Educ. 5 That act of reason which in Ethics is call’d Proairesis.

Link to the rest at Oxford English Dictionary and you can hear the word spoken here

Writer’s 40-year search for childhood bully connects him with fellow victims

14 January 2015

From Yahoo News:

Allen Kurzweil has made a career as an author, but his latest work is much more than a book. It’s the ultimate therapy session,  a confrontation of childhood demons 40 years in the making.

In “Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully,” which comes out in hardcover next week, Kurzweil details his lifelong search for Cesar, a boarding school roommate whose bullying left deep, irreparable scars. Driven by an unshakeable fixation with Cesar, Kurzweil winds up learning as much about the man who bullied him as he does about himself.

But Cesar’s influence on Kurzweil hardly ends there. Back in November, Kurzweil published an essay in the New Yorker about the search for Cesar. Essentially, it was a prelude to his forthcoming memoir that was a powerful story in its own right  so powerful, in fact, that it elicited a response Kurzweil never predicted.

In the New Yorker, Kurzweil details a number of failed attempts to track down Cesar before stumbling down a rabbit hole in 2005 that revealed the object of his obsession had been convicted a few years earlier for his involvement in an elaborate international bank fraud and sentenced to prison. Clearly shifting into reporter mode, Kurzweil describes combing through court documents and trial evidence, learning everything he could about the scam: the backgrounds of the individual players, their methodologies, and their victims. And while the details of the racket are no doubt as fascinating as they are bizarre, Kurzweil’s deep reporting cannot be divorced from his deep-seated resentment toward Cesar — a fact he notes in the article.

“It was around this time that I began to acknowledge the obvious: Cesar had taken over my life,” Kurzweil writes. “I tried to convince myself that my interest — my déformation professionnelle, as my wife called it — was journalistic. It was a great story, and one I knew that I would write. But I also had an emotional connection to the victims of the fraud. Their desperate narratives sparked memories of my own childhood abasement.”

. . . .

Men and women, many of them middle-aged, thanked Kurzweil for sharing his story, saying that they were also bullied as children. Kurzweil says he has heard from hundreds of people from all over the world, but three men in particular stood out from the rest. For these men, all in their 50s, Kurzweil’s story didn’t just hit close to home, it was their own. They, too, had roomed or gone to school with Cesar and carried the scars of his harassment well into their adult lives.

“That was the most unexpected aspect of the story,” Kurzweil told Yahoo News. “It’s classic. When you get abused, you blame yourself. I thought I was the only one. Now all of these middle-aged guys were able to process the hurt that they felt. One of them said he’d never talked about it before.”

. . . .

Kurzweil’s telling, however, confirms everything we are taught to believe about bullies. He found himself feeling sorry for Cesar when they finally meet as adults. Though Kurzweil had spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with the way Cesar treated him in boarding school, he writes that Cesar’s recollection of that same time doesn’t include Kurzweil but does includes memories of unfair treatment by classmates and teachers — a recurring theme that has continued throughout his adult life.

Link to the rest at Yahoo News and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Amazon to take over textbook sales at UMass Amherst

13 January 2015

From The Boston Globe:

The campus bookstore, a seeming anachronism in the digital age, will soon become history at the University of Massachusetts.

Starting next fall, students at the flagship Amherst campus will buy almost all textbooks from Amazon.com. The online retail giant has struck a deal with UMass to replace an on-campus “textbook annex” run by Follett Corp. with a smaller Amazon distribution center.

UMass officials hope the arrangement will save students money.

“We really recognize that textbooks and course materials are a major expense for students, and those have continued to go up over time,” said Ed Blaguszewski, UMass spokesman. “This is about convenience and saving money for students.”

Amazon told UMass that it could save students an average of 31 percent, or $380 annually, compared with prices at the old store.

The Amazon system will offer students access to digital textbooks and, for old-fashioned ink-and-paper texts, free one-day delivery to addresses on campus and apartments in nearby towns.

. . . .

The Amazon system will also be integrated into the school’s course-selection software, letting students see exactly which books they need to buy for each class they are registered to take.

. . . .

The company said it is negotiating similar contracts with a number of other universities and colleges.

“Many schools are feeling pressure to control the cost of education, and textbooks contribute to that,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. “Many are also seeing revenues in their bookstores flat at best, or even going backward, so they’re looking at ways to stem that trend. We’re trying to reinvent the bookstore experience.”

Link to the rest at The Boston Globe and thanks to LeVar for the tip.

nuppence

6 January 2015

From The Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day:

nuppence, n.

. . . .

No money; nothing.

. . . .

1886 A. Lang in Longman’s Mag. Mar. 551 The Americans can get our books, and do get them, and republish them and give us nothing—that awful minus quantity, ‘nuppence’!

1964 Observer 20 Sept. 27/7 Living on nuppence.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

first foot

1 January 2015

From The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

first foot, n.

. . . .
1. Eng. regional (north.), Sc., and Irish English (north.) The first person to cross a householder’s threshold in the New Year.
. . . .

1883   J. Parker Tyne Chylde 4   How glad..the dear soul was when she had a good ‘first-foot’ on New Year’s morning.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

réchauffé

26 December 2014

From the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

réchauffé, adj. and n.

. . . .

A. adj.

Of food: reheated, heated or warmed up again; made from leftovers. Freq. fig.: reworked, rehashed; unoriginal, derivative. Also as a postmodifier, after French use.

. . . .

1838 Times 27 Dec. 5/4 This was a rechauffée version of the well-known story of Jane Shore.

. . . .

B. n.

A warmed-up dish; a dish made from leftovers. Freq. fig.: a reworking or rehash (chiefly depreciative).

. . . .

1870 R. Broughton Red as Rose I. xiii. 272 A réchauffé of one’s own stale speeches is not an appetising dish.

Link to the rest at the Oxford English Dictionary

Are we seeing the death of the celebrity memoir?

23 December 2014

From The Daily Mail:

Celebrity memoirs are no longer popular as the genre has already ‘peaked’, according to one of Britain’s leading publishers.

Charlie Redmayne, UK chief executive of HarperCollins, has slashed the number of books written by the rich and famous that his company buys up.

He claims their profits are now ‘hit and miss’ – and says even those expected to do well, written by some of the country’s biggest names, are failing to match expectations.

. . . .

 Mr Redmayne, older half-brother of actor Eddie Redmayne, told the Evening Standard: ‘We’re moving away from big celebrity hit-and-miss stuff.

. . . .

‘A lot of books were bought last year for large amounts of money which just didn’t do the numbers at all.

He declined to identify which stars he had in mind.

Link to the rest at The Daily Mail and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair Are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work

21 December 2014

From Brain Pickings:

“One can’t write directly about the soul,” Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary. Few writers have come to write about it — and to it — more directly than the novelist, poet, and environmental activist Wendell Berry, who describes himself as “a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts.”

. . . .

Novelty-fetishism, Berry suggests, is an act of vanity that serves neither the creator nor those created for:

Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on originality, reduce the Creation to novelty — the faint surprises of minds incapable of wonder.

Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone. In loneliness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot fulfill.

Novelty is a new kind of loneliness.

. . . .

Berry paints pride and despair as two sides of the same coin, both equally culpable in poisoning creative work and pushing us toward loneliness rather than toward the shared belonging that true art fosters:

There is the bad work of pride. There is also the bad work of despair — done poorly out of the failure of hope or vision.

Despair is the too-little of responsibility, as pride is the too-much.

The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.

For despair there is no forgiveness, and for pride none. Who in loneliness can forgive?

Good work finds the way between pride and despair.

It graces with health. It heals with grace.

It preserves the given so that it remains a gift.

By it, we lose loneliness:

we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us;

we enter the little circle of each other’s arms,

and the larger circle of lovers whose hands are joined in a dance,

and the larger circle of all creatures, passing in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.

. . . .

Echoing Thoreau’s ode to the woods and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’s assertion that cultivating a capacity for “fertile solitude” is essential for creative work, Berry extols the ennobling effects of solitude, the kind gained only by surrendering to nature’s gentle gift for quieting the mind:

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.

One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings

Here’s a link to Wendell Berry’s essays

Graves and Garbage: The Hard Life of an Archeologist

17 December 2014

From The New Yorker:

My sister, Cassandra, is an archeologist with the Parks Department in Montgomery County, Maryland. Lately, she has been supervising the excavation of a local farm where Josiah Henson had lived and worked as a slave during the first decades of the nineteenth century. In 1830, Henson and his family escaped to freedom in Canada. Henson went on to become a minister and to write an autobiography, “The Life of Josiah Henson,” that was a major influence on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” My sister’s job, with its deep connections to history, literature, and culture, seems fascinating from afar. And yet, for all her talk of digs, artifacts, and conference papers, I had no real idea what she and her colleagues do all day.

Here comes Marilyn Johnson to help clear things up. Johnson has just published a book on archeology for the general reader, “Lives in Ruins: Archeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble.” It’s essentially a series of profiles of archeologists and their obsessions, and it successfully demystifies the profession and documents the unexpectedly wide variety of skills and activities that fall within its parameters. As I read, I kept asking what an actual archeologist would make of this portrait by an outsider. Was it accurate? Realistic? To that end, I asked my sister to round up a panel of her peers for a one-time-only archeology book club to discuss “Lives in Ruins.”

. . . .

When an archeologist finally does find a job, much of the work, as Johnson notes, “involves graves and garbage.” It’s not for the squeamish. Even some members of the panel said that they had a hard time reading the chapter on forensic archeology in which Johnson and others search the New Jersey Pine Barrens for a dead waitress. (For the purposes of the exercise, the waitress was played by the carcass of a four-hundred-pound pig that was interred a year earlier.) Kimberlee Sue Moran, the forensic archeologist profiled in that chapter, has forty-five dead rats buried in her back yard so that she can study their decomposition. I, for one, didn’t need to know that Moran sometimes finds “a whole bed of writhing maggots” when she removes a layer of dirt over a grave.

. . . .

Another surprising employer of archeologists is the military. Several members of the panel praised the chapter on Laurie Rush, a civilian archeologist who works for the Army, at Fort Drum, in New York, which is the home of the Tenth Mountain Division. Rush not only supervises archeological digs within the twenty-five square miles of the fort’s boundaries, but also plays an important role in educating American troops about cultural heritage sites that they may encounter on their tours of duty. In response to the damage caused by American soldiers to an ancient Babylonian temple in Iraq, in 2004, Rush developed sets of playing cards that would teach American troops the basic archeology of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are cleverly designed. Each suit represents a different aspect of culture. The cards also contain practical information, such as “the ancient water system tunnels in Afghanistan look like ant hills on aerial imagery.” Laid out together, the backs of the cards form a larger picture of an archeological icon.

. . . .

The most egregious flaw they found in Johnson’s book was not in the text, but on the cover. Turning her copy over, King pointed to the trowel on the back. “This is a riveted trowel, which we would never use. It should be a welded trowel, because the riveted trowel would break, and break quickly.”

 

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Here’s a link to Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble

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