Monday, November 7, 2011

Around the Word

Virtually speaking: Speechwriting has been around since the days of ancient oratory, so how has it changed in the digital age? Gotham friend Hal Gordon explores this question in a recent post on Pundit Wire. Since a talk can be streamed virtually or posted to YouTube, speeches have been able to reach bigger audiences than ever before. And writers no longer have to focus so strongly on sound bites, since whole speeches can be put online instead of relying on brief clips in television coverage. Gordon's takeaway: "While speechwriters must adapt, we are hardly obsolete." For speech pros, how have you seen your job description change?

Eastern e-volution: Though digital self-publishing has been rapidly gaining speed in the West, our digital numbers are nothing like they are in China. According to a recent column on the Guardian's book blog, self-publishing websites are attracting more than 40 percent of all China's Internet users every month. The popular self-published titles are almost entirely genre fiction serials, which are free to download until they have reached a certain level of popularity, after which readers have to pay a few yuan for the new installments. What do you think? Is this "freemium" model something that could work in the West?

Linked out: There has been considerable angst in recent years about the Internet's detrimental effect on our reading attention spans. Shorter articles, flashing ads and a world wide web's worth of distractions just a click away make it harder to focus on reading a longer text online. But Rick Poyner on the Design Observer Group blog has identified another culprit for our inability to pay attention: hyperlinks. In an entirely link-free article, Poyner speculates that embedding hyperlinks into e-books may only degrade the reading experience by distracting our already-scattered attention. Are hyperlinks to blame for our inability to focus? Or is it all just a bunch of hype?

Good books: Though Andrew Carnegie is famous for having built more than 2,500 libraries around the world, an American philanthropost you've probably never heard of has built nearly five times that many. In yesterday's Sunday Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff spotlighted Room to Read, a charity founded by former Microsoft executive John Wood that provides books to children in remote and poor places around the world. In addition to opening an average of six libraries per day, Room to Read also sponsors girls who wouldn't normally be able to attend school. We're thrilled to see a charity promoting literacy get such prominent coverage and to see so many libraries -- 12,000 and counting -- being created in communities that need them.

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