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Is editing set to make a comeback? Let’s hope so. From the Atlantic: “The Internet can feel like a jungle, and journalists are in the business of providing paths through the territory. Writers might blaze the trails, but editors maintain the roads.” Alexis Madrigal makes the case that editing could follow much the same path…

Let's Hear it for Editors

Is editing set to make a comeback? Let’s hope so. From the Atlantic: “The Internet can feel like a jungle, and journalists are in the business of providing paths through the territory. Writers might blaze the trails, but editors maintain the roads.”

Alexis Madrigal makes the case that editing could follow much the same path as desktop publishing has since the mid-1980s. When desktop publishing tools first came out, everyone thought they were designers. But in recent years consumers have come to realize the importance of good design. Design (good design) is best left to the professionals. And now hopefully the same can be said of editors. In recent years, editors have been undervalued. They were deemed expendable and as a result they have been disappearing. “Text goes online with less editing than it did at magazines or newspapers. More and more of us writers are working without regular editors. More and more people are writing without ever having been edited. Maybe now people will realize what editors did: their presence will be felt in their absence.”

Madrigal quotes writer Paul Ford on what I believe to be a very good description of what editors do. “Editors are really valuable, and, the way things are going, undervalued. These are people who are good at process. They think about calendars, schedules, checklists, and get freaked out when schedules slip. Their jobs are to aggregate information, parse it, restructure it, and make sure it meets standards. They are basically QA for language and meaning.” Here here.

The photo shows the editing made by a well-known editor to one of his recent speeches: President Barack Obama. Another example of editing here.

For more on the topic, check out this interview with Mary Norris, a copy editor who has worked at the New Yorker for 31 years. “I have been on both sides of the process, as a writer and as a query proofreader. Being edited sometimes felt like having my bones reset on a torture rack. I don’t ever want to do that to a writer, but I probably have from time to time. “What is this, the adverb police?” a writer who shall remain nameless once said in my earshot. “You betcha,” I wanted to say. I don’t remove every word ending in “ly,” but I like economy and concision.”

Posted by Joel on July 25 2010 • Current Affairs

Personal Libraries as Memory Theater

I happened to come across this article recently while browing the Web. I like the line of thinking it presents into the debate about the loss of the printed word--the idea that our personal libraries are a means of mapping our mental journies. The article doesn’t examine the idea of books themselves but rather the concept of the bookshelf.

Author Nathan Schneider writes, “Modern life, if we can still call it that, occurs as a sequence of gleeful apocalypses. One world constantly gives way to another. If it doesn’t, “consumers”—as people now call themselves—get anxious. We’re familiar with the drill: new audio/video formats arrive every decade; a new “generation” of cell phone every couple years; and, on a rolling basis, there’s the expectation that several totally unexpected paradigm shifts are in the works—the internet, global climate change, a new fundamental particle, and that sort of thing.”

If you enjoy the books of Alberto Manguel as much as I do, you will be familiar with this way of thinking about books and what they mean for our culture. For readers, the books on the shelf mean more than the information they contain; they are maps of our inner creation. Schneider writes, “In the age of inexpensive, printed books, our memory theaters have become both richer and more banal; we have entrusted them to our bookshelves rather than to tricks of mental contortion or cosmic schemata. As I look over my own shelf, I see my life pass before my eyes. The memories grafted onto each volume become stirred and awakened by a glance at the spine, which presents itself to be touched, opened, and explored. Without the bookshelf’s landscape to turn to, that manifest remainder from a lifetime of reading, how would one think? What would one write?”

Posted by Joel on July 25 2010 • Books

Bookshelf Porn

I recently stumbled across this Web site: Bookshelf Porn. For the bibliophile, it surely is. Each day a new set of bookshelves is highlighted in a collection of photos. Click through this link, and you can see an amazing 3D panoramic shot inside this library.


Posted by Joel on July 16 2010 • Multimedia

The Importance of Libraries

With all of the recent studies showing how the presence of books in the home is a determinant in how well a child does in school, it’s important that in this Internet age we live in that we don’t forget the importance of our local libraries. This article from The Telegraph outlines the joy that libraries can bring, along with their value in today’s society.

“Since buying books is an unimaginable luxury to those struggling to buy groceries, the only viable route towards improving those children’s chances in life is the local lending library. But we all need to support the institution. When user numbers fall and cash-strapped councils have to weigh the claims of libraries against social services, the former can be a soft target unless demand is visibly high. In the spend and splurge years, the middle classes found books were relatively affordable compared to income, particularly when shopping on Amazon, and many people lost the library habit.”

Posted by Joel on July 11 2010 • Multimedia