New submitter Volanin writes "The e-book versions of the Harry Potter series are being released through Pottermore, and J.K. Rowling has chosen to do a number of interesting things with them, including releasing them without DRM restrictions. 'One of the encouraging things about the Pottermore launch is that the books will be available on virtually every platform simultaneously, including the Sony Reader, the Nook, the Kindle and Google's e-book service. ... even Amazon has bowed to the power of the series and done what would previously have seemed unthinkable: it sends users who come to the titles on Amazon to Pottermore to finish the transaction.'"
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New submitter MatthewVD writes "Boing Boing's Maggie Koerth-Baker, author of Before The Lights Go Out, writes that the era of giant hydroelectric projects like the Hoover Dam has passed. But the Department of Energy has identified 5,400 potential sites for small hydro projects of 30 MWs or less. The sites, in states as dry as Kansas, represent a total 18,000 MW of power — enough to increase by 50 percent America's hydro power. Even New York City's East River has pilot projects to produce power from underwater turbines. As we stare down global warming and peak oil, could small hydroelectric power be a key solution?"
Nuclear fusion power is the process of fusing light nuclei together to release energy, and ultimately, to put electricity on the grid. Today, we have six researchers from MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center here to answer your questions about fusion power, tokamaks, and public support and funding in the U.S. for this research. The Obama Administration's budget request for fiscal year 2013 is paying for the U.S. share of ITER construction out of the domestic program, starting with the closure of the MIT fusion lab. The interviewees are ready to answer technical and policy questions, so don't be shy! And, as always, please break unrelated questions into separate posts. Read on for information about the researchers who will answer your questions.
An anonymous reader writes "Forbes reports that a middle school teacher in South Carolina has been placed on administrative leave for reading sci-fi classic Ender's Game to his students. According to blogger Tod Kelly, '[A parent] reported him to the school district complained that the book was pornographic; that same parent also asked the local police to file criminal charges against the teacher. As of today, the police have not yet decided whether or not to file charges (which is probably a good sign that they won't). The school district, however, appears to agree with the parent, is considering firing the teacher and will be eliminating the book from the school.'"
benrothke writes "The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), now in its 16th edition, is the de facto style guide for American writers. It deals with aspects of editorial practice, grammar, usage, document preparation and more. It's just one of many style guides for writers. The Microsoft Manual of Style, just released in its 4th edition, attempts to do for the technical writers what the CMS has done for journalists and other writers." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
Hugh Pickens writes "Christopher Shea writes in the WSJ that physicists studying Google's massive collection of scanned books claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words, marking an advance in a new field dubbed 'Culturomics': the application of data-crunching to subjects typically considered part of the humanities. Published in Science, their paper gives the best-yet estimate of the true number of words in English — a million, far more than any dictionary has recorded (the 2002 Webster's Third New International Dictionary has 348,000), with more than half of the language considered 'dark matter' that has evaded standard dictionaries (PDF). The paper tracked word usage through time (each year, for instance, 1% of the world's English-speaking population switches from 'sneaked' to 'snuck') and found that English continues to grow at a rate of 8,500 new words a year. However the growth rate is slowing, partly because the language is already so rich, the 'marginal utility' of new words is declining. Another discovery is that the death rates for words is rising, largely as a matter of homogenization as regional words disappear and spell-checking programs and vigilant copy editors choke off the chaotic variety of words much more quickly, in effect speeding up the natural selection of words. The authors also identified a universal 'tipping point' in the life cycle of new words: Roughly 30 to 50 years after their birth, words either enter the long-term lexicon or tumble off a cliff into disuse and go '23 skidoo' as children either accept or reject their parents' coinages."
hackingbear writes "A group of 22 Chinese authors have filed a claim against Apple, alleging its App Store sells unlicensed copies of their books. The Writers Rights Alliance, founded by Han Han, a young popular Chinese author and the worlds' most popular blogger, who is known for his cynical criticism of the government, petitioned Apple last year to stop electronic distribution of the writers' books and had earlier persuaded Baidu, China's largest search engine, to stop publishing their material on its Baidu Library product."
SonicSpike writes in with a story about the latest state contemplating raising revenues by taxing the net. "Downloading music, movies, e-books and Apps could soon cost Connecticut residents more as lawmakers consider a tax on digital downloads. The bill, proposed by the General Assembly's Finance, Review and Bonding Committee, would have consumers pay the 6.35% sales tax on any electronic transfer. Supporters say the bill would level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers in the state who are already required to charge Connecticut sales tax to consumers who purchase these products in their stores. About 25 states around the country have already begun taxing digital downloads."
An anonymous reader writes "Today Amazon announced that a science fiction writer has become the Kindle's all-time best-selling author. Last June Suzanne Collins, who wrote the Hunger Games trilogy, was only the fourth author to sell one million ebooks, but this month Amazon announced she'd overtaken all her competition (and she also wrote the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks this Christmas). In fact, 29 of the 100 most-highlighted passages on the Kindle were written by Collins, including 7 of the top 10. And on a separate list of recent highlights, Collins has written 17 of the top 20 most-highlighted passages." It's pretty interesting to go through the top-100 list and look at the passages people think are worth highlighting. Taken out of context, many of them could be patched together and re-sold as a self-help book. None are quite so eloquent as #18 in the recent highlights.
New submitter BSAtHome writes "People with a healthy interest in fundamental freedoms and basic human rights have probably heard about SABAM, the Belgian collecting society for music royalties, which has become one of the global poster children for how outrageously out-of-touch-with-reality certain rightsholders groups appear to be. This morning, word got out in Belgian media that SABAM is spending time and resources to contact local libraries across the nation, warning them that they will start charging fees because the libraries engage volunteers to read books to kids. Volunteers. Who – again – read books to kids."
rudy_wayne writes "The end of Encyclopedia Britannica has been widely reported and its demise has been blamed on Wikipedia. However, this article at Wired points out that the real reason is something entirely different. 'In 1990 Britannica had $650 million in revenue. In 1996, long before Wikipedia existed, it was bankrupt and the entire company was sold for $135 million. What happened in between was Encarta. Even though Encarta didn't make money for Microsoft and Britannica produced its own encyclopedia CDs, Encarta was an inexpensive, multimedia encyclopedia that helped Microsoft sell Windows PCs to families. And once you had a PC in the living room or den where the encyclopedia used to be, it was all over for Mighty Britannica. It's not that Encarta made knowledge cheaper, it's that technology supplanted its role as a purchasable 'edge' for over-anxious parents. They bought junior a new PC instead of a Britannica. When Wikipedia emerged five years later, Britannica was already a weakened giant. It wasn't a free and open encyclopedia that defeated its print edition. It was the personal computer itself.'"
Michael J. Ross writes "Prior to Google+, the company's previous attempts at social networking — Orkut, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Wave, and Buzz — were largely failures, and tended to frustrate users who had devoted time and effort to contributing content and establishing connections with other users, only to see the services wither on the vine. In contrast, Google+ appears to be receiving far more nurturing by the Internet behemoth, and as a result has arguably better chances of not just surviving, but expanding to the point of eventually challenging Twitter and Facebook. Like its rivals, Google+ offers online help information to explain to newcomers the basics of how to use the service. But there is little to no advice on how to make the most of its capabilities, and even the basic functionality is not always clearly explained. That is the purpose of a new book, Google+: The Missing Manual." Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.
Rick Zeman writes "According to the New York Times, it's the end of the road for the printed Encyclopedia Brittanica, saying, '...in recent years, print reference books have been almost completely wiped out by the Internet and its vast spread of resources, particularly Wikipedia, which in 11 years has helped replace the authority of experts with the wisdom of the crowds.' The last print edition will be the 32-volume 2010 edition."
New submitter hinterwaeldler writes "In 2007 Switzerland abandoned book price control (which requires publishers to fix prices for their books and forbids any dealer to sell at another price), reducing prices by 30% to 50% for online buyers. The brick & mortar book stores lobbied the parliament into creating a bill to reinstate the price fixing, against which a referendum was taken by liberals and the Pirate Party, forcing a popular vote. On March 11, after an intense debate, Swiss voters decided against book price control (German-language original) with a majority of 56%."