Thursday, October 29, 2009

Second Great Library of Alexandria

The Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and the most famous of the libraries of the ancient world. It flourished under the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major centre of scholarship for many centuries after Rome's conquest of Egypt.

Built at the beginning of the third century BCE, the library was conceived and opened during the reign of Ptolemy I (or his son Ptolemy II). Plutarch (CE 46–120) wrote that during his visit to Alexandria in 48 BCE, Julius Caesar accidentally burned the library down. According to Plutarch's account, this fire spread to the docks and then to the library. But the library remained a major centre of learning until the sacking of Alexandria in 642 by the Arab army led by Amr ibn al 'Aas.

Now, The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is officially open in an attempt to recreate the Royal Library of Alexandria. The library sits facing the Mediterranean Sea, not far from the site of the original one. Besides the library itself, which has shelf space for roughly 8 million books, there are three museums (Antiquities, Manuscripts and the History of Science), a planetarium, a conference centre, gallery space for art exhibitions, and a number of academic research centres.

The project was initially conceived in 1974 by scholars at Alexandria University. The Egyptian government and UNESCO jumped at it. A Norwegian architectural firm won the commission to design the complex. The project cost US$220 million to complete, with most of the funding coming from the Arab world.

The original Royal Library of Alexandria was envisaged by Ptolemy I as a gathering place for the world’s great scientists, scholars and thinkers. Like the modern complex, theRoyal Library of Alexandria housed not only a library (containing an estimated 700,000 scrolls), but science laboratories and research facilities as well.

Tweeting to shape future of publishing

If you always wanted to know about the publishing industry but were afraid to ask, there is a lively conversation taking place on Twitter about where the publishing industry is headed. The tweets are about how the industry should cope with the downturn, the price wars, the rising digital media, publishers struggling to figure out pricing, digital rights issues and how to market digital content.

Maria Schneider who covers writing, publishing and social media has compiled a list of 15 Twitter users she turns to for news and insight about how old school publishing is meeting the digital future. You may simply follow the tweets, or participate in the discussions about the industry. Below is a sample.

@R_Nash is Richard Nash, an Indie publisher, formerly of Soft Skull Press who is launching an innovative new social publishing startup called Cursor. Nash consistently offers a contrarian point-of-view and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to challenging traditional publishing.

@NathanBransford is Nathan Bransford,a Literary agent with Curtis Brown. He writes a popular blog and tackles tough subjects such as: "Will writers of the future even need publishers?" Bransford may be the most popular literary agent on Twitter for his straight-up personable advice about where book publishing is headed.

Get the full list from Mashable.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Complete works of Shakespeare on your iPhone

Philip Michaels from reports that, in association with is providing the text for all plays, sonnets, and poems of the bard as a free download for the iPhone and the iPod touch. Also thrown in are Edward III and Sir Thomas More, two plays no one can definitively state that Shakespeare wrote, and the poem, To the Queen (ditto). Readdle's Shakespeare is all of 28.8MB; tons of disk space left for music and videos.

But Michaels says that "thumbing through Much Ado About Nothing or Richard III on a 3.5-inch screen involves a few sacrifices" and advises that the plays read best in landscape mode. But, given the limited screen real estate on the iPhone, there appear to be quibbles about lines running into one another, abbreviated names, lack of notes and reference guides.

As can be expected, the search functions are reported to be excellent. So there you go. Whether you want to impress chicks, or you are curious about the origins of a particular phrase, Readdle's Shakespeare is for you. What's more, it is free.

iPod MBAs

How I wish they had it forty years ago. Even now I have nightmares about getting up at 7.00 in the morning for the first lecture at 8.00am every day, head still heavy with sleep. But I will have to settle for simply being envious of the spoiled youth of today.

In a story called Turn on your iPod and learn, Matthew Symonds of the Independent writes, "If you ask a college student about the current favourites on their iPod, you might expect to hear of artists such as Lady Gaga, British Sea Power, or maybe even Michael Jackson for the newly nostalgic. Ask the same question on the campus of the Warwick Business School and you might be surprised when students remove their earphones to tell you that they are catching up on macroeconomics and analysis of the credit crisis, or that they are reviewing the latest thinking on creative management."

Disgusting. They don't even have to attend lectures!

Warwick, Stanford, MIT, Oxford and University College London are among those providing mobile learning with educational audio and video files, or podcasts, so students can study at their own pace, wherever and whenever they want. The courses and research material are provided by the universities professors and can be downloaded from the iTunes University, a free education area within the Apple iTunes.

You want to know what is worse? "... new research suggests that university students who learn by downloading a podcast lecture achieve significantly higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person ..." and the results are even better for those who listen to the podcasts more than once. And you can still listen to your favourite U2 album when you are bored, and one will be wiser, or care.

The Independent