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Call me shallow

It’s been years since I took Moodle for a spin. I love the open source LMS, I do. But, darn it, it’s so inherently clunky-looking. The Rocket theme by Julian Ridden just might get me to have a play with it again.

Rocket theme

Note to self: car companies and keywords

Car ads started showing up today in Google ads. I think it’s because I included the phrase “take it to zero” in today’s post about advertising in ebooks. But the funny thing is it spread to other posts. The auto companies have really aggressive promotions right now. (I’ve been tempted by a few myself, like the Fiat lease.) So I guess any hint a site’s content might be relevant attracts them like magnets?

Advertising in ebooks?

O’Reilly Media’s Joe Wikert thinks Amazon is on a trajectory to $0 ebooks. Publishers would still get their price but advertisers would kick in to keep the reader’s price lower or take it to zero.


At some point in the not too distant future I believe we’ll see ebooks on Amazon at fire sale prices. I’m not just talking about self-published titles or books nobody wants. I’ll bet this happens with some bestsellers and midlist titles too. Amazon will make a big deal out of it and note how these cheaper prices are only available thru Amazon’s in-book advertising program.

Maybe. Subsidy wouldn’t necessarily have to come in the form of web ad-like ads, either. You could do sponsored books for business titles (either long term or just during a special promotion), or sell a clearly marked advertorial, or try any number of approaches.

Study: ‘Students in the hybrid format pay no price’

ReportA study released today shows that students taking statistics courses in a hybrid format— machine-guided instruction blended with face-to-face instruction—achieved results rivaling traditional methods.

From the William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, Kelly A. Lack & Thomas I. Nygren abstract:

We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same—that students in the hybrid format “pay no price” for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy. These zero-difference coefficients are precisely estimated. We also conduct speculative cost simulations and find that adopting hybrid models of instruction in large introductory courses have the potential to significantly reduce instructor compensation costs in the long run.

h/t: Inside Higher Education, whose Steve Kolowich remarks, “The results will provoke science-fiction doomsayers, and perhaps some higher-ed traditionalists.”


Colin Firth: Perfection as narrator of The End of the Affair

If you are a fan of Mr. Darcy—uh, I mean Colin Firth—you’ll want to give a listen to his reading of The End of the Affair, Graham Greene‘s WWII-era chronicle of jealous love and a married woman. (It’s actually kind of a mystery, too.) The audiobook production is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, which means Audible gets famous actors to read older works. Audio usually is produced by the publisher for newer books, I think, and Audible just sells it.

I’m not sure what Audible’s strategy is with these. Would I listen to a book I didn’t especially care to consume just because somebody—anybody—who happens to be famous performs the narration? No. Would I choose to spend an Audible credit based solely on the fact that any other actor is narrating it? Probably not.

Firth is special—special to me because his Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice was one of those perfectimundo casting choices, like Olivier as Heathcliff or Gable as Rhett Butler.

He is a special case when it comes to audiobook narration, even for non-Darcy lovers, because he happens to have a fine voice. I don’t mean booming radio pipes as an accident of physiology, just a nice cultured voice. It works especially well with this novel, which is written in the first person.

Firth uses his own voice as the story’s narrator, a writer, which feels exactly right, and he changes it up ever so subtly to speak the dialog of other characters. As he fills in the background story, he tells us what happened in a quiet, confidential, way, suiting the mood of the story. It’s just lovely.



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