Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New and Noteworthy (E-Books, Soap Operas)

In today's edition:

* The American Association of Publishers recently reported that e-books outsold paperbacks in the U.S. in February (during which their sales at $90 million were three times as high as in February 2010, just one year earlier).

I have to admit that I didn't see this coming, but it would seem to validate a prediction made in the New York Times back in November regarding holiday e-book reader sales, sharply increasing the number of devices in circulation beyond the then-current figure of nine million.

Big Media's hugely enthusiastic about the trend, unsurprisingly given the nice fit of heavily DRMed ebook formats with their agenda regarding IP rights (as the folks at TechDirt put it, "You Don't Own Your EBooks"), of which we have got a fresh reminder in Rupert Murdoch's all too predictable assault on public libraries.

* The Guardian on the latest chapter in the death of the American soap opera with ABC's cancellation of the long-running All My Children and One Life to Live (which will leave a grand total of four on the air). The sources interviewed attribute the change in part to cheap reality programming and the "new soap" that is Facebook (yes, the "F"-word again).

I have no personal attachment to the genre, but I still greet the news with dismay. After all, one product to which I was simply indifferent is being replaced by a product I happen to loathe. I also find myself wondering about the role of the soap opera as work (and gateway to bigger and better things) for up-and-coming actors, and their behind-the-scenes counterparts. That's a function the "lifestyle" (oh how I have come to detest that word) shows set to replace them can never fill, and it's depressing to see yet another ladder to a career in the arts kicked away while the likes of Bethanny Frankel and Patti Stanger (to think Bravo was once the channel that introduced me to the cinema of Godard and Kurosawa!), Courtney and Khloe Kardashian (famous for being related to someone famous for being famous), and Jon and Kate Gosselin (disdained even by their own, reality TV kind), all of them so ubiquitous that even as one who makes a point of avoiding their shows, I hear about them all the time.

Truly, television executives earn every bit of the opprobrium that comes their way.

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