Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Apps: 'Electric Literature' Takes eBooks to a New Level

By Alyssa Guarino, Editorial Assistant

An innovative new feature is coming along in the e-publishing world: specific book apps for Apple's iPad. This new technology personalizes the eBook experience. "Electric Literature", a short story publication, is combining new technologies to create a unique literary experience. Originally, "Electric Literature" was simply a print magazine, but the company has expanded to all manner of eBooks.

EL does continue to print, but only on demand, both as a way to stay eco-friendly and reduce costs. With each publication, EL showcases five authors, generally well-known ones like Aimee Bender and Michael Cunningham. In addition, EL works with animators to create YouTube animations that serve to express each piece.

EL should be commended for having such an all-inclusive approach to publishing. But they haven't stopped there; the company is currently pursuing a new marketing technique that will further serve to incorporate all publishing media. This new effort is designing and creating individualized "book apps" for writers. EL's publications are no longer limited to just the short story. Nor is the new approach intended only for the authors showcased in EL's magazine publications. EL is now catering to any author interested in their revolutionary technique, for the inexpensive price of $600. Not bad, considering that each book app is unique to the author, with features handpicked by the writer himself.

With this new technique, the bridge between writer and reader is further narrowed. The book app allows for an interactive experience, far more personal than anything previous--even compared to, say, the Nook or the Kindle version of the same text. By purchasing one of EL's book apps, the reader is essentially buying into a special community only available to other book app purchasers. Some of the perks of this include privy information about the book and special updates from the writer, about upcoming releases and so forth.

Stephen Elliott's Adderall Diaries is EL's first published book app, and subsequent novels are to follow. EL is closing the gap between writer and reader and expanding the limitations of the electronic publishing industry. Perhaps this will eventually serve to remove some of the boundaries set by the many versions of electronic publishing now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Language Shapes Our Thoughts

By Ken Scherpelz, Vice President of Sales and Business Development

I recently read an article about how our own language can make a difference in how we understand things around us. The article referred to the research of Lera Boroditsky, a psychologist at Stanford University. She believes that the language we speak determines the way we perceive the world. When the Viaduct de Millau opened in the south of France in 2004, it was the tallest bridge in the world. The French referred to it as an “immense, concrete giant”, while the Germans described how it “floated above the clouds” with “elegance and lightness.” Why the differing descriptions? In French, the word for bridge, pont, is masculine, while the German equivalent, Brücke, is feminine. Boroditsky contends that a “small fluke of grammar”—like the gender of nouns—“can have an effect on how people think about things in the world.”

As an English major and former teacher, I know the strength and impact words can have. This is especially important in a global marketplace, where just the right word can result in prefect understanding between people of different languages and cultures, while the wrong word can lead to misunderstandings with grave results.

To read more about how our language can shape our thoughts, click on

PSG can help you make sure your products say exactly what you want them to say—no matter what language you use. Contact us about our complete translation services.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Digital Youth

By Richard Carson, PhD, Senior Editor

To ground the description of my learning process about information technology, I often begin by stating that, up until a few years ago, I thought the Internet was a hairspray.

While my comment is obviously tongue in cheek, it might resonate with some who, like me, began a reading and writing life exclusively in print media. The explosion of electronic media requires those of us in this category to learn new skills, new vocabulary, and perhaps most importantly, a new way of thinking. While terminology and skill sets are new territory for us, they aren’t for many students, including students who may be struggling with traditional forms of reading and writing. As Sara Kajder notes in her book Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students (Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2010), “Reengaging reluctant readers requires that we create spaces for them to demonstrate the varied ways in which they are richly and flexibly literate (69).” It means, as Kajdar points out, that we have to supplement (not substitute) traditional reading and writing assignments with “multimodal literacies and practices as points of connection with the traditional curriculum.”

Creating those spaces and “points of connection” means recognizing what students know and what they need to learn. What they know is a wide variety of possibilities for presenting their ideas. Students can create and combine images with Photoshop, present narratives with iMovie, conduct interviews through Skype, offer reflections on VoiceThread, present ideas with PowerPoint, and exchange ideas on weblogs. While these possibilities assume a certain technical availability within a school or district, and a certain willingness on the part of administrators, they also challenge educators on every level to begin to “think digitally” as a way of devising lessons and texts.

In devising these plans, educators, including writers and editors, still need to remind students of traditional skills that emphasize an awareness of audience, the strategic organization and presentation of material, the systematic citation of sources, and recognizing the value of the interaction between website and printed texts. Lessons still need to remind students about being critical and deliberate, about using the wealth offered by the Internet and not being used by it. Lessons such as these, as Kajdar reminds us, offer possibilities about inclusiveness and the redefinition of literacy. In doing so, they teach values about collaboration and community, about discovering and rediscovering, about teaching and learning together.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Literary Classics in the Modern Age

By Annette Cinelli Trossello, Project Manager

My summer reading lists and the books I was assigned to read in class in high school were mostly classic novels or plays by white males. I read (and enjoyed!) Romeo and Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, Catch-22, and Macbeth , to name a few. High school students today are reading a wider variety of books. Though the classics are still taught, many curricula are incorporating more contemporary, women, and minority authors. For the most part, this is a good thing, as students are being exposed to a broader range of literature and this could very well lead to an increased interest in reading.

An English teacher friend of mine notes that while the best curriculum is a mix of both contemporary and classic novels, the contemporary material that is being taught should have value. It shouldn't be taught just because it is different from the classics. There must be something in the piece that is worthy of being taught. A controversial line of books that some students and teachers are using is Spark Notes No Fear Shakespeare.

These books put the traditional language of the Shakespeare play side-by-side with modern English, what the website describes as "the kind of English people actually speak today." This begs the question, what is more important when reading Romeo and Juliet, or any literature with an antiquated vocabulary or difficult dialect, the meaning or the language? If the students reading the No Fear version of Romeo and Juliet are able to correctly understand that "wherefore art thou, Romeo?" means "why are you a Montague?" and not "where are you Romeo?" does it matter if they don't read Shakespeare's language? Using the No Fear Shakespeare version of Romeo and Juliet could provide an interesting topic for a classroom discussion. Is No Fear Chaucer or No Fear Twain a series that might also be beneficial?

The No Fear Shakespeare series has received mixed reviews, while some readers felt it helped in gaining a deeper understanding of Shakespeare (the meaning), teachers who reviewed the texts worried that students would just read the "translated" version and miss out on some of the most beautiful and eloquent descriptions in the Western canon (the language). Raising even more eyebrows is the No Fear Shakespeare graphic novels, which include only the modernized language. While perhaps intriguing as an addition to the standard Romeo and Juliet or the No Fear Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet, on its own it loses much of what makes a Shakespeare play a Shakespeare Play.

No matter what literature your program requires, there's no need to fear when you're working with PSG. We can help you create lessons that are in tune with current educational standards, methodologies, and strategies. We have the know-how, as well as a love of the written word, to make your work sparkle.