An interesting watch

Prior to this, I knew a little bit about Aaron Swartz. That little bit probably boils down to “i knew the name, and knew it was something tragic, but I thought he was a HACKER”.

That it turned wrong for him after downloading tons from JSTOR – JSTOR, people! – was news to me, and I find myself deeply shocked and taken aback. If we continue to do this kind of thing to bright people, what the hell are we doing to the world? So let’s applaud the bright youngsters instead of criminalize them just because they are smarter than most of us.

Certainly still in the days that pertain to the stuff that was in JStor, the scientific publishing situation was even more dramatic than this documentary reveals. Scientists often had to PAY to publish their articles AND they still had to hand over copyright too, usually.

The institutions that produced the research were paying large sums of money to give their scientists access to the damn databases, too. (This was my job for a while and just about each year, some journals had to be axed for budget reasons.) Many scientists and most students working at universities were and probably still are not aware of this at all.

As a self-employed person carrying out studies for others, I’d run up costs of up to EUR/USD 2000, off the top of my head, just for access to databases and papers, for a decent-sized study. I had paid access to Ingenta and to STN (probably still do). Jstor was a minor player, operating in the fringes, as it only had back issues, no current papers, and not that many journals (and I seem to remember that many or most of them were free, too).

Though scientists having to pay to publish – on top of peer review and everything – has been decreasing, it seems to have been taken over to some degree by scientists now having to PAY for it if they want their articles to be open-access: available to the public.

Bottom line? Sounds like they mainly wanted to get back at Aaron Swartz for Pacer (and also for Wikileaks, though he had nothing to do with that). God forbid citizens should know what their governments are up to and how their own laws are being used and developed, eh? Never mind reading a few scientific publications.

I found watching this profoundly shocking. So shocking that I cried. You’re warned. Now watch.

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Book blurbs

Unless you’re an established author with an agent, when you write books, you also have to write blurbs. Back matter. Short descriptions, long descriptions, author biographies, while taking each platform’s word or character limit into account and the platforms’ peculiarities.

An example of the latter is that for the description of paperbacks on Amazon, you have to code paragraphs in html, but not for the Kindle version. (You discover that the hard way.)

Also, the size limit that is indicated while you’re adding that blurb is not the limit that is applied in practice. So you either have to keep it short and sweet, or wait to see if your description will be cut short in mid-sentence in practice. Eventually, you get used to it and learn how to avoid this pitfall.

In addition, there is the problem that some platforms take the long description and cut it short instead of using the short description. *shrugs*

The blurbs tell readers whether or not they want to buy the book. So they also require a lot of tweaking from that point of view.

An example is asking myself “Do I want to make sure I don’t put progressives off by describing myself as a feminist (which I am) or is it more important not to repel more conservative readers by describing myself as a feminist?”

Another one is “Is an academic-sounding description better than a snappier, lighter one?”

Plus, you usually have to select a photo of yourself as well. Which one to pick?!

It is a learning process. By doing, I am slowly getting better at it. At least, I hope so!