These days, learning a foreign language is considered a useful thing. The advantages are many: from travelling to foreign countries to getting a preferential treatment in the ethnic restaurants of your own to keeping the dementia away. This was not always a case though, at least for China. Until 1844, it was illegal for a foreigner to learn Chinese. That changed for America, when Caleb Cushing had negotiated the Treaty of Wanghia, which made it possible for Americans - and Americans only - to learn Chenese.
I am interesting in publishing (as in books, e-books, etc). I think the field is rapidly changing due to e-books, print-on-demand and other factors and watching the change is quite exciting. Unfortunately, I don’t have time or wherewithal to get into the topic seriously. So instead I dip into a sub-genre mailing list, get the feel for their challenges and recent advances and move on. The latest list I am on is the ebook-community Yahoo group.
I frequently say that public domain books are a great source of further innovation and small business ideas. Today I found another example that brings together several of the themes I track: Language acquisition, Publishing and Public Domain books. Mark Phillips has taken Tarzan of the Apes book that is now available in public domain and rewritten parts of it to teach grammar as part of the story. The resulting self-published book Tarzan and Jane’s Guide to Grammar (or Amazon link) has been selling quite well in schools for a year or so.
There is a fight brewing between David Rothman of TeleRead and Bill Janssen of Plucker fame. The point of contention (as I understand the issue) is what would be good format to produce e-books in. Bill’s position is that any format that is not already accepted (specifically not html) is a lock-in and a disadvantage, whether that format is an open standard (like OpenReader) or a proprietary one (like Sony’s BBeB).
Philips recently had a Simplicity event, where they showcased a number of concept products that may or may not make it into the real world in the future. To go along with the event, Philips also setup a voting board for a number of discussion topics. One of the topics currently under discussion is whether e-books are a good idea. You can pick a side and argue out your position or vote on the arguments of others.