The Philosopher’s Magazine: an appreciation

TPM

The Philosopher’s Magazine now has its complete archive available for institutions on the Exact Editions platform with access via the web, iOS and android phones and tablets. The first issue was published in 1997 and the 80th issue of the quarterly publication will appear early in 2018. The magazine publishes articles of deep philosophical interest in an accessible and non-technical way. James Garvey is the current editor and Julian Baggini the founding editor, their rubric is to publish “philosophy that’s clear, thought-provoking, and relevant. The contributors are mainly professional philosophers who care about good writing and about being understood”. The editors and the magazine has thus been a steady exemplar of public philosophy on matters of general interest in ways that are appealing both to specialists and students of philosophy as well as the general public.

The quarterly issues are assembled around themes which can be controversial ‘Is it wrong to have children?’, ‘Must we do more: the west and global poverty’, ‘The gene genie’, ‘You ‘re being watched — surveillance and privacy’; but they can also bring us contemporary takes on classic issues: ‘Skepticism’, ‘Paradoxes’, ‘Facing death’, and ‘Serious sex’. Viewed as an educational resource, the complete archive to The Philosophers’ Magazine provides universities, colleges and schools with an accessible, serious and yet also entertaining window on philosophical research and contemporary work. The editors and contributors are for the most part from the analytic tradition, mainstream in English speaking universities, but with an open-ness to global culture, especially through art, science, sport and ideology. Every issue has reviews of books, films or exhibitions of philosophical interest. The magazine has regular forums where reader-generated questions are debated. Major thinkers: Bernard Williams, Gerald Cohen, Martha Nussbaum, Ronald Dworkin, Rae Langton, Timothy Williamson and Dan Dennett, have all been interviewed.

Since there is really quite a lot of philosophy in the complete archive, over 3 million words, and since the enthusiast might happily spend hours browsing through the back issues, it is helpful and even necessary that the Exact Editions platform provides some powerful browsing and searching tools. Browsing is easily and intuitively facilitated by the ‘stacking’ of quarterly issues, or even decades of issues into piles that the user selects and opens. The individual issues can be viewed as thumbnails whereby individual pages, especially those with illustrations seize the attention. Searching is accomplished using a simple and standard Google-style Boolean logic, one that connects search terms into logical expressions, so that a search across the whole archive for ‘Frege’ finds 63 hits, ‘Frege -Kant’ (ie Frege but not Kant) finds 48 hits , and ‘Frege +Kant’ (ie Frege with Kant) finds 15. Frege and Boole would surely have been pleased to see their logic being used to such accurate, mathematical and computational effect. Individual issues and groups of issues can also be searched separately.

In the educational context the digital magazine has several modes for sharing, commenting, referencing and printing content. The bottom line is that every digital page is exactly like the corresponding print page and so a persistent URL which guarantees that citation, sharing, printing and bookmarking all hits the same persisting target — a URL that corresponds to the print.

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A double page spread. Note the menu beneath the page image with options for social sharing

Institutional licenses to The Philosophers’ Magazine are campus-wide and multi-user. Users of the college or school library system can access the resource through the network’s IP addresses. This connectivity also applies to the apps which run on iOS and android devices, so students can be encouraged to access the resource via the TPM app. Any committed honours student of philosophy should be encouraged to download and use the app, that way she will get off-campus access when she has synced issues to the device, and she will be prompted to take a look at the contents page when new issues are published. The Philosophers’ Magazine is primarily as a reference resource and a campus-wide asset but it is also a refreshing companion and thought provoker for the individual student of philosophy. The Philosophers’ Magazine also stays fully in touch with the latest and fascinating branches of philosophical speculation, and if you did not know why cephalopods are of deep philosophical interest you must read this review of a new book by the Australian philosopher Peter Godfrey Smith: Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.

 

 

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Philosophy in the library

CILIP — the leading British association for librarians — was yesterday holding its annual conference in Manchester. I noticed that one of the two keynote presentations was to be given by Luciano Floridi: the Oxford philosopher, (but of course he is deeply Italian!), who has for some years been developing an ambitious philosophy of information. Professor Floridi is a wide-ranging and well read philosopher and his The 4th Revolution: How the infosphere is reshaping human reality is particularly recommended. He also makes excellent presentations, and is prepared to say “boo” to an AI goose.

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Floridi’s concluding slide —from @suszyredec

Although I follow Floridi on Twitter and read his stuff (some of it, not all of it, he writes a lot), I did not know that he was influential in Library and Information Science. After a quick check on Google and Twitter, it was clear that there is quite a stream of work in LIS building on his ideas. So I kept half an eye on the #cilipconf17 floridi stream on Twitter yesterday. There were hundreds of tweets about his presentation. Uniformly enthusiastic. Of course one cannot really get a full picture of a presentation from the tweet stream it occasions, but this was a very dense stream; and I am sure that CILIP’s organisers will feel that they made a good choice in inviting Floridi to their event.

I especially liked his concluding thought (see the photo of his slide above). Library and Information Science does not just take care of the past for the present, it takes care of the present for the future. Librarians, and cultural curators of all kinds, really do have a crucial role to play in preserving the present for the future. And we need to remember that, although much of what we do seems to be concerned with preserving the past for the present. He also reminded his audience that librarians have real power: they have power to the extent that they can help their users and their patrons to ask the right questions. Whoever controls the questions plays a big part in controlling the answers.

 

 

The Dunedin Collection on the Exact Editions platform

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he 24 books in the Dunedin Society, Health and Family Care Collection are distributed through the Exact Editions platform for digital reading. This format beats ebook software, as found on the Kindle or iBooks readers, in four ways that matter in research and teaching.

  • all the content is delivered exactly as it is in print;
  • each print page is also a web page and is therefore easily cited;
  • the collection can be easily searched as a group of books
  • the licensing is for the whole institution and allows for unlimited reading by simultaneous users

All the content in the print books has been exactly replicated, page by page, on the digital platform. So, the layout, the illustrations, the exact text, the pagination, the typographic format and even the front covers will be found in the digital books. The digital version should be indistinguishable from the printed version

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A double page spread pp36-7 Seng and Taylor: Trauma Informed Care in the Perinatal Period 

Digital pagination is exactly as in print pagination. Each and every page on the digital platform has its own url (as does every double-page spread). So the book can be easily cited or linked to, students can provide links as references in their assignments and and lecture notes can be given as click-through links. Pages can be shared through social media and readers can be confident that they are seeing exactly what would be seen in the print book. As every page is a distinct digital object with its own url it is easy for other apps to target the content.

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Tweeting a Wordle from Alexander and Stafford Children and Organised Sport 

All the books in a collection can be searched, asa a group or individually. This brings out the advantages of a curated body of content such as the Dunedin collection, where readers may well be interested in the way that a topic is treated in other sources. The searching function is similar to, and as easy to use as, the Google search routines. Boolean search functions are also supported.

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Searching for ‘risk assessment’ in the Dunedin Collection

 

The Dunedin collection is licensed annually on a subscription basis for individuals and institutions. The individual license allows for use on the web and through the Exactly app (available for iOS and Android devices) for downloadable use on tablets or phones. Institutional licenses are priced on a campus-wide basis and allow unlimited and simultaneous use by all members of the institution. New content is added automatically to collections as the content becomes available and libraries are provided with remote access, user statistics and comprehensive online support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comag in a precarious position

Comag is in the magazine distribution business. It is the kind of operation that fulfils very useful roles in the publishing economy but this role is largely hidden and ill understood. Sad news this week as it appears that its owners and investors, two of the world’s biggest magazine companies: Conde Nast and Hearst UK, are pulling out of their joint venture and withdrawing their support. Comag is important as a link in the export chain for many British consumer magazines and perhaps even more important for the import of US publications to the UK market, If you buy a US consumer magazine in the UK there is a good chance that it will have a Comag price sticker on it.

There has been no full explanation of why business became so rough for Comag in 2016, but news reports suggest that last year the company lost £4 million. It is probable that this unexpected and painful loss was caused by foreign exchange fluctuations. If Comag was buying magazines from US publishers on a discount from the US published price and selling these copies at £ prices that had been agreed and negotiated with large UK distributors, then Comag would have been subject to a  very uncomfortable squeeze. This could be seen as a lesson in reverse Brexit. A weak £ should encourage exports and squeeze imports. This was the squeezing imports side of the equation, but the British importer pays the penalty. Whether a weaker pound will help the UK magazine companies that export to the rest of the world is not so clear.  Consumer magazine publishers do not want to increase sticker prices even if they can see inflation coming. Perhaps a weak £ will simply ease the margins of the companies, similar to Comag, that arrange for distribution of British published magazines in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

The big lesson for magazine publishers is simple: get some efficient digital distribution in place, and consider offering your loyal subscribers a print/digital combination at a competitive price. That way temporary disruption of the physical distribution network should be simply temporary.  An efficient digital distribution will also mean that your magazine subscriptions can also be sold directly into overseas markets at prices that go straight to your bottom line.

When digital editions are better than ebooks

The ebook format can be quite unsatisfactory in an educational context and we can see this when we use some of the Exact Editions book collections. Let us take the example of the 70+ books from MuseumsEtc.

The MuseumsEtc Collection of books is distributed through the Exact Editions platform for digital reading. This format beats ebook software, as found on the Kindle or iBooks readers, in four ways that matter in research and teaching.

  • all the content is delivered exactly as it is in print;
  • each print page is also a web page and is therefore easily cited;
  • the collection can be easily searched as a group of books
  • the licensing is for the whole institution and allows for unlimited reading by simultaneous users

The digital book should look exactly like the print version

All the content in the print books has been exactly replicated, page by page, on the digital platform. So, the layout, the illustrations, the exact text, the pagination, the typographic format and even the front covers will be found in the digital books. The digital version should be indistinguishable from the printed version

Museums2page

A double page spread from 10 Must Reads: Interpretation

Knowing the exact page matters for references and sharing

Digital pagination is exactly as in print pagination. Each and every page on the digital platform has its own url (as does every double-page spread). So the book can be easily cited or linked to, students can provide links as references in their assignments and and lecture notes can be given as click-through links. Pages can be shared through social media and readers can be confident that they are seeing exactly what would be seen in the print book. As every page is a distinct digital object with its own url it is easy for other apps to target the content.

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Tweeting a double-page spread from The Museum Blog Book

Searching a group of books can be very useful

All the books in a collection can be searched, as a group or individually. This brings out the advantages of a curated body of content such as the MuseumsEtc collection, where readers may well be interested in the way that a topic is treated in other sources. The searching function is similar to, and as easy to use as, the Google search routines. Boolean search functions are also supported.

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Searching the MuseumsEtc collection for ‘interactivity’. Over 120 results

Unlimited and multiuser access for the whole institution

The MuseumsEtc Collection is licensed annually on a subscription basis for individuals and institutions. The individual license allows for use on the web and through the Exactly app (available for iOS and Android devices) for downloadable use on tablets or phones. Institutional licenses are priced on a campus-wide basis and allow unlimited and simultaneous use by all members of the institution. New content is added automatically to collections as the content becomes available and libraries are provided with user statistics, remote user access and comprehensive online support.