Of Course It Pours
In my last post I mentioned the possibilities of using reenactors at historical sites as part of the mix of teaching history, and Amy told us her in comment that there may be some version of this in Second Life — the virtual world that has both adult and teen sections. This morning I got an email from an American friend who lives in Germany. He reported that the Holtzbrink company — which, in America is the Macmillan group that includes Henry Holt, FSG, St. Martins, and Feiwel & Friends — is setting up two new Facebook portals. These will be special news feeds aimed at high school and college students. And then Monday’s New York Times included this intriguing article, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/19/books/19cathy.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=product+placement&st=nyt&oref=slogin (in case you have trouble clicking through on that, it is called, "In Books for Young, Two Views on Product Placement," and you can search under that title.)
The article is about two tweener series novel series, one that had planned to be built around product placements — but backed off after criticism — and another that is steaming straight ahead into that territory. Now I am sure that the listservs are buzzing about this, and, I assume, in most cases with righteous anger at the second series. Years ago Norma Howe skewered the whole idea of ads in books in her Blue Avenger Cracks the Code, (which, truth to tell, I edited) so I feel that book took care of the critical side, and well before this latest flap. But I actually see something different in the piece: the many aspects the worlds of tweeners, and teens are crossing. Books are part of a stream that includes social networking as well as net searching and ipods, ads, and all sorts of other stimulation. Of course ads will jump into this stream first — just as porn got into video and then the web rapidly. But there is something really interesting here — just as I said yesterday, nonfiction is coming to kids from many angles, and all at once. Our challenge is to figure out how books fit into that world.
Again — how do you see it, how can books stake their claim (and we have a very good claim) amidst the net, the noise, the itunes, the portals, the ads, the museums, the TV, the blu ray DVDs and whatever comes next?