June 20th, 2012

_Autism and Asperger Syndrome_, Simon Baron-Cohen

I got this from the library. It reminded me once again of the many irritating things about pbooks. It didn't fit in my small purse. I couldn't read it on my iPhone. When I tried to read it in bed, I had to scrounge around and plug in an appropriate reading light. Etc. Annoying. At least it was small, short and, therefore, light.

Part of Oxford University Press' The Facts series, Baron-Cohen is a very well known researcher and author (and advocate) for autism spectrum. He prefers to call it "autism spectrum condition" vs "autism spectrum disorder", because he believes that while some aspects are clearly dis-abilities, other aspects are "talents". It's really one of his most charming traits.

Baron-Cohen had previously written a similar, short overview of autism and treated this book as an opportunity to bring that work up to date with developments. Chapter 5, "The Psychology of autism and Asperger syndrome" illustrates well the central weakness of this work (and, arguably, Baron-Cohen's least charming trait as a writer): he presents "five major psychological theories of autism and Asperger syndrome" with attributing these theories to any person or group of persons or clinics or research entities or whatever. Since Baron-Cohen is, IIRC, the creator and prime advocate of one of these theories, and since that theory gets quite a lot more space devoted to it in the text, acknowledging that he had a horse in this race would have been nice. This is the most clear example of Baron-Cohen using a general overview to plug his own ideas, but it is by no means the only one.

Fortunately, I dislike Baron-Cohen's theories about spectrum less than I dislike other people's theories about autism, so while I disapprove of the behavior, I don't disapprove of the result. It's a useful that said, there are some additional, non-trivial issues. First, Baron-Cohen presents PDD-NOS as a fewer-traits version of autism (it's the way I think of it, too), but again, other people treat it differently. Second, I don't think Baron-Cohen really "gets" where stereotypies, perseveration, repetition, the need for sameness actually comes from. He treats it as a cognitive activity (part of his systematizing behavior). I find repetition restful and pleasurable, and distinctly NOT cognitive. And I don't think I'm alone.

Baron-Cohen, Simon, _Autism and Asperger Syndrome_. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

In any event, if you are looking for a short, "safe", introduction to spectrum, I have not seen better in book form.

Espresso Book Machine

Nate Hoffelder at the excellent blog The Digital Reader has posted about the Espresso Book Machine several times, twice recently.

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/06/16/the-future-pod-redux/

He concludes that the EBM is a more natural fit for a copy shop than for a book store. He had some difficulty finding data to do his analysis for whether a book store (or copy shop) could make money on an EBM, and relied on some elderly data that was then refreshed when the source had a chat with the OnDemand, the makers of EBM.

http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2012/06/print-on-demand-might-come-to-store.html

However, Alan Beatts and Nate Hoffelder remain skeptical of the Espresso Book Machine as a good fit for a bookstore, and think it would be a better fit for a copy shop. Beatts in particular notes that a bunch of services are probably needed to support the self-publishing authors who are apparently the primary users of the EBM, at least in its book store form.

"Consequently, I suspect that the stores offering this service charge a basic set-up charge and then an additional hourly design rate to get the customer's files into shape."

Here is what one bookstore offers in the way of such services, and their prices for same:

www.schulerbooks.com/files/schulers/Self_Publishing_Services.pdf

_That_ is enlightening. That bookstore is making money off of every step of that process, right down to keying a handwritten manuscript in for you. I'm mildly curious as to who they've lined up to do the work (I'm betting some staff but mostly contract/referrals) -- but only mildly.

Unusually rapid order fulfillment

Yesterday evening (after 5 p.m.), A. was building with legos and kept demanding more bricks. Eventually, I said (mostly truthfully) that we were All Out of bricks and we'd have to order more. So we did.

Three of the sets we ordered arrived shortly after 1 p.m. the following day.