Amazon, Algorithms and the Art of Book Publishing

Amazon, aggressively expanding its publishing efforts, can sell a lot of books. But many writers don't want to publish to an algorithm, they care about making culture and art.


What's the Latest Development?

The news that Amazon would aggressively expand its publishing efforts by signing up authors has ruffled the feathers of many agents and publishers. In Room for Debate, the NYT asks if publishers are still needed. Dennis Johnson says they must be, "or why would Amazon go to such lengths to build a publishing program?" 

What's the Big Idea?

Amazon is expert in algorithms and can shift a lot of books, but beware of letting it put publishers out of business, warns Johnson, a publishers himself. "Dominating the industry is bad for all kinds of things we hold dear—free speech, great art and a rich and diverse culture. All of which is to say that yes, there is a need for publishers. Many of them."

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
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Big Think Edge
  • In some fundamental ways, humans haven't changed all that much since the days when we were sitting around communal fires, telling tales.
  • Although we don't always recognize them as such, stories, symbols, and rituals still have tremendous, primal power to move us and shape our lives.
  • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.

Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
  • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
  • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
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  • The word "creative" is sometimes waved around like a badge of honor. We speak of creativity in hushed tones, as the special province of the "talented". In reality, the creative process is messy, open, and vulnerable.
  • For this reason, creativity is often at its best in a group setting like brainstorming. But in order to work, the group creative process needs to be led by someone who understands it.
  • This sense of deep trust—that no idea is too silly, that every creative impulse is worth voicing and considering—is essential to producing great work.