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CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes? Yeah, Pretty Much.

The slacker service is introducing five-minute video summaries of ... their summaries, plus one-minute videophone compatible summaries of their summaries. Of their summaries.

by
William M. Briggs

Bio

February 12, 2011 - 12:00 am
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The Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Schuker quotes a John Wiley & Sons executive (that company owns CliffsNotes):

“In our culture, the word CliffNotes already carries great meaning and resonance — people use it as a descriptor for being concise,” said Marc Mikulich, Wiley’s vice president of brand management.

Of course, many think CliffsNotes a descriptor for laziness and ignorance, with more than a whiff of deception. But those who think this do so because they are inflexible and reactionary and too stuck in their old ways. They are also probably not sufficiently worshipful of Steve Jobs.

Anyway, these new “study aides” won’t be dry, talking-head videos either; no sir. They will be “humorous shorts.” And not just humorous, but “irreverent,” too. Yet CliffsNotes says these humorous, irreverent shorts will “still manage to present the plot, characters, and themes” of the assignments — I mean books.

When I read the The Old Curiosity Shop, I too laughed when Little Nell died — a burst of hilarity which was induced by pages that weren’t even in color, let alone 3D. So I can’t wait to see how uproariously irreverent CliffsNotes’ version will be. I look forward eagerly to Native-American Joe’s death scene. And just imagine Miss Havisham in her tattered dress! Maybe Pip can accidentally spill some tomato juice on it and put the old bag in her place. How irreverent! Ha ha!

The best news is, as it should be, saved for last. Mark Burnett, a “reality-show producer” (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?), is charged with making the videos, which will run a full five minutes. But five minutes is an eternity in our go-go, busy-busy, click-swipe world! Thus, for each video of such interminable length, a “shorter one-minute version will also be made available on mobile telephones, as an emergency refresher before a test.”

Only American ingenuity could take a work as serious as Hamlet and boil it down to one humorous, irreverent minute. God bless us, every one!

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William M. Briggs is a statistical consultant in New York and San Francisco. He is an American Meteorological Society member and serves on their Probability & Statistics Committee. His specialty is on the philosophy of evidence, forecast evaluation, and marketing.
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