Thursday, December 28, 2006

Deja Vu All Over Again: Updates on some items

Here are some of the items I was particularly interested in during the first six months of this blog and where applicable I have also looked to supply an update. Among my interests are, a few book announcements, newspapers, publishing supply chain, educational publishing and Steve McQueen.

The Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP) made its debut at the Frankfurt bookfair. ACAP is a protocol that is intended to transmit permissions information to be read by search engines. There were supposed to be pilots announced for by the end of 2006 but so far nothing.

I found in August and thought the model too good to be true. How to print a photo book of up to 240 pages for less than $100. I have now done two books and also finally made the switch to a digital camera so I expect to do many more. Blurb continue to add new features. In my informal tests with people I show the books to, no one has come within $100 of the actual cost and most are several hundred dollars higher. is just one of the companies that represent the individualistic future of publishing.

Book information - specifically book bibliographic data - becomes easier and easier to access without subscribing to a branded product and in August, OCLC launched in beta. The traffic to local library collections funneling through this search box represents excellent news for any local library looking for further exposure of their collection. Who wouldn't want that?

No recent word on John Cleese's History of Comedy that he spoke about in June.

Random House announced that President Bill Clinton would release a new book towards the end of 2007. I find no current reference to the title on although I was amused to see what title did come up on the list at number one (Left).

Rodale also announced that Chuck Schumer would release a new book in early 2007 and sure enough it will be released in late January. Good timing for him.

In June, I wrote that newspapers were the wave of the future. In the intervening months there has been significant upheaval in the newspaper world with the end of Knight Ridder and McClatchy, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun Times and others all trying to sort it out. I still think newspapers have a significant future as media outlets. The New York Times were represented in my predictions for 2007.

Gary Rautenstrauch was appointed CEO of AMS in May 2007 with the company under SEC investigation. At the time the OTC stock was trading at $4.00 and is now at $2.60 and no new filings have been made that shed 'official' light on the financial irregularities that came to light before Rautenstrauch joined the company. Recent announcements have included notification of an annual meeting scheduled for January 27, 2007 and the appointment of Rautenstrauch and dissident shareholder Robbotti to the board. The same PR also noted the conclusion of a anticipated proxy battle that Robbotti was to have launched at the annual meeting. (And an update 12/29 - AMS announced a bankruptcy filing. I must be clairvoyant).

Lordi, the Finnish winners of the Eurovision Song Fest have gone on to apparent ubiquitous name recognition throughout Europe with their 'monster' pyrotechnic shows. What made this winner unique was their material was not the typical bubbly pop music of old rather some hard core satanic inspired metal. In seeming contradiction to their image however, they had to cancel most of their late summer tour of Spain because some of the band members got the sniffles.

In May the New York times published an article about recently found diaries and a script by Steve McQueen. These will now form the basis of a movie written by Steven McQueen. The movie is produced by his son and god son. Yucatan is scheduled for release sometime in 2007. I can find no word on whether his son will publish any of the material created my McQueen.

During the year, I thought a little about supply chain issues and publishing:

Also, a little about educational publishing:

In November, I set myself a reading challenge; hoping to read five books between November and the end of January. By late December, I have completed The Road, The Emperors Children and The Power of the Dog. The Road was incredible. The Emperor's Children was slow to start but I enjoyed it. The Power of the Dog should have been 100 pages shorter. It was OK but not great.

In November, I also voted for the first time ever.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Proof Bibliographic Data Can Be Fun!

From my OCLC friends, an example of leveraging your assets to new advantage, and in the process proving that bib data can be fun.

Here is the link. For some reason I was drawn immediately to the Island of Misfit Toys - but that is a story for another time. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jack the Ripper

No, I haven't solved it but I did think it funny that on the NBC news on Monday, Brian Williams reported on the UK prostitute murder case by saying the crime wave 'conjured up memories of Jack the Ripper'. Now I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that there can't be too many people left who can remember Jack the Ripper. And even if there arem have they been interviewed? Regardless, it is always good when England makes the network news over here since it is generally about something we are really proud of like a good series of murders, football hooligans, cravs, Nazi attired members of the royal family (this one is not that frequent it must be said) and the puppy prime minister.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Predictions for 2007

There are any number of people offering media predictions for 2007 and it is a fun exercise which can also be a useful tool for strategic planning. Consultants use a tactic called ‘scenario planning’ to generate discussion and thought focused on issues impacting a business. In sessions I have managed, I have placed up to ten ‘scenarios’ or predictions on the walls of a conference room where each member of the group is given instructions to vote on the likelihood of each scenario without speaking to the other participants. The scenarios reflect a combination of the existing status-quo and an extrapolation or exaggeration of anticipated market change. Each scenario should be plausible and represent a challenging future environment in order to generate legitimate discussion.

A red dot placed on the scenario means it will never happen and green means the participant agrees it will happen. The scenarios can be anything that the facilitator decides could be relevant to the company but should be done in consultation with someone at the company. (The scenarios are not shared before the meeting). Additionally, they can be absolute; ‘this will happen’ or more general ‘over the next five years…’

As the group completes the ‘voting’ the facilitator has the group examine each scenario in detail and will encourage the group to think about the implications of each scenario in a few dimensions; technology, human resources, competitors, etc. The outcome of this exercise is a better understanding of the company’s challenges and an understanding of the company's possible weaknesses (or strengths) relative to the scenarios the group thinks most likely. A document should be prepared from this seminar session and this document can become a material part of the development of a strategic plan. Even discussion of those scenarios the group does not believe are likely can be useful in challenging the executives to closely examine their assumptions.

This is an exceptional exercise in encouraging senior management to examine, understand and interpret what is going on in the wider world as a fundamental requirement of their daily responsibilities. It can be the case that management develops a bunker mentality and is subsequently blindsided by events that they should have anticipated.

My predictions below are not fully thought out scenarios for a number of reasons – they are not specific for one thing – but nevertheless they are fun to think about. As an editorial comment, I emphasize that I have no inside information on the veracity of any of these.

Predictions for 2007:

  • NYTimes will eliminate the Saturday print edition of the newspaper. It will also create local web news sites for every major metropolitan city in the US and will stream video from their owned broadcast television stations, classified advertising will be free. The company will also launch a citizen’s paper: The New World Times. NYT will create suite of news gathering tools – web services – and make available to ‘citizen journalists’ content and research traditionally only available to professional journalists.
  • YouTube tv: Just like America’s funniest home videos we will see a TV show based on original YouTube video content. It will win its’ night by 10% and will be turned into a weekly Saturday night talent show.
  • Using cell phones’ camera as a barcode reader will lead to an explosion of mobile in-context/ in situ mobile advertising – followed in 2008 by RFID based in-store advertising (with software for cell phones). Mobile advertising will surpass 5% of all ad dollars spent by agencies by end 2007. (Web currently at 20%)
  • Google launches product placement advertising program. Based on similar key word algorithms advertisers will bid for placement in movies, television, other broadcast, sports, etc. prior to production and/or live telecast. Program will represent 10% of all fall 2007 upfront spend.
  • FCC will hold hearings on standards related to product placement advertising in late 2007 as the market explodes.
  • Apple will think about buying Disney and Electronic Arts but will buy Tivo and SlingBox. Apple will also launch a Beatles version of the I-Pod including the entire Beatles catalog plus video/movies. The Beatles I-Pod will retain the tradition Apple artwork (Green apple front, cut away apple on the back).
  • Yahoo will by EA and within six months launch a social network gaming site based on EA content.
  • No-one will buy Netflix
  • Social Media in Education: Several major US colleges will teach various social science coursed entirely in simulation. The courses will not be taught in traditional lecture form but entirely within the software simulation.
  • News Corp will buy Dow Jones and Financial Times and sell Harpercollins and Hachette will by Harpercollins.
  • EBay will by Linden Labs (Second Life). Within six months they will integrate Ebay selling tools into SecondLife enabling virtual store fronts, sales assistance and virtual trading. Will launch program with major retailers and create first Second Life mega-mall in cooperation with Westfield. Ebay also launches SecondLife media placement agency to handle all media inventory on SecondLife.
  • T Mobile buys Skype from Ebay.
  • Linden dollars will be included in the Feds M1 currency calculation.
  • Neil Young’s Living with War wins the Grammy for best Rock Album.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Judith Regan Fired

Well I can't say I expected this; my immediate reaction was where will she end up? Which publishing house will hire her to bring her special type of salacious - but profitable - publishing to their bottom line. Perhaps no company will since the OJ affair and recent news about an apparently grotesque novalization of Mikey Mantle's life have irreparably savaged her reputation. America is replete with second acts and I am sure she will show up some where. Nevertheless, for the short term she is evidence of the adage 'if you give someone enough rope they will hang themselves.' The word on the street was that she didn't really report to anyone after she moved out to LA.
LA Times

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Round-Up

From Grumpy Old Bookman here is a blog article discussing a book by one Steve Webber The Home Based Bookstore. GOB gives the book a ringing endorsement and I link to the blog because it relates somewhat to my blog of last week about charity bookstores. In my blog, I noted that some people have made a living out of setting up online bookstore with Alibris, Amazon and ABE and this book will tell you exactly how to do this and make money. That is, if you have the time and inclination.

Over at institute for the Future of the Book, they note an interview with Harvard University Press and then go on to ask some questions about the 'evolution of authorship'. Here is a quote from their article:

...the immediacy that the Internet provides facilitates collaboration in a way
no meeting of minds in a cafe or railroad apartment ever had. This facilitates a
communality that approaches that of the oral tradition, now we have a system
that allows for true universality. To make this work requires action,
organization, clarity of purpose, and yes, a new rhetoric. New ways of
collaboration entail a novel approach.

You may have noticed that many book related bloggers are putting together their lists of books read in 2007 blogs. Here is an exceptionally well written one from The Millions. In keeping with the blog name, he also reflects on just how many books you could read in a life-time and this calculation becomes depressing when thought of in the context of how many books there are in print. The Bowker Global Books In Print product has 15mm titles (predominantly English) of which more than 50% would be in-print. In the last few weeks, I have been adding to my librarything collection all the books I have read but don't currently have copies of. I am quite depressed that I am only at about 500 titles. I can't believe that I have not read more books than this especially since - as The Millions suggests - I began reading big people books at 13 (Wilbur Smith, Alistair McLean, Ian Fleming).

A lot of people are doing predictions for 2007 and this is how rumors get started. Google buys a publisher - I think not.

This short article in New York magazine about Walter Mosley caught my eye because Mrs. PND has many times commented to me that to all the young girls in the gym I am the creepy old guy. That's nice; I guess that makes her Mrs Creepy Old Guy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Divergent Activity

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Thanks to Ted's Thoughts for the link.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lost News

In my very first post on this blog I commented on the vast difference in reporting on the US network's national news broadcasts and the BBC. Last night, I sat minding my own business with NBC on in the background when all of a sudden the BBC news came on and it was like I was in a different universe. Yesterday was the day that Kofi Annan decided to present his last speech as UN Secretary General. He chose to deliver this speech in Independence, MO. Why, because that is the birth place of President Truman and the location of his library. Truman was a strong supporter of the United Nations.

In his speech, Annan strongly rebuked the policies of the United States saying "no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others." In his comments afterward, he denied that the speech was directed at President Bush but it is clear from the rest of his speech that this was a justifiable conclusion. Annan wants the US to own up to its position as a world leader and be true to its own ideals which in the past five years we have selectively ignored. It was a damning speech but it wasn't on NBC. As I have stated before, I believe the network news shows should proffer an international view that leads to greater understanding and comprehension of international issues. It doesn't look like NBC even sent a reporter.

Just when I thought the contrast couldn't be any worse, the next story on BBC was about the startling lack of basic knowledge of key congressional leaders regarding international facts and issues. The story is titled, "Al-Qaeda Confuses US Congressman" which is worrying enough. The editor of Congressional Quarterly had occasion to ask certain members things like, who is Sunni and who is Shiite, what is the difference, what is Hezbollah and a number of other things. He specifically mentioned Silvestre Reyes who is the incoming House Intelligence Committee chair. You may say he is just gearing up, but in fact he has been on the committee for many years. Perhaps, NBC doesn't think this is a story however, when there is so much wrong information circulating about our foreign affair forays - Saddam supported 9/11 terrorists for example - one would think that NBC and others should jump on this story as evidence that even our leadership isn't sufficiently educated about the facts. That being the case how can we expect the electorate to know what's going on?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Whip Round: Litblogs, Morality, Aggregators

This is an excellent article from The Australian newspaper in guess where. The author Genevieve Tucker takes a long look at the development of lit blogs and reflects - just a little - on activity in Australia. She sees the development of lit blogs as reflecting the desire of readers and book lovers generally to converse about their reading experiences and notes that declines in traditional media attention (newspapers) has sped the growth of these blog sites. In conclusion she says the following:

Above all, readers of books who also enjoy reading blogs are conscious that they are drawn to the most highly powered technology in their homes and offices to talk about the simplest cultural technology there is, one that can be picked up, kept for many years on a shelf, borrowed and lent and returned to at will without needing to be refreshed or substantially remodeled. It is this poignant attachment to old technology, together with a well-balanced sense of the rich possibilities offered by new media, that is probably closest to the heart of blogging about books and writing.
In this article about moving the traditional publishing model into the 21st century we hear of a new approach from a company named

The process is straightforward: After posting an extract from a completed work on The Front List, a writer is allocated five works to critique while his or her extract is, in turn, read and annotated by five other authors. Marks are given out of 50 - based on five set criteria, which vary according to genre.
The purpose is to provide real feedback to authors wishing to have their books published by a traditional publishing house. is attempting to bridge a gap between publishers who do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and agents that are inundated with so many submissions there is little chance they can offer constructive feedback. As most realistic and unemotional publishing practitioners know, the odds are heavily stacked against a first time author. In my view this experiment with not work mainly because I think they will find that the 'population' that may make use of this type of site can't edit. (I also found Mrs Dalloway dull).

Speaking of Virginia Woolf; Book World is reading her dairies and she can't put them down!

Here is a magazine you don't skim every day; American Thinker (no comments!). This article reflects on the morality of current publishing given the O.J. Simpson, James Frey and Kaavya Viswanathan issues of the past 12 months. The author leaves us with this rather damning comment:

And therein lies the dilemma faced by the contemporary book publishing industry: where a Maxwell Perkins could nurture, cajole, develop, and protect his stable of writers, and do so with the intention of adding valuable intellectual products to the culture, publishers today have been forced - both by the interest and tastes of the marketplace of readers and the uncertainties of publishing economics - to go in directions earlier editors and publishers might have thought untenable and inappropriate. They have been forced to transform the profession of publishing from one in which ideas were generated and preserved for society's good into a process where the pursuit of profits overshadows this primary, seemingly nobler purpose. That tension shows no sign of subsiding, which means that the hard choice between "culture and mammon" will no doubt continue to have repercussions on the business of bringing books to life.

I guess we have a lot of work to do - or perhaps we continue to cater to what the audience want or expects....

Since I read this article by Scott Karp I have been thinking about it a lot. I don't agree with all of it but it a very interested view point on data/content aggregators and content creators. There is a under current of negativity associated with the 'aggregator' business model which I don't agree with. Here is his opening paragraph:

Can anyone think of a content business meaning a company that produces original content that has scaled dramatically in recent years? I can't. Look at the businesses that have scaled Google, MySpace, YouTube all platforms for content, but not producers of content. Compare those to original content businesses like Weblogs, Inc., Gawker, TechCrunch, Paid Content they are successful at their scale, but that scale is still tiny compared to the scale of the aggregation businesses. Even portals like AOL and Yahoo are much more aggregators of content than original producers of content.
It is worth a read and I might attempt my own view at some point.

Lastly I hesitate to comment on the Ashes test other than to link to thiarticleaticle about a job offer for a "waitress" to help fetch and carry for a bunch of English blokes at the Melbourne test in a few weeks. It will all be over by then and this waitress is going to be a very tired girl.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

USS Intrepid

Despite the tow line, the USS Intrepid looked pretty magnificent floating down the Hudson this morning. For those who don't know, the ship has functioned as a private Museum for twenty four years on the West side of Manhattan. It is going south to New Jersey for a refurbishment and will make the return journey in two years. The ship saw action in WWII, survived kamakazi attacks and served in Korea and Vietnam but it was the river mud that almost had it beat. The first attempt to move the ship last month failed but they got it right this time. Nice day today; just a bit cold.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday Round-up

I liked this blog post by Tomassina at Book I mentioned sports books in my last post and here she looks at the big advances paid to some celebrity 'authors' for their life stories. (I like the sound of 'comeuppance'). Notably they include books by sports stars. On top of this, she also reflects on the comprehension level of some of today's popular titles. Apparently, Mitch Ablom's book could be read with ease by a 9 year old. that why is does so well at Starbucks.

Martha Stewart has too large a role in our house for my comfort but she does seem to have done well on the web. The company announced that over 30% of company revenues are internet related.

Over at Eoin Purcell's blog he notes that Penguin are allowing punters to design their own covers for some Penguin classics titles. Interesting and innovative.

Debate continues over the accuracy of Wikipedia and comparative studies on this subject are occasional. In this blog article from The Future of the Book, I think the authors strike the right note. The 'accuracy' debate is not a simple one and many other factors are at play. Not least the fact that most wikipedia entries are collective and as such may not compare well with a single perhaps better organized and edited view point. As the article points out in the soft sciences where opinion and interpretation play a significant role the collective can provide a challenge to (perhaps) the more dogmatic or prevailing view. Does this make the wikipedia entry wrong...the debate continues.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

England: Rugby and The Ashes

With the week spent in England, I was able to witness first hand the first Ashes test and the England South Africa game at Twicks. The Ashes has been highly anticipated; the Assies are full of bravardo and brio as is typical and every English fan knows we are going to get our ass kicked. As the game went on we all knew when Petersen was out in the second innings what little hope we collectively held was vaporized. .....but wait, I go to bed last night with England at 330/3 and this morning they have declared at 550 and got on Assie wicket. Dare we believe?

I have sat in the stands at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) many times which is were my father is going to be on December 26th. Back in 1975, I sat with my cousin with a Denis Amiss sign drapped over the rail in front of us. I have no idea why we picked Denis but he was a fine English batsman. We had painted the sign in big black letters on a sheet which when we lifted it off the patio had left an imprint of AMISS in the stone. Certain adults were not amused and it was a bugger to get out.

England's world cup victory ranks as one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed. (MU over Beyern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final is number one). I have never been a rugby fan and I only remember playing it once when I got whacked in the teeth and immediately thought this is not for me. Watching this team in the last two years had been painful and the South Africa match was a good example. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory late in the first half when they were in control a few minutes from the half and a fumbled catch gave the initiative to SA and they never scored another point. South Africa are not a particularly strong team. The coach had to go and he is now out. (BTW, I can't beleive he is two years younger than me. See, that's what Rugby does to you).

Along the sporting line, I heard of a book award program I had not been familar with. William Hill sponsors this award program and this year it was won by Gary Imlach for 'My Father And Other Working Class Football Heroes'.
The book features the story of Imlach's attempts to secure for his late father,
Stewart - who played in the 1958 World Cup finals and was an FA Cup winner with
Nottingham Forest in 1959 - the official cap from the Scottish FA to which
Imlach believes he is entitled but which he never received and is still being

Other nominated titles included books about Marco Pantini, Abebe Bikila, The Berlin Olympics and Chelsea FC.

Not unsurprizingly, there are no sports 'biographies' nominated.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Weekly Update

Never has the phrase You can't make this stuff up been more appropriate. As we arrived in the UK last week there was heavy news reporting about the last days on Litvinenco. (At this point barely a ripple on the US networks). Unless the authorities were keeping it quiet, the whole radiation thing only started to come out after the poor bloke was dead. My thoughts firstly were how did the stuff get here? Well, now BA are finding the stuff in multiple planes and this is weird not because it may have been transported via plane but why as many as three planes? I can see two planes - outbound and in-bound but what's with the third? Perhaps more than one carrier just to double the chances that some would reach the intended target? If so, where's the extra? My second subsequent thought was that this guy lay in hospital for three weeks before he died and we then found out he had radiation poisoning. What does this say about London's readiness to identify a more serious outbreak of anything? On this kind of schedule we will all be dead.

Back to publishing...

The Houghton Mifflin deal was agreed this week with executive positions announced. As the news reports pointed out the equity firms which purchased the company a few years have made a very nice return on thier investment. More from The Australian on the riches brought forth.

Proquest have completed the divesture of their electronic parts catalog business to Snap-On tools. I suspect Snap On sees a huge opportunity in building a e-commerce business based on this data. Coupled with the large community represented by the Proquest sales channel of over 33,000 dealers. Proquest recieves mostly cash for the deal. Earlier this year Proquest announced some accounting irregularities but stressed they did not impede the business.

Wolters Kluwer announced better than expected results this week and this article from Forbes on publishing deals notes that the WK educational unit may be put up for sale. Apparently they have had some expressions of interest. I have heard this unit has been a little problematic for them; generally legal, tax, regulatory, medical and nursing titles.

Other News:
Indigo books announced a program with iUniverse which is similar to the program iUniverse has with Barnes & Noble. The program enables iUniverse authors to have a presence on front of store displays. The titles have to meet certain commercial criteria.

For the aging generation - thankfully not me yet - Harpercollins has launched a 'luxe' large print program. Named HarperLuxe, they aim to raise the standard of typical large print titles. Look for others to follow-on. I always liked the large print publisher market which used to be 'dominated' by GK Hall and Thorndyke. When Macmillan was collapsing I had a thought of acquiring G.K. Hall. A little issue of money reduced this to little more than a thought.

I had a hand in this implementation at Bowker - made the go ahead decision and signed the contract. On occaision I demo the interface; however, it sits behind a subscription wall so it is not easy to get to. To get an idea what this interface looks like go here and type 'suspense' in the search box. By the way, Queens Public is one of the more innovative library systems in the nation and also has one of the most diverse population served.

If you were doubting your sartorial sensibility then this article from The Age (my one-time home newspaper) on a flood of new titles for those needing a refresher on 'manners' and 'dress code'. That would be me. I am closer to the loin cloth type - see the article.

There were a few best of lists this week but here is a different take from Forbes magazine which asked a list of reputable media types what books mean to them and the title of the last significant book they read. I liked the gorgeous Suzanne Somers the best.

New York Times best of 2006. and the Kirkus' reviews of said titles.
Publisher's Weekly (Glad to see George Pelecanos and Cormac McCarthy on their list) (Interesting selection - click on fiction for more) (I just started The Emperors Children which is on this list)
The Observer - The Great and the Good note their best 2006 picks.