Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jimmy Wales Discusses Wikia Search

Against the back drop of a very friendly audience Jimmy Wales gave his first public talk this evening about his new search project. In fairness, given his work with wikipedia it would be difficult to image a non-friendly audience at any occasion, and when the topic is basically giving stuff of real value away for free then its unlikely there will be too many boos and groans. Jimmy wasn’t particularly controversial; he is on a quest to make search transparent, participatory and free. (Nice picture of someone's head - sorry).

The meeting at NYU was both a official class meeting and a hosted meeting of the FreeCulture society. Purely by chance, I found out about it by glancing at a copy of AM New York this morning as I came back from a breakfast meeting. This is the great thing about New York that these types of things go on all the time like no other place on earth. (I will have another post tomorrow about another meeting I attended earlier in the week).

Wales suggested that he was taken aback by the attention given by the media world on this initiative and he claims that he accidentally dropped the hint about it at the end of last year. I have some doubts about the story. As he explained the search ‘tool’ will become a legitimate competitor to the commercial providers particularly Google and Yahoo. He even suggested that some second tier search providers have approached him to offer assistance and support and he reasons that these companies recognize that a legitimate competitor to Google et al is good for all the non-major players. He didn’t directly state that an objective is to make basic search a commodity but this does seem to be the central objective of the initiative. Value-added services then would ride along or on top of basic search thereby providing unique business offerings.

With respect to the three core criteria he views as essential to the initiative all algorithms will be published, testable and researchable which supports his transparency goal. Establishing a participatory environment will be dependent on the relevancy and usefulness of the engine. As one student suggested, if the tool sucks then no-one will participate to which Wales noted that he is in the process of hiring the best researchers in search technology and is well aware that the first release has to be impressive. He also went on to say that they want to include the best elements of wikipedia participation coupled with the trusted network of key participants. Within wikipedia there is a core group of 1000-2000 contributors who are unlike gatekeepers and more like collaborators. Lastly, the search tool will be free which he defined by reciting the four freedoms of software. These are the ability to copy, modify, redistribute and redistribute with modifications.

Other than the fact that I was in a room full of under-graduates and feeling very old this was a very interesting discussion. Questions towards the end reflected concern over privacy issues and why Google and the other services are not ‘free’. I was curious about why the wikipedia model hasn’t yet transferred well to the world of educational publishing and journal publishing because so far those initiatives appear indifferent but I didn’t get the chance to ask.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Google TV: Is it for real? UPDATED


I think the following YouTube video from the same source as the GoogleTV episode proves GoogleTV is a hoax. This video is about recharging alkaline batteries and to quote "it is called electrical tape because it conducts electricity."

Well it was fun to think about....

In the run up to the law suit by US publishers against Google, an article was circulated (and I forget where it was published) to all of us on the AAP board which described a meeting between Google execs and NBC in Los Angeles. Apparently, Google had been storing the NBC feed for months and presented their proud new ideas for TV over the internet. NBC were not similarly impressed and the idea was buried.

Now comes word of GoogleTV which if true could be the resolution of this earlier idea to deliver on-demand television to your computer. How cool will that be. Just think in six months you can use your browser on your new iPhone to watch the program of your choice when and where ever you want. Extending that your iPhone becomes the distribution device for your own tv, radio/music, movie channel. The YOU channel.

Again it could all be a well constructed hoax. It could also be a hoax but very close to the truth.

Here are links:

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Joining the Network

Ebay and are network level applications. What defines them as network level applications is that they raise to the level of a platform fundamental processes, data pools and transaction information that previously existed at a local user or store level. In doing so they achieve radical economies of scale which is made available to all comers. Their benefit in doing so is to create a market place from which they receive transaction fees and charges across a huge network. Participants (vendors) benefit because they get access to state of the art applications, databases and the marketplace itself for a fraction of the cost of developing these assets themselves.

Ebay and Amazon are the most obvious network level players but others are becoming increasingly prevalent and increasingly have at their core a set of integrated web service applications. Google, for example is known mostly as a search platform; however, they are investing in many types of applications from calendar functions, to spreadsheets, to blog software that in effect creates a potential network level desktop. It is entirely possible in the Google environment to become completely untethered from your traditional 'physical' desktop and increasingly this will be the way people work. As a consequence of the developing Google network we will benefit from more integration of communication - calendars, email, blogging, - between users. Who knows the level of integration that may result once browser type, hardware, productivity application don't matter.

The beauty of the Network level application is that it can function as a component of work flow or as the work flow itself. The applications are built to standard specifications and are interchangeable, upgradeable and reusable. Web services applications are the most common facility by which modular component software applications are brought together to produce a work flow application. By definition, these web service applications are not tied to any specific operating system or programming language. has aggressively promoted (and was an early adopter) of web services. Most online booksellers would face much higher monthly operating expenses and would also not have access to other seller tools (comparative pricing, availability information, etc.) were it not for Amazons web services. Simple cover art is available to all online retailers via the Amazon web services widget. It would be difficult and time consuming for a small book retailer to scan and upload cover art and the fact that this and many other functions have been removed from the local store level to the network is an example of a network effect. Anyone who has sold on Ebay over the past ten years will recognize how the process gets easier and easier as Ebay has added content, applications and services that the average garage sale seller could never develop by themselves. As Amazon has done, they to have developed web services applications that others can use on their own auction or retail sales sites.

The Network effect is coming to the library, publisher and bookseller market. (There is still some opportunity in book selling despite Amazon). It is interesting to think further about the Network effect on publishing but I think that we are seeing the first stages of a radical change in publishing with the development of self-publishing houses (AuthorHouse, Lulu, iUniverse), publishing applications (Blurb, Picaboo) and blogging tools (wetpaint, Wordpress, Blogger) all of which represent a very different way of publishing. I think it is the beginning of the death of publishing as we know it but by no means the death of publishing.

Similarly, in the library community software vendors sell expensive software implementations for local catalogs (OPAC) which are proprietary and often islands of information with only minimal integration with the outside world. More often than not the applications themselves are filled with features and gee wiz stuff that no one needs or uses. Rise up to the network level all of this functionality and the libraries is able select the applications they want as components parts and assemble them as they please. Due to the increasing strength and decreasing cost of communications and bandwidth the library can run the critical tools they need via a set of network level applications. Importantly they do this without a large expensive investment in hardware or software and they get continual access to software development improvements.

It is an interesting time and I think I will think more about the network-level impact on book selling and libraries.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spooky Cry for Help? All the books Art Garfunkel has read

Unfairly a part of me thinks this is the work of a troubled mind. On the other hand, I am having difficulty remembering what books I read back in the 1970s and if I had been this diligent then I wouldn't be having this problem. He presaged Librarything by decades.

Interestingly, 52 people have tagged this web page in delicious. I think most are in awe.

A new take on personal cataloging of books etc is gurulib which I have yet to test out but it has a similar purpose to Librarything. We all need a little competition. This site is free for the moment although Librarything was hardly expensive.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Google News and Other News

The Sunday Times reports that Google is looking a developing 'a system' to allow e-book downloads to laptops and PDAs. Hummm. Not too revolutionary other than if they put their weight behind it will it blast e-books into the stratosphere?

Pearson were cagey all year about their results suggesting that the second half of the year would be much harder. Well they are on target for record earnings. Their stock declined.

Here are the Edgar Award nominees.

The French apparently love James Bond.

There was a Google love in at the New York Public Library last week. Predictably publishers are wrong and Google is right.

If you see the local Barnes & Noble windows filled with Chocolate in a few weeks you will know why. In these competitions they never say where the people who live in New York get to go if they win. I guess the presumption is we get to go to Omaha. It's just not fair.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Archiving Special Collections.

Visit the British Library web site and page through some amazing texts coupled with an audio recording about the work. It is very cool.

As more and more libraries start to digitize their 'special' collections (and not via Google either) it will be interesting to see how they 'display' these collections in the on-line context. I believe small thriving businesses will be developed that help libraries create on-line or electronic shows. The online version of the material that typically shows up in the glass display cases in the library lobby.

It is great to have all this 'special' collection material available for research and access but for the casual library patron some filtering and explanation/analysis is important for enjoyment and value. This is why I think you will find digital archivists selling their services to libraries to create these representative packages or shows of the material. These digital archivists will present the best parts of the collection and 'design' or curate these online shows. Viewers will be able to access the material via the web but perhaps they could also view the material in the library via web enabled kiosks.

There is so much of this material coming on-line. (OCLC has three different programs designed to collect this material). I think only a small percentage of stuff has thus far been digitised and we run the risk of having a glut of material that if not organized and presented to the typical patron may never be seen. This would be akin to the local public library collection that sits undisturbed in the special viewing room that isn't open to the public.

The need to create logical presentations of this valuable material does draw attention to the importance of the local librarian in selecting or editing this material. The process also creates new opportunities to add to the material in ways that perhaps was discouraged or difficult. This is especially the case with oral histories. Creating a visual respresenation of the material in a special collection and then encouraging some long lived local patrons to add their vocal history to the presentation would add significantly to the relevance and importance of the collection.

As I said, I think this is coming because I think there is an obvious need for services to support this type of activity.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Private Equity Deals

If you have the cash to invest in publishing company why not go for the best one. Which in my opinion would be Pearson.

With Thomson Education on the market, Houghton Mifflin sold, Wiley purchasing Blackwell Publishing, Wolters Kluwer Education for sale, there is a lot on offer and this week the rumors were flying around Pearson. Pearson has made no public comments regarding selling any of the company yet the PE bankers and the equity analysts think something is a foot. The Pearson stock closed at a four year high today (CNN). No doubt this is very pleasing to all the management options holders.

Last week, Reed Elsevier was also touted as a non-too-obvious PE candidate and it would seem you are not worth your salt as an equity analyst in the media industry if you don't declare one of these conglomerates as an ideal candidate for Private Equity players. Reed have a complicated ownership structure which, while simpler than when Reed and Elsevier were put together, seems to be a concern. When (or if) it comes down to it I doubt this will be an issue. As with Pearson, I suspect that the managers with options will be very happy with the stock price escalation. Last week the stock was at 600p now it is at 611p. When I was at Reed in 2000, the stock was over 700p and this was before they purchased Harcourt and the significant slump in advertising revenues that hit their trade publications business. Point is, I wonder if a valuation will push the share price up a lot higher?

In recent years Pearson has been chastised for under-managing a collection of valuable publishing assets but this died down a little over the past 12 months. Their financial results and forecasts have been on target and results in the Education group have been particularly strong. This is especially true when Pearson education is compared to Thomson in terms of acquisitions made, growth rate and operating margin. In Thomson's defence, I am sure that it has been difficult operating in within the Thomson corporate environment when reservations may have been expressed about Education for a while. Thomson relative to Pearson has probably lost momentum which a sale will quickly fix and we will see a renewed Thomson Education as a result.

Currently, the PE bankers see an opportunity to buy a large 'holding company' put some lipstick on it and sell parts off in short order. In selling the parts - The Financial Times, Pearson Education - they would expect to make a killing. (Pearson Education could be split into College and School). Management is clearly not happy with the current debate but if an offer is made then they obviously need to consider it. What may result is some appeasement resulting in the sale of one of the tastier chunks. As I predicted for 2007: Murdoch will buy The Financial Times.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

News From Australia

SYDNEY(AP) - A seven-year-old boy was at the centre of a Parramatta, NSW courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy had a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible. The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her.

When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented
step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.

After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the English Cricket Team, whom the boy firmly believes are not capable of beating anyone.

Mr. Charkin had a recent post along the same lines. Dispair.

Spare a thought for my parents who have taken to spending the English winter in Australia but this year they got torential rains on Christmas Day, the Cricket team sucked and this week brush fires caused a power outage in Melbourne. Oh well...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Worst Cover Award & Australia Week

I don't spend much time watching Martha Stewart but this morning I happened to catch her interview view Aussie chef Neil Perry, author of The Food I Love (Atria, $50, 0743292450). Here is the cover:

And I think that is prettty ordinary. I think they are selling linens not excellent Aussie food. And using the light green lettering means you can barely make out his name against the grey background.

Incidentally, it is Australia week here in New York; who knew? Many events but no book related ones and doesn't that figure. With a little concentration you could just about see that table top display of Aussie authored books at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. I guess not...

More thoughts on book covers generally visit

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday Whip Round

By way of an update to the story last week about the New Jersey public library which has elected to close after school hours in order to reduce the child minding activities of its librarians, the New York Times had an editorial in Sunday's paper. Here is a sample,

One can certainly understand the librarians’ frustrations; after all, they are trained to assist patrons in locating library material and doing research, not to be disciplinarians. But the idea of closing a library during prime hours was an inappropriately heavy-handed way to react to a problem that many libraries across the country have been dealing with for generations.
As I recall, this was not a unilateral response or action and indeed the library had spent significant time trying to establish a code of conduct that would help manage the situation. The article goes on to suggest that it is always a challenge to get children into libraries (to read) and that denying access to a library especially in the face of (supposed) interest is an especially bad idea. But that it really not what is happening here. The kids - some of whom most likely do value the time and do make use of the access and behave appropriately - are there because they have no where else to go during those hours.

Also in The Times this morning was an article about Ayn Rands' The Fountainhead. It may soon actually make it to the movie screen. One quote from the article suggests it is the finest 20th century novel never to make it into a film. Is that true? I confess to enjoying both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged but in the case of the former, I think I recall skipping ahead through the famous 60page, 10,000 word John Galt speech that caps the book. It is hard to see how they will get this into a two hour movie. Apparently, Rand was never happy with the movie version of The Fountainhead because someone had the gaul to drop one line from the script she had agreed. No pleasing some people.

Apparently both books continue to sell well and Penguin should be happy if it makes it to the silver screen. The novel ends in an apolcalyse which is presumably where Coramc McCarthy's The Road takes over.

As I am sure many of you will know, Borders has forged an agreement with which is a social networking site set up last year targeted at old people like me. Also involved in the partnership is Simon & Schuster. The three will launch a competition to find a new unpublished author based on submissions via the web site. There are other tie-ins with Borders as well including in-store promotion and mailings to the Borders frequent buyers club.

Under that partnership, Borders will promote the online community to its more than 15 million Borders' reward members who receive weekly emails. Visitors to the site will find author-related content and events and have the change to earn Gather Points redeemable for Borders gift cards. Borders also will promote the First Chapters competition via these emails.

Borders will also be the official book store for but here is the fun part, Borders don't have a web site. They gave this over to in what has been a largely unsatisfactory arrangement a number of years ago when they were in dire straights internet wise. I will go out on a short limb here and suggest they are going to have their own web site quite soon

In today's San Francisco Chronicle (via The Washington Post) is an article about publisher Prosper Assouline who not only creates and publishes beautiful books he especially likes to smell them as well. (There must be a name for that).

Assouline focuses on fashion and other subjects that lend themselves to striking pictures and the absence of words. He does not have an aversion to literature. (The last book he read, he says, was Gabriel García Márquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude.") But his plan since starting the company 11 years ago was to build a global luxury brand whose products can seamlessly cross borders. Having to translate pages of words into French, Italian and other languages only complicates matters. So far, the company has published about 700 titles.

It would take a lot more than 100 Years of Solitude to put me off reading. I assume from this comment that he read it when it came out rather than last week which wouldn't be so bad. While we are on this, apparently Márquez' and Mario Vargas Llosa have patched things up - just in case you were concerned.

Earlier this year there was controversy in Paris regarding book awards. Apparently, money and other things may have been changing hands - everyone was shocked and horrified. At least those that cared. Now comes word from The Sunday Times that good old Boris Pasternak may have had some help from the CIA and James Bond in winning The Nobel prize. Surely more interesting about this is the apparent success of the operation....

Lastly, in my predictions for 2007 I suggested that Skype would be sold by Ebay. Who knows but they haven't done what they said they would do with it which is integrate it into the auction process. Meanwhile Skype has continued to do well as this article details.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Harpercollins Buys Piece of Libre DIgital

In 2005, Harpercollins like many other major trade houses was looking for a digital content and distribution option. They penned an RFP and the best response came from Newstand, Inc which for many years had been digitizing and distributing electronic copies of newspapers on a worldwide basis. Newstand established a new business unit named LibreDigital and Harpercollins became its first customer. From the press release last August is a description of what they can do:
The new LibreDigital Warehouse service enables leading publishers, such as HarperCollins Publishers, to quickly and easily bring top titles to the web, where consumers can search the entire content of a book and preview a percentage of its text and illustrations. This book publishing milestone is made possible using the ASP-based LibreDigital Warehouse solution, a one-stop-shop for publishers looking to simplify the complexities of Internet distribution and partner management, while providing secure, controlled online content to help sell books to millions of consumers.

Yesterday Harpercollins announced that they had purchased a stake in the LibreDigital divison of Newstand, Inc and that Brian Murray would serve on its board. From the release,
Publishers around the world have asked us to include their books in our digital warehouse and to make those titles available with our Browse Inside application," said Murray. "By applying the lessons we have learned with our first 10,000 digitized titles, HarperCollins and NewsStand have developed a turn-key digital solution to manage the digital publishing process from editorial to consumer. In the 21st century, we believe that all publishers must develop this capability, either in-house or through out-sourcing, to stay competitive and to reach the digital consumer.

This is an interesting entre into third party distribution for electronic content and I think a welcome one. As a publisher, there may be some initial doubts about working as a client publisher for such a large trade house but this will quickly be dispelled as irrational. While the content form is different there is not much difference between an 'hosting and distribution' deal for e-content and a third party distribution deal for physical content. This deal by Harpercollins could represent a long term win since I suspect once a publisher begins using the LibreDigital system it may be hard to switch to a competitive product later on. LibreDigital is likely to begin competing aggressively with Ingram Digital and some of the other minor players in the market.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beckham: The Third Coming

First Pele came to the Cosmos, then Bestie came to San Jose and now Becks is to play for the LA Galaxy. Can Beckham save North American soccer? I wonder.

Both Pele and even Best had a very experienced supporting cast but that may not be the case with Beckham and his team. After all the LA team is one which not so long ago fielded a player who was also an actor on Melrose Place. (He has since disappeared from both acting and soccer). I believe there is still some great football left in David Beckham and it is a shame that we will not see him contend at the highest level in Europe.

It should be noted that The LA Galaxy are run by Alexi Lalas and he might be their best asset. The current team is coach by Frank Yallop who has coached the Canadian national team and played for Ipswich Town. An interesting dynamic will be the player coach relationship here. Becks has worked for the best in the business; Ferguson, Capello, Erikson....

With this move it is highly unlikely that he will ever play for England again - the chances were slight in any case despite England's dismal performances since he was dropped from the team after the World Cup. The deal which could bring him as much as $250mm is astonishing money and he would be a total mug not to accept the deal. So he is blameless. I can only hope that he maintains his fitness and plays at the highest level he can and not turn into the pale reflection of himself that George Best did when he was in the US. I wouldn't be surprized to see more big European stars signed under the so called Beckham rule. How about Zinedine for the Metrostars?

BTW - Harpercollins published his 'autobiography' a few years ago and I suspect there will be a second updated edition sometime soon.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple IPhone

I wonder if there was a much excitment generated when the cotton gin, or the steam engine was launched...

It does look cool and they have priced it at a premium so it will be a big earner for Apple Computer. Yesterday, Apple Computer also changed their name to Apple, Inc. That should make all the difference.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Round-up: Deals News,, E-Books

There were reports on Friday that some or all of Reed Elsevier was in play. The stock price moved a little on the London exchange. With so much private equity money looking for a place to go it is not surprising that Reed is mentioned in the same category as Thomson Learning, Wolters Kluwer Education (who made it official today that the unit is for sale) and VNU. The reports indicated that perhaps there may be some type of asset swap in the works between Wolters Kluwer and RE. The stock was back down today but the market was off as well.

Reuters reports on the LA Times predictions for 2007 and focuses on the prediction that Murdoch will buy the WSJ - which was one of my predictions for 2007. (Check out the brown nosing comment). In the interests of full disclosure, I must state that I started my media career selling one of the Murdoch families first newspapers The Herald in Melbourne Australia. It was an afternoon paper and this was my first real job at 14 and I retain some unresolved issues with said Digger. In the middle of my first year he raised the newspaper price from eight cents to ten cents which severly cut into my take home tips: 2 cents extra on almost every newspaper can add up!

Teleread is a blog new to me and it was this article with the provocative title of Do The Big Publishers Really Want E-Books to Succeed which got my attention. The site appears to be dedicated to promoting all things e-Book and I plan to continue to visit the site. (Coincidentally, here is a letter to the editor of Computerworld regarding the same subject).

I have spoken about a few times and here is a CNET article (reported in The New York Times) about the company and its benefits. The depiction as described mimics my experience. In summary, using means you don't have to do this:

She spent $14,000 of her own money and went $60,000 in debt, had to do her own distribution, and still stores boxes of Drama in the Desert: The Sights and Sounds of Burning Man in her friend's basement.
But you have more flexibility to do this:

Today, she could create the book herself online, order as few as one copy of the 144-page hardbound book for $39.95 or get a volume discount, and sell her book for whatever price she wants without having to do any shipping or handling, all through

Also, you can create new versions of your existing titles - adding pages, more images, etc. and you don't have to start over. The company continues to add functionality and as these come available you can apply them to the titles you have already produced to do something different or more advanced. And, you never have to worry about obsolete copies because you can order one at a time.

The Belfast Herald is not a paper I read every day but this article (which maybe a reprint) popped up in my news feed today about Hot Reads for 2007. Why The Bookseller thinks Classic Literature will be hot in 2007 is hard for me to fathom and I must have missed the explosion in paranormal romance novels (presumably novels) here in the US last year which they think is going to flow over to Europe. On another note, you do have to wonder where Pete Doherty is going to get the time to write his memoirs what with being in and out of jail.

If any one can explain this story to me from Detroit I would be eternally grateful. Apparently, one Roger Dale Anklam of Cadillac, MI. has been charged with "two counts of uttering and publishing." I wasn't aware it was possible. Go figure.

If you have ever wondered how the BBC news reporters pronouce all those funny names like Ahmadinejhad then worry no more. The BBC is publishing their secret guide to pronunciation. Perhaps it will be the sleeper hit of the season something like Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It is a running joke in our family that no one in the United States can pronounce our family name and while this won't help us perhaps those "news" readers over at Fox News could learn from it.

Eoin Purcell has some additional comments related to my Publisher Futurist post from last week.

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!

    Which is why Maplewood Public Library has instituted a lock down between 2:30pm and 5.00pm. Apparently, the hordes of well off Maplewood students rampaging through the Maplewood library is too much for the librarians and they have had to close the library. I bet I know the Maplewood kids in the middle of this...

    Naturally, the local news channels jumped on this one and the images of the students coming out of the public school across the street and pouring in to the library were almost comical. You would be forgiven for thinking reading was the new cool thing because it seemed like every student at school wanted a piece. Hidden among the silliness however, is a very serious issue that in many localities the public library is a defacto day care center. Librarians are wet-nursing the students who for whatever reason are unable to or can't go home.

    From the New York Times:
    Some study quietly, others, library officials say, fight, urinate on the bathroom floor, scrawl graffiti on the walls, talk back to librarians or refuse to leave when asked. One recently threatened to burn down the branch library. Librarians call the police, sometimes twice a day.
    Obviously, it is unfair to expect librarians (or anyone - other patrons) to put up with this type of behavior and personally I think shutting the doors is a perfectly reasonable approach. Putting the librarians in the position of having to administer punishment and deterrents is beyond the call. The article goes on to mention other local libraries that have similar issues and have reacted in the same way.

    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    WorldCat Special Delivery

    OCLC announced recently that they are starting a direct to home delivery pilot. The pilot began in July 2006 with a group of libraries in Montana. The service pilot is designed to see how patrons would use a direct to their home capability. Assuming this pilot is rolled out, library patrons will be able to step beyond simply reserving copies to actually receiving the book in question which doesn't necessarily have to come from their local library. An additional aspect of the pilot is to determine how interoperabitity between library systems will work with direct to home. It costs about $24.00 to move a book from one point to another; obviously far in access of the physical cost and purchase price which is a glaring inefficiency in interlibrary loan. If any movement from one point to the other is eliminated from the process it 'avoids' approximately $24.00 in cost. Some have suggested that it doesn't make a lot of sense to have the patron return the book because a replacement could be had from a vendor for less actual cost. That last point is still a little radical.

    UPDATE: In today's WSJ, there is a discussion about how libraries are managing change and specifically how they are using circulation date supplied by SIRSI/Dynix to aggressively manage their collections. The article notes that in one Fairfax county library Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls was not checked out over a two year period and presumably will be 'culled' to make room for titles that do circulate more frequently.

    UPDATE (2). Lorcan Dempsey at OCLC has a more rounded commentary on the strangely high number of newspaper articles this week on changing processes and functions at Washington area libraries and what it all means.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    New Year Begins

    Naturally a slow period for the past two very pleasant weeks. The weather in the northeast continues to be warm enough to run in shorts and to have the window open at night. There were a number of stories which caught my eye and here are links to some of them.

    Noting the release of the latest James Bond movie Casino Royale, the December issue of Rare Book Review included a spread on first editions of all the James Bond books. Collecting true first editions of the set is likely to set you back $150,000. (Sniff...time for that raise). What is useful about the article is that each edition is described so that should you come across one of these at a local thrift store you will know what to look out for.

    The New York times had a not too surprising article of some serious hobbyists who have turned their love of The Beatles into self-publishing programs. Many seminar organizers, self-help professionals, consultants and the like have used self-publishing programs to bolster their core businesses by effectively re-packaging their educational programs and self-help seminars into books. The books are then sold to the attendees at the events which these people organize. The books themselves are not designed to be sold in traditional retail stores, and the flexibility of self-publishing and POD serves these people well. In the Times article, they interviewed a number of Beatles fans who have created published products out of the research they have done as a result of their keen interest in specific areas of The Beatles career. The authors have commercialism their books by publicizing them though the huge number of websites devoted to Beatles material as well as via word of mouth. A number of things have come together to serve this particular outpost on the long tail; easy internet access to web research, email and networked communications, self-publishing programs, low cost print on demand technology and web/wiki/social networking. Reasons to be cheerful about the prospects for publishing.

    I am not one for ocean going cruises at the best of times and I still vividly re-call an English Channel crossing in 1990 which I thought would never end. So, it is unlikely I will ever willing get on a book cruise but many people are finding these cruises interesting and worthwhile as this article in The New York Times describes. Filling libraries on cruise boats was a great little business and the notion of drawing new customers to cruising via author presentations and general interaction is looking promising for cruise operators. If it gets more people reading it can't be too be bad.

    Sam Tanenhaus the Editor of The New York Times book review answers reader questions here.

    From Prospect magazine, here is there listing of their most over-rated and under-rated books from 2006. Along those lines, I finished The Emperor's Children a few days ago and while it was interesting it left me kinda empty. I may have some more thoughts on this later. Claire Messud is however a fine writer.

    The Future of the Book website has created an interactive book reader that is very interesting. They have taken the Iraq Study Group report and loaded into their 'reader' and as a reader you can review comments others have made to specific parts of the text and you can add your own comments. This 'reader' was created for use in creating a collaborative book authoring tool. Here is the original version.

    Scholarpedia also represents a collective approach to creating an authorative publishing product. It represents a peer reviewed approach to the creation of an encyclopedia but it entirely open to public submissions which are subject to review by an expert editorial team. There are obvious similarities with wikipedia but according to their web site they differ from wikipedia in three important ways:
      1. Each article is written by an expert (invited or elected by the public).
      2. Each article is anonymously peer reviewed to ensure accurate and reliable information.
      3. Each article has a curator - typically its author -- who is responsible for its content.
        Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version.

    The format encourages and it is the intention of Scholarpedia is to maintain content currency so that changes and new information is routinely added to the articles. So far, content is restricted to a few very specific subject areas but it will be interesting to see how this program develops.

    In libraryland (it is very quiet there) Sirsi/Dynix was purchased by a private equity group and so joins ExLibris as a private equity owned business. The library automation business is a difficult one and I can only think that these two are going to aggressively mop up business from the other three or four major players. No doubt the appeal of this market has to be the annuity value of the system sales to libraries. The stronger players will steel businesses from the others as new generation products are being bought to market and then ride the annuity for 10-20 years - that is, if the model continues to work the way it has in the past. As in other business sectors the opportunity to offer networked solutions - asp like models - exists here which could break the back of some of the weaker library automation vendors. Interestingly (to me), Francisco Partners who own ExLibris also own the old General Electric EDI business named GXS - I am not sure what this means if anything.