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.

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