Monday, September 29, 2008

Firebombed

Is Random House saying I told you so? The home and office of the publisher that took on the publication of Jewel of Medina was firebombed by three men who 'pre-planned' the attack and then waited around to be arrested. Martin Rynja, who runs the House Gibson Square from his home is now under police protection. According to Police, (Guardian)

[In the early hours of Saturday] officers from the counter-terrorism command arrested three men under the Terrorism Act 2000 in a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation.

"The men, aged 40, 22 and 30, were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Two of the men were stopped by armed officers and arrested in the street outside a property in Lonsdale Square, and the third following an armed vehicle stop near Angel tube.
Thankfully only a small fire was generated but this is nothing to the excitement certain Muslim clerics will generate with their faithful. According to the Telegraph a leading UK cleric has warned of further attacks:
But the radical cleric Anjem Choudhary, who lives in Ilford, east London, said he was "not surprised at all" by the attack and warned of possible further reprisals over the book "It is clearly stipulated in Muslim law that any kind of attack on his honour carries the death penalty," he said. "People should be aware of the consequences they might face when producing material like this. They should know the depth of feeling it might provoke."
In the Times Kenan Malik drew the obvious connection to The Satanic Verses:

Today all it takes for a publisher to run for cover is a letter from an outraged academic. In March, Random House sent galley proofs of The Jewel of Medina to various academics, hoping for endorsements. One of them, Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, condemned the book as “offensive”. Random House immediately dropped it. No other big American publishing house would touch it. Martin Rynja, a fierce advocate of free speech, eventually picked it up in Britain.

What the differing responses to the two novels reveal is how Rushdie's critics lost the battle but won the war. They never prevented the publication of his novel. But the argument at the heart of the anti-Rushdie case - that it is morally unacceptable to cause offence to other cultures - is now widely accepted. In the 20 years between the publication of The Satanic Verses and the withdrawal of The Jewel of Medina, the fatwa has in effect become internalised.

I've just finished God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens and this attack reminded me of this excerpt related to the infamous Dutch comics:
Euphemistic noises were made about the need to show 'respect,' but I know quite a number of editors concerned and can only say for a certainty that the chief motive for 'restraint' was simple fear. In other words, a handful of religious bullies and bigmouths could, so to speak, outvote the tradition of free expression in its Western heartland...To the ignoble motive of fear one must add the morally lazy practice of relativism: no group of nonreligious people threatening violence would have been granted such an easy victory, or had their excuses - not that they offered any of their own- made for them.
The author Sherry Jones points a finger at Random House and comments "I was disgusted by the inflammatory language Random House used to describe the potential Muslim reaction.”
(Note: This comment was misquoted by the newspaper - see the comments. It wasn't directed at Random House at all).

Isn't it time for right thinking publishers and publisher associations to stand up and voice their collective disgust and willingness to champion the right to publish without intimidation?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Media Week 39

News on the Reed Elsevier sale of the magazine group. The set-up for the deal may be unravelling. FT:

The RBI sale, one of the few live auctions in the media sector, is being watched closely as a bellwether for companies' ability to dispose of assets and private equity's ability to get deals done in tighter credit markets.

Bidders will now have to look further than the lending consortium and secure a relationship with a bank not involved in the staple to plug the shortfall. Reed, led by chief executive Sir Crispin Davis, declined to comment.

Earlier in the week G+J (Bertelsmann) declined to participate (Reuters):
The Hamburg-based publisher, owned by media group Bertelsmann [BERT.UL], withdrew its non-binding bid due to declining advertising revenue at the unit, manager magazine online said citing sources close to the negotiations.
Bloomsbury announced they have agreed to purchase Oxford International Publishers a publisher of books and journals for the academic student market in the fields of fashion, design and culture studies. RTT.
Commenting on the acquisition, Nigel Newton, chief executive of Bloomsbury, stated, "The acquisition of Berg is an important element in our strategy to increase our presence in academic publishing and take advantage of a market that is already benefiting from electronic delivery and print-on-demand. The acquisition of the very fine company that is Berg follows Bloomsbury's announcement on September 5th of the launch of Bloomsbury Academic, headed by Frances Pinter, which will publish academic books in the fields of the humanities and social sciences."
Reflections on the state of University bookstore sales of academic titles from the University of Washington (SPi):

"I can't prove it, but I suspect that some amount of the drop people are reporting is because those sales are going to Amazon," said Pat Soden, director of the UW Press.

Textbooks make up a small part of the UW Press's publishing contracts. Although the press saw a 7 percent increase in overall sales over the last fiscal year, sales at college stores dropped about $30,000 between 2007 and 2008.

At Washington State University's Press, a small publishing house that puts out just a handful of books a year, the slumping sales trend hasn't really hit home. The university's press primarily produces books that serve as supplemental classroom reading; their latest releases are a 192-page book about nuclear wastelands and a 331-page volume on the history of northern Oregon.

LA Times discovers the reprint market:
Whether the increasing number of reprints is because of reader dissatisfaction with contemporary literature or the flowering of an archivist, curatorial instinct, they are certainly part of the decentralization of literary culture. Miller says that, with space shrinking for print reviews and the Web as an overwhelming presence, people are trusting their instincts to figure out what to read. The threat this poses to the literary establishment is that whenever one of these new-old titles connects with a reader, whenever a reader wonders how Rose Macaulay's "The Towers of Trebizond" or Hamilton's "Hangover Square" could ever have been forgotten, it raises distrust in the establishment that proclaims certain books important. Especially if the reader has slogged through the pages of some highly praised snoozer.
New model newsroom Forbes:

He isn't alone. From Politico to Breaking Views to the Huffington Post to thousands upon thousands of blogs, droves of journalists have fled traditional newsrooms in the past decade looking for a way to make a living from the exploding world of digital media. So far, precious few have replicated the quality or impact--or profits--of the name-brand companies they left behind.

But Balboni thinks he can, using the lure of ownership. His site is hiring the five regional editors--for the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East--and some 72 correspondents located around the world. None of them will be full-time employees. Instead, each is being lured by sizable equity stakes (not stock options) and a five-year guarantee of monthly fees of about $1,000. Correspondents will report to regional editors, who will report to the 15-person GNE.

Dire prediction for Ad based media companies for 2009 (Guardian):
The worsening state of the global economy will make 2009 a "horror show" for advertising-dependent newspaper and television companies, with some analysts predicting that businesses may have to wait until 2011 to see positive ad growth.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

So many great movies. Mrs PND and I saw him on stage in 2002. I consider ourselves lucky.

NYTimes Obit.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Army From Harpercollins

Looks like Harpercollins UK are set to announce a book social networking site similar to Goodreads.com and librarything.com. Named BookArmy, users will be able to build a library of books using ISBNs, tag them and interact socially (online) with other book lovers. Importantly, the site is not restricting the participation to books published by Harpercollins.

In a post I wrote about branding several weeks ago, I wondered who the first major publisher would be to incorporate a books in print database on to their site and it looks like HC UK will be the one. (In comments to that post some did point out Bloomsbury tried this approach years ago).

No doubt there will be some questioning why we need another book oriented social network when we have shelfari, goodreads and librarything. Certainly a valid question, but I doubt the goodreads people wondered if they could complete with librarything when they got started and here they are only a few years later with bigger traffic. There is no reason to believe that HC will not appeal to a new segment - or steal some of the users from the incumbents. I hope they will be able to instill in the BookArmy brand something that is unique and unifying because if the site comes across as HC corporate in disguise it is unlikely to be successful. I think the HC people are smart enough to realize that.

Harpercollins is very actively trying new things online. There US site is vibrant and full of experimentation. Some have argued that they don't go far enough in allowing access to their content but the point is they are not adverse to experimentation. The UK and the US online exercises do seem to be different in approach. It is not that they are uncoordinated but their respective approaches seem different. In the UK BookArmy and Authonomy.com are examples where they have have taken the potential of the web to build community just a bit farther than the US office is doing.

What could be most interesting about this is how successful HC will be in promoting the site across the other NewsCorp sites particularly Myspace. If they are able to gain traction there then we could really begin to see a significant player in book social networking. Perhaps even a transaction site that could become very significant given the concentration of users around the Myspace brand. On the other hand, your typical Myspace user may not be the perfect book reader and therein lies the challenge. Taking the battle directly to the group less interested in reading could be just the thing that builds some renewed interest in published content.*

I hope to have more on this when the site launches next week.


* I am not saying the typical Myspace user doesn't read: We need them to read books in quantity!

E-Books: The End User Experience

Springer has published a white paper on the results of a study they undertook asking librarians and users about their views on ebook adoption and benefits. In two stages, the company spoke to librarians in 2007 and followed that study up with another focused on users in 2008.
The survey uncovered some encouraging results regarding eBook adoption. Most users were aware of eBooks and had accessed them at least once. Respondents also overwhelmingly said that eBooks are useful and that they would like to incorporate eBooks into their information experience more frequently. These positive findings are supported by additional Springer usage research and studies from independent organizations that have found a surprising level of uptake for eBooks given their relative newness.
Other items of interest from the study (and covered in the document in more detail):
  • Users mostly access ebooks for research and study while reading reference and textbooks
  • E-book usage appears less concentrated than online journal usage
  • Users find ebooks equally via Google and their library
  • Convenience, accessibility, and enhanced functionality are the primary benefits of eBooks
  • Current users expect to prefer ebooks to other reading formats over time (next five yrs).
The study summarizes the findings as follows:
Users are not reading eBooks cover-to-cover in the traditional sense but instead approach them as a resource for finding answers to research questions. eBooks have the potential to stimulate new forms of book content usage and will require libraries to think differently about how to accommodate the needs of users as their eBook collections grow. Viewing eBooks through the lens of traditional print book usage might cause libraries to miss important opportunities for enhancing the user research experience.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Google Book API

Google Book Search has activated an API that allows third parties to access GBS content directly on their home site. Noted in the initial implementation are several well know booksellers and also library catalogs:
This Google Preview feature is now live on retailer sites around the globe, from Books-A-Million to Blackwell Bookshop and The Book Depository in the UK, A1Books in India, Librería Norma in Colombia, Van Stockum in the Netherlands, and Livraria Cultura in Brazil. Over the coming weeks, this functionality will roll out to even more booksellers, including Borders.com, Buy.com, and Powell's Books.

Beyond these retailer partnerships, we've also worked with a wide array of sites and organizations to bring Book Search functionality to their users:
  • Library catalogs. It is now possible to preview books—including a huge number of works in the public domain—right from the online catalogs of the University of California and the University of Texas, as well as through WorldCat.org, a service that lets you search across the collections of more than 10,000 local and institutional libraries worldwide.

  • Publisher and author sites. The Arcadia Publishing web site has descriptions of its books about towns from Mountain View to Medford--and now, thanks to the Book Search integration, you can peek directly into these books as well. O'Reilly, Macmillan, Apress, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Stanford University Press have incorporated preview functionality into their sites, as well.

  • Social book sites, which allow users to organize and share their reviews, ratings, and favorite books. You can now import your Book Search My Library collection straight into your aNobii account, or preview books within the weRead gadget for social networks. Be sure to also try out the exciting integrations by BookJetty, GoodReads, and BookRabbit.
Of course, we know that even more sites will also want to work with the Book Search index in ways we can't even imagine. That's why we've made these tools an open set of APIs, which anyone can use to build applications drawing on the unique search results and preview capabilities provided by Book Search. If you'd like to try out these APIs on your website, check out our brand new developer site.

Adam Hodgkin at Exact Editions notes the importance of this announcement for publishing CEO's:
Having, or buying into, allying with, the API's which manage and accesses your content may be the key decision for media companies in the next decade. Either your CEO knows what an API is, and can find out how, in strategic terms, to negotiate Google's, Amazon's, Facebook's and Apple's, or he/she needs to be a media genius who does it by gut instinct (Rupert Murdoch is the only one of those that I can think of and he is the wrong side of 70). The heads of Random House, Conde Nast, Elsevier, Cengage, Hachette and Pearson really ought to have an intuition about the way their business can develop an API to the servers which are hosting all their content. I wonder if any of them do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Media Week 38

New York Times reports on text book sales and pricing.
“The person who pays for the book, the parent or the student, doesn’t choose it,” he said. “There is this sort of creep. It’s always O.K. to add $5.”

In protest of what he says are textbooks’ intolerably high prices — and the dumbing down of their content to appeal to the widest possible market — Professor McAfee has put his introductory economics textbook online free. He says he most likely could have earned a $100,000 advance on the book had he gone the traditional publishing route, and it would have had a list price approaching $200.

“This market is not working very well — except for the shareholders in the textbook publishers,” he said. “We have lots of knowledge, but we are not getting it out.”

VentureBeat notes the success of an IPhone book reader from Stanza:
Stanza is currently the number one ebook app for the iPhone, and chief operating officer Neelan Choksi shared some other impressive stats with me. In its first six weeks, Stanza was downloaded 200,000 times — compare that to Amazon’s Kindle, which is seen as building momentum because it sells 40,000 units per month. Okay, that’s a totally unfair comparison, since Stanza is a free app. But if you can get a free ebook reader for your iPhone, why bother paying for the Kindle, or even a more cutting-edge reader like Plastic Logic’s? (Though of course the Amazon’s and Plastic Logic’s readers offer bigger screens, which is better for long-term reading.) People are actually downloading books, too — Choksi says one of Stanza’s content providers reports 20,000 downloads per day.
Rupert Murdoch has a rethink on subs for the WSJ from the Guardian:
Rupert Murdoch yesterday claimed online subscription revenues at the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones could rise by $300m (£164m) every year for up to three years, hinting that he will raise access charges to the financial news site.
For the moment the Informa deal appears to be dead (Guardian):
In a statement the consortium - comprising Providence Equity Partners, Carlyle and Blackstone Group - said it "has decided to withdraw its proposal" following the Informa board's rejection of its offer two weeks ago. The consortium also cited "a material change of circumstances" as one of the reasons behind its decision.
John Makinson interviewed by The Times on plans to expand into emerging markets like Pakistan:

Mr Makinson, 53, believes that Penguin can generate 10 per cent of its sales from emerging markets, which amounts to £100 million a year. The operation in India grew by 25 per cent last year, boosting turnover by £15 million and should, Mr Makinson says, generate 5 per cent of revenues in five years.

That fuels a belief that Penguin's growth can be boosted, although Mr Makinson points out that the business “has hardly let the side [Pearson] down - profits have grown in double digits in 2005, 2006, 2007 and is expected to again in 2008”.

University of Michigan places an Espresso Machine in one of their libraries (PR):
U-M is the first university library to install the book-printing machine. The Espresso Book Machine, from On Demand Books of New York, produces perfect-bound, high-quality paperback books on demand. A Time Magazine "Best Invention of 2007," the Espresso Book Machine has been called "the ATM of books." It was purchased with donations to U-M libraries.
Why experience matters. NYTimes.

Alison Pendergast notes the University of Ohio is offering grants to faculty to produce course content:

However, in addition to this news, a smaller piece of news that didn't grab as much attention was the University System of Ohio offering Grants to its faculty to produce course content in an effort to move away from having Ohio students purchase branded textbooks. From the Program Synopsis:

The University System of Ohio (USO) will invest $250,000 to create affordable digital content for Ohio students and bring the digital learning materials to market in Autumn of 2009. The program goals are to:

Create learning materials that are cost-free for Ohio students; usher in a new era of digitally-delivered learning materials that, properly implemented, can improve student learning, and leverage high quality authorship and pedagogy from Ohio faculty members.

(Aside, I hope the textbooks they produce get a bit better editing than this RFP...)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is to establish an Headquarters in Dublin and hire 450 people. (It's nice in Dublin). Finfacts:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (formerly Riverdeep) is to invest €350m in eLearning research and development with significant support from Enterprise Ireland. HMH is to establish its global eLearning research and development centre in the greater Dublin area, creating 450 "high-value" jobs over the next 5 years.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A&R Installs First Espresso Book Machine in Australian Market

Angus & Robertson Australia's largest book retailer is heading a group that will place up to 50 Espresso Book Machines in their stores over the next two years. A&R says they will initially offer 20,000 mainly Australian hard to find and out of print titles but expect that title list to exceed 100,000 over the next few years.

The EBM has been mentioned here before (particularly in its implementation in Canada) and the machine continues to roll out steadily in the US. This implementation in Australia could be transformative because of how the Australian market works. The three partners in this effort; A&R, Central Book Services and EBM may have the market power to fundamentally change the book market in Australia.

Firstly, because the market is relatively small there the market for titles written by and for the Australian market is quite small (somewhat similar to Canada); therefore, sheer economics prevent a broad based industry. Implementing an on-demand solution could lower the profit threshold considerably resulting in a more vibrant indigenous publishing program. Secondly, the Australian market is seen as an important but secondary market for US and UK publishers. As a result, decisions are not always taken with respect to the Australian market by overseas corporate offices that are in the best interests of the Australian market. For example, decisions related to price or availability. Sometimes a title is made available only via the foreign entity or Amazon.com because the local publishing division can not promise a market for the title. (Some of these issues are far less a problem than they used to be).

Thirdly, particularly in education and professional publishing the unit sales levels of many titles can be counted in the tens or hundreds. These levels are simply not high enough to stock locally. So if orders are placed with a local publisher the delivery dates could be months rather than days because the title has to be sourced from the overseas corporate parent. The sad thing is many customers (university booksellers and libraries) bypass the local publisher and buy from B&T or Amazon. From these vendors, the title can be delivered in days and yes, that's air freighted in with costs added.

Implementing EBM can start to solve some of these inefficiencies in the Australian bookseller and publisher market. In the process, revenue that had been going overseas might return to local suppliers and publishers - those owners of the local publishing rights - and the total market might become more expansive delivering a much wider inventory of products than could be conceivable today (or yesterday).

Those interested in learning more about this initiative should contact Central Book Services especially if you are interested in adding your titles to the inventory. Contact Warren Broom on 03-92107804 or wbroom @ centralbookservices.com

Sydney Morning Herald

Publishers Lunch Launch Bookstore Maps

Announced today is an ambitious and long needed new bookstore locator product from Publishers Lunch. The database product pulls together store location information from 4200 bookstores selling new titles across the US.

If you are not a subscriber to Publishers Lunch (and face it who isn't) this should provide the motivation you need. Here is more information from their press release:
We are now live at PublishersMarketplace with our latest database project, one of our most ambitious and most essential compilations yet. Charting the landscape of physical retailers that support the entire business, we have compiled and vetted data on over 4,200 stores selling new books across the country.

The database presents basic information for each store, while also cataloging hundreds of associated bookstore websites. Most dramatic of all, we have made the information visual as well, displaying it on Google-powered maps.

A variety of search options make it easy to access the data in multiple ways: You can scan by state, 33 major metropolitan areas, zip code, and store type (chain; indie; etc.), or browse a number of specialty stores (children's; mystery; etc.) Stores are color-coded to easily and quickly distinguish among the four largest chains, general indies, college bookstores and specialty stores.

And special features add utility of particular interest for "trade" use: newly opened and recently closed stores are specially tagged, and we recently added the ability for stores to contribute rich information about the kinds of special events and readings they offer and whom to contact about author bookings.

An "add/update/remove a store" link on the main Bookstore Maps page makes it easy for stores to contribute and correct data and submit information for those Events fields so that publishers can learn more about their capabilities. We also need to bolster the lists of specialty stores and are eager to hear from organizations with comprehensive, vetted data.

Right now this resource is viewable only via PublishersMarketplace, though we are working on variety of additional uses, including a free-standing version for general users. Among the special uses we would be delighted to explore with any of you are:

* Using the database as an always up-to-date and comprehensive "store finder" to run on any publisher's web site, to help support the entire ecosystem of physical and online retail

* Generating national Tour Maps for particular authors, to embed on author sites and pages

* Developing a variety of proprietary in-house versions, using our visual interface as a way of storing your own data about accounts, a way to test visual mapping of POS data, and more

(We're already looking at incorporating feeds of data about author appearances, but help/ideas are most welcome.)

Needless to say, this feature is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by many people. We are particularly grateful for the generous assistance of Barnes & Noble, Borders Group, the American Booksellers Association, the directors of all of the regional booksellers associations, the folks at publishing houses who viewed our demos and offered feedback, and the many freelance researchers who worked with us in compiling and correcting the data. We look forward to your suggestions for improving and employing this new resource, and to community contributions to the data itself.

To check out Bookstore Maps, just go here: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/stores
[we'll add it to the PM menu bar shortly]

To view sample events data, visit these store links and click the "Events" tab:
Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center VT

Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park WA

The Globe Corner Bookstore, Cambridge MA

Stanford University Bookstore, Stanford CA
When Bowker was sold by Reed, we lost American Book Trade Directory and American Library Directory once the dust had settled. Had we kept them I would like to think we could have done something like this with those data base products. Assuming PL carves out this bookstore information as a separate product I don't see how other databases could compete on quality or price. Now, Bowker should do somthing similar with the Publisher's Wholesalers and Distributors database in advance of someone beating them to it.

A Cool New Reading Device

My friends at Rosetta sent me a link to a presentation by a company named Plastic Logic who demonstrate their proto type for a new e-Reader targeted at business users. Looks very cool.

Here is the video (link) and the product is slated for launch early next year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BISG Announce "Start With XML Project"

BISG is pleased to announce its sponsorship and support of an exciting and important new venture, the StartwithXML project.

This project, co-presented by O'Reilly Media and The Idea Logical Company, is an industry-wide, multipart initiative to present and disseminate the information that publishers need in order to move forward with a StartwithXML workflow. Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Company was a featured speaker at the recent BISG Annual Meeting, where he discussed the project and the importance of XML to the publishing world (click here to see his presentation).

Survey Now Open

The first part of the project involves a survey of current publishing and production processes. BISG urges its publisher members to participate in this survey; the information gathered from the industry is vital to the success of the program. click here to connect to the survey.

Sign Up for the January Event

A one-day forum is scheduled for January 13, 2009, at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York. Through panels and presentations, you'll spend the morning understanding the “Why” of XML, and the afternoon learning about “How” to move forward. CLICK HERE for more information and registration details. BISG members will be eligible for a $100 discount off the full-day event, and $50 off for the half-day session; contact the BISG office (info@bisg.org) for discount codes.

Additional Features

The project will also include a detailed research report and an online community. The research report will include information, case studies, best practices, technology and vendor profiles, and interviews with industry experts discussing the factors that make a StartWithXML workflow both useful and tricky. The supporting online community will feature a blog, an open comments section for the report outline, and a discussion forum.


We invite all BISG members to participate in StartwithXML, starting with the survey!

StartwithXML is sponsored by

BEA08_Header_logo

Code Mantra Klopotek Publishing Dimensions Rosetta Solutions, Inc.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Investing in the Long Tail

At the BISG annual meeting on Friday Anita Elberse presented finding from her research into the effects and impacts of the long tail of revenue opportunities that were extolled by Chris Anderson. In summary, she has found (empirically) that there is no evidence for some of the major tenets of his book. Her presentation was enlightening and here is a link to the article she published in the Harvard Business Review:

Should You Invest in the Long Tail?
It was a compelling idea: In the digitized world, there’s more money to be made in niche offerings than in blockbusters. The data tell a different story.

Elberse is Associate Professor of Business Administration at HBS.

Updated: Here is a link to the presentation given at the BISG meeting. Link

The Future of Media

Media Post held a roundtable to discuss the future of media. Some quotes:

Jane Friedman: I spent my career as a book publisher, and do I believe that there will be hardcover and paperback books forever? Yes, I do, because I think that the library's something that identifies the individual. All of us have gone into friends' homes and, very often, the first thing we look at is what's on the bookshelf.We are seeing in the book industry mainly what is just another form of reading, which is reading on the screen. And what that will do is make the kinds of books that are being published ones that can be read on the screen, and be read in book form, and put onto the library shelf. That's where the distinctions will come in.

Bonnie Fuller: Will we all be reading on a device?

Friedman: I believe so, because we all have generations behind us who do everything on a device and find nothing uncomfortable about a device. And I think that when we in the book industry face the fact that this shift is going to happen automatically, everything will change in the book-publishing world.

Everything comes back to the beginning. I want you, David, to recommend omething to me. I don't necessarily want your product manager to represent that he or she thinks that that product is what I want. If you know me, you can tell me what it is that I want. I think that's what's happening here. It's interesting to kind of stand back a little bit, because my form of media, meaning book publishing, is very different than a lot of what we're talking about here. You read an author's book. You like that author's book. You go to the author's backlist, where you look for his or her next book. Again, that's part of community and the new brand. And I think today the consumer is smarter, and great. I mean, there are too many books out there. There are too many videos out there. There are too many toothpaste products out there. The consumer wants to make his or her choice. My goal would be to influence those consumers from a marketing standpoint and give them what they want, when they want it and how they want it.


Brian Napack: The textbook is an appalling way to deliver information. It's extremely time-intensive to develop. It's extremely expensive to produce, extremely
expensive to warehouse, extremely expensive to load to the marketplace. The students don't like it. The professors don't like it. It's bad access of information. You never have it where you want it. You have a bunch of students in K to 12 and in college who have right shoulders that are lower than their left shoulders. Everybody hates it. We hate it because we sell it. It goes into the marketplace and it comes into the used marketplace. So every time we sell a textbook once, it gets sold three or four more times, and I don't make any money on it. So, I'm looking forward to a digital transition. But in this case - and this is why I'm dwelling on education - education is migrating in a very elegant fashion, a methodical and elegant fashion not just toward new and additional products, but toward products which are better for all parties involved, with the exception of the used-book industry. So what we're moving from is from a content metaphor, where the content is king, to online where you have, yes, the content, but more important, you have tools, you have community, you bring students together with teachers, students together with each other.

The whole article is very interesting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Media Week 37

CEO of Indigo Books in Canada Heather Reisman answers some questions for Canadian Business. It was less interesting for me until I got to this:
Indigo has a policy created on Day 1. To the best of our knowledge, we will not sell child pornography or material with detailed instructions on how to build weapons of mass destruction. And we will not sell any material that has as its sole intent the incitement of society toward the annihilation of any group. We will sell anything else. Electronic books will have less of an impact on publishing than digital media had on music distribution. People will always want to have traditional libraries. I can’t imagine not being surrounded by my books.
I would say that gives them a lot of latitude!

Bonnier is has bought Templar a children's publisher in the UK. The Bookseller

The 'F-Bomb' and Batman. (I gots to get my hands on one of these copies). LATimes.
DC Comics has pulled back tens of thousands of copies of "All-Star Batman and Robin" No. 10 due to a printing error that put two R-rated words into word balloons in the story. Which words? Well, one begins with "F" and the other begins with "C" -- and, yes, it's that C word. The issue was written by Frank Miller who didn't even know about the dustup until we called him. "This is the first I've heard of it. I have no idea how this awful thing happened. It's just one of those terrible and glorious things that happen from time to time in publishing."
An interesting article by Bob Guccione Jnr. (yes that one) on the future of media in MediaPost:
Secondly, there is the wisdom of the market, which has been gradually forgotten in the intoxicating Second Coming of New Media. People are presumed to be a guaranteed audience, no matter how many times the cell of an idea divides into multiple copies. But people are not chickens in a yard that you can throw a handful of grain at and watch them scurry around pecking at the dirt to find it all. People try most things that are new for a while and then gravitate to what really matters to them, especially when overwhelmed. They will choose what they want and won't turn up in as many actual places as they do on business plans. The amount of choice will tremendously raise the bar of quality and performance for competing media. Once again, a golden opportunity for experienced brands.
Reed continues to do all it can to off load the magazines with financing. Guardian

American Booksellers Association is doing something that may actually benefit their members. They have organized a POD program with Applewood Press. Future Perfect

if:Book has a long post on Publishing in a Networked Era.

The emergence of the web turned this vision of the book of the future as a solid, albeit multimedia object completely upside down and inside out. Multimedia is engaging, especially in a format that encourages reflection, but locating discourse inside of a dynamic network promises even more profound changes Reading and writing have always been social activities, but that fact tends to be obscured by the medium of print. We grew up with images of the solitary reader curled up in a chair or under a tree and the writer alone in his garret. The most important thing my colleagues and I have learned during our experiments with networked books over the past few years is that as discourse moves off the page onto the network, the social aspects are revealed in sometimes startling clarity. These exchanges move from background to foreground, a transition that has dramatic implications.


This guy advocates stealing. Is that true for the Boston Globe?
I was heartened to learn that college kids are wielding the same Internet piracy tools they used to bring down the recording industry to download textbooks. Although the textbook oligopolists are fighting back mightily - the Association of American Publishers uses Covington & Burling, a take-no-prisoners law firm in Washington, D.C., to hunt down malefactors - there are at least two sites still around offering books: Textbook Torrents tends to be shut down, and moves around the Web, but the last time I checked, thepiratebay.org was offering such books as - well, you'll see.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Database Bookselling

Mick Sussman (NYTimes) pens an interesting essay on the application of book databases to retailing and the particular impact on second hand and antiquarian bookselling.

Indeed, the state of the art in used-book selling these days seems to be less about connoisseurship than about database management. With the help of software tools, so-called megalisters stock millions of books and sell tens of thousands a week through Amazon, AbeBooks and other online marketplaces. Some sellers don’t even own their wares. They just copy other sellers’ lists and then buy the books as necessary, pocketing the markup (though none acknowledge the practice, since it is banned on most commercial sites). To small sellers like Joe Orlando of Fenwick Street Used Books and Music in Leonardtown, Md., megalisters treat books as “simply a widget that they can make a few bucks on.” The megalisters — a name originally intended as a term of abuse but now accepted by the accused — don’t quite disagree. “What we’re trying to do is provide cheap books for everybody,” said G. Seth Beal, the president and chief operating officer of Thrift Books, which lists three million books and has 180 employees. Beal says he personally loves handling and collecting old volumes, but his business model is based on achieving economies of scale through automation.

An interesting essay which ends on a positive note suggesting there is still a role for old fashioned book intelligence (even if it may be aided by blogging and list-serves) and that 'if you know what you are doing' as a seller you will win out against the megalisters.

Johnny Temple and Akashic Books

I first learned about Akashic books by picking up a copy of their DC Noir anthology many years ago and only then because it was edited by George Pelecanos one of my favorite authors. Since then they have released several more in the series but I also started reading some of their crime novels set in Cuba. I've read several and had a few more sitting on the 'to be read' shelf These books are thoroughly enjoyable: Tango for A Torturer , Outcast.

Johnny Temple set up Akashic Books and here he is speaking to the Gothamist.

This is the intro:
Yesterday we sent some questions about the festival over to Johnny Temple, who chairs the fiction programming. Though many know him as the bassist for Girls gainst Boys, Temple has roots in the D.C. post-hardcore scene and, as comes with the territory, a passion for all things independent. His Akashic Books publishing house is dedicated to nurturing urban fiction and political non-fiction that mainstream publishers ignore. Their motto? "Reverse-gentrification of the literary world." So it's no wonder Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore will also be holding forth in downtown Brooklyn Sunday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We Should be Insulted.

John McCain insulted everyone Democrat and Republican in chosing Gov Palin as his VP choice. I wonder if in flying a mission over Viet Nam he would have chosen a deck hand as navigator?

Publishing Trends Survey

Publishing Trends informed me they have started their annual publishing survey. If you follow the link make sure you vote for PND as your favorite blog.

Welcome to the second annual Publishing Trends Industry Survey! You’re receiving this e-mail because we want to know your thoughts on your job and on the publishing industry in general. What’s your favorite thing about working in publishing? What’s the last book you read? And what drink do you unwind with at the end of the day? Results will appear in the October 2008 issue of Publishing Trends and on our Web site.

Please take the survey here:

The survey is open through Friday, September 19. It’s completely anonymous and should only take a few minutes (and we think it’s fun, too!). At the end of the survey, you’ll have the option of receiving a free 3-month trial subscription to Publishing Trends (or extending your subscription if you are a current subscriber).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Watery Death

Rail Cars on their way to off-shore New Jersey where they will become artificial reefs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

DOT Project Development Process

It may be a sad reflection perhaps of my work interests that over beers last night with some ex-PWC collegues, we giggled over this process map. What a f'ing mess. The sad thing is someone (or a department) had to spend the hours and hours necessary to putting this down on paper. Humm, I wonder if there is any connection between this and our transportation infrastructure falling apart.

And what's with the stupid little pictures? My favorite is the three people huddled over an IBM XT like they're trying to understand Lotus123. I bet they still use interoffice mail envelopes.

From New York Magazine.

Meet Me at Michael's

Long the favourite lunch spot for media types, Michael's has the reputation for media executive sightseeing par-excellence. If anyone wants to announce some new alliance or potential hire whether officially or not all they need to do is have lunch together at Michael's and the pr work is done. It is expensive as you might expect and contrary to expectation it is apparently not the place for consistently good food. From Frank Bruni in the NYTimes:
Then I had this restaurant’s jumbo shrimp appetizer. The shrimp were entombed in a dense, soggy beer batter and interred in an almost monochromatic landscape of goat cheese, puddles of dark miso aioli and shavings of summer truffle that might have been shavings of summer rubber for all the flavor they had. California cuisine? More like gloppy, affected pub grub, for which Michael’s charges $25. That’s what happens when a restaurant starts throwing truffles around, and that’s probably one reason this restaurant does it. Until that dinner I thought Michael’s prided itself on produce. Then I had its appetizer of peekytoe crab with spears of white asparagus, which might as well have been spears of white wax for all the flavor they had.

He notes the excellent Cobb salad which I agree is worth ordering although over breakfast I have had (inadvertently) some $12 orange juice.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Facebook: Who's Your Friend?

A few weeks ago I did some house cleaning. I looked over both my Facebook friends and Linked contacts and deleted many. Don't worry it wasn't personal, but while the deletions in Linkedin were relatively minor I reduced my Facebook friends by more than half. I am not completely sure I was brutal enough.

Most of those I deleted were also Linkedin contacts which is sort of the point. I am not so sure I want my business associates to know I was listening to The Sex Pistols yesterday or someone from high school noted some particularly debauched evening back in 1980 on my 'wall'. My brother might be tempted to say something even worse and as a consequence the whole mystique would be ruined. I jest somewhat.

I see two separate constellations of friends and business associates and it is not that they are always mutually exclusive but for me I believe that any overlap is an exception rather than the rule. Of the two social networks I am more interested in Linkedin. I have found Facebook to be useful in finding old friends from high school (mainly) and thus placate my curiosity but I remain skeptical that it will ever be a true communication platform for me. I may be different - and many have said so - but I also see in Facebook the potential to be a huge time drain. And I have more interesting things to do. From a professional perspective, it is important to maintain awareness and contact with social networks like Facebook which is why I won't shut it down. But I do get tired of the "cocktails" and other pointless prods.

Linkedin on the other hand is useful although I think it is still a blunt tool. Searching for 'publishing consultant' returns way too many to be useful and I often wonder how my profile has come up in any search. The site needs more effective taxonomy/ontology but also more opportunities to create micro-sites around either industry or competence (or both). The 'group' function doesn't seem to work so well and these seem to be more ad-hoc than particularly useful.

One other thing in my experience with respect to both networks is the level of penetration. In the case of Linkedin I still have more than 40% of my contacts who do not have a profile or don't appear to actively use the site. Ignoring my house-cleaning in Facebook, I would estimate that could be more than 5x as many friends I could add if they had a Facebook page. My survey of one seems to tell me that in both cases they can still grow their networks by significant amounts regardless of their aggressive growth paths.

Join me on linkedin (or facebook if you dare). Michael.Cairns @ infomediapartners.com.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Tennis

Saturday' s tennis was memorable for one thing the weather wrought. That was the shriek of jet engines over Queens which other than the lack of a green court and quick camera views of Mayor Dinkins reminded us of how far the US Open has come. Federer is vulnerable but Nolo offered only passable resistance. In the booth during Federer's quarter final, Boris Becker and John McEnroe conversed in some of the best tennis analytics I have ever heard. Discussing how Federer is less confident, is playing several feet back from the base line and far less confident he can overwhelm his opponents. Far better discussion than the tedious repetition about about Uncle Tony, rankings, and Andy Murray's muscles.

Oh, by the way GB (o.k. Scotland) has a tennis player in the finals of the US Open. I feel very sorry for Rafa: given his year I would have loved to see him take the US Open as well. Que Lastima.




Media Week 36

Someone (Michael Birch, founder of Bebo) thinks they can reinvent the dictionary: Telegraph

The site will feature traditional word definitions, etymologies, quotations and pronunciations, but will also include professional and user-generated video content. Baker is known to have filmed hundreds of videos of people defining their favourite words during this year's Edinburgh Festival. Wordia will launch into a crowded marketplace, with the likes of dictionary.com, owned by US publishing group InterActiveCorp, and Oxford University Press' Oxford English Dictionary already active on the internet.
Informa shares fell 7% as investors reacted negatively to the rejection of a lower than expected bid from a private equity consortia bid led by Blackstone. Timesonline.

Pluck, which is a social media services company has signed a 'wide- ranging' deal with the Chicago Sun Times. MediaPost.

Pluck positions itself both as a provider of white-label social networking tools for enterprise clients like USA Today and now the Sun-Times, while also running BlogBurst, a vast blog syndication network which connects newspapers and other media sites to a network of some 5,500 selected blogs. "We're providing publishers with the tools to bring online conversations into their own networks, where they can best monetize it," said Dave Panos, CEO of Pluck and EVP of Demand Media, which acquired Pluck earlier this year. Pluck SiteLife service helps online properties engage site visitors with a range of social media capabilities including user comments, ratings, recommendations, reviews, photo and video sharing, forums and social networking profiles called Personas. SiteLife includes widgets and a set of platform-level APIs for publishers to tailor a social media experience to their audiences. Pluck's social media services are presently live on some 300 top brand, media and retail sites, including those of Circuit City, Condé Nast, The Guardian and USA Today, serving more than 2.5 billion interactions each month.
Age Banding on Children's books has been a contentious issue in the UK over the past year. The argument pits publishers against publisher and author against publisher. Here Scholastic's Kate Wilson suggests the approach may not have been flawless (Guardian):

"I would suggest – and I am speaking entirely as myself, rather than as the representative of anyone else or anybody here – that there were some regrettable errors in how publishers went about the introduction of age guidance," said Scholastic group managing director Kate Wilson. "I think most of them, if they had their time again, would do it differently and in greater consultation with authors." She was the only representative of the publishing industry who accepted an invitation to a specially-organised debate at the Children's Writers and Illustrators conference at which Philip Pullman condemned the initiative, branding the labels "not true" and questioning the research which motivated their introduction. Wilson, responding as an individual publisher, albeit one which has supported the policy, was conciliatory on the principle of consultation. But she was vigorous in her defence of the research and the need for children's books to find a more competitive edge against other forms of spending on children. "Age guidance isn't perfect but it is another ingredient added to the marketing mix that the majority of book buyers surveyed said they'd welcome."
In the US, some children's and YA titles receive 'lexile' measures that are intended to describe the reading comprehension level of the materal. So a 20 year old with a 'reading comprehension' of an 8 year old can readily find (or be given) a book that is appropriate, and let's face it that's a lot better than recieving a book that has printed ont the spine "for eight year olds." Not only would that be embarrasing but it would deflate any enthusism the individual had for improving their reading. (This is just as true if the reader were 10 not 20).

Robert Giroux has died. Many have noted he picked The Catcher in the Rye but wasn't allowed to publish it. (NYTimes)

More than a year later, Mr. Salinger sent Mr. Giroux the manuscript of “The Catcher in the Rye.” Mr. Giroux was all set to publish it, certain it would be a winner. Then Harcourt’s textbook department intervened, saying “Catcher” wasn’t right for the house. Mr. Giroux retreated, forced to reject what turned out to be one of the great successes of the century. Furious at the interference, Mr. Giroux began looking to move to another house, and in 1955 he joined Farrar, Straus & Company as editor in chief. Almost 20 of his writers at Harcourt eventually followed him, among them Eliot, Lowell, O’Connor and Malamud. It was a display of loyalty returned; Mr. Giroux was known for the care he lavished on his writers, whether visiting Stafford in the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic while she recovered from a breakdown or insisting that Eliot raise his fee for poetry readings.

Bloomsbury announced an academic imprint. The Bookseller.

Bloomsbury is making a bold move into academic publishing with the launch of
an "on demand" imprint that will publish titles online for free. Bloomsbury
Academic will be run by publisher Frances Pinter, making a return to UK
publishing, with Jonathan Glasspool m.d.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Informa Bid Disappoints

The Private Equity bidders looking to grab Informa have been told in no uncertain terms to sharpen their pencils. On the basis of initial interest that pegged the value of the company over £2.obillion, the formal offer made today is significantly lower. The Times reports that the Blackstone, Carlyle and Providence Equity bid of £1.87Billion is much lower than what management expected when they allowed prospective bidders to look at their books:

The source said: “Nothing at all has changed since July to make the company believe its worth has fallen so by so much. The board agreed to open its books at an offer of 506p and that is what they think it’s worth.”

Derek Mapp, Informa’s chairman, said: “The board believes that the revised offer significantly undervalues Informa. Informa has attractive future prospects and is continuing to deliver growth across the business even in the face of a weaker economic environment.” The company confirmed that it had continued to trade in line with its expectations. Shares in Informa closed down by almost 8 per cent at 414½p yesterday.


If a deal is to be done, then this consortium looks most likely to complete it; however, it is likely that negotiations will result in only a slightly higher price if the deal goes down. There doesn't appear to be any other bidders although having said that perhaps others on the sidelines will be encouraged by a slightly lesser price.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Harlequin Launch Reader Panel

There is a dearth of valuable primary research in publishing and Harlequin has decided to take matters into their own hand by creating a reader panel to advise on product development and new ideas. From their press release:
Tell Harlequin is an online advisory panel designed to enhance Harlequin's relationship with its readers through an ongoing dialogue whose insights will help guide the evolution of the publisher's business and allow Harlequin to publish the best in women's fiction. Participants on the Tell Harlequin panel can make their voices heard on topics such as cover designs, new miniseries ideas, new series concepts, new promotional ideas and more. The staff at Harlequin will then consider Tell Harlequin suggestions along with the publisher's own plans as it develops editorial for the future. Contributors to Tell Harlequin receive free Harlequin novels and sneak peeks at upcoming books, participate in entertainingonline surveys and exchange opinions and ideas with other readers.
There are fundamental difficulties in managing programs like this. Harlequin will need to mitigate the natural 'need to please' of its participants who in the case of Harlequin love the brand so much they may not be cold hearted, critical or incisive enough for this to be valuable. On the other hand, assuming there is an awareness of the difficulties then this program could benefit the company as it is vital that direct communication with customers supports product development.

Informa Bid Likely to Go Ahead

Reuters is reporting that Carlyle has secured financing for the acqusition of Informa. From the report:
Carlyle and Providence have now assembled a group of around twelve banks to provide a leveraged loan of around 1.5 billion pounds that will finance the purchase, along with a large equity contribution, several senior bankers said. "On the Carlyle side the financing is in place. The financing is already largely done," a senior leveraged banker said.

The report goes on to suggest that a competing bid/financing package might be unlikely given that some of Informa's existing banks are included in the financial team Carlyle has organized and the general difficulty in getting financing for any deals is problematic at this time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

DailyLit And Tom Peters

DailyLit is a pathfinder in the selling of books in serial format. The company has only been around for a short time but already has an inventory of over 1,000 classic and contemporary titles available for free or for a small fee. Readers sign up for the service via their web site, select the titles they wish to read and specify the time that the content is delivered to them. Each short book installment is sent via e-mail or RSS feed to arrive in the readers in-box where they can be read on a mobile device or laptop.

The company already has a phlanx of dedicated readers who can download a wide array of content from romance to business titles. The company announced today that they have signed a deal with Random House to feature several of management guru Tom Peters' books in serial form:
The books now available in short installments include The Brand You50, The Professional Service Firm50, The Project50 and The Pursuit of Wow!—titles geared to make employees and management more competitive in the evolving workplace of the twenty-first century. The books, originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, are available for $4.95 each on DailyLit. "I am thrilled to be serializing these Tom Peters books on DailyLit," said Susan Danziger. "His work has currency and relevance, and our format—with a workforce that has a computer, Blackberry or iPhone almost always within reach—suggest this is a natural fit for us. Published in short installments—many of which can be read in 30 seconds—these titles are perfect for any busy professional. I am also excited to be featuring Knopf titles on DailyLit as Knopf is an imprint I have greatly admired since my days working at Random House."

Open Text Book Revolution

Wired Magazine takes a look at start-up Flat World Knowledge that is looking to revolutionize the College textbook business:
The idea behind open textbooks began with people frustrated with the industry, Frank says. The movement then led to non-profit aggregation platforms like Connexions at Rice University and the Global Text Project at the University of Georgia. But he believes they are one of the first to turn this into a commercial venture. "On the surface they're (traditional publishers) doing OK, but underneath the surface there are lots of problems," says Frank. "The internet has caused so much disruption in the distribution that there are so many used books and international books and pirated copies out there that after about two years, publishers have to bring out new editions in order to capture revenue again."
Frank says the firm is also in the process of releasing a version for Amazon's Kindle, but is working out several technical hurdles before finalizing anything. Amazon is thought to be toying with the idea of a Kindle marketed to the college crowd, and wired.com readers have been somewhat vocal about the need for textbook support in the device. Official launch is not until next January, when the company plans to offer eight textbooks, each written for Flat World by scholars who have also produced texts for some of the major publishing companies. It will test its
business model over the next semester in a private beta with more than 20 U.S. universities.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Media Week 35

The E-Book comes to England and Timesonline is there to mark the occasion:
Electronic books have had a lot of false dawns. People have had the ability to download books to their computers, phones and other handheld devices for years but so far, in the West at least, few have chosen to do so. This week Waterstone’s will be hoping to usher in a new chapter in reading when it helps to bring the Sony Reader to the UK. The Reader is smaller than a hardback, can store up to 160 e-books, comes with a screen that is more restful to read than a computer’s and a battery good for 6,800 continuous page turns — enough power to read War and Peace five times.

German publisher Bauer is a little known lesser version of Bertelsmann (Guardian):
Given the size of the company - in 2007 it was projected to turn over €1.79bn - it is surprising just how little leaks out of Bauer; publicly available information could fit on a side of A4. In fact, one morning after the takeover, Emap employees found a company biography of exactly that size on their desks: Bauer is a family-run company that owns 238 magazines in 15 countries and is now the largest consumer magazine publisher in the UK. It has TV and radio interests internationally too, with 12 million listeners in the UK following the Emap acquisition - and Magic in particular is now performing well at breakfast time with Neil Fox. They have been told little else since.

Apollo enters the bidding for Reed Magazines (Reuters). And they have apparently allowed the bidders to re-submit their order of magnitude estimates of purchase price. Certain bidders said this was needed because not enough information was available. Bids all fell but no indication that this had anything to do with current business performance. (Guardian)
The re-bids, not officially a second round, were allowed because bidders felt they were not provided enough information on the business in the first round, the sources said. After being presented with more information, the newer bids came in "slightly lower" than those in the first round, one of the sources said. All bids were non-binding. Yet more information on the unit is expected to be provided to bidders in the next few days, and a final round of offers will likely be due in early October, one source said. Reed put the unit on the block in February to reduce exposure to cyclical advertising markets.

If I had less important things to do I would have commented on how everyone is falling over themselves to anticipate Kindle revenue or where they will strike next. (Almost) Thankfully no new Kindle this year. NYTimes:
Talk of a new version of the Kindle e-book reader, aimed at college students, has been echoing around the blogosphere and has even reached your dutifully vacationing Bits correspondent. I asked Craig Berman, Amazon’s chief spokesman, for comment on a possible Kindle 2.0, and Thursday he responded
Why would a student who carries their whole life around on their Mac want to augment that with the (un)iconic Kindle? Jobs must be laughing his head off. More from ArsTechnica before Amazon announced there would not be a new Kindle.
It's this "new" version of the Kindle that will appeal to students the most, assuming Amazon decides to go ahead and pursue that market. There are other changes that have to happen with not only the Kindle but the e-book market in order for a "textbook" Kindle to be a hit with students, however. Continued price drops for e-books will help, as they'll be more attractive to students who currently resell their used textbooks at the end of each semester. A large inventory of textbooks will also help (there's no use in getting a Kindle for textbooks if you can only get one or two books on it), and the addition of student-friendly features (such as the ability to make annotations) would round out the list of things that would make such a thing appealing to students. Oh, and a low price would help too.
I don't get why a) this needs to be a 'special' version and b) why this is an opportunity given the lack of formatted content and c) I guess trade isn't actually driving millions in unit sales? For the educational publishers however a bonus, since they will have watched from the sidelines as trade publishers have performed muppet like as they annouced sucessive Kindle initiatives.

Lastly this from Frank Rich in the NYTimes:
We [Journos], too, are made anxious and fearful by hard economic times and the prospect of wrenching change. YouTube, the medium that has transformed our culture and politics, didn’t exist four years ago. Four years from now, it’s entirely possible that some, even many, of the newspapers and magazines covering this campaign won’t exist in their current form, if they exist at all. The Big Three network evening newscasts, and network news divisions as we now know them, may also be extinct by then. It is a telling sign that CBS News didn’t invest in the usual sky box for its anchor, Katie Couric, in Denver. It is equally telling that CNN consistently beat ABC and CBS in last week’s Nielsen ratings, and NBC as well by week’s end. But now that media are being transformed at a speed comparable to the ever-doubling power of microchips, cable’s ascendancy could also be as short-lived as, say, the reign of AOL. Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Forum, which monitors the intersection of politics and technology, points out that when networks judge their success by who got the biggest share of the television audience, “they are still counting horses while the world has moved on to counting locomotives.” The Web, in its infinite iterations, is eroding all 20th-century media.