Sunday, July 26, 2009

Media Week 29: Education, DVDs, Ebook Sales, OCLC, CourseSmart, Target.

Some of these will have been noted on the twitter during the past week.

Raising Alabama - From the economist two weeks ago on efforts to provide online access to students in Alabama which is starting to provide much broader access to education across the state and happily improving opportunity (Economist):
There were sceptics. The pilot programme cost $10m, not pocket change in a poor state. Teachers worried about how they would connect to their virtual students. But ACCESS quickly became a hit. In 2006 students took more than 4,000 courses at 24 schools. In 2008, with ACCESS now in more schools, the number exceeded 22,000. Administrators are finding new ways to liven up the experience. Last year a dozen schools went on a “virtual field trip” to Antarctica, with scientists beamed in by satellite, and a school in Birmingham has been liaising with a counterpart in Wales.
Also a week earlier the Economist discussed DVD sales which among a few topics was notable for the recent debate regarding when publishers release eBooks relative to the release dates for their pBook relatives (Economist):

Studios would prefer people to get their films in almost any way other than renting them from a kiosk. It is much more profitable to stream a film digitally or sell it through a cable operator as a video-on-demand (VOD). Recognising this, Warner Bros now releases many films simultaneously on DVD and VOD. The big studios have overcome their initial reluctance to sell digital copies of films through Apple’s iTunes store. Although it is a long way off, there is much talk of creating a premium VOD “window”, charging perhaps $40 for a film soon after it appears in cinemas. “We need to give people as many options as possible without confusing them,” says Kevin Tsujihara, head of home entertainment at Warner Bros.

Meanwhile strenuous efforts are under way to stimulate disc sales. Disney is selling some films in three formats in a single box—DVD, Blu-ray and digital file. Studios are adding puzzles, interviews and other special features to discs intended for sale, but not to discs intended for rental. Mike Dunn, head of home entertainment at Fox, sums up the strategy: “If you buy a Blu-ray disc you get a BMW. If you rent one you get a Chevrolet.”

Corgi in the UK gets it totally wrong 'leveraging' Dan Brown's name to promote a somewhat new author (MW):

These are not the reviews for a man whose style is so indistinct that he deserves to get his name printed three times smaller than someone who didn’t even write the book. It might not be the type of writing that appeals too much to me, but clearly Kernick has a healthy fanbase waiting to rave about his work.

I think Kernick’s publisher, Corgi, has missed a trick. Rather than piggybacking Kernick’s work on Brown’s brand, it should have tried to develop the author’s own distinctive style and reputation more carefully. I appreciate it’s trying to shift copies in a difficult climate but there is more than enough room for another star brand on the bookshelves. So come on, Corgi; there is never a deadline for innovative marketing.

OCLC announces the launch of 'Content Gateway' that makes it easier for libraries to upload the content from their special collections (OCLC):

"Libraries, museums and archives should do whatever they can to get their materials available online and expose their collections to users—wherever they are—on the Web,” said Roy Tennant, Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research. "The WorldCat Digital Collection Gateway is an easy and effective way to do this."

The Gateway has been piloted in 12 institutions. Since May, the pilot participants used the Gateway self-service tools to upload thousands of records from their CONTENTdm collections into WorldCat. Because they have used the Gateway to set up profiles for their collections, the pilot users' metadata will be regularly uploaded to WorldCat as they add to their digital collections over time.

Notes on a female action hero from the Guardian. Ripley still reigns (and she still looks good):
And then? Ripley beat them all. And so she should, being the best female action hero ever despite it being 30 years since Alien was released. Sigourney Weaver got a standing ovation for simply walking on stage - and from that point until the end of the panel, the air was crackling with bright little flashbulb hiccups and the little electric cla-chuk of 4,000 digital cameras taking 400,000 pictures of a stage that felt as if it was 40 miles away.

Weaver was passionate in her belief that female action stars - and powerful female roles in general – should be action stars and roles first, and female depending on whoever was best for the role.

"Science fiction is an investigation into what it is to be human," she said at one point. "A lot of the roles I have played, they're not trying to create a female action figure - they're trying to create a fully-functioning human being; a character comes first."

In the UK The Bookseller reports on differing approaches to revenue splits on eBook sales:
Industry sources said that a figure of 25% was becoming standard, though some admitted that it could be "variable". One agent said: "Random House is the only publisher not offering 25% as its best standard rate but not all agents are getting 25% from all publishers." Penguin m.d. Helen Fraser said: "Our standard e-book royalty is 25% of net receipts. My sense is that the industry is probably settling between 20% and 25%. Some publishers are offering the same to everybody and some are having a gradated scale."
CourseSmart has added a bunch of new publishers to its content base (PR):

Each of CourseSmart's new publishers will supplement its digital library of eTextbooks in the following specialty areas:

  • Elsevier Science and Technology: Life and Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Engineering, Computer Science, Media Technology, Finance, Business and Hospitality
  • F.A. Davis: Nursing and Health Professions
  • Jones & Bartlett: Biology; Health, Fitness and Wellness; Criminology, Nursing and Computer Science
  • SAGE: Education, Psychology, Statistics, Sociology and Criminology
  • Sinauer Associates: Biology, Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Taylor & Francis: Humanities & Social Sciences, Life Science, Business, Psychology, Mental Health and Computer Science
  • Wolters Kluwer Health (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins): Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions
The NYTimes ran an article on Target's Bookselling ops which reminded me of a similar article last year on book buying at Costco. From the Times article:

Compared with a large chain bookstore like Barnes & Noble, which averages about 200,000 titles per location, Target carries only about 2,500 titles in each of its 1,700 stores. Offerings include diet books, children’s picture books, young-adult novels and series romances. Paperbacks far outnumber hardcovers, and over the last decade Target has focused on the larger trade format as opposed to the smaller mass-market paperbacks. (The other big-box retailers rely mostly on the biggest commercial books of the moment, though Costco does on occasion offer its own special picks of little-known authors.)

Virtually every book at Target is shelved face out. Books in the book club and Breakout program are set apart on so-called endcaps — narrower shelves that stand at the front or end of aisles — with specially designed signs.

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