Sunday, August 09, 2009

Media Week 31: Education, Oxfam, e-Readers, Journals

Some of these were on the twitter (@personanondata) this week.

The NYTimes looks at digital content in schools and recognise it is going to come faster to college level than school. (NYT):
Whenever it comes, the online onslaught — and the competition from open-source materials — poses a real threat to traditional textbook publishers.
Most of the digital texts submitted for review in California came from a nonprofit group, CK-12 Foundation, that develops free “flexbooks” that can be customized to meet state standards, and added to by teachers. Its physics flexbook, a Web-based, open-content compilation, was introduced in Virginia in March.
“The good part of our flexbooks is that they can be anything you want,” said Neeru Khosla, a founder of the group. “You can use them online, you can download them onto a disk, you can print them, you can customize them, you can embed video. When people get over the mind-set issue, they’ll see that there’s no reason to pay $100 a pop for a textbook, when you can have the content you want free.”
Publishing sales into the California educational market are way off given the state's budgeting issues (LAT):
California school districts spent at least $633 million on new books in 2007, according to the Assn. of American Publishers. More recent numbers are not available, but a representative of one publishing house who asked not to be named because of proprietary concerns said sales in the state -- the nation's biggest textbook market -- are off by 50% or more.

"We're all seeing a precipitous drop," said John Sipe Jr., vice president of K-12 sales in California for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fewer than 200 California districts have bought reading/literature texts this year, compared with publishers' typical expectation of 600 to 700, he said.

"This is a staggering difference for our industry," Sipe said.
Long running controversy over high street bookshops run by Oxfam which receive their stock for free. The business also has antiquarian experts on staff who identify the gems that are unknowingly donated to the shops (Telegraph)
It has been estimated that 15 years ago, there were about 3,000 second-hand and antiquarian bookshops in Britain. By 2004, there were only about 1,500 left. Everyone in the trade knows someone who has had to close. In contrast, Oxfam opened its first bookshop in St Giles, Oxford, in 1987. Today, it has 130 outlets in Britain, which make an average of 21 per cent more than the regular Oxfam charity shops.
Working in a second-hand bookshop, it is hard not to be at least a little envious. Last year, Oxfam made £19 million from selling books. Its website boasts that it is the largest retailer of second-hand books in Europe, selling around 11 million books a year. As a charity, it gets an 80 per cent reduction in business rates. It has a slick PR team, it doesn't have to pay for stock and it attracts thousands of volunteers – some of them even celebrities. It can even afford to open shops in prime retail locations: it is common to see bookshops snuggled next to major high street brands, on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, or in Marylebone in London. The rest of us usually have to make do with less glittering locations.
Video interview with Larry Kirshbaum and Jane Friedman (GalleyCat):
Publishing giants Jane Friedman and Larry Kirshbaum shared a long, candid web video interview with Samantha Ettus--taking a blunt look at the future of publishing.
On the web show, Obsessed with Samantha Ettus, both publishing executives were frank about their leadership. "The truth is I always thought bigger was better. That was one of my mantras. Now what's happened is publishers have a bottom line to protect," explained Friedman, the former CEO of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. "And to protect that, they have to publish more and more books just to get that top-line revenue. That is so unhealthy."
Mediapost notes an NPD study on e-Readers:

The study found that 40% of those surveyed were only "somewhat interested" or "not interested at all" in buying an e-reader. How come? Of those who don't want one, 70% said it was because they prefer the feel of an actual book.
Among the 37% who were either "very" or "somewhat" interested in obtaining an e-reader, one of the main factors was the ability to buy and store multiple books, magazines, and newspapers. More than half of consumers were interested in features already offered in current devices like the Kindle's wireless capability and the Sony's Reader's touchscreen.
"Today's e-reader offerings are delivering capabilities that are in demand by consumers," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement. "However, some features that could enhance the appeal of more popular content, such as color, remain on the drawing board."
An archived version of a PW hosted discussion on the Google Book Settlement is available (PW):
In a webinar first, the leaders involved with the crafting of the Google Library Project Settlement will share with the publishing industry the benefits of the agreement for publishers and authors. If approved by the Court in October, the agreement will create one of the most far-reaching intellectual, cultural, and commercial platforms for access to digital books for the reading public, while granting publishers unprecedented opportunities and protections. Presented in collaboration with Google, The Association of American Publishers, and Publishers Weekly, the web session is a must-attend event for publishers everywhere.
Ghostwritten scholarly 'research' papers may be a larger issue than first thought. Afterall, its not something you would promote (NYT):
The ghostwritten papers were typically review articles, in which an author weighs a large body of medical research and offers a bottom-line judgment about how to treat a particular ailment. The articles appeared in 18 medical journals, including The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The International Journal of Cardiology.
The articles did not disclose Wyeth’s role in initiating and paying for the work.
Elsevier, the publisher of some of the journals, said it was disturbed by the allegations of ghostwriting and would investigate.The documents on ghostwriting were uncovered by lawyers suing Wyeth and were made public after a request in court from PLoS Medicine, a medical journal from the Public Library of Science, and The New York Times.

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