Saturday, October 31, 2009

Media week 44: Web Retailing, Future of Reading, Semantic Search, ChickLit, E-Books

Ex- Borders head of e-Commerce Kevin Ertell has some pointers for web retail (IR)
Because our sites and customers are complicated, figuring out how to solve for the gap between intention and action requires the analysis of millions of variables, which can include a broad range of possibilities like how fast page content loads and the size and location of Buy buttons. For example, when our analysis at Borders highlighted issues with search, we followed up with a question about what would make our site search more useful. We found that using words rather than icons for some search results display options, like “cover view” or “list view,” made a significant difference in customers’ successful use of our search results.
Tom Peters at Library Journal shares some thoughts on the Future of Reading (LJ):
Reading always has been multisensory. The look, feel, smell, and heft of a printed book all contribute to the overall experience of reading. Reading probably will become more sensational throughout this century, as multimedia information objects become intertwined into digital texts. While visual reading (in private, in a comfy chair) may be considered by many to be the platonic ideal of reading, perhaps the growth areas of reading in this century will rely on other senses. The eyes don't have it. Tactile reading, such as Braille, and auditory reading of audiobooks already have achieved prominence—Braille among the blind and audiobooks throughout the general population—and olfactory reading, drawing on our sense of smell, and gustatory reading, based on our sense of taste, may not be outlandishly impossible. Digesting a good book could become literal. Romance writer Jude Deveraux already has embraced these ideas. As Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times (9/30/09), “Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even perfume. 'I'd like to use all the senses,' she said.”
Reports of the death of reading are premature. Readers are resilient and inventive. What worries me is not so much that reading will become an attenuated, marginalized field of practice but that the developmental paths of librarianship and reading will diverge in the 21st century. We may wander off from our power base, or it will evolve away from us.
Information Today looks at a recent implementation of semantic search at LexisNexis (IT):
LexisNexis has seriously addressed this "black box" perception of semantic search. Users enter search input text of up to 32,000 characters-perhaps substantial content of a target patent document. That input can be searched immediately (feeling lucky?), a process that may take several minutes, or it can be sent for semantic analysis prior to carrying out the search. The technology analyzes input sentences or search terms and creates a set of 20 weighted search terms presented as a "QueryCloud" for review and editing by the searcher. Terms can be replaced with alternative terms, and weighting may be adjusted from 4 for a mandatory concept in the search results; 3, 2, and 1 for varied prominence in the search results; 0 for an ignored concept; to -1 for a concept prohibited in search results. When the user is satisfied with the search concepts and weighting, the semantic search is conducted with the search statement corresponding to the terms of the QueryCloud.
Interesting book review by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker on a book by Cass Sunstein regarding how interests align in media (TNY)
And what holds true for the news sites is even more so for the blogosphere, where it’s possible to spend hours surfing without ever entering new waters. Conservative blogs like Power Line almost always direct visitors to other conservative blogs, like No Left Turns, while liberal blogs like Daily Kos guide them to others that are also liberal, like Firedoglake. A study of the twenty most-visited blogs in each camp in the months leading up to the 2004 Presidential election found that more than eighty-five per cent of their links were to other blogs with similar politics. When the study’s authors charted the links in graphic form, they came up with a picture of non-interaction—a dense scribble on one side, a dense scribble on the other, and only the thinnest strands connecting the two. In 2006, Sunstein performed his own study of fifty political sites. He found that more than four-fifths linked to like-minded sites but only a third linked to sites with an opposing viewpoint. Moreover, many of the links to the opposing side’s sites were offered only to illustrate how “dangerous, dumb, or contemptible the views of the adversary really are.”
Traveling for Books: Rare Books Don’t Always Live in Glass Cases (NYT):

But these books are not just for scholars. They are also on view for the average visitor, albeit one with a decided interest in the sciences who makes a pilgrimage to western Missouri, where the sprawling red-brick library sits majestically on a 14-acre urban arboretum just a five-minute walk from Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The Linda Hall is among dozens of libraries across the United States that house dazzling collections and often mount eccentric exhibitions but largely remain unfamiliar to the public.

“What is fun is to become aware of these marvelous libraries that, though open to the public, are not well known and are filled with wonderful treasures,” said Robert S. Pirie, a prominent book collector who lives in Manhattan and has his own library of several thousand volumes.
An e-Book cheat sheet listing all (I think) the features of current e-Books (DealNews)

DeepDyve announces rental model for scientific research materials (DD):
But DeepDyve sees their service as reaching to a unique potential user groups that have generally been underserved by academic publishers including individual knowledge workers and small businesses. Indeed, the recent study of small and medium UK enterprises on their uses and desires for the professional and academic literature revealed that the price per article charged by many publishers was deemed excessive, considering that users can’t preview the full-text before purchase and that abstracts were often “uninformative or misleading,” requiring potential readers to “purchase blind.” The rental model reduces the economic risk to the paying reader.
E-books helping surge in UK library members (Telegraph):

Fiona Marriott, at Luton Libraries, said: "In recent weeks the number of ebook downloads has been increasing fast, and there are people emailing us from all over the country and even abroad asking if they can join as members online."

She said there had been a sharp increase in members, as a result, with more than 250 new users signing up, even though only local residents could join the service. Other librarians agreed more people had become members since e-books became available, though no official figures are yet available.

Chick Lit for the weight challenged seems to be a developing phenom (Guardian):

"This new genre is proof that women are finally learning to love each other and themselves – warts and all. Chick lit is finally holding a real mirror up to its readers, and they can't get enough of it."

A slew of books in which the protagonist is not just "curvy" or "voluptuous" but is actually "fat" are about to hit the bookshops. As well as The Pi**ed Off Parents Club, there is The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens, bestselling author of The Girls, which was the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year in 2006 and a finalist for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.

"It's classic wish-fulfilment: readers want to read about women learning to love themselves whatever their weight, because then they don't have to go through that pesky world of dieting themselves. There's a big market of people who want to hear that message," said Julia Llewellyn, author of Love Nest, to be published in February by Penguin, in which one of the central characters is overweight.

John le Carré: A man of great intelligence The celebrated author and former spy's popular books display a masterly understanding of moral complexity. His recent decision to switch publishing houses should see them firmly esconced as modern classics. (Guardian):
Like his early hero, Graham Greene, le Carré is at home in the company of diplomats and adventurers, at high tables and low dives. In his best, and most morally complex, work, he is acutely sensitive to thwarted idealism and human failing. He is married to Jane, with whom he has a son. His first marriage to Ann Sharp, which produced three children, did not long survive his change of profession in 1964. "I've had an untidy love life," he said a few years back, "and am now settled."
And some more about why he may have moved from Hodder (Guardian)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Media week 43: Reviews, Kindle, Celebrity Authors, Jeff Archer, Pearson, Nabokov

(I know I have been remiss in posting this week - I hate it when work intrudes). Most of these have not appeared on the twitter (by me at least).

Sir Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, visits Princeton for a discussion on book reviews (TLS):
I brought some figures to the meeting, prepared in London by our Managing Editor and writer on contemporary poetry, Robert Potts, assisted, I should say, by some numerate summer interns. The team had taken for analysis a twelve month period to April this year and four other loosely comparative titles, the New York Times section, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books and The Guardian.

These showed that of the 1832 books reviewed by the TLS in this time, 73 per cent were not reviewed by any of the other publications, 20 per cent were reviewed by one other, 5.6 per cent by two, one per cent by three - and that only seven books were reviewed by all five papers. I had not intended to publish these, being no statistician myself and ever nervous of the ill use that such numbers can be put. But one of our hosts was keen that I should - and to hosts as generous as those here it would be ungracious to say no. So there they are.

The small number of books reviewed by all was a surprise. Probably it would benefit from deeper appraisal. Seven shared titles is a strong counter to those who accuse book reviewers of a herd mentality to all review the same things. It would suggest,however, that there may be too little acceptance of a common canon, too little confident gate-keeping. Those newspaper owners and editors who cut back on book coverage might be more impressed if there were greater agreement on what is good.

I may have commented on this one before, nevertheless here is commentary on a book about Evelyn Waugh and the background to Brideshead Revisited (TLS):

This is particularly unfortunate because the reader’s faith in Byrne’s reliability is undermined by a number of errors and misapprehensions in her text. She claims that there was no Baedeker for Berlin in 1931 (an English-language edition, frequently revised, had been available since 1903); believes the Lord Chamberlain controlled film censorship; and imagines “crabs” to be “a sexual disease” rather than an infestation of lice. Noël Coward was not, as she states, a Roman Catholic, and Forthampton Court was the family home of Henry Green, not of his “in-laws”. More worrying, her grasp of Waugh’s work is not always as sure as it ought to be. She repeatedly describes the Arts and Crafts chapels of both Madresfield Court and Brideshead Castle as “art deco”, and refers to the Flytes’ “startling beauty (like faces carved out of Aztec stone)” – an image inexpertly appropriated from the novel’s description of Sebastian’s less attractive older brother who has “the Flyte face, carved by an Aztec”. Paul Pennyfeather’s mistress in Decline and Fall, Margot Beste-Chetwynde, who is at least ten years his senior, is referred to as “the upper-class girl he adores”, and Apthorpe in the Sword of Honour trilogy is inexplicably bracketed with Trimmer and Brideshead’s Hooper as “the symbol of the new age of the common man – half-educated, blasé, an insensitive bore”.

Though clearly entranced by Waugh’s world, Byrne is not entirely at home in it, and her book contains some jarring failures of register.
The Times takes a look at Amazon's European strategy for the Kindle and is frustrated (TimesOnline):
Why it is so hard for Amazon to price its product locally, and at least ship a load to the UK remains a bit of a mystery. Apple seems to manage all right, selling iPods for pounds, and a conversation with Amazon’s Steve Kessel, the company’s senior vice president of Kindle business, leaves the caller none the wiser. He simply repeats how Amazon is focused on a “great customer experience” — indeed — and how it is a major achievement to create a device that can download electronic books and newspapers over the air in 100 countries without any cost to the Kindle owner in terms of phone bills. The last point is fair enough, but it doesn’t really absolve Amazon the responsibility of trying to flog the Kindle on its UK website, or even, dare one say it, Tesco, where it might just attract a few more owners. But perhaps Amazon is desperate to cut costs.
10,000 less words probably makes this more appealing: Jeff Archer rewrites Kane and Able. In the interests of full disclosure, I did consume this in the summer of 1979 sitting by the pool and importantly, I was entertained. (Telegraph)
To celebrate the milestone, Archer has returned to the novel, and substantially re-written it. He has explained that, with the benefit of 30 years’ experience in the writing game, he can see that the pacing and prose needed tightening. This “re-crafting” of the book took him nine months and involved cutting nearly 10,000 words. He has switched around the order of chapters, but is keen to make it clear that the plot remains exactly the same.
I'm a celebrity get me a book deal! Controversy over the 'success' of Katie Price et al (Telegraph):

Even before La Plante got to the microphone, McCutcheon’s appearance had made our toes curl. Alan Davis, the host for the evening, asked her how she had found the experience of writing her novel. She said something like: “Yeah, it were great.”

They do this, you see. When asked in interviews how they managed to find the time, what with their busy schedule of OK! spreads and premieres, these celebrities — Sharon Osbourne, Coleen Nolan and Cheryl Cole are also bringing out novels — will happily babble on about how they had to discipline themselves to write the customary 1,000 words a day. As if. The novel, or rather the literary novel, is an art form, and writing one requires a degree of creativity, intellectual engagement and, yes, discipline, with a writer often spending many soul-searching years getting it right.

Pearson upgrades forecasts after boost to education (Telegraph)
Dame Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said: "We began 2009 in a cautious mood, wary of the impact of the global economic crisis. We have now seen enough of it to say that, though no part of Pearson has been untouched, the company as a whole has proved its strength."
The final twist in Nabokov's untold story (Guardian):
Vladimir Nabokov was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Now, 30 years after his death, his last novel is finally to be published. But should it be? On the eve of his death, fearing it was imperfect, he instructed his wife to destroy the manuscript, sparking a fierce controversy that embroiled family, friends and the literary establishment, writes Robert McCrum
Ian Rankin goes bar hoping in Edinburgh (Guardian):

Edinburgh has always seemed to me a furtive place. Throughout history it has made its money from invisible industries such as banking and insurance. And while the city has been known to celebrate its success stories (the Scott Monument) and flag up folly (the unfinished "Parthenon" on Calton Hill), it is not a place where people flaunt their talents. You don't see many Ferraris – the wealth sits quietly behind the New Town's thick Georgian walls.

It was once called a city of "public probity and private vice" and this still rings true, though the "probity" tag has lost some lustre since the near-collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the city's biggest employers. But visitors to Edinburgh, if they stick to the main tourist routes, will be seeing only the city's most public side. Travel just a little further afield and you can widen your appreciation. That's why, on a blustery day, I set out from the Oxford Bar for a walk

Monday, October 19, 2009

Images of Afghanistan

The NY Times found some images from Kabul sent in by journalists - not photographers -taken in the 60-70s. (NYT)

Mr. Salisbury’s evocative and smartly composed photos, taken in and around Kabul in 1961, were among the surprising images that greeted Darcy Eveleigh, a Times photo editor, as she peered into old file cabinets in the photo archive to find illustrations for Elisabeth Bumiller’s article on Afghanistan before 1978 in the Week in Review.

“When I opened up the folders, I was floored,” she said. In contact sheet after contact sheet, print after print, Afghanistan’s golden era of stability had been recorded for The Times by staff members better known for their bylines as correspondents: A. M. Rosenthal, Ralph Blumenthal and William Borders among them.
The PND archive is also throwing up some interesting images - although the photographer in this case wasn't particularly skilled. (Flickr)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Media Week 42: GBS Frankfurt Panel, Libreka, FTC

In the waning Friday of the Frankfurt bookfair there was a contentious, apparently somewhat 'anti-google' discussion of the Google Book Settlement as reported by Richard Nash on the fair's blog:

The impact of the Google Book Settlement, in whatever form it might eventually take, promised to be one of the most controversial panels at this year’s Fair and the participants, especially Prof. Roland Reuss, author of the Heidelberg Appeal, a vehement critique of the Google scanning project, did not disappoint. He denounced as “garbage of hysterical propaganda” the claims by Google that they were enhancing access, maintain that “if you want to finance production, you have to shelter the ones who produce,” not those that consume, and that moreover any student who is completely dependent on the Internet for “must be stupid.”
Reuss was largely unmoved. “It has always been possible for scholars to get the information,” he said, “since the 5th century.” He believes that the focus on access is inappropriate, “fetishistic,” and that the true issue with scholarship is to produce, not to access.

Reuss' comments seemed to be as much against the internet as against the issue of copyright, nevertheless there appeared to be some in the audience who applauded his commentary. The panel discussion sits neatly as a bookend to Chancellor Merkel's per-Frankfurt oration in the perils of the Google Book Settlement and the institution of German copyright. Curiously not a subject I would have expected a head of state to draw attention to but then perhaps the subject was thematic with respect to the opening of the fair.

Richard noted the German Bookseller and Publisher supported site Libreka which was launched three (possibly four) years ago (PND) to great fan fair and has managed to amass 120,000 books available for full-text search. Libreka was created to provide a platform for German published full-text content and continues to announce content and publisher deals. Through the significant discussion of Merkel's comments - where they valid, where they informed for example, no one mentioned Libreka which speaks to its' irrelevance and lack of traction. A review of Libreka's web traffic report seems to support the last point. The Börsenverein is both the operator of the Frankfurt bookfair and the 'publisher' of Libreka and perhaps this relationship suggests a more practical motivation for Merkel's copyright comments.

The Interactive Ad Bureau has asked the FTC to rescind their recent statement on blogger disclosure statements saying (Reuters),
"What concerns us the most in these revisions is that the Internet, the cheapest, most widely accessible communications medium ever invented, would have less freedom than other media," said Mr. Rothenberg, "These revisions are punitive to the online world and unfairly distinguish between the same speech, based on the medium in which it is delivered. The practices have long been afforded strong First Amendment protections in traditional media outlets, but the Commission is saying that the same speech deserves fewer Constitutional protections online. I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people`s lives."
Google launched or re-launched their on-line bookstore that will initially contain 500,000 titles. Some commentators have gone so far as to suggest that - absurdly - is smoke. (Guardian):

Editions is set to launch in the first half of 2010, potentially giving readers in America and Europe access to around half a million titles including best-sellers and back catalogue books. Crucially, the store will be compatible with a number of devices - including mobile phones, computers and ebook readers - that could allow it to market services to millions of people worldwide.

Under Google's plans, readers will be able to download texts straight from Google Books website, or from the websites of book retailers or directly from publishers who choose to work with the Silicon Valley company. Executives said they are targeting partnerships with major retailers such as WH Smith and Blackwell - many of which already have existing partnerships with the site.

Bookriff and Chunks.

Richard Nash on the Frankfurt Blog notes a new product that enables chunking of content:
Still in beta is Bookriff—it was not presented in the Book Fair programming, but the company principal Mark Scott was meeting with publishers to establish partnerships and I stopped by to talk to him. Effectively Bookriff allows publishers to upload chunks of content, most likely chapters and short stories, to a database. A users can then search the site for interesting chunks and create her own anthology which can then be submitted automatically to a print on demand facility. So it is a make-your-own-book service, perfect for travel books where you only need to buy those chapters you want for your itinerary, permitting the creation of custom readers for academic coursework, allowing non-profits to create premium products. (Publishers set their own licensing fees…)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fairey Lied About Origin of Obama Photo

A battle that had all the elements of a David vs. Goliath grudge match, has ended in ignominy as Shep Fairey has had to admit that it was the AP photo that he used for the iconic Barack Obama poster Hope. This is an appalling circumstance that should never have reached this point: AP was vilified by fair use advocates for stomping on the little creative guy.

Obviously, the outcome doesn't address any fair use question and AP may be accused of other misdemeanors but to paraphrase the man: Where do they go to get their reputation back? (NYT)

Mr. Fairey admitted that in the initial months after the suit and countersuit were filed, he destroyed evidence and created false documents to cover up the real source. He said he had initially believed that The A.P was wrong about which photo he used, but later realized the agency was right.

“In an attempt to conceal my mistake, I submitted false images and deleted other images,” Mr. Fairey said in a statement, released on his Web site. “I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions, which were mine alone.”

Mr. Fairey’s lawyers said they intended to withdraw when he could find new counsel.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Same Day Delivery on Sales Tax is rolling out same day delivery in select cities for orders placed between 1oam and 1pm (NYTimes) As B&N steps up its online and e-Reader activities, Amazon is not standing in place and looks to be offering this service to counter one of the primary benefits that the bricks and mortar bookseller retains. But Amazon has also been battling states over the collection of sales tax and has pulled operations out of states that have sought to require them to collect sales tax. One of those battleground states has been New York and the NY attorney general has been looking into this matter with respect to Amazon in particular. In reaction Amazon began closing their affiliate relationships in the state to mitigate any argument that they had nexus in the state requiring them to collect state tax. As an internet retailer, Amazon has never agreed that they should collect sales taxes if they don't have substantial operations in a particular state but as of August they appear to have been collecting sales tax in New York.

This announcement could have more implications than just same day delivery.


Front Page News: Libraries To Kill Trade*

Motoko Rich (NYTimes) takes a look at eBook lending in libraries without discovering anything particularly new - at least to anyone with even a passing interest in the topic. While the article does note Overdrive and Netlibrary have been addressing the market, Rich suggests publishers have no business model and specifically mentions S&S and Macmillan as companies that refuse to sell their eBook titles into the library market. Her assertion that libraries "across the country" are filling their "shelves" with eBooks would seem to contradict the suggestion that publishers are holding back their titles because they "have not found a business model that works for us and our authors" (according to S&S). But addressing that contradiction is less interesting than the idea that libraries are havens for free-loaders who will eventually tear the trade publishing industry asunder.

Certainly holding back your eBook titles is not a strategy. In contrast, Overdrive and Netlibrary both have business models that have seen uptake from large trade publishers. In the future, these models may or may not facilitate eBooks being loaned en mass by libraries (though I am by no means suggesting that these models, as they currently exist, are ideally suited to the time when eBooks become a significant segment of the market); but today they represent working models for which publishers have signed up. Libraries already purchase vast amounts of eContent (serials, databases, etc.) licensed by publishers, the majority of whom had legacy print businesses. Some of these same publishers also make their educational and sci/tech book titles available electronically. Why, then, has the professional and scientific publishing community been able to build multi-million dollar-eContent businesses in the library market while trade publishers can't find a business model?

The sci/tech model may not be directly adaptable to trade, but that segment of the industry underwent its own experimentation process as its business model matured. You won't get from Rich a primer on how the trade segment might effect a similar transition; instead, we're offered only a passing reference to the academic segments' subscription models--but this is only to enforce the notion that access is experimental and limited. In conclusion, we're left to believe that libraries represent a challenge to the whole notion of paid content and will eventually erode the trade publishing model: "In libraries, readers are attracted to free material," she avers, and "buying doesn't make sense" says a library patron.

This article doesn't do anyone any favors, casting library patrons as free-loaders and assuming trade publishers are bereft of innovative ideas for addressing the library market. Neither is an accurate reflection of the relationship across the spectrum of libraries and publishers.

* Note: The article was on the front page of the Times...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Take all of Springer

Springer CEO Derk Hannk is quoted by Reuters suggesting the entire company is in play (Reuters)
The private equity firms Candover (CDI.L) and Cinven [CINV.UL], the owners of German academic publisher Springer Science and Business Media, are considering a full sale of the company, Chief Executive Derk Hannk said on Wednesday.

"For a while we were considered underleveraged, now we are considered overleveraged ... a straight sale is the preferred option," Hannk told Reuters on the sidelines of the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday.

"We are owned by private equity and they have had a very good run for their investment for five, six years," he said, adding it may be time for new equity.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Media Week 41: OCLC, NewsCorp, LexisNexis

Skyriver takes on OCLC's cataloging market. (LJ):

A new company called SkyRiver has launched a bibliographic utility, directly challenging long-dominant OCLC. Over the last 18 years, strategic acquisitions by OCLC have narrowed competition, but SkyRiver—founded by Jerry Kline, the owner and co-founder of Innovative Interfaces—aims to expand the market and offer an alternative bibliographic utility for cataloging that could save libraries up to 40 percent off their expenditures for bibliographic services.

SkyRiver is already fully operational, with a few libraries engaged as development partners. While the company has not disclosed the names of the participating libraries, at least one is a member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

Some of the libraries are expected to go into full production with SkyRiver in mid-October, shifting away from their current bibliographic services. In January 2010, the company will begin broadly marketing its service.

Jonathan Miller (NewsCorp) was interviewed by MediaPost (from Sept 1, 2009):

How will media companies make money five years from now?
There will be more pay and subscription, more multiple levels of niche marketing, various devices and consumption channels, and more low-cost channels. Part of the trick will be getting good at all of the above. It will no longer be as simple as making a movie, selling a DVD and the rights to HBO, and making 19 percent of the gross from a television network, so life is good. The media business will have many more points of consumption, and you will have to aggregate all of it. But in the end, we will not trade one to one - they will all have different values.

One of the key questions is whether content continues to grow and be differentiated and valuable enough to have true paying models. I think the answer is "Yes." We will see both subscription forms as well as micropayment transactions. We are at that inflection point in the music industry where streaming forms are taking over from a la carte downloads. For a reasonable price going forward, consumers will be able to access their music of choice for every device and platform for one price, instead of paying for every a la carte download to captive devices.

Interview with John Lipsey, Vice President, Corporate Counsel Services at LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell. (Corp Counsel)

Editor: Can you give us some examples of how social networking provides value to legal professionals in their professional lives?

Lipsey: First, social networks help professionals develop and grow wider networks - global networks that they can call upon for any number of needs. We know that lawyers are greatly concerned about relationships and getting to a trusted source that has information they need - a referral, perhaps, or expertise in a particular area. Professional networks allow lawyers to find other lawyers and legal professionals who can help them solve a problem.

Professional networking also provides a secure environment to allow those professionals to collaborate in a trusted way. People can engage in online discussions and showcase their expertise. Corporate counsel can maintain a level of visibility within the legal profession and can also extend the resources they have by tapping into the network. This is important in today's economy. We know that frequently corporate counsel, especially those in smaller legal departments, are truly crunched in terms of cash, resources and time, so having an immediate resource that is available 24/7 - a place where they can find people who have answers to their questions - creates efficiencies they wouldn't otherwise have.

And applying the social network concept to the legal community:

Editor: Your survey also found some interesting differences between how corporate counsel use online social networking as compared to private practice lawyers. Can you give our readers some examples of those differences?

Lipsey: In general, corporate counsel are interested in using online networks to access unique content and tools that will help them do their jobs more efficiently, effectively and at lower cost. In other words, they're looking for access to resources. We forget that even though corporate counsel are practitioners, they tend to operate as relatively small departments within large companies whose business has nothing to do with the practice of law, so they often don't have as many resources as, say a private practice in a large law firm. A professional network can provide them access to low-cost information while helping them maintain visibility in their profession.

Private practice lawyers, not surprisingly, are interested in finding new clients; their networking interests focus predominantly around looking for opportunities to get in front of prospective clients. Private practice lawyers can also be a resource to corporate counsel by providing unique and needed content. They can showcase their expertise by acting as a resource to corporate counsel online, perhaps putting them top of mind to corporate counsel when buying decisions for legal services happen to come up. Within a professional network such as Martindale-Hubbell Connected, the diverse interests of both in-house and outside counsel can actually be met simultaneously through robust interaction on a legal-only network.

Woman in Black author Susan Hill, and memoirist Rick Gekoski reflect on the influence of literature in shaping their lives, from Enid Blyton to Roald Dahl. Review by Michael Arditti (Telegraph)

The two writers take very different approaches and choose very different books. Hill picks hers seemingly at random, in the process producing an impressionistic autobiography. Gekoski starts with the Dr Seuss books of his Long Island childhood and ends with his own recently published works. Hill includes mostly novels and spiritual writing; Gekoski an almost equal balance of fiction, poetry, philosophy and psychiatry. His writing is the more intimate, hers the more personal. He offers penetrating portraits of his parents, ex-wife and children; she offers fascinating sketches of literary and artistic figures she has known while vouchsafing little of note about her husband and daughters (indeed, her most rounded family portrait is of her great aunt). Yet both authors afford highly revealing glimpses into the book-lined recesses of their minds.

They each use their chosen titles as a means to recall and record the past. Dorothy L Sayers’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club brings back memories of Hill’s student days when she lived with “a minor order of rather haughty and snobbish nuns” in a Kensington lodging house that boasted every Penguin detective story; Francis Kilvert’s Diary of her friendship with its enigmatic editor, William Plomer; and Great Expectations of family holidays in Southport.

Giles Coren: The barcode is nothing to celebrate. It killed off the traditional shop and gave us the checkout girl. And what’s with a 57th anniversary anyway? (Times)

And we know about it, of course, because Google decided to commemorate it in its “doodle” du jour. And that is how we come collectively to know things about our days now. Once, it was the church calendar that told us: everyone knew intuitively that it was Whitsuntide, Ash Wednesday or Michaelmas. Then it was newspapers, and we all knew what the headlines were. And then it was television, and we all knew that tonight we’d find out who shot JR. But now it’s whatever the hell some Korean kid in Silicon Valley feels like commemorating in a search engine logo doodle.

And so eight billion people, more or less, got up on Wednesday, logged on, saw a barcode where the multicoloured “Google” normally is, and thought: “Eh? What’s that? Oh, right, it must be the anniversary of the barcode. And that’s probably ‘Google’ written as a barcode.”

My mother said they had chickens - no geese though...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Panel Discussion - Lost and Found: A Practical Look at Orphan Works

On Tuesday, October 20th, from 6-8pm, the Art Law Committee and the Copyright and Literary Property Law Committees of the New York City Bar Association, in conjunction with Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, will present Lost and Found: A Practical Look at Orphan Works. Please join us in the Association Meeting Hall at 42 W. 44th Street for a discussion of the latest proposals for use of orphan works, and particularly, orphan images.

Brendan M. Connell, Jr., Director and Counsel for Administration, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Frederic Haber, Vice President and General Counsel, Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.
Eugene H. Mopsik, Executive Director, American Society of Media Photographers
Maria Pallante, Associate Register for Policy & International Affairs, U.S. Copyright Office
Charles Wright, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Legal and Business Affairs, A&E Television Networks

Moderator: June M. Besek, Executive Director, Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, Columbia Law School

The program is free and open to all. Please register at HERE

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

BISG Webcast: ONIX 3.0 & Metadata for E-Books

In April 2009, EDItEUR announced the release of a major new version of the ONIX for Books standard: ONIX 3.0. This release of ONIX is the first since 2001 that is not backwards-compatible with its predecessors and, more importantly, provides a means for improved handling of digital products.

During this FREE 60-minute BISG Webcast, David Martin from EDItEUR's ONIX Support Team and Brian Green, Executive Director of the International ISBN Agency, will focus on how ONIX 3.0 provides new support for digital publishing, along with requirements for identifying ebooks in our industry's complex new supply chain. Along the way they will answer four key questions about ONIX 3.0:
  • How does ONIX 3.0 provide new support for digital publishing?What are the requirements for the standard identification of ebooks in the complex new supply chain?
  • What are other important benefits of ONIX 3.0?
  • How should publishers and other ONIX users respond to the new release?
Wednesday, October 07, 2009

11:00 AM to 12:00 PM


Do Books Cost too Much

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords thinks so (HuffPo):
Most books are too expensive. Compared to lower cost alternative media sources, books are becoming niche consumables like caviar. The high cost of books jeopardizes not only the future of books, but the future of the book publishing industry. Unless authors, publishers and booksellers cooperate to bring down the cost of books, book publishing faces a painful decline, much as we're now witnessing with newspaper and magazine publishing. Here in the U.S., most consumers already think twice before shelling out $7.50, $15.00 or $30.00 for a good read. If a book at the current prices represents a big purchase for citizens of the world's most affluent economy, imagine the cost burden for the vast majority of the world's literate people.
For some reason books seem hold a special spot when it comes to pricing theory – you don’t seem to hear too many people telling Mercedes they should lower their car prices to a $1,000. It is very easy to suggest that books cost too much but there’s little evidence that demand is elastic. I’m all for lower prices but there are only so many readers – to expand the readership requires publishing content they want not lowering the prices on the same stuff that is churned out by today’s publishing companies. If we want to increase demand it is the product that should be addressed not simply the pricing. If a $4.00 book is still as crappy as a $35 book the reader is still not coming back; building reader loyalty through the delivery of products they embrace and aren’t disappointed by is what will support growth. Pricing is an element but it is not at all the panacea.

Monday, October 05, 2009

ARL report on the current use of E-Books in Libraries

ARL has produced a report that examines e-Book use in libraries. Access to the full report is paid however the toc and executive summary are available for free. Here is a sample (ARL):
Libraries are changing. The publishing industry is changing. Patrons are changing and expecting more and different things from their libraries. “The Global Reading Room: Libraries in the Digital Age” states “the role of libraries is becoming more important and more far-reaching than ever” and “though their mission remains unchanged, libraries are rethinking their collections, services, spaces, and opportunities for pooling resources.” The line between collection development and acquisitions is blurring. Librarians are communicating with patrons through instant messaging and twittering. Some libraries provide print-ondemand machines. Budgets are decreasing with the current economic crisis and libraries are looking at ways to maximize their collection development funds. And while the Library of Congress reports that their Copyright Office currently defines print as the “best edition format,” this is being revisited.

Libraries are facing both internal and external factors in developing and maintaining e-book collections. With change, however, comes denial and pockets of resistance. Librarians and library staff can lobby for new policies and procedures and increase communication among departments. Library administrators can leverage internal change by encouraging new workflows and can significantly impact the building of a new business model with publishers and aggregators to manage external factors. The last comment of the survey sums up the overall conclusion of this SPEC Kit: Well, good luck with all of this. It seems libraries are all over place with e-books and some are very aggressively trying to acquire while others appear to be sticking their heads in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist. Libraries, librarians, and publishers should all be working harder in this place to help shape the model and the future of all of this. Honestly it makes my skin crawl when libraries suggest that e-books should be purchased and/or operate like print models. If we are just trying to recreate the print model here, then I’m not sure I understand the point. The reality is that nothing in academic libraries is going to be what it used to be, and so many libraries are clinging to that without realizing that the war has already been lost.

Boston Publishers Benefit from Google Partner Program

From an article in the Boston Globe last week about the Google Books program (not the settlement) several interesting quotes from the experiences of Houghton Mifflin and MIT Press:

Langevin said that Galbraith’s “The Great Crash 1929’’ generated “zero’’ views for July and August 2008. In September 2008, as the collapse of Lehman Brothers caused the US economy to start teetering, book views rose to 628. By October, the views rocketed to 22,897, as Internet users started searching for words and concepts that were well represented in the book, although the number of views did subside later.

Langevin said that sales of Galbraith’s book also spiked during the peak months.

MIT Press’s Manaktala said she noticed that views of the publisher’s books increased dramatically after universal search was implemented. “What surprises me is that pretty much every one of our 2,600 books on Google gets viewed every week,’’ she said.


“It’s really a great deal,’’ said Manaktala. “We could never afford to create all this exposure ourselves.’’

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Media Week 40: Curating, Larsson, BooksEtc, Disney, Magazines

Interesting article in Sunday's NYTimes about curating content in the retail sense. Some relevance to book retailing and publishing although not specifically noted in the article (NYTimes):
The word “curate,” lofty and once rarely spoken outside exhibition corridors or British parishes, has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting. In more print-centric times, the term of art was “edit” — as in a boutique edits its dress collections carefully. But now, among designers, disc jockeys, club promoters, bloggers and thrift-store owners, curate is code for “I have a discerning eye and great taste.”
Or more to the point, “I belong.”
For many who adopt the term, or bestow it on others, “it’s an innocent form of self-inflation,” said John H. McWhorter, a linguist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “You’re implying that there is some similarity between what you do and what someone with an advanced degree who works at a museum does.”
Indeed, these days, serving as a guest curator of a design blog, craft fair or department store is an honor. Last month, Scott Schuman, creator of The Sartorialist, a photo blog about street fashion, was invited to curate a pop-up shop at Barneys New York.
The Girl Who kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson is the final book in Stieg Larsson's posthumously published Millennium trilogy and seals his status as a master storyteller, says Nick Cohen of the Observer. Of course not available in the US until next year. (Observer):
I cannot think of another modern writer who so successfully turns his politics away from a preachy manifesto and into a dynamic narrative device. Larsson's hatred of injustice will drive readers across the world through a three-volume novel and leave them regretting reaching the final page; and regretting, even more, the early death of a master storyteller just as he was entering his prime.
In the UK Borders has announced that it will retire the BooksEtc and Borders Express brands (Independent):
Borders UK has confirmed it plans to remove the Books Etc and Borders Express brands from the high street. The bookseller – which in July completed a management buyout backed by the retail restructuring specialist Hilco – is trying to sell its remaining seven Books Etc shops and two smaller format Borders Express stores.
Books Etc has been a financial millstone around the neck of Borders UK for a number of years. The retailer's spokesman said: "I can confirm that our future strategy is single-brand." Earlier this month, Borders UK said it would close its Books Etc outlet in Staines, Surrey. The company, which has 36 core Borders stores, came close to collapse in July under its previous owner Risk Capital Partners, the private equity vehicle of Luke Johnson, the Channel 4 chairman.
Was Frankenstein too good to have been written by a woman? (HuffPo):
The debate has continued right up until the present day, most recently through the publication of John Lauritsen's The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein (Pagan Press, 2007). The logic of the doubters has not shifted noticeably for 200 years: Frankenstein is too good to have been written by a young woman, therefore it must have been written by a man.
Percy Shelley was indisputably present at the birth of the creature, who was born in the Swiss countryside during the unseasonably rainy summer of 1816. Mary and Percy Shelley were part of a group that included Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, Byron's personal physician. To beguile the hours, the group took to reading German ghost stories and decided to try and write their own. Mary was stuck for inspiration for several days when finally one night her dreams yielded up the image of a depraved scientist bringing to life a ghastly simulacrum of a man.
Disney launch a subscription based web site for children (NYTimes):, which is aimed at children ages 3 to 12, is organized by reading level. In the “look and listen” section for beginning readers, the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music (with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken). Another area is dedicated to children who read on their own. Find an unfamiliar word? Click on it and a voice says it aloud. Chapter books for teenagers and trivia features round out the service.
“For parents, this isn’t going to replace snuggle time with a storybook,” said Yves Saada, vice president of digital media. “We think you can have different reading formats co-existing together.”
Publishers, of course, have been experimenting with e-books for the children’s market for years. About 1,000 children’s titles are now available digitally from HarperCollins. Scholastic has BookFlix, a subscription service for schools and libraries that pairs a video storybook with a nonfiction e-book on a related topic. “Curious George” is available on the iPhone.
There may be a new service provider in the magazine space that would aggregate magazine content for readers using electronic devices such as the Kindle, Blackberry, and iTouch. (ATD):
The idea: The new company, which will operate independently from the publishers that invest in it, will create a digital storefront where consumers can purchase and manage their subscriptions, which can be delivered to any device. The pitch: Control a direct relationship with consumers while gaining leverage with heavyweights like Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN).
Industry executives briefed on Squires’s plan say it has been well received by Time Inc.’s peers and that several major publishers, including Hearst and Condé Nast, are expected to sign on for the JV, which isn’t scheduled to debut until 2010. No comment from Hearst, Condé Nast or Time Inc., a unit of Time Warner (TWX).
Newsweek looks at the 'controversy' over holding back big books from the eBook store and gets to the nub of the issue (NewsW):
Why isn't livid about this? After all, this technology firm is providing the beleaguered publishing industry a more efficient way to reach readers, and it's being stiffed on some big sellers. It may be that Amazon is losing money on many sales it makes of Kindle-ready books. With the Kindle, Amazon has inverted the old business model of giving away the shaver and selling the blades. Amazon is using the blades (cheap books, in this case) as a loss leader to induce people to pay up for the shaver (the $299 Kindle). As I understand it, Amazon pays the same wholesale price for Kindle books as it does for real books—generally 50 percent of the list price. For a typical hardback that retails for $26—say, E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley—Amazon pays $13 and then sells it for $9.99 on the Kindle, taking a $3 loss on each sale. (The longer-term strategy, publishers fear, is that once the Kindle gains significant market share, Amazon will negotiate lower wholesale prices for digital versions.) In the short term, though, this means that Amazon is likely to lose more money on more expensive books sold on the Kindle. It would have to pay $17.50 per "copy" of the digital version of True Compass, and $14.50 per copy for Going Rogue, but would sell them for significantly less. It may seem perverse, but once Amazon has sold a Kindle to a customer, it doesn't have all that much incentive to sell expensive books to the Kindle owner—unless it's willing to boost the prices of electronic books significantly.
The Kindle goes to Princeton to mixed reviews. However, in the comments students unload on the whiners (DailyP):
But though they acknowledged some benefits of the new technology, many students and faculty in the three courses said they found the Kindles disappointing and difficult to use.
“I hate to sound like a Luddite, but this technology is a poor excuse of an academic tool,” said Aaron Horvath ’10, a student in Civil Society and Public Policy. “It’s clunky, slow and a real pain to operate.”
Horvath said that using the Kindle has required completely changing the way he completes his coursework.
“Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages — not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs,” he explained. “All these things have been lost, and if not lost they’re too slow to keep up with my thinking, and the ‘features’ have been rendered useless.”

Friday, October 02, 2009

Recent Google Book Settlement Links

For GBS junkies, a few recent pieces of note (Thanks for the links Mary):

Peter Brantley has a piece appearing this evening on Huffington Post: "GBS: Right Goal, Wrong Solution"
"The DOJ has raised the alarm, and now it is time for Congress to assume its rightful place in this debate - convening interested voices and arbitrating on behalf of public good. Standard Oil's price fixing conspiracy with the railroads inspired Congress to pass the Sherman Act because they recognized that control over critical transportation and fueling infrastructure could be wielded to impact virtually every aspect of American life. In the modern day, the Internet is the railroad and search technology the coal that powers our cultural, commercial, academic and social existence. Allowing a powerful cartel of commercial actors to possess control over these fundamental elements of networked information promises to create a modern day Standard Oil."
Law professor Timothy Wu takes a very different tack in Slate, "Save the Google Book Deal."
"A delivery system for books that few people want is not a business one builds for financial reasons. Over history, such projects are usually built not by the market but by mad emperors. No bean counter would have approved the Library of Alexandria or the Taj Mahal....

"If you want to put Google in its place, the book project is the wrong way to do so. It is Google's monopoly on Internet search that is valuable and potentially dangerous, not a quixotic project to provide access to unpopular books. So hold on to that sense of wariness, but understand that in this case, it's misplaced. To punish Google by killing Book Search would be like punishing Andrew Carnegie by blowing up Carnegie Hall."
Alexis Madrigal, a researcher and writer, comes to the project's defense, based on his experiences researching a book, in Wired, "A Writer's Plea: Figure Out How to Preserve Google Books"
"So, as we sort out the various privacy, competitiveness and profit issues, let’s not just assume the status quo was the best of all possible information-distribution worlds. It wasn’t — and we know that because Google Books showed us how the system could be better."
And, finally, from the ARL, a summary of the court filings, in a handy set of tables, drawn from the Public Index. If you've been following the filings, there's not much here to learn. But if you haven't been following them, you might find the (somewhat crude) summation of filings of interest or otherwise useful. Interesting, for instance, that the foreign filings by class members outnumber the domestic ones by more than 3 to 1.

"Who is Filing and What are they Saying?" By Brandon Butler.

24hr Book Project from CompletelyNovel

UK Book social networking company CompletelyNovel is experimenting with a '24hr book' concept over the coming weekend. Here is the information from their web site:
In collaboration with if:book, The Society of Young Publishers and, Spread the Word has commissioned The 24 Hour Book, a groundbreaking project to challenge a group of writers to write a new story about London in just 24 hours. Who’s writing what, when? The book will be written by a group of experienced writers working together using all kinds of online collaborative tools around the clock.

The lead writer for The 24 Hour Book will be Kate Pullinger and writers participating will include Sarah Butler, Aoife Mannix, Dean Atta, Cath Drake, Ben Payne, Chris Meade, Toni Le Busque, Saradha Soobrayen and Shamim Azad. The final book will be published under a Creative Commons license and available to buy on

The 24hr book will be based around a group of city centre allotments and the story will explore ideas of shared and private space and the real and imaginary barriers between a range of different city characters. Join us online from 10am on Saturday 3 October The writing will be going on throughout Saturday, and then on Sunday 4 October, a group of volunteer editors and publishers will move in to make the story ready for publication. You’ll be able to see that happening live too! As well as making the book available to read online, CompletelyNovel will link directly to Print-on-Demand printers to enable hard copies of the 24hr book to be available for its launch at 6pm on Monday 5 October at St Barnabas House in Soho.

Click here to find more details of the launch event and register for a ticket.