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)

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