Saturday, February 28, 2009

Amazon's Lesser Known Character: Is it Really Self-Interest?

Amazon backed off on the Kindle audio noise and volunteered that publishers can effectively 'opt out' of the functionality. For those missing this mega (non) issue, the Kindle 2 allows content to be read aloud and this upset the Authors Guild who believe the functionality undermines audio book rights. Aside from the fact that using this functionality would be considered a 'private performance' and not subject to copyright protection the fact of offering the functionality is not a violation of anything - except may be bad execution.

More thoughts/reaction and thoughts on Audible over at Teleread.org.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Swets Launch iPhone Access for 11,000 Journals

An interesting announcement from Swets that the contents of their journals database are available via the Apple iPhone and iTouch. Swets is a subscriptions management company serving the library and academic communities. It is not completely clear from this press release what additional functionality exists versus accessing the content via a browser.
Swets is pleased to announce SwetsWise Online Content can be accessed through the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch. Powered by SwetsWise Subscriptions, SwetsWise Online Content is a single point of contact to one of the most extensive collections of electronic journals currently available in the scholarly information market.

SwetsWise Online Content provides users with access to direct links for more than 11,000 journal titles − all from a seamless Web interface and through the convenience of their Personal Digital Assistant. Information users can search relevant online content, utilize multi-level linking, download subscription lists and much more.

“I am delighted SwetsWise Online Content is accessible through the iPhone and iPod Touch,” states Jose Luis Andrade, Swets North America President. “Now, SwetsWise Online Content users can effortlessly gain instant access to e-journals. This is one of the many ways Swets is in-sync to the world’s ever-changing technologies and supplying information users with innovative electronic solutions that help further support their organizations.”

SwetsWise Online Content offers over 25 million searchable references along with links to full-text articles through an intuitive Web interface. This service also provides informative usage statistics on each title, and includes fast access set-up for new electronic journal subscriptions.

In addition to SwetsWise Online Content, SwetsWise Subscriptions is also available through the iPhone and iPod Touch. Information users can manage their subscriptions, view publication schedules, check the title status to thousands of print and electronic content and many other SwetsWise Subscriptions functions.

The Apple iPhone 3G also support WiFi, a standard wireless connection that allows SwetsWise Online Content and SwetsWise Subscriptions access using IP authentication. Customers can easily facilitate research and view e-content.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Torstar Reports Harlequin Performance

From Torstar's Quarterly report and reporting on the performance of Harlequin:

Book Publishing revenues were up $9.6 million in 2008 excluding the impact of foreign exchange.
  • North America Retail was up $13.3 million,
  • North America Direct-To- Consumer was down $6.4 million and
  • Overseas was up $2.7 million.

Book Publishing operating profits were up $9.2 million in 2008 excluding the impact of foreign exchange.

  • North America Retail was up $8.6 million,
  • North America Direct-To- Consumer was down $0.6 million and
  • Overseas was up $1.2 million. North America Retail operating profits were up $8.6 million in 2008.

The increase was driven by higher revenues, including the effect of positive adjustments to prior period returns provisions, with more books sold in both series and single title formats.

Significant progress has been made in improving the efficiency of the retail business resulting in a higher percentage of books sold relative to books distributed. Promotional spending was higher in 2008, supporting the higher revenues. North America Direct-To-Consumer operating profits were down $0.6 million in 2008.

The traditional direct-to-consumer business continued to face the challenge of a declining customer base which was reflected in the lower revenues. Offsetting the revenue decline from fewer direct mail customers were improved payment rates and lower promotional costs resulting from smaller, more effective, direct mail campaigns. Internet sales were higher in the year for both printed and digital books.

Harlequin continues to expand its digital book sales releasing all new North American titles, more than 100 each month, in digital format. Overseas operating profit was up $1.2 million in 2008 with growth in most markets.

In 2008, the Japanese operation entered into an agreement with SoftBank Creative Corp., (a division of Softbank Corp., one of the largest providers of cell phone services in Japan) to distribute digital manga (comic) content on cell phones and Internet distribution sites. Contribution from this business more than offset lower book sales in Japan. The U.K. business faced the challenge of increased printing costs as the Pound Sterling depreciated in value relative to the Euro as well as higher provisions for bad debts due to the bankruptcy of one of their distributors. The Nordic group continued their trend of the past two years with growth in their markets. Investment spending in India was up slightly in 2008 as the business was launched in the first quarter of the year.

Press Release

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Pirate Bay

For those of you who think The Pirate Bay is a department store in Toronto and not perhaps the biggest challenge to content owners since Napster may want to read this post at E-Reads which describes the way The Bay works and discusses the case now proceeding in Sweden against the founders of the company. Here is a sample:
The Pirate Bay's advocacy for unrestricted file sharing is one of the most confounding issues for modern publishers with digital distribution. Evangelists for piracy appeal for protection by evoking moral outrage at the injustice of governments policing private communication and hindering fair use. And they raise some difficult questions: does DRM curb our most basic liberties to communicate and creatively manipulate new ideas? Is copyright unlawful? Is copyright infringement fair retribution for inefficient corporate distribution practices? Should governments keep all internet traffic private? A grassroots movement to protect the opportunity to share pirated files says the answer to all of the above is an overwhelming "yes."

All the defendants (Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström) sincerely believe they've done no wrong in ignoring all the requests from copyright holders to prevent the copyright abuse rampant among the Pirate Bay users (see their page of dozens of spurned "takedown" notices and Pirate Bay retorts - "Legal Threats Against The Pirate Bay").
Michael at E-Reads concludes:
Ultimately, The Pirate Bay is quickly becoming more than just another famous example of how the internet offers temptations to transgress social taboos and ignore local authority. Its enormous scale indicates that it has become the latest spearhead of a generation's full-on war against copyrights and preventions against theft. And, what's worse is that today's court battles can't represent the best defense when the real fight takes place daily in the minds of millions of tempted, anonymous internet users in homes around the world.
In addition, Wired has an article regarding a change in the charges that (they think) may stand a better chance of resulting in a conviction.

The prosecutor removed one sentence from the part of his summons where the purported crimes are described. Until Tuesday, it read:

"The Pirate Bay consists of three sub-components: an index portal in the form of a website with search functionality, a database with related directory containing the torrent files, and a tracker feature. The tracker feature creates a 'peer-to-peer' network of users who want to share the same file. All components are necessary for the users of the service to share files between them."

In the altered version, he removed the concluding sentence starting with "All components."

BISG Making Information Pay: May 7, 2009

The Book Industry Study Group is pleased to announce that the sixth annual Making Information Pay Conference will be held on Thursday, May 7, 2009, at the McGraw- Hill Auditorium in New York City.

The event will be preceded with an online survey that’s available now at BISG MIP 2009 Survey. The theme of this year’s conference is especially timely and topical—“Shifting Sales Channels.” The landscape for book publishing is changing rapidly; trading conditions have never been tougher and many traditional sales channels are shrinking or disappearing completely.

New sales channels and business models are emerging and many publishers are experimenting and reorganizing to capitalize on them. Making Information Pay 2009 will feature a lineup of book industry leaders sharing their insights into how they are responding to fading markets and emerging opportunities, and will provide practical advice on how companies are dealing with the far-reaching changes impacting the book business. Speakers and a full agenda will be announced at a later date.

All employees at publishers large and small are invited to participate in a nationwide survey to provide their experiences and opinions about the changing sales channels in our industry today. Survey questions cover a range of topics: which of today’s sales channels are trending up or down; what new channels are emerging that look particularly strong or promising; and how are publishers responding to the changes they see around them. Making Information Pay has become one of the leading events in the book industry’s calendar and is attended every year by hundreds of senior professionals eager to hear about new developments in our industry and about practical steps to benefit from them.

This year’s program is being organized in collaboration with The Idea Logical Company, and sponsored with the generous support of several known innovators in the book industry, including Copyright Clearance Center, Ingram Book Group, Klopotek, and R.R. Bowker. The Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) is the U.S. publishing industry’s leading trade association for policy, standards, and research.

The mission of BISG is to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry. Membership consists of publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, librarians and others engaged in the business of print and electronic media. Learn more about BISG at www.bisg.org.

Roy Blount Jr. and Text to Audio

In an Op/Ed in yesterday's NY Times Roy Blount Jr. current President of The Authors Guild comments on the text to audio functionality of the Kindle 2.

What the guild is asserting is that authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books. For this, the guild is being assailed. On the National Federation of the Blind’s Web site, the guild is accused of arguing that it is illegal for blind people to use “readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio.”

In fact, publishers, authors and American copyright laws have long provided for free audio availability to the blind and the guild is all for technologies that expand that availability. (The federation, though, points out that blind readers can’t independently use the Kindle 2’s visual, on-screen controls.) But that doesn’t mean Amazon should be able, without copyright-holders’ participation, to pass that service on to everyone.
Funny, he didn't mention how changing the font size might destroy the market for large print books. I wonder why no one is arguing "hey, you think that mechanized voice was good, how about buying the version read by Jim Dale"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Publishing And Out of Work

Publishers Weekly has put together a long (and possibly growing list) of contact details for people recently laid off from publishing companies. This is quite nice of them.

LINK

Jonathan Galassi Interviewed By Haaretz

Want to know more about Jonathan Galassi and the Macmillan/FSG company then read this article published in Haaretz
"It's really about cutting through the miasma of information to grab the reader's attention. And that is getting harder and harder to do."

Galassi bemoans the way nearly all American papers have cut back their coverage of books. This past Sunday, The Washington Post published the last edition of its Book World as a stand-alone section, leaving The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle as two of the few remaining U.S. papers printing separate book-review sections. (In Israel, Haaretz publishes a weekly book review in its Hebrew edition, and the monthly Books supplement in the English edition.)

Galassi suggests that the move is "short-sighted": It may be that book publishers have reduced their newspaper advertising, lowering the profitability of book sections for newspaper publishers, "but you know, a book review is not just about books, it's a forum for discussing ideas, for discussing culture in a different kind of way than you do in other pages." He notes that consumers these days turn to newspapers less for hard news, because they have other sources for immediate news delivery. So newspapers "are much more about context and interpretation." Which is what a good book review section has to offer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Shatzkin Files

No not some espionage novel, but Mike Shatzkin who has written here once or twice has joined the blogging community. His blog address is: http://www.idealog.com/blog/ and we will all be look forward to reading his views on the industry. (And it was nice of him to give me a call out).

Here are two of his past posts at Personanondata:

Borders Stickers Books, Why? (Perhaps a coincidence but this got a comment today).

Amazon and Book Pricing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Media Week 7: OCLC, Slate, EBook Pricing

For those with a bibliographic bent, ARL has published a short document on the proposed changes OCLC wanted to make to their data use. (Link)

A sample:
“Band’s explanation indicates that both are intended as contracts, and describes the various forms and gradations that can characterize a contract as “bilateral” or “unilateral.” The new Policy is clearly intended as a unilateral contract, unilaterally imposed on any entity using records from the WorldCat database, including member libraries. While the 1987 guidelines have also served as a unilateral contract—and have much substance in common with the new Policy—the OCLC-member community has not perceived them as such. The guidelines are both less “unilateral,” in that they grew from a known and more open process of debate, and less “legalistic” in language. With the enormous environmental and technological changes that have occurred in the 22 years (a generation) since the guidelines were introduced, the major differences in tone and language between the guidelines and the new Policy, and a number of significant differences in substance between the two documents, the new Policy cannot be viewed as a mere update describing already accepted practices. The member community has seen the introduction of the new Policy as a fundamental change in the nature of the relationship between OCLC and its member libraries. In the eyes of the community, the guidelines expressed a mutual social contract, and the new Policy represents an authoritarian, unilaterally imposed legal restriction.”
The writers of the report also indicate that the manner and method of OCLC’s policy making needs a revision in thinking. (See when you screw up sometimes the consequences are even bigger than you might anticipate).
The task force applauds OCLC’s recent announcement of delayed policy implementation and the creation of a Review Board on Principles of Shared Data creation and Stewardship. We hope that the Review Board will consider its timeline and process, as well as its recommendations on policy issues, in light of the analyses and findings of this report. We believe that, using as a base the work done to date on the proposed policy and the issues it raises, a fresh start to policy determination and articulation is desirable.
Peter Brantley has a more expansive reaction to the report and its implications. (Link)
And it is there that I feel more caution must be exercised. The research library community, particularly, has now smitten OCLC forcefully upon its head with the flat of Library's sword and advised that it must go back to the schoolhouse. There is a danger of over-reaction in this. It is one thing to tell OCLC that the community believes its licensing policy was a mistake, its tone too “unilateral” and not conversational, and its process (essentially) pig-headed. It is another to envelop OCLC’s management in restrictive committee-based decision-making over matters that are vital to its survival; the times demand effective leadership and far-sighted vision; libraries have too long emphasized diplomacy.
Read Slate's article Not all Information Wants to be Free (Link). It raises and interesting question in my mind: Is Apple iTunes platform a precursor to the Kindle platform?

That iTunes is a free-standing application and not contained inside a browser, as is the Amazon music store, is not accidental, and I reckon that its "outside the browser" design has played some role in its success. Consumers have been conditioned to think that content delivered by a browser is supposed to be free. They get annoyed when they encounter a pay wall on a browser but are more psychologically open to the nonbrowser Web interface.

By thinking outside the browser, Apple answers to nobody but itself when it wants to add features, such as movies and TV show sales and rentals—or when subtracting them. If the browser window is the commons, the iTunes application is Apple's castle, where you're expected to do as you're told.

Some interesting data points in the discussions between Youtube and Music publishers over revenue sharing: (Guardian)
To understand the implications of these terms for closing deals, consider the penny per-stream component. It amounts to $10 per 1,000 streams, or a $10 clicks per-thousand. This means that before the digital company makes any money on advertising it would have to pay the first $10 of the ultimate CPM to the labels, then split what's left 50/50. So, if YouTube were to sell a $20 CPM pre-roll on a music video, it would give the first $10 to the label then keep $5 of the remaining money. That's $15 to the label and $5 to YouTube, or an effective CPM of $5 on a pre-roll ad. That's not going to leave YouTube rolling in revenue, never mind profits. Throw in the fact that it has to pay millions of dollars upfront, and you can see why these talks are so strained.
A very interesting discussion at HarperStudio over eBook pricing. It is the comments that are most interesting. (26thStory) Here is Shatzkin:

Decisions about price aren’t about fairness or equity, they’re about the market. I want to read books on my device. I choose a) from what’s available, b) what I like, and c) considering the price. I remember when I first got this ebook habit nearly 10 years ago, I paid $28 for an ebook bio of Grover Cleveland because (a) was very limited, so (b) got down near zero, and I was wanted to read something so I yielded on (c).

The ebook world is going to change enormously over the next several years. We’re still in a great period of proliferation: of formats, titles, concepts for the books, retailers, retailing “styles”, readers and devices. The Kindle and iPhone have a kind of dominance in the tiny market we have now; they may or may not be number one in what will be a much larger market three or five years from now.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Swan Song for Sir Crispin

Reed Elsevier presented a robust end to 2008 with the presentation of their end of year numbers yesterday. In constant currencies, RE revenues were up 7% over 2007 and operating income was up 12%. Underlying results were slightly less at 4% and 9% respectively.

Reed Elsevier revenues finished the year at £5.3billion and earning per share were up 15% in constant currencies and the press release points out this is their highest growth in 10 yrs. As expected Elsevier, Lexis and Exhibitions all drove revenue and operating income growth and while Reed Business Information was the laggard the business hardly fell off a cliff during 2008.

From the press release:

“Reed Elsevier has had a very successful year with major progress in developing the business, and the strongest constant currency adjusted eps growth in a decade. Good revenue growth was seen across most of the business driven by the growing demand for online information and workflow solutions. The revenue growth and a strong focus on restructuring and cost management delivered meaningful margin improvement and the operating cash generation was excellent. Whilst the economic environment has become progressively more challenging, our business is more resilient than most and we are in a strong financial position.
The year saw demonstrable progress across the business from our continued investment in new content and online product development. In Elsevier, subscription renewals reached record levels whilst other online solutions for the scientific and healthcare communities grew rapidly. Online legal information solutions have continued to expand, and there is growing demand for information analytics in the risk market. In legal research we see significant opportunities for more intuitive and interoperable offerings to enhance customer productivity and are stepping up our investment to reflect this. Reed Exhibitions had an exceptional year including the benefit of non annual shows cycling in. Reed Business Information held up well for most of the year, helped by the strong growth of its significant online franchises. In the last quarter, however, the business increasingly felt the impact on advertising markets of the global downturn.

The year has also seen a major reshaping of our business with completion of the sale of the remaining Harcourt Education businesses and the acquisition of ChoicePoint. ChoicePoint transforms our position in the risk information and analytics sector and the strategic and financial benefits are very attractive. The business has performed well with the insurance data and services business, which accounts for the substantial majority of ChoicePoint’s operating profits, delivering 10% year-on-year organic revenue growth. The integration with our existing risk business is progressing well and we are confident of achieving our savings and returns targets. We were disappointed not to be able to sell Reed Business Information but the macro-economic environment and poor credit market conditions made it too difficult to structure a transaction on acceptable terms. Whilst the short term outlook for RBI is very challenging, RBI is a high quality business, with a strong management team and a record of success in developing online services. It remains our intention to divest RBI in the medium term when conditions are more favourable.
Buried in the report was also the expected news that RE have reduced what was a $300mm (€230mm) investment in Harcourt parent Education Media and Publishing Group (EMPG) to just €15m. The equity stake that RE was forced to take in Harcourt when the business was sold represented just less than 12%. Companies do use their own judgment (there are FASB rules) when re-evaluating the value of third party investments like this one however, this action isn't likely to impress the bankers who lent $7Billion to EMPG for their acquisition spree.

Management Powerpoint Presentation

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Source Interlink Expands!

The anti-trust suit that Source Interlink bought against Time and several other publishers two weeks ago has been dropped - although the press release only refers to Time. Readers may recall that SI received a preliminary injunction that forced SI's existing customers to continue shipping product to them. According to the press release the company's used the strength of their long standing relationship to reach an agreement on a multi-year contract. No comment about whether SI has been successful in imposing any additional fee on Time Warner as part of this agreement. Speculation would be that if they have it will not be as high per unit ($0.07 per copy)and it will not kick in immediately. If this improves the magazine supply chain at all it will be a good thing.

From their press release:
"I am happy to make this announcement because it means the continuation of what has been a mutually beneficial relationship. We have enjoyed working with our partners at Time and plan to keep working with them for many years to come," declared Greg Mays, Chairman and CEO of Source. "This agreement is effective immediately and assures that we can continue to supply all our mainstream, specialty and international customers with the popular Time titles."
In addition (and hence the post title) SI appears to have picked up a number of important distribution clients out of the rubble that was Anderson News' magazine distribution business. From the press release:
In a separate story, Source Interlink Companies today reported that its magazine distribution unit, Source Interlink Distribution (SID), has been awarded important new business from Wal-Mart Stores, Kroger / Fry's Companies and Basha's Supermarkets. This additional business increases SID's store count by 662 stores in 9 states.

Borders Reduces Corporate Staffing

Here is the corporate announcement from Borders. We sincerely hope it doesn't go any further.
Borders Group today announced that it has reduced its corporate workforce by another 136 positions, which were eliminated effective today. The majority of the jobs, which represent about 12% of the corporate workforce but less than 1% of the company’s total workforce, are based at the company’s headquarters in Ann Arbor. The workforce reduction was spread across virtually all business areas, including marketing, human resources, field management and corporate sales. The reductions were made at various ranks, ranging from entry level to middle management. Affected employees are being offered transition pay, severance and job placement assistance.

Today’s changes follow the company’s announcement just over two weeks ago that several top-level corporate positions had been eliminated to reduce management layers and help drive expense reductions. “While reducing payroll is never easy and we respect the impact it has on employees and their families, it is one of the necessary steps we must take along with other non-payroll expense reductions to help get this company back on track financially,” said Chief Executive Officer Ron Marshall. “In this time of transition, I greatly admire the tenacity and focus that employees at all levels here have shown as we drive to significantly reduce expenses and bring other key financial measures in line. We will continue to move forward with deliberate speed to make the changes required to get Borders back on firm financial footing.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Teleread on Amazon's Long Play

An excellent and enjoyable look at Amazon's strategy from Aaron Miller writing on the Teleread.org blog:

Interestingly enough, the Online Reader is also what authors can use to preview Kindle publications on the Digital Text Platform, Amazon’s foray into the self-publishing market. But it has all the appearances of a parallel project, something to enable reading on devices other than the Kindle. Clicking on the "Your online books" button exposes a "Media Library" and CoverFlow-like book list, which you can populate with books you’ve already purchased. Provided you’ve purchased the upgrade and the print version of the book AND the book is eligible for online access (up to publishers probably), you can read it in the Online Reader for less than $9.99, with highlighting and social annotations and bookmarking.

The Reader, DTP, Search Inside and Amazon Upgrade all have a rudimentary, R & D feel, even though some of them have been around for awhile. They’re loosely connected when used as free services, and yet as revenue generators, they’re dependent on each other in a baroque way that creates barriers to consumer adoption. This stifling of adoption on the part of a giant like Amazon seems deliberate, the equivalent of throttling certain latent channels in order to allow another to flow more primarily. The undeniable truth of all of them together which would steal the Kindle’s thunder is that they do indeed allow you to read your Amazon purchases in digital form, without purchasing a Kindle. It’s easy to overlook this capability given the lack of content and promotion for these peripheral products Amazon has. But it seems clear that they each figure into a longer-term strategy. They could easily be brought together and streamlined into a huge force in the digital book market if the right circumstances were first created and nurtured by the Kindle. Thus the name.

Thoughts on Tools of Change

At The Digitalist James Long summarizes very nicely some of the themes from the conference. They echo some of my thoughts on my "Presuming" blog post (and I wasn't even at TOC).

Link

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Memorial Service for Jean Srnecz

BISG informed me of a service to remember Jean Srnecz. The following is from Michael Healy with the details on the arrangements:

Remembering Jean Srnecz

As some of you may already know, Jean Srnecz, Senior Vice-President of merchandising at Baker & Taylor and a longstanding Director of the Book Industry Study Group, was among those who tragically lost their lives in the crash of Continental flight 3407 on February 12.

Jean spent more than 30 years at Baker & Taylor and for many in our industry was the public face of that company. She believed passionately in contributing to the development of our industry and it was this belief that led her to play such an important role in BISG, in the Educational Paperbacks Association and in other industry groups.

Jean was not only a member of the BISG Board, but also a long-time member of our Executive Committee, a small group of industry leaders who guide our organization. In that role, Jean was a loyal and committed supporter of our work over a long period of time, and an insightful adviser.

For me personally, she was a generous source of sound advice from the time I joined BISG in 2006 to last Tuesday, when we spoke for the last time. Everyone at BISG will miss Jean, and on behalf of the organization she supported so strongly, I offer our sincere condolences to her family, her colleagues at B&T, and all her friends in the book industry.

Colleagues at Baker & Taylor have provided the following information about a Memorial Service for Jean:

Saturday February 21st and Sunday February 22nd 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm
Wood Funeral Home
784 Main Street East Aurora, NY

Funeral Mass – Monday February 23rd 11:00 am
St. Cecelia’s Roman Catholic Church
991 Centerline Road Sheldon, NY

A further service in New Jersey is planned but at this time no details are available.

Memorial Contributions may be made to the following organizations: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, 5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 250, Dallas, TX 75244 or Mortel Family Charitable Foundation, PO Box 405, Hershey, PA 17033

Michael Healy Executive Director, BISG.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Media Week 6: Borders, SharedBook, Tools of Change

Ingram Digital Chief Commercial Officer Frank Daniels has done an audio interview with Karen Holt at Teleread.org and among the topics covered are the following:

–Frank’s most recent title. “If it has to do with customers, it has has to do with me.” Earlier he was chief operating officer of Ingram Digital.

–E-newspapers vs. e-books—how they differ. Frank worked for both the editorial and business sides of the Raleigh News & Observer, which his family owned for many decades.

–Ingram Digital’s VitalSource e-reading software, whose interactive capabilities are especially useful in education-related apps, such as dental training. See video for more. Ingram bought VitalSource Technologies, of which Frank was president and CEO, in 2006.

–E-book prices, which he notes range widely. “E-books are going to be priced on convenience more than they’re going to be priced on format.”

–Kindle vs. iPhone. The device “that’s going to prevail has not been invented yet.” In fact, he’s doubts that the industry will standardize on a particular device the way the Apple iPod dominates music.

–DRM. Frank’s unabashedly pro. His DRM comments begin just short of nine minutes into the interview. Listen carefully. and please be civil in our comments section if you’d like to respond. “We’ve not seen DRM to be any kind of barrier to a sale.”

Borders' is able to extend the terms of their agreement with Pershing Square. It costs them $750,000 for expenses. The company now has until April 15th to repay a $42.5mm secured term loan. Coupled with this agreement the companies also agreed to extend the option to sell to Pershing the PaperChase business. Reuters

Two businesses that were attempting to develop music and video "library" services on college campuses have folded. This week Cdigix sited the bad economy for their closure (Chronicle)

Cdigix, a company that focused on selling a service to colleges to place movies and music on reserve online for students, quietly ceased operations at the end of December and is in the process of dissolving. It cited a lack of clients and an inability to raise money to continue. The company initially offered an online music service for colleges, but it ended that service about two years ago to focus on offering reserves of electronic media.

Mark Brodsky, president and chief operating officer of Cdigix, said in an interview today that the company was “a casualty of the economic times.” It had about 25 to 30 colleges either signed up for the service or were testing it, he said, but customers were notified at the end of last year that the service would shut down.

Another service Ruckus also closed this week (Chronicle):
Colleges began signing up for Ruckus five years ago, and in 2005, almost one in five was considering a subscription to a music or movie service, according to a survey by the education-technology group Educause. At first Ruckus charged for campus wide access, but by 2006 it had shifted its focus from site licenses to advertising, still requiring colleges to sign deals, but not to pay.
SharedBook launched Smart Button technology a streamlined implementation of the SharedBook platform that, (SharedBook)
allows partners to apply SharedBook's customized creation capabilities with minimal resource application and maximum flexibility, delivering new revenue sources.

Initially, Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors will use Smart Button to create a new line of books culled from their vast troves of content, arrayed to illuminate specific topics for their customers. Soon, visitors to Britannica.com will also have the ability to use Smart Button to make their own works, by selecting various articles and content, and with one click, add them to a custom, one-of-a-kind volume. "Smart Button turns the historical process of publishing a book on its ear, bringing specialized content to our users faster than ever before", said Joe Miller, Managing Director of Encyclopaedia Britannica's Consumer Division.
In addition to EB, Legacy.com and Sohio

Blackwell was accused of 'dechristianising' their Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Guardian):
The Encyclopedia's editor-in-chief, George Kurian, claims that under pressure from an anti-Christian lobby, Blackwell decided that entries in the four-volume book were "too Christian, too orthodox, too anti-secular and too anti-Muslim and not politically correct enough for being used in universities". Kurian also claims that the press wants to delete words including "Antichrist", "Virgin Birth", "Resurrection", "Evangelism" and "Beloved Disciple" from the book, as well as objecting to "historical references to the persecution and massacres of Christians by Muslims".
Proceedings from last weeks Tools of Change Presentations. (TOC)

Eduardo Porter writing in the New York Times on what Newspapers do (NYT):

Companies in countries with a larger daily newspaper circulation are fairer to minority shareholders and have a better record responding to environmental concerns. And a 2000 study by Timothy Besley and Robin Burgess of the London School of Economics proved Sen to be right: governments in India provide more public food and disaster relief in hard times in states where newspaper circulation is higher.

It’s easy to forget the role of an independent press in the development of democratic institutions in the United States. Through much of the 19th century, newspapers were mostly partisan mouthpieces. But as circulation and advertising grew, they shed political allegiances and started competing for customers by investigating shady deals and taking up populist causes.
Thinking about The Satanic Versus (BBC):

For Professor John Sutherland, critic and Booker prize judge, The Satanic Verses should now be seen as Rushdie's best novel, prophetic and the fruit of his obsession with on the one hand the magic of the Arabian Nights and on the other the literal truth claimed for the Koran.

"Rushdie is fascinated in the way that novels are true and the ways in which they become true through multiple untruths," he said.

"People looking for something offensive, heretical or blasphemous won't find it. It's not a diatribe, a calculated insult. It's an extremely good novel."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jean Srnecz Dies In Crash

Noted via Publisher's Lunch the very sad news that Jean Srnecz SVP Merchandising at B&T was aboard the Continental flight that crashed in Buffalo. I didn't know Jean well but served on the BISG board with her and also sat with her on numerous panels. She was very well respected by me and many in the industry and all will mourn her loss.

Here is a statement for Baker & Taylor:

Baker & Taylor Mourns the Loss of SVP of Merchandising Jean Srnecz
Baker & Taylor, Inc.( 02/13/2009 )

CHARLOTTE, NC, February 13, 2009 - Baker & Taylor, Inc., the world's largest wholesale distributor of books and entertainment products, today mourns the loss of SVP of Merchandising Jean Srnecz. Srnecz was among the passengers of Continental Flight 3407, which crashed late Thursday night outside the Buffalo airport.

"We are all tremendously shocked and saddened at this terrible loss," said CEO Tom Morgan. "Jean was extremely highly regarded throughout the industry. She had tremendous industry expertise and was integral to Baker & Taylor's strategic growth, but was also valued as a kind and good person by all who knew her. She will be greatly missed by scores of people throughout our industry, and especially throughout our company. Our thoughts and prayers remain with her family."

Srnecz held many positions during her 33-year career at Baker & Taylor, ascending to SVP of Merchandising in 2001. She served on the boards of the Book Industry Study Group and Educational Paperback Association.

"I worked alongside Jean for 30 years and there was no one more knowledgeable and respected, as a professional and a person," said Baker & Taylor President Arnie Wight. "Jean truly loved this business and was loved by many in it. She will be sorely missed."

In her most recent position, Srnecz was responsible for all buying and inventory management activities, including Children's, General Interest, Adult, Academic, Professional, Higher Education, Mass Market and Audio. She was also responsible for Publisher Services, Publisher Sales Reporting, Inventory Analysis, Publisher Relations, and Advertising in B&T publications.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Source Interlink Wins Temporary Restraining Order

Lawyers representing the publishers in the suit brought by Source Interlink have been able to convince a Judge that the case should be heard in New York rather than Florida. Subsequently, the judge in the case agreed to an 'expedited' temporary restraining order requiring publishers to continue to ship their magazines to Source Interlink per their existing distribution agreements. A longer preliminary injunction hearing is set for February 23rd. (BusinessWire). It's probably never a good thing to sue your customers and one wonders how SI is ever going to regain publishers confidence regardless of the outcome of this legal tussle.

Time, American Media, Hachette Filipacchi, and Bauer are the major publishers currently using SI and must comply with this order.

ABA Takes it on the Chin for Booksellers

The ABA is reducing annual membership fees by 50% and implementing an assortment of other cost cutting programs to "to help and support booksellers in these extraordinarily difficult economic times." ABA

Among the policies they are implementing are the following:
  1. Institution of a hiring freeze, resulting in a reduction of ABA staff by 5-1/2 FTE (full-time equivalents) -- or 12 percent -- achieved through attrition.
  2. Implementation of a total wage freeze.
  3. Suspension of ABA contributions to the association's 401(k) and SEP plans.
  4. Elimination of all discretionary travel.
  5. Elimination of all discretionary spending unless prior approval from the CEO or COO is obtained.
  6. Increased implementation of web-based communication and webinars for delivery of ABA education programs.
  7. Cancellation of ABA's annual spring forum schedule.
  8. Revamping of the group medical benefit, with a move to a higher deductible and the implementation of a Health Savings Plan.
The organization has attributed the 50% dues reduction to the 2009 calendar year and has said any new members during this time would also pay the lower rate. Any member that had the temerity to pay already have paid their 2009 dues will get a refund. The announcement did not make any note of the current search for a CEO and whether that position was to be amended in any way as a result of these changes.

All Together Now: Apologize!

In the Independent this week Michael Bywater discusses the Apology Culture. Over here, with just this week everyone from the President to A-Rod, apologizing this op-ed is just as relevant. Here is a sample:

The apology has become the defining gesture of the age. Russell Brand had to apologise for making off-colour remarks. Jeremy Clarkson – a man who would eat his own testicles rather than petition for an apology, even though he'd have to remove them from his own personal brain where they've been living for all these years – had to apologise for making a startlingly fine joke about lorry drivers, and, subsequently for calling Gordon Brown a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" at a press conference in Australia. His calling Gordon Brown a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" would probably have escaped much attention had it not been for the BBC – powerfully complicit in driving the Apology Culture – publishing on its website a video of Clarkson calling Gordon Brown a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" accompanied by a story saying that Clarkson's calling Gordon Brown a "one-eyed Scottish idiot" had "provoked anger in Scotland".

We might find some comfort across the Atlantic, where the Apology Culture has become even tackier and more insane than here. President Obama apologised for the sins of his cabinet appointees, on five different TV networks in seven different ways. This wasn't for something he had done. It wasn't for something other people had done who had falsely got into positions of power. Obama was apologising for something two other people had done who hadn't got into positions of power because what they'd done had been found out. So what (we might ask) was President Obama actually apologising for?

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln's Birthday

There's been so much written about Lincoln this year it is no surprise that there is more attention paid to his birth date than (perhaps) normal. OUP has a series of three articles beginning with this one on the President where they interview Allen Guelzo, author of Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction.

Often cited is the fact that Lincoln is the most written about historical figure. Well with little to interest myself last weekend I took a look at BIP via the New York Public Library. According to the database (and this is an unscientific query), there are 1,577 active titles, 25 forthcoming and 519 inactive nonfiction hard or soft cover books on the President. That's a lot especially compared with some other notables such as Washington (1480 active), WSChurchill (521), Napoleon (1143) and Hitler (805). I checked "God" just in case and he/she has 8,312 although I am not sure how those are classified.

OCLC's identities also shows an interesting perspective on books about and by Lincoln. Here. They show fully 18,714 works in 26,693 publications in 66 languages and 1,036,286 library holding. The identities shows how constant has been the flow of books about Lincoln over the past 100 years. It looks like there is always between 350 - 450 new Lincoln books per year.

TOC Summary

Publishing Trends summarizes some of the sessions at this week's TOC conference in NYC.

Link.

Also, if you didn't attend (or even if you did) here is the link to the presentations. Very good of them to make these available.

TOC

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jane Austin Goes all Zombie

Chronicle books for reasons unknown is to re-tell Pride and Prejudice as a Zombie novel. Mr. Darcy comes up all blood sucking. From their catalog:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans.
The 'author' is one Seth Grahame-Smith who has penned some notibles such as How to Survive a Horror Movie and - get this - The Big Book of Porn. And, that's a double entrende that would perhaps escape both Janey and Mr Darcy. Do we really need this?

BookExpo In New York

This news will come as a nice surprise to publishers weighing the continued benefits of BookExpo given the show was scheduled to visit Washington and Las Vegas in the next several years. From their press release, BookExpo has announced that the show will take up semi-permanent residence in New York.
BookExpo America has announced that it is moving the show to New York City where it will take place at the Jacob K. Javits Center through 2012. The show was previously scheduled to take place in Washington DC in 2010 and Las Vegas in 2011. In so doing, show organizers are also re-shaping the convention so that it will now occur on a shortened schedule during the work week.

The next BEA, which had already been scheduled to take place in New York City in 2009 and which will include all the leading publishers, will take place, as has been announced, on Friday, May 29 – Sunday, May 31. It will not be affected by the strategic change in scheduling. As always, there will be a full day of conference on Thursday, May 28 before the exhibit floor opens.

The new schedule means that BEA will have New York City as its home for the next four years in a row. BEA Show officials note that they are keeping their options open with regard to dates and location after 2012. The dates for BEA through 2012 are as follows: 2010: Conference/Special Events and Show Preview Tuesday May 25th (exhibit hours 4-6pm), Wednesday, May 26th (9-6 show hours), Thursday, May 27th (9-5 show hours). 2011: Conference/Special Events and Show Preview Tuesday May 24th (exhibit hours 4-6pm), Wednesday, May 25th (9-6 show hours), Thursday, May 26th (9-5 show hours). 2012: Conference/Special Events and Show Preview Wednesday May 30th (exhibit hours 4-6pm), Thursday, May 31st (9-6 show hours), Friday, June 1st (9-5 show hours).

“We feel that this is a move that is timely and responsive to industry needs,” notes Lance Fensterman, Industry Vice President and Show Manager for BookExpo America. “It makes sense on a multitude of levels, not the least of which is that it will provide the majority of our exhibitors with a cost reduction, as well as more flexibility in managing their presence at the show. We wanted to take decisive action in setting our future course and this is our first major step towards a new vision for BEA for years to come. New York City is also the publishing capital and we are anxious to build a strong identity between New York and BEA. There is a significant media presence in New York City and we would like to take advantage of this, not only by building media attendance, but by involving the media in a substantive way in our programming.”

Monday, February 09, 2009

Kindle 2 Hype

Several sites have been live blogging the kindle 2 launch (Bits) (CNet) and at the presentation Jeff Bezos was supported by none other than Stephen King who extolled the virtues of said gadget. From their press release here are some highlights:
Kindle 2, the new reading device that offers Kindle’s revolutionary wireless delivery of content in a new slim design with longer battery life, faster page turns, over seven times more storage, sharper images, and a new read-to-me feature. Kindle 2 is purpose-built for reading with a high-resolution 6-inch electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, which lets users read for hours without the eyestrain caused by reading on a backlit display. More than 230,000 books are now available in the Kindle Store, including 103 of 110 current New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases, which are typically $9.99. Top U.S. and international magazines and newspapers plus more than 1,200 different blogs are also available. Kindle 2 is available for pre-order starting today for $359
Bezos said he wants to provide every book ever published available for download in 60seconds or less. Among the features touted; it is about the width of a number 2 pencil, lighter than any book of similar size, has 2gig of memory, 25% more battery life that is said to last 14 days, a 250K dictionary, text to speech that enables a reader to listen to the book rather than read. 1200 blogs are available on the device as well as magazines and newspapers which are available for separate additional subscriptions. Pricing remains the same as the earlier version and the company is giving preferential treatment to current owners who want to upgrade. Not a price break but you get to go to the head of the line.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Anderson News Folds the Tent

Anderson News has given up and ceased magazine distribution operations as of Sunday. PND Readers may recall that competing magazine distributor Source Interlink and Anderson wanted to impose a 7cent per copy tax on all magazines they distributed. None of their clients seemed to agree with this and have moved their operations to other providers. From MediaWeek:
The move was far from unexpected. Industry observers have predicted that Anderson, along with Source Interlink Cos., would be forced to shut down after leading newsstand publishers Time Inc., Bauer Publishing and American Media Inc. refused to meet the wholesalers’ demands back in January for an extra 7 cents per copy to deliver their magazines to the nation’s retailers.

The debacle has wreaked havoc on the nation’s newsstand sales, as Time Inc. and co. are expected to see a short-term loss of sale as a result of their wholesaler change.

The latest move by Anderson raises new questions for Comag Marketing Group, which represents Hearst Magazines, Condé Nast and Wenner Media titles. As of the week of Feb. 2, Comag was still relying on Anderson and Source to deliver their magazines.
The disagreement has left magazine publishers scrambling to identify alternative distributors (Anderson and Source represent about 50% of the market) but also to placate advertisers who will be closely watching the amount of lost newsstand sales if titles are not on store shelves when promised (or at all). If rate bases are not met a publisher will be obliged to rebate some amount of the advertising paid by advertisers. In this environment where titles are already perilously thin this is the last thing any publisher will want to contemplate. The SI swim suit issue comes out Feb 1oth which represents big money for Time and they will want to have this situation solved quickly.

There is also the situation with mass market book titles which have had little mention in this disagreement. Without the carry over from the magazine scale, it is doubtful Anderson would continue with books by themselves.

Earlier in the week WalMart indicated many of their customers would have to do without People Magazine (whatever will they do?). (NYPost - with cheesy picture of Ron Burkle)

Wal-Mart, the single-biggest magazine retailer in the country, will be without copies of People, Sports Illustrated and Time. They will also not have Bauer Publications' In Touch and Life & Style, and American Media-owned Star and National Enquirer.

While it's too early to know how many of Wal-Mart's 4,200 US stores will be affected, it appears a majority of them will be.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman confirmed that some stores are expected to be without magazines this week, but did not offer specifics on the titles or how many stores will be affected.

Early in the week, Source Interlink denied it would exit the business. MediaWeek

Media Week 5: Banned Books, AA Travel Guides, Newspapers

The Times reports on the most stolen books from bookstores. Now they know which books to place up front with the condoms and razor blades (never figured that combo out myself).

The “pocketing potential” of a book seems to relate to its resale value. Many of the booksellers who took part in the survey are convinced that a thriving black market for books exists - according to them, illicit sales are made mainly in pubs, where disorientated consumers are happy to buy maps, travel guides and the latest Harry Potter for their children from a network of book thieves selling at bargain prices.

Paranoia or conspiracy? In 2004 a man was jailed after it was revealed that he ran a gang of thieves who stole Lonely Planet travel guides to order. He had sold an estimated 35,000 stolen books a year.

Some think the AA travel guides are consorting with the enemy and have become less objective since a private equity buy-out. Typically, blame the Americans. (Telegraph)
“This is typical of American-style private equity action,” said Paul Maloney, national secretary of the GMB (AA section), the union recognised by the AA until the private equity takeover. “[Their view seems to be] 'We’ve got a company, we’re going to strip it of what we like in order to turn a profit.’”
11th Circuit Court upholds Cuban book ban in Miami Dade elementary schools (AP). Luckily, according to Worldcat.org there are at least 300 other copies available for inter-library loan.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Miami-Dade County School District wouldn't be infringing freedom of speech rights by removing 49 copies of "Vamos a Cuba" and its English-language version, "A Visit to Cuba," from its libraries. The board has argued that the books, for children ages 5 to 8, present an inaccurate view of life in Cuba.

The board voted to remove the book in 2006 after a parent who was a former political prisoner in Cuba complained. A federal judge in Miami later ruled that the board should add books of different perspectives instead of removing offending titles.

Walter Isaacson on saving the nations newspapers. (Time). Almost since 'last Tuesday' there seems to have been a rising tide of stories about how newspapers need to charge for their content. I think that is a good thing. Isaacson sees an iTunes and micropayments type solution.

What Internet payment options are there today? PayPal is the most famous, but it has transaction costs too high for impulse buys of less than a dollar. The denizens of Facebook are embracing systems like Spare Change, which allows them to charge their PayPal accounts or credit cards to get digital currency they can spend in small amounts. Similar services include Bee-Tokens and Tipjoy. Twitter users have Twitpay, which is a micropayment service for the micromessaging set. Gamers have their own digital currencies that can be used for impulse buys during online role-playing games. And real-world commuters are used to gizmos like E-ZPass, which deducts automatically from their prepaid account as they glide through a highway tollbooth.

Under a micropayment system, a newspaper might decide to charge a nickel for an article or a dime for that day's full edition or $2 for a month's worth of Web access. Some surfers would balk, but I suspect most would merrily click through if it were cheap and easy enough.

Melbourne Fires

In the last few weeks forest fires have spread across the Australian states of Victoria and South Australia. The devastation has been horrific and the death toll has surpassed 100 and represents the worse killing spree in Australian history. Bush fires in Australian can move incredibly fast due to wind but also to the oil in the prevalent eucalyptus trees. These 'gum' trees will literally explode when the temperature reaches a certain point and thus travel from tree top to tree top at a tremendous rate.

Another aspect has been the continual dry weather and high temperatures. When I lived in Melbourne in the mid 1970s we had top days but the temperature rare got above 95. Yesterday the temperature in Melbourne was 117. North of Melbourne the town of Marysville has been wiped off the map with every house and business torched. ABC Television. TheAge Video

We have family and friends down there and my friend Richard noted some of his staff have lost family in the fires. A very sad situation.

Friday, February 06, 2009

News Corp Reports 2Q

Suggesting headcount reductions were on the way, Rupert Murdoch commented that they don't run fat during their presentation of the company's second quarter numbers. Speaking about cost cutting,
We are taking them out everywhere. I mean, I am at Australia at the moment and the local management is in the process of combining all their back offices between the States and (Inaudible). There are many different processes we are doing. That goes right across the company, which is going to save a lot of people and a lot of money. And there are little things, the Wall Street Journal, there are so many numerous small things. We are combining in the back office, the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, which will eventually save about $7 million, certainly $4.5 million in the immediate future. We have also negotiated -- nearly renegotiated nearly all of our delivery contractors across the whole of United States with a saving just starting now of $5 million a year. And it goes on and on. It seems like we are chiseling away at small things, but they do add up to a lot of money.
Due to a non cash impairment write down the company reported a operating income of loss of $7.6billion versus operating income of $1.4billion in the same quarter last year. Without the impairment charge operating income of $818million was 42% lower than the same period last year. Results were off in all divisions except magazines and inserts.

Commenting specifically on publishing,
Turning to the book publishing segment, second quarter operating income contributions were down $44 million compared to last year. This decline reflects the weaker retail book market, the lack of comparable strong releases versus a year ago and a charge of $6 million for the bankruptcy of a customer.
Conf Call Transcript: SeekingAlpha.

From the company's press release:
BOOK PUBLISHING

HarperCollins operating income decreased $44 million versus the same period a year
ago due to lower sales driven by the weakening retail market as well as a difficult
comparison to a year ago that included strong sales of The Daring Book for Girls by
Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden and Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. In addition, segment profits for the quarter were down due to charges related to the bankruptcy of a major UK distributor.

Second quarter results included solid sales of The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb, A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff and Multiple Blessings by Jon and Kate Gosselin and Beth Carson. During the quarter, HarperCollins had 50 books on The New York Times bestseller list, including six books that reached the #1 spot.
(The $6mm charge for the bankruptcy would be related to Bertram in the UK).

First half revenues for the publishing group were $620mm versus $736mm in the prior year and operating income was $26mm versus $103mm.

NY Times article on News Corp/Dow Jones.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Google Book Machine

There has been a lot of competition in getting book content on your mobile or making you mobile with your library of book content. Since the launch of the Kindle and book reader apps on the iPhone the mobile book has been a little bit of a battle ground. In the background has been the not inconsiderable presence of Google which has of course been creating a very large content repository. That aces the reader applications (and always will).

The one interesting aspect of the last few months activity has been that there has been few competitive moves into the mobile space by Google. This despite the fact that Google has invested millions in the development of a new mobile platform named Android. (I have had a draft half written post for months titled 'Does your Android read?'). Today Google announced that they have opened up part of their considerable book database to mobile readers. The company says that they have over 1.5million out of copyright books which will now be available to mobile readers. Perhaps that's not that appealing to anyone looking for the recent Patterson title but Google's ambitions are far more expansive than that. Indeed, Google has cornered the base of the pyramid of content and adding successive layers on top will be only a matter of time.

From their blog post:
One of the great things about an iPhone or Android phone is being able to play Pacman while stuck in line at the post office. Sometimes though, we yearn for something more than just playing games or watching videos.

What if you could also access literature's greatest works, such as Emma and The Jungle Book, right from your phone? Or, some of the more obscure gems such as Mark Twain's hilarious travelogue, Roughing It? Today we are excited to announce the launch of a mobile version of Google Book Search, opening up over 1.5 million mobile public domain books in the US (and over half a million outside the US) for you to browse while buying your postage.
Given Google's technical expertise, this content, including all the newer stuff, will be arranged and rearranged in all sorts of ways that will benefit readers. That may not be the case with the content on some of the other platforms. And don't forget that Android is an open platform so there is no telling what application developers will come up up. Certainly, the size of the Google library will be a significant differentiator over the others but given the recent agreement with publishers over the copyright issue, the content pool is likely to get much bigger.

Horizon Report on Education

Last week at the SIIA conference, Marjorie Scardino mentioned a recent report from Horizon about technology trends to watch in education. Here is a summary of the technolgies to watch:
  • Mobiles. Already considered as another component of the network on many campuses, mobiles continue to evolve rapidly. New interfaces, the ability to run third-party applications, and location-awareness have all come to the mobile device in the past year, making it an ever more versatile tool that can be easily adapted to a host of tasks for learning, productivity, and social networking. For many users, broadband mobile devices like the iPhone have already begun to assume many tasks that were once the exclusive province of portable computers.
  • Cloud Computing. The emergence of large-scale “data farms” — large clusters of networked servers — is bringing huge quantities of processing power and storage capacity within easy reach. Inexpensive, simple solutions to offsite storage, multi-user application scaling, hosting, and multi-processor computing are opening the door to wholly different ways of thinking about computers, software, and files.
  • Geo-Everything. Geocoded data has many applications, but until very recently, it was time-consuming and difficult for non-specialists to determine the physical coordinates of a place or object, and options for using that data were limited. Now, many common devices can automatically determine and record their own precise location and can save that data along with captured media (like photographs) or can transmit it to web-based applications for a host of uses. The full implications of geo-tagging are still unfolding, but the impact in research has already been profound.
  • The Personal Web. Springing from the desire to reorganize online content rather than simply viewing it, the personal web is part of a trend that has been fueled by tools to aggregate the flow of content in customizable ways and expanded by an increasing collection of widgets that manage online content. The term personal web was coined to represent a collection of technologies that are used to configure and manage the ways in which one views and uses the Internet. Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, it is easy to create a customized, personal web-based environment — a personal web — that explicitly supports one’s social, professional, learning, and other activities.
  • Semantic-Aware Applications. New applications are emerging that are bringing the promise of the semantic web into practice without the need to add additional layers of tags, identifiers, or other top-down methods of defining context. Tools that can simply gather the context in which information is couched, and that use that context to extract embedded meaning are providing rich new ways of finding and aggregating content. At the same time, other tools are allowing context to be easily modified, shaped, and redefined as information flows are combined.
  • Smart Objects. Sometimes described as the “Internet of things,” smart objects describe a set of technologies that is imbuing ordinary objects with the ability to recognize their physical location and respond appropriately, or to connect with other objects or information. A smart object “knows” something about itself — where and how it was made, what it is for, where it should be, or who owns it, for example — and something about its environment. While the underlying technologies that make this possible — RFID, QR codes, smartcards, touch and motion sensors, and the like — are not new, we are now seeing new forms of sensors, identifiers, and applications with a much more generalizable set of functionalities.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dayton Literary Prize

Giving authors an opportunity to join the ranks of luminaries like Studs Terkel and Elie Wiesel and acclaimed new talents like Edwidge Danticat and Brad Kessler, The Dayton Literary Peace Prize today launched its call for submissions for 2009’s best fiction and nonfiction works that promote peace and non-violent conflict resolution.

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. It was founded in 2006 as an outgrowth of the Dayton Peace Prize, which commemorates the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords ending the war in Bosnia.

Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium and will be honored at a gala ceremony in Dayton on Sunday, November 8th, 2009.

As part of the kick-off for this year’s call for submissions, organizers also announced the launch of a Nominating Academy to ensure that the widest possible cross-section of books is considered for this year’s prize. Members of the Nominating Academy include a diverse mix of leaders from the literary, publishing, and progressive worlds including: authors Alan Cheuse (NPR’s “Voice of Books”), Amy Hempel, Brad Kessler (2007 fiction winner for Birds in Fall), and Mark Kurlansky (2007 nonfiction winner for Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea); Lea Thau, executive director of The Moth; WETA’s books blogger Bethanne Patrick, and Susannah Lupert, executive director of New York City’s Housing Works Bookstore Café. The list of books nominated by the academy will presented to publishers in late February so that titles can be officially submitted for consideration

Borders Cuts

Borders has eliminated a number of senior positions at their corporate head quarters including the role of CTO held by Susan Harmon. Harmon held the position since 2007 having left book seller Books A Million to move to Ann Arbor from Birmingham AL. (I once went to Birmingham on a fools errand once).

From Forbes:

Bookseller Borders Group Inc. said Tuesday it is cutting six vice president and 10 director jobs to consolidate its management and help trim expenses in a tough economy.

Borders has eliminated the role of executive vice president of U.S. stores, which was held by Ken Armstrong, and cut the post of senior vice president and chief information officer held by Susan Harwood. Both Armstrong and Harwood joined Borders Group in 2007.

The position of senior vice president, e-business, which was held by Kevin Ertell, has also been eliminated.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Media Week 4: Houghton Harcourt, Ebsco, Google

This is my 1001st post - wow.

Riverdeep, the owner of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the subject of a profile by The Boston Globe this morning. The newspaper reports what many have supposed - not least the Irish Press which has been dogging Riverdeep almost since the day they consummated the Houghton sale. In the article, they strongly suggest that the company is now worth far less than the amount of debt owned to their lenders. Any sale of all or parts of the company would be unlikely to cover these obligations and while there are rumors that Hachette maybe discussing acquiring the trade division, I wonder if this could occur if the value is so low and the resulting deal would be a humiliation not just for Riverdeep but also the banks holding the debt. Assuming a sale below book value, that would trigger a revaluation of the whole balance sheet and this in turn would trigger any number of covenants.

Missing from the Globe article is that in selling Harcourt to Riverdeep, Reed Elsevier retained a $300mm interest in the business. (Link) What of the value of that and how is it handled on the RE balance sheet.

Moody's last month reported that Houghton, with a debt load estimated at more than 10 times gross earnings, is "a likely default" unless its loans are renegotiated. S&P last month placed parent EMPG on its list of weakest links - companies in greatest danger of debt default. "The debt level is our biggest concern," said S&P analyst Hal Diamond, "given the state of the economy and state budget constraints. While they can reduce costs, they can only go so far."

The Globe's request for an interview with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt chief executive Anthony Lucki or other senior executives was declined. Houghton issued a statement disputing Moody's 10-times-earnings figure, and insisted the company is gaining market share and has ample cash to cover its loans. Spokesman Josef Blumenfeld also said that since Houghton's reported decision last fall to suspend acquisition of new titles, it is signing new books again. He declined to comment on rumors that French-based Hachette Book Group, owner of Little, Brown & Co., might be a suitor.

EBSCO have added a Federated search capability to their suite of offerings and is designed to integrate with their EbscoHost2.0 product they released last year. (LJ)

With Integrated Search, the company aims to capitalize on users’ familiarity with the features and design of EBSCOhost 2.0, which debuted in July 2008, and carve out a role for its interface as a comprehensive destination for user searches. Integrated Search is slated to go live in early summer 2009.

Integrated Search will use connectors to remote content sources similar to those employed by other federated search products, like MetaLib (Ex Libris), Research Pro (Innovative Interfaces), and 360 Search (Serials Solutions). The hook: EBSCOhost will not charge customers for connectors to any EBSCO databases to which they subscribe. For connectors to non-EBSCO sources, the basic cost will be $200 per database annually. There will also be a $1000 annual base fee per site and per configuration. Customers already subscribed to a number of EBSCOhost products could see this translate into significant savings.

Librarything has added a Twitter ap. which looks interesting. (Blog):
We've added integration with Twitter, the popular SMS/microblogging site. Basically, it's an easy way to add a book to your LibraryThing while standing in a bookstore, library or friend's house.
A good summary of the Google Book agreement was presented at a session at ALA (ALA):
ALA’s Committee on Legislation and Office for Information Technology Policy hosted a panel session Saturday at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Denver. The session was called “Google Book Settlement: What’s In It For Libraries,” and aimed to educate librarians on the initial terms of the settlement, hear from leading a few leading library and legal experts, and offer time for audience members to pose questions to the panel participants.
Library Journal reports on the finances of the American Library Association.

As with private investors and endowed institutions, the American Library Association (ALA) suffered significant endowment losses in the past fiscal year, 24.1%, but, thanks to budget adjustments and some new sources of revenue, net operating income in Fiscal Year 2008 actually exceeded expenses more than in FY 2007, ALA officials said yesterday at the Midwinter Meeting in Denver.

Fiscal Year 2008, which ended last August 31, left ALA with net assets of $34.4 million, compared to $33.3 million at the end of 2007. Three months later, net assets declined to $24.1 million, primarily due to endowment losses. ALA has adjusted by reducing expenses, but continued losses in the endowment—which is not relied on for operating income--could cut into scholarships and awards. And the longer term remains a question mark.