Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Elsevier Introduces SciVerse

I've mentioned that information and academic publishers are starting to open up their data to third party applications providers and, in the process, enable greater utility for their subscribers and users. SciVerse, announced today by Elsevier, is a platform for doing just that. For a publisher of this size and importance to academics, professionals and institutions this initiative should be considered quite important as it represents a significant (and logical) step in the evolution of information database publishing.

As the press release states, SciVerse is "an innovative platform that integrates the company's key products and encourages the scientific community to collaborate on the development of customized search and discovery applications. Elsevier has committed to releasing the APIs (application programming interfaces) for all of the content on SciVerse and will offer application development support tools on the site."

SciVerse will be impressive from the start and will incorporate ScienceDirect, Scopus and targeted web content from Scirus, Elsevier's science-specific Internet search engine. Built into the platform will be some basic but useful technology which will enable efficient cross database searching and other functionality, but what Elsevier is banking on (and, it seems a pretty safe bet given the quality of this content) is that third party application providers will provide significant ingenuity in building applications that Elsevier's subscribers will find useful. As Jay Katzen, Managing Director, Academic & Government Products, Elsevier notes,
"SciVerse is a start of a new journey for Elsevier where we plan to provide customized search and discovery solutions and increase interoperability within our products and third party services. We recognize that it is critical to involve the researchers and librarians in the creation of solutions as they are in the best position to identify and address their search and discovery challenges. By providing our content APIs later this year, we will empower researchers and developers to build custom applications to enhance their workflow and share these applications with the scientific community within SciVerse."
Elsevier will open up SciVerse to the developer community (many of whom are likely to be their subscribers) later in the year and the mechanism for doing this isn't clear; however, it is likely that their will be some type of registration and/or approval process similar to the Apple apps store process. Whether or how Elsevier will share in revenues that may be generated by some of these new apps is also unclear; however, should this be a practical outcome of this initiative it may end up driving some substantial incremental revenue for Elsevier. Most importantly though, this initiative will ultimately tie Elsevier content even firmer into the workflow and processes of their customers as these applications address specific problems for customers. This aspect shouldn't be under valued as an important contributor to the continued growth of the Elsevier product line. It will be interesting to see how other information and academic publishers react to this news.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cal State's Digital Marketplace Announces Pilot

The Digital Marketplace, an initiative of the California State University Office of the Chancellor, announced plans today to launch a pilot to license digital course content from Bedford/Freeman/Worth, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Students will purchase their personal-use subscriptions for the digital content through their local campus bookstore. More from the press release:
“Offering faculty the choice of a licensing model gives them the option of finding the highest quality content at the lowest cost,” said Gerard L. Hanley, PhD., Senior Director of Academic Technology Services for the CSU. “The purpose of the Digital Marketplace is to provide everyone access to quality, affordable educational content. This is a wonderful example of an academic institution and publishers working together for the benefit of our students.”

“Wiley is pleased to join this venture to promote learning by providing students with quality products at the most affordable price points,” said Bonnie Lieberman, Senior VP and General Manager, Higher Education, Wiley.

“For the past several years, we have offered numerous low-cost options to professors and students, but we are continuously exploring new avenues, and we are excited about this new model for teaching and learning with digital materials,” said Tom Scotty, President of Sales, BFW Publishing Group.

"Pearson supports the efforts of instructors at CSU to explore the effective deployment of digital course materials that hold the promise of more effective learning,” said Don Kilburn, CEO of Pearson Learning Solutions.

“We are continuously looking for ways to deliver content to students in the format that is most engaging to them,” said Rik Kranenburg at McGraw-Hill Education.

“Cengage Learning is pleased to be a leader in CSU’s Digital Marketplace and we are committed to providing students a range of high quality, high value course content in formats and at price points to meet each student's budget and learning style,” said Rich Foley, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Cengage Learning.

The pilot program will collect and analyze student and faculty user data during the fall 2010 term to learn more about usage and preferences for digital materials.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 35: Ads in EBooks? Twitter Links

Ads in eBooks? Not so fast (Techcrunch):

It’s a compelling argument, but like so many compelling arguments made about the future of books, it’s also hampered by consisting almost entirely of bullshit. For one thing, publishers are really not geared up to sell ads: they’d have to recruit armies of ad sales people who would be forced to actually sit down and read the novels and historical memoirs and chick-lit-churn-outs that they’d be selling against. Not going to happen.

And even if publishers do hire these crack ad teams, they’d be asking them to perform an almost impossible task: to accurately predict the readership of forthcoming books. Magazines and newspapers are able to tell advertisers weeks or months in advance what their circulation is likely to be, and so how much bang brands can expect to get for their buck. By contrast, even publishers with decades of experience have no idea whether a given title is going to sell one copy or a million. Which advertiser would have bought ads in the niche-niche prospect ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ when the book was published in late 2003? And yet by January 2004 it had become an international bestseller. Traditional ad sales people would be constantly chasing their tails to try to keep up with such an unpredictable industry.

More importantly, though, any direct comparison between books and magazines (or newspapers) is completely misguided. Yes, both formats deliver words to readers’ eyes but where a magazine is designed for light reading – something one skims in a doctor’s waiting room, fully expecting to be interrupted at any moment - a book is a fully immersive experience in which the readers expects to be transported completely to another world.

From the twitter (@personanondata)

Open for 98 years the Hood River Public Library is forced to close. Oregon Public Broadcasting OPB Travesty.

Amanda Knox senses the pen is mightier than the penal code Guardian

How Entertainment Weekly Embraces the Digital Age RWW. Lessons/suggestions for book publishers.

A Look at the Reading Habits of E-Reader Owners - WSJ

Friday, August 27, 2010

Repost: The New Publishing Experience: Build Your Own Book

Originally posted July 10, 2007.

Traveling to a new location for vacation (and sometimes business) can be an exciting event and generally a lot of planning goes into the effort so you make the best use of your time. Often building your ideal itinerary may necessitate the purchase of several travel guides (or in my case diligent note taking in the cafe at BN) and I can only imagine that this situation is even more relevant if you travel as a family. Having had a great time - and probably seeing only half of what you thought you would - you leave the travel guides behind in the hotel room because they don't fit in the bags.

What if you were able to build a specific guide before you left that you could either print out before or carry with you as an electronic e-book? This is an idea that Penguin publishing unit DK are experimenting with which allows users to select content from their travel guides and build their own guide. I found the site a little clunky but the idea is sound and as a electronic platform DK could be in a position to offer far more content than appears in their DK travel books. If Penguin has other travel related content this could also be integrated with the DK travel content to create a distinct product that perhaps has more breadth than a user could get other than buying multiple books.

Travel (book) related websites are (or have the potential to) generating decent advertising revenues. Since a travel guide is a glorified directory it will not be long until the web is the primary mode of distribution for this content as has been the case with traditional data driven directories (i.e. booksinprint). As e-products, the integration with content from other publishers, map applications, photos, video and Podcasting is not far away. For example, I want to visit Boston and I build a travel book that includes a history and background information on Boston, a walking tour of North Boston, a satellite map, restaurant recommendations in an around the walk and after lunch I want to go to the Museum of Fine Arts where I buy admission tickets, add the highlights of the collection tour and download the MP3 audio tour. Ultimately, I want this 'packaged' so that I can either print it out and/or retain as an e-book or e-collection for future use.

But wait a minute, does the interaction end there? Conceivably, I will be taking pictures and forging my own impressions about the visit. And perhaps I want to include experiential things, like what I had for lunch and whether I liked it. So the publishing platform I use to create my travel book of Boston should be something I can edit outside the confines of the publisher supplied content. As such the DK application is not so functional but there are options elsewhere that are starting to appear - and in the future there maybe nothing to stop DK from adding this functionality.

One such application has been developed by SharedBook a software company in lower Manhattan. Sharedbook works with content owners who want to extend their relationship with their customers and enable them to self-select content and build their own book and in the process adding their own content. SharedBook works with customers who may not seem like publishers such as Regent Cruises and legacy.com but the functionality is similar to what I describe above. Clients of Regent cruises are able to select some core content to create their book while also adding their own specific content. So they can add pictures, annotations or full length essays on their cruise experience. There are a surprising number of clients who take advantage of this program since it serves as a high quality memento of their journey.

Sharedbook has a relatively easy to implement solution and their model has enabled 'non-publishers' to treat as 'content' assets that otherwise would remain one-dimensional as marketing or promotional material. In the case of traditional publishers, the Sharedbook platform can allow publishers to engage their customers directly and perhaps with a stronger link because the publishers content goes along with the customers positive experience. Obviously, customers pay for the privilege of creating their unique books but the prices are both reasonable and set by the content owner.

Back to my Boston example and using a SharedBook I could have a coffee table book produced with all the elements I selected before I left, those I added during my trip and the those I added after I return home. Once home I could scan the MFA ticket stub, the restaurant menu and add photos with annotations. Then I have my own memento of my trip. Models such as those I have described above will become more prevalent as publishers see the value in opening up their content repositories and allowing consumers to interact with their content. It is a trend worth following.

UPDATE: I wrote the above yesterday on the train back from Washington. Kassia Krozser of Medialoper and Booksquare was also writing about SharedBook at the same time. Here is her take.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ford Prefect Warwickshire 1963

Ford Prefect, Warwickshire 1963
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

I really like this photo. This is a Ford Prefect 107E and the first car my parents bought after they got married. They tell me they were traveling back from Leamington, where I was born, to Manchester to see the parents. I must be in the back seat. You can just about see my Mother on the other side of the open door. My father is still convinced that Ford's never start first time in the cold and it must come from this time because he tells me he used to put a heater under the bonnet to warm the engine up before he tried to start it. Why he came up with this is anyone's guess but the funny thing is one day he left the heater on too long and it burned a perfectly round segment of paint off the top side of the bonnet. He said it looked like some type of decal or logo had been removed from the hood. I suspect he stopped doing that but it didn't stop him complaining that Ford's don't start in the cold.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SpringerLink adds Semantic Search: Cross search eBooks, Journals and Reference.

Announced by Springer from their press release:
Upgraded Springer site connects eBooks and journals through semantic linking and provides digital content previews

Springer has relaunched its online platform SpringerLink ( www.SpringerLink.com ), which hosts nearly five million documents, including eBooks, journals and reference works. The redesigned site has a new and fresh concept that includes semantic linking and connects related content across eBooks and journals.

SpringerLink now also contains a PDF Preview feature that provides all readers with a free look inside eBook chapters to be certain that the content matches their information needs. Subscribers not only have access to an instant overview of the entire eBook, they can also scroll and browse within different chapters of the book and can immediately download the desired content.

The redesigned site includes newly-integrated software that presents links to related content within journal articles and eBook chapters. When users perform a search, the technology analyzes each search result and compares its digital fingerprint to all other documents. This determines which documents are most similar to that article or chapter, ensuring that readers discover content that best meets their research needs.

Additional updates to the new SpringerLink include access to nearly five million contributions organized in a revised subject hierarchy. Enhanced browsing features and improved search functionality with the ability to search by citation makes the new SpringerLink even more useful for researchers. Online journals, eBooks and eReference works have also been integrated onto a single, consistent user experience. Together with an enhanced user-friendly guided navigation, students and scientists can easily retrieve results for their work.

“Following an extensive usability study, we identified navigation, design, and the provision of appropriate context as our users’ most important needs, and this, of course, guided the development of the new SpringerLink platform,” said Brian Bishop, Vice President Platform Development at Springer. “Delivering content online provides so many opportunities to add value, and this latest release moves us forward from simple search and delivery to discovery and enhanced reading experience.”

Today SpringerLink (www.SpringerLink.com) provides electronic access to more than 2,250 scientific and specialist journals, nearly 40,000 eBooks, more than 1,100 book series and about 170 reference works. The publications cover topics from 12 subject collections such as mathematics, computer science, medicine, engineering, economics, law, humanities and social sciences. It also makes available 20,000 searchable online protocols in life sciences and biomedicine.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Frankfurt Seminar: Marketing your books in the digital marketplace

Livres Canada Books is hosting a seminar on Tuesday Oct 5th and here is their description of the event:
Find out what publishers in Canada and other markets are doing to sell and promote books in an increasingly digital marketplace. Join Livres Canada Books on the afternoon of Tuesday October 5, 2010 at the Frankfurt Book Fair for an International Digital Rights Symposium. The symposium allows Canadian and international publishers to work together to develop partnerships, encourage rights sales and build strategic alliances. Publishers from several countires can learn from each other, explore similarities and discuss differences in market condiditons.

Livres Canada Books will host panelists from around the world, including John Oakes of Or Books (USA), Eoin Purcell of Green Lamp Media (Ireland) and Ronald Schild of libreka! (Germany). Register now and don’t miss these speakers and more from experts in digital publishing at our International Digital Rights Symposium. The symposium will take place from 1:00pm until 5:00pm, at which time a cocktail reception will be held for approximately 1 hour. The reception will provide an opportunity for attendees to network with colleagues and competitors from around the globe, and to collaborate on digital book sales and rights management.

Register now to ensure your spot at this highly anticipated event.

Note: Tickets are an eligible expense under the Canada Book Fund export supplement.
In addition, participating publishers who are eligible for a 2010-2011 FRMAP contribution
are entitled to one extra day of per diem.

{buy a ticket}

Understanding Net Neutrality

From CCC's on going series beyond the book:
Wondering whether you should care about “net neutrality” or are you even just a little bit puzzled about exactly what is “net neutrality”?

Chris Kenneally went to Marc Strohlein, Chief Agility Officer for publishing analyst firm Outsell, for a straight take on what may be the sleeper issue of the year for publishing and media companies.

Link to the podcast.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 34: Jack London, Philosophy Books & Selling. (And Twitter Highlights)

Jack London covered by The Independent:
But perhaps the greatest act of historical castration is of Jack London. This man was the most-read revolutionary socialist in American history, agitating for violent overthrow of the government and the assassination of political leaders – and he is remembered now for writing a cute story about a dog. It's as if the Black Panthers were remembered, a century from now, for adding a pink tint to their Afros. If Jack London is chased forever from our historical memory by the dog he invented, then we will lose one of the most intriguing, bizarre figures in American history, at once inspiring and repulsive. In his 40 years of life, he was a "bastard" child of a slum-dwelling suicidal spiritualist, a child labourer, a pirate, a tramp, a revolutionary socialist, a racist pining for genocide, a gold-digger, a war correspondent, a millionaire, a suicidal depressive, and for a time the most popular writer in America. In Wolf: the Lives of Jack London, his latest biographer, James L Haley, calls London "the most misunderstood figure in the American literary canon"– but that might be because he is ultimately impossible to understand.
Even as The Call of the Wild became one of the best-selling books in American history, newspaper editorials were calling for London to be jailed or deported for his socialist speeches. By the age of 40, he was broken. He was taking morphine to stop the pain from his booze-burned kidneys and liver. As he lay killing himself with whiskey, London grew increasingly despondent that the United States was failing to become the socialist republic he prophesised. "I grow, sometimes, almost to hate the mass, to sneer at dreams of reform," he wrote to a friend. He resigned from the Socialist Party, saying it had become too moderate and reformist and should be pushing for direct action – but he took none himself. Cut off from his great redeeming cause, he was dead within a year. His manservant found his almost-dead body, accompanied by a note calculating how much morphine it would take to kill him. Flora Chaney's bullet had hit, 40 years behind schedule.

The Independent on the rage in philosophy as subject matter:

What is gaining traction in the books market, however, is the opposite of the academic. It is the philosophy of the everyday. Warburton writes a column on the subject for Prospect magazine. In Practical Tortoise Raising, one essay begins with the quandary of how to choose which beans to buy in a supermarket. And it is applied philosophy that is the driving force behind the Philosophy for Everyone series.

The volume on cycling, for example, features an essay on the implications of performance-enhancing drugs and a phenomenological appreciation of a bicycle ride by a philosopher who is also a keen amateur mountain cyclist. Another contributor, who almost qualified for the Olympics cycling team when younger, writes about the virtue of performance, of pushing one's body to the limit, and what an "honest" victory or defeat means. (Einstein claimed that the theory of relativity occurred to him while he was on two wheels: one begins to suspect that the existence of so many cycling thinkers may be no accident.) Such is its range that Cycling (Wiley-Blackwell, £11.99) is a book which could live as easily on the sport shelves as the philosophy or cultural studies shelves.

How one markets philosophy is key to attracting readers. Avital believes that there are two strategies for getting it into the popular market. One he calls the "straight-ball" approach, which has been taken with Gary Cox, the author of How to Be an Existentialist. The subject of his new book, How to Be a Philosopher, is obvious from its title. Inside, he reads like a jovial college professor trying to enthuse first-year students, with reflections on Red Dwarf nudging up against David Hume. That is a direct sell. "We want someone to buy that because they want to be the smartest person in the room," says Avital. "There is a vanity aspect to the purchase. You want to be seen reading a philosophy book on the Tube."

From the twitter this week (@personanondata)

Vintage TV signs Getty Images deal Guardian

New Arts of Book Building: Challenges for Authors, Editors and Producers Book Business From my friend Gene Schwartz

CengageBrain.com Enhances Website, Introduces Innovative Applications (Press Release) Expanding b2consumer models - interesting.

(RRW) etextbooks - Never Mind iPad and eReaders, PCs Still Dominant - NYT

Tech Weekly podcast: In the BBC archive Guardian A look at how the BBC is digitizing their archive.

OCLC Adds New Info Features to the WorldCat.org Homepage; Test Out Genre Finder from OCLC Research OCLC

New Study: $3 Billion in Sub Revenue From Interactive Periodicals by 2014 (Report)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Repost: Roger and Me

Originally posted April 30th, 2008. Speaks for itself.

I have no direct connection with Roger Clemens but I did admire him. In the mid-1980's I lived in Boston and it coincided with the time when he came up to the big leagues. When I finished my shift at the Museum of Fine Arts (the work was brutal), I generally walked home around the Public Gardens (making sure to stay out of them so as not to get mugged - that came later). During those summer evenings in 1984, through the heavy moist air, I could hear the crowd at Fenway moan and roar over the roof tops of Backbay Boston as I walked several blocks away. You could tell the night Roger was pitching; it was just electric and I don't consider myself a baseball fan but in Boston there was huge civic pride over the Red Socks and this pitching marvel.

Well things change. Ultimately they were happy to see him go and now his biography is basically writing itself in chapters delivered to the newspapers every few weeks. Some publisher is going to get the deal but not, I hope, without a set of conditions that has him coming clean about every thing. But that is unlikely to happen until he gets indicted and (perhaps) sentenced for perjuring himself. Unless they find proof (which admittedly wouldn't surprise anyone) they may not have a case just the stink of suspicion. Ultimately if he is backed into a corner where he can't escape, he will just do the public apology thing, cash in and we will all go on with our lives as though all is forgotten.

There has been a published bio: Rocket Man: The Roger Clemens Story and this was the booklist review of the book:
Roger Clemens' 24-4 pitching record for the 1986 American League champion Boston Red Sox earned him a rare double honor: Most Valuable Player (usually the exclusive domain of position players) and the Cy Young Award (best pitcher). He also set a new major-league record with 20 strikeouts in a game. And he's only 24 which is good news for Red Sox fans but not so good for readers of this autobiography, since the baby-faced fastballer has hardly experienced enough to merit an extended article, let alone an entire book. Coauthor and premier baseball writer Peter Gammons keeps things moving crisply enough, but ultimately this is mediocre sports-bio fare. There is likely to be demand based on Clemens' name, particularly since he has settled his contract dispute and won't spend the year on the sidelines.
I recall that summer in 1984. Roger had an August night where he stuck out 15 and came back in his next game and stuck-out 10. Sadly, he has struck himself out but we have all long since lost and now we don't even moan and grown about this latest example of Athletic failure anymore.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Floating Wreck: HMS Queen Elizabeth 1 Hong Kong 1972

Floating Wreck: Queen Elizabeth 1, Hong Kong Harbor 1972
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

This image gets a lot of traffic and is also located here on flickr with a second image taken a few seconds later as we took off from Kai Tak.

Another old liner photo but this time a more ignominious end to the star of the Cunard line RMS Queen Elizabeth rather than the one I posted of the USS United States. The Queen Elizabeth had been sold by Cunard and was being refit in Hong Kong as a floating university. The work was almost completed when a fire broke out and the ship was completely destroyed. The ship then lay on its side in the harbor as seen here for months while the owners haggled with the insurance company over what to do with it. This image was taken six months after the fire (and I wasn't on this trip) but I recall seeing the wreck several months later (October) when I visited Hong Kong on my way back to New Zealand.

Join me on Flickr

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

I now have an iPad version of this book for sale ($4.99) on the Blurb site which you can find here: STORE

I have to say, even on the iPad the book looks pretty good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PND Technology: KnowMore

This is week three in my recap of some of the interesting technology I've heard about at the tech meet-ups I've been going to (NYTech)

Knowmore is still in beta but it looks promising and interesting to anyone who juggles many social networking relationships. And increasingly that is many of us.

Knowmore has created on view of all your social network relationships and presents that content in various streams that you as a user establish. (Here is the video but sadly the audio is bad but good enough that you can still understand the presenter). Knowmore doesn't care which network supplies the content rather they are focused on presenting all the content you and your social network is interacting with in a more logical and consistent way. For example, you are able to set up streams that collect all the videos and photos that your network is looking at or commenting on regardless of where they were located so you can see a concentrated and focused itemization of this content. Additionally, Knowmore has incorporated a 'social search' function so that you can look at and search everything your network has shared. As they say in their presentation at NYTech, "who better to trust than the people you know and love to tell you what you should be interested in".

It is difficult to determine whether 'aggregation' of our social networks will become a long term play; however, Knowmore is an interesting starting point and once they come out of private beta it may be fun to play around with. Longer term this functionality could be incorporated into your browser but that ignores the ingenuity of companies like Knowmore to add layers and value to their aggregation solution over time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Series: Content Curation

Over the past two months, I've looked at content curation as a theme and I thought I would summarize my posts. As I've mentioned, the practice of curation is not a new one as any librarian, or television program director or editor could attest; however, as media outlets become ubiquitous and content becomes overwhelming the need for better curation is vastly under-estimated as a business model and a consumer need.

My posts on this issue are as follows:

The Curator and the Docent:
Recently, as I wandered around a museum with overwhelming breadth and depth of content, I was lucky to be guided in my travels by a professional. When she introduced herself to me, she used the term ‘docent’ to describe her function. A docent is a ‘knowledgeable guide’ and the function seems to me to perfectly complement the process of curation. In an online world, where more and more content appears to “carry the same weight,” we will look to and pay for the combination of curator and docent – sometimes the same person or entity – who can organize and manage a range of content and also engage with the user so they gain insight and meaning from the material. At Mywire.com, we intentionally approached branded media companies because they were recognized as experts in their segments. These are the companies which should be able to build revenue models around the curation of content to offer subscribers a materially different experience than simply performing a Google search query delivering up generic news and semi-relevant content.
Confusing a Silo with a Business
The lesson for less advanced publishers is that building a concentration around siloed content is not enough; in-fact, aggregating consumer interest and appeal around publishing content will fail unless that concentration includes content from the web, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc. which is also organized, validated and served up in the most effective manner for the consumer. Information publishers have been able to evolve their model to support the needs of their professional customers but the consumer market is more anarchic and it remains to be seen whether trade publishers can pull it off. Silos may not be worth the effort.
United Artists Redux

Amidst radical change forced on them by major advances in technology (largely out of their control), a small group of leading media producers have joined together to establish their own (insert word): broadcaster, publisher, studio, agency. Unlikely? Not now, because the functions that support these traditional media companies are increasingly becoming commoditised, enabling the creative producers (writers, authors, producers, etc.) to potentially collect more of the revenues generated from their creative output. While individual authors have gained some attention by 'going direct,' either by working through Amazon (J.A. Konrath) or direct to consumers via the iPad (Ryu Mirakami), it may be that traditional publishers have more to fear from groups of authors, editors and agents conspiring to establish their own media companies. These new companies would leverage the available low-cost 'back office' functions and the readily available supply-chain provision to dis-intermediate the traditional publishing monolith.
Silos of Curation - Repost
Something similar to the platform approach may take shape in a different way with intermediaries playing the role of curator. This is an approach that companies such as Publisher’s Weekly or The New York Review of Books might have adopted if they had been more prescient. The capability to guide consumers to the best books, stories and professional content within a specific segment (without regard to publisher or commerce) may come to define publishing in the years to 2020. (See Monday’s post). Expert curation can simplify the selection process for consumers, aggregate interest around topics and build homogeneous markets for commerce. As an added benefit to these intermediaries’ customers, publishers will chose to focus intensely on each segment and offer specialized value-adds particular to that segment. As content provision expands – witness the delivery of all the books in the Google Book project – readers will become increasingly confused and looking for help. It seems inevitable that intermediaries between publisher and e-commerce will meet that need.
Curating Research Data at Elsevier

Elsevier announced a partnership with Pangaea which is a 'data library' that links primary research data with journal articles in earth and environmental science. As I mentioned last week, information and academic publishers like Elsevier have long organized themselves around content areas but are now 'widening' their content 'silos' to accommodate tools, techniques and proprietary data provided by third parties. This is a good example of how the Elsevier 'platform' can and is being leveraged beyond what may have originally been envisioned as a closed system.
Oh My Curation! It's about the Librarian

I chanced on a very interesting article in Harvard Magazine this week as I was doing research for a presentation I am making next week. Titled Gutenberg 2.0: Harvard's Libraries Deal With Disruptive Change, the article is written by the magazine's managing editor Jonathan Shaw and is one of the more thought provoking articles I have read about the impact(s) of our transition from print to online.

Several themes come out of this article: Firstly, traditional publishing is ill-equipped to manage the huge onslaught of data and information. Specific examples note the medical discipline. Secondly, training for the consumers and students who have access to databases and information is inadequate; moreover, this negatively impacts job effectiveness. Examples, here include medical and legal professions. Thirdly, librarians may retain specific skills that bridge the gap between the generic content where 'everything carries the same weight' and a 'consciously curated and controlled artifact' managed to the benefit of a librarian's constituency

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 33: Lynd Ward, Report on eBooks in Libraries, OCLC WMS, Arcade Fire

From the Seattle PI Blog:
In what just might be one of the publishing surprises and hi-spots of 2010, The Library of America will release a 2 volume boxed set featuring the six woodcut novels of Lynd Ward.

God's Man, Ward's first book published on the eve of the stock market collapse of 1929, was the first wordless book-length novel to be published in the United States. By the end of 1937 Ward would publish five more novels in woodcuts:

Madman's Drum (1930)

Wild Pilgrimage (1932)

Prelude to a Million Years (1933)

Song Without Words (1936)

Vertigo (1937)

If one is looking for the origins of the graphic novel in the United States one must begin with Ward. His work has influenced a generation of artists, poets and illustrators and continues to inspire those seeking justice and equality for all.

Library Journal report on a study commissioned by COSLA that takes a look at eBooks in libraries. It is a very interesting report with both situational analysis and recommendations. LJ's summary is good but the entire report is worth a read (LJ):
A provocative new report released today by the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) on the upheaval caused by ebooks asks, "Is it different this time?" The answer, in "eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries," is a resounding yes, including a call for a national buying pool to buy ebooks--a tactic likely to face pushback from publishers and distributors. Still, the report serves as a rallying cry. "We want to create our destiny," COSLA says of the venture. "We want to be ready. We are tired of allowing others to decide these things for public libraries." The 53-page report consists of findings collected from interviews with ten library managers, covering a variety of topics and concerns--which were then discussed with other industry experts. Given the potential for e-reading to change the emphasis from libraries away from repositories of print, the report also suggests public libraries emphasize their role as community centers for learning and events.
The paltry nature of ebook collections available to libraries in comparison to consumer offerings prompts the report's most action-oriented suggestion: A single, national purchasing point for eBooks combined with expert selection, tough negotiation, and data mining that gives members a compelling story for local funders is a different beast from consortia that mostly fill operations or content gaps for have-not libraries. It forces a reckoning and concentrates eBook access to create real leverage. But it's a steep climb from where we are. Inspiration and leadership will be key. Indeed, major concerns about redirecting local funds to such an umbrella effort have been raised. The slightly weaker--though far more prevalent--formulation offered is to increase pressure on vendors and publishers, thus pushing for thus pushing for lower prices, standardized formats, and fewer digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. But libraries face firm opposition, according to the report: "Publishers want library models that collect payment for every use"--as is the model in the UK--"lease access instead of sell objects, or have digital rights that enforce methods that worked for print, such as one copy one user."

OCLC's web-scale management system is in beta test with several libraries (AmLib):

The much-hyped OCLC Web-scale Management Services (WMS) moved from pilot phase to production last month with the release of acquisitions and circulation components to around 30 early adopters. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has posted an ambitious timeline that would make it the first institution to go live with the product on August 30; Pepperdine University Libraries in Malibu, California, is slated to come in second with a projected go-live date of October 11. Calling WMS “the future of the ILS,” UTC’s Jason Griffey, project lead for the WMS migration, told American Libraries that “using a centralized database of bibliographic records like WorldCat means that you simplify pretty much every other aspect of back-office procedures.” Web-scale Management Services moves acquisitions, circulation, and patron management into the cloud, putting those functions alongside WorldCat Local; the aim is to make workflows more efficient by automating critical back-office operations and reducing software support costs.

The New Yorker looks at how Arcade Fire represents both change and statis in the recording industry (New Yorker):

Well-known acts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have taken widely publicized steps to conduct business outside the major-label system, sometimes in experimental ways, such as leaving tracks from upcoming albums on U.S.B. drives in bathrooms to be discovered by fans. But both bands had spent more than a decade on major labels, building their audiences with the marketing power of large corporations behind them. In the U.S., Arcade Fire has only ever worked with Merge Records, an independent label from North Carolina, which was started by the musicians Mac McCaughan and Laura Balance, in 1989. The band often records its albums in its own studios, to exacting and personal specifications, and retains ownership of the music, which it licenses to Merge. Its previous two albums have gone gold, or close to it, and “The Suburbs” is expected to do the same, or better.

The new album is driven by the perfervid, jerry-rigged noise that has become Arcade Fire’s trademark, but it stretches over a deceptively calm sixty-four minutes. The lead singer, Win Butler, takes a surprising tack: the characters on this album aren’t all drowning, or caught in serial crises—they are getting on with things, and hoping to have children. Even as “The Suburbs” follows characters across lawns and through strip malls, it avoids obvious finger-wagging. Arcade Fire has previously worked in an epic mode, favoring anthems over smaller, more specific songs, but here its widely reported and entirely genuine energy is channeled, with nothing wasted—not a bonfire but a series of pilot lights.

Watching an independent band sell out the Garden and top the charts while compromising very little—Arcade Fire released eight different album covers for “The Suburbs”—is inspiring, but it isn’t a complete revolution. The band still has a manager and a label who work on its behalf, commercially and artistically. Scott Rodger, Arcade Fire’s manager, described the label’s role as “manufacturing and distribution—floating the expense, executing the marketing and retail plans that we have approved, and insuring that the music is available on all credible D.S.P.s,” or digital service platforms.

From the twitter last week (@personanondata):

It's official: Trenton's four library branches are closed - Trentonian

Buenos Aires Herald What's going on in BA book retailing you ask? Their hot 20 titles.

Publishing Economics: A $625 Cookbook NPR

Borders Group lays off more employees at Ann Arbor headquarters - AnnArbor.com

"Heeere's Johnny!" Carson Entertainment Group Unveils 30-Year Carson Library Carson And Steven Wright

Friday, August 13, 2010

Repost: Book Insurance

Originally posted July 14, 2009.

Few in the book world can see an end to DRM on book content even as glimmers of a new dawn in the music world seem to indicate there may be a different future on the horizon from the one that book publishers are trying so desperately to avoid. Rampant file sharing and ineffectual (even legal) efforts to halt copyright infringement represents the atomic winter that consumer book publishers fear and thus they believe the only way to preclude that future is to do impose severe restrictions on a consumers ability to use the electronic content they have purchased.

It's not news to anyone paying attention that the 'rights' a buyer has when they buy a physical book are proactively eliminated in the eBook world. For example, in the eBook world it becomes difficult to lend my book to someone else to read (friend or family member) or to sell the book on the second hand market. I really don't own it in the traditional sense. Things can become even trickier if I buy from multiple eBook providers or change 'platforms' or even, (strangely) if I loose my credit card since some vendors attribute your purchases to a specific credit card.

In an environment where DRM places limits on interoperability moving from one platform and keeping your library of books becomes difficult. If you liked the SONY but something better comes along you may have to keep the SONY ready to go for years even though you and the technology has moved on. It would be a far better experience for users if the book was the constant not the technology. As long as booksellers and publishers maintain this cabal over DRM there are no easy solutions for buyers who find themselves tethered to the technology and not the content.

Perhaps an unlikely solution would be to provide a type of digital insurance. Some (new) third party would offer this service to content buyers as a type of insurance or escrow policy. On purchasing content, I would register the purchase as part of my profile. Obviously, I would have to provide some proof that I had made the purchase but the transaction would sit in this profile as long as I paid my monthly premiums. The amount paid by the consumer wouldn't have to be a lot because only a small amount of the 'members' would ever make use of the insurance. (It becomes an actuary exercise).

Circumstances arising whereby a user would make use of the insurance could be anything from 'passing your library on to a family member' to simply moving over to a new platform. Depending on how the insurance company was set up (as a pseudo-retailer possibly) they wouldn't host this content but they would allow the consumer to 're-purchase' the content and then submit a 'claim' for the purchase. For each 're-purchase' they would get a refund just like a traditional insurance company. (And maybe the following year your premiums go up also). There maybe other benefits to this solution including the return of the right of first sale: As registered owners maybe we build a secondary market for e-Books.

Yes, even I think this is a pretty wacky idea but with e-Book content still less than 10% of total revenues, with publishers exhibiting apparent limited interest in pushing growth faster and the likelihood of formats and technology remaining fluid for a long time, consumers will increasingly become dissatisfied and disgruntled over the limitations (mistrust as well) that publishers and retailers are imposing on their purchases. There could be a better solution.

Insurance anyone?
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ironwork Escape: New York 1993

Ironwork Escape, New York 1993
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

The iron work hangs on many of these lower east side buildings like decorative ornaments. Oddly there aren't any air conditioners in any of the windows.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PND Technology: twilio

This is week two of my recap of some of the interesting technology I've heard about at the tech meet-ups I've been going to (NYTech)

Over the years, I've had the dubious distinction of being responsible for several office moves and, aside from the bickering over who gets the bigger office and what type of furniture we buy, some of the more problematic issues related to dealing with the old telephone pbx. Twilio can't help with the baser issues but they have eliminated the hardware problems inherent in the old phone systems and pushed a powerful and easy to use set of applications to the cloud that can manage the most sophisticated phone applications.

Here's how they explain how their system works:
We're always building web applications, and sometimes we want those apps to be able to interact with phone callers. Maybe we want a customer to be able to call in and get information, or maybe we need to coordinate our employees more efficiently. Before Twilio, you would have had to learn some foreign telecom programming languages, or set up an entire stack of PBX software to do this. At which point, you'd say "aw, forget it!" Twilio lets you use your existing web development skills, existing code, existing servers, existing databases and existing karma to solve these problems quickly and reliably. We provide the infrastructure, you provide the business logic via HTTP, and together we rule the world.
The demos at NY Tech meet-up are only five minutes long however in a demonstration of how easy their tool is to use they wrote a simple script that created a dial in conference call, selected (purchased) a specific phone number and then created an invite to which they asked all the audience to dial in to. Programmed in simple xml this took 2mins of fast typing. The system naturally collects all the dial in numbers and as a follow-up demo they used the application to call back everyone in the room who had dialed in to the conference number.

There are all kinds of business applications that can be created almost on the fly and certainly specifically directed to a business issue or situation. Some of the examples include, polling, status updates such as weather problems or power outages, reminders such as appointments, as well as the typical voicemail transcription and sms functionality.

There are many more practical examples noted on their blog including:
MedTaker takes advantage of the ubiquity of the phone to help people remember to take their medication while at the same time periodically checking in on their wellbeing.
Life is full of so many little details that need attending to all the time. Would you rather be coding up your next prize winner Twilio app, or assembling IKEA furniture? What about getting a ride to the airport, or grocery shopping. Fortunately, with TaskRabbit you can delegate these tasks to "runners" who you pay by the hour to help you get things done.

Diner Connection is a complete online solution for restaurants. You can contact your customers via text messaging, collect patron visit information and connect with your patrons more effectively using Diner Connection.

DropConf is an on-demand conference calling application -- you pay per conference call. The idea is that small business or freelancers for example might only need one or two conference calls a month. Some months they might not need any conference calls. All the other paid options out there have monthly fees -- so people are paying for a service they don't need.
And many, many more.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Curating Research Data at Elsevier

Elsevier announced a partnership with Pangaea which is a 'data library' that links primary research data with journal articles in earth and environmental science. As I mentioned last week, information and academic publishers like Elsevier have long organized themselves around content areas but are now 'widening' their content 'silos' to accommodate tools, techniques and proprietary data provided by third parties. This is a good example of how the Elsevier 'platform' can and is being leveraged beyond what may have originally been envisioned as a closed system.

From their press release they note that this initiative extends one announced in February,

This next step follows the introduction, last February, of 'reciprocal linking' - automatically linking research data sets deposited at PANGAEA to corresponding articles in Elsevier journals on its electronic platform ScienceDirect and vice versa. The new feature adds a map to every ScienceDirect article that has associated research data at PANGAEA; it displays all geographical locations for which such data is available. A single click then brings the user from the ScienceDirect article to the research data set at PANGAEA.

"With an increasing interest in the preservation of research data, it is very important to make those data clearly visible in the context of the formal research publications," commented Jan Aalbersberg, Vice President Content Innovation at Elsevier. "Elsevier is committed to advance science by investing in such collaborations with data set repositories. This new feature will allow readers to easily go beyond the content of an article, and drill down to the research data sets."

As the press release goes on to say, we are starting to see how the web, the use of api's and other methods are eliminating the inefficiencies in sharing research data and analysis which academics have had to navigate around for many years. Ironically, while these large information companies may 'open' their platforms to produce much more utility for their subscribers, they may also be strengthening their positions as the clear leaders in providing information, analysis tools and other key functionality for their users. Their strategy continues to reflect the curation model I've discussed before although the evidence of this now extends far beyond the concentration of topic based content.

Prior post on Massive Data Sets
Posts on Content Curation

Monday, August 09, 2010

Investment in the library leads to grant funding

Elsevier conducted a research study to determine the value of an academic library to the institution and concluded that there is a strong correlation between investment and the ability to generate grant income (press release)

Of the 8 institutions participating from around the globe, 6 demonstrated a greater than one-to-one (1:1) return in grant funding, with results ranging from 15.54:1 to 0.64:1. Equally significant is the result that 2 institutions showed a significant positive correlation between an increase in library investment over time and an increase in grant funding to the university.

Dr. Carol Tenopir, Director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee (http://www.cci.utk.edu/cics/), led a team of investigators over a 16-month period. "Libraries bring value and returns on institutional investments in many ways," explains Dr. Tenopir. "Although the exact monetary amount of the returns in grants varies with the mission of the institution, our research shows that the collections and services of all university libraries help faculty write better grant proposals and articles and help them do better research."

The results of the study, funded by Elsevier, are available through a newly published Elsevier Connect white paper, University Investment in the Library, Phase II: An International Study of the Library's Value to the Grants Process (http://libraryconnect.elsevier.com/whitepapers/roi2/lcwp021001.html) (http://libraryconnect.elsevier.com).

"The results reinforce the contribution of libraries and information to the research enterprise," notes Chrysanne Lowe, Elsevier's Vice President of Customer Development and Engagement. "Universities have always known this, but it's useful to see value articulated in terms of grant income ROI as well."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 32: End of Print, Education, Dom DeLillo, Quercus, Changing Libraries,

Media Week (Vol 3) 32: End of Print, Education, Changing Libraries,
Contemplating the end of print books in Newsweek:
Paperbacks and public libraries made books cheap or free but certainly available to millions who might otherwise not have been able to afford them, and all that happened long before I was born. Nevertheless, I was brought up by people who had been taught—and who taught me—that books were valuable things, things to be cared for and cherished, and I have owned some volumes for close to half a century (almost none of them, I should point out, qualify as “collectible” or valuable to an antiquarian book collector; owning a rare book makes me nervous. I like books I can hold, read, and even—here my mother is spinning in her grave—write in). I come from a generation for whom the books and records on the shelf signaled, in some way, who you were (starting with the fact that you were a person who owned books or records or CDs). If you visited a friend, you took the first chance you had to surreptitiously scan that friend’s shelves to get a handle on the person. I suppose I could sneak a peek at a friend’s Kindle, but is that the same? And try that kind of snooping on a bus or in a coffee shop and you’ll probably get arrested. For a sense of the diminution of this sort of information gathering, click through this Tumblr of covers (scroll until you get to the e-reader included in the mix, to fully plumb the difference).

Looking at course (learning) management systems in higher ed (Gartner):
Campus Technology recently spoke with Gartner Research Director Marti Harris, who focuses on the higher education market, about an annual report from Gartner, "Gartner Higher Education E-Learning Survey 2007: Clear Movements in the Market," by Harris and two other Gartner higher education research analysts.

Campus Technology: In the survey, Gartner found "clear movement in the market" toward more open-source platforms in 2007--26 percent of platforms on surveyed campuses were on open source e-learning system such as Moodle or Sakai, and Gartner projects that number will grow to 35 percent by the end of 2008.
CT: What is it about open source in general that appeals in higher education?

Harris: There are several things. For one, there is sometimes the perception that open source is cheaper. But we really don't know that's the case yet, other than the fact that [institutions] are not paying a license fee. Certainly, unless it's something that's turnkey or ready out-of-the-box, [any system] will require additional resources to keep development going.

You do have to determine how you're going to handle service and support in any case. Some of the open source products, like Moodle, have third-party providers that you can contract for service, support, and even for further development.

We've yet to really know how much cheaper these open source apps are. We haven't been doing this long enough to really know the total price tag on migration, for one thing, and then the ongoing total cost of ownership.
From Australia but of relevance to all markets - Libraries and ebooks: tough issues that it’s time to debate (ABS&P):

So far, libraries’ digital activity has mostly been confined to research uses. The prevalence of the cumbersome PC as the main reading platform means the bread and butter of the book trade, fiction and general non-fiction, has barely been touched. But mobile reading devices and a surge in availability of popular ebooks are pushing libraries into the digital mainstream. The few libraries experimenting today with ebook downloads typically have very thin collections. This is partly due to tight budgets but also stems from concerns by publishers and authors about how—indeed whether—libraries should lend digital editions of their books. It’s the latter that has prompted the UK government to legislate so that patrons in libraries can download digital editions to their ebook readers without libraries infringing copyright. At the same time, it will issue an order under legislation “preventing libraries from charging for ebooks lending of any sort, including remotely.”

From OCLC a series of videos from ALA on The Future of Publishing: Libraries and the changing role of consumers and creators (OCLC)
From scholarly journals to eBooks to print-on-demand “vending” machines, publishing is more complicated than it once was. Thousands of individuals, companies, schools and businesses have taken the tools of literary and scholarly production into their own hands. How does the role of the library change when our users go from consumers of content to creators? What do these changes mean for academic activities such as peer-review, collection development and inventory management? How will new publishing platforms—from Amazon to the iPad—alter the public’s expectations for reading, writing and sharing?
Don DeLillo, in a rare interview, talks about living the American dream (Observer)

DeLillo has devoted his writing to the shadow side of American life, painting a dysfunctional freaks' gallery of the wrecked (David Bell in Americana), the sick (Bill Gray in Mao II), the mad (Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra) and the suicidal (Eric Packer in Cosmopolis). In White Noise, the protagonist, Jack, who teaches Hitler studies, riffs hilariously on death and mass murder. It is said that DeLillo used to keep two files on his writing table, labelled "Art" and "Terror". In Mao II, he writes: "I used to think it was possible for an artist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory." On some readings, his characters occupy this no-man's-land. His vision has been described as "paranoid" in the sense that it connects everything about his society.

In the process of exploring America, DeLillo has become credited with extraordinary powers of literary clairvoyance. The war on terror is said to be foreshadowed in Mao II. The planes that flew into the Twin Towers are possibly alluded to on the cover of Underworld. Parts of White Noise are echoed in the anthrax scare of 2001, and so on.

Fellow writers talk with admiration of DeLillo's creative radar. The truth is that DeLillo is wired into contemporary America from the ground up, spookily attuned to the weird vibrations of popular culture and the buzz of everyday, ordinary conversations on bus and subway. According to Joyce Carol Oates, he is "a man of frightening perception", an all-American writer who sees and hears his country like no other.

The publishing house that Stieg Larsson built (Independent)
Quercus started life modestly in 2004 after Mark Smith and Wayne Davies defected from Orion Publishing Group. Suitably, for a company that would later publish a phenomenon in crime fiction, they rented a small office round the corner from the fictional premises of Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street. "I wanted to start my own business and foolishly thought it would be easy," Smith recalls. The company focused on non-fiction books that could be nicely illustrated. Its first success was Universe, followed by Speeches that Changed the World. But Smith had an appetite for risk and two years after launch moved into fiction, signing 10 titles from first-time authors. One of its early successes was The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, a mystery set in the snowy wastes of Canada in 1867. The novel won the Costa Book Award in 2007, driving it up the bestseller charts and allowing its publisher to expand. What had been a staff of 15 people has since grown to 40. The turning point for Smith came when he recruited Christopher MacLehose, who had a reputation as a master at finding foreign fiction by writers such as Henning Mankell and Haruki Murakami and turning them into English language hits.

On the twitter this week (@personanondata)

Some Colleges to Test Dual-Screen E-Reader Devices - Wired Campus Chronicle

New IEEE Standards Initiative Aims at “Digital Personal Property” Copyright and Technology And comments

'Hollywood: A Third Memoir' by Larry McMurtry First class, private planes, cash what's not to like? LATimes

Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries NPR

Random House CEO on the E-Book Age: 'The Printed Book Will Still Dominate for a Long Time to Come' Spiegel Online

Frankfurt SPARKS "conferences and events on the future of media and the creative industries" Frankfurt Book Fair

In arts this week: Photography. New York City’s Waterfronts, Covered - NYTimes. This is my contribution.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Inside Google Books: Books of the world, stand up and be counted! All 129,864,880 of you.

Google takes a stab at counting all the books in the world: Google.
Our definition is very close to what ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) are supposed to represent, so why can’t we just count those? First, ISBNs (and their SBN precursors) have been around only since the mid 1960s, and were not widely adopted until the early-to-mid seventies. They also remain a mostly western phenomenon. So most books printed earlier, and those not intended for commercial distribution or printed in other regions of the world, have never been assigned an ISBN.

The other reason we can’t rely on ISBNs alone is that ever since they became an accepted standard, they have been used in non-standard ways. They have sometimes been assigned to multiple books: we’ve seen anywhere from two to 1,500 books assigned the same ISBN. They are also often assigned to things other than books. Even though they are intended to represent “books and book-like products,” unique ISBNs have been assigned to anything from CDs to bookmarks to t-shirts.

What about other well-known identifiers, for example those assigned by Library of Congress (Library of Congress Control Numbers) or OCLC (WorldCat accession numbers)? Rather than identifying books, these identify records that describe bibliographic entities. For example the bibliographic record for Lecture Notes in Mathematics (a monographic series with thousands of volumes) is assigned a single OCLC number. This makes sense when organizing library catalogs, but does not help us to count individual volumes. This practice also causes duplication: a particular book can be assigned one number when cataloged as part of a series or a set and another when cataloged alone. The duplication is further exacerbated by the difficulty of aggregating multiple library catalogs that use different cataloging rules. For example, a single Italian edition of “Angels and Demons” has been assigned no fewer than 5 OCLC numbers.

So what does Google do? We collect metadata from many providers (more than 150 and counting) that include libraries, WorldCat, national union catalogs and commercial providers. At the moment we have close to a billion unique raw records. We then further analyze these records to reduce the level of duplication within each provider, bringing us down to close to 600 million records.

Repost: Digital Platforms & Distribution

Originally posted April 12, 2007

Over the last 100 years (probably) US publishers have dithered over whether to use their facilities for the exclusive warehouse, fulfillment and distribution of their books or to offer 'publisher services' to other publishers. In recent years we have seen as many large publishers give up publisher services as adopt them. Some publishers think the headaches out weigh the potential marginal income and others in turn believe these publisher service functions to be core strengths and tasks they can leverage.

Recent announcements by Random House and Harpercollins indicate that there will be an application of the physical 'publisher services' model in the digital world. Clearly here the opportunity and the economics will be significantly different than in the physical world. Other players are entering the market as well: Both Ingram and Gardners (UK) have or are entering this segment. Gardners announced today, and will expand on this business opportunity at London Bookfair, a 'digital warehouse' which is "designed to provide a comprehensive range of e-commerce services for booksellers and publishers." Further,
Gardners Digital Warehouse will supply the capability for Publishers to link their existing digital files, eBooks, Audio Downloads, and extended bibliographic content such as ‘search inside’ to Gardners Books range of Internet and high street retailers. Publishers can also utilise a range of digitisation services designed to enable any size of Publisher to create digital content economically and to use it for publicity and eBook sales with all of Gardners customers.
The vast majority of publishers in the UK and US are small and do not have the depth of experience or financial capacity to support their own back office functions which is why 'publisher service' programs by larger publishers and companies like NBS and PGW exist. Similar issues will exist in the digital world and perhaps the financial aspects and the knowledge gap will be even more stark as processes and applications become more technology driven. Regrettably, as digital distribution becomes a basic service it will simply be out of the reach of the less sophisticated publisher. And this is where Harpercollins, Random House and others will step in to offer a range of digital services to support this market.

The issues these publishers will face will be different than those they faced as physical distributors but intuitively I have to believe the margins will be greater and the services they can offer the publishers and authors will be materially better. It is early days yet and the current offerings are fairly basic (not to be critical) but there are some tantalizing possibilities.

Other than the big fiction authors who get loads of attention, marketing money and have brand equity the vast majority of titles go unsupported almost immediately after launch. Successful titles in this environment are often driven by the desire and resourcefulness of the author. Imagine in a digital world where the author can use the digital platform to create their own marketing program, interact with stores and buyers, build communities with consumers and in many ways manage the sales and marketing for their own titles. It will happen. Adding social networking and other interactive 'modules' to the platforms offered by Harpercollins, Random House, Ingram and others will achieve this and I suspect some derivation of these ideas are in the works. The advantages for smaller publishers and authors is the scale that these platforms will offer both in terms of financial considerations and that they will become destination sites for consumers of books.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

OCLC Respond to Skyriver Suit

Sent to OCLC members this afternoon:
On July 29, SkyRiver Technology Solutions and Innovative Interfaces, Inc. filed suit against OCLC, alleging anticompetitive practices. We at OCLC believe the lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend the policies and practices of the cooperative.

OCLC’s General Counsel, working with trial counsel, will respond to this regrettable action by SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces following procedures and timetables dictated by the court. This process will likely take months or even years, not days.

In the meantime, we want to assure the OCLC membership and all 72,000 libraries that use one or more OCLC services that these spurious allegations will not divert us from our current plans and activities. These include maintaining and enhancing existing services, pursuing an ambitious agenda in library research and advocacy, and introducing new Web-scale (cloud) services. Indeed, OCLC has been a global leader in providing cloud-based services for libraries since 1971, and the next generation of these services holds great promise for reducing member library costs.

It is worth noting that our current strategy represents a collective effort by librarians around the world, developed through ongoing dialogue and consultation with the Board of Trustees, Global Council, and Regional Councils in the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We will continue our active engagement with OCLC members and governance participants as, together, we move our cooperative forward.

Inclusion, reciprocity, trust and the highest standard of ethical conduct have guided the OCLC cooperative in the past and will guide us in the future. As always, OCLC’s public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing the rate of rise of library costs remain paramount.

—Larry Alford, Chair, OCLC Board of Trustees

—Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO

Beirut: Overhead 1972

Beirut Overhead, 1972
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

This photo was taken in 1972 from yet another Pan Am plane window and clearly shows the famous corniche that fronts the city. Beirut was referred to as the Paris of the middle east in the 1950s and 60s because it was so cosmopolitan. On this journey we only stopped for fuel but in 1968, the family spent two days here on the way to our first overseas home in Bangkok. If my navigation is correct one of those hotels in the center of the image was the famous Phoenicia Intercontinental which is where we stayed in 1968. I am fairly certain it and some of the buildings in the image were destroyed during the civil war. I would like to visit Beirut again some day. A few more on Flickr.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

PND Technology: Parse.ly

Frequent readers will recall that I occasionally report on my attendance at the New York Tech meet-up which is a once a month showcase of new and interesting technology and applications in early development (mostly). I also recently attended a similar group meeting in Hoboken and I am considering reporting on what I find interesting at these meetings on a more regular basis. So here goes.

I am interested in curated content and Parse.ly is a product that helps content owners curate content for their users. At a recent meeting I attended one of the founders of the company took the audience through their product showing how users on traditional media sites are treated like strangers even though they may be frequent visitors to the website. The parse.ly product "connects users with content they’ll love through personalized recommendations. Our technology gives publishers the power to quickly and easily recommend relevant content to users based on what they’ve read in the past and what other, similar users are reading now." It is a cool and elegant application.

By understanding what the user has looked at and interacted with over time and what other users with similar habits have also viewed the parse.ly tool is able to serve up a more concentrated and particular set of content that the user will find interesting. Perhaps a good example of how this process works and how it could be implemented is represented in a current test the company is running with a major newspaper. Parse.ly has suggested that pre-packaged topic-based email subscriptions are too generic and that the Parse.ly tool can craft topic collections based expressly on the needs/interests of a particular individual. So do away with the generic email subscriptions and implement a parse.ly solution that is more relevant to the user.

Parse.ly is available in various forms with the most powerful being full integration with a clients' content. The company is working with some major media clients on enterprise level contracts but is also available to general users so check it out.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Confusing a Silo with a Business

The strategy of organizing content around a common topic such as legal or medical information is mature in information publishing. As other publishers mimic the strategy of organizing their content into silos they would be wise not to confuse their efforts with community building or market making. Users are interested in accessing validated, useful and important topical information but this could just as easily be web based content as it is published content. Often it is just that.

Whereas information companies formally organized their businesses around topics (medical, tax, legal, etc.) more than 15 years ago they quickly understood that their customers needed more. Initially, it was often the integration across what had been independent databases that produced the most utility for their users and, their early work led to the development of taxonomies, search techniques and applications which enabled work flow integration. But nothing stands still and as the information business continues to evolve what is happening currently in information should be of interest to all publishers. In short, their experience suggests it may be simplistic to believe establishing a silo of content will produce a community of willing publishing consumers.

Having built platforms supporting information products, information companies now recognize that their customers are looking for integration across subject areas. Importantly, the customers are looking for ways to validate a much wider pool (ocean) of potentially useful and important information. To Thomson Reuters (and others) the silo increasingly looks like a pyramid and they have have begun to conceptualize the management of information and data using this framework. In part, this has to do with the excessive growth of information: Increasingly information providers are as useful to their customers as filters of a vast catalog of information as they are providers of tools, techniques and proprietary data. Consequently, information providers are beginning to see themselves providing access to as much content and information as possible - available on their platforms - and then progressively adding value to the consumer as they move up the pyramid in terms of need and application.

At the top of the pyramid are those publisher specific technologies and content that provide the most value to customers. Companies like Thomson Reuters recognize customers have broad needs and thus there is business logic to providing different services at each level of this pyramid as well as integration points with companies outside the Thomson Reuters family. Inherent in this approach is the recognition by Thomson Reuters and others that it may not be possible to operate in a closed environment any longer. The information space is simply too large to organize in the manner in which information aggregated content in the 1990s. The more addressable issue is to provide consumers with the information critical to their needs and filter that information or content such that it is unambiguous.

The lesson for less advanced publishers is that building a concentration around siloed content is not enough; in-fact, aggregating consumer interest and appeal around publishing content will fail unless that concentration includes content from the web, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc. which is also organized, validated and served up in the most effective manner for the consumer. Information publishers have been able to evolve their model to support the needs of their professional customers but the consumer market is more anarchic and it remains to be seen whether trade publishers can pull it off. Silos may not be worth the effort.