Sunday, November 28, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 47: Digital Collections, Moleskin, Amazon & Tax, Author Interviews, National Digital Library

This edition slightly shorter than normal given the Thanksgiving weekend.

Check out these job opportunities if you didn't see them last week (PND).

From the LA Times a short article on digital libraries (LAT):
Equipped with imaging equipment far more powerful — and often less expensive — than a decade ago, libraries of all sizes are transforming their physical collections into virtual ones. The ultimate goal is to digitize troves of books and documents long hidden in basements and to share them with the world in electronic form.

"Name an institution, and if they have books they're looking to digitize them," said Nick Warnock, president of Los Angeles-based Atiz Innovation Inc., which sells a variety of scanning rigs that allow library technicians to scan as many as 800 pages a minute. The final result is a digitally bound book made from images of the original.

Warnock said his business has doubled this year as more libraries and other organizations become aware of the value of scanning older documents.

The company says it has sold more than 2,000 of its scanning stations to libraries and government agencies around the world, including Stanford, UCLA and the Getty Center. The lowest-cost Atiz rig, called the BookDrive Mini, sells for around $6,000 without the pair of cameras. Canon models that go with it range from $500 to $7,000 each for high-end models.
And what is note book producer Moleskin up to you ask? (PrintMag):
Despite Moleskine’s understandable support of print, the company has been trying to reach into the digital world. In 2009, it introduced MSK, a program that formats web pages for printout so they can be tucked inside notebooks. It’s not the most elegant system, but it’s a first step toward envisioning a digitally minded Moleskine. The next step is the iPhone app that was initially scheduled to be released last summer. It is now on hold, but the company says it will be a digital correspondent to the paper notebook. A draft press release suggested it would “take geopositioned written or visual notes and share them on social networks.” The layout could be changed to match users’ favorite Moleskines, and notes could be put in MSK formatting and printed out. Users would launch the app by plucking a digital version of the elastic band.
Amazon's Lack of Tax Issue (Salon):

Sales tax is a touchy subject for Amazon. Local retailers have long protested that online stores' tax-free status gives them an unfair price advantage. Amazon, wary of provoking state or federal authorities, has played down this advantage. It doesn't tout tax savings anywhere on its site or in other marketing efforts. In a brilliant report on Amazon's tax strategy, Michael Mazerov of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that company representatives have long argued that Amazon's tax advantage is not a big deal. "People shop online for convenience, for huge selection and great prices, and not because of any sales tax issue," a spokesman said in 1999. And an executive once told a group of state tax administrators that "we don't consider tax as a competitive advantage." (The company didn't respond to my inquiries about its tax policies.)

But Mazerov argues that Amazon's actions suggest that taxes have always been a primary consideration. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, moved from New York to Seattle to start the company. "We could have started anywhere," he told Fast Company in 1996. "We chose Seattle because it met a rigorous set of criteria." Among other things, Seattle had lots of talented tech people, it was a nice enough place to attract many more smart people, and it was close to a big book warehouse.

This was true of the San Francisco area, too, which Bezos had also considered for Amazon's headquarters. But Bezos saw one major problem with San Francisco—it's in a big state with high taxes, meaning lots of customers would be subject to sales tax if they bought stuff from Amazon. "I even investigated whether we could set up on an Indian reservation near San Francisco," Bezos told Fast Company. "This way we could have access to talent without all the tax consequences. Unfortunately, the government thought of that first."

David Rothman on Creating a National Digital Library System (Atlantic). The article is long but here is a sample (and the comments are useful also):
A library plan and related initiatives should include the actual collections, not just for traditional education and research but also for job training; tight integration with schools, libraries, and other institutions; encouragement of the spread of the right hardware and connections; and the cost-justification described in the stimulus proposal. Multimedia is essential, and Kindle-style tablets will almost surely include color and video in the future, blurring distinctions between them and iPads. But the digital library system mustn't neglect books and other texts. Old-fashioned literacy, in fact, rather than e-book standards, should be the foremost argument for a national digital library system--as a way to expand the number and variety of books for average Americans, especially students. Without basic skills, young people will not be fit for many demanding blue-collar jobs, much less for Ph.D.-level work, and economic growth will suffer (PDF). Even recreational reading of fiction, not just nonfiction, can help develop the comprehension needed for the job-related kind. But by the end of high school, most young people in the United States no longer read for fun. E-books and other technology could expand their reading choices and make books more enticing, through such wrinkles as Kindle-style dictionaries and encyclopedia links to help students better understand the words in front of them.

The need is there. Decades ago when I worked the poverty beat at a factory-town newspaper in Lorain, Ohio, on Lake Erie, west of Cleveland, I did not see even pulp-fiction titles in the apartments of typical welfare mothers. Most middle-class homes also tended not to teem with books--probably true in New York or Boston as well. And this antediluvian era was years before distractions such as super-cheap video games, $67 color televisions from WalMart, cellphones, social networks, and, of course, other sites on the World Wide Web. The 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report sponsored by Scholastic says more than half of the surveyed children read for pleasure between six and eight years of age, but that the statistic drops to a quarter for those between 15 and 17. For 15-17-year-old boys, the fraction of recreational readers is a mere fifth--maybe one reason why so many men are falling behind women in earning power.
A great collection of audio interviews with authors on the BBC website:
Great writers have always fascinated their readers. We want to know how they create the characters we love or hate, the evocative settings, and the plots that have us reading late into the night, desperate to know what happens next. Throughout its history, the BBC has aimed to help audiences delve into the imagination of writers. This collection of interviews with some of the 20th Century's most read authors reveals something of those imaginations and the personalities which lie behind some of the greatest modern novels.

From the twitter (@personanondata):

Norwegian publishers offer reward to solve William Nygaard case:

Book Industry Study Group Webcast - Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy. Nov 30th, 1pm

New media and the future of books-Interview with Chi Young-suk (Elsevier, IPA)

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