Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reading List 2010 and TheMillions

At the close of each year for the past several years, the blog TheMillions has published the lists of books read by a wide variety of people whom they invite to share their year's readings. In that spirit, here are the books I read this year (and I don't pretend that these are by any means high-brow but, for the most part, they are good entertainment).

It is difficult to place one book over another as best or worst (or lesser best); however, I especially enjoyed the Le Carre, Furst, Winslow and Mankell books this year. For LeCarre, the book was very much a return to form even though I was appalled by the ending even though I should have seen it coming. Appalling was what he was after, I think. Alan Furst (with Pellecanos and Kerr) is an author whose new work I look forward to reading each year and this book was no different from its excellent predecessors. Don Winslow has written a sequel to the early 1980s book Shibumi and he gets it almost note perfect. And lastly, the Mankell title which I had purchased for MrsPND (who also liked it) had quite a gory start but the story was entertaining. Having said that, the Swedes are a little wordy. Must be the long winters.

The biggest surprise was the current book, which I aim to finish by year end: The Decline & Fall of the British Empire. There's no sugar coating the history here and Brendon takes the lid off the ineptitude, callousness and brutality of the British empire. Not revisionist history but perhaps more realistic. I don't get given a lot of books (this was true even when I ran Bowker), but on a visit to the publisher Public Affairs a few years ago I had the run of their stock room and picked up Diamonds, Gold, and War about South Africa, which was an excellent early 20th century history of the country. I was less impressed with Meacham's Jackson book and didn't find it particularly deep or insightful. It was hugely successful so perhaps that's just me.

Lastly, the book I most enjoyed this year was Portnoy's Complaint which I thought I had read but hadn't. In October, on a visit to the family manse, I picked it off the shelf and read it almost straight through in a sitting. There aren't too many books that make me laugh out loud but this was one of them.

The number of books read in 2010 was consistent with the past four or five years - which I know because I keep track of them in librarything.com. Already on my to-read shelf (in hardcover) I have 17 titles plus the half of Ulysses that I haven't read. Happy reading.

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, Piers Brendon
Too Close to Home: A Thriller, Linwood Barclay
The Collaborator, Gerald Seymour
Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy
Our Kind of Traitor: A Novel, John le Carre
Portnoy's complaint, Philip Roth
The Man from Beijing, Henning Mankell
Moonlight Mile (Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro), Dennis Lehane
Spies of the Balkans: A Novel, Alan Furst
Ultimatum, Matthew Glass
The Midnight House, Alex Berenson
Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa, Martin Meredith
Lustrum: A Novel, Robert Harris
Ulysses, James Joyce (I am still working on this one).
The Ghost War, Alex Berenson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson
Rogue Island, Bruce DeSilva
Satori, Don Winslow
Wicked City, Ace Atkins
If the Dead Rise Not (Bernie Gunther), Philip Kerr,
The Godfather of Kathmandu, John Burdett
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, Jon Meacham
John, Cynthia Lennon
Homer & Langley: A Novel, E.L. Doctorow
The Dead of Winter, Rennie Airth
The Way Home, George Pelecanos
The Given Day: A Novel, Dennis Lehane

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dawn over Haleakala

Dawn over Haleakala Maui, 1992
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

(I originally posted a scanned print of this image however I've now replaced this with a scanned35mm slide. Much better - no schmutz.)

When I was in high school there was something of a tradition that we would drive up to the rim of the Haleakala crater after some important event like the Prom. The trip is less than 40 miles from the base of the mountain but can take several hours because travel is slow and the road twists and turns across the western side of the volcano. Haleakala is dormant and while the crater rim offers amazing views - like this one and of the sweep of the mountain down to the sea on most sides - it is the crater itself which is the real star of the show. Most tourists will travel up in the early hours and maybe catch the sunrise but will invariably travel back down on a bicycle using gravity to speed them on their way.

The smarter tourist will slap on several layers of sunscreen and hike down the Sliding Sands trail to the base of the crater, cross it and then hike back up the a switch-back trail at Halemau'u. Not for the faint of heart this is an eleven mile hike with a 3,000 foot elevation change. The first nine miles are easy; it's the last two miles of switch back trail that kill. I've done this full day hike three times and the last time was in March 2005 with my high school buddy Dave. I went for the weekend and left the office on Thursday came back on Tuesday. It was well worth it and I'd do it again in a minute.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kno Tablets Shipping To Select Faculty and Students

David Nagel at Campus Technologies is reporting that the Kno Tablet which is aimed directly at the student market has begun shipping to students and faculty (CT)

The Kno tablet, designed specifically for higher education, will be available in limited quantities via invitation starting tomorrow for $599 for the single-screen model and $899 for the dual-screen model.Kno devices sport one or two 14.1-inch, 1,440 x 900-pixel touchscreens and can display full-scale textbooks , videos, and other multimedia. They also support notetaking, educational apps, Web browsing, and content sharing. Kno is also operating an electronic textbook store featuring "tens of thousands of textbooks from most of the major publishers, with new books being added regularly," according to Kno. The tablets made their formal debut in June 2010 in the dual-screen configuration and went into beta testing with higher education students this fall using software from education publishers Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, and Wiley. The single-screen version was announced in late September.

Also on the kno website there are some videos explaining the use of the product as well as a demo of the unit itself which happens to look like a large iPhone4. Very stylish. (As an aside Nicole clearly needs a boyfriend to drive her around: Three buses!?).

Some may recall that the CEO of Kno is also the founder of Chegg.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 50: Google eBooks, Smelling Books, Spooky Retail Practices, Manga Censorship

TechCruch has a snarky piece about the Google eBookstore and some of the commentators see through the bias (TC):
Many hopes and dreams were projected onto Google Editions’ vaporware. It would index every published word since the dawn of humanity, and make it possible to search your personal library, and deep-link to individual chapters, sections, and paragraphs. It would somehow singlehandedly resurrect the dying bookstore trade. Instead, when the fog finally cleared, all we got was Kindle Lite.

Oh, it does what it does well enough. You can buy books from Google and read them on your Android, iWhatever, e-reader, or the Web; authors and publishers can upload their own books, with or without DRM; and it’s all been expertly implemented. But now that you can read Kindle books on the Web, Google’s new eBookstore is little more than a carbon copy of Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem — except that you can’t (yet) read DRMed Google ebooks on a Kindle (which remains, I note, the world’s most popular e-reader) or email them as gifts.

From "Thrilled"

Checked out some of my favorites Dickens titles. Looked at the sample, changed settings from scan to flowing text, adjusted font size, line spacing. Decided this is a must for my dad to get his books. Sorry that they've not served markets/authors with copyright issues, but this is a profound value for many. How is it that such a monumental effort to get books into available electronic format is denigrated because one segment of authors (which have multiple layers of legal concerns) is not well served??

From Khalid:

To be fair to Google, this is version one and they tend to make improvements to their services very quickly. Granted, some content will be held-back because of the legal situation, but ultimately the service will very likely be much better soon.

Worst case, Google Books doesn't do very well. But already Amazon are talking about a full Kindle web application and with it the ability for any site to sell books through Kindle. Those features were almost certainly pushed out there or made a higher priority because of Google. So, at the least, the competition has made and will continue to make Kindle better.

And "Harry"

I believe the true "problem" is expertly sandwiched into the article:

"The best is that you get public-domain books for free, though they seem to have missed the Creative Commons train: neither of the books I’ve released for free appears in their catalog. "

Oh....Now this article makes much more sense.
Michael Powell is enthusiastic about the Google eBook store and speaks to Forbes:
I’ve been reading for months that Google, the resident behemoth here, would partner with local booksellers when they launched their eBookstore. Sure enough, it’s happening. And maybe I’m just to used to the old tales, but I’ve found it hard to grasp the plot point. Sure, Amazon.com uses neighborhood booksellers to address scarcity, especially for used books, but ebooks magically eliminate such concerns. Why wouldn’t Google just stomp to the fight with Amazon, flattening those little bricky stores along the way?

When you need an answer from someone with bookstore cred you can do a lot worse than one of Google’s most notable partners — Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore. So I spent the past week emailing with Darin Sennett, Director of Web Stuff at Powell’s. He explained why stores like his and Google are ready to write the eBook of love, not war.

When I think about partnerships between Google eBookstore and publishers, it makes sense. But I have to admit that when I saw Powell’s partnering with Google eBookstore, it made me scratch my head. So let’s start there. What’s the advantage of this partnership for your store?

Our core competency is bookselling. Building an ebook distribution infrastructure from scratch is a gigantic undertaking – not something an independent bookseller has the resources to do. Then there’s keeping up with all the future devices people will want to read on, which means continual focus on technological development. Having Google take care of the heavy lifting lets us concentrate on being a fantastic bookstore.

Number 16 in the reasons to love New York from NY Magazine:
Because We’re Home to Not Only the Publishing Industry But Also to a Woman Who Spends Her Days Smelling Books: After artist Rachael Morrison, 29, started working at the MoMA library, she’d joke that she was “smelling books” all day. She loves being surrounded by all these books in an increasingly digitized age—they already seem like artifacts. She began wondering what it would be like not to be able to smell them anymore. “When you read a book, you become immersed in this way that feels very special and individual,” she says. Unlike when you read something online, where “I always have this sense that whatever I am reading is being read by millions of other people.” So six months ago, she decided to spend her lunch breaks chronicling the unique scent of each book in the MoMA stacks.
(And for my many readers who like pork - check this out in the same issue).

A popular theme at the moment: How eBooks, iPad, etc, etc are changing the whole idea of the book. From the Observer:

These two developments – the Economist's app and Eagleman's "book" – ought to serve as a wake-up call for the print publishing industry. The success of Amazon's Kindle has, I think, lulled print publishers into a false sense of security. After all, they're thinking, the stuff that goes on the Kindle is just text. It may not be created by squeezing dyes on to processed wood-pulp, but it's still text. And that's something we're good at. So no need to panic. Amazon may be a pain to deal with, but the Kindle and its ilk will see us through.If that's really what publishers are thinking, then they're in for some nasty surprises. The concept of a "book" will change under the pressure of iPad-type devices, just as concepts of what constitutes a magazine or a newspaper are already changing. This doesn't mean that paper publications will go away. But it does mean that print publishers who wish to thrive in the new environment will not just have to learn new tricks but will also have to tool up. In particular, they will have to add serious in-house technological competencies to their publishing skills.

Who will be the last book readers from Geoff Pevere at The (Toronto) Star on his visit to The Written Word Festival:

Admittedly, the Written Word Festival is not the best place to find kids who don't read, who are presumably those kids so neurally corrupted by Facebook and cellphones that reading is beyond them.

However, it's a terrific place not only to meet kids who do read but to learn how they read.

Katherine Drotos is 17. She says she'll read “pretty much anything” as long as it grabs her, and if it does she's hooked to the last page. She finds the stuff most likely to grab her on lists: online lists at Indigo and Amazon, and favourite lists posted by avid readers. As for e-books, there's no way. “I can't stand looking at a screen when I read.”

Reading, it is commonly believed, is in crisis. Just google these three words (reading in crisis) and you'll find articles, studies and columns worrying that people, kids in particular, are reading less than ever. The implication is clear: if it weren't for all those addictive, instantly gratifying, ADD-generating electronic distractions, kids would be curling up with 700-page novels. Not uncommon is this sort of sentiment, found in the 2008 book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future by Mark Bauerlein: “Young (Internet) users have learned a thousand new things, no doubt. They upload and download, surf and chat, post and design, but they haven't learned to analyze a complex test, store facts in their heads, comprehend a foreign policy decision, take lessons from history, or spell correctly.”

Salon has an interesting article about how web stores not only know who you are but manipulate their prices accordingly. Why are we surprised? (Salon):

Online retailers also alter prices, deals, and offers on regular goods that do not traditionally have much price volatility. Groups like Consumers Union periodically track shopping sites to see how and how often they change prices, and find fairly frequent instances of dynamic pricing. "While surfing Barnes and Noble's site, we selected a new hardcover book," the watchdog noted in a 2007 investigation. "[We] placed it in our online 'cart' at a cost of $20.80. We added several other books as well but didn't finalize the sale. Two days later, using the same browser, we found the cart had been emptied. We selected the same titles…[it] now cost $26.00." Ditto for shoes on Zappos and a number of other products.

It is impossible to know exactly what stores change prices for customers after they have clicked to put a product in their shopping cart—or which stores change a price on a customer depending on their browser or cookies. Shoppers despise the practice, understandably, so stores rarely cop to it unless caught red-handed. But many offer disclaimers implying they are aware of price discrepancies. Pottery Barn, for example, answers the question, "Why is the price of an item in my saved shopping cart different from when I selected it?" on its site. The answer? "Prices are subject to change—including temporary reductions as well as permanent increases.

The prices of items in your cart represent the current price for which you will be charged." In short: Dynamic pricing.The practice, if mysterious, is not new. Mega-retailer Amazon offered the same DVD for different prices to different customers in 2000, creating a public-relations disaster. The company claimed it was performing A/B price testing—seeing how many more folks would buy the DVD at a higher price—and said it would always give all customers the lower price at sale. But the incident fostered widespread concern about dynamic pricing, and spurred the first thorough study of the practice.

Clamping down on 'extreme manga' in Japan (Independent):

Japanese comics, which are read by adults and children, are part of mainstream culture and often explore complex subjects, including business, war and politics. A manga version of Marx's Das Kapital recently made it into print, joining Tolstoy's War and Peace, Hitler's Mein Kampf and Shakespeare's King Lear. But although the country's shelves groan with romance and literary manga, it is the genre's hardcore fringe that has long upset conservatives.

Debate has raged for years on the impact of such material on children. Violent manga and anime have been cited in the trials of several notorious Japanese serial killers, but sexual and violent crimes are comparatively rare in Japan.

Exports of comics, animated movies and games have mushroomed in the last decade. Former Prime Minister Taro Aso was a famous manga -fan and the government has bundled popular culture into its "Cool Japan" strategy, which focuses on the commercial and soft-power potential of the industry abroad. Prime Minister Naoto Kan recognised the industry's importance this week when he blogged on the censorship dispute. "Upbringing of youth is an important matter. But it's also important to present Japan's anime to the world," he wrote.


From the Twitter:

Smithsonian Celebrates 50 Years of COBOL "Nerdy memorabilia"

From Google and Harvard, a New Way to Analyze the Written Word -

Columbia Journalism Review: Media Policy in the Digital Age

And in sports, normal service was resumed in the cricket world (BBC).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Repost: Predictions 2010: Cloudy With A Chance of Alarm

As a prelude to thinking about 2011, here were my thoughts for 2010 posted on January 4, 2010.

As we greeted the New Year in 2009, we knew we were in for it economically and, as I suggested in my prediction post this time last year, one of the most obvious assumptions was that things would get worse before they got better. Contrary to expectations, publishing may have come out a winner in spite of the steady litany of bad news on the magazine, newspaper and television fronts that percolated all year. While recognizing the economic challenges in store for us back in 2009, I also suggested a resurrection of sorts could be had as businesses began to accommodate the fundamental changes that were taking place in the industry as they executed their business plans. Sadly, there have been few bright spots in media during 2009, and after having taken the pulse of views on the near-term future in publishing by speaking to a number of senior publishing executives, my belief is we will not see any appreciable improvements during 2010. While some of their collective views can be attributed to ‘hedging,’ external trends support the lack of optimism whether they be reductions in education funding and library budgets or the increasing reliance on “blockbuster” authors or pricing issues.

Many of the macro trends that I have noted in years past remain prevalent and in some cases have accelerated. For example,
  • Educational publishers appear to be increasing – rather than decreasing – their investment in electronic media and more importantly, are beginning to think of their electronic products as distinctly different from their print precursors. In particular, educational publishers have started to talk meaningfully about “databases” and “subscriptions.”
  • Newspapers – particularly NewsCorp – have been particularly active in attempting to build paid content models which support the separation of ad-based and subscription-based models. Newspapers aside, even trade publishers – notably Disney - are beginning to experiment in interesting ways with paid subscription models.
On the other hand, my expectations for further compacting of the publisher supply chain and increasing collaboration across publishing segments appear to have run aground. Interestingly, an executive I recently spoke to noted that the separation of publishing units that historically sat together – education with trade with information, for example – has negatively impacted publishing companies ability to learn and benefit from the experience and market testing of their sister companies. Possibly a decrease in access to ‘institutional knowledge’ has, in general, contributed to some media companies’ hesitancy to experiment.

Prognostication being the point of this post, there are some newer macro changes I see that will define the publishing and media space more and more over the next three to five years and it will be interesting to see how these develop.
  • Firstly, 2009 was the ‘year of the eBook’ as new devices seemed to launch each week. But the eBook, as we understand it today, only has three more years to run. By the end of 2010, we will be focused on the ‘cloud’ as the implications of the Google Editions product become clearer. This accelerated migration away from a physical good – even with an eBook, the title was ‘physically’ downloaded – will challenge our notion of ‘ownership’, rewrite business rules and provide the first true ‘strata’ for communities (or social networks) to develop around content.

    The Apple iSlab (iSlate, iTablet, iEtc) will become a key driver in this development as the company becomes the first consumer electronics maker to apply their design expertise to multi-content delivery. (I don’t count SONY because they got it completely wrong).
  • A closely related (but somewhat tangential) development will be the realization by publishers that the library market could become a threat to their business models as mobile and remote access is aggressively marketed by companies such as Serial Solutions and EBSCO. Currently, these products are not specifically related to trade and academic titles; however, the implications for all published product will become clearer as patrons’ ease of access to ‘free’ content grows and as the resolution services improve.

    Remote access to information products by library patrons is obviously not new, but applied to mobile computing it will change many things about the library model. This trend coupled with the ‘cloud’ concept above, will require an industry-wide re-think of the library business model.
  • There are hints that the silo-ing of content that has been endemic to information and education for many years could become a trend in trade as well. Examples remain sparse, though Harlequin and Tor are routinely cited as exemplars of this trend.

    Subject-specific concentrations of content in trade will become a more broadly viable model; but simply concentrating content is not enough. Trade publishers will begin to license or commission ancillary content that adds a transactional element to their offering (not exclusively in a monetary sense). In effect, this additional content will provide a reason for consumers to return periodically to the site for free reference, news or dictionary content. Thus, this content will complement the subject-specific content that publishers generate themselves. As each segment develops, the ancillary content will also become core content to the publisher and may eventually be produced by them (although, initially, the content may be licensed). Over time other services will be built within each subject silo, and this maturity will replicate the product development seen in information publishing over the past ten years as those businesses established subject specific franchises around topics such as business news, tax and legal information.
Aside from these macro trends that will grow in importance over the next few years maintaining the status quo will still be the operative task during 2010. Here are following are some more specific predictions for 2010:
  • Certain segments (financial, legal and tax information and education, for example) continue to be challenged and any business that relies on the library market will face a very difficult time. Funding will be worse in the coming year (fiscal 2011) making retention, renewals and price increases problematic. By the end of this year, we could see some consolidation in the information media space.
  • We will see the return of an old model of collaboration between magazines and traditional publishers as magazines look for ready-made content. Witness the return of the serial and short story to the pages of periodicals as their publishers look for low-cost content for their plodding (but suddenly more aggressive) migration to electronic delivery. In turn, electronic magazines will offer publishers a more effective, targeted and supportive mode of marketing than publishers have seen in years.
  • 2010 will be a year of warfare: Publishers against retailers, wholesalers against retailers, retailers against retailers, publishers against consumers. It may be nasty, brutish and short, but will any of them truly understand the stakes? (See macro trend number one).
  • Finally, we will see consolidation of at least two major trade houses. This is likely to precipitate another combination by year end. An outsider company (not a current trade publisher) may make a major move into the trade market.
  • Last year, I predicted that out-of-work journalists would become ‘content producers’ and we have seen that develop as companies like Demand Media and Associated Content build market share. I see this trend accelerating during 2010. As magazines migrate to platform models, they become 24/7 publishing operations with a significantly increased demand for content far beyond their capabilities. Where they will succeed is in curating content for their specific audiences; however, much of this content will be produced for them, rather than by them in the traditional manner. In effect, magazines will outsource editorial.
  • And in sports, Manchester United will retain their Premier League title, winning on goal difference over Arsenal; Barcelona will win the Champions League; and England will win the deciding fourth Ashes test in Melbourne in December.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hoboken Tug Ice Bound

Hoboken Tug Ice Bound
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

Just off shore this tug belongs to one of the last remaining industrial businesses located on this part of the Hudson. Here barges and other commercial vessels are floated into dry docks and stripped and painted. Numerous developers have their eyes on this property.

This image was taken in 2008 and thusfar we haven't had this much snow but then spring just ended.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CJR: Media Policy in the Digital Age

Columbia Journalism Review open letter to the FCC about a media policy for the digital age. The letter is long and this a small sample that sets up the discussion (CJR)

The question you confront is not whether the government should allocate public funds to shape media and journalism. It already does. We have inherited a policy regime that is breathtaking in its scope and impact, and that goes well beyond mail subsidies and CPB funds, important though those have been. It exists in part because journalism is a form of commerce that must be taxed and regulated like all other commerce. Also, a great deal of journalism is influenced by government regulation because it is delivered across public or quasi-public property: the airwaves, government-granted cable monopolies, satellite bands, and the like. It would be no wiser to abandon altogether the policies that set rules and allocate funds across this system than it would be to stop regulating oil leases in ocean waters or maintaining public parks.

The problem is that the media policies that govern us in 2010—a patchwork stitched from the ideas of Calvin Coolidge’s Republican Party, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, and Ronald Reagan’s deregulatory wave—have been overtaken by technological change.

From the country’s founding, American media and journalism have been continually remade by technological innovation. Political pamphlets made room for industrially printed newspapers, which made room for the telegraph, which made room for radio, which made room for broadcast television, which made room for cable and satellite services, which made room for the World Wide Web, which is making room even as we read this for the Kindle, iPad, and mobile phone applications.


That is not a matter of left versus right, or of competition between political parties; it concerns the health of civil society. A campaign to reform and revitalize public media waged to advance such a vision will have many constituents: rural states left out of the urban media cacophony; independent voters and engaged citizens searching for reason and cross-checked facts, as well as in-depth reporting that will hold power to account; diverse community and ethnic groups seeking more inclusive sources of information; educators and public health institutions seeking reliable channels of public-minded reporting about subjects too often neglected; and politicians of all ideological stripes whose careers are unreasonably endangered by undisciplined, self-interested electronic publishers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Costco Loses Omega Watch Case

Costco purchased a number of Omega watches overseas on the cheap and sold them in their US stores at almost 50% less than the price they were available in the US. Omega sued Costco for copyright infringement and the 9th circuit court agreed with them finding that Costco had purchased the watches manufactured overseas and sold by foreign distributors and had done so without Omega's permission.

In the Supreme Court ruling the court split 4-4 (with Justice Kagan recusing), the court effectively let stand the lower court ruling in favor of Omega. This ruling said the first sale doctrine did not apply to goods produced overseas.

The decision denies the right of an internet retailer to purchase goods overseas covered by US copyright and sell him in the US without the manufacturers permission. So Costco broke the law in this case and going forward manufacturers may be more aggressive in preventing retail price arbitrage. This may well be the case for publishers and content producers who supported Omega in this case. These companies will be able to crack down on retailers that import DVDs, CDs and Books from overseas where retail prices can often be much lower than the US.

On the other hand libraries supported the Costco position because the case, if won by Omega, would limit the first sale doctrine. The first sale doctrine holds that a distributor/manufacturer can not control the distribution of a product after the first sale and this enables libraries and second hand booksellers(etc) to loaning and resell content.

More from paidcontent

paidContent: Why Publishers Are Tracking The Costco v. Omega Supreme Court Case

There's an important case regarding copyright that has reached the Supreme Court. From the WSJ: Watch Out For the Omega Copyright Windup:
Stewart's hard-scrabble scribbler would be pleased to learn that a Supreme Court case scheduled to be argued in the coming term could put the kibosh on library lending, at least of those books published or printed outside the U.S. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the American Library Association and other library groups argue that a recent Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision "threatens the ability of libraries to continue to lend materials in their collections."

The librarians fear they are going to suffer collateral damage from a curious copyright case that has nothing to do with books. It's Costco Wholesale Corporation v. Omega, S.A.—a battle over whether the storied Swiss watch brand can control where and at what price its chronometers are sold in the U.S.

Omega, you see, sells its watches for far less money in some countries than in others, a common enough practice known to economists as "geographical price discrimination." The U.S. market will generally bear more than the market in a Latin American republic, and so Omega offers its goods to distributors in places such as Paraguay for less than it does to American distributors.
American Research Libraries blog notes the amicus filing in the Costco vs Omega watch case (ARL):
And that is why this case is important for libraries. In its amicus brief, LCA notes that “[b]y restricting the application of Section 109(a) to copies manufactured in the United States, the Ninth Circuit’s decision threatens the ability of libraries to continue to lend materials in their collections.” There are millions of volumes in library collections that were manufactured abroad. A more precise estimate than “millions” can probably never be known, though, because there is no reliable way of knowing where books in library collections were actually manufactured. So, if the Supreme Court agreed with the Ninth Circuit, and libraries determined that they could not find an alternative to the traditional first sale doctrine rationale for circulating foreign-manufactured works, they would face an impossible task in determining which of their books could not circulate under the new rule.
Also related a brief filed in the case of Pearson vs Textbook Discounters (JDSupra)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quarterly Book Retailers Report: Borders, B&N, BAMM, WHSmiths, Indigo, RedGroup

Borders reported a dismal 3rd Quarter as many analysts expected. Some have speculated that the company is now flirting with bankruptcy and possibly liquidation. Prior to the earnings report, there was again speculation about a B&N Borders combination but this will never happen and with this Borders report it is even harder to understand why B&N shareholders (to an extent that they exert independence) would ever believe a combination would be in the interest of B&N.

From their press release:

Borders Group, Inc. (NYSE: BGP) today reported results for its third quarter ended October 30, 2010 and the undertaking of important steps in its brand transformation process. Results include:

  • Third quarter sales were $470.9 million, a decrease of 17.6% from the same period a year ago. Comparable store sales declined by 12.6%.
  • The Digital and Kids Toys and Games categories outperformed all other categories, with Digital comparable store sales nearly doubling, and Kids Toys and Games comparable store sales increasing 6.6% for the quarter.
  • The company incurred a loss from continuing operations in the third quarter of $74.4 million or $1.03 per share. For the same period a year ago, the company had a loss of $37.7 million or $0.63 per share.
  • The company reduced debt net of cash by 12.7% compared to the third quarter of last year, and inventory was reduced by $233.7 million.
  • Borders.com sales decreased 8.6% over the prior year to $12.5 million; however, fiscal year-to-date through the end of the third quarter, Borders.com sales increased 24.0% over the prior year, to $43.3 million. Notably, the company made significant improvements to its e-commerce platform during the quarter and added a number of services in preparation for the fourth quarter and beyond.
  • More than 580,000 customers have signed up for the company's Borders Rewards Plus program, generating more than $11 million in membership revenue since launching Sept. 1, 2010.
"Our third quarter results reflect the business challenges facing Borders and the industry at large," said Mike Edwards, CEO, Borders, Inc. "While we are disappointed with third quarter results, my management team and I continue to vigorously address these challenges and our commitment to winning at retail is stronger than ever.

"We're pleased that our publishers and strategic partners have continued to support our business and brand initiatives. We have a comprehensive, executable plan in place that supports our goal of transforming the iconic Borders brand into a profitable economic model over time. I am happy to say that the elements of the plan we've executed thus far have been successful. Our Borders Rewards Plus program has generated more than $11 million in membership revenue since launching just one hundred days ago. Notably, Borders Rewards Plus members shop more frequently and have a higher than average ticket driven by significantly higher units per transaction.

Barnes & Noble reported their second quarter results (BN):
Total sales for the second quarter were $1.9 billion, including sales of Barnes & Noble College Booksellers (“College”) of $798 million. Excluding College, total sales increased 1% over the prior year period. Comparable sales at Barnes & Noble.com increased 59% driven by increases in core products and sales of digital devices and digital content. Barnes & Noble comparable store sales decreased by 3.3% and College’s comparable store sales decreased by 1.5%.

The expansion of the Toys & Games department at Barnes & Noble stores produced a 42% sales increase for the department during the second quarter. In the third quarter, the company began testing additional concepts, including an expanded children’s offering and digital and electronics accessories, to drive further sales increases in 2011.

For the second quarter, the company reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $46 million. The consolidated second quarter net loss was $12.6 million, or $0.22 per share, in-line with previously issued guidance of earnings of $0.05 per share to a loss of $0.25 per share.

As previously announced, the company continued to invest heavily in digital initiatives including: software and cloud services development costs; expenses relating to NOOKcolor; the addition of hundreds of thousands of titles to its digital catalog including a subscription management platform for digital newspapers and magazines; creating interactive proprietary content for children’s books; developing applications to serve multiple reading and smartphone devices – including iPad®, iPhone®, Android™ and BlackBerry®; and the rollout of NOOK Boutiques in Barnes & Noble retail stores.

The additional investments are expected to continue and peak during the second half of the year, and then increase moderately in the years ahead. Payoff for these expenses is estimated to begin to appear in the third quarter, when NOOKcolor is expected to be one of the world’s most sought after eReaders, and in the third and fourth quarters, when NOOKcolor owners will begin downloading digital content, including books and magazines
Barnes & Noble.com’s comparable sales are expected to increase by approximately 75% for both the third quarter and the full year. The company believes these sales increases will be driven primarily by growing sales in core products and the exploding digital content business. By fiscal year end, the company expects that digital content sales will achieve a $400 million full-year run-rate.

Barnes & Noble comparable store sales are expected to increase between 5% and 7% for the third quarter, and to be in a range of flat to 3% for the full year. Increases in sales will be largely driven by sales of NOOK™ devices and accessories, and by increases in children’s products and other non-book merchandise.

During the three-day post-Thanksgiving weekend, the company experienced a strong comparable store sales increase of 17.2% at Barnes & Noble stores and a comparable sales increase of 105.7% online.

College’s comparable store sales are expected to be in a range of flat to a decrease of 2% for the third quarter and the full year. The company expects to achieve EBITDA of approximately $160 to $190 million and $170 million to $205 million, for the third quarter and the full year, respectively. Third quarter earnings per share are expected to be in a range of $0.90 to $1.20. Full-year fiscal 2011 losses per share are expected to be in a range of $0.75 to $1.15.
Booksamillion reported financial results for the third quarter and 39-week period ended October 30, 2010 and net sales for the 13-week period ended October 30, 2010, decreased 5.5% to $104.8 million, from net sales of $110.9 million in the year-earlier period (PR).
Comparable store sales for the 2011 third quarter decreased 5.8% when compared with the 13-week period for the prior year. Net loss for the 2011 third quarter increased to $1.7 million, or $0.11 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $1.6 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, in the year-earlier period.

For the 39-week period ended October 30, 2010, net sales decreased 2.8% to $341.8 million, from net sales of $351.5 million in the year-earlier period. Comparable store sales decreased 4.2% when compared with the same period in the prior year. For the 39-week period ended October 30, 2010, the Company reported net income of $2.2 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, compared with net income of $1.9 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, for the year-earlier period. Commenting on the results, Clyde B. Anderson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Comparable store sales for the third quarter were disappointing as we faced a tough comparison to last year's bestseller lineup and a cost conscious consumer buying fewer hardcover books. We did see continued positive trends in bargain books and gifts. As we look forward to the fourth quarter we are excited about our new toy, gift and electronics departments, our entry into the video game business, our expanded offering of DVDs and the introduction of the NOOK range of e-readers including NOOKcolor."
In mid October WH Smiths (UK) reported their full year ending August 2010 (PR):
Group profit before tax and exceptional items up 9% to £89m (2009: £82m)
• Record profit performance from Travel with operating profit up 10% to £53m1 (2009: £48m)
• High Street operating profit up 4% to £51m1 (2009: £49m)
• Total Group profit before tax2 of £89m (2009: £81m)
• Underlying earnings per share3 up 11% to 45.7p (2009: 41.3p). Earnings per share (including
exceptional items) 4 up 13% to 45.7p (2009: 40.6p)
• Strong balance sheet and cash generation
• Strong free cash flow5 of £82m (2009: £89m)
• Net funds of £56m versus net funds of £45m as at 31 August 2009
In Books, LFL sales were down 3% but gross margin was up year on year. The books market was soft, however performance varied by sub-category, with fiction up year on year, kids flat and non fiction down with the reduction in sales of celebrity biographies being a key driver of market decline over the period. We again saw further good share performance versus the general retail market as we continue to implement our strategy to build our authority as a popular book specialist. The strength of our position was demonstrated by WHSmith receiving the Children’s Bookseller of the Year award and securing the rights to launch the new Richard & Judy Book Club, exclusively to WHSmith. We are also building a strong position in the developing eBooks market. In Travel, we have developed our books offer further by extending book charts and launching exclusive early editions of certain key titles in airports.
In Canada, Indigo the country's only national book retailer reported a 3.8% growth in revenue for its second quarter ending October 2, 2010. (PR)
Revenue for the quarter was $214.8 million, up $7.8 million from last year. On a comparable store basis, Indigo and Chapters superstores posted a 0.7% decline in revenue, while small format stores were down 4.8%.

Commenting on the results, CEO Heather Reisman said, “We are pleased with our top line revenue growth, particularly in our rapidly growing digital business. Consumers have responded very favourably to our Kobo eReader, launched in the middle of our first quarter, and are showing even greater response to the new Wi-Fi model launched this past month.”

Ms. Reisman noted, “Our core retail book business experienced a challenging quarter against a very strong line up of titles in the same period last year. Our gift and toy businesses continued to show significant growth and reinforced our decision to expand these categories meaningfully in a majority of stores moving forward.”
Net loss for the quarter was $1.7 million compared to a net profit of $2.2 million last year. Ms. Reisman noted, “The increased loss was expected as we continue to invest in the growth and development of our digital initiatives and the re-development of our stores to accommodate growth in our gift and toy businesses”.

The Board of Directors today also approved a quarterly dividend of 11 cents per common share to be paid on December 14th, 2010, to all shareholders of record as of November 30th, 2010.

During the quarter, Kobo, the global eReading service of which Indigo owns 59%, announced plans for its application to be preloaded on both the Samsung Galaxy and the BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablets. They also announced their 3rd Quarter launch of the new Kobo Wireless eReader which adds Wi-Fi connectivity, upgraded hardware with faster performance, longer battery life, a sharper eInk screen and easy access to the Kobo store hosting more than 2.2 million books. Shortly after the close of the quarter, Kobo announced the addition of dozens of newspaper and magazines to the assortment including The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. Kobo will continue to expand its newspaper and magazine offering. Kobo also announced that it will now be selling in 2,500 Walmart locations throughout the United States, expanding on its current availability at Canadian Walmart stores.

Given the continued growth of Kobo's business, Kobo is seeking to raise additional financing by way of a private placement to cover working capital needs. The amount to be raised, the financial terms, and the timing of the financing will be determined by Kobo in consultation with its financial advisors.
Down Under, RedGroup's financial woes were evident in their annual report submitted in August:

Earnings before interest, tax and depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for the year was NZ$27,045k. The consolidated entity’s loss after income tax for the year was $42,970k (2009:$14,743k). The result includes a one off, stock impairment charge of $30,317 attributable to the integration of the Borders acquisition. Revenue decreased 10% from prior year as the retail industry generally became more challenging post the global financial crisis. Cost of doing business (excluding interest) decreased 12% realizing the full year benefit of prior year integration initiatives. The business continues to take advantage of the internet and technology opportunity making an equity investment in Kobo Inc. and allowing customers to purchase and download eContent directly from REDgroup retail websites.

It should also be noted that REDGroup's cash position was marginally improved over the year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 49: Genre Fiction, Aptara Report, Salinger Obit

In the Observer Ed Docx tries to explains quality is in the eyes of the beholder and in the process proves his point (Observer)

It's worth dealing with the difference again, since everyone seems to have forgotten it or become chary of the articulation. Mainly this: that even good genre (not Larsson or Brown) is by definition a constrained form of writing. There are conventions and these limit the material. That's the way writing works and lots of people who don't write novels don't seem to get this: if you need a detective, if you need your hero to shoot the badass CIA chief, if you need faux-feminist shopping jokes, then great; but the correlative of these decisions is a curtailment in other areas. If you are following conventions, then a significant percentage of the thinking and imagining has been taken out of the exercise. Lots of decisions are already made.

So it follows that genre tends to rely on a simpler reader psychology. If you have a body on the first page, then you raise a question: who killed it and how did it get there? And curiosity will power readers a surprisingly long way. As will, say, a treasure hunt (Brown) or injustice (Grisham) or the locked room mystery format (Larsson). None of this is to say that writing good thrillers is easy. It is still incredibly difficult. But it is easier.

These are the reasons, too, why a bad thriller or detective novel or murder mystery will feel so much better than a bad literary novel – why it might even thrive. Even in a bad genre book, you've still got the curiosity and the reassuring knowledge that the writer will eventually deliver against the conventions. Bad literary fiction, on the other hand, is mostly without such fallback positions and is therefore a whole lot worse.

Short item about Indian publisher and retailer (The Hindu)
In 1903, Motilal Banarsidass (MLBD) began as a tiny store of spiritual books, built on a capital of Rs. 27. Over the next century, it developed into one of the world's foremost publishers of scholarly works on Indology, with a formidable catalogue of priceless works — 100 volumes of the Mahapuranas, 50 volumes of the ‘Sacred Books of the East' edited by Max Mueller...

Today, the 107-year-old Delhi-based publishing company, still run by the descendants of Motilal Jain, its founder, retains its focus on Indian culture and spiritual heritage, but is evolving to meet the changing needs of the 21st Century.

Speaking to Rajendra Prakash Jain, one of the five brothers who currently run MLBD, what emerges is the picture of a company that straddles the old world and the new, combining tradition with modernity.

The Observer is revisiting their Obits from 2010:
The JD Salinger I knew, by Lillian Ross American author JD Salinger died, aged 91, on 27 January 2010. Here, his long-standing friend Lillian Ross, a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1945, tells of the generous author who could keep her laughing for hours
Technology vendor Aptara released a survey of more than 600 publishers across the Trade, Professional, and Education markets reveals the latest impacts of eBooks on the publishing industry (SFGate):
The survey, conducted this summer, reveals that 64% of publishers are now offering titles in eBook format. Though, the majority are still struggling to maximize profits from the fast-growing eBook market as a result of inefficient print production processes that require transformation in order to support scalable, affordable digital output. The second in a year, this survey is one of a series being conducted by Aptara to document the evolution of book publishing in the face of the burgeoning eReader market and consumers' changing reading behaviors.

The most significant findings from this survey include:

  • A widespread inability to calculate return on investment (ROI) from eBooks - 62%, and of those able to calculate ROI, only 14% are recognizing a stronger ROI from eBooks than print. These stats confirm that most publishers are not employing scalable digital workflows, but rather retrofitting print production process and forgoing significant cost savings.
  • The main eBook production challenge facing publishers is still eReader/content compatibility issues. Even with the near universal EPUB eBook format standard, today's fragmented eReader market makes quality eBook production a moving target, with expert, manual manipulation required to retain consistent formatting across device-types.
  • Almost a quarter of publishers producing eBooks are employing XML, indicating a positive shift to scalable, digital workflows in support of efficient eBook production across all eReaders.
  • Only 7% of publishers are implementing enhancements to their eBooks, suggesting that most publishers are not aware of the EPUB standard's inherent support for content enhancement, including audio and video.
From the twitter (@personanondata)

LA Times: Why is Len Riggio Publishers Weekly's man of the year?

Google Books launched (Blog)

Slow week...

In sports, England crushed Australia in the second Ashes test (BBC)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Repost: Sinatra's Stamp

First posted May 18 2008. Frank would have been 95 on Sunday

Frank Sinatra toured Australia in 1974 and they just wouldn’t leave him alone. Dogged by questions about his alleged connections to the mob and his decision not to give a press conference the press were merciless, and when he described them in true Ratpack fashion as “fags, whores and pimps” it was like chum in a shark tank. In Melbourne, outside The Southern Cross Hotel, he and his entourage were mobbed and one camera man was pushed, fell over and his camera damaged. On top of his comments and this “obvious” aggression by his bodyguard, an apology was demanded. Everyone got on the bandwagon and workers in the heavily unionized country threatened to call their members out if the tour went on without an apology.

Everyone was excited about Sinatra. Across the country, the concerts were sold out and Sinatra was a mega-star in a time when few made the trip “down under.” My father was the manager of The Southern Cross and we lived there for five years. A day or so after the camera-man incident, I had just arrived home from school and was watching Hollywood Squares on TV when my mother shouted out that Frank Sinatra was coming by. I wasn’t sure what to think. Ten minutes later, there was a knock at the door, I opened it and in comes Frank, Barbara and a very large man. For some reason, Mom made herself scarce and I hosted Frank in our apartment living room all alone. He said I should continue to watch TV but I shut it off: Truthfully, I was slightly embarrassed about what I was watching. He wished me “happy birthday” (I was soon to turn 12) and asked me what I was up to in school. In my mind’s eye, I can still see Frank--leaning back with his legs crossed--and Barbara—covered in jewelry--sitting on the hotels’ best mid-century furniture. The furniture was upholstered in bitter-orange crushed velvet. I think the d├ęcor would have reminded Frank of Vegas in the mid-fifties.

We lived on the first floor of the hotel and Frank was about to escape the hotel through my parents’ bedroom roof terrace and over the roof into a waiting car at the bottom of a fire escape. After about ten minutes, the call came and our casual conversation came to an end. I shook Frank and Barbara’s hands and off they went without a hitch to the airport and his private jet. My father got to ride in the limo with him and on the plane Frank signed an autograph for him. One of my great regrets is that I never asked Frank to sign my book (but I do have my eye on the photo he signed for my father).

The tour was essentially cancelled, but an agreement was reached whereby Frank would do one show at the Sydney Opera House. He did it for charity and the show was broadcast on national TV. Naturally, by this point, I was a big fan and watched the entire show.

Since that encounter, I’ve convinced myself of a personal connection to Frank. Having ended up living in Hoboken-- where he was born--makes the whole thing even more surreal since he is a hero here. This, in spite of the fact Frank didn’t really care for the place and, by most accounts, the last time he visited Hoboken was in 1980 when he joined Ronald Regan on a campaign stop. There was a long gap prior to that but it doesn’t seem to worry many Hoboken old-timers, some of whom were at the unveiling of Sinatra’s postage stamp last week.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Under the Theater London

Under the Theater London
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

This image from underneath the National Theater in London where skate boarders and graffiti artists have taken over this dead space. The art is really well executed and I am sure is routinely painted over week to week. Spaces like this, which ordinarily would be frightful, dirty and dangerous spaces should be encouraged by the artists and kids that want to use it.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

War in the Amazon

And so it begins: The end of Amazon's dominance as a book retailer. Well, that's the meme anyway but the reality will be starkly different. Not only will Amazon not give up their position to Google eBooks without a fight they still have the initiative; after all, they still manage the customer relationships of millions of dedicated book buyers. This is their core advantage which will be very difficult to surmount for any retailer in competition. The other advantages Amazon possesses come down to sheer strength. When Amazon fights they take on WalMart. When they build out technology they think industry strength cloud based computing.

The Google eBooks store will raise the bar for book retailing and the new thinking that they have obviously brought to the book retail experience will be beneficial. But don't think Amazon can not adopt any of the initiatives that Google has presented. Of the few dangers that may exist for Amazon could be hubris: Dismissing the positive feedback that Google eBooks receives from users and commentators and not incorporating any changes into their retail experience. And let's face it that Amazon bookstore UI is looking tired cluttered and dated.

From a trends perspective, the Google eBookstore will help accellerate the developing comfort level that consumers have with not owning the products they 'purchase'. Clearly, this could be a bi-product of what the eBookstore is aiming to achieve but the concept of 'books in the cloud' is only a short step away from 'books when you need them' which is a tag line similar to zipcar's. I haven't owned a car since I was 17 but I can get a car whenever I want and very soon I will have the same ability for all books and information. Whether Google eBooks is a usurper - of Amazon's thrown, or a savior - of independent bookstores may miss a larger point that in the launch of Google eBooks we just made a big jump in how we interact with books and content. It just might take a little time to see the implications in plain sight.

Springer launches SpringerBriefs & Tips for eBooks

Springer has announced the launch of a new product line named SpringerBriefs. These short form books running 50 to 125 pages will feature cutting-edge research and practical applications and will be available as eBooks and in print. The company explains that the new product line will cover a wide range of content from professional to academic across a variety of subject areas including business and economics, computer science, human and behavioral sciences, life sciences, mathematics and physical sciences. More from their press release:
Typical topics might include a report on state-of-the-art techniques, a snapshot of a hot or emerging topic, an in-depth case study or a presentation of core concepts for students.

Expert advisory boards and collaborations with academic societies will contribute to generating high-quality content. Streamlined publishing processes and accelerated schedules will take authors’ ideas to market more swiftly than with previous methods. The first titles are scheduled to release in November and December 2010.

All SpringerBriefs titles will be included in the Springer eBook packages that are delivered to libraries and institutions via SpringerLink. They will also be available for sale, through Springer's retail partners, in print or as eBooks for around US$40−50. SpringerBriefs will also be available in print at lower prices through MyCopy, Springer’s print-on-demand program for registered patrons of libraries that subscribe to the Springer eBook Collections.

“As scientific communication evolves, Springer’s portfolio of products must evolve as well. With SpringerBriefs we have created a forum to rapidly publish smaller ‘chunks’ of content yet still maintain the high-quality standards that our authors and customers expect,” said Paul Manning, Executive Vice President Computer Science at Springer.

In a somewhat related story George Scotti, channel marketing director for Springer Science+Business Media was interviewed by BookBusiness Magazine recently and offered these four tips for boosting e-book sales to libraries:

1. Set your content free.

Publish e-books without digital rights management (DRM), and allow concurrent users to access content. “In a database environment, allowing multiple users to access the content provides a better [user] experience … [and] helps to drive usage. Without DRM, users can also share content freely on multiple devices,” says Scotti.

2. Go mobile. To assist in streamlining e-book production across multiple devices, use a universal format like PDF or .epub. “Also, investing in robust XML allows for easy conversion to alternate formats, if necessary,” Scotti adds.

3. Offer a “critical mass” to reduce cost per unit and increase usage/value proposition. “Libraries often are looking to develop a ‘mass’ of titles in a certain subject area. … So offering a ‘critical mass’ of, [for example], biology titles is very attractive to [them]. This lowers cost per unit, and … ensures that the collection will be used. Large collections are indexed by search engines like Google, and listed in the library catalog. When a library gets a lot of usage on content from a single publisher, then there is perceived value and lower cost per use,” he says.

4. You buy it, you own it. Provide institutions perpetual access and ownership of the content they buy. This will make repeat business more attractive and lower total lifetime costs. “If you pay for the content in year one and have access and usage over time, every year the cost per use of that content goes down,” says Scotti.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) No 48: World Book Night, Obit Purushottama Lal, M/A: Reed & WoltersKluwer, Cengage Declines

World Book Night in the UK: One million books to be given away (Telegraph):

The idea was dreamed up by Canongate MD Jamie Byng, who has a knack for discovering talent (the young unknowns Barack Obama and Philip Pullman have long been part of his stable), and whose entire life appears to be an attempt to prove that nothing is as infectious as enthusiasm. World Book Night is a wildly ambitious extension of that theory.

Here’s how it works: Between now and January 4, members of the public are being asked to choose one book they love from a list of 25 pre-selected titles (see the full list below). They – you! – fill in a form saying, in 100 words, why they would like to give this book to others. The recommendation must be personal, and passionate. Each of 20,000 “givers” will then be sent 48 copies of that book to hand out on the night of March 5 at the venue they have chosen, resulting in what promises to be a national, simultaneous frenzy of book-loving.

Monsoon Systems has signed a contract with REDGroup Australia:

"This strategic alliance with Monsoon Commerce Solutions enables Borders.com.au to integrate with the leading marketplace and offer our Australian customers a massive selection of products. In doing this, we become Australia's largest online bookstore, and possibly even Australia's largest online store. Providing the broadest range of media and entertainment products is at the core of our strategy, together with offering unbeatable value to our customers, which this marketplace offer enables us to do. This is key to helping us grow in this competitive and rapidly growing market," said James Webber, managing director of REDgroup Online Pty Ltd. "This offer allows our customers to re-sell their used books on our web site, as well as purchase used and rare books not readily available elsewhere."

Continued Webber, "This is an important addition to the Borders.com.au web site and strengthens its position as one of this region's strongest e-tailers. With an unparalleled range of books and eBooks available, a price guarantee that ensures we are more than competitive with Amazon.com, and the recent extension of our offer into CDs, DVDs, and general gifts, Borders.com.au is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the massive growth in online spending by Australian consumers."

"Monsoon Commerce Solutions is committed to helping sellers and retailers grow their businesses online. Adding marketplace functionality with REDgroup's Australian and New Zealand retail operations dramatically extends their selection and increases customer loyalty. Broadening our reach in this way is another step forward in our commitment to helping sellers grow their business," stated Brian Elliott, CEO of Monsoon Commerce Solutions.
Obit of Purushottama Lal, poet and publisher of Calcutta in the Economist:

Professor Lal’s business was publishing Indian writers in English. Of the great old works he made masterly translations; new writers he encouraged. When he began, ten years after independence, the practice was controversial. Although English was one of India’s official languages, writers in it were often mocked as colonial remnants, “caged chaffinches and polyglot parrots”. He passionately disagreed. His love of English had begun in boyhood and was crowned with his long tenure at St Xavier’s College in Calcutta, to which his landowning family had come from the Punjab. Mention an English poet—Donne, Swinburne, Keats—and “Profsky”, as all his friends called him, would launch into reciting. Give him a word, and he would burrow joyously into its etymology. He was determined to keep the best English writing alive and well in India. And that meant making space for new creative writers, too.

Each of the 3,500 titles he published contained, at the back, his “credo”. English book publishing in India, he complained, was governed by a “nexus” of “high-profile PR-conscious book publishers, semi-literate booksellers, moribund public and state libraries, poorly informed and nepotistic underlings in charge of book review pages…and biased bulk purchases of near worthless books by bureaucratic institutions”. He, on the other hand, survived “without plush foundations”, publishing then-unknown authors purely for the love of it. Letters were always answered promptly, in the beautiful hand and with the Sheaffer pen. Manuscripts were accepted, as often as not, just to try their luck in the “loving clutches” of the free market. He made no money at it, and the authors might not either, because they were required to buy 100 copies of their work in advance. Some grumbled, but Writers Workshop was a beacon, not a charity.

Reed Elsevier continues to carve off pieces of its business. This time the Congressional Information Service and University Publications (PR):

Among the acquired product lines' best known works is the Congressional Collection, a one-of-a-kind resource that enables simple access to the full text of the breadth of governmental output -- congressional publications, bills, laws and other research materials – and award-winning Statistical Insight, which captures data produced by U.S. Federal agencies, States, private organizations, and major intergovernmental organizations. The microfilm vault of government documents encompasses text of congressional hearings dating from 1789, providing rich content for ProQuest’s continuously expanding digital archives.

“As LexisNexis continues to transform its portfolio of products and services, we are very pleased to place this business unit with ProQuest as it is an excellent fit for them and their customers,” said Mike Simmons, senior vice president of Specialty Businesses at LexisNexis. “We look forward to working with ProQuest – including licensing back certain legislative content sets from ProQuest for our legal professional customers.”

On the other hand, LexisNexis acquired State Net to add to their collection of government database products and applications (Marketwatch):

LexisNexis, a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions, today announced that it has acquired State Net(R) -- the premier provider of legislative and regulatory content and tools in the United States. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

"Through the acquisition of State Net, LexisNexis has secured critical content and tools needed by legal and business professionals to rapidly monitor and analyze the policy decisions being made by Federal and State governments and regulatory agencies across the US on a daily basis," said Bob Romeo, senior vice president of Research and Litigation Solutions at LexisNexis. "Access to this critical information means our customers are at an advantage when assisting their clients in finding, analyzing and planning for those decisions."

State Net collects, normalizes and editorially enhances all bills introduced in the 50 U.S. state legislatures, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Congress, as well as all agency regulations from every state. The service also provides timely delivery of data, legislative intelligence and in-depth content and tools reporting on the actions of government institutions.

SkyRiver (competitor to OCLC) was granted the right to deliver subject headings for adoption and approval to the Library of Congress (LJ)

Wolters Kluwer Health has entered into an agreement to acquire Pharmacy OneSource (CMIO)
Pharmacy OneSource is a healthcare software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider that helps hospitals manage patient safety, compliance and efficiency.

Pharmacy OneSource, of Bellevue, Wash., currently works with more than 1,200 hospitals globally, and assists with medication tracking, pediatric dosing, drug interaction checking, managing formularies, documenting and monitoring clinical interventions, and avoiding medication errors and adverse drug reactions via the web or handheld computer, as well as managing checklists to facilitate accurate and consistent compliance reporting.
Cengage Learning reported their first quarter a few weeks ago which saw a $52mm (7%) decline versus 2009. Here is their management summary for the three months ended September 30 (Cengage):
  • Revenues decreased by $52.0, or 7.5%, to $641.8 for the three months ended September 30, 2010, including a $3.0 favorable impact from acquisitions and a $0.6 unfavorable impact from foreign currency translation. The revenue decline was driven by gross sales decreases in the higher education and career channels due to changes in customer ordering patterns that accelerated certain orders into the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 from the first quarter of fiscal 2011, as well as our Research business within our Domestic segment, partially offset by higher sales in our International segment.

  • Operating income from continuing operations decreased by $33.3, or 13.1%, for the three months ended September 30, 2010, due to lower revenues and restructuring charges, partially offset by lower variable costs, amortization of pre-publication costs and employee and consulting services cost.

  • Adjusted EBITDA decreased by $37.2, or 10.4%, for the three months ended September 30, 2010, due to lower revenues partially offset by lower direct product and other variable costs, as well as lower employee and consulting services cost.
From the twitter this week (@personanondata):

Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks « Library of Congress Blog

JoongAng Daily: U.S. publisher @ views Korea as trendsetter in e-book growth

Google Editions: Faster Forward - Google readies Google Editions e-book store

Onnesha Roychoudhuri: Books After Amazon

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Hot Rod and Cab

Hot Rod and Cab
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

Taken in the early 1990's on lower Broadway. I like the two strong colors in this image. Someone even paid me $200 for a print of this once.

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