Sunday, January 31, 2010

Media Week 3 (Vol 3): Elsevier, Gale/Questia, Legal Improvements,

Elsevier Launches Next-Generation Digital Learning Platform (Elsevier Press Release):

Accessible offline or online through Elsevier's market-leading Evolve portal, Pageburst is Elsevier's new platform for accessing a much wider array of features and functionality for its digital textbooks. Pageburst is easy for faculty and students to access and use and is delivered through the device most college students already have - a computer.

Elsevier's community of health education experts designed Pageburst to enhance the way health professions students think, learn, and study. For example, students will be able to create personalized study guides and instantly link content within the text to expert definitions and descriptions in dictionaries and other Elsevier reference works. They will also be able to view a video or animation within the context of applicable textbook content to help clarify complex concepts. Additionally, students can increase retention and easily learn terms that look alike, sound alike or are hard to pronounce by clicking a button to hear the correct pronunciation and meaning.

Fully integrated collaboration tools within Pageburst will help students gain and share knowledge through personal learning networks that connect students, instructors, and user groups directly from within the content. Both students and instructors can embed notes and links directly into textbook content. Additional features include interactive quizzes and activities that can be submitted to an instructor's virtual grade book.

Pageburst is web-based, so it can be accessed anytime, on any device with a supported web browser. Students can also download their content to their desktop or laptop computers to study offline. Unlike other e-Book platforms, Pageburst is at one time: (1) interactive, (2) with book content available both on-and-offline that (3) will be available to the student over the course of their lives after a single purchase. Students can also download an iTunes application that syncs highlighted material along with accompanying notes with their iPhone or iPod Touch, enabling quick, anytime access to the information they need most.

Student to Save Money by Using Pageburst vs. Print Textbooks

Unlike the average undergraduate student seeking deeply discounted content for one semester, health professions students are more likely to retain their textbooks for future classes and to reference in professional practice. Still, Pageburst users will save up to 20 percent off the print price on each title, plus benefit from the suite of electronic enhancements. The nation's approximate 1.2 million nursing and health professions students often purchase several books per semester, and on average more than half of those books are Elsevier titles. With the digital textbooks on Pageburst, that means students can not only save substantial dollars, but also benefit by cross-referencing multiple books on one integrated platform. Titles purchased on Pageburst do not expire; they can be downloaded to a user's hard drive and accessed indefinitely.

More than 550 of Elsevier's most-used book titles are available on the platform, including Potter's Fundamentals of Nursing, Chabner's Language of Medicine, and Lewis's Medical Surgical Nursing.

At Digital Book World this week Verso presented interesting market research on 'avid readers' and the market for eBook readers: (Verso Presentation)

Long inside view of the new Westlaw, Lexis & Bloomberg Platforms (ABA Journal):
Both companies claim to be creating a legal research experience that will mimic the ease of use their customers have come to expect from the leading Internet search engine, Google.

The updated services come not a moment too soon, since the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine has just gotten into the legal research business. In November, the company announced that its Scholar search engine now contains more than 80 years of U.S. case law from federal and state courts, as well as U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1791—all of it free.

Like a handful of smaller legal research companies that mostly serve solo practitioners and smaller law firms, Google built its service by aggregating the case law made available on the Internet by courts nationwide in recent years. Those companies have been slowly but surely nipping at the heels of West and LexisNexis at the low end of the market, where customers are most price-sensitive. With Google joining them, that price pressure is likely only to grow.
...
Peter Warwick, chief executive of Thomson Reuters’ legal unit, allows that “the demand for legal services is less, so that helps to drive what goes on in legal research. Clearly we are impacted by that as a whole, which is to say that there isn’t the same underlying rate of growth in our business as there was a year ago.”

Warwick’s eye is on the prize of increasing market share. To accomplish that goal, he says, his company must make sure it is offering a product that lawyers want. “There’s less growth in the market than we’ve seen for a number of years,” Warwick says, “but the need for the type of products and services that we have has never been stronger.”
...
At the biggest law firms, the companies may be testing the limits of how much information beyond pure legal research content is too much. Fried Frank’s Rine may have already reached her limit. “It’s a challenge. You have to make such an investment in these products. And they keep adding more and more content, often duplicating what’s included in other services we already subscribe to. But we don’t necessarily need all that content, and we can’t continue paying different vendors for the same information,” she says.

The excellent book by Denis Lehane, Shutter Island gets the graphic novel treatment (Paste) and is also an upcoming movie directed by Martin Scorsese.

From the @twitter this week:

Some controversy in library land this week with Ebsco having gained exclusive access to some magazine content. How much seems debatable and following 'open-letters' from other vendors Ebsco defends itself (ResourceShelf)

EBSCO has many agreements with many publishers, and is very open about the fact that our databases include dramatically more unique content than other aggregators. We think publishers choose to work with EBSCO because we listen to their concerns and attempt to find solutions that work for the publisher and for libraries. Publishers appreciate that we respect the value of their content and do not sublicense their content to free websites that compete with libraries and each publisher’s core business.
...
While Gale is correct that ongoing full text for Forbes will be available via some EBSCOhost full-text databases and not Gale’s; their depiction of the way this happened is not accurate. In fact, Forbes told us that they received multiple bids from library market aggregators and simply decided to go with EBSCO.

Elisabeth Murdoch: ‘Borderline Piracy May Be Our Best Outlet’ PaidContent
“Fans remain the best salesmen of our content, even if that behavior is on the borderline of piracy. Danger of the new world is that we must concede that we’ll lose some control,” Murdoch, who owns TV producer Shine, said in a speech to the NATPE TV conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday. That must take us to “the borderline of piracy”, she said, according to Broadcasting & Cable.
The head of the Interactive Ad Bureau Randall Rothenberg delivers an 'iRant' against the iPad. (MediaPost)

In the iPad's case, Rothenberg takes issue specifically with its lack of support for Adobe Flash, a core element of much online display advertising. Ad executives interviewed Wednesday also cited the iPad's lack of Flash as a drawback but welcomed the device's larger screen size as a plus for mobile marketing. But the iPad still is not as bad as Amazon's Kindle, "more akin to a company town, with everything from access to product offerings to pricing tightly managed." Increasingly, "degree of openness" will be the key differentiator among all the walled gardens springing up around the Web, he argues. Netflix streaming is fairly close, Boxee is more open. But overall, fragmentation is growing.

In an interesting move, Gale has acquired Questia: (Press Release)
Gale, part of Cengage Learning, has acquired the assets of Questia Media, Inc., a leading provider of information and educational resources to students through its questia.com and questiaschool.com products. Questia provides a premium subscription-based online information service that gives users access to more than 76,000 books from 300+ publishers and millions of articles from journals, magazines and newspapers.

“Questia has developed excellent products for learners and educators, with quality content and unique technologies created specifically for college students, professors and high school students,” said Patrick C. Sommers, president, Gale. “The business has a solid subscription base and is developing unique applications to extend its reach to users around the world.

“Questia will further broaden Gale’s extensive content base, by adding information from tens of thousands of scholarly books selected from leading publishers to support learning in high school and college. In addition, it will enhance Gale’s offerings with new research and productivity tools, lesson plans and professional development for the classroom,” said Sommers.

“But perhaps most importantly, Questia will expand our depth and reach to users who begin their search for information on the Web,” said Sommers. “A major focus at Gale is reaching users wherever they do their research and connecting them with high-quality content and the resources of their library. We see considerable synergy with Gale’s HighBeam, Encyclopedia.com and AccessMyLibrary services, as well as our library products, and we look forward to the expansion of content and services that will result from this combination of resources.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

New Moon Over Big Smoke

A Digital Concierge - Repost

Friday again which means I repost something from the archive and since I mentioned this in my panel at dbw I thought it reasonable to repost. It was originally from May 21, 2009.

Authors, writers, illustrators, photographers, etc all need to produce content for publishers but doing so in a world increasingly dominated by technology becomes a challenge. The more technology is interwoven into the creation and leverage of content, the more it becomes clear that pro-actively managing the intersection between content creator and technology represents an imperative for publishers. Publishers want their contributors to focus on content creation not the help desk. As functional responsibilities change within publishing houses, we will begin to see the morphing of the roles of editorial, marketing and promotions assistants into something akin to a ‘digital concierge’

Functional responsibilities are changing within a publishing house not least because the publishing process becomes less linear. It will no-longer be typical that a book ‘commissioned’ or ‘acquired’ sits proudly at the front end of a long sequential set of steps that ultimately lands the book on a shelf somewhere. In the new model, a book may be the last item produced after what may look from today’s perspective like a meandering route to publication. Truth is, there may not be ‘a model’ as publishers become more attuned to how consumers want to interact with content and as they experiment. Finding and engaging with an audience becomes both fractured and expansive and options to interact can seem at odds: facebook versus Myspace or twitter versus friendfeed, and a publisher is unlikely to want their ‘investment’ (i.e. The Author) to be distracted by those considerations. Not only will publishers build these relationships on their authors’ behalf, they will see doing so as an additional content creation opportunity. The ‘traditional book’ may reside at the center of additional supporting material from on-line chat to Powerpoint webinars to audio and video interviews. Of course, the book may also be a secondary rather than primary outcome of one of these publisher/author social communities.

Social networking is a catch-all phrase that can describe many things, but typically we use it to explain the concept of reaching customers via the web; whether the consumer takes specific action – commenting or emailing – thereby involving them with the content, or the creator (author and publisher) pushes interaction using tools like facebook, twitter and myspace. This can all be overwhelming to an author and, left to their own devices, they are likely to be unsuccessful; hence, the concept of a digital concierge.

The job of digital concierge grows in significance as more and more material is introduced to the market via the web. As mentioned above, the web community around an author almost becomes their studio where new material is introduced, discussed and ‘published’. The author will require a digital concierge who will marry and blend the appropriate technology tools so they are not a distraction to the content producer and they compliment the experience of the consumer. There is much to ponder here as trade book content moves to the web and the role of the publisher changes. While the job description for the digital concierge may not be written yet, I see this position as potentially critical to the successful migration from a trade print world to one dominated by social communities.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pirates as Product Development

There were numerous fine presentations at the Digital Book World this week - notably the panel discussion featuring Larry Kirshbaum, Michael Cader, Evan Schnittman and Ken Brooks - which I think added a lot to our understanding of where we are in the eBook evolution.

Not to dismiss any other discussion, I thought the simple, clean direct - almost matter-of-fact - presentation by Liza Daly that described the typical consumer experience in finding, downloading and reading an eBook was one of the highlights. If that presentation didn't leave publishers thinking about the eBook versions of their titles then there's no hope.

During the course of her presentation and almost as an aside, she noted that there are many pirated eBook versions of books that are actually significantly better designed and presented than the legit version. Hence the title of this post; rather than shutting the Pirate down why not adopt the pirated version and use it instead as the legit version? Hey, why not hire the pirate?

I know, I know...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just Like Magic: The Harry Potter Economy

I've such a backlog that I am still on The Economist Christmas Special. Here is a selection from an article on the The Harry Potter economy (Economist):

In fact the Harry Potter books were the iceberg. As each book appeared it drew new readers to the series and expanded sales of earlier books in a snowball effect. Thanks largely to the boy wizard, Bloomsbury’s turnover, which had gradually increased from £11m in 1995 to £14m in 1997, took off. In 1999 it stood at £21m. Two years later it was £61m. By the middle of this decade, with Bloomsbury’s revenues above £100m, rival publishers were griping that there was no point bidding against the firm for a children’s title. So far the books, which are published in America by Scholastic, have sold more than 400m copies worldwide. Not all were read by the young. Central to the books’ success was a repackaging, with a darker cover, for adults embarrassed about being seen reading a children’s book.

Mr Newton says he became “fearful and respectful” of the windfall. A sudden hit can destabilise any company, but the danger is acute in the swaggering media industry. Bloomsbury banked a lot of the money, and has taken advantage of the slump in asset prices to pick up specialist and scholarly publishers. It now owns Arden, most famous for its series of Shakespeare texts, the legal publisher, Tottel, and the cricketer’s bible, Wisden. Having learned to handle magic, Bloomsbury is thus returning to its Muggle (non-wizard) roots. The ideal, Mr Newton says, is to balance the risks—and large potential profits—of the trade fiction business with the dependability and high margins of specialist publishing.
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Fans get up to much more. As the books and films took off, the hunger for Harry Potter news and content quickly became so much greater than Warner Bros or the increasingly press-shy Ms Rowling were able to supply that alternative sources began to spring up. The emerging internet fuelled their growth. The most obvious of them are fan websites like MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron, which mix official announcements with rumours. But the most intriguing is the strange world of fan fiction. Ms Rowling’s “worst nightmare” was that her hero would end up on fast-food containers Re-telling the Harry Potter story is a popular pastime. One website dedicated to it, Fiction Alley, added 14 book chapters in November 2009 alone, together with many shorter works. Would-be Rowlings push the Harry Potter story in new directions by focusing on different characters or writing about years not covered in the books. Many plunge into the characters’ romantic lives—perhaps the weakest point of “the canon”, as the original series of books is reverentially known. These amateur stories, which are often subjected to rigorous criticism from other fans, are for the most part competent. The students in them often talk the way teenagers actually talk. “I can’t just be an arse to him for no reason,” splutters Harry at one point in the third book in the “Lily’s Charm” series, by a writer called ObsidianEmbrace. That carries a convincing whiff of the playground.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Remodel at Victoria & Albert Museum

Over Christmas Mrs. PND and I ran into the V&A to get out of the sleet and cold and we were greeted by the fantastic remodel to some of the antiquities galleries. This weekend the NYTimes had a short travel article about the Museum but they only had one photo. Problem solved courtesy of yours truly and flickr.



Flickr Link

Monday, January 25, 2010

FiledBy Launches 50 New Category Websites

From their press release:
FiledBy’s innovative category sites now provide a vertical view of authors and their work and further organize the activity of authors into the categories in which they publish. The new websites aggregate activity taking place on individual FiledBy author sites according to relevant categories and display the activity as authors and their collaborators customize their online presence with photographs, biographies, videos, podcasts, documents and links to other locations like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and custom author websites. Authors and contributors can locate their work, register with FiledBy, claim a pre-assembled website that already includes all of an author’s work and build an effective online marketing platform with easy to use tools. And now that the aggregation of author-related activity is arranged by subject category, FiledBy becomes an even more compelling place for an author to bring and share audiences.

“We launched FiledBy nine months ago based on the vision that discoverability of books and authors has changed forever due to the impact of the Internet and search,” said Peter Clifton, co-founder and CEO of FiledBy. “We wanted to provide tools that authors and their creative partners could use to easily collect and present authoritative information about themselves and focus on their overall social marketing efforts. To accomplish this, we had to first organize a vast amount of information around the people who create books, rather than simply display the books themselves. Now that information is also available through our category websites.”


Peter is one of my panelists at this weeks Digital Book World conference. If you haven't registered you have until noon to do so and use my discount code.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Media Week 2 (Vol3): Holmes, Death Booths, War of The Worlds, Education

In the NY Times this morning they come out against extending copyright terms and use Sherlock Holmes as an example (NYTimes):

Sherlock Holmes is a vivid example of what happens when copyright is repeatedly extended. In 1976, an extension of the term of copyright for intellectual property gave Conan Doyle’s daughter an opportunity to recapture the right to her father’s legacy in America, which would otherwise have entered the public domain. The term has since been extended further, and there is every prospect of more battles to keep extending it. The reason might simply be called “The Adventures of the Cash Cow.” The various claimants to the Conan Doyle estate argue that they are protecting the Holmes legacy.

But you have to look no further than the local movie theater, where the new “Sherlock Holmes” is playing, to realize that the real goal is protecting a lucrative franchise. The movie is a lot of fun, but Holmes himself — the master of the cerebral has been turned into a brawling action hero — could not be more irreverently served if he were already in the public domain.

(He could be a vampire...)

Also in the NYTimes an article on the industry that is James Patterson (NYTimes):
ACCORDING TO FORBES magazine, Patterson earned Hachette about $500 million over the last two years. Hachette disputes the accuracy of these numbers but wouldn’t provide me with different ones. Regardless, it seems safe to assume that Patterson, who puts out more best sellers in any given year than many publishing houses, is responsible for a meaningful portion of the company’s annual revenues. “I like to say that Jim is the rock on which we build this company,” David Young told me in his office one recent morning.

Like movie studios, publishing houses have long built their businesses on top of blockbusters. But never in the history of publishing has the blockbuster been so big. Thirty years ago, the industry defined a “hit” novel as a book that sold a couple of hundred thousand copies in hardcover. Today a book isn’t considered a blockbuster unless it sells at least one million copies.

The story of the blockbuster’s explosion is, paradoxically, bound up with that of publishing’s recent troubles. They each began with the wave of consolidation that swept through the industry in the 1980s. Unsatisfied with publishing’s small margins, the new conglomerates that now owned the various publishing houses pressed for bigger best sellers and larger profits. Mass-market fiction had historically been a paperback business, but publishers now put more energy and resources into selling these same books as hardcovers, with their vastly more favorable profit margins. At the same time, large stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders were elbowing out independent booksellers. Their growing dominance of the market gave them the leverage to demand wholesale discounts and charge hefty sums for favorable store placement, forcing publishers to sell still more books. Big-box stores like Costco accelerated the trend by stocking large quantities of books by a small group of authors and offering steep discounts on them. Under pressure from both their parent companies and booksellers, publishers became less and less willing to gamble on undiscovered talent and more inclined to hoard their resources for their most bankable authors. The effect was self-fulfilling. The few books that publishers invested heavily in sold; most of the rest didn’t. And the blockbuster became even bigger.

And again in the Times, Motoko Rich realizes that bookclubs aren't for everyone (NYTimes):

There is a different class of reader, though. They feel that their relationship with a book, its characters and the author is too intimate to share. “The pursuit of reading,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “is carried on by private people.”

Ms. Stead remembers having had especially intense feelings about books when she was young. “For me, as a kid, a book was a very private world,” she said. “I didn’t like talking about books with other people very much because it almost felt like I didn’t want other people to be in that world with me.”

Particularly with the books we adore most, a certain reader wants to preserve the experience for reflection, or even claim the book as hers and hers alone. Lois Lowry, an author of books for children and a two-time winner of the Newbery for “Number the Stars” and “The Giver,” said she recently read that Katherine Paterson, also a two-time Newbery winner and now the national ambassador for young people’s literature, had named “The Yearling,” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, as the most influential book of her childhood. “I felt a twinge of ‘no fair, that’s mine!’ ” Ms. Lowry said. “I hastily backed off from that feeling because I know and love Katherine, and it’s O.K. that we share the same book.”

Martin Amis in what could be the most extraordinary link you will ever find on this blog is calling for euthanasia booths - "death booths" in common parlance I expect. (Telegraph):
Martin Amis, the novelist, has compared Britain's fast-growing population of elderly people to "an invasion of terrible immigrants", as he called for ‘death booths’ to be placed on street corners so they can kill themselves.
...
He did not think it would be "too hard" to have some sort of test that established a person's capacity to decide their own fate, he said.

Larger point may be valid...not sure about the tactics.

Penguin has asked authors to select their favorite classic from their list and thus, Will Self on War of The Worlds (Times):
For a modern reader the initial impact of the story is lessened by a sense of scientific anachronism. Unlike Wells, we can’t give any significance to the Italian astronomer Schiaparelli’s observation of canali on the Martian surface (famously mistranslated as “canals”, though he meant “channels”). Certainly, we know — or think we know — that Mars cannot support sentient life. In fact, if there is any life on Mars, it’s more likely to be the kind of microscopic bacteria that in Wells’s book eventually eliminate the invading Martians, despite the vast technological superiority of their teetering tripods, their death rays, their poison gases and their form of biological warfare — the invasive “red weed”.

Yet such is the genius of Wells’s storytelling that it doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief before you do begin finding The War of the Worlds horribly credible. Wells knew how to ground the fantastic in the mundane — and what can be more mundane than the late-Victorian Surrey commuter belt? His descriptive skill lay in juxtaposing death rays with dahlias, and milk churns with the aliens’ giant spaceships. As the Martians proceed to lay waste to London and its environs, Wells seems to take a positive glee in this privet-lined Armageddon, a glee never more to the fore than in the book’s two great set pieces.

From The Twitter last week (@personanondata)

TeleRead references a on last weeks Google Book Search settlement workshop, by Paul Biba (Teleread)


A report on how Online Learning Is Revolutionizing K-12 Education and Benefiting Students (HeritageFoundation):
Virtual or online learning is revolutionizing American education. It has the potential to dramatically expand the educational opportunities of American students, largely overcoming the geographic and demographic restrictions. Virtual learning also has the potential to improve the quality of instruction, while increasing productivity and lowering costs, ultimately reducing the burden on taxpayers. Local, state, and federal policymakers should reform education policies and funding to facilitate online learning, particularly by allowing funding to follow the students to their learning institutions of choice.
Felix Salmon: The Economics of the NYT Paywall (SeekingAlpha):

The way that it seems the NYT paywall is going to work, visitors to nytimes.com will have a free allowance of n articles per month. To read the n+1th article, they will have to pay a subscription fee F. After that, they can read as many articles as they like for the rest of the month.

If a visitor to nytimes.com normally reads N articles per month, then the key number in their mind will be N-n. If reading that number of articles is worth more to them than F, they’ll pay the fee. If on the other hand N-n is small, or perceived value-per-article is small, then they won’t pay. Specifically, if the average value to the reader of any given article is v, then they’ll pay the fee when v(N-n)>F.

Two presentations:

The ALA Top Tech Trends Panel Focuses on End Users and Ebooks (Library Journal)

Social Media, Libraries, and Web 2.0: How American Libraries are Using New Tools for Public Relations and to Attract new Users - Second Survey November 2009 (SlideShare)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Who Wants to Pay for “Content”? - REPOST

Repost Friday and this time from March 9, 2009 a repost that is still somewhat topical given the NYTimes announcement that they would implement a reader toll.

Suggestions newspapers charge for content ignores deeper questions about their value proposition, the fourth estate and democracy.


Reports that the owners of Newsday plan to charge users of their web site for access have been received with equal parts hilarity and incredulity, but this is only one of many public displays of desperation on the part of newspaper owners over the past two or three months. Almost simultaneous with the deluge of bankruptcy filings and threats of closure that have run through Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Sacramento and Seattle since Christmas, newspaper owners have been openly discussing the idea of charging for online access. As most readers and users (aka customers) of online news sources know, that approach is not going to work because there is simply no value proposition presented by 99% of the incumbent newspaper businesses.

At a base level, newspapers failed to understand how their customers’ needs had changed over the past twenty years. Instead, newspaper owners chose to focus on maintaining their margins and offering dividends at historically high levels, rather than in reinvesting in the future. Like many businesses, they made a simple but tragic mistake: They thought it would go on forever. Many large publishing companies were content to pat themselves on the back for attaining economies of scale across their trans-national companies which made newspapers in Salem, Oregon and Newport News, look and read virtually the same. In these mid-market locations, while consolidation had made many cities one-newspaper towns, the genesis of what has become one of the biggest dangers to survival of the newspaper industry has emerged. Community reporting, with the diligence and aggression that supported the development and growth of newspapers all the way back to late 17th century England, has been on the wain for years. Sadly, local journalism, as we traditionally know it, is disappearing and, with it, a measure of democracy - particularly as it relates to local, county and state government.

Last week, I was discussing this topic with an acquaintance who lives in a fairly affluent part of Central New Jersey. He noted that, in a wide swath covering eight to ten townships and a number of counties, he wasn’t aware of more than one journalist assigned to that market from the larger state-wide newspapers. In Hoboken (regional HQ for PND), where mayoral and city council budget incompetence has seen our property taxes increase 50% in the past six months, there is rarely any local media coverage nor any attendance at city business meetings by traditional media. And forget investigative reporting - even in a state where you could throw a rock in any direction and hit a shady politician. The lack of journalistic attention means that one of the mainstays of democracy (the fourth estate) is eroded and this is seen starkly in Hoboken, where private citizens are forced (on their own initiative) to file freedom of information requests to gain access to basic public interest materials such as meeting minutes and financial statements.

Recently, a number of New York and New Jersey newspapers announced they would be beginning a content-sharing network that might enable each to focus more on their local news reporting. However, MediaDaily believes cost-cutting is the focus:
The latest iteration of the new content-sharing model brings together The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey, The Star-Ledger of Newark, the Times Union of Albany, the Buffalo News, and New York Daily News, which apparently organized the consortium. According to the papers, the Northeast Consortium "will enhance each publication's coverage in the region by exchanging articles, photographs and graphics." But the club would probably be better described as a cost-cutting measure, given the dire circumstances of many of America's daily newspapers.
Few of the newspapers we currently recognize will survive in the US. It is just a fact, but the irony is that significant news and community markets exist. New entrants will address this market and, in numerous cases, they are already making in-roads to address particular market segments. This brings me back to the notion of charging for “content” which many newspaper companies are debating. Newsday might succeed but only if they are able to establish community, service(s) and context around the reporting they do. The reporting will need to be far deeper and almost, by definition, becomes unique: Both in terms of its relevance to the user and the fact of its collection (after all, no one else is doing it). That’s a tall order for an organization only thinking about slapping a fee on product that looks increasingly generic. In their case (and others are thinking the same thing), asking readers to pay for “content” will fail.

About three years ago, a curious guy set up a website named Hoboken411. He started going to all the council meetings and actually reporting, visiting and reviewing local restaurants, keeping up with local happenings, generally mouthing off and adding photos. The web site, now a virtual town square, appears to be providing Perry a decent wage but its popularity is really evidenced by the number of comments each article receives. Almost every post (of substance) garners 50 comments and often many more. The ‘discussions’ are often vitriolic and opinionated, but every local politician and concerned citizen of Hoboken now visits the site to understand what’s going on. Make no mistake - this is an ‘unprofessional’ site (all due respect) by old media’s definition, but Hoboken411 is a precursor of the emerging local journalism of the near-term future.

Traditional newspaper media companies are still consumed by “the machine”. Obstacles as intransigent as union rules preclude a journalist from carrying a video camera and recording equipment and delivering multi-media presented on the newspaper’s website. Perry and those like him have no such restrictions. Whereas actual newspapers could logically be considered a ‘platform’ for the delivery of content, these old-line publishers have no online equivalent. Real success in local reporting would require an ability to templatize and automate the presentation of their news no matter how local the segment. This would allow the newspaper publishers to extend technologies including mapping, photo uploads, comments, polls, groups/community and other services similar to those offered by companies such as yelp.com and craigslist. (In fact, it is hard to understand why there is no local/community news on either of those sites).

A few years ago, I predicted that the NYTimes would open their platform for other newspapers to use. In doing so, I saw the NYTimes had the potential to build a revenue stream as a service provider, as well as providing the company with a wider pool of potential product-development ideas. My thought was not that the Times license this technology to other large city newspapers but, rather, they do so to medium- and small-sized news organizations. Application of this technology would enable these local news organizations to focus on gathering hyper-local content and building community, while giving the NYTimes a much wider profile. And, obviously, the Times would benefit from important stories that surfaced up to their level from its wide variety of content partners. Last month, at an invitation-only open house for web developers, one of the attendees addressed this very issue and it seems the Times maybe thinking along these lines. How this idea develops will be interesting to watch. Regardless, the Times is something of a different beast even among large-city newspapers. In the US, the WSJ may be the only other paper that could do something similar.

In February, the Times launched two ‘hyper-local’ websites which could represent their first step in developing a more local approach and it remains to be seen how successful this will be. We know ‘viral’ is impossible to bottle and it is very likely that, when local journalism returns in some organized and coordinated way to the local communities of central New Jersey, its origins are more likely to be anarchic; however, if these ‘journalists’ (like Perry) have access to powerful tools and platforms such as those the NYTimes could offer them, we will see a revitalization of this significant cornerstone of democracy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Digital Book World Conference Preview

Next week, the two-day Digital Book World conference gets underway in New York City at a moment when – for better or for worse – the digital tide may become a tsunami for the book publishing world. Ahead of the first-time conference, Chris Kenneally spoke with Conference Chair and industry pundit Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Company and his DBW colleague Guy LeCharles Gonzalez for a special preview.

Here is the link to the interview.

News Reader's Promiscuity

An early December article in The Economist looked at some research into the habits of newspaper readers particularly noting the impact on readership should content be paid (Link):
The survey also contained devastating news for those publishers hoping to co-ordinate attempts to charge. When Guardian readers were asked whether they would pay £2 a month to read their favourite paper online, 26% said yes. But if all newspapers charged? The proportion prepared to pay for the Guardian might have been expected to rise. Instead it fell to 16%. This seems odd, until one considers readers’ promiscuity. Faced with having to spend rather a lot to keep snacking from a wide variety of news sources, they protested. The questions are hypothetical, and people may react differently when and if pay walls actually go up. But this will hardly encourage newspaper owners.

Monday, January 18, 2010

BISG Consumer Study

BISG announces the first of three studies that look at consumer attitudes to e-Book reading (BISG):
The first of three, all to be released in 2010, the initial Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey also found that the majority of print book buyers rank "affordability" as the #1 reason they would choose to purchase an e-book rather than a print book of the same title. Of less consequence when it came to their purchase decisions was the extent to which an e-book was searchable or environmentally friendly.

Additional findings include:
  • Roughly 1/5 of survey respondents said they've stopped purchasing print books within the past 12 months in favor of acquiring the e-book editions.
  • Most survey respondents said they prefer to share e-books across devices.
  • Only 28% said they would "definitely" purchase an e-book with Digital Rights Management (DRM); men were more likely than women to say they would not buy an e-book with DRM.
  • Survey respondents indicated a clear preference for e-reader devices used as of November 2009, with computers coming in first (47%), followed by the Kindle (32%), and other e-reader devices at roughly 10% apiece.
  • Although certainly growing, 81% of survey respondents say they currently purchase an e-book only "rarely" or "occasionally."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Media Week 2: Scientific Publishing, Textbooks: Renting and E, 1930s Culture and Nordic Mysteries.

Michael Clark writing for Scholarly Kitchen wonders why Scientific Publishing hasn't been disrupted already (Link):
Given these 3 deeply entrenched cultural functions, I do not think that scientific publishing will be disrupted anytime in the foreseeable future. That being said, I do think that new technologies are opening the door for entirely new products and services built on top of—and adjacent to—the existing scientific publishing system:
  • Semantic technologies are powering new professional applications (e.g. ChemSpider) that more efficiently deliver information to scientists. They are also beginning to power more effective search tools (such as Wolfram Alpha) meaning researchers will spend less time looking for the information they need.
  • Mobile technologies are enabling the ability to access information anywhere. Combined with GPS systems and cameras, Web enabled mobile devices have the potential to transform our interaction with the world. As I have described recently in the Scholarly Kitchen, layering data on real-world objects is an enormous opportunity for scientists and the disseminators of scientific information. The merger of the Web and the physical world could very well turn out to be the next decade’s most significant contribution to scientific communication.
  • Open data standards being developed now will allow for greater interoperability between data sets, leading to new data-driven scientific tools and applications. Moreoever, open data standards will lead to the ability to ask entirely new questions. As Tim Berners-Lee’s pointed out in his impassioned talk at TED last year, search engines with popularity-weighted algorithms (e.g. Google, Bing) are most helpful when one is asking a question that many other people have already asked. Interoperable, linked data will allow for the interrogation of scientific information in entirely new ways.
California has set a deadline for college texts to be available in electronic form (Link):
While it seems increasingly likely that e-books will one day become the standard in education, California has passed a law to virtually guarantee it -- and to set a deadline. A new state law, effective January 1, 2020, will require that all textbooks used in public and private postsecondary institutions be made available in electronic form "to the extent practicable" either "in whole or in part." Senate Bill 48 states that "the electronic version of any textbook shall contain the same content as the printed version and may be copy-protected." Senator Elaine Alquist, who wrote the bill, was unavailable for comment. Her legislative aid, James Schwab, who was involved with writing the bill, said that helping students save money was the primary motive. For instance, even today, one textbook with a list price of $173.33 is available electronically for $95.33.

Cengage is expanding their previously announced textbook rental scheme (Link):
At CengageBrain.com students can now rent textbooks for up to 70% off the suggested retail price, and purchase print textbooks, eTextbooks, individual eChapters and audio books. The Web site also includes Cengage Learning's broad range of homework and study tools, features a selection of free content and offers discounts for purchasing multiple products. Currently, 1,200 Cengage Learning titles are available for rent -- including popular titles such as Essentials of Psychology, 5th Edition (Douglas Bernstein); American Government: The Essentials, 12th Edition (James Q. Wilson); and Principles of Economics, 5th Edition (N. Gregory Mankiw) -- with approximately 1,500 more titles to be added in July 2010. The rental process with CengageBrain.com is simple and convenient for customers. Students who choose the rental option will have immediate access to the first chapter in eBook format and will also have a choice of shipping options. Once the rental term is complete, students can either choose to print a pre-paid return label from CengageBrain.com and ship the textbook back, or purchase the title.

Inside HigherEd looks at all the different textbook rental programs, but leaves us with this (Link):
Strangely enough, the rental companies don’t see their rental services as being a long-term solution, either — at least, not in their present incarnations. The transition to electronic textbooks might not happen overnight; in a 2008 Student PIRGs survey, only 33 percent of students said they were comfortable reading off a screen, and 60 percent said they would buy a low-cost printed textbook rather than using an electronic one for free. CourseSmart, one of the leading e-textbook vendors, does not always charge less than it would cost students to rent, Allen says. “Students overwhelmingly prefer print still,” she says. “And digital textbooks are not where students are at now; they want to be able to print — they want to be able to make their notes on paper.”

Still, just as Netflix has begun making more and more of its inventory available for users to stream instantly on their personal computers rather than sending away for the discs, a number of companies acknowledge that sometime in the not-so-distant future they probably will be renting access to digital e-textbooks instead of hard copies, and have been quietly preparing for such a shift.

A review of Dancing in the Dark by Morris Dickstein - Culture and the Great Depression "the most effervescent popular culture of the twentieth century" TimesOnline
The commonest explanation for this apparent contradiction is that poverty and anxiety intensified the need for escapism. It is not a bad explanation, either, as far as it goes. But Dickstein is determined to dig deeper. He begins with crime or crime-and-punishment films (the gangster classics; I Am a Fugitive from the Chain Gang), and has no trouble in presenting them as social parables, which articulated public fantasies and frustrations. Moving on to the screwball comedies which were one of Hollywood's glories in the 1930s, he argues that they were appropriate romances for a conflict-ridden post-1929 world – tough-talking, hard-boiled and disenchanted (though not, it need hardly be said, to the point of spoiling the fun). His prime exhibit, however, is popular music – and here a positive connection with the Depression might seem harder to prove.

Dickstein offers three different lines of approach. First, he cites a number of songs where references to the Depression were deliberate and unmistakable: the most spectacular example is Busby Berkeley’s lavish number “Remember My Forgotten Man” (an unemployed First World War veteran), from the film Gold Diggers of 1933. Such songs certainly deserve their place in the historical record, but there were not many of them. Second, he detects a new spirit of community and solidarity in the songs of the period. It may be so, but such a generalization needs to be backed up by more evidence than we are given. Finally, he points to the plangency of many 1930s songs, and suggests that it had “a larger cultural resonance”.

The headline is from the WSJ but someone pointed out that the use of "Nordic" is incorrect: The Strange Case of the Nordic Detectives (Link)
Stieg Larsson's hugely popular Millennium Trilogy (beginning with "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") is the most visible example of the global mania for Scandinavian crime fiction. Running a close second is Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series, nine novels that, combined, have sold upward of 25 million copies world-wide and spawned a British television series (starring Kenneth Branagh), as well as several Swedish films. That's a pretty impressive impact for a paunchy, diabetic, middle-age police detective in a provincial Swedish city, a man hobbled by self-doubt, pessimism and an untameable yen for junk food. In the U.S., Mr. Mankell has a new publisher that is printing five times as many copies of his next book, "The Man From Beijing," as his previous title. Even before Mr. Mankell, the Swedish husband-and-wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö produced 10 very successful novels in the '60s and '70s about a laconic, ulcer-ridden Stockholm police detective named Martin Beck; the best-known is "The Laughing Policeman," made into a 1973 American film starring Walter Matthau.
Thomas Nelson keeps track of the top US trade publishers (Link) - Why no Houghton Mifflin?

Pearson may sell their majority interest in financial data arm IDC. The company confirmed they are reviewing strategic alternatives for their 61% stake in Interactive Data Corporation. Is this the prelude to further anticipated investment in Education? (Guardian)

The Economist looks at e-Readers (from December - Economist):
Now for a reality check: in the history of ingenious display technologies, only a handful have ever made it into mass production. So although there are many promising new technologies for next-generation e-readers, the technology arguably best positioned to take over from E Ink, at least in the near future, is a variant of LCD. Engineers have repeatedly shown that they can improve LCD technology when the market demands it. Such displays have wider viewing angles than they did just a few years ago. Fast motion, like a tennis serve, is no longer jerky. And large LCD panels have become much thinner and far more power-efficient.

There is already one LCD-based e-reader on the market. Fujitsu’s FLEPia uses a so-called cholesteric LCD, which produces an image from reflected light. The crystals are bistable, which means that they can remain in either a reflective or non-reflective state without any power. Cholesteric LCDs do not require a backlight and lack many of the layers of a traditional LCD, which should make them easier to build. But the manufacturing process and materials differ enough to make cholesteric displays more expensive than standard LCDs—hence the FLEPia’s high price (about $1,000). Moreover, despite having a colour display, the FLEPia takes two seconds to switch from one image to another, so video is out of the question, and even reading books can be painfully slow.

Robert McCrum: Is it really doomsday for books? Not while English casts its spell. (Guardian):
The essentials are clear enough: English, in its contemporary Anglo-American guise, has been a lingua franca since roughly the end of the second world war. Throughout the cold war, Anglo-American culture and values became as much a part of global consciousness as the combustion engine. There was hardly a transaction in the contemporary world that was innocent of English, in some form. However, until the turn of the millennium, its scope was limited by its troubled association with British imperialism and the pax Americana.

But now, for the first time, English language and culture are rapidly becoming decoupled from their contentious past and disassociated from postcolonial trauma. At the same time, thanks to Microsoft, Vodafone, Orange and Apple, this rejuvenated lingua franca has acquired the capacity to zoom through space and time at unprecedented speeds, reaching unprecedented new audiences. An evolving technology is changing the rules of the game faster than the match itself can be played.

Tosh!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Predictions 2010: The Powerpoint Version

Close readers will recall my predictions for 2010 and here I have created a convenient Powerpoint version.

Brands to Publish - Repost

It's Friday which means another regurgitation from several years back. This one originally published on January 13, 2007:

Nancy Drew has always held a fascination for me, not because I clamor for a good girlie mystery but because of how The Nancy Drew series evolved. Established by Edward
Stratemeyer, The Drew books were written by a number of ‘house’ writers (Mildred Benson) and the books were never dependent upon one author for their success. While the publisher of the titles was little recognized, the Drew series grew to become a strong branded product line and, as such, represents a model today's publishers may want to emulate. Corporate branding exercises little impact in the publishing world: We all know this and, while some publishers have tried to create brand strength (i.e., Paramount Publishing), success has been sparse and probably – in truth - not aggressively sought after.

There are exceptions. I used to start my Intro to Publishing courses at Price Waterhouse by asking the group to name a publisher. I stopped doing this when a partner once popped up and said HARLEQUIN! While some consumers might be able to identify Harlequin or Hungry Minds or Fodors, they would be hard-pressed to cite HarperCollins or Simon & Schuster with any relevance. Consumers have little emotive connection with publishing trademarks (a fundamental facet of brand awareness) and publishers are unlikely to ever achieve this connection with consumers. So, in an age in which the author transcends the publisher (Patterson, Grisham, Ludlum, Courtnay) what is a publisher to do? Investing in a branding campaign would be expensive and ultimately pointless, but embarking on a strategy similar to that which produced the Drew books might be more constructive.

My extrapolation of the Drew example led me to wonder why publishers don’t establish their own character-based brands. More publishers will do what Nelson has done and drop imprints, but will they also start to develop their own character-based franchises? Clearly, it is hard to ‘bottle’ what makes John Grisham a popular writer, but there are examples where existing characters have been extended in new ways. For example, there is a cottage industry of TV soap-opera lovers who create stories, novelizations and back-stories for the characters that appear in the TV soap operas. George Macdonald Frasier took a minor character out of Tom Brown’s School Days and created The Flashman series of satirical historical novels. The book packager
Alloy Entertainment (which got caught up in a plagiarism charge last year) also operates a Nancy Drew model. There must be many others.

Publishers don’t have to look far to see how powerful character-based publishing could be. The comic book industry has been doing this for 50 years. In this industry the corporate brands (Marvel, DC Comics, etc.) have benefited from some of the reflected brand indentity that characters such as Superman, Spiderman, Aquaman and others have created in the minds and behavior of consumers. In book publishing, the opportunities to create character franchises are there for the asking. James Patterson has embarked on developing an author/character franchise and, if publishers were smart, they would be thinking about creating contracts that gave them the ability to broadly leverage the characters that authors create. This would include (with the author's permission) ghost-written books and stories of both the main characters and development of derivative story lines out of the books (as in the Flashman example). The opportunity to expand the content output and publish to a ‘template’ would generate higher revenues for publisher and author, stable consistent output and content consumers could enjoy.

The above scenario still accords some level of risk for publishers that the ‘powerful’ author may go off on his or her own. Given the examples in the music industry of late, some have suggested that major authors will do what Radiohead has done and walk away from the traditional publishing model. Some may, but it will hardly be an avalanche and this threat is no worse for a publisher than losing an established author to a rival house. The bigger question is how publishers can maintain a consistent funnel of marketable branded content. I believe publishers should be attempting to develop their own proprietary content franchises by building character properties in the same way the Nancy Drew series was created. There are several ways to develop this: Firstly, publishers can simply buy out an authors work so that they own it in total and can leverage it anyway they want. Secondly, they can license characters from other media: Who wouldn’t want to read a hard-boiled procedural featuring Law & Order’s
Lennie Brisco, for example? As publishers begin to travel down this road, they could evolve into character based enterprises similar to Disney and Marvel. This, in turn, would make them less susceptible to the whims of authors and the corresponding limitations of their contracts.

Harpercollins is owned by NewsCorp which owns Fox. Assume that Fox owns the character "Dr. House"; why don’t you see a series of House mysteries written to a formula by ‘house’ (sorry) authors whose job it is to churn these out every two weeks? And there is no need to limit the books to Dr House; any of the characters in the show should be fair game. Publishers who focus on their publishing brands have things backwards: They should see things from the consumer's point of view and that view is more than likely focused on either an author or a character. Build the product pipeline up with a character based publishing approach and the publisher may grow in the ascendancy.

Obviously, authors are a critical component to a publishing house’s viability but as distribution flattens, barriers to entry drop and generally the industry changes. Publishers need to reassess their content-acquisition strategies to ensure they have access to revenue-producing assets that will remain with them for an extended period of time. Perhaps the Drew model will become more widespread.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Modern Classics

Niche publishers like The Folio Society have been re-purposing publishing content into finely re-worked books for many years. These titles have expressly designed covers, often come slip cased and contain commissioned illustrations that were never in the original versions. They are beautiful objects but they are also one person's representation of design and manufacturing and other than the high quality there is only minimal uniformity across the titles. On a different level other titles from series such as Everyman's Library are similar in format but not of the unique quality as The Folio titles.

With not too much work you could create your own collection of titles. It would be one of my goals to work with my own editor and book designer to select titles, design a look for the exterior and interiors of the books and start publishing my own Modern Classic collection. With the costs of publishing one title through sites like blurb and Lulu.com it isn't an idea that is too far fetched. In the short term the content would likely be limited to public domain works but I believe over time more publishers will allow 'be-spoke' versions of their content where the consumer pays for the right to 'publish' the material for private use.

For someone like me who values the book as an object, creating my own title list of classic books with covers and interiors designed by me could become a viable avocation and source of deeper engagement in reading.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Victoria Departs



Without prior knowledge I was caught out as the Queeen Victoria floated down the Hudson around 8:45 this evening. Hence the blurriness. Oh well.

EBSCO Releases Discovery Product

In last weeks media round-up I mentioned the new federated search product from EBSCO. Here is a sample from a deeper review of the product from Information Today:

EDS (www.ebscohost.com/discovery) harvests metadata from both internal (library) and external (database vendors) sources and creates a preindexed service of impressive size and speed. Although the resulting collection is massive in size and scope, Sam Brooks, senior vice president of sales and marketing, says the fact that it is indexed directly on the EBSCOhost servers allows for exceptionally fast search response times and for the ability to leverage the familiar powerful features of the EBSCOhost user experience across all resources.

Content in EDS can include the following:

  • Detailed metadata (e.g., author-supplied abstracts, keywords, subjects, etc.) from content providers and publishers
  • Complete indexing from EBSCOhost databases to which an institution subscribes (e.g., Academic Search, Business Source, CINAHL, Historical Abstracts, etc.)
  • Complete indexing from non-EBSCOhost databases (to which a customer subscribes), including resources from Alexander Street Press, LexisNexis, NewsBank, Readex, etc.
  • Complete OPAC loaded directly into EDS (and searched along with all other EDS content); includes real-time availability checks and daily updates
  • Book jacket images, book records, entertainment records, annotations, family keys, subject headings, demand information, awards, review citations, etc., for hundreds of thousands of publications
  • Institutional archives/repositories directly loaded into EDS and searched as part of the overall experience

Monday, January 11, 2010

BISG Webinar: Book Server from the Internet Archive

BISG has a few webinars coming up, and the first is one featuring Book Server from the Internet Archive.

Following is a description of the presentation and here is the registration link.
The high-volume digitization efforts of many, in concert with an increasing number of e-book reading devices, has accelerated reader desire to find, buy or borrow digital books in a way that is web-based, user-friendly and transparent.
In October 2009, The Internet Archive, in concert with O'Reilly Media, Threepress, Feedbooks, OLPC, Adobe, the Book Oven, and many others, announced development of an open specification that provides a web-based, mobile-friendly mechanism for distributing digital books.
The specification is called "BookServer"...and it's really shaking things up.


For the first time, BookServer's open architecture makes it possible for anyone to make digital book content available in online search independent of which search engine the reader uses and regardless of which e-book reading device he or she prefers.

During this presentation, two of the those closest to the BookServer project will explain its genesis and vision, discuss the components of the BookServer architecture, and highlight opportunities for publishers, distributors, and aggregators to expand the reach of their digital content in today's burgeoning mobile and e-book landscape.

To learn more about BookServer, visit: http://www.archive.org/bookserver

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Media Week 1: Libraries, EBSCO, EBrary, UBM, Prognostications

Martin Amis is profiled in the Observer this morning (Link):

And last year, Amis drew criticism when he noted of the public interest in Katie Price that "all we are really worshipping is two bags of silicone" – though it probably says more about the dislocation of feminism than about Amis that mocking the cult of Jordan is deemed worthy of rebuke.

In one way or another, Amis's subject has always been sex, particularly the male view of sex, and therefore of women. At the same time, his method has remained extravagantly and grotesquely comic. In novels like Money, he pioneered a baroque-pornographic style to depict the sexualisation of the contemporary world. It was one of the aspects of Amis writing that his father, Kingsley, found unappealing.

"Sex is a fascinating area," Amis senior once explained, "but it's harder than he thinks. Nobody says that fiction should be able to discuss everything; he thinks he can do it, but I wonder if he can."

New blogger Dan D'Agostino (no known connection) at Teleread takes a look at why libraries may be ill advised to buy eBooks: No one will read them (Link):

With a vigorous, searchable Google Books on the horizon, could academic libraries suddenly find themselves and their e-book collections completely bypassed by their students and faculty? The New Year finds both academic libraries and the big commercial publishers that serve the academic community in a state of paralysis, on the one hand knowing that their onscreen e-books are not reaching potential readers and on the other unable to embrace the exploding popularity of e-readers and smart phones as platforms for their content.

How did it come to this? In order to explain it’s first necessary to understand that the world of academic publishing and academic libraries, probably the single biggest sector of the current e-book market, is a strange parallel universe in relation to the rest of the e-book world. And in this strange universe, two fundamental laws currently govern all activities.

NPR looks at How To Work Your Social Network To Find Jobs (Link)
Some burgeoning social networks not only target specific professions but also authenticate people's real-life identities to create secure networks that aren't searchable on the Web. The goal is to let people be comfortable sharing information and get advice without all of the information coming up the next time someone runs a Google search.

A case in point is Martindale-Hubbell Connected from LexisNexis. Michael Walsh, the chief executive officer for LexisNexis U.S. Legal Markets, describes it as "a combination of LinkedIn and Facebook for the legal community."

The service, which has about 24,000 members, provides a way for attorneys to search for future business, get legal advice and find a job. One feature allows users to cross-reference contacts they may already have established on LinkedIn. Each profile shows the law school a person attended and any articles they might have written. Users also can connect with Martindale-Hubbell's career center.

Walsh says LexisNexis' research found that 70 percent of lawyers use social networking tools. He says this number is extraordinary given how busy lawyers are and the extent to which they often keep information close to the vest.

EBSCO announced the launch of an enhanced version of their federated search tool EBSCO Discovery Service (link):

EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) provides much deeper indexing than any other discovery solution, as well as access to all of the library’s full-text content (both electronic and print resources)—an integrated one-stop search experience for a library’s journals, magazines, books, special collections, OPAC and more.

In addition to the most comprehensive and robust collection of metadata from the best content sources, EDS also provides full indexing from EBSCOhost database subscriptions, as well as many non-EBSCOhost partners, including: NewsBank, Readex, LexisNexis, Alexander Street Press and more. Superior relationships & licenses with academic publishers make EDS the most comprehensive service for searching the complete full text of journal articles and other sources. Nearly every major academic publisher is included in EDS.

Ebrary is doing market research into patron driven acquisitions (Link):

“As usage plays a key role in determining the value of electronic products and services, patron driven acquisition is quickly evolving as a model of choice,” said Leslie Lees, ebrary’s Vice President, Content Development. “We are proud to report an outstanding response to the first phase of our PDA pilot, and look forward to gaining even more invaluable input that will help shape our final product.”

ebrary’s PDA pilot participants are given access to a selection of approximately 100,000 e-books and other authoritative titles from the world’s leading publishers such as Wiley, Elsevier, and McGraw-Hill. Purchases are automatically triggered based on usage measured by page views, copies, and prints.

Titles purchased through the PDA pilot, integrate with other ebrary products and services including Academic Complete, ebrary’s flagship subscription product that provides cost-effective, multi-user access to a growing selection of more than 45,100 titles. Additionally, all ebrary titles include rich functionality for quickly and easily discovering and managing information online such as InfoTools, which turns every word into a portal to other online resources of the library’s choice; highlighting and annotating; multiple search options; and personal bookshelves.

Bowker has licensed the print versions of their Books In Print line to Grey House. (Press Release). The agreement is effective January 1, 2010 and I understand both companies are very happy with the agreement.

Other news items posted on the twitter last week:
Interview w/ David Levin at United Business Media. Acquisitions get the attention but "divestitures are very important" http://bit.ly/6GdiXq

The FT looks at Informa and the possible frustrations of the company's CEO Peter Rigby: How can Informa grow and provide shareholders with a decent return? http://bit.ly/7as6lF

The Dallas Morning News looks at Textbook rental programs. These articles are often amusing and informative for the questions. Students often don't hold back. (DMN)

All the prognoticators prognostications - and a big thanks for George for putting this schedule together. (Link)
The Bookseller tells us that the Administrator working on the Borders UK wind down has been able to sell the Books Etc brand which will in turn be revived, but only online. (LINK) As an aside it was quite depressing to see the Borders store on Charring Cross Road completely gutted as of December 24th. If I remember correctly that used to be an old Books Etc location.

More on the opportunities for media investment in China. http://bit.ly/4Sqqrh and a related item on China publishing: http://bit.ly/4VJE9N

Financial information companies are seeing significant expansion in the Gulf. http://bit.ly/7C7YFz. Over the next few years, this growth is likely to cover the softness in the European and North American marketplace.

Christ, is it 2010 already...? I just got over Y2K. Speaking of which Gary A is now on the back nine as of this week.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Digital Book World Conference: January 26/7th

Tickets for the Digital Book World conference are going like hot cakes and there are rumors the organizing group may have to close registration early so get your tickets now. No one wants to be the one left out at the next publishing cocktail party when you can't join the conversation about sessions like the following:

Getting Comfortable in Niches
The shift from horizontal paths to audiences to vertical ones is a hard concept for people who have grown up in book publishing to accept. This panel features publishers from niches as diverse as Mind Body Spirit, Sustainable Living, and Science Fiction, who have made the shift and will talk about how to build a sustained relationship with a vertical audience.

Speakers: Rebecca Smart, President & Managing Director of Osprey Publishing Brent Lewis, Harlequin Reid Tracy, President & CEO, Hay House Margo Baldwin, Co-Founder, President & Publisher Chelsea Green Publishing. Time: Tuesday January 26th 1.00pm


Teaching Authors to Fish: Empowering Authors to Market Themselves
One thing is sure about the new digital age: publishers know that that author marketing is among their most important tools. All sorts of efforts are being made by publishers to make authors more effective as their own advocates. A collection of publishers and an outside service provider that gives authors free web tools will discuss how publishers can make authors their most effective marketing allies

Speakers: Peter Clifton: Founder, President & CEO, Filedby Matt Schwartz: Director of Digital Strategy & Business Development, Random House Cecelia Tan: Founder, Circlet Press Christina Katz: Author Time: Wednesday January 27th 1.00pm

(I'm moderating both).

Use my courtesy discount code (DBWadvisor) to get $200 off the fee.

See you there.

Publishing Futurist: REPOST

Continuing my effort at regurgitation, here is a post from 1/8/2007 where I think about changes in education.

During an interview a few weeks ago, I was asked if I were to look at one segment of the publishing industry 10 years from now what would be my most radical forecast? It is a hard question because the rate of change in publishing is so rapid and all segments of the industry will see significant change in different ways over the next decade. Technology is fundamental and what often makes predictions like this difficult is to anticipate how technology can open new applications which are not immediately apparent on first exposure. For example, cameras on cell phones - have become widely used because they addressed a need in an unanticipated way.

Many people, myself included, thought that a camera on a cell phone was a worthless extravagance but because we never had access to this technology we couldn't understand where or under what circumstances it would be used. Now taken for granted, I take pictures with my phone all the time and soon I will be reading barcodes with it enabling me to access to product information as I browse through a store.

In publishing, social networking, wikis and blogs etc. will become the primary publishing platform for educational publishing. Currently, the environment is anarchic and it is hard to see how the formula heavy education market could leverage this technology to produce a better product. I think it is inevitable.

My answer to the question posed to me was that I envisioned an environment where there were no set textbooks, content or a curriculum for particular courses. Courses would have learning objectives both general and specific and the students would be required to obtain and/or demonstrate their understanding of the core material against these objectives. The student could obtain this knowledge and understanding via any means they wanted. In addition to demonstrating a mastery of the course objectives they would also have to justify the reference material and methodology they used to obtain their knowledge.

My comments are not unique and in a recent CNET interview, John Seely Brown (former chief scientist at PARC) suggested that,
"rather than treat pedagogy as the transfer of knowledge from teachers who are experts to students who are receptacles, educators should consider more hands-on and informal types of learning. These models are closer to an apprenticeship, a further-reaching, more multilayered approach than traditional formal education."
He also discussed a number of current examples of collaborative/social learning including a site at Brown University that brings together experts on Boccaccio.

Educational content will still be vitally important in any futurist vision of learning and education but it will not be delivered or published in forms we are currently familiar with. In my view, it is the current publishing paradigm that is slowing the development of online/ elearning methods. Publishers publish traditional book products and most of what they do is dictated by the format of a print product which does not travel well in the online world. The tasks publishers support for scoping, editing, veracity, testing, etc. will gain in importance as some other (non-value add) functions are eliminated.

Teaching methods will also change as educators spend more time and effort on critical thinking, research techniques and collaboration/mediation. Flexible teaching methodologies will allow students to learn more effectively. For example, for a student that learns by doing perhaps simulations will feature more with this student versus the student that learns by reading.

Who knows if my idea is relevant but without a doubt change comes rapidly to the manner in which children are being taught. As this gathers steam the children themselves could have more influence on the methodology and the supporting material than the traditional school, academic, publisher triumvirate.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Agatha Christie

A visit to Hatchards on Piccadilly is always an expensive one. A narrow crowded space with creaky floor boards and a wide curved set of front windows it looks right out of central casting as the quintessential representation of what an old victorian bookstore might have been like. A complete nonsense of course but Hatchard's remains one of the few constant destinations in our infrequent trips to London. The store has a very well curated collection of books and their buyers go deep into categories despite the small location.

Had it not been for Hatchards I wouldn't have seen the collection of Agatha Christie titles that began to trickle out from Harpercollins in 2008 (I think). These 'new' hardcover titles recreate the original published covers and trim size and are now a wonderful 38 volume set. There are more to come I think but he lies a frustration. As far as I can tell the no one is offering to sell the entire set: A consumer has to buy them individually - gambling somewhat that they have them all. Now really, with an author that maybe the world's most popular wouldn't it make some sense to market to this expansive audience a bit more aggressively. These titles are even hard to find on the HC web site. Here would be some examples:
  • a complete boxed set
  • a mail order version - a new title delivered by mail each quarter from the publisher
  • individually boxed titles (sold as a set or separately)
  • inscribed editions that allow you to gift the books with an inscription
These are books that are read and re-read and there is no question that some one who buys one of these titles couldn't be induced - without too much difficulty - to buy all of them. Interestingly, I intended to write this post last year after I visited Hatchard's but this year I was again reminded of the continued frustration at not being able by buy all of the titles in one go and the obvious lack of creativity on behalf of the publisher.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hughenden Manor


UK09087, originally uploaded by Personanondata - Michael Cairns.

The UK is in the grip of a winter storm unlike any they have had for a long time. In December we visited Hughenden Manor the home of Queen Victoria's Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. As you will note, there was already a lot of snow about even before Christmas and it made for a very pretty scene. Hughenden Manor is in High Wycombe just off the M40 and north of the M25. If you've driven to Oxford you will have passed this house.

Click on the image or click here for the rest of the set.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Media Week 52b: Television, Amazon, Libraries, And a book about running.

Wasn't sure if I was going to do one of these this weekend but what the hey. Next week we start back at week one. I will be posting my 2010 predictions on Tuesday and I hope you find them interesting.

The Independent gives us a heads up on some of the TV adaptations that may be coming our way. (As I mentioned last week a second series of Cranford is on its way here in January). Independent:
Book publishers have fallen on hard times but a new crop of festive television adaptations is luring in new readers and boosting sales.
....
"A TV adaptation can be the best free advertising a book can get," said a spokeswoman for Waterstone's, which saw sales of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps treble in the week after a festive screening in 2008. "Frequent Jane Austen adaptations garner remarkable sales and reintroduce new generations of readers to her books. Where the effect is most obvious, though, is with relatively obscure classics and with contemporary novels."

Sales of Elizabeth Gaskell's "lost classic" Cranford soared by more than 500 per cent at Waterstone's in the four weeks during and after its BBC airing in 2007, compared with the four weeks before the serialisation. The bookseller expects another, albeit less dramatic, sales rise after the bonnet drama's recent return.

Reuters suggests that Amazon's 'coyness' with respect to full disclosure of eBook and Kindle sales could come back to bite them if they begin to see a softening in the numbers. Currently, all good news but what if things backtrack and what will that do to their share price. I wonder if Bezos cares. (Reuters):

But investor patience with the lack of details has begun to wear thin, particularly as Amazon shares hit an all-time high in early December on expectations it will be one of the biggest winners in overall sales growth this holiday season.

That benefit of the doubt could be further tested in 2010 as more e-readers enter the market and challenge the Kindle.

"As long as Amazon continues to have the right margins and the right profit numbers at the end of every quarter, they can probably get away with that," said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.

But if the Kindle's streak goes cold and Amazon continues to keep investors in the dark, they could turn on the stock.

"You may suffer a 10 to 15 to 20 percent correction because the uncertainty factor would be so high," McQuivey said. "It ensures that if there is bad news, people imagine the worst."

John Naughton at the Observer picks up the same theme on Sunday:
But the combination of the two "facts" has further ratcheted up speculation that 2010 will be the Year of the Kindle and the end is nigh for the printed codex.

If you detect a whiff of what philosophers call "technological determinism" in this, you're in good company. I have on my shelves a (printed) copy of The Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper, a wonderful antidote to the irrational exuberance of Kindlemania. The authors conducted an ethnographic study of how people actually use paper in order to reach an understanding of which of those uses might conceivably be eliminated by electronics, and which might not. It should be required reading for anyone showing the early symptoms of Kindlemania.

Do you think you've got the autobiographic goods? If so, your life story could become a bestseller in a competition to be run by the BBC and the Daily Mail:
As many as 15 true life stories will feature in a new five-part TV series called My Story, to be broadcast on primetime BBC1 next year. And every week, after each programme, one person's story will be published, with an advance of £20,000 from a leading publisher.
There's going to be some stiff competition if Petty Officer Parton is anything to go by.

More from the Observer that suggests UK readers may be talking about India's Abraham Vergese's stunning story of Siamese twins in Ethiopia which will be getting a boost from a TV tie-in (Observer):

A novelist, even a well-reviewed one, may sell just a couple of thousand books. It is no way to make a living, unless of course you catch the attention of Britain's biggest literary star-maker, the television producer Amanda Ross.

Novels that find favour with Ross can be expected to achieve much, much more. The film The Lovely Bones, to be released at the end of this month, is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold which shot up the bestsellers list after it was featured on the programme Ross devised, Channel 4's Richard & Judy. Cecilia Aherne's PS I Love You followed the same route to the cinema, while Victoria Hislop's The Island was plucked from relative obscurity by the show's regular book review slot.

The Guardian Blogs that playlists could do for books what they have done for music sites like Spotify (Guardian):
But perhaps there is more to the notion of the playlist than first meets the eye. Not long ago, I was mucking about on Spotify when a thought occurred me. The online music library's extensive catalogue impresses for obvious reasons, but what genuinely recommends the service is the public playlist facility, allowing individual users to curate and publish groupings of songs based on whatever criteria take their fancy. It's a fascinating way to discover music, to expand one's tastes, and the only limitation is the imagination of the curator. And I wondered: why not a similar facility for books?
Librarians in Aberdeen - and now online - are learning to combat information overload (Press & Journal)

This enormous mass of information (often conflicting) requires organising and managing in order to make some sense of it, and to enable others to make best use of it. These skills of information organisation go to the heart of what it means to be an information professional: a role found in a huge variety of different types of organisation.

It is a dynamic and challenging career path to follow, but one which is very rewarding. The department of information management at Aberdeen Business School at The Robert Gordon University delivers full-time and online master’s degrees in information management and information and library studies accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Recently, the department has also developed a new and innovative course, the Access Foundation (Graduate Certificate) Information Studies (GCIS), to provide flexible access routes into its master’s degrees. The GCIS course is delivered entirely online over a period of nine months. It provides a new access route for students with experience of information work, but without the necessary educational qualifications for entry to postgraduate courses.

Several librarians take issue with how library's role in the Google Book Settlement has been characterised by Harvard's Robert Darnton (NYRB):
In his recent article criticizing the Google settlement ["Google and the New Digital Future," NYR, December 17, 2009], Robert Darnton fails to acknowledge the significant role that libraries have had in the creation of Google Book Search as well as the concrete steps they are taking to address the sorts of concerns he raises. Libraries are using Google-digitized volumes to create the "truly public library" that he seeks, and these same libraries are taking responsibility for the preservation of Google-digitized volumes.
...
Libraries are much further ahead in the game than Darnton would have readers believe. Although there are disappointments for Google partner libraries in the settlement agreement, libraries have worked to secure important privileges, including significant influence over the commercial pricing of Google's Book Search product. The settlement also sanctions important uses of digital volumes, including those that are in copyright. These include providing access to content to users with print disabilities and using libraries' digitized volumes in large-scale computational research. Opening the enormous body of Google-scanned content to new user populations and methods of inquiry will have a transformative effect on our ability to produce and analyze knowledge about our society, our heritage, and the world. We invite Harvard to join us in this endeavor!
UK Libraries are in a mess and all kinds of suggestions are being offered. "Why shouldn't libraries sell books," asks minister Margaret Hodge raises prospect of libraries expanding role beyond lending books in major reconsideration of policy (Guardian)

A report on 2008 library statistics: The Academic Libraries: 2008 First Look summarizes services, staff, collections, and expenditures of academic libraries in 2- and 4-year, degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (link).

Tim Spalding from LibraryThing on a boon doggle to Christchurch, New Zealand in this video on social cataloging (Vimeo).

A book about running (Observer)
Even though running is the world's most popular hobby, the running bookshelf is curiously empty. Of the few books on the subject in print, nearly all fall into one of two categories: either how-to tips or personal accounts of one man's perseverance against pain. Both share one weird feature: as celebrations of running they make running seem pretty awful. It comes across like performing home surgery – it'll hurt, require expensive equipment and leave scars.
...
Gotaas combs the world for true running tales, and comes up with some beauties. Who knew that naked running was the vogue in 18th-century England, with men and women racing separately and thousands of spectators lining the race course? Or that in ancient Egypt, Ramses II legitimised his hold on the throne by performing a long-distance run every few years, a ritual he performed until he was over 90?
I ran a lot in 2009 and had some good race times.

That's not a bad collection for the end of the year.