Monday, June 28, 2010

Springer introduces new open access journals

In 2008, Springer acquired open access publisher BioMed Central amid worries the publisher would curtail the open access model despite claims at the time that they viewed open access as a viable business model and expected to expand the operation. This week, the company announced an expansion of the open access model to all disciplines under the trade name SpringerOpen.

From their press release:

SpringerOpen (www.springeropen.com) will cover all disciplines within the science, technology and medicine (STM) fields and will be offered in cooperation with BioMed Central. The entire content of SpringerOpen journals – including research articles, reviews, and editorials – are fully and immediately open access, and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. No subscription is needed.

“We are seeing an increasing interest from our authors and from funders in all areas for open access publishing options and have responded to a need in the current market,” said Wim van der Stelt, EVP Business Development, Springer. “We are happy to serve our authors and editorial boards with the publishing options they want and are also pleased to supply universities, research institutions and our other patrons with the ability to use this content online freely and conveniently.”

SpringerOpen journals are e-only journals. Springer is committed to delivering high-quality articles and ensuring rapid publication as with its traditional journals, from online submission systems and in-depth peer review to an efficient, author-friendly production process. The final articles are not only published in a timely manner on Springer’s online information platform SpringerLink, but are also distributed to archives such as PubMed Central and to institutional repositories as requested.

SpringerOpen journals are published under the Creative Commons Attribution license, which facilitates the open distribution of copyrighted work. According to this license, Springer will not reserve any exclusive commercial rights. The journals ask the authors to pay an article-processing charge, in accordance with market standards.

BioMed Central, acquired in 2008 by Springer, will provide its expertise and technology to help establish the SpringerOpen portfolio. SpringerOpen journals will publish in emerging and interdisciplinary fields and will complement both the established Springer journal portfolios and BioMed Central’s growing list of over 200 life science and biomedicine journal titles. Furthermore, in order to reduce the financial burden faced by individual authors, Springer and BioMed Central are collaborating to extend BioMed Central’s Open Access Membership scheme, offered to institutions, societies, groups, funders and corporations, to include the SpringerOpen titles. More than 300 institutional open access membership arrangements are currently in place.

Springer Science+Business Media (www.springer.com) is a leading global scientific publisher, delivering quality content through innovative information products and services. The company is also a trusted provider of local-language professional publications in Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands. In the science, technology and medicine (STM) sector, the group publishes around 2,000 journals and more than 6,500 new books a year, as well as the largest STM eBook Collection worldwide. Springer has operations in about 20 countries in Europe, the USA, and Asia, and more than 5,000 employees.

BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com) has been part of Springer Science+Business Media since 2008. Founded in 1999, the STM publisher has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is the largest open access publisher in the world.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 26: OCLC, AAUP Conference, Intellectual Property Enforcement, Harold Robbins, Book Bloggers

OCLC announced that a revised record use policy will be going into effect on August 1st (LJ):
After more than a year and a half of proposals, withdrawals, and revisions, OCLC's final updated policy governing the usage of WorldCat records is set to go into effect on August 1. The document, an update to the currently prevailing "Guidelines for Use and Transfer of OCLC Derived Records" (from 1987), is written in the form of an agreement on "Rights and Responsibilities" governing both OCLC Cooperative members and the steward organization itself. This commitment-driven approach is a departure from OCLC's previous attempts, criticized for being opaque and for featuring severe legalistic language. The current iteration has been repeatedly described as "a code of good practice," and stresses cooperative member libraries' vested interest in maintaining WorldCat as a viable and self-sustaining resource for catalog records and other services.
A wrap up of the AAUP conference in Salt Lake City (Chronicle):
The program was praised by many attendees in part because it focused on digital how-to: how to make and market e-books, and how to work with libraries that want everything in electronic form. It's far too early to say that most or even many university presses have made the transition from a print-based world to an electronic one. But most have now recognized that they have to figure out what that transition will look like for their particular presses if they want to keep publishing.
Concluding:
Beyond the practical questions, there was a philosophical slant to the conference, too. The publishers wondered and worried about the future of the long-form argument—e.g., the scholarly monograph. How will it survive in an era of quick Internet searches and piecemeal reading? Nicholas G. Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, wasn't in Salt Lake City, but his argument that the Internet is killing off "deep reading" came up several times.

At a freewheeling session on "information hyperabundance," the audience wrestled with how society ought to deal with the flood of data coming at us. Michael J. Jensen, director of strategic Web communications for National Academies Press, talked about how publishers and the rest of us are up against "a whole industry of distraction engines" that wants us to surf the Web, play video games, and generally do anything but read a book.
A drink writer is a bad writer (Independent):
"The idea that drugs and alcohol give artists unique insights and powerful experiences is an illusion," he said. "When you try and capture the experiences [triggered by drugs or alcohol] they are often nonsense. These drugs often wipe your memory, so it's hard to remember how you were in that state of mind."
LA Times notes that the Obama administration is beefing up the policing of piracy and counterfeiting of goods and e-books are mentioned (LAT):
Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel said her office would review current efforts to curb intellectual property infringement of U.S. goods abroad, especially in China. China also is the source of many counterfeit goods. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection report published last year said 79% of seized fake goods came from China.

The enforcement strategy outlined in a 61-page report released Tuesday contains over 30 recommendations, which includes establishing an interagency committee dedicated to curbing fake drugs and medical products. It also calls for agencies to encourage foreign law enforcement to go after rogue websites and "increase the number of criminal enforcement actions" against intellectual property violators.

"There's not an industry that hasn't been affected," said Dr. Mark Esper, executive vice president of the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who lauded the enforcement strategy. "The next victim out there is probably going to be the e-books and the publishing industry. "
Also in the LAT, book bloggers are inheriting the world of book reviews (LAT):
Blogs like Riley's, because of the genres they focus on, have caught the eye of publishers, who are eager to have a new opportunity to reach readers. "Women's fiction that maybe wouldn't be covered by traditional book sections is being blogged about, talked about," says Jennifer Hart, vice president and associate publisher at HarperCollins for its paperback imprints. "There are books blogs for every niche of publishing — from literary and commercial fiction to young adult, to sci-fi, to cookbooks. This offers publishers an incredible opportunity — we can reach the audience for all of our books, no matter the genre."

Some of this diversity was reflected in the Book Blogger Convention's attendees. Joan Pantsios, a public defender from Chicago just getting started with book blogging, has a fondness for literature. Carrie Brownell, whose Christianity is important to her blogging, is a stay-at-home mom from Oregon. Monica Shroeder, a 23-year-old military service member, devours books with incredible speed — especially those with vampires. Yet despite their different backgrounds, world views and tastes in books, these women — most book bloggers are women — were all incredibly friendly, eager to connect.
Almost complete collection of Faukner's works goes up for auction at Christie's (AP):
The auction could be the last chance to acquire such a large collection of the Nobel Prize-winning author's work, said Louis Daniel Brodsky, a poet and Faulkner scholar, who lives in St. Louis.Brodsky, who donated his own private collection to the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, said he once owned the extremely rare copy of Faulkner's first novel, "Soldier's Pay," in a dust jacket that's part of the lot up for auction."There are five of those known," he said.Also included in the collection are signed copies of "The Wild Palms" and "Absalom, Absalom!" In keeping with common auction house practice, Christie's didn't identify the owner, but said he was an American.A few items offer a glimpse into the personal side of the author, whose stream of consciousness writings explored the complicated social system of the South.Ironically, Faulkner likely would have cringed to know his personal items are to be part of a public bidding war, Griffith said.
The lot eventually went for $833K. Not too bad - pays for a few air conditioners.

News that Author House will bring Harold Robbins back into print reminded me of Basil Fawlty and the Waldorf salad episode of Faulty Towers. This is Basil's review of Robbin's work:
"aimless thrills, ... the most awful American ... tripe, a sort of pornographic muzak." Of course, when he (Basil) learns the Hamiltons (guests) like Robbins, Basil pretends to have been referring to another author named "Harold Robinson." Harold Robbins was an American romance novelist whose peak of popularity lasted from the 1950s through the 1970s. His lurid, melodramatic writings were dismissed by critics as trashy pulp but were international bestsellers.
Here from the press release:

AuthorHouse, a leading self-publishing imprint of Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), announced Thursday that is re-releasing 12 classic novels from America's top-selling fiction author of all-time, Harold Robbins.

Robbins' widow Jann said she chose AuthorHouse because it provided her the opportunity to make the books available over a wide range of digital platforms, like the Kindle, the nook and through Kobo. Additionally, the books will be re-released in paperback and hardcover formats.

"I'm an avid reader of eBooks and Harold would have loved the idea of making his books available digitally," said Jann Robbins. "His books spoke to all people, and by increasing the ways we can reach readers [through digital formats], I believe we're carrying on his legacy."

Galley editions of the first three titles: Where Love Has Gone; The Lonely Lady; and Goodbye, Janette will be debuted at the 2010 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference Friday through Sunday at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC.

In addition, AuthorHouse will re-release nine more titles in the coming months. The release dates for hardcover copies and digital versions of the books will be announced in July, but pre-orders will be taken at the conference. "Harold Robbins is an American icon, selling more than 750 million books, in 32 languages, to readers worldwide. He paved the way for mainstream authors like Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins. We are pleased to bring his writing into the new digital age," said Kevin Weiss, ASI president and chief executive officer. The other nine titles being made available through AuthorHouse include: The Adventurers; Never Love a Stranger; Descent from Xanadu; Memories of Another Day; The Pirate; The Inheritors; Spellbinder; Dreams Die First; and The Dream Merchants.
From the @twitter this week:

Guardian: Conrad Black given fresh hope of early release after US supreme court ruling The http://bit.ly/9hImnD
TeleRead: Ray Kurzweil’s ‘Blio’ e-reader: Is it really all that? http://bit.ly/dgwClg
Guardian: 'Operation Thunderdome' takes US paper digital. http://bit.ly/c75mnE http://bit.ly/9fgvDu Digital first print last. Revolutionary
MediaPost Viacom's Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against YouTube Dismissed: In a sweeping victory for Google, a federal... http://bit.ly/bRBAtR

BBC News: Spy novelist Alan Furst takes readers back in time http://bit.ly/bpagJF - Just saw this. He is a great writer. (Video)
Nothing to report in Sport this week.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Amazon As Producer - Repost

Originally posted May 14, 2009

Amazon sells a lot of books but like any retailer they want to sell more. Reliance on publishers to produce the right books, or support the books in the right way, is so old school, and Amazon has determined that in some cases they can do a better job than a traditional publisher. From their press release:
AmazonEncore is a new program whereby Amazon uses information such as customer reviews on Amazon websites to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors that show potential for greater sales. Amazon then partners with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, Audible.com, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers. This summer "Legacy" will be revised by the author and re-issued as an AmazonEncore edition in print on Amazon websites around the world, in physical bookstores, as a digital download from the Kindle Store in less than 60 seconds, and via spoken-word audio download on Audible.com.
It was really only a matter of time before Amazon entered the acquisitions segment of the publishing value chain and they follow Barnes & Noble and Borders in this respect, but the danger (or opportunity) in the Amazon case is more acute given their market power. Amazon is likely to go about this program in a far more aggressive manner than the other retailers, and the strategy looks like another element of their 'platform' play. Soon it may be the case where traditional book content - once 'generic' in terms of its' availability in all retail outlets - becomes somehow proprietary on the Kindle, in audio and perhaps in print. Amazon has such retail selling power that any publisher selected into the Encore program would have few qualms agreeing to an 'exclusive' sales arrangement. 'Exclusive' since few non-Amazon retailers would be likely to carry the title.

The self-publishing market has long seemed to me to be one of the best things that has happened to the acquisitions editor. The market represents a test bed of potential new authors and book projects. While the number of winners is always going to be small, the work of sifting through this material, which historically would have been done by reading the stacks of manuscript submissions, now takes place in the minor leagues of publishing. Here, there is a ready market of readers and reviewers who en mass can do the job of many AE's; but, Amazon is spoiling all the fun. With their superior data analysis capability, Amazon will be able to select these sleeper hits far in advance of any publisher and this Encore program will conspire to erode a publishers ability to source new books.

On the other hand, publishers will continue to publish authors who have not gone the self-publishing route and will not initially be available to Amazon. Many of these titles don't sell well even though they are good titles. Amazon are telling publishers that they are prepared to step in and help out if they determine that with a little more coaxing the title could indeed find an audience. The question will be on what terms this arrangement will be based.

Amazon as producer is a subtle but important change in the operations of the largest retailer. I often mull what would happen to some of the largest publishers if they lost their top two or three authors to Google or Amazon. It may be that the Amazon Encore program sets the stage for a much larger program by Amazon to establish their own publishing and media production operation - their content supply - that feeds their retail presence. There may be further ramifications from this seemingly innocuous press release.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SS United States - August 1968

USS United States, August 1968
A weekly image from my archive.

The way the trim line arcs down from prow to stern, the funnels swept backwards as though pushed back by the wind, indeed the SS United States was a stylish ship. The liner held the trans-Atlantic record for many years and in this image you can easily imagine its sleek contour slicing through the sea. On the ships stern gold lettering proudly proclaims the ship's name and home port. Pretenders would have caught this parting message – “Sure, we're the United States and we're from New York!”

My parents were probably on a Circle Line tour in August 1968 and the liner was docked and preparing for a return to Europe. The ship’s owner was already in financial difficulty: My parents flew over on a 707 and jet travel killed the luxury liner. The United States was effectively taken out of service a year later.

Looking at the NY skyline almost 40 yrs later, the skyline is still familiar despite the significant changes. On the right of this image is the Sheraton Motor Lodge West Side, which opened in 1962 and boasted a roof top pool and “off street parking”. Rooms in 1968 went for $21. The Sheraton is now the Chinese consulate having first become run down as a Travelodge (I think) and then renovated by imported Chinese workers. Just to the left of the Sheraton and to the right of the first water tower you can just see the New Yorker hotel sign which is still a night time beacon on the skyline. There's an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building and to the far left is the Pan Am building with the Chrysler building in front.

The 2010 panorama has changed considerably but I don’t think my parents, on a 1968 Circle Line tour, would have thought their child would be able to view the Empire State Building out of his living room window forty years later.

Entire 1968 Set

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Curator and the Docent

Walking around a vast museum can be interesting and, sometimes serendipitous, but often it is an incomplete experience. Items are organized in specific groups yet not always in a manner that encourages exploration of the most important items. Presented with a gallery full of amphorae, it can be difficult to recognize the single important item while on your own and without a guide. Surfing the web for information and knowledge can offer a similar experience: Access and proximity is no guarantee you will happen on relevance.

Museums and libraries are good proxies for the concept of “curation,” which we’re hearing a lot about at the moment. Private equity (for one) has found its next buzz word and funding vultures are lacing their presentations with references to ‘curation’ in an effort to gain financial support for their new business ideas. But curation is an old concept: Television networks, newspapers, magazines, journals and other media have all practiced a form of content curation for hundreds of years. We’ve just recently latched onto the idea of curation as though it were something new. The need for curation in the old media world wasn’t as obvious as in the internet world because, on the web, ‘everything carries the same weight’ and the average user has difficulty discerning good content from bad. Indeed, as content on the web exploded over the past fifteen years, users accepted the “good enough” concept – free content was plentiful – and were content to ‘satisfice’ either knowingly or obliviously. User behavior and expectations are changing and investors are now chasing businesses that profess to actively curate content and communities of interest.

In recent years content curation has emerged out of the wild, wild, west of ‘mere’ content. Sites such as The Huffington Post, Red State and Politico all represent new attempts to build audiences around curated content. While they appear to be successful, at the same time there are other sites (such as Associated Content and Demand Media) contributing to the morass of filler content that can plague the web users’ experience. The buzz word ‘curation’ does carry with it some logic: As the sheer amount of information and content grows, consumers seek help parsing the good from the bad. And that’s where curation comes in.

The amount of content available to consumers – much of it free of charge, but scattered across thousands of websites – is growing exponentially every day. At the same time, consumers are increasingly doing independent research and attempting on their own to source important information to support their increasingly complicated lives. Questions or information relating to healthcare, finances, education and leisure activities represent a small sample of the range of topics on which consumers look for accuracy and relevance, yet encounter an immense sea of specious or outdated content. In many ways, the web - in its entirety - is the new dictionary, directory or reference encyclopedia, but users with specific interests are increasingly beginning to understand they need to spend as much time validating what they find as they do consuming their research. In the old days, it was as simple as pulling the volume off the shelf and, while the web offers a depth and accuracy of content that far outstrips any from the old days, finding content of similar veracity can be a challenge.

For the past two years, I was working on a project with Louis Borders at Mywire.com in an attempt to build a curated news and information service we called Week’sBest. For a variety of reasons we put the project on hold in February, but the concept was simple: Identify experts that can curate content on a range of specific topics and build a community of interested subscribers around the content. Our model was to find expert ‘content producers’ who retain unique knowledge and understanding of a specific topic and would filter content from across the web specific to their topic of expertise. Mywire.com built a unique editorial tool to make this process almost routine by pre-selecting topic-specific content from both brand name sources and from across the web. Our experts - the content producers – logged on each day and selected from this pre-sorted list only those items they considered the best content. Consumers interested in each of these topics subscribe to a free weekly email digest of the material selected. Our revenue model was based on turning a subset of our free email subscribers into paid subscribers who would gain access to high-quality content – such as content from Oxford University Press.

While we were unable to execute as we expected, we did gain validation of our concept from both the publishing and the private equity community. Publishers, who we were chasing to be our ‘content experts’ liked that there was a low cost of entry for their participation and liked the editorial platform we had invested in. The equity community liked the ‘curation’ model, the people involved in the project and the investment that Mywire had made in the platform. However, we suffered the ‘prove it’ syndrome. Both publishers and equity partners wanted to see the model work before they committed and we ran out of time and resources. Mywire.com continues to invest in other curation type models.

I remain convinced that applying technology to the selection of useful, valid and appropriate content is only part of the solution. At Mywire, we used a text mining tool as part of the editorial process and on simple news items – which are increasingly generic – placing content items into subject/topic groupings was relatively easy. The process isn’t perfect and requires frequent ‘fine tuning’ but while the tools are improving, human intervention is still required. Earlier this month we learned that even Google was applying some human filtering to their news site.

There is a real debate whether consumers will pay for real expertise and knowledge: I believe they will, just as they paid for specialist magazines, journals, cable channels and similar media in the analog centuries. The atomization of content has complicated matters in that it has taken the proverbial covers off the print limitation of the traditional magazine. While a reader or subscriber will buy into the expertise of ‘Glamour’ or ‘Men’s Health,’ they now expect all important and relevant content and not just the content prepared by the magazine’s writers. After all, there is a low hurdle in the user’s ability to search for content on their own and it is silly to ignore this ability. Acting as a ‘content producer,’ the editors of ‘Glamour’ should be able to provide their paying subscribers with a collective representation of all content that’s important and relevant to their readers even if the content is produced by Glamour’s competitors. This is an important service and doesn’t limit the ability of Glamour to produce their own content; rather, it enhances it because they are able to view in detail the interests of their subscribers and produce applicable content to match.

In the above example, generic news is never going to be the basis for paid subscriptions. For example, the news that suntan lotion causes skin cancer is a hyped news story. In the Glamour example, this news story would always remain in the free section of their site; however, available to subscribers would be a curated selection of in-depth content including reference material, added to over time, with commentary and discussion from their ‘expert’ editors and advisors about the real issue of sun protection products. With a brand such as Glamour, the number of expert curated topics made available to subscribers could easily exceed fifty and over time would be likely to grow. Strongly associated with this approach would be the development of communities around each topic, leading in turn to additional business opportunities such as ad programs, events and special publishing programs.

The interest of consumers across a wide variety of subjects and topics continues unabated and the internet has only facilitated that interest, although our expectations have been reduced or marginalized due to undifferentiated content. The consumer is increasingly smarter about the content they consume and they also continue to impress with their ability to seek out and absorb what, in the analog world, was considered too “advanced” for their understanding. There was always an arbitrary wall between “professional or academic” content and consumer content: Increasingly, consumers are making it clear that they want to make the decision themselves whether particular content is or is not too advanced for their comprehension or enjoyment.

Recently, as I wandered around a museum with overwhelming breadth and depth of content, I was lucky to be guided in my travels by a professional. When she introduced herself to me, she used the term ‘docent’ to describe her function. A docent is a ‘knowledgeable guide’ and the function seems to me to perfectly complement the process of curation. In an online world, where more and more content appears to “carry the same weight,” we will look to and pay for the combination of curator and docent – sometimes the same person or entity – who can organize and manage a range of content and also engage with the user so they gain insight and meaning from the material. At Mywire.com, we intentionally approached branded media companies because they were recognized as experts in their segments. These are the companies which should be able to build revenue models around the curation of content to offer subscribers a materially different experience than simply performing a Google search query delivering up generic news and semi-relevant content.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 25: Joyce, Embedded Librarians, Cloud Computing Survey

You may have heard of the iPad & Ulysses controversy - here from the Observer:
Ulysses has what the racing fraternity call "form" in this regard. In 1926, for example, four years after its publication, the Cambridge English don FR Leavis decided that he wanted to quote from the book – which was then banned in Britain – in his lectures. He therefore wrote to the Home Office seeking permission to import a copy. For his temerity, he was then summoned by the university's vice-chancellor, who handed him a note from the director of public prosecutions revealing that the Cambridge police had been monitoring Leavis's lectures, and concluding with a recommendation that he "should be suitably and firmly dealt with".

The publishers of Ulysses "Seen" are no doubt feeling relaxed and contented, on the grounds that if you can get round Apple's editorial control-freakery then you can get around anything. There is, however, one further possibly fly in their ointment. His name is Stephen Joyce. He is the grandson of the great man and since the 1980s has been in sole control of his grandfather's literary estate. More importantly, his desire to control the uses of his literary property makes Steve Jobs look like St Francis of Assisi.
Robert McCrumb on a busman's holiday in the Northeast (Observer):

In Washington I went to one of America's great bookstores – Politics and Prose on Connecticut Avenue – a beacon of traditional bookselling, run for the past 25 years by Barbara Meade and Carla Cohen. To the dismay of the locals, they have just announced their retirement and the business is for sale. But it's age (both women are in their 70s) not recession or competition from Barnes and Noble that's driving this decision. Meade told me that their book sales are actually up 30% in 2010.The US and Canada remain an enthusiastic and sophisticated book market. Unlike in Britain, there are hardly any festivals, but book clubs and reading groups make up the deficit, and everyone is a consumer, if not always a reader. A Martian would have to conclude that the thing called "the printed word" was enjoying a bonanza.

Embedded Librarians? (Inside HigherEd):

The model Roderer and her staff are pursuing is distributed not only in the sense that every researcher’s computer can access the library’s website and its vaults of electronic journal articles and e-books, but in that library personnel are embedded in various departments to work with researchers on their own turf. These staffers are no longer called librarians; they are “informationists.” (Roderer did not invent the term, but she prefers it to “librarian,” which she says evokes envoys from a faraway building rather than information experts whose skills are applicable anywhere.)

Medical students, clinicians, and professors are loath to trek across campus to the library’s physical plant now that the majority of its collections are available in electronic format through its website, Roderer says. However, that does not mean the library’s staff is no longer of use to researchers, she says — nor does it mean the staff’s interactions with researchers need to be limited to e-mail and text-messaging.
Pew Research on the Future of Cloud Computing (Pew):

The highly engaged, diverse set of respondents to an online, opt-in survey included 895 technology stakeholders and critics. The study was fielded by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center. Some 71% agreed with the statement: "

By 2020, most people won't do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones. Aspiring application developers will develop for smartphone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system."

Some 27% agreed with the opposite statement, which posited:

"By 2020, most people will still do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Internet-based applications like Google Docs and applications run from smartphones will have some functionality, but the most innovative and important applications will run on (and spring from) a PC operating system. Aspiring application designers will write mostly for PCs."

Most of those surveyed noted that cloud computing will continue to expand and come to dominate information transactions because it offers many advantages, allowing users to have easy, instant, and individualized access to tools and information they need wherever they are, locatable from any networked device. Some experts noted that people in technology-rich environments will have access to sophisticated-yet-affordable local networks that allow them to "have the cloud in their homes."

From the twitter:

A good series of notes from John Mark Ockerbloom On bibliographic data and cataloging: #rmti

A Failure to Communicate http://shar.es/mysOJ In lawsuit against Georgia St over e-reserves, scholarly publishing faces a defining moment

Reader's Digest Moves to Mend http://bit.ly/9ZizvU Less ambition, fewer staff but looking to rebound.

And in sports, England beat Australia and the rest is not worth mentioning. Lakers beat Celtics - always good.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Metadata Everywhere

An interesting article in OCLC's NextSpace publication about the increasing importance of meta data. Music to bibliographers and catalogers' ears. (OCLC):
“Metadata has become a stand-in for place.”

So says Richard Amelung, Associate Director at the Saint Louis University Law Library. When asked to expand on that idea he explains, “Law is almost entirely jurisdictional. You need to know where a decision occurred or a law was changed to understand if it has any relevance to your subject.

“In the old days, you would walk the stacks in the law library and look at the sections for U.S. law, international law, various state law publications, etc. Online? Without metadata, you may have no idea where something is from. Good cataloging isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ for legal reference online. It’s a requirement.”

Richard’s point is one example of a trend that is being felt across all aspects of information services, both on and off the Web: the increasing importance and ubiquity of metadata. In a world where more and more people, systems, places and even objects are digitally connected, the ability to differentiate “signal from noise” is fast becoming a core competency for many businesses and institutions.

Librarians—and catalogers more specifically—are deeply familiar with the role good metadata creation plays in any information system. As part of this revolution, industries are increasing the value they place on talents and the ways in which librarians work, extending the ever-growing sphere of interested players.

Whether we are tracing connections on LinkedIn, getting recommendations from Netflix, trying to find the right medical specialist in a particular city or monitoring a shipment online, metadata has become the structure on which we’re building information services. And no one has more experience with those structures than catalogers.

Concluding:

“It is clear that metadata is ubiquitous,” Jane continues. “Education, the arts, science, industry, government and the many humanistic, scientific and social pursuits that comprise our world have rallied to develop, implement and adhere to some form of metadata practice.

“What is important is that librarians are the experts in developing information standards, and we have the most sophisticated skills and experience in knowledge representation.”

Those skills are being put to good use not only in the library, but in nearly every discipline and societal sector coming into contact with information.

Bibliographers Shall Inherit...Data Monopolies - Repost

I recently heard Fred Wilson speak and it reminded me of this post from February 5th, 2007:


Fred Wilson is a founder of Union Square Ventures a private equity firm located in NYC. He was also part of Flatiron Partners until he left to start Union Square. He was the key note speaker at Monday’s SIIA Previews meeting and spoke about Content; specifically that content "wants to be free."

He ended the session with a potentially more interesting theme which related to tagging and content descriptions. In answer to a question about the potential power of social nets and the attendant tagging possibilities he suggested that we shouldn’t have to tag information at all; that is, content should be adequately described for us. The questioner stated that ‘publishers are good’ at describing their content. Wilson disagreed, confirming (to me) that publishers are definitely not good at tagging or classifying their content. His comments confirm for me a belief that intermediaries that insert descriptors, subject classifications and other metadata to improve relevance and discovery will play an increasingly important role. Personally, I do not think the battle has yet been joined that will determine one provider of standardized meta-data within specific product or content categories. (Some players have clear positioning, take for example Snap-On tools purchase of Proquest’s Business Solutions unit which opens many intriguing opportunities – if you like car parts).

You may think that books are effectively categorized by Amazon.com and therefore Amazon is the standard. This is untrue: In fact there are several bibliographic book databases and none of them are compatible across the industry. Additionally, while Amazon allows great access to their data, they are not a good cataloguer of bibliographic information. Their effort is enough to serve their purposes. As a seeker of books and book (e)content, I will want to be able to search on a variety of data elements (publisher, format, subject, author) and find what I am looking regardless of the tool I am using. In my view a single source of quality bibliographic information distributed at the element level will solve this problem. Suppliers of content are beginning to understand that it is the description of the content (metadata) that is as important as the content itself.

It is really quite simple: A database provider needs to spend time standardizing their deep bibliographic content, distribute it to anyone who wants it and then figure out how they can make money doing that. Historically, a vendor had to create their own product catalog because either one didn’t exist or they preferred to build it themselves. Look at office products or mattresses. It is nearly impossible to compare items across vendors. Books and other media products are slightly easier but the legacy of multiple databases continues to reduce efficiency. Management of a product database/catalog should never be a competitive advantage unless it is your business.

Fred Wilson stated that if information wants to be free then where is the value in information? Unsurprisingly it is in attention. To quote, "there is a scarcity of attention and narrowing users’ data ‘experience’ to mitigate irrelevance is the future." Furthermore the ‘leverage points’ in the attention driven information model are Discovery, Navigation, Trust – ratings around content (page rank is good example), Governance, Values and Metadata – data about the data. The likes of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have the first couple of these items well in hand but they will all increasingly need good meta-data that describes the content they are serving up. This is where aggregators/intermediaries step in whether it be tools, tv programs and movies, advertising or books.

He has provided a link on his web site to the presentation from this meeting.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Photo: Tehran August 1972

PND on the tarmac, Tehran 1972
This will be a weekly series of photos from my archive and I hope you enjoy the selection.


This photo is a good point of embarkation for my series:

Pan Am Clipper Pacific Trader (N744PA) is parked on the tarmac at Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran. That's me in the foreground clutching my Air New Zealand carry on. My father, grand father and I were traveling back to New Zealand after I had spent the summer in the UK and my father had attended a Columbia summer business program.

The 747 jumbo was still relatively new and in those years the upstairs section was designed to be a lounge and dining room. Dad worked for the hotels division of Pan Am and we regularly traveled first class which included the upstairs section. In our experience there was never anyone up there, but there was this wonderful u shaped couch which stretched around the back of the cabin. If you were quick and lucky and the flight attendants allowed, it was possible to grab a section and lie prone from Hong Kong to Karachi. As long as you were strapped in they never woke you.

The 747 was too large for many airports at that time and so passengers tended to be bussed to the terminal. As the plane came to a stop in Tehran a contingent of armed troops came and encircled the plane with each soldier 10 or so yards apart. There they stood facing outward, guarding the aircraft until we departed. To this day I'm not too sure they were ever equipped to protect us.

I never kept track of the planes I traveled on but I was able to identify this 747 from the photo. Curiously, it was loaned by Pan Am to Iran Air about 2 years later. I like the two well dressed travelers at the bottom of the stairs - a sight not often seen now a days.

Photo: Flickr

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BISG Revising Sales Reporting: Take a Survey

From BISG:

SHORT SURVEY ON DATA MODEL FOR COLLECTING BOOK INDUSTRY STATISTICS

Dear Book Industry Colleagues,

This is an exciting time!

As mentioned in the notice attached, for years AAP and BISG have developed data separately on the size of the market for books—in the aggregate and by market sector. We have used different models and produced different results. Now, we’re working together to develop a new data model to track book industry statistics and to dramatically improve our capacity to estimate the size of market sectors and the industry as a whole.

AAP and BISG have retained Management Practice, Inc. (MPI) to develop a prototype data model. A committee of representatives of AAP and BISG members is overseeing the process.

Now, you're invited to join us!

We expect participants from every sector of the book business will find that the improved accuracy and timeliness of data will lead to better business decisions and more effective public advocacy. We welcome your involvement in the process.

Over the next couple months, AAP, BISG and MPI will be contacting our members through interviews and surveys to determine the usefulness and accuracy of the new data model as it develops. The following brief survey stands at the beginning of this process. Please take the time to let us know what you think about the direction we're going by submitting your response no later than Friday, June 25, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

We look forward to working with you on this extremely important industry initiative.

LIVE SURVEY LINK: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/P98PS2N

SURVEY DEADLINE: FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2010 @ 5:00 p.m. EASTERN

Monday, June 14, 2010

RLG (OCLC) Symposium Chicago 2010

A presentation to at the RLG (OCLC) Symposium "The Books have left the Building". In this presentation is a short summary of the state of the US publishing industry and a summary of research conducted for OCLC that addressed publisher's perceptions of their eBook future.

The speakers notes are included on each slide for those who want to download the presentation.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 24 Freak Show, Penguin's Canadian Problem, Textbook Reinvention

On the road with an economist. Steven Dubner and the Superfreakonomics show (Observer):
It's bizarre to think that the crash might have made economics sexy.

I'm thinking it was less like sex appeal and maybe more like a sexually transmitted disease: it made people pay attention. There are a lot of guilds in the world still, professions that want to make their work appear as complicated as possible to protect their ability to charge a price for it. Lawyers, obviously. And macro-economists certainly. They want to seem like the Wizard of Oz. What the crash showed is that the magic doesn't work as well as they wanted us to believe.

Malcolm Gladwell pioneered this kind of roadshow; does he have a lot to answer for?

We owe Malcolm Gladwell a great debt. The Tipping Point made the world safe for a book with many different tales in it that are connected. I like to think we took it one stage further: we have no grand unifying theme. We don't even have a thesis.
Anthony Bourdain: My war on fast food (Observer) and an extract from his recent book:

McDonald's has been very shrewd about kids. Say what you will about Ronald and friends, they know their market – and who drives it. They haven't shrunk from targeting young minds – in fact, their entire gazillion-dollar promotional budget seems aimed squarely at toddlers. They know that one small child, crying in the back seat of the car of two overworked, overstressed parents, will more often than not determine the choice of restaurants. They know exactly when and how to start building brand identification and loyalty with brightly coloured clowns and smoothly tied-in toys. From funding impoverished school districts to the instalment of playgrounds, McDonald's has not shrunk from fucking with young minds in any way it can.
The Toronto Star's headline says it best regarding the resignation of the head of Penguin Canada (Star):
The Plot Thickens:

Last Tuesday, Davidar announced he was stepping down from his position to pursue writing and planned to relocate to his native India. The announcement shocked literary observers who saw the move as a sign the company was retreating from the Canadian publishing scene. Three days later, Penguin and Davidar, clarified the circumstances around his abrupt departure. In a statement Friday, Penguin Canada said Davidar was “asked to leave the company last month.” Davidar went a step farther: “The truth is that a former colleague accused me of sexual harassment and Penguin terminated my employment.”
Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) is not happy with book prizes and the industry generally (Independent):
"It'd be totally hypocritical to discourage people from joining my profession, which was good to me in the end, but I have qualms about being encouraging. The odds are stacked against you. I want to give people enough of an idea of the capriciousness of the industry." She went on to cast aspersions on the successes of some best-selling authors whose writing was simply not very good, she thought, but whose books were aided by the benefit of the powerful publishing publicity machine – citing Bret Easton Ellis' latest book, Imperial Bedrooms, as one such example. "There are a lot of books that end up selling that aren't very good. I've just read Bret Easton Ellis' new book and it's awful but it's had a big publicity campaign. "I'm writing a 1,500 word review of it – the size of which alone will overwhelm what I say. It's not a case of cream rising to the top but skimmed milk rising – of the 'no fat' kind. The book doesn't deserve the attention. It's ghastly. In the meantime, there are lots of books that will not be reviewed," she said. Shriver's Orange Prize-winning novel has gone on to sell over 600,000 copies in Britain since publication and is currently being adapted as a film starring Tilda Swinton.
Source Books CEO Dominique Raacah is profiled in Naperville Sun:
Sourcebooks was launched in 1987 and has produced more than 2,000 titles in its history, including a number of New York Times best sellers. But in the past two years, the company has been positioning itself to move into the digital age -- a time that Raacah says "we as a company have been very communicative about."

"The subject of the digital transformation of books is something we have been engrossed in and find the work very compelling," she said. "We've wanted to be aggressive about the digital era and were the sixth publisher of over 20,000 in the nation to sign on with Apple allowing access downloads of our titles on the iPad. The digital era will be a very important one for publishing."
In Inside Higher Ed: Reinventing the textbook (IHEd):
The higher education industry should at least agree on one thing when it comes to textbooks: the current system for publishing, distributing and pricing them is rather broken. The challenge lies in reimagining the textbook so that faculty construct the right set of learning materials that engages their students in deep learning, without bankrupting them. The open educational resources movement is already laying a foundation for that type of radical change. We need to move beyond and away from the textbook concept altogether.

In its place I recommend the term Curricular Resource Strategies (CRS), which I first heard used by Mark Milliron, deputy director for postsecondary improvement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to describe the new thinking in learning materials. CRS affords faculty greater freedom of choice and flexibility in delivering learning material to their students, offers the possibility of using everything across the content spectrum from costlier traditional print texts to the latest open digital formats, is drastically more affordable for students, allows faculty greater control of their intellectual property -- and still offers revenue streams for traditional textbook publishers and college bookstores.

While it may require more personal effort from faculty, the reward is a unique opportunity to create a new model for publishing academic learning content that avoids the mistakes of the old system. Faculty can learn from their librarian colleagues, whose past experiences in managing scholarly communication offers a lesson in how not to structure a publishing model.
From the twitter:

Demi Moore memoirs set for 2012 BBB news $2mm from Harpercollins.
Why Apple’s iBooks Numbers Are Meaningless - NYTimes
Self-pub and online services, e-books, and digital demand printing are joined into a new and powerful sector. Book Business Mag

And in Sport, Lancashire opened the first stage in their their redevelopment plan (Crains)

oh, and something about butter fingers (Guardian)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Car Ad Can Be Funny: To the Over-40 Crowd.

Over 3mm people think this is funny.

Blurb for Good

Self publishing site Blurb has launched blurbforgood.com that enables people or groups with a cause to create books supporting those causes (Blurb):

Make a book. Make a difference. Whatever you do to make the world a better place, a book can spread your message and support your cause. Joining Blurb for Good enables you to set the price for your book and keep 100% of the profit for your cause. Use Blurb BookShow™ to promote your book online. And we’ll help you get the word out by featuring your book in Blurb’s bookstore. We’ll also handle all the back end stuff, from fulfilling orders to tracking sales to sending checks. If you qualify, we’ll even pitch in with a charitable contribution for every book you sell. It’s the ultimate win-win-win. For you, your cause, and people who want to help.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Above the Treeline Introduces Edelweiss GeoSearch

An interesting application from Above the Treeline that I got to see at BookExpo last week. It should be of use to any bookstore looking to beef up their books of regional interest section.

From the press release:

Today, Above the Treeline introduced a new way for book industry professionals to search for titles and authors of interest: GeoSearch. GeoSearch allows users to specify geographic criteria to search digital catalogs within Edelweiss, Above the Treeline's market-leading digital publisher catalog service, for titles connected to cities, states, colleges, and universities across North America. GeoSearch is freely available to registered Edelweiss users.

How It Works

The user simply specifies a starting location and a radius in miles. GeoSearch returns all titles connected to locations within the radius specified. The locations are mapped with coded markers and the map is accompanied by a corresponding location summary in order by distance. The actual titles are also provided for the selected location. Click on the image below for a view of a sample GeoSearch result, with notes. Click
here for a clean view (without notes).

(Click on image for a full-sized, clearer version)
blossom

To refine the search, the user can specify filter criteria that includes BISAC subject category, format, pubdate, publisher, tags, and more.

GeoSearch currently finds title connections to geographic locations using automated logic that searches for patterns within author biography text such as "lives in New York City". Within the next three months, title content relevancy will be added as well as publisher-supplied title coding to supplement the automated logic. In addition, international locations will be supported.

John Rubin, Above the Treeline's founder and CEO, was enthusiastic about GeoSearch's ability to help booksellers, librarians, and reviewers more easily connect to authors and titles of local interest. "We're really proud of this new feature," he said, "I think it is a great addition to Edelweiss and clearly advances our mission to help publishers, booksellers, librarians, and bloggers connect titles and readers."

GeoSearch Summary Data

By summarizing the GeoSearch contents of approximately 30,000 title-location matches, states and universities can be ranked by author presence. Below is a list of the top 15 states, ranked by most titles published by connected authors (live there, raised there, born there) relative to the state's total population. In addition, there is a list of top U.S. universities based on titles published by connected authors (attended, graduated, faculty member):

Top Author States Per Capita
based on Titles by Authors with Connection to State



Rank State Index
1 Washington D.C. 10.71
2 Vermont 3.09
3 New York 3.00
4 Massachusetts 2.89
5 Connecticut 1.96
6 Maine 1.83
7 Montana 1.76
8 California 1.43
9 Colorado 1.19
10 Washington 1.15
11 Oregon 1.12
12 New Hampshire 1.10
13 New Mexico 1.10
14 Minnesota 1.06
15 Illinois 1.04

(data includes Edelweiss client publishers for titles published after 2008)

Top Author Colleges and Universities
based on Titles by Authors Connected to School

Rank School Index
1 Harvard University 21.18
2 Yale University 11.20
3 Columbia University 10.07
4 New York University 7.25
5 Stanford University 4.19
6 University of Chicago 3.99
7 Princeton University 3.79
8 University of California-Los Angeles 3.56
9 Duke University 3.39
10 Boston University 3.16
11 University of California-Berkeley 2.99
12 Wheaton College 2.89
13 Fordham University 2.76
14 Brown University 2.69
15 Cornell University 2.66
16 The University of Texas at Austin 2.63
17 University of Pennsylvania 2.46
18 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 2.36
19 Northwestern University 2.13
20 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1.96
21 School of Visual Arts 1.96
22 Georgetown University 1.80
23 Syracuse University 1.70
24 Philadelphia Biblical University 1.66
25 University of Virginia 1.66

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 23: Bletchley Park, Cambridge, Streaming Movies, Jim Thompson,

A load of spy stuff from Bletchley Park is to be digitized. That's the place where they read all the enigma transmissions during WW2. In December Mrs PND and I visited Disraeli's pile in the country and some of the brainiacs from BP had lodgings there. (Cambridge News):
Undercover mathematicians and military operatives produced high-level intelligence at the Milton Keynes base during the war, providing crucial assistance to the Allied effort.The work of the Bletchley Park staff, which included cracking supposedly unbreakable German codes generated by the Enigma and Lorenz machines, has been credited with curtailing the length of the war by up to two years.The Bletchley archive currently exists entirely in paper format and much of it is difficult to view, making it inaccessible to the general public. Until now, only limited access to the archive has been granted to academics and educators under strict supervision.

Gosh will there ever me a 'repository' of ebooks that will fetch £15m? I think not (Indep)
The collection, belonging to an unnamed English bibliophile, includes the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's poems, dated to 1640. Also featuring in the sale will be The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, considered by many to be the first detective novel.
Can users be re-trained to use legitimate streaming sites? Research suggests they may be willing so an experiment is hatched in the UK (Guardian):

As part of the "Full Stream Ahead" campaign, which is backed by the UK Film Council and BFI, and launches tomorrow, anyone accessing the Blinkbox website from fullstreamahead.co.uk will be offered £20 credit to spend on films from studios including Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Titles include Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and Up in the Air.Users will be able to stream their choices over the internet and watch them on their computer or – if they have the right cables – on their television.Music streaming services such as Spotify have proved a hit, helping to arrest some of the piracy that has affected that industry. The film studios are hoping video streaming services will do a similar job, attracting people who may otherwise succumb to unlawful filesharing networks. Many British consumers already use catch-up TV streaming services such as the BBC iPlayer, 4OD and the ITV Player.

Is noir fiction writer Jim Thompson about to get what's coming to him (Observer):

Thompson was a man of the left, a lifelong alcoholic and became closely acquainted with the dark underside of American life, the lonely crowd where petty criminals, low-level cops, conmen and prostitutes rub shoulders.From the 1950s, he was involved in the movies, writing routine scripts for TV and collaborating on the screenplays of Kubrick's The Killing and Paths of Glory and had a cameo role as a patrician Californian with a wayward young wife in the Robert Mitchum version of Farewell, My Lovely, but he never made much money.Serious cinematic recognition came in France where he'd long been admired, in two films at the turn of the 80s: Alain Corneau's Série noire (A Hell of a Girl transposed from Chicago to a Parisian suburb) and Bertrand Tavernier's Coup de torchon (Pop 1280, the tale of a corrupt southern sheriff shifted to French colonial Africa), a film highly regarded for its moral perversity by Jean Genet.

University of Kansas saves space and time by going to vertical storage (Star):

Library workers recently began loading books and other items into hundreds of bins, each of which has a cubbyhole in one of several four-story steel structures. About 80 percent of the library’s collection eventually will be stored there.Want a book? A 58-foot robotic crane will zoom down a narrow passageway between the structures, find and pull the bin and deliver it to a docking station and librarian. The process will take less than four minutes.Perhaps libraries of the future will go bookless, but for now, many are struggling to house growing collections, which include not only books but microfilm, recordings and other materials.

Using cloud computing in library services (ALA) - not sure why this is at istockanalysis.
One of the hottest topics in IT is cloud computing. Cloud computing is not new to many of us because we have been using some of its services, such as Google Docs, for years. In his latest book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, Carr argues that computing will go the way of electricity: purchase when needed, which he calls "utility computing."
...
By analyzing the complex needs of different systems and considering how to use resources more effectively, the author decided to run all the systems through one cloud computing provider. By comparing the features and the costs, Linode (http:// www.linode.com/) was chosen because it provides full SSH and root access using virtualization, four data centers in geographically diverse areas, high availability and clustering support, and an option for month-to-month contracts. In addition, other customers have provided positive reviews, hi January 2009, the author purchased one node located in Fremont, California, for $19.95 per month. An implementation plan (see appendix) was drafted to complete the project in phases. The author owns a virtual server and has access to everything that a physical server provides. In addition, the provider and the user community provided timely help and technical support. The migration of systems was straightforward: A Linux kernel (Debian 4.0) was installed within an hour, domain registration was complete and the domains went active in twenty- four hours, the Afghanistan Digital Libraries' website (based on Joomla) migration was complete within a week, and all supporting tools and libraries (e.g., MySQL, Tomcat, and Java SDK) were installed and configured within a few days. A month later, the Afghanistan ILS (based on Koha) migration was completed. The ILL system was also migrated without problem. Tests have been performed in all these systems to verify their usability. In summary, the migration of systems was very successful and did not encounter any barriers.
...
The author introduces cloud computing services and providers, presents his experience of running multiple systems such as ILS, content management systems, repository software, and the other system "on the clouds" since January 2009. Using cloud computing brings significant cost savings and flexibility. However, readers should be aware of technical and business issues. The author is very satisfied with his experience of moving library systems to cloud computing. His experience demonstrates a new way of managing critical computing resources in an academic library setting. The next steps include using cloud computing to meet digital collections' storage needs. Cloud computing brings fundamental changes to organizations managing their computing needs. As major organizations in library fields, such as OCLC, started to take advantage of cloud computing, the author believes that cloud computing will play an important role in library IT.
From the twitter this week (@personanondata)

EcontentMag: They’re Just Not That Into You "many people already believe they are paying for the content they receive" http://bit.ly/bio9aO

Telegraph: Cambridge University Library to publish rare faith and science books on internet http://bit.ly/aEEV05

When Poets Rocked Russia’s Stadiums - http://nyti.ms/daIhSI Who says authors can't pull a crowd?

How a Startup Wants to Change Higher Education — What You Need to Kno! - http://nyti.ms/dx0yqF An iPad beater?

ALA: Condition of Libraries 1999-2009 (pdf) http://bit.ly/9PqoYW Pub'd in Dec. Some interesting trends.

EBSCO Library Collections and Budgeting Trends Survey http://bit.ly/dkMA0c






Friday, June 04, 2010

Repost: Borders Strategic Plan: What Borders Could Have Said

Since management has changed again at Borders, I thought I would repost an article I originally wrote on March 26, 2007. As the introduction notes, I originally wrote my version of a Borders growth plan in answer to what I thought was a pretty anemic effort by CEO George Jones.

No telling what the new management of Borders has in mind.



Last week George Jones, the recently appointed CEO of Borders Stores, Inc. released his strategic vision for the next three years. There was little in the document to inspire, and it was replete with suggestions that the route to success for Borders was to travel the road already trod by their stronger competitors rather than develop a set of bold new ideas. Coupled with this mediocre set of objectives was a time frame that seems embarrassing given the critical issues Borders and the retail book industry are facing. Borders sales per store and per square foot which lag their competition are declining, they have embarked on a diversification program that continues to draw attention away for the core products and they propose to withdraw from the international market that appears to produce 50% more revenue per store than the domestic business. What then might George Jones have said.....


Dear shareholders,

Borders is a company in transition in an industry in transition. Borders customers now find the products we sell in more non-traditional outlets and at lower prices. Our customers now have more entertainment options limiting the time they spend on reading and the changes in the music and dvd industry is fundamentally changing the way our customers use and purchase these products. It may be only a matter of time before it becomes unprofitable for Borders to sell physical units of music and dvd products.

These are not issues that Borders faces exclusively, but over the past three years, the company has failed to proactively address these marketplace changes. While our in-store experience has grown confused and directionless, miss-steps in our internal operations now limit our ability to support an effective platform for growth. We have to admit that continued investment in our store management and merchandising technology will not produce or enable the rapid changes in operating efficiency that is required to effectively implement our strategic goals.

The Borders brand remains highly valued both domestically and internationally and as we consider our strategic options, we must resist the urge to adopt ‘me-too’ or duplicative retail models that succeed in this crowded marketplace. To that end, we will focus on maintaining a unique value proposition for the Borders brand and retail experience. Our goals over the next three years are to:
  • Lead the industry in sales per store, sales per square foot, fill rates and inventory turn while, maintaining growth in new store openings.
  • Aggressively eliminate non-core expenses in operations via strategic partnerships across the supply-chain.
  • Revamp the Borders retail experience by redesigning our stores, implementing state-of-the-art technology and integrating web retail into the stores.
  • We will expand our international retail operations in combination with partners, expand our Seattle’s Best Coffee relationship but devolve our investment in PaperChase.
Over the next three years the company will focus our improvement program in three areas: (1) Store improvement and better merchandising, (2) operational improvement and (3) efficiencies and expanding retail internationally and via the web. Each of these initiatives is addressed as follows:

Improving the In-Store Experience:
We are in the process of simplifying our in-store product mix and plan to temporarily reduce the amount of in-store product by 25-35% over the next six months. At the same time, we are aggressively revising and reassessing how we use our store-level sales data and have established a task force with an aggressive time horizon that will identify an effective management reporting package so that the company can better plan store inventory and product mix. (We also plan technology improvements at the store level discussed below). Once we have better management information, we will begin to experiment with incremental additions and regional additions to store mix that we expect will support store profitability.

Selling books, music and movies is our strength. Music and DVDs are important but the long-term viability for these product segments is suspect as on-demand, downloading and other direct to consumer distribution patterns become predominant. Frankly, we are not a music and DVD destination store and we recognize we sell these items as add-ons to book purchases which do improve average revenue per customer, but selling the products in their current form is not a long term strategy. Borders will continue to experiment with different mechanisms for selling music and movie content that will enable these segments to remain important revenue sources for us.

We also recognize that our in-store layout and retailing environment has grown stale and boring. As previously mentioned, we are in the process of redesigning the in-store concept and this is a matter of significant importance for the company. We expect to launch the new store concept no later than the fourth quarter 2007. In this important initiative, we do not expect a ‘me-too’ design or to simply replicate the store features of our competitors; rather, our objective will be to develop a unique approach to book retailing that combines an increased awareness of the correct product mix for our stores, market research and marketing statistics to determine the store features that resonate with our customers. Initial research suggests our current stores are bland and confusing to customers, who often leave our stores without finding the books they seek.

As previously disclosed, the company will reduce the number, and revamp the product mix, of our Walden Books mall stores. Critical to this effort is effective management reporting metrics enabling correct executive management decisions to close or significantly revise specific Walden stores. We expect to close 25% of our Walden stores over the next 18mths. While our small mall retailing business has declined, we still believe that mall-based retail outlets represent legitimate opportunities for Borders to retail our products. Along-side our Walden rationalization plan, we plan to test and launch a ‘mini-POD’ bookstore concept. These small stores will be located in high-traffic areas such as medium-to-small sized mall spaces, public spaces, high-traffic retail space and potentially within other retailers spaces. These ‘mini-POD’ stores will sell less than 200 titles (all best sellers based on our store POS data) be staffed by one clerk and cover less than 200 sq/ft; they can be either permanent or temporary fixtures, dependent on context. If the tests prove successful, we expect to have over 1000 of these mini-POD stores in place by the end of 2008.

Our airport store growth and re-branding effort has been resoundingly successful and we will continue to expand this program in the North American market. As part of our international expansion, we will consider opportunities to extend the model into the developing air transport markets of Asia.

The PaperChase acquisition has been an interesting experiment and the company stores continue to do well under Borders management. Regardless, the company’s future is in the sale of entertainment products and PaperChase will be carved off as a separate business and eventually sold to its management. We believe there is a future for this line of business but the synergy with entertainment products, our internal processes and between our vendors and those of Paperchase is tenuous at best. We believe we can generate higher sales/sq/ft from our traditional produce mix and Seattle’s Best Coffee.

Operations Review:
Borders must rationalize our internal operations so that we can focus on our core expertise. We are not proficient at software development, distribution, fulfillment or logistics, and over the years these areas have diverted too much management time, resources and money away from merchandising, retailing and brand development. It is our goal to seek strategic partners to further outsource our warehouse, fulfillment and distribution operations and to seek efficiencies in our logistics operations – particularly store fulfillment. Lastly, under discussion is the possibility of outsourcing our management information systems that support our store level point of sale systems and which connect these store systems to our merchandising systems. We believe the only way Borders can achieve the state-of-the-art technology critical to our success is to partner with a provider(s) who is simply better at implementation and IT management than we are. Discussions are advanced in these areas.

Coupled with this operations review, we will work with our vendors to implement Radio Frequency Identification throughout our supply chain. We believe this initiative will have particular value at the store level. Experience in other businesses indicates that this will be an expensive initiative but will lead to the following material benefits:
  • RFID on all book product and in all stores within 18mths (on 85% of in-store products and 100% by end 2009)
  • 100% location data for all products in store: ability to locate any item
  • Virtually eliminate theft
  • Increase in-store fill rates: Expect incremental sales increases between 5-10% of current store revenue ($250-500,000/store annually).
  • Reduce out of stocks by 10-20%
  • Reduce to 10% the current amount of time to stock new stores (to two days from 2 weeks)
  • Remove/reallocate slow-moving stock: Rapid/immediate understanding of stock mix versus sales
  • Daily inventory count: Eliminate need for physical inventory
  • Speed product receipt and returns process
We expect to lead the book industry in this initiative and we also expect the initiative to pay for itself in increased sales, better merchandising and higher customer loyalty within a 36-month period. Complementary store-level technology enhancements will also enable wireless couponing, self-check out and cross- and up-selling opportunities. These are the types of critical success factors that will lead to the industry-leading revenues per store and per square foot to which we aspire.

Expanding Our Retail Outlets:
Finally, the company has questioned the continued development of our international operations, but we remain committed to expanding this business via merger with a leading non-US retailer. Together, we will aggressively expand the super-store concept to Asia and ME particularly China, India and South and Eastern Africa. Additionally, we will seek a similar partnership arrangement in South and Central American where we believe the super-store market for books, music and DVDs is largely untapped. The development of these markets is expected to take place through a combination of franchising and store-owned operations. We expect to announce our first Borders stores in Buenos Aires and Santiago by the end of the year. The UK book retail market is currently in turmoil and we will seek to take aggressive advantage of this and leverage our strong market position in that market with assertive merchandising and product discounting to drive traffic to our stores. We will close underperforming stores and expand the superstore concept in the UK and Ireland as results dictate. All told, we expect our international operations to grow to over 300 stores by the end of 2012 and believe our continued success internationally will derive from our steep investment in our US store operations.

Lastly, we commenced development of a Borders.com web retailing site which we believe will tap a missing link between Borders and its customers. We will use this site as a marketing and customer service solution to strengthen the bond between Borders and our customer base (particularly the 17,000 members of the Borders awards program). There will be a close coordination between the redesign of this program and the development of the web site. The success of this site will be determined by the strength of the connection we can make between the physical stores and the web experience. We expect to make the Borders web-site a destination site that will enable social networking, user tagging and customer retailing options similar to those available on auction sites.

We recognize this strategic plan represents a series of ambitious but attainable goals. Importantly, across our business we will focus on our core competency in selling entertainment products in a conducive retail environment supported by strong merchandising and management information. Supporting this development will be an aggressive efficiency program that will support the above objectives by realigning our operations to reduce time and expense spent on activities we are not good at and investing in technology solutions that will support our long term goals.

Many of these initiatives are in process and we look forward to bringing you up to date with them in the next three months.