Saturday, July 31, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 31: Swedish Reality Policing, Mockingbird, Twain, OCLC, Follet, Watches and Copyright

The Observer suggests that Candace Bushnell started it all - chick lit that is (Observer):
Before Candace Bushnell, books like Gould's that sought to capture the dilemmas and dichotomies of modern womanhood with a wry, humorous honesty, were almost unheard of. For decades, the experiences of ordinary women had been largely overlooked by the literary world: either it was recounted in fictional terms (as in Mary McCarthy's The Group) or it was relayed anonymously by feminist polemicists and social historians (Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique). Bushnell changed all that. When she started writing her first-person columns for the New York Observer in 1994, she won a considerable following for her acerbically witty portrayal of the Manhattan singles scene, with its Martini bars, non-committal men and cruel, almost Whartonesque mating rituals. The newspaper columns based on the sexual experiences and romantic intrigues of Bushnell and her three friends became a bestselling book, which in turn became a hit television show and then spawned a film franchise that has evolved into a multi-media juggernaut of product placement and tie-in beauty products.
Truth is stranger than fiction in Sweden (Observer):

What had originally alerted the police to Lindberg's predilections was an incident in July last year in which a multimillionaire 60-year-old man was found dead beneath a balcony in a salubrious Stockholm suburb. According to police, the man had been running an illicit sex network delivering women to groups of men. Apparently on the day of his death he had been expecting the arrival at his home of an 18-year-old girl. Instead a gang of men turned up and issued a vicious beating. Shortly afterwards the man either jumped, fell or was pushed from the balcony. On the dead man's desk, investigating police found the phone number of the police chief, Lindberg.

It all reads like a plotline from Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy or a Wallander novel, with the striking exception that in this case it was a Wallander-style policeman who was the architect and not the detective of the crime. "The villains in Mankell's stories are all of a piece," says Lars Linder, chief cultural critic on the daily paper Dagens Nyheter. "They are scoundrels and usually connected to very wealthy or fascist networks. Whereas the thing about Lindberg is that he's so absolutely politically correct on the outside and kinky on the inside."
Newsweek has a book issue and among the articles are the following (Newsweek):

Harper Lee and writing To Kill a Mockingbird:
The story behind To Kill a Mockingbird is more common—and richer—than it is sensational. We like to think of writers, like heroes, as isolated beings. To an extent, it’s true; writing is often lonely and painful, a confrontation between the self and the blankness of the page. But a book is also shaped by the system of editors, agents, publishers, teachers, and readers. Harper Lee did have help in writing To Kill a Mockingbird. It takes nothing away from her accomplishment to realize that the dynamic interplay between individual effort and structural support is particularly pertinent to Lee’s story. Writing is like most important things: individual greatness matters, but it’s not enough by itself. It’s a lesson, in fact, that echoes an overlooked theme of her book.
Mark Twain's Memoir:
Twain is remarkable several times over. He was a self-invented prose stylist, a fantastically failed businessman, and one of the few writers of his time willing to directly address the evils of slavery and racism. But surely the most remarkable thing about him is that he is still funny. How many of us can name another comic writer or a humorist who’s been dead for a century? Even readers who know Hawthorne and Dickinson couldn’t pick their comic contemporaries Petroleum V. Nasby or Josh Billings out of a lineup. Most comics’ material dies before they do, but Twain’s humor stays surreally fresh. For his debut on what was then known as the lecture circuit, in San Francisco in 1866, he had the handbills printed to read “Doors open at 7 1/2. The trouble will begin at 8.” Call it a threat or a promise, but he made good on that claim all his life. He’s still making good on it.
Obligatory Selfpublishing article:
Until recently, reviewers and booksellers looked down on self-published authors the way Anna Wintour scorns Dress Barn. Now new writers and established authors alike are increasingly taking publishing into their own hands, and the publishing establishment is paying attention.
OCLC were sued by small database company Skyriver for monopolistic practices under the Sherman and Clayton anti-trust statues (Complaint):
This case is about defendent OCLC's exclusionary agreements, punative pricing, unlawful tying arrangements, and its refusal to deal with for-profit firms in violation of the anti-trust laws in order to maintain its monopolies and to destroy a new entrant into the market for library cataloging services in competition with OCLC.
Additional information is also found (and presumably updated) here:
On July 29, 2010 SkyRiver Technology Solutions filed an antitrust lawsuit against OCLC. This page provides resources related to the lawsuit. This page aims to gather resources relevant to this event.
Innovative Interfaces (III) is joining in the complaint (coincidentally they share a corporate owner) and the III business is also potentially challenged by OCLC (Lib Tech)
In a move that has stirred some controversy in the library automation industry, OCLChas announced that it will extend World Cat Local, initially positioned primarily as a discovery tool, to provide a complete suite of services for the automation of libraries. Work is now underway to create services associated with WorldCat Local that perform circulation, resource fulfillment, acquisitions, and license management. Taken together, these services will obviate the need for a library to operate its own integrated library system.
(The above was also taken without attribution in the complaint).

Follett Teams with Blackboard to Offer CafeScribe Digital Texts (PW):
Gary Shapiro, senior v-p, intellectual properties for Follett, told PW that CafeScribe works much the same for professors, allowing them to insert original class materials, library citations, video or other multimedia sources material, or individual class notes, directly into textbook content. This material can then be distributed digitally across study groups while keeping it connected to the orginal text. Indeed professors can add all kinds of material without changing the original textbook content.

Isabella Hinds, Follett director of digital content, said Follett offers about 10,000 texts in the CafeScribe technology and the partnership with Blackboard will allow students to eaily click through to the Follett online store. Students can also use the campus bookstore to purchase an access code and download the CafeScribe texts. CafeScribe Texts are discounted from 25% to 50% off the hardcover list price.In addition to CafeScribe, Follett's product line includes digital or hardcover titles as well as rental textbooks for as much as 50% less than buying. “Students can rent, by new or buy digital,” Hind said. Follett titles are available through about 870 campus bookstores.
Amazon and Facebook combine in creepy integration (Media Raw):
Amazon just tapped Facebook to offer site visitors a personalized page where they can see product recommendations influenced by friends, as well as their own tastes. Participating users will also get notifications regarding friends’ birthdays, along with targeted suggestions about what to buy them. Social Beat describes the deal as “one of the social network’s most important integrations yet.
There's an important case regarding copyright that has reached the Supreme Court. From the WSJ: Watch Out For the Omega Copyright Windup:

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

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

Omega, you see, sells its watches for far less money in some countries than in others, a common enough practice known to economists as "geographical price discrimination." The U.S. market will generally bear more than the market in a Latin American republic, and so Omega offers its goods to distributors in places such as Paraguay for less than it does to American distributors.

On the twitter from this week (@personanondata):

The odd first: Penguin chief executive John Makinson: direct to consumer model does not work. The Bookseller

Knooks for Nooks: Barnes & Noble Plans Big Push for Nook E-Reader - NYT

Tough business: Whitcoulls, Borders owner expects to breach loan covenants. NZPA

Pearson acquires another language school: Pearson To Acquire Wall Street Institute For $92M Cash WSJ

The Real Cost of College Textbooks - Online debate at NYT

Friday, July 30, 2010

Repost: Presuming No Book

Originally posted on 2/17/09:

Henry Ford said “They can have any color as long as it’s black” and, in so doing, summed up what industrial production is all about.
What we gain in scale, we ultimately lose in choice becoming - in the process - beholden to the manufacturer to deliver to us what they believe we desire. Manufacturing has obviously come a long way since the age of Henry Ford, and a few industries have even become so flexible that consumers sometimes don’t believe they are receiving specifically made products. I remember the Japanese bike manufacturer that had so improved their production processes that they could measure a client for any model of bike in one of their showrooms, build it and ship it to the customer the next day. The problem: Customers didn’t believe the bikes were made to fit since they received them so quickly. The solution: Hold production for a week and then send out the bikes.

It would be a stretch today for anyone in publishing to agree to the proposition that the future of their business could depend on not publishing a ‘finished’ product. As the industry meanders forward, we are reaching the point when presuming (and, I think, limiting) how a consumer is going to use content will significantly restrict the potential market. Historically, a publisher would codify how their content was to be used by signing a series of agreements for versions in audio, large print, foreign language, book club, etc. Not only are those agreements increasingly cumbersome they are identifiably restrictive as more and more potential consumers are seeking out content which is flexible to their particular situation and purpose ie: I’ll take the French, large print, audio version please: Only they can’t - at least not legally. Making this concoction easy for a consumer to access may seem like a small market opportunity but the point is much larger: Let the consumer decide how they want to use and engage with your content.

There is a huge preoccupation with e-Books today. E-Books are a format and a distribution mechanism and, as such, not particularly interesting. To me, the issue is a little like discussing the capabilities of a new type of printer. The real interest lies in the changing production processes that enable the rendering of content on e-Readers. Not perfect yet (by any means) and many publishers are still vandalizing print files to get to the format they need for the Kindle or what-have-you. Some may recall that, through the 1990s, consultants and publishing “know-it-all’s” spoke about developing production processes that were independent of format, suggesting the end product could appear in any form. Automation and changed processes have, of course, been implemented, but no one reached the point where they could produce multiple versions of the same product in an infinite number of formats and combinations.

At the Start With XML conference (and subsequently at TOC), we witnessed the dawning of a new type of publishing. Fully customizable, adaptable and capable of matching the particular needs of the consumer, XML content will enable the type of flexible delivery of content that is coming. Companies such as SharedBook are positioned to facilitate the unanticipated, unique and creative ways a consumer may want to use your content. And, as a publisher, you should be comfortable with enabling the consumer to - in effect - make his or her own product. As an example, a publisher can make content available to consumers during what historically may have been considered the production process: Consumers can comment, add their own notes and links, perhaps add their own content and, at the point the consumer is satisfied they have a product they want, they can ‘publish’ it. That point of publishing may or may not coincide with the publishers’ date and, in fact, the publisher may not ever ‘complete’ their books in a traditional sense but allow them to live and breath and enable any future consumer to decide when they want to ‘publish’.

Experiments such as those at Future of the Book have enabled a dialog between reader, author and other readers that may allow a ‘user’ to chose to ‘publish’ their book whenever they are ready, even as the conversation continues online.

When the consumer does publish this title, they do it their way. As a publisher, I may be investing in an XML-based content warehouse, but if I continue to think of the traditional output (i.e., printed books where I select cover, trim size, paper or eBooks where I select the formats and ‘extras’) then my XML investment is under utilized. I will also be short-changing my customers. As publishers, we need to experiment (and educate authors) but I don’t need to (or can’t) presume how my customer is going to use the content; all I need to do is to ensure that they have the ability to use it any way they want.

Across all media, we haven’t reached that spot yet. We still presume, based on a limitation of the technology we had at hand, about what our consumers will purchase and how they will use the material. Certainly, there are ‘degrees’ of XML and perhaps some publishers only have a title and header (for Chapters) tag for their titles, but others are experimenting and building more sophisticated products. Any buyer of a business book, for example, should be able to access the full content, read it and hear it, translate it, create a presentation in PowerPoint or download a ‘business briefs’ version. If they want, the user should be able to gain access to the document so if they want to print 75 copies of selected chapters for their executive outing and bundle the content with other material, they can do so.

In the near future, publishers may decide not to print or ‘publish’ a finished product themselves. Aside from selected titles – maybe most front-list where (only as an example) volume may play a role - a publisher may not print any books. Rather, they will enable retailers to print their titles based on demand. Barnes & Noble prints all the titles they carry in their stores for example. They are effectively on-demand with very little, or no inventory carry. B&N has the ability to use the ‘content’ however they want in print form: From premium boxed and signed versions to mass market. In another example, Michael’s the crafts store, enables its customers to integrate ‘how to’ content from a publisher such as F&W into their scrap-book projects or print selected chapters from books at an in-store kiosk.

But these are a small subset of the breadth of content distribution that could occur if publishers stop limiting themselves from thinking about the traditional ‘book’. As described, the application of flexible publishing using XML as a base is easier to comprehend for some publishing segments than others. However, even novels can be read as comic books: long form is always singled out as ‘oh, but we can’t do that with Christie’. Perhaps, but maybe your customers can and enabling that will generate more revenues and more customer satisfaction. A real challenge would be to turn a comic into a long-form novel.

Lastly, some argue that the publishing industry is doomed as the tools to reach customers become easier to access and use. That presupposes that the publishers and the industry remain static. The future isn’t static and, while some publishers are going to fail, those publishers that presented at the Start with XML conference such as Cengage, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and others prove that innovation and experimentation are alive and our future may not be so dire.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

French For Bridge: France 1966

Suspended Bridge, Brittany France 1966
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

In the summer of 1966 the family packed up the car and went on our first family vacation to France. Actually it was my grand dad's station wagon and his presence on this trip five years into my parents marriage presaged his presence in almost every roll of film taken until about 1988. No matter the location. Or time of year. Or whether we were on vacation or not. This despite the fact he had four or five bed and breakfast hotels he owned in Manchester.

I remember little about this trip although I do remember it was a very hot August and we had to sprint across the beach because the sand got so hot. No doubt we traveled across this 'bridge' thingy and there may even be some in the audience that know where this is. I haven't a clue and I doubt it is still there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dot.Book and An Internet of Things

As eBook versions of books become the rule and paper versions the exception, difficulties in product identification will continue to manifest themselves and, while we are years away from eBook dominance, product identification issues are already straining the capability of the ISBN system. The solution may lie in the humble URL.

Recently, Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO of Spotify (a music subscription service), commented in a Telegraph interview “We need to understand that this is not about MP3 files anymore; the MP3 file has become the URL and through that unique identifier I can send you something and you’ll be able to know what it is and listen to it.” Ek may be exaggerating the current state of affairs in the music supply chain, but he was comparing the physical chain (CD) with the electronic and he is probably correct about the advancing importance of the url in music. Unwittingly, Ek may be predicting how eBooks are to be identified in the coming years.

In an “internet of things” world where my TV speaks to my fridge and everything we own can have its own URL, is it possible that all books - both physical and electronic - will carry their own identifier? Would this be useful? What would this mean for the ISBN and the current methods for identifying publishing products? Most importantly, would the publishing industry be able to control (perhaps ‘manage’ is a better word) this eventuality so that the industry ensures it will harvest the benefits that the ISBN has engendered for 40 years?

There were two critical aspects to the success of the ISBN standard and, obviously, adoption within the publishing industry was one of these. Equally important was the integration with other standards and standards groups.

ISBN has long participated in the global standards community overseen by the International Standards Organization (ISO), and the results of these important relationships go largely unseen by the general publishing community. One relationship in particular is the relationship with EAN/UCC which resulted in the allocation of a block of EAN prefixes to the ISBN standard and ensured compatibility between ISBN and EAN/UCC. As a result of this relationship, ISBN is an equal beneficiary in a global supply chain dependent on the EAN/UCC standards. The ISBN prefixes (978/979) are colloquially referred to as “Bookland EAN” partially because all other EAN prefixes are geographically allocated. The global adoption by ISBN of the 13-digit syntax now represents full inter-operability between ISBN and EAN/UCC. (EAN/UCC is now named GS1).

This ‘lesson’ in working with other standards groups is one which may presage our approach to evolving the ISBN as more content becomes referable via URL, as Ek opines is the case in music.

The Internet is on the verge of a migration of its own to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which will enable more IP addresses than most people could ever imagine. As this happens over the coming years (beginning next year), the number of addressable items is likely to explode as the ‘internet of things’ evolves. Publishing and the ISBN community should consider how best to participate and manage this migration to their advantage by working with the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) to define an approach that mimics the relationship ISBN forged with GS1. If the ISBN community were able to define an equivalent IP ‘range’ – a Dot.Book if you will – the publishing industry may be able to successfully migrate the ISBN standard and maintain the advantages of the ISBN to which we have all become accustomed. If they move fast, the ISBN community maybe able to get there sooner than the pace at which the industry is migrating to eBooks and eContent. A solution could be ready and waiting –and it’s better we do it than wait for someone else to come along and do it for us.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 30: Google Acquires Metaweb, UK eBook Loans (or not), Education and NCLB, HRH Queen Elizabeth and Flickr

Google buys database company metaweb. This has wider implications for anyone creating, maintaining and licensing/selling bibliographic or product type databases. Maybe Google data about things (Freebase) becomes more than 'good enough' (Google Blog)
Over time we’ve improved search by deepening our understanding of queries and web pages. The web isn’t merely words—it’s information about things in the real world, and understanding the relationships between real-world entities can help us deliver relevant information more quickly. Today, we’ve acquired Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world. Working together we want to improve search and make the web richer and more meaningful for everyone.

With efforts like rich snippets and the search answers feature, we’re just beginning to apply our understanding of the web to make search better. Type [barack obama birthday] in the search box and see the answer right at the top of the page. Or search for [events in San Jose] and see a list of specific events and dates. We can offer this kind of experience because we understand facts about real people and real events out in the world. But what about [colleges on the west coast with tuition under $30,000] or [actors over 40 who have won at least one oscar]? These are hard questions, and we’ve acquired Metaweb because we believe working together we’ll be able to provide better answers.

In addition to our ideas for search, we’re also excited about the possibilities for Freebase, Metaweb’s free and open database of over 12 million things, including movies, books, TV shows, celebrities, locations, companies and more. Google and Metaweb plan to maintain Freebase as a free and open database for the world. Better yet, we plan to contribute to and further develop Freebase and would be delighted if other web companies use and contribute to the data. We believe that by improving Freebase, it will be a tremendous resource to make the web richer for everyone. And to the extent the web becomes a better place, this is good for webmasters and good for users.
In the UK the debate over supplying eBooks via the library system is generating some strong opinions (FT):
“The free loan of e-books by libraries should not be possible,” wrote Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, in a letter to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport this year. “The free loan of e-books is very different from the free loan of printed books.”

Critics say that if reading a library e-book is too similar to the experience of reading a purchased e-book, some consumers will simply forgo the latter option, cannibalising sales.

Others question why the state should fund the purchase of e-books, when the readers libraries target most (such as low-income groups and communities with low literacy rates) are unlikely to own an e-reader.

Yet, libraries adopting the e-book model say they have taken this into account. “That’s why we go for formats that people can download on to their phone or their computer. Because most people have got a phone and access to a computer, whether at home or at school,” says Sue Wills, a librarian at Kensington and Chelsea, which recently began to offer e-books by means of Overdrive (see box below) and by Bloomsbury’s Public Library Online.

Education Sector a think tank focused on education take a look at no child left behind and current education policy (Quick and the Ed)

And while I’m sure Duncan also wouldn’t put this this way, he’s actively contributing to the steady and increasingly successful rhetorical and political attack on the various maddeningly stupid personnel practices that teachers unions continue to defend. Weakened by their unapologetic opposition to the heroic and defense of the indefensible, teachers unions are struggling with the famously difficult task of managing an organized retreat.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I think the federal government is shifting toward a role in education that fits better with what it can plausibly accomplish: creating and catalyzing standards, investing in information systems, research, and innovative practices, focusing its limited (in the grand educational scheme of things) resources on the students and schools that need help the most. And I, too, have been galvanized by great charter schools. If you honestly believe that helping non-profit organizations give a high-quality education to impoverished children is a bad idea, we have little to discuss.

At the same time, the short- and mid-term implication is little or no attention to students in roughly the 20th to the 70th percentile of school quality, however defined. Charter school networks are unevenly distributed geographically, and even the best can’t grow exponentially over a sustained period of time. Many state departments of education balked when they were legally required to improve the worst schools. How many are going make hard choices when they simply have the option of improving mediocre schools?

Reuters UK reports the Queen is following my lead and putting her holiday snaps up on Flickr (Reuters):
The Monarchy Website Flickr account streams both up-to-the-minute images of royal engagements and archive photographs from the royal collection.The launch is timed to coincide with the summer opening of Buckingham Palace, as the site highlights photographs specially commissioned for the palace's exhibition "The Queen's Year," which opens on July 27.The Flickr account also features historic photographs from current Royal Collection exhibitions at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle and on loan to museums and galleries around the UK.They include masterpieces of early British photography collected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
From the twitter:

Ron Marshall the CEO who left Borders after less than a year has now been asked to leave his subsequent CEO position at A&P: AP: A&P CEO steps down as loss widens:shares plunge AP What a run of bad luck - for shareholders.

Pearson Buys Sistema Educacional Brasileiro Learning Unit for $499 Million - Bloomberg

How thieves target rare books BBC

With U of Tennessee Rollout, OCLC's Cloud-Based ILS Enters Early-Adoption Phase LJ

Bertelsmann + Holtzbrinck join forces to create online distribution platform to sell e-books The Bookseller

Sherlock Holmes is back… sending texts and using nicotine patches Observer

Friday, July 23, 2010

Repost - Data Sync: The Next Coming of Biblio Data - Repost

Originally posted June 22, 2007

A number of years ago while President of Bowker I attended a conference organized by our EDI provider General Electric (GXS) where they discussed the application of a budding industry product information process referred to as data synchronization.

In contrast to the publishing industry most industries do not have standard industry wide product catalogs. Books benefit in this respect from the universal acceptance of the ISBN and few if any industries have a standard numbering system that supports product databases like booksinprint, Nielsen bookdata, titlesource and IPage. Data synchronization represents an attempt to make common, up to date and harmonious, standardized item and location information between trading partners. In English, trading partners have access to the same ‘data pool’ of item information which is continuously up to date and enables harmonization between the data pool and the respective item databases at each trading partner. From the
GS1 site:
Global Data Sync Network is an automated standards based global environment that enables secure and continuous data synchronization which allows partners to have consistent item data across their systems all the time. It ensures that all the parties in the supply chain are working with the same data – allows for simplified change notification and saves time and money for all organizations by eliminating steps to correct inaccurate data.
While my participation at this particular meeting was pooh poohed by my boss at the time it had me worried. The BIP database is licensed to many entities in the publishing industry and if trading partners in the publishing business got together to exchange data a la data synchronization then our business could be in jeopardy. In recent years, a number of companies in the grocery, soft goods and hardware businesses have implemented data synchronization with substantial numbers of their trading partners. The process is complicated and certain standards and formats govern the implementation; however, benefits can be substantial including less re-keying of data, better in-stock positions, better marketing promotions and fill rates and many other benefits which are documented in the following presentations (1,2,3).

While I was worried about the impact the development of a publishing data pool could have on the Bowker business, the irony is that the BIP database is the ultimate data pool - the like of which doesn’t exist in any other industry. No doubt that is the thinking of
BookNet Canada which has embarked on a project that may ultimately result in the creation of a data pool for the North American publishing industry. BookNet Canada has the remit to improve the publishing supply chain in Canada, and Bowker (while I was President) helped them establish an industry EDI service and sales reporting tool. For data synch they are working with Comport Communications the only certified data pool provider in Canada. The successful implementation of data synch in Canada could become a (the) prototype of a subsequent larger implementation in the US and/or UK. Interestingly, the Canadian books in print database is a hybrid of US BIP and UK BIP and which BookNet Canada also look to develop. (Bowker has the current incumbent product).

The implications for BIP products are fundamental but not catastrophic (although I will leave it to them to figure out why) but the larger issue is the potential radical shift in the traditional use of book product information and the ensuing significant improvement in supply chain information. We are a few years off yet but the benefits will come none too soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Carwash: Broadway and Houston 1991

Car Wash, Broadway & Houston New York 1991
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

I've always loved this image. The color seems to pop as though it was back lit. It was a 'turn and shoot' photo and the only frame I took of the subject.

The car wash stood at the corner of Broadway and Houston and I was standing 100 yards away on Lafayette. The two workers seem to be staring right at me as though I've somehow interrupted them. Or may be they're suspicious? This business is no longer there and in its' place is an Adidas sports store. I prefer the car wash.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 29: Tech Spending in Education: Digital Texts, Slow Reading, Medical Games

Technology spending in education is expected to rapidly increase according to a Gartner report (Paid):

Technology spending in education is seeing a surge in 2010. According to information released by IT research firm Gartner, worldwide enterprise IT spending in education will grow 4.1 percent, or about $2.53 billion, over 2009. According to the report, "Forecast Alert: Enterprise IT Spending by Vertical Industry Market, Worldwide, 2008-2014, 1Q10 Update," worldwide enterprise IT spending across all vertical segments is forecast to increase by $96.7 billion to nearly $2.43 trillion in 2010. Education itself is the smallest of the vertical segments tracked by Gartner. In 2009, total IT spending in education was $61.46 billion. By the end of this year, will make up 2.64 percent of the overall vertical enterprise IT market worldwide, or $63.99 billion, consistent with its share of the overall picture in 2009. (Via THE)
Daytona State College is moving to all digital texts (News Journal)

After a year of meetings, a Daytona State committee on Thursday began the work of reviewing proposals to replace the college's print textbooks with all e-texts. Phillips, associate director of purchasing, announced the names of nine different publishers -- including some of the biggest names in the industry -- submitting a total of 12 different proposals in response to the college's request. Among the proposers: McGraw-Hill Cos., Pearson Education and Barnes & Noble. Cengage Learning of Stamford, Conn., made four proposals. Also, a pitch arrived from CourseSmart, the world's biggest e-textbook website. "Publishers would prefer to sell you digital rather than printed materials," Bruce Hidebrand, executive director of higher education for the Association of American Publishers, wrote in an e-mail.

The art of slow reading (Guardian):

Hitchings does agree that the internet is part of the problem. "It accustoms us to new ways of reading and looking and consuming," Hitchings says, "and it fragments our attention span in a way that's not ideal if you want to read, for instance, Clarissa." He also argues that "the real issue with the internet may be that it erodes, slowly, one's sense of self, one's capacity for the kind of pleasure in isolation that reading has, since printed books became common, been standard".

What's to be done, then? All the slow readers I spoke to realise that total rejection of the web is extremely unrealistic, but many felt that temporary isolation from technology was the answer. Tracy Seeley's students, for example, have advocated turning their computer off for one day a week. But, given the pace at which most of us live, do we even have time? Garrard seems to think so: "I'm no luddite – I'm on my iPhone right now, having just checked my email – but I regularly carve out reading holidays in the middle of my week: four or five hours with the internet disconnected."

Elsevier turns medical content comprehension into game (MinOnline):

Elsevier developed this novel approach to professional information with an iPhone game developer Legacy Interactive. Lisa Hassbrock, head of consumer marketing, product development, Legacy Interactive, tells minonline that Elsevier surveyed medical students who were purchasing its other products on whether they would use an app such as Top Doc and they saw the potential market. “Given the cost of developing iPhone apps, and the early state of the industry, Top Doc can be considered an experiment—a relatively low risk way to gather information about the potential business opportunity, models, and market,” she says. Elsevier and Legacy Interactive are jointly marketing the product among their respective audiences.

From the twitter:

BBC Audiobooks buyer promises big investment and celebrity titles. Guardian

Google is financing projects to test their digital library AP

Hearst Magazines Outlines Major App Rollout For Second Half Of 2010 PaidContent

How to survive as a small publisher. Guardian

In sport: You don't win anything with kids - can we prove them wrong again? (Guardian)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Silos of Curation - Repost

Originally posted on April 29, 2009.


Publishers curate content but they don’t really do it well. And that’s a shame, because curation will be a skill in high demand as attention spans waver, choices proliferate and quality is mitigated by a preponderance of spurious material. That’s why companies such as LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari, weread, BookArmy and others like them may be positioned to leverage communities of interest that mimic the ‘siloed’ offerings that larger and more mature publishing companies have successfully been offering their customers in law, tax and education for many years.

Trade ebook sales are only 1% of total revenues and, while they are growing rapidly, they may take as long as five years to reach 5%. In other publishing segments, this growth curve would be viewed as a failure as information and education publishers actively manipulate the market to their advantage to force faster adoption of e-content. In pushing adoption of eBooks, trade publishers do not have many of the advantages that information and education publishers have. Generally speaking, information content is more transactional: Looking up a reference, seeking a specific citation or definition or article. Educational content is modular with material that is created for specific purposes but which can also be “rebuilt” for other purposes. In both cases, the producers of these products exert some control over their delivery and have impressed on their markets a platform for delivery. (I have discussed this platform approach here).

There are several reasons information and educational publishers are able to pull off the platform approach. One is that they have successfully aggregated content around discrete segments: law, tax, financial, higher ed, k-12, etc. This, in turn, has enabled them to clearly identify their markets and build solutions that match their customers’ needs precisely. That is not the case in trade publishing.

Trade publishing can be anarchic and it is not uncommon for a publisher of primarily gardening and lifestyle books to publish three or four mysteries as well. While aggregation into silos of content – becoming the Science Fiction or the Christian publisher (as West and Lexis became the legal content silos, for example) – is possible it may not be likely. While this strategy may appear logical, I don’t believe there is a sense of purpose within trade as there is in Information and Education. And as publishers continue to be preoccupied with their own corporate brands, the desire to focus on content silos becomes less apparent. Since content is the foundation of the ‘platform’ approach evidenced in the other segments, a similar strategy will not apply in trade.

Something similar to the platform approach may take shape in a different way with intermediaries playing the role of curator. This is an approach that companies such as Publisher’s Weekly or The New York Review of Books might have adopted if they had been more prescient. The capability to guide consumers to the best books, stories and professional content within a specific segment (without regard to publisher or commerce) may come to define publishing in the years to 2020. (See Monday’s post). Expert curation can simplify the selection process for consumers, aggregate interest around topics and build homogeneous markets for commerce. As an added benefit to these intermediaries’ customers, publishers will chose to focus intensely on each segment and offer specialized value-adds particular to that segment. As content provision expands – witness the delivery of all the books in the Google Book project – readers will become increasingly confused and looking for help. It seems inevitable that intermediaries between publisher and e-commerce will meet that need.

BookArmy was launched by Harpercollins earlier this year while the other companies have been around for a while. BookArmy has taken a (thus far) universal approach and lists all books rather than those only published by Harpercollins. BookArmy may or may not be successful, and it is intensely difficult to launch a site like librarything or Goodreads that grips the imagination and passion of its audience, but that is what makes these sites ideal incubators for new thinking and new approaches to publishing. In their current states most (all) of the curation is provided by the community and tends to be post-publication focused. Having said that, it would not be too difficult to see a new ‘layer’ of curators emerging who could provide direction and recommendations to readers on forthcoming titles. And, in addition, these curators could manage their subject “silo” to help readers better understand and explore their subject without regard to the publisher. Experiments in this area have started with, for example, LibraryThing working with publishers to provide a reviews program for forthcoming titles.

Readers don’t really care how many books are published in a year but they do care about knowing which titles they should read based on their interests. Increasingly help will be on the way but it is most likely to be presented as agnostic of publisher and curated around logical subject classifications.


See also Brand Presence - some earlier thoughts on publisher branding.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Concorde G-BSST 1973

Concorde G-BSST 1973
A weekly image from my archive.

I never flew on Concorde although I almost got the upgrade of upgrades once flying from Kennedy to London in 1990. A mix-up with my ticket put the kibosh on that and I never had another opportunity. This is Concorde 002 (G-BSST) one of the original prototype planes that flew between 1970 and 1976 when it was retired. This is another image I didn't take and I first thought this was taken in the UK; however, thanks to web research I believe it was taken at Tullamarine in Melbourne in June 1972. The family was traveling from Melbourne to Perth and Concorde 002 was on a round-the-world marketing and sales promotional jaunt. The plane returned to London in early July and later that month British Airways (BOAC) and Air France ordered 5 and 4 planes each. Despite some interest from other airlines those were the only orders ever received. Now the entire fleet is retired, and in an odd coincidence, I can look out of my office window and see one of the British Airways production aircraft sitting next to the USS Intrepid.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CCC Beyond the Book with Coker, Salley and Nelson.

A new podcast from Copyright Clearance Center’s Beyond The Book site, features a panel discussion for the Independent Book Publishers Association at their annual “Publishing University” program.

In this episode, featured guests Mark Coker of Smashwords, Jack Sallay of Vook and O Magazine Books Editor Sara Nelson explain the ongoing e-publishing revolution with E-Magination: What’s Now & What’s Next in Ebooks.

The podcast and transcript are available in the respective links below:

Podcast

Transcript

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Baked Beans Are Off

When I joined Macmillan, Inc in 1989 the company was rounding out the decade nicely having gone from losing over $1mm per week and a share price less than $2 in 1980 to one sold to Robert Maxwell for 19x earnings and $92 per share. Application of economies of scale helped build Macmillan to a $2billion publishing conglomerate where each newly acquired publishing company was just ‘more beans for the baked bean company’ which was how senior executives referred to their “factory acquisition” process. In fact, some of the executives, notably CEO Bill Reilly, had come from industrial manufacturing and had a deep understanding of how to effectively apply scale economies to operations.

All the largest publishing companies were following a similar ‘baked bean’ approach as the industry consolidated: Publishing lists were separated from their original companies and progressively (sometimes immediately) overhead expenses were eliminated as the acquired company was absorbed. At one point, I was tasked with following up on the ROI for a slew of companies acquired over a two year period. This proved difficult because their operations had been so effectively integrated into the parent company that constructing a post-acquisition income statement proved virtually impossible.

Fast forward 20 years and the scale economic model is falling apart for trade publishing. So effective at applying scale to accounting, manufacturing, management, production and other overhead, it is ironic that in the internet world everyone now has access to similar scale benefits. Publishing companies now realize they have achieved scale advantages in the wrong functions. Scale advantage in editorial, marketing, promotion, and content management is almost non-existent to the degree that will ensure competitive advantage, yet these are the functions important to future success. (As an isolated example, I would argue that authonomy.com by Harpercollins represents an attempt to build scale into the editorial process).

We all know seismic change – prevalent everywhere - has to come to the cost structures of publishing companies. Squeezed by downward pricing and potential revenue share models that provide more to authors and contributors, publishers will wonder where the money is going to come from. The scale model that built companies like Macmillan, Inc. is irreparably dead to anyone thinking about the future of publishing. The only way out – and it’s not an easy suggestion – is to recognize that those functions that used to provide scale benefits are no longer doing so and need to be carved out. Some of this has happened in manufacturing where companies like Donnelly and Williams Lea have taken over the manufacturing and production function for companies: Those departments no longer exist at the publisher. Decisions to outsource non-value added functions such as accounting, distribution and fulfillment and information technology must be made as the publisher contemplates their future. Once unencumbered, the real test will be whether publishers can re-work their structures so that they build scale economies in those functions that do provide value: Content acquisition, editorial, marketing & promotion and content licensing and brand building.

There is little evidence that this is happening or that the realization has set in. Instead of seeing a publishing company improve their performance over ten years as Macmillan did in the 1980s, we are likely to see many examples of the exact opposite over the next ten. Will companies rise to the challenge or are they so wedded to the old ‘baked bean’ model that they expect it to go on forever? Clearly, it won’t.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 28: Students study habits, The future of our Bookshelves, Trends in researchers and libraries.

The Atlantic looks at reports that college students don't study as much as they used to. These are eight possible reasons which they expand upon (Atlantic):
  • Study Leaders Cite Professor Apathy
  • Modern Technology Not to Blame
  • Grades Becoming Less Important Than Activities
  • Increase in 'Temporary, Adjunct' Faculty
  • Advent of Pass-Fail Classes, Fewer Language Requirements
  • Studying Methods Became More Efficient
  • Rise in Publishing Requirements Means Professors Assign Less Work
  • More Working Part-Time as Scholarships Decline
  • Students Less Comfortable With Long-Form Reading
Nathan Schneider writing in Open Letters Monthly: On the decline of print which while delayed now seems inevitable (OLM)

The decline of actual, physical book-publishing has been taking longer than it was supposed to. Way back in 1992 Robert Coover announced in The New York Times that printed books were as “dead as God.” His doomsday was premature. But the digital offerings of Amazon and Google, along with their ever-better delivery devices, promise that finally the end may be nigh. Crotchety complaints about screen-reading aside, it should be obvious to anyone who cares about information that in many respects digital text is a superior technology to the printed page. On Google Books, I just searched “the printed page” (without the quotation marks) across “some seven million volumes of books,” instantly returning results in 76,000 of them. And that is not mere statistical flourish; for the several years since I lost my borrowing privileges from research libraries and have had to leave my source texts behind, I’ve come to rely on Google and Amazon searchable previews. My old dream of a possessionless library, unencumbered and mobile, seems possible again. The very meaning of the word “book” has become something more powerful, dynamic, and accessible than ever before.

Every good reactionary knows well that there arises, in the process of using these wonders, the opportunity for laziness. Days, weeks, and years of archival labor are replaced by a keystroke and, with it, much of the discipline, erudition, and tenacity that the old ways required. But there’s no time to be nostalgic and grumpy. Living well with technology has always been a matter of beating it and abusing it. No one cared much about the electric guitar until somebody turned it up too loud. Now our job is to figure out how to be cleverer than the search engine; when certain ways of finding information become easy, the knowledge really worth having becomes what those methods don’t turn up, what the crawlers somehow managed to miss. As the Temple of Knowledge comes to look ever more like the Googleplex, public libraries are downsizing their reference desks, presuming that for every query an internet search will suffice.
...
So far, for all the wonders they offer, the digital alternatives to a bookshelf fail to serve its basic purposes. The space of memory and thinking must not be an essentially controlled, homogenous one. Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad are noxious ruses that must be creatively resisted—not simply because they are electronic but because they propose to commandeer our bookshelves. I will defend the spirit of mine tooth and nail.

David Brookes in the NYTimes also wonders at the efficacy of books versus the internet (NYT):
A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference. Maybe it would be different if it had been invented in Victorian England, but Internet culture is set in contemporary America. Internet culture is egalitarian. The young are more accomplished than the old. The new media is supposedly savvier than the old media. The dominant activity is free-wheeling, disrespectful, antiauthority disputation.

These different cultures foster different types of learning. The great essayist Joseph Epstein once distinguished between being well informed, being hip and being cultivated. The Internet helps you become well informed — knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies and important trends. The Internet also helps you become hip — to learn about what’s going on, as Epstein writes, “in those lively waters outside the boring mainstream.”

But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own. You have to take the time to immerse yourself in a great writer’s world. You have to respect the authority of the teacher.

Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.
American Research Libraries blog notes the amicus filing in the Costco vs Omega watch case (ARL):
And that is why this case is important for libraries. In its amicus brief, LCA notes that “[b]y restricting the application of Section 109(a) to copies manufactured in the United States, the Ninth Circuit’s decision threatens the ability of libraries to continue to lend materials in their collections.” There are millions of volumes in library collections that were manufactured abroad. A more precise estimate than “millions” can probably never be known, though, because there is no reliable way of knowing where books in library collections were actually manufactured. So, if the Supreme Court agreed with the Ninth Circuit, and libraries determined that they could not find an alternative to the traditional first sale doctrine rationale for circulating foreign-manufactured works, they would face an impossible task in determining which of their books could not circulate under the new rule.
Also related a brief filed in the case of Pearson vs Textbook Discounters (JDSupra)

Fastcompany makes up for lost time (10yrs) in extrapolating the changes in academic libraries to bookstores (Fastco):
The change in publication habits for periodicals, and plain ol' text books too, has been so severe that a new library building, commissioned in 2005 and due to open next month, actually has 85% less shelf capacity than the previous edifice. That's a massive reduction in storage volume, and a pure reflection of the fact that bytes don't weigh anything. It's also the next logical progression in the modernization of library systems. Remember card catalogs? They were once a staple of any visit to a library, and their often hand-typed and hand-annotated reference cards were vital for finding the right book in a collection. But the card index was a perfect contender for digital replacement, even in an era when computers were mainly text-based. First they came for my card catalog ... then they came for my books ...
In a Podcast from OCLC and JISC, Lynn Silipigni Connaway asks, "what does the digital information seeker look like". (JISC):
New research from JISC suggests that the way people look for information in libraries and online is changing. JISC recently commissioned a report2 from the OCLC to bring together a number of different studies in the area. Senior research scientist Dr Lynn Silipigni Connaway at OCLC Research in the US talks to Nicola Yeeles about how researchers ‘bounce’ and ‘whirl’ and what that means for the library of the future.

Also OCLC has a number of podcast available for free via iTunes.

From ACRL: 2010 top ten trends in academic libraries (ACRL):
The ACRL Research, Planning and Review Committee, a component of the Research Coordinating Committee, is responsible for creating and updating a continuous and dynamic environmental scan for the association that encompasses trends in academic librarianship, higher education, and the broader environment. As a part of this effort, the committee develops a list of the top ten trends that are affecting academic libraries now and in the near future. This list was compiled based on an extensive review of current literature.
From the twitter this week:

Tom Sutcliffe -Throw the book at clichéd blurbs - Independent. Over the top blurbing.


If the new Tom Jones album is that bad, I must hear it. Telegraph Marketing a stinker.

Do good buildings make for better educated children? Observer Huge for me, but I was lucky. Seabury Hall

PwC Technology Forecast 2010 Issue 3:Tapping into the power of Big Data: PWC Tech Report Nerd alert - interesting.

Can Bloomberg Law Compete With Westlaw and LexisNexis? - LawBlog WSJ

The textbook system is broken: high costs, poor information for students, bad books: Chronicle


In sports, Iniesta was the mvp of the tournament for me and well done Spain.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Cengage Learning Announces Streamlined Operating Structure

From their press release

Cengage Learning Announces Streamlined Operating Structure to Allow Greater Synergy, Focused Technology Investments and Increased Innovation Across Company

Incorporates Library/Reference, Academic/Professional and International Business Units to Provide Research and Learning Solutions Unmatched In Industry
STAMFORD, Conn., July 7

/PRNewswire/ -- Cengage Learning, a leading global provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions, today announced that the company will consolidate its business units into one streamlined operating group, a new structure that will allow for greater synergies, more focused technology investments and increased innovation both domestically and internationally. The move brings together the company's Academic and Professional Group (APG), including such well-known brands as South-Western, Delmar, Wadsworth and Brooks/Cole, with the market leading library/reference group, Gale, and the company's international operations. The transition will begin immediately, and is expected to be completed in September 2010.
"This is an exciting change for Cengage Learning and our customers, making it possible for us to provide a range of research and learning solutions that is unprecedented in our industry," said Ron Dunn, President and CEO of Cengage Learning. "Unlike any of our competitors, we can leverage the combined resources of Gale and APG to bridge the gap between the library and the classroom, developing innovative new solutions that combine Gale's unparalleled expertise in creating, organizing and distributing content with APG's deep understanding of pedagogy, teaching and learning styles, and assessment. This combination will allow Cengage Learning to better serve customers worldwide -- in classrooms, libraries, and anywhere else people engage in research and learning. It represents an alliance of abilities completely unique in our industry -- a blend of content, technology, and expertise -- drawn from more than half a century serving both classrooms and libraries."
As a result of the restructuring, Patrick C. Sommers, President of Gale will retire at the end of July, and Ron Mobed, President of the Academic and Professional Group will be leaving the company. Dunn's new Executive Committee will include: Adrian Butler, Executive Vice President, Human Resources; Ken Carson, General Counsel; Dean Durbin, Chief Financial Officer; Rich Foley, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing; Manuel Guzman, Executive Vice President, Learning and Research Solutions; and William Rieders, Executive Vice President, New Media.
About Cengage Learning
Cengage Learning is a leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. The company's products and services are designed to foster academic excellence and professional development, increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes. Cengage Learning's brands include Heinle, Gale, Wadsworth, Delmar, Brooks/Cole and South-Western, among others. For more information on Cengage

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Lufufe Kwetshube Was Terrified By Reading

This arrived from the Cape Town Book Fair people unsolicited:


Cape Town Book Fair literacy campaign set to change lives.

By Joanne Smetherham

Lufufe Kwetshube was paralysed by shyness and his terror of reading in his first year at Observatory Junior School, Cape Town. He would answer questions in monosyllables and dared not look adults in the eye.

“We thought he would be one of the small minority whom we wouldn’t be able to help,” said Maurita Weissenberg, founder of the Shine Literacy Programme at the school.

Lufefe entered the literacy programme in his second year, after he failed the first set of national benchmark tests on literacy – as did a staggering three-quarters of his classmates, who all took part in the programme. To Weissenberg’s surprise and delight, Lufefe was a transformed child after 18 months.

Within months, he was able look adults in the eye and answer them with confidence. Best of all, he was asking to read books. And instead of avoiding the imaginary games using plastic animals, he would eagerly ask: “Can I please play that one?” Then he would come up to hold up a giraffe or a zebra, telling his tutor all about it.

“He’s happy, and he’s enjoying learning. I’m so proud,” said Lufefe’s grandmother Princess Lutshebe, who is bringing him up because his mother died. “Help with literacy was all he needed to change this child’s life and allow him to take control of his future,” said Weissenberg. “And it didn’t even take that much.”

Lufefe is one of large numbers of South African children who do not receive the help with literacy that they need, in their school lessons. A study by the UCT Children’s Institute last year found that two-thirds of junior school learners nationally were functionally illiterate and innumerate. It is against this background that the Cape Town Book Fair (CTBF) together with Literacy Campaign (LitCam) of the Frankfurt Book Fair – a part-owner of the Cape Town Book Fair - as well as community organisations is launching a far-reaching literacy campaign.

This will see reading and learning (RaL) rooms set up in the poorest areas of Cape Town, and will also include a writing competition and a conference on literacy. “Literacy allows people to reach their full potential as human beings, and enables us to take part in society, especially in our globalised world,” says CTBF Director Claudia Kaiser. “Our vision is to give people easy access to books, in their own neighbourhoods, because people can’t always get to libraries”, adds Karin Ploetz, director of LitCam.

There will be a variety of books and learning tools in the RaL rooms, where special literacy programmes and workshops will take place. The project leaders will work in co-operation with the librarians at the new Khayelitsha library. The campaign organisers will also hire teachers to work in the RaL rooms.

The first three reading rooms in Cape Town - two in Khayelitsha and one in Mfuleni - will be finished by July 29. This is also the date of the launch of the RaL-room project. Five more RaL rooms will be finished by October.

The proposal for the RaL-rooms has been integrated into a broader community action plan, said Michael Krause, team leader of Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading (VPUU), one of the community organisations working with CTBF on the literacy project. “The reading rooms are what the community wants,” he said. “The project will start small, but the model could be widely replicated. It’s a great partnership.”

The first RaL-room will be in a building in the Western Forecourt of the Khayelitsha train station, where volunteers, some of whom have poor literacy skills, work for a local neighbourhood watch. The second RaL-room will be a container near a crèche in Monwabisi Park. A VPUU secretary will work there, issuing books to the crèche teachers for the children. The third will be at the Women for Peace centre in Mfuleni, catering for families. The aim is to set up further RaL rooms in Pretoria.

The learning tools in the RaL rooms will be Discovery Boxes, provided by Siemens, which contain materials for children to conduct 22 science experiments. Poet, performer and writer Diane Ferrus will be among those running writing workshops for children at the RaL rooms, and acclaimed poet and writer Antjie Krog will be among the authors who will give readings.
A writing competition called “Football moments – short stories from the townships” will be announced at the launch of the RaL-rooms. In addition, the CTBF is also organising a conference at which organisations working on literacy will be able to share their experiences and network. This will take place on Saturday July 31 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, during the CTBF.

LitCam is an international literacy and basic education campaign launched four years ago by the Frankfurt Book Fair and its partners. One of its projects, Football Meets Culture, aims to help some of Germany’s four million illiterate children. The children taking part in the programme experience the fun of football along with remedial education, and discovery that learning can be fun, the programme organisers have said.

In his literacy lessons with Shine at Observatory Junior School little Lufefe, too, made this discovery. His tutor, Leigh-Anne Nathan, remembers a day three months into the programme, when he came in as shyly as always. However, when he lifted his head to greet her, he grinned, showing off a big set of false teeth. Leigh-Anne burst out laughing, just as Lufefe had wanted, and realised they had made a breakthrough. Lufefe was enjoying himself.

The Cape Town Book Fair runs from 30 July to 2 August. This year for the first time the first day of the fair will be a trade day, with the fair opening to the public on 31 July. For more information on the CTBF visit www.capetownbookfair.com and join our Facebook page to take part in competitions, write a story that will be read at the Fair and much more.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 27: Economist Issue, Newspapers, Pixar, Copyright, Internet Retailing, Price or Scale

A backlog of Economist issues has resulted in the following "Economist Issue" of my weekly review.

An obituary of author Martin Gardner who died on May 22nd (Economist)
Yet he was far more than a synthesiser. Indeed, all his non-fiction—he also wrote novels, short stories and poetry—was rigorously analytical. And though he was shy, usually shunning his fans’ two-yearly “Gatherings for Gardner”, he was not afraid to speak his mind. Any beliefs he thought pseudoscientific, such as homeopathy, Scientology, creationism, anthroposophy, spoon-bending, astrology and flying saucers, he would dismiss with cool efficiency. Other ideas, such as Ronald Reagan’s beloved Laffer curve, were derided in spoof articles: Mr Gardner had a sense of humour, and used it to effect. But he was not malicious. Though he enjoyed hoaxes, he would sometimes turn them on himself, once writing, under a pseudonym, a withering review of one of his own works in the New York Review of Books.

Did he spread himself too thin? It is hard not to think that anyone who writes more books (70-plus) than many people have read, as well as numberless articles and essays, must be at the controls of a sausage machine, yet the sausages were usually good. The harder question is where it all came from, to which the only answer is himself—and reading.

The strange survival of ink - speaking of newspapers from June 12 (Economist):

That emphasis on giving readers what they want to read, as opposed to what lofty notions of civic responsibility suggest they ought to read, is part of a global trend. Newspapers are becoming more distinctive and customer-focused. Rather than trying to bring the world to as many readers as possible, they are carving out niches. Proprietors and editors are trying to identify distinctive strengths and investing what money they have in those areas.

In America many newspapers have plumped for local news and sport, leaving everything else to bigger outfits or to wire services like The Associated Press. Several of them now refuse to deliver papers to readers far from the urban core. Such readers are expensive to reach and less alluring to advertisers. Papers are also courting small local businesses with technology that allows them to design their own ads cheaply. In short, metropolitan newspapers are turning into city newspapers. That may help them in the long term. Jim Chisholm, a newspaper analyst, points out that small local papers have fared better than larger regional ones in many countries, including America.

An interesting article about Pixar and planning for the future (Economist):

Pixar’s approach to creativity is striking for two reasons. The first is that the company puts people before projects. Most Hollywood studios start by hunting down promising ideas and then hire creative teams to turn them into films. The projects dictate whom they hire. Pixar starts by bringing in creative people and then encourages them to generate ideas. One of its most successful recruits has been Brad Bird, who has presided over two Oscar-winning feature films, “The Incredibles” (in which he also provided a character’s voice) and “Ratatouille”.

The second is that the company devotes a lot of effort to getting people to work together. In most companies, people collaborate on specific projects, but pay little attention to what’s going on elsewhere in the business. Pixar, however, tries to foster a sense of collective responsibility among its 1,200 staff. Employees show unfinished work to one another in daily meetings, so get used to giving and receiving constructive criticism. And a small “brain trust” of top executives reviews films in the works.

A look at the Apps market: Apps and Downs (Economist):

As this is all part of the ongoing “platform war” between different mobile operating systems, the numbers should be taken with several grains of salt. The more the numbers are puffed up, not least with some double-counting, the more users and developers the respective app stores hope to attract. Ilja Laurs, GetJar’s chief executive, admits that his tally includes different versions of the same software—because this is industry practice. What is more, many apps are the mobile equivalent of marketing: they are given away to tout other wares. On June 15th Apple even released an app that lets users order the latest version of its own iPhone. Others apps are labours of love that have been put out free by passionate developers.

Nevertheless, research firms are trying to measure the market with tried and tested methods, sensing there are lucrative reports and consulting services to sell. In a recent study Juniper Research put last year’s revenues from mobile apps at nearly $10 billion and estimated that it will more than treble by 2015. Yet such figures are educated guesses at best, argues an analyst with a rival market-research firm which has refrained from making predictions of its own because of the paucity of data.

Can booksellers learn anything from Uniqlo? (Economist):

Fast Retailing also has a distinctive business model. Zara and H&M bring the latest fashions to the masses quickly, ordering new lines many times a year. Fast Retailing, by contrast, sells only around 1,000 items, far fewer than its rivals, and keeps them on the shelves longer. “We don’t want to chase after ‘fast-fashion’ trends,” explains Mr Yanai. This lets Fast Retailing strike lower-priced, higher-volume deals with suppliers (most products cost $10-20) and makes managing inventory a much simpler and cheaper affair.

Uniqlo makes up for the narrowness of its offering by selling the same item in many colours: socks come in 50 hues at its flagship store in Tokyo. Such basics, the firm believes, have the added benefit of appealing to a wider audience than the preppy Americana sold by Gap or the faddish wares of Inditex and H&M.

Owning the news: Copyrighting facts as well as words (Economist):

FACTS, ruled America’s Supreme Court in 1918 in the “hot news doctrine”, cannot be copyrighted. But a news agency can retain exclusive use of its product so long as it has a commercial value. Now newspapers, fed up with stories being “scraped” by other websites, want that ruling made into law.

The idea is floated in a discussion document published by the Federal Trade Commission, which is holding hearings on the news industry’s future. Media organisations would have the exclusive right, for a predetermined period, to publish their material online. The draft also considers curtailing fair use, the legal principle that allows search engines to reproduce headlines and links, so long as the use is selective and transformative (as with a list of search results). Jeff Jarvis, who teaches journalism students to become entrepreneurs at New York’s City University, says this sounds like an attempt to protect newspapers more than journalism.

The click and the dead: E-commerce favours large companies but only because that is what people want (Economist):
Everywhere people bemoan the replacement of the local and the quaint by outposts of big, homogeneous chains. But how true is the notion that the internet in particular has hastened the demise of some retailers, and that those it hurt were overwhelmingly small? A new study* on this subject by four economists at the University of Chicago looks at three industries—bookshops, travel agencies and new-car dealerships—for answers. They find much truth in the conventional wisdom, but also some solace for those who believe small is beautiful.
....
The study finds evidence for this, too. Among booksellers, all the smaller categories withered in the internet age—save one. The lone exception was the very smallest, shops with between one and four employees. These appeared to have weathered the storm unscathed: in Harvard Square itself, Curious George, a children’s bookshop run by the same people who owned WordsWorth, flourishes to this day. The internet allows customers to see businesses’ true colours. The adjustment that follows may be wrenching. But the net effect is one that conforms to what consumers want, whether they admit it to themselves or not.
Media's two tribes: Scale or pricing? (Economist):

Paywalls are rising across the media landscape as many firms conclude that revenue from online advertising alone is not enough to make ends meet. The Tallahassee Democrat, a newspaper owned by Gannett, starts charging from July 1st. Hulu, a free video website that was launched in America in 2008, said this week that it would begin selling subscriptions.

Yet there is a strong drift in the opposite direction, too. For every outfit that is trying to build a premium subscription service, another is becoming more convinced of the virtues of giving away free content.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, for example, is something of an anti-Times. Its website, which is heavy on pictures and celebrity news, has grown rapidly in the past two years, both at home and abroad. It had 42m unique monthly visitors in May, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations—more than any other British newspaper website. Martin Clarke, who runs the Mail’s website, reckons people simply will not pay for general news on the web, and is happy to maximise viewers and advertising. The model of giving away content is not broken, he says: “It’s only broken if you are not big enough.”

This is not merely a difference of opinion over whether to charge for online content. It is a divide between a strategy based on “up-selling” people to premium subscriptions, and a strategy based on scale and market-share. More fundamentally, it reflects different views about the extent to which consumers can be steered towards the most profitable products.

From the twitter this week:

China E-Book Firm Challenges PDF InformationWeek Just what we need.

My US orphan estimate cited in Euro Orphans Report But spelled blog name incorrectly. My report.

Digital Magazines Don’t Encourage Socializing - NYT

Tech Trends: Ereaders, Mobile Devices, and Cloud Computing Library Journal

David Rothman on the iPad Stimulus Plan The Atlantic

Friday, July 02, 2010

High Noon on The High Street - Repost

Originally published May 4, 2007: News this week that the prior owner of Borders UK sees the imminent collapse of UK high street booksellers reminded me of this post.


Michael Holdsworth wrote the following article for The Bookseller Daily at London Bookfair two weeks ago and I asked him if I could republish it here. He kindly acceded. Until earlier this year, Michael was Managing Director (EMEA) at Cambridge University Press, responsible for about 70% of Cambridge’s global publishing and 50% of its sales. He now works with businesses on digital aspects of the industry. He is chairman of BIC, and of EDItEUR’s ONIX International Steering Committee.


The Bookseller London Book Fair Daily – Wednesday 18 April 2007

High Noon on The High Street

It isn’t directly the internet or eBooks which are the big threats for high street booksellers. They may just run out of books to sell, says Michael Holdsworth.

Much has been written about the difficulties facing the traditional bookseller – ‘unfair’ competition from the supermarkets, infinite range at Amazon, secondhand at AbeBooks, internecine discount wars, decreasing footfall, and pumped-up property leases.

The market for books isn’t growing as it should. Consumer research suggests that we have the wrong kind of young people, who reject the notion of reading books for recreation and leisure. Or even of using books for information and study. Today’s under-thirties – who ought by right to be tomorrow’s hardcore bookbuyers – live out their lives on the playing-card screens of mobile phones, preferring to interact online with the lean-forward social networks of Myspace, Flickr and Facebook. Inveterate multi-taskers, they listen to their iPods and text their friends, while watching television with laptops, not books, on their knees. For many students, information which is not online simply doesn’t exist, to the dismay of their so-last-century professors. The library is ignored, since the chances are that the book will be out on loan, deliberately mis-shelved, or will have had this week’s chapter razored out; and the bookshop shunned, where the right course books are perceived to be too expensive or rarely available. Time-rich and money-poor, they surf their always-on broadband to find roughly what they need – and preferably free (that is, ripped-off or public domain).

And if that future cultural environment wasn’t looking bad enough for bricks-and-mortar booksellers, rumblings are heard that the eBook may now be tottering out of the last chance saloon, available on mobiles and Blackberrys, or to a Sony Reader (with its magic suddenly-screen-readable paperlike ‘e-Ink’ technology) or to some other top-secret handheld iPod-like contraption, as the technorati scuttlebutt would have one believe, from Amazon, from Google, from Apple or from Sir James Dyson (pick your rumour).

But the most damaging factors powering this one-way ratchet of doom and gloom may be none of the above – directly. The critical disruption that will change the shape of book retail forever will be that booksellers will cease to be the channel for the distribution of information and non-fiction (even when it is in book form). And without that, they simply won’t have enough stuff to sell. And they certainly won’t be selling what they still can sell from stores of over 10,000 square feet as they do on Britain’s high streets today.

For most of us, the Internet is our first port of call for reference and information. We go straight to Google, we Ask Jeeves, we scour Wikipedia. What we get may not be validated content, and may not always be 100 per cent correct, but, hey, it’s free. Will today’s students – tomorrow’s shoppers – buy reference and information titles at all, let alone from bookshops? Will anyone buy maps or atlases? Watch the people on the tube, clutching their MultiMap print-outs.

What’s more we are only on the brink of some new Internet models which will change the way we all think about reading online and paid content on the web. Google and Amazon now have the largest eBook libraries on the planet. And if the Internet rumour-mill is to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before we see these collections monetised, with the full collusion of the publishers, of course. And we know that Microsoft Windows Live, which launched its public domain book search offering last year, and Yahoo, are watching and waiting in the wings.

As the physical ‘Blockbuster’ model of video rental through video stores collapses, giving way to anytime mail-order and high-bandwidth movie downloads, information book consumers will for the first time discover online subscription and rental. Why buy the book when all you want is to turn the pages for a day, or research the topic for a week? Why buy the whole thing when you only need a chapter; why buy a guide to France when all you need is Chartres Cathedral?

Amazon’s Upgrade – the first consumer eBook-and-print book bundle – isn’t yet being offered outside the USA. This path-breaking new service allows buyers of the print book to pay an additional 10 or 20 per cent on top of the print price for immediate and perpetual online-only access to the full searchable text. Publishers may think that Amazon is selling this additional access too cheaply, but there is no doubt that it is already proving a most attractive proposition. Not only does it fulfil the 1970s Martini dream of having the books you own available to you "any time, any place, anywhere . . .", it also offers customers the gratification of using the book (and remember, this is mainly about ‘extractive’ reading, not the immersive long-form narrative of fiction or biography) immediately the credit card has gone through, without having to wait for the postman.

Amazon Upgrade may prove a pivotal tipping-point for two reasons. First, because Upgrade (and other services such as Google’s Book Search) will for the first time start to encourage and facilitate really-easy online reading of book content by ordinary people, not academics, students or geeks. Amazon and Google have the reach and access to democratise this new habit in a way that specialist eBooks never will, with their often rebarbative DRM and user experiences. Some people may actually prefer this new way.

Second, we can anticipate that bundled online access for non-fiction and information titles will become the norm. It will become a sine-qua-non of this sort of publishing, exactly as online access has long been for scholarly journals, and as additional blended elements are increasingly de rigueur for school and university textbooks. Just as cars now come with radios, and hotel rooms come with TVs, it will quite simply be what bookbuyers will come to expect. That they can get into their home book collection from anywhere, whether it’s a recipe for must-have pineapple upside-down-cake while on holiday in the gite; or settling a holiday argument from The Guinness Book of Records. Pervasive GPRS on mobiles and public-access wi-fi will simply accelerate this trend. And this won’t just be an Amazon thing. There will be other aggregators, digital distributors and of course publishers providing these services. But not, easily, traditional booksellers…

So take away that non-fiction and information stock-in-trade – professional books, computer manuals, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, travel guides, DIY guides, atlases, maps, annuals, wine and cook books, almanacs, yearbooks. What kind of damage will that do to high street retail? Will only the most niche, the most specialised, the most responsive, the most remarkable – and the smallest – booksellers survive, in the most affluent cities? Such relict survivors will need to add a lot of value in service, ambience and expensive coffee as they hand-sell books as objects, as gifts, as things of beauty, as coffee-table items. Speakers at Google’s Unbound conference in New York in January introduced us to the scary concept of the non-fiction print book as ‘souvenir’ – as a permanent and tactile reminder of an information experience you’ve already had. You’ve enjoyed its immediacy and its primary utility online; now own the physical book as memento, as curio. But the owning bit is optional.

Is High Street book retail holed below the waterline? Or will the BA's new initiatives (at Godalming etc.) bring results in time for our booksellers to reinvent themselves? They probably don’t have long.

This article is covered by a creative commons licence.

Michael can be reached via email at the hard to forget michael@michaelholdsworth.com