Sunday, January 30, 2011

Media Week (V4-N4): Changing Higher Ed. Book Awards, Pippi, 007, Forecasting Technology, Michael Lewis

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed, an open letter to President Obama about the way education is changing and how we need to adapt accordingly:
The new regulations that your education officials have imposed suggest that online instruction isn’t as good as the old fashioned way of learning … you know, the sleep-in-the-back-of-the-room or catch-up-on-your-e-mail or text-all-of-your-friends-about-Saturday-night-while-the-teacher-yaks-at-the-front-of-the-room kinds of classes. For example, when a student is enrolled in a classroom-based class, the Department of Education considers him to be engaged in an academically related activity by virtue of the act of walking into class. It doesn’t matter if he sleeps through the entire class. I guess learning will just happen by osmosis. However, starting on July 1st of this year, when a student is enrolled in an online course, and she performs the equivalent of walking into class by logging into the electronic classroom portal, the Department of Education will not consider this to be an academically related activity. Well, is entering the classroom an academically related activity or isn’t it? Meanwhile, a faculty member is far more likely to know the level of engagement of an online student versus a classroom-based student because in the online environment, the professor can monitor all of the activities in which a student has been engaged—all day—and not just those that took place during a regularly scheduled 50-minute period.
How are books selected for the National Book Critics Awards (Beast):

The confidential awards nomination and voting process begins at the first meeting of the new board in March. Awards committee chairs in all six categories are elected and committees of at least eight members are formed. Throughout the rest of the year, committee members nominate books on a password-protected online Writeboard, and discuss them on dedicated email listservs. The conversation ebbs and flows through the summer months.

The afternoon of the September board meeting is devoted to the first discussions of the books, led by committee chairs. It’s not breaking any rules to suggest that the words one hears include these: “Formulaic.” “Doggerel.” “Brilliant.” “Thin.”

Noted before (but it's been weeks since a Larsson link) the connection with Pippi Longstocking (Millions):
Pippi’s endlessly obliging world certainly isn’t Salander’s; Pippi is a children’s book heroine, after all. But Pippi and Salander do share a fundamental character trait: a deep sense of justice and courage in the pursuit of justice—very real, if increasingly rare, human qualities. In one of Pippi’s first adventures, she stands up to five boys bullying a younger boy. She interrupts the bullies’ taunting of the little boy and brings their taunts on herself. The bullies tease Pippi about her red hair and her clown shoes, but Pippi just smiles her friendliest smile and seems not to hear their taunts. This enrages the ringleader and he shoves her. So, Pippi calmly lifts the bully up and hangs him on a high tree branch, telling him, “I don’t think you have a very nice way with the ladies.”
Intellectualizing James Bond (Atlantic):
It was time to bring 007 back in line with the rest of the world. After 20 films spanning 4 decades, it took a full reboot of the series, with 2006's Casino Royale, to make the Bond franchise relevant again. Casino Royale depicts a ruthless, unpolished 007 on his inaugural mission, under MI6 boss M's watchful (and occasionally skeptical) eye.

But Casino Royale was more than just a simple reboot; it was an aggressive rejection of the series' best-known conventions. There's no banter with familiar characters like Miss Moneypenny or Q to lighten the mood. Le Chiffre, the film's primary villain, doesn't want to rule the world; he wants money, and he's willing to work with terrorists to gain it. When Bond is captured, Le Chiffre's torture method isn't a laser or a shark tank; it's beating Bond's genitals with a knotted rope. And, most significantly, despite Bond's legendary womanizing, much of the film is devoted to an honest-to-God love story (between James Bond and the enigmatic Vesper Lynd).
Regrettably falls flat: No Bond would be caught in this (Link)

Explaining the future of technology is the purpose of science fiction (Slate):

What's valuable about this for societies is that science-fiction writers explore these issues in ways that working scientists simply can't. Some years ago, for a documentary for Discovery Channel Canada, I interviewed neurobiologist Joe Tsien, who had created superintelligent mice in his lab at Princeton—something he freely spoke about when the cameras were off. But as soon as we started rolling, and I asked him about the creation of smarter mice, he made a "cut" gesture. "We can talk about the mice having better memories but not about them being smarter. The public will be all over me if they think we're making animals more intelligent."

But science-fiction writers do get to talk about the real meaning of research. We're not beholden to skittish funding bodies and so are free to speculate about the full range of impacts that new technologies might have—not just the upsides but the downsides, too. And we always look at the human impact rather than couching research in vague, nonthreatening terms.

About Charles Portis from The Telegraph:

After three years in Little Rock, Portis moved on to the Herald-Tribune, working for three years in New York before his spell in London.

Based near the Savoy Hotel, he combined reporting with his duties as bureau chief. He was amused rather than annoyed by the constant clicks of the telephones that indicated British intelligence were tapping his calls. He also dealt with Downing Street, as he remembered: “The Prime Minister was Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He gave us – a handful of American correspondents – one or two off-the-record interviews and spoke of Lyndon Johnson as, 'your, uh, rather racy president’, referring, I suppose, to Johnson’s barnyard humour.”

He quickly became disillusioned with the whole business of “management comedies”. As he says: “I wanted to try my hand at fiction, so I gave notice and went home to America.”

That was in November 1964. Four years later, he had published True Grit to widespread acclaim. Roald Dahl – who rarely reviewed books – wrote in praise for the American first edition dust jacket: “True Grit is the best novel to come my way for a very long time. I was going to say it was the best novel to come my way since…Then I stopped. Since what? What book has given me greater pleasure in the last five years? Or in the last 20? I do not know. I expect some have, but I cannot recall them right now. Marvellous it is. He hasn’t put a foot wrong anywhere. What a writer!”
Michael Lewis on book tour in the UK (Observer):

Lewis says he isn't surprised that the four Republican members of the commission refused to sign off its findings. "There is a big effort by the right wing to carve a narrative out in the public mind. It runs as follows: it was government intervention that created the crisis; Bill Clinton forced the banks to lend money to black people; Barney Frank [former Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives financial services committee] turned a blind eye to what was going on at [mortgage companies] Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which then generated demand for these loans."

A few people have worked on that story, because whenever I speak at lectures, somebody always jumps up to peddle this line. But if you look at the facts, Fannie and Freddie's share of the sub-prime market fell in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The crash happened because of a dramatic failure of free markets and capitalism in general. To top it all, the banks were saved by the taxpayer. In other words, banks benefit from socialism, while everyone else has to live under capitalism. The people who are paid the most live by a different set of rules to everyone else. How absurd is that?"

From the twitter this week:

Borders delays payments to conserve cash

The Differential Rates Of Digital Change Problem

Go To Hellman: It's No Pocalypse at Digital Book World

Summit Business Media Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Thomson Reuters’ Culture of Organizational Curiosity

And in sports, two morons get what they deserve (BBC)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Once The Americana now Sheraton

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

The Americana, now renamed the Sheraton is where I spent the past two days attending a conference. This image is taken from Rock Center looking north west toward the Hudson river and was shot in September 1968 when the PND seniors were visiting NYC. In this roll are other images taken from the top of the Rock in all directions which collectively provide a time capsule view of the Manhattan skyline.

As you will notice the images are washed out and I am not sure is this the error of the photographer or simply time.

Once The Americana now Sheraton, New York 1968
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Media Week (V4-N3): UK Libraries, Perceptions of US Libraries, Pearson Acquires, Wolters Kluwer Partner, Libraries in the Cloud

UK libraries are facing potentially dire circumstances with funding cuts from Westminster forcing local governments to make some hard and unpopular decisions about funds. Across the UK organized groups are going on mass 'lend-out's where they are encouraging patrons to check out as many books as possible. This weekend there were several articles about the situation in most of the major newspapers.
Libraries: 'Hands off our doors to learning' The Independent on Sunday has been inundated with stories about the role public libraries have played in readers' lives. Campaigns to stop councils from closing as many as half of their libraries are gathering pace, as public figures protest furiously about 'cultural vandalism'. They share their memories with Nina Lakhani
From the Telegraph:

In response to the need for cuts, Oxfordshire county council wants to axe 20 of its 43 libraries. Among them is a small stone building in Bampton, the archetypally English village that doubled as Downton for ITV. For me, the library was almost a second home, where my lifelong love of Asterix – and of reading, generally – was kindled. The thought of its closure causes quite extraordinary pain.

Lord Fellowes, Downton Abbey’s writer, and a prominent defender of his own local libraries, is quick to commiserate. “In a village like that, a library has a real function,” he says. “There was someone quoted the other day as saying they’re for the white middle classes. But that’s exactly who they’re not principally for, particularly in the country.”

That is a point that the villagers will be quick to make. But they won’t be alone. Across the country, more than 400 libraries are on the chopping block – and everywhere, informal coalitions are assembling to defend them. The residents of Stony Stratford, in Milton Keynes, borrowed every single one of their library’s 16,000 books to highlight how much they valued it.

Is this just special pleading by the middle classes? No – because libraries are not just another public service. They are a physical embodiment of the idea that knowledge is to be cherished, both for its own sake and for its power to change lives. That was why, when they sought to improve themselves, members of the working class in the 18th and 19th centuries reached for the bookshelves. That is why Andrew Carnegie, the ultimate self-made man, devoted much of his fortune to building libraries. The design almost always included a staircase and a lantern – symbols of learning’s power to uplift the mind, and illuminate the soul.

The Telegraph tells the story behind Graham Greene's Brighton Rock (Telegraph):

Brighton Rock started out, Greene tells us, as a “simple detective story” but developed into a “discussion, too obvious and open for a novel, of the distinction between good and evil, and right and wrong and the mystery of the 'appalling strangeness of the mercy of God’”. It is set among the racecourse touts and razor-wielding gangsters of Brighton and, like Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square, Brighton Rock vividly evokes the raffish seaside town, awash with weekending Londoners who shared Greene’s own liking for pubs and beer and sausages.

Rose Macaulay remembered Greene saying that “only RCs were capable of real sin because the rest of us were so invincibly ignorant”: the psychopathic Pinkie and his girlfriend are both Catholics, and although Pinkie is intent on his own damnation, he is well aware that “these atheists, they don’t know nothing”. The “real point” of the story, Greene said, was “the contrast between the ethical mind and the religious” and it set a pattern for Greene’s later “Catholic” novels.

Earlier reports suggested that Pearson were to invest in Indian education services company TutorVista (Times Of India):
British publishing major Pearson may infuse fresh capital into TutorVista, an integrated education services company, which is raising in excess of $50 million. Pearson, which holds around 17% stake in the firm, could increase its holding as it participates in the latest round of fund raising along with new private equity investors. The entrepreneur duo of K Ganesh and Meena Ganesh, who are the investors behind CustomerAsset BPO (which became ICICI Onesource) and Marketics KPO (sold to WNS), has been holding talks with PE giants GIC of Singapore and Providence, among others. The transaction is expected to be announced in the last week of January, which may also see TutorVista announcing a small acquisition in the US.
But the company decided to buy it outright (Pearson):

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, today announces that it has agreed to increase its shareholding in TutorVista to a controlling 76% stake for a consideration of $127m. Pearson acquired a minority stake in TutorVista in June 2009 and this transaction takes Pearson’s total equity investment in the company to approximately $139m.

TutorVista was founded in 2005 by Krishnan Ganesh and is headquartered in Bangalore. The company has four main activities:

  1. Technology: TutorVista supplies digital content and technology platforms to private and government schools in India, typically under long term contracts. It currently serves approximately 3,300 classrooms;
  2. Online tutoring: it provides online tutoring services to approximately 10,000 students per month. It uses Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol and online whiteboards to connect instructors in India with school and college students, principally in North America, with developing opportunities across the globe;
  3. Test preparation and tuition: it operates a network of 60 centres across southern India delivering English language coaching courses for university entrance exams and out-of-class tuition to K-12 school children for SAT, ACT, AP and other exams; and
  4. K-12 schools: it provides a full suite of services including curriculum design, teacher training, technology solutions and school administration services to schools serving approximately 5,000 students in India.

India's government currently invests $40bn each year or three per cent of GDP in education, while Indian consumers spend more than $40bn on private educational institutions and services. Both segments of the market are growing rapidly as a result of government commitment to increase the quality of and access to learning opportunities as a means of sustaining economic growth and reducing poverty.

This acquisition further supports Pearson’s goals of building significant education companies in selected fast-growing markets and applying its learning services and technologies to support governments and institutions in making educational opportunities more accessible and more effective. TutorVista will be integrated into our education business in India and will enhance our presence in the school market in India and in tutoring across the globe in schools and higher education.

Pearson also raised their guidence for the year (Pearson):

All of Pearson’s major businesses sustained their strong trading momentum throughout 2010. We will report healthy sales growth and further margin improvement, fuelled by our consistent investment in the global learning industry, in digital services and in developing economies. As a result, we now expect to report continuing operating profits for 2010 of approximately £850m, a headline increase of approximately 20% (compared with £710m in 2009, excluding Interactive Data, which was sold in July 2010, from both years). We expect to report adjusted earnings of approximately 76p per share, an increase of approximately 16% on 65.4p in 2009, and ahead of our previous guidance of approximately 72p.

WoltersKluwer announced a joint venture with leading China drug information company Medicom (PR):

Wolters Kluwer Health today announced a joint venture with leading China drug information provider Medicom to deliver clinical decision support to doctors in China as the country prepares for significant changes to its healthcare system. The deal allows Wolters Kluwer Health to expand its market-leading Clinical Decision Support (CDS) and drug information business into the rapidly growing China market and creates a needed drug information infrastructure in China.

“The clinical decision support market in China is at a critical juncture, similar to what we saw in the U.S. market many years ago,” said Arvind Subramanian, President & CEO, Wolters Kluwer Health Clinical Solutions. “Our agreement with Medicom gives Wolters Kluwer Health a strong entry point in China and creates a solid foundation for us to introduce more advanced CDS products and solutions that will give healthcare professionals in China unparalleled access to evidence-based medicine for the advancement of healthcare.”

Medicom, located in the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan Province, has a strong footprint in the China healthcare market, providing drug information and services. Its products and services are highly complementary to those of Wolters Kluwer Health’s Clinical Solutions business, which offers healthcare professionals fast access to evidence-based medical information that helps clinicians effectively manage patient care on a daily basis. The combined offering creates a robust library of clinical content not previously available in China that physicians can access at the point of learning as well as at the point of care with patients.

OCLC's 2005 report on the perceptions of libraries was widely circulated at the time and the organization has revisited that report in a new release (OCLC):

Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community is a follow-up to the 2005 Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. The new report provides updated information and new insights into information consumers and their online information habits, preferences and perceptions. Particular attention was paid to how the current economic downturn has affected information-seeking behaviors and how those changes are reflected in the use and perception of libraries.

The OCLC membership report explores:
  • Technological and economic shifts since 2005
  • Lifestyle changes Americans have made during the recession, including increased use of the library and other online resources
  • How a negative change to employment status impacts use and perceptions of the library
  • How Americans use online resources and libraries in 2010
  • Perceptions of libraries and information resources based on life stage, from teens to college students, to senior Americans.
The membership report is based on U.S. data from an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of OCLC. OCLC analyzed and summarized the results to produce Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community, which is available for download on the OCLC Web site free of charge. Print copies of the report are available for a nominal fee to cover the cost of printing and shipping.

And those readers paying attention will recall my speech at Frankfurt last year where I discussed significant changes underway in academic libraries in how print collections are changing. Earlier this month OCLC released a report on Cloud Sourcing Research Collections (OCLC):

The objective of the project was to examine the feasibility of outsourcing management of low-use print books held in academic libraries to shared service providers, including large-scale print and digital repositories. The study assessed the opportunity for library space saving and cost avoidance through the systematic and intentional outsourcing of local management operations for digitized books to shared service providers and progressive downsizing of local print collections in favor of negotiated access to the digitized corpus and regionally consolidated print inventory.

Some of the findings from the project that are detailed in the report include:

  • There is sufficient material in the mass-digitized library collection managed by the HathiTrust to duplicate a sizeable (and growing) portion of virtually any academic library in the United States, and there is adequate duplication between the shared digital repository and large-scale print storage facilities to enable a great number of academic libraries to reconsider their local print management operations.
  • The combination of a relatively small number of potential shared print providers, including the US Library of Congress, was sufficient to achieve more than 70% coverage of the digitized book collection, suggesting that shared service may not require a very large network of providers.
  • Substantial library space savings and cost avoidance could be achieved if academic institutions outsourced management of redundant low-use inventory to shared service providers.
  • Academic library directors can have a positive and profound impact on the future of academic print collections by adopting and implementing a deliberate strategy to build and sustain regional print service centers that can reduce the total cost of library preservation and access.
From the executive summary:
It is our strong conviction, based on the above findings, that academic libraries in the United States (and elsewhere) should mobilize the resources and leadership necessary to implement a bridge strategy that will maximize the return on years of investment in library print collections while acknowledging the rapid shift toward online provisioning and consumption of information. Even, and perhaps especially, in advance of any legal outcome on the Google Book Search settlement, academic libraries have a unique opportunity to reconfigure print supply chains to ensure continued library relevance in the print supply chain. In the absence of a licensing option, online access to most of the digitized retrospective literature will be severely constrained. Demand for print versions of digitized books will continue to exist and libraries will be motivated to meet it, but they will need to do so in more cost-effective ways. In the absence of fully available online editions, full-text indexing of digitized in-copyright material provides a means of moderating and tuning demand for print versions and should facilitate the transfer of an increasing part of the print inventory to high-density warehouses. Viewed in this light, shared print storage repositories could enable a significant and positive shift in library resources toward a more distinctive and institutionally relevant service portfolio.
From the twitter (@personanondata):

Amazon Changes Digital Text Platform to Kindle Direct Publishing

Digital Publisher Vook Closes $5.25 Million Financing

Thomson Reuters Acquires Legal Publishing Group in Argentina & Chile

Bloomberg: Bertelsmann Leads $15mm round for College Textbook Publisher Flat World Knowledge, FT Says

MediaPost: Ad Networks Ordered To Stop Working With Alleged eBook Piracy Site

Publishers get a measure of India's booming English book market - The National

In sports Manchester United continue to under perform (if you must find something to criticize), but England get embarrassed again (although we don't really care about this slog).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Juliet on St Mark's Place

Juliet on St Mark's Place, New York June 1991
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.
The frame immediately preceding this one is without the girl but she makes this photo. Taken on St Mark's Place just off 3rd Avenue in June 1991, I don't even know if this building is there anymore. I think the place was some kind of community center although I'm not sure. You can see the tracings of the original windows which seems to indicate that there may be some large rec space behind that wall.

In addition to the girl it is the purple door that originally caught my eye as I walked up the street. I can only image what the color scheme inside must have looked like if the building was blue and the rooms were purple.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Toward Better Industry Sales Stats

The AAP and BISG announced their plans for the collection of sales data and will be using Bowker's industry leading data collection tools to power the work. In a jointly written letter and press release AAP and BISG have embarked on an effort to encourage wide participation and support for the initiative. Sales data collection in the US publishing market has long been rife with under reporting, limited participation and flawed logic. This combined effort represents an attempt to address all the failures of the old methods will also enabling some new analytics and value add.

From the press release:

Our efforts to improve the accuracy and quality of data collection rest primarily on the commitment and engagement of the entire industry. Book publishers’ data submissions are critical to the success of the final product. We hope we can count on your participation leading into the New Year. We have a target rollout date of May 2011.

The new data product, to be released annually in its first phase, will provide a comprehensive view of book publishing sales aggregated by revenue, units, categories, formats and distribution channels. For a review of the first cut of the data model please visit AAP OR BISG.

The industry’s response to the new joint venture has been overwhelmingly positive, due to the critical need for accurate industry data to assess changes in the marketplace. We expect the rate of publisher participation to increase exponentially, with data being provided by all vertical markets (trade, academic, professional). Moreover we are actively seeking the full engagement of large, mid-sized, small, and niche publishers. When final, the new data set will be delivered in print as well as by means of a data warehouse that will provide sophisticated tools for more detailed data access and customized analysis.

Finally, we are developing a new algorithm to estimate the size of the industry, which will complement actual reports from participants. This new methodology will incorporate data from non-publishing partners including other industry data collection services, associations, retailers, distributors and wholesalers.

We’re pleased to announce that the joint venture has retained the services of Bowker as the data collection provider for the new joint venture led by industry statistics veteran Kelly Gallagher, Vice President, Publisher Services. Kelly will be working closely with the BookStats Steering Committee comprised of Kenneth Michaels, Chief Operating Officer, Hachette Book Group; Dominique Raccah, CEO, Sourcebooks; Joe Gonnella, Vice President, Adult Trade Merchandising, Barnes & Noble, Inc; Scott Lubeck, Executive Director, Book Industry Study Group, and Tina Jordan, Vice President, Association of American Publishers. Kelly will also be assisted by longstanding AAP statistics provider Management Practice, Inc. for additional support.

We encourage you to contact the AAP’s Tina Jordan, BISG’s Scott Lubeck or Bowker’s Kelly Gallagher to participate in the data submission process. Tina can be reached at (212) 255-0275 or via email at Scott can be reached at (646) 336-7141 or via email at; and Kelly can be reached at or 908/219-0063.

Monday, January 17, 2011

BISG eBook ISBN Study Findings Released

BISG held a meeting last Thursday to review the findings from the eBook ISBN study which I conducted for the group. BISG intends to use this study as a first step in defining what the industry should do to identify eBooks and eContent for the future.

Here is a link to the summary presentation
. BISG plans to distribute the full report in some form within the next few weeks.

By way of introduction, here is the executive summary from the detailed report:
All publishing supply-chain participants want clarity and consistency in applying ISBNs to eBooks and all would like the solution to be defined and agreed by the relevant parties. The ISBN agency is virtually irrelevant to participants and most interviewees – including sophisticated players – do not understand or acknowledge important aspects of the ISBN standard. These aspects include the international community of ISBN countries, the ratification by ISO of the standard and important standard definitions contained in the standard. Many interviewees referred to the ISBN policies and procedures as “recommendations” or “best practices” and without correction each of these issues encourages misinterpretation of the ISBN standard policies.

“Bad practice” is common and enabled at all levels within the supply chain. For example, retailers have the power to reject improperly applied title-level ISBNs but pragmatically create ‘work-arounds’ in order to make the products available for sale in the shortest possible time.

One major retailer has been ‘allowed’ to reject the ISBN almost entirely (although this pre-dates the issues with respect to eBooks). It is our view that many instances of these ‘bad practices’ are so embedded they will be difficult to dislodge.

Supply chain participants self-define important terms such as ‘product’ and ‘format’ and an industry thesaurus is suggested to alleviate this practice. Without a generally accepted thesaurus, participants are able to use terms as they please to support their arguments. All participants in the supply chain would benefit from better messaging and communication that addresses standards generally and the ISBN issues specifically. Interviewees – particularly medium and small players – repeatedly requested more information and education about standards (and related) issues. In particular, all participants would like an unambiguous eBook policy that is consistently and uniformly adopted.

With particular reference to the above, most of the interviewees failed to understand or recognize the ‘business case’ for applying ISBNs to the ultimate or purchased manifestation of the product.

Arguments regarding metadata control, data analysis or ‘discovery’ have failed to make any impact in convincing participants that the ISBN policy is one they should adopt. To publishers, these arguments sound ‘theoretical’ without any practical relevance.

While the definition of a ‘product’ is problematic (as noted above) there is a more pragmatic challenge faced by ISBN. Not only are publishers combining different content elements (in addition to text) into ‘books,’ they are beginning to redefine how books are created. Publishers contemplate gathering disaggregated content into collections that are ‘published’ specific to a customer’s requirements. As a consequence, some publishers openly question the need for an ISBN as their future publishing programs develop.

While the publisher > distributor > retailer supply chain has adequately accommodated eBooks, the library market faces some unique challenges. In particular, titles available from multiple vendors and in multiple pricing packages create significant challenges to vendors operating in this segment. As eBooks become more prevalent in the library community, these issues will continue to exacerbate what is an incomplete solution to eBook identification.

The quality of meta data provided by publishers was universally derided by all downstream supply partners. In particular, very few publishers are making an effort to combine print and electronic metadata in the first instance and secondly to ensure over time that the metadata attributable to print and electronic versions of the same titles remains in sync. Repeatedly, supply chain partners referred to incomplete and inconsistent eBook metadata files and data rot in electronic metadata files over time.

Metadata quality remains an important issue and, setting aside a revision of the ISBN policies and procedures, improving metadata would be the single most important and beneficial activity publishers could undertake to improve the effectiveness of the print and electronic book supply chain.

Conclusion: There is wide interpretation and varying implementations of the ISBN eBook standard; however, all participants agree a normalized approach supported by all key participants would create significant benefits and should be a goal of all parties.

Achieving that goal will require closer and more active communication among all concerned parties and potential changes in ISBN policies and procedures. Enforcement of any eventual agreed policy will require commitment from all parties; otherwise, no solution will be effective and, to that end, it would be practical to gain this commitment in advance of defining solutions.

Any activity will ultimately prove irrelevant if the larger question regarding the identification of electronic (book) content in an online-dominated supply chain (where traditional processes and procedures mutate, fracture and are replaced) is not addressed. In short, the current inconsistency in applying standards policy to the use of ISBNs will ultimately be subsumed as books lose structure, vendors proliferate and content is atomized.
This was a fun engagement and I enjoyed the full cooperation of the participants. There remains a lot more work to be done.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Media Week (V4-N2): ISBN Identification, UK Libraries under threat, Historian Hobsbawm, The Internet and Authors

We released a summary of the BISG study on eBook identification this week: BISG

Education in the UK is migrating away from the 'academic year' construct (Independent):

Many of the courses recruiting for January/February starts are for vocational areas, in particularly nursing degrees, which can be followed at several universities including Thames Valley, Sheffield Hallam, and West of Scotland. These are popular among the growing number of applicants in their late twenties and thirties, who are no longer locked into the traditional academic year milestones.

But several other factors contribute to the growing popularity of a winter start. More students want to have their A-Level results before applying to university; some want to transfer from a course that started in October but hasn't quite worked out; and some want to start a course fitting in with a six-month break rather than a full gap year. A large proportion of winter start places go to overseas students, particularly those from countries where the academic year runs from January to December, a prominent example being Australia.

Students from abroad make up a large slice of the 700 or so joining winter start courses at Middlesex University, based mainly in the departments of business and engineering and information sciences.

"The delayed start is attractive to our overseas students for two main reasons," explains Margaret House, deputy vice-chancellor at Middlesex. "Firstly they may have had problems getting visas in time for a start in the preceding September; and secondly because it, in effect, saves them half a year's living costs."

Libraries are under serious threat in the UK (Independent):

Encouraged by David Cameron's Big Society philosophy, councils across the UK say volunteers must replace paid staff if libraries are to be saved. This week the Government will unveil its plan to give communities the right to bid to take over state-run services. But experts say that politicians have failed to understand the social, cultural and educational importance of libraries, and the role librarians play in providing services.

The Labour leader Ed Miliband said yesterday his party would back campaigns to save libraries as "a place where community is built, as families get to know each other and form friendships". A national day of action is planned for 5 February in libraries serving poor and affluent areas, countering claims by a quango leader that libraries are the preserve of the "privileged, mainly white middle classes".

Lib Dem and Tory ministers have privately expressed concern about the threat posed to libraries, but remain anxious to make clear that under the coalition, local decisions are taken without Whitehall interference. Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, has warned councils repeatedly against cutting frontline services without first looking for savings elsewhere. "The Government has delivered a tough but fair local government settlement that ensures the most vulnerable communities are protected," a spokesman said.

Library emptied in effort to fight closure (Independent)

A staple of any English history class: Eric Hobsbawm: a conversation about Marx, student riots, the new Left, and the Milibands As he publishes his latest book, 93-year-old historian Eric Hobsbawm talks communism and coalition with one of Britain's newer breed, Tristram Hunt, now a Labour MP (Guardian):

And after one hour of talking Marx, materialism and the continued struggle for human dignity in the face of free-market squalls, you leave Hobsbawm's Hampstead terrace – near the paths where Karl and Friedrich used to stroll – with the sense you have had a blistering tutorial with one of the great minds of the 20th century. And someone determined to keep a critical eye on the 21st.

Tristram Hunt At the heart of this book, is there a sense of vindication? That even if the solutions once offered by Karl Marx might no longer be relevant, he was asking the right questions about the nature of capitalism and that the capitalism that has emerged over the last 20 years was pretty much what Marx was thinking about in the 1840s?

Eric Hobsbawm Yes, there certainly is. The rediscovery of Marx in this period of capitalist crisis is because he predicted far more of the modern world than anyone else in 1848. That is, I think, what has drawn the attention of a number of new observers to his work – paradoxically, first among business people and business commentators rather than the left. I remember noticing this just around the time of the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, when not very many plans were being made for celebrating it on the left. I discovered to my amazement that the editors of the [in-flight] magazine of United Airlines said they wanted to have something about the Manifesto. Then, a bit later on, I was having lunch with [financier] George Soros, who asked: "What do you think of Marx?" Even though we don't agree on very much, he said to me: "There's definitely something to this man."

Laura Miller believes authors have avoided "dealing with the Internet" but this is now changing she says (Guardian):

Venturing back in time isn't the only option for novelists loath to address the mass media that most of us marinate in. There are also those populations cut off from the mainstream for cultural reasons, such as recent immigrants and their families – a very popular choice of fictional subject these days. And then there are those at the geographical margins, living in remote rural areas where broadband access is hard to come by. It's remarkable how many recent American literary novels and short stories are set on ranches, from writers as established as Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy to newcomers such as Maile Meloy and CE Morgan. And this is especially curious when you consider that the vast majority of the people who write and read these works live in cities and suburbs. Perhaps it's because the characters in ranch novels spend most of their time contemplatively driving long distances in trucks or climbing up snowy mountains to rescue stranded animals, scenarios in which there's absolutely no danger that a TV will be switched on or a laptop flipped open. (Real-life ranchers, of course, treasure their satellite dishes.)

As the showdown in Wallace's graduate workshop indicated, the American novelist is buffeted by two increasingly contradictory imperatives. The first comes as the directive to depict "The Way We Live Now" – a phrase whose origins in the title of a Trollope novel have been almost entirely obscured by countless deployments in reviews and publisher's blurbs. Cliché it may be, but the notion that no one is better suited to explain the dilemmas of contemporary life than the novelist persists. After the 9/11 attacks, every fiction writer of note reported receiving dozens of calls from magazine editors, each looking for insights and ruminations that a whole industry full of accomplished journalists was apparently insufficiently thoughtful to summon on its own.

Melville and Hawthorne (Telegraph):

We don’t have all the information we might like to possess about their friendship, but we do know that once, in a snowstorm, Hawthorne appeared at the back door of Arrowhead and was invited to spend the night. The two authors sat in Melville’s study all night, talking in low voices, arousing the curiosity of his wife, mother and sister, who listened closely at the door.

The extent of their intimacy is unknown, though it has intrigued biographers for a very long time. For the most part, as Sophie Hawthorne said, Melville poured his heart out, and Hawthorne listened. Certainly the few extant letters of Melville to his mentor are full of yearning. In one, he imagined the two friends sitting down together in Paradise in eternal conversation: “O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so distress us.”

iDiots' Guide To Publishing On The iPad (MediaPost):
Print publishers are screwing up what could be their biggest opportunity. Many continue to botch their Web strategy, and are now doubling down by getting their iPad strategy completely wrong.

The core of the problem lies in how publishers think about the iPad. Just look at the headlines: "Will the iPad save print?" asks one; "Savior crucified" proclaims another.

These headlines make two huge assumptions, both of which are totally wrong.

Chasing History: The first mistake is the belief that print should be "saved."

"Saving print" is the wrong goal, and chasing it will almost certainly kill publishers. Survival in the face of new technology often requires us to abandon our old ideas. We don't need a print experience on the iPad -- we need a better content consumption experience for the iPad.
And from the twitter this week:

The photography of Vivian Maier Amazing found collection of unknown photographer

Downton Abbey book rights spark £1million bidding war -

The Guardian: Librarians:'We do so much more than shelve books and say shhh' Provide "raw materials of social mobility"

New MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative Aims to Improve Independent Online Learning -

Library Journal - CES 2011: Up Close with the Kno Tablet

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Watching Buddha

Watching Buddha, Ayutthaya Thailand 2003
A weekly image from my archive. Click on the image to make it larger.

In 2003, we visited Ayutthaya which was the ancient capital of Siam until it was destroyed in a war with Burma. Aside from the ruins of the capital, this is a city of temples and definitely worth the trek out of Bangkok to see and explore the town. This is one of the many Buddha figures of varying size located all over the palace complex and was approximately 10ft high between chin and forehead.

Join me on Flickr

Monday, January 10, 2011

Findings Meeting for the Identification of e-Books and Digital Content Project

As you may know, in May 2010 the Identification of E-Books Working Group of BISG’s Identification Committee began a systematic review of the International ISBN Agency recommendations for the identification of e-books and digital content. As a result of this review, BISG hired me to "conduct an objective, research-based study that would describe, define and make recommendations for the best case identification of e-books in the U.S. supply chain."

During September and October, I conducted over 50 interviews with 70 industry personnel from across the spectrum of the publishing industry and subsequently reported my findings to the working group during November. After further internal discussions about the findings, BISG has scheduled a meeting on January 13th to discuss the findings with the wider BISG community. Participants may register here.

This was a challenging engagement given the complexity of the issue, the varying points of view and the compacted time required to complete the project; however, we believe by conducting this study we have established an unequivocal baseline that will allow the industry to address the core issues for content identification as we migrate from physical to digital products.

BISG expects results from the new Identification of E-Books Research Project will directly influence the consensus-driven process of developing best practices for the identification of e-books. This work will happen within ongoing meetings of BISG’s Identification Committee and is expected to result in recommendations to the International ISBN Agency for the further development of this important standard.

BISG and I look forward to your participation during the review of these findings and we hope you will encourage as many of your staff to attend this meeting as necessary.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Media Week (V4-N1): Digital Media Experiments, Murakami, Literary Illusion and Political Correction, Predictions, Cliche

From the Independent: Digital media offer unbounded opportunities for writers to experiment with form and conventions. So why do so many still allow themselves to be imprisoned by the traditional codex format of the book, asks Joy Lo Dico (Independent):

Pullinger started working in online fiction with the TrAce Online Writing Centre, based at Nottingham Trent University, a decade ago. "I was asked to teach online creative-story writing," she says. "Back in 2001, this was new to me. I only really used the internet for booking flights and sending emails. But after teaching the course, I found that it's a useful environment for focusing on the text, and that I had a kind of affinity for it."

Since then she has been experimenting, often in collaboration with the electronic artist Chris Joseph, on several major projects. "Inanimate Alice", which came out in 2005, is a sequence of stories about a young girl who exists between real and digital worlds. The written narrative is deliberately minimalist and built into a rich audio-visual experience. Then came "Flight Paths", begun in 2007, which Pullinger describes as a "networked novel". It was inspired by the news story of an illegal immigrant who had stowed away behind the landing wheel of an aircraft, only to fall to Earth in suburban London. In addition to her own resulting short story, Pullinger invited others to contribute their own takes on the theme. "The third phase of 'Flight Paths' is now about to come together in digital and print," says Pullinger. "The first phases were open to discussion; the third is about closing it."

Her most recent project, "Lifelines" – autobiographies of young people around the world put into historical and geographical contexts – has been specifically made as an educational tool.

Haruki Murakami in the year end issue of the IHT magazine (IHT):

There has been an especially noteworthy change in the posture of European and American readers. Until now, my novels could be seen in 20th-century terms, that is, to be entering their minds through such doorways as “post-modernism” or “magic realism” or “Orientalism”; but from around the time that people welcomed the new century, they gradually began to remove the framework of such “isms” and accept the worlds of my stories more nearly as-is. I had a strong sense of this shift whenever I visited Europe and America. It seemed to me that people were accepting my stories in toto — stories that are chaotic in many cases, missing logicality at times, and in which the composition of reality has been rearranged. Rather than analyzing the chaos within my stories, they seem to have begun conceiving a new interest in the very task of how best to take them in.

By contrast, general readers in Asian countries never had any need for the doorway of literary theory when they read my fiction. Most Asian people who took it upon themselves to read my works apparently accepted the stories I wrote as relatively “natural” from the outset. First came the acceptance, and then (if necessary) came the analysis. In most cases in the West, however, with some variation, the logical parsing came before the acceptance. Such differences between East and West, however, appear to be fading with the passing years as each influences the other.

If I were to pin a label on the process through which the world has passed in recent years, it would be “realignment.” A major political and economic realignment started after the end of the Cold War. Little need be said about the realignment in the area of information technology, with its astounding, global-scale dismantling and establishment of systems. In the swirling midst of such processes, obviously, it would be impossible for literature alone to take a pass on such a realignment and avoid systemic change.
From the WSJ Adam Kirsch on literary illusion in the age of Google (WSJ):
What this means is that, in our fragmented literary culture, allusion is a high-risk, high-reward rhetorical strategy. The more recondite your allusion, the more gratifying it will be to those who recognize it, and the more alienating it will be to those who don't. To risk an unidentified quotation, you have to have a pretty good sense of your audience: Psalms would be safe enough in a sermon, "The Waste Land" in a literary essay or college lecture, Horace just about nowhere. In the last decade or so, however, a major new factor has changed this calculus. That is the rise of Google, which levels the playing field for all readers. Now any quotation in any language, no matter how obscure, can be identified in a fraction of a second. When T.S. Eliot dropped outlandish Sanskrit and French and Latin allusions into "The Waste Land," he had to include notes to the poem, to help readers track them down. Today, no poet could outwit any reader who has an Internet connection.
And Kirsch again on the editing for political correctness (whatever that is) NYT:
“Huckleberry Finn” was intended, of course, as an attack on racism. In its most famous scene, Huck hides the runaway slave Jim from a party of slave-hunters, and then feels guilty for having done so. “I knowed very well I had done wrong,” he says, though the reader, and Twain, know he has done right. It’s a searching demonstration of the way conscience is not just innate but also learned, and how confusing it can be to do right in a society dedicated to wrong — the same kinds of questions that bedeviled Hannah Arendt at the Eichmann trial.
This is also the promise of American history, and above all of the Constitution. Unlike Twain’s novel, that classic American text was written in the expectation that it would be corrected. And it needed correction, or amendment, for the same essential reason: the framers’ imagination of the people they led was not full enough. It took a devastating civil war, whose sesquicentennial we are now observing, to revise the Constitution in the direction of justice. When the House readers decided to skip the parts of the Constitution that reveal its original limitations, they were minimizing that history, pretending that our founding document was flawless from the beginning.
IBM's top five predictions for 2015 (Kurzweil):

IBM has unveiled its fifth annual “Next Five in Five” — five technology innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years:

  • You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D
  • Batteries will breathe air to power our devices
  • You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet
  • Your commute will be personalized
  • Computers will help energize your city

IBM’s fifth annual “Next Five in Five” is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible. (Hat tip: Above the Fold)

Is “follow” the new economic model poised to take on “search”? (BOIC)
Therefore the problem (Generating wealth from the web) is far more complex, multifaceted and inter-twangled, as there is unlikely to be a single source.
  • Do I want to be directed by people I trust but I may not be able to determine their source – Follow
  • Do I want to be directed by an unknown algorithm that can change at any time and could be biased to their own needs – Search
  • Do I want to be directed by Brands – Marketing/Ads
  • Do I want to be directed by the media/ editors/ critics where I may be able to determine their bias – Broadcast/ News
  • Do I want to be directed by the fashion/ celebrity – Sales

This complex dependency is an issue that editors and bloggers have faced time over. Do I post based on what people want to read, based on clicks and response data or what I find interesting – are we (am I) adaptive or reactive, do we want to be individual or loved or make money or provide democracy or lead?

I really don’t need to know what you had for lunch and I don’t have to follow you. Follow would put me in control and can seek out value from the community and not some bland algorithm that controls what part of the web I can see. However the issue facing follow is how will I pay the platform that underpins the service?

Wrapping up
This long Viewpoint started with the idea that “follow” is the new economic model poised to take on “search” and I believe that there is value in “follow.” Reading that Google offered $3bn for Twitter makes be believe that there are other strategists who are struggling with the same issues and the value!

The war on Cliche's is not going well according to Holroyd at the Guardian:
To my mind, it is Amis's campaign against the clichés on which our outrage feeds that has failed. Is there any meaning whatever in the repeated words we hear? "Fantastic" and "incredible" seem to parody or refute the statements they are intended to strengthen. Many of our newly minted clichés have a touch of violence added to them – such as "kick-start" instead of the quicker, simpler "start", and the aggressive coating of "batter" which (as if taking orders in a totalitarian restaurant) all cricket commentators suddenly began using one morning.

Several of the phrases used by media people suggest in Big Brother style the exact opposite of what they say – radio as well as television presenters claiming they will see us again in the next hour, day or week when surely it is we who may see or hear them. And everywhere there is the sound of single-syllable words, such as other people's "mums" or the soldier "boys" who are tragically killed in battle, which signal our everlasting child-status.

We need to be particularly careful when examining the language of bureaucrats and economists. I think I can see through "transparency" pretty well, but I cannot remember the words we used before "infrastructure" came into being – probably they were simple words such as "roads". "Efficiency", I realise, means spending as little as possible on something and, by not "throwing money at it", doing it on the cheap. So the word "efficiency" has come to mean almost the opposite of "competence". The phrase I particularly dislike, because I believe it to be deliberately misleading, is "taxpayers' money", which is used whenever the government is making absolutely certain nothing will happen. It is a bogus phrase because it generally refers to money which actually does not belong to the individual taxpayer such as you and me. What we are legally obliged to render unto HM Revenue and Customs belongs to our elected government. The taxpayer's money is what is left in her bank after her Revenue cheque has been cashed – but that is not what politicians mean when they use that phrase as an excuse for positive inactivity.
Q Magazine's top Albums from the past 25yrs (Q)

From the Twitter (@personanondata):

New ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Edition Does Disservice to a Classic -

The Irish Times: What shops have to do when their products go digital

Announcement: ProQuest acquires eBrary

Girl gang's grip on London underworld revealed via @.