Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Great Debate: Authors and readers are all that matter. Publishers will soon be irrelevant

From CCC:
First introduced at the 2011 London Book Fair, the “Great Debate” made its North American debut earlier today at the 27th Annual IBPA Publishing University! Four leading industry pundits argued for and against the resolution: “Authors and readers are all that matter. Publishers will soon be irrelevant.

Taking their sides were Rudy Shur, Publisher of Square One; Richard Nash, founder of Cursor, and named by Utne Reader as one of 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World; Daphne Kis of SheWrites.com, longtime publisher and new media advisor; and Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, and named by the Wall Street Journal as one of “Eight Stars of Self-Publishing”

Moderators were Susan Danziger, CEO of DailyLit, and Michael Healy, Executive Director of the Google Book Rights Registry.

The Audio is here

Monday, May 30, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N22): Patriot Act, ALA Preview, Revolution Writing + More

Patriot Act is Extended for another Four Years (LJ)

The extension leaves unchanged Section 215 (also known as the "library records provision"), which has always been a serious concern to the library community. Under the provision the FBI can ask a federal court for access to "any tangible thing"---including library records---relevant to a terrorist threat.

"ALA is more than disappointed in the final outcome," said Lynne Bradley, the director of the office of government relations for the American Library Association. "The library community has sought reasonable Patriot Act reforms since it was first posposed in the fall of 2001, and this would have been another opportunity to fix some of the grievances we have. But Congress decided to punt instead," she said.

ALA Preview from Publisher's Weekly starts off ominously:
In New York City, the New York Public Library (NYPL) system is celebrating its centennial—and facing potential funding cuts totaling $40 million, the worst hit in its 100-year history.

Indeed, despite absorbing a cut in FY2010, NYPL logged 40 million physical visits to libraries throughout New York City last year alone—more than all the local sports teams combined. In addition, there were 29 million visits to the NYPL Web site. If the proposed cuts go through, officials estimate the library may have to cut 650 full-time positions; hours would be trimmed to an average of three to four days per week; five million fewer items would circulate, and new book acquisitions would be cut by a third. One million fewer children and young people would be served by the library, and overall attendance would dip by an estimated six million. NYPL supporters are fighting back (takeaction.nypl.org), but it promises to be a tough battle.

Things aren't much better elsewhere in the Atlantic states. At the Harford County Public Library, in Belcamp, Md., the materials budget remains flat after sustaining a 20% cut in FY10. In North Carolina, the Charlotte Mecklenberg Library system has seen its proposed materials budget drop from $3.39 million in FY08 to $1.8 million in FY11. For the FY12 budget, the library has requested approximately $2 million be restored, and administrators are hopeful that the request will be considered.

With government help, the auto industry made a remarkable comeback in 2011—libraries in the industrial heartland could now use some support as well. The Detroit Public Library's FY12 budget, originally set at $35.5 million, is set to be reduced to $23 million. Tax revenues through 2015 are expected to be lower by almost 30%, according to spokesperson Atiim J. Funchess. Just last March, facing a $7.49 million deficit, Detroit laid off 20% of its library work force and lowered salaries by 10%.

In Dallas, the public library's materials budget has decreased from $3.9 million in FY06–07 to $1.6 million in FY10–11. In Houston, the Public Library's FY12 budget will shrink to $32 million, down from $39.3 million in FY10.
A Revolution in Writing from SEED Magazine:
Nearly universal literacy is a defining characteristic of today’s modern civilization; nearly universal authorship will shape tomorrow's.

In our analysis, we considered an author’s text “published” if 100 or more people read it. (Reaching 100 people may seem inconsequential, but new-media messages are often re-broadcast by recipients, and then by their recipients, and so on. In this way, a message can “go viral,” reaching millions.) Extrapolation of the Twitter-author curve (the dashed line) predicts that every person will publish in 2013. That is the ceiling: 100 percent participation. Provided current growth continues, the prediction of imminence is robust. Increasing the stringency of the criterion for “publishing” from 100 to 1,000 readers would reduce new-media authorship tenfold, but merely delays the predicted 100 percent participation by a year under this model

From the twitter this week:

Sesame Street and Friends 'pumping out left wing messages' -

Elevator Repair Service Performs at New York Public Library -

Groupon Counts on Writers and Editors to Build Its Audience -

From Shelves to Internet: America's Digital Library Takes Shape

New crowdfunded publishing project signs up major names

What Upstarts Can Teach Established Presses:

New Stats: E-Reader Usage Growing Much Faster Than Previously Predicted

HP finishes Paul McCartney’s private digital library

California Gay History Plan Widens Textbook Divide With Texas -

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Expands Middle East Presence with Launch of Qatar Office

Rupert Murdoch uses eG8 to talk up net's power to transform education

And in Sports:

MU played off the field by Barca (I don't understand it either)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Won't Get Fooled Again - Intelligent Life

Long article/interview with Pete Townshend (Intelligent Life):
The Who as we know them came into being in 1964, and soon became the most powerful, iconic and humorous emblem of the Mod movement. But their scope would extend far beyond a fashionable subculture. On stage, they were all you could hope for in a rock band: brutally arresting, unnervingly unpredictable and blisteringly loud. Then as now, pop music was dependent on a character-led plot to thrive, and The Who offered much. There were Daltrey’s Tarzan acrobatics with a swinging microphone, and the raw emotion in his voice, ranging from angelic yearning to a raging throttle. There was the bassist John Entwistle’s prowling menace, the traditional “quiet one” turned dangerous uncle. There were Townshend’s scything windmills of excitement and improbable leaps, vividly illustrating the visceral force of his songs. And then there was Keith Moon, a complex public lunatic, who lived as he drummed, with every complex flaw on brazen display. On their best nights, such as the one captured on the album “Live at Leeds” in 1970, the crowd witnessed a type of bombastic heist, an excessively glorious musical offence.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Auckland and The Big I: March 1971

Auckland and The Big I: March 1971
Another weekly image from the family archive.

We lived in Auckland, NZ between 1969 and 1973 at the Intercontinental which is the large building in the center of this photo. Taken in March 1971, you can imagine Auckland has changed significantly since then and now resembles Seattle quite a bit. Auckland even has a needle and many office towers but in those days the Big I was one of the largest (if not the largest) building in the city. The distance from the hotel to the docks wasn't far and my mother used to take us for walks around the piers which were both operational; hence the freighter on the left, and completely accessible. We would have walked around the pier in the center of this shot many times. Later I recalled, they built a large container crane which we could see constructed from our living room window and with that access to the docks gradually dissipated.

Join me on Flickr.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BookExpo: Day Two Wednesday - Stifling a Yawn

A good show day and, while I left as the cleaning staff arrived, a long day but mostly a day of boredom. The same conversations about the same problems spoken by the same people.

At one session I went to neighbor of the blog Bruce Lubin admitted that "digital is a pain in the ass" and to 'publishers of a certain age' there's a tendency to have some twenty year old take on the digital stuff. But, he cautioned 'you are doing yourselves a disservice by not taking on this responsibility yourself'. It seems to me an obvious truism but sadly a reflection of the continued hesitancy of the industry to embrace the new digital world. That anyone would have to say this in 2011 and for it to be internalized by 'publishers of a certain age' is regrettable.

During the day, I ventured into the bowels of Javits where something called Blog World was holding exhibits. While small, the vibe here seemed much more dynamic. Some companies seemed to have their entire staff on their booths and for all the black jeans and other requisite accoutrements of trendy new media I got the strong sense that I could expect this exhibit space to grow in size while I am less sure of the space upstairs where all the brand name publishers are exhibiting. Time will tell.

Yesterday I covered the comments from DRMAbuse but today's pithy comments come from The Reading Ape who numbers his/her observations:
2. Imprints from the Middle East had some seriously huge and beautiful booths. Though, much like a mall in Dubai, they were huge, beautiful, and empty.

4. There was one guy sitting the lounge outside the registration area with a weird hat advertising his book PROVING GOD. He sat there alone and made no move to pitch anyone his book or move about at all. I guess they don't make evangelicals like they used to.

12. The L. Ron Hubbard landing craft was a bit smaller this year, though it was more informative. Did you know you can get Dianetics in over 37 Earth languages?

17. A truckload of digital publishing businesses who all provide weirdly vague services. Can't help but think this is a kind of carpetbagging before the war is over.
Passing by the Dubai 'exhibit' two blonds (booth candy) conversing about what they planned to wear that evening but otherwise the booth was completely empty.

NY Times columnist Julie Bosman on the digital offerings at the Bookfair:

For three days the attendees wander the exhibit halls, mingling, promoting books, listening to speakers and collectively musing over the state of the industry over the past year. They have a lot to discuss. E-books have exploded, surpassing print sales for some new releases. The struggles for many brick-and-mortar bookstores have deepened as their customers began downloading books onto their e-readers from home rather than heading to stores.

Easily eliciting the most chatter was Amazon’s announcement on Sunday that it had hired one of the industry’s best-known veterans, the publisher turned agent Laurence J. Kirshbaum, to head a new imprint for Amazon that will publish general-interest titles. On Wednesday Amazon said it had acquired a book by the thriller writer Barry Eisler, who had announced this year, with much fanfare, that he was abandoning a six-figure contract with his publisher out of dissatisfaction with the traditional book industry.

Largely without insight but Jason Pinter's comments in the HuffPo mixed reality with entertainment:

She was an aspiring author, having completed a historical romance novel that she'd been working on for several years. She described it as "The Help, only better," and had come to BEA in hopes of enticing one of the hundreds of publishers in attendance to take a chance on her manuscript. "Everyone who's read it loves it," she said, adding that she refused to leave the conference without finding a home for her book. She was the kind of person, she told me, who wouldn't take no for an answer. For a brief moment, my unfortunate cynicism kicked into gear. As a former editor, I've been pitched by aspiring authors so many times at BEA and in other locations that I, for an instant, forgot what it felt like to be an author desperately hoping that my manuscript would find a home. I immediately felt wretched for this knee-jerk reaction, but one thing that reaction did is illuminate my feelings about BEA, and allow me to understand why it is so vital to the publishing industry.

It can be summed up in one word: Hope.

This woman's dreams, in a way, represented the dreams of every publishing professional packed into the steamy, Internet-unfriendly Javits Center. Every one of the 30,000 attendees entered BEA with dreams--and at BEA they all seem so tantalizingly possible. Amidst all the doom and gloom recently penned about the publishing industry, whether the opinions are actually informed or merely Chicken Little crowing at the sky (hello, Garrison Keillor and the New York Observer!), BEA exemplifies the passion and enthusiasm that is the backbone of the publishing industry. And that passion, in the face of all the changes, upheaval and negativity, is still wonderfully alive and kicking.


@Lmarknyt the lines for mindykaling and jimmyfallon at #BEA11 were too long... but i did get a free galley by an obscure croatian poet

@emilyw00 Kay: textbooks moving increasingly toward testing and diagnostics, Norton will have to decide what to develop or acquire there.

@IrisBlasi: Overheard @ Google: "Publishers are like venture capitalists for authors."

@nikki_blogworld Views from the Show Floor: Between the awesome sessions at BlogWorld today, I got a change to ... http://bit.ly/lVMtIg

Towards the end of the day, twitter abounded with the news that the "Kobo party rocks" but since I wasn't invited that's the last time I mention Kobo (ever).

Day 1: Tuesday
Set-up Monday

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BookExpo: Day One Tuesday

Publishers have been known to be a bitchy lot but this year most of the bitching on day one seemed to be focused on the intermittent and or ineffectual wireless access on site at Javits. Perhaps the LA Times' Jacket Copy blog put it best: With so many writers, the 3G clogs like the 405 -
With New York's Javits Center filled with most everyone in publishing -- the staffs of major houses, representatives from bookstores across the country, authors, self-publishing houses, Scientologists (L. Ron Hubbard was an author), academic publishers, even media types like me -- capturing a 3G signal long enough to get a blog post online has been a challenge. We're all writers, after all.
Typical of conferences going back as far as I can remember is the requisite: What is The Future of [fill in the blank] and unsurprisingly it was eBooks this year and the seminar was written up nicely by Ed Champion:
“Publishing does not know how to market ebooks yet,” said Schnittman. “You’re looking at bestsellers tracking with bestsellers. Everything that we’re marketing in the stores is selling just as well.” I became skeptical of Schnittman when he started clenching his left hand, a gesture reminding me of some dodgy villain from a melodrama. Schnittman liked to talk quite a bit.

“Let’s be honest with ourselves,” continued Schnittman. “We’ve never marketed backlist before.”

These rather assumptive generalizations had me wondering if Schnittman had ever settled his precious hands onto the raw joys of genre or contemplated the way in which an author winning an award often results in backlist titles being repackaged. And what about presses like the University of Chicago Press, finding new life for Anthony Powell and Richard Stark?


When Turvey asked why all the book recommendation engines sucked, he allowed Schnittman to fall into his Socratic trap. (The unvoiced assumption: what is a bookseller but the ultimate book recommendation engine?)

“I think people do use it,” huffed Schnittman, when Turvey brought up the failed Genius feature in iTunes. “You use it with a caveat that it sucks.”

Then he got a little defensive. “You in the world of algorithms, you’ll figure out something theoretically better and better.” He then suggested that “the tail was wagging the dog,” before attempting to retract this because he had “used it yesterday. Nobody quote me on that one.”

I kept wondering why this apparent professional was more concerned with l’esprit de l’escalier rather than legitimate ideas. But at least he wasn’t as bad as Close, who again declared her willingness to argue in lieu of a legitimate argument: “I would argue we have always cared deeply about our consumers.” But for Close, that care has more to do with “buzz meters” and point-of-sale data.

Does the emperor have any clothes? Much more of the above from his post.

Over at Paid Content Laura Hazard Owen commented on the same session:
Though none of the panelists, publishers all, were ready to say they don’t care about consumers—Random House Digital President Amanda Close immediately responded that “we have always cared deeply about our consumers”—they admitted that they’re facing stiff challenges in getting readers to discover new e-books.
If you've been frustrated in trying to get hold of show dailies for shows like BookExpo, Frankfurt and LBF perhaps the Digital version of the BEA Show Daily that uses the Exact Editions system

And on the heals of yesterday's announcement from Kobo about their new touch screen eReader that continued to generate a lot of commentary, B&N announced a new version of their Nook. Whereas the Kobo seemed to generate digital oh's and arh's all day, the Nook seemed to generate not a lot. Having said that some non-industry commentators such as Mashable seemed to view the growing B&N eReader story as evidence of the imminent demise of the Kindle. Which of course is laughable.

Noted twitter comments from the day included:

@ Sitting here staring at my useless netbook wishing I could grab the wifi and smack it around a little

@ China mobile is key, mobile is in every far removed corner of the country, in areas where no other tech has penetrated.

@ Chinese domestic authors getting much bigger advances than foreign authors get, even $1 million, very competitive

RT @ebooknewser's account of the BN reveal of its touchscreen device. It's $10 more than the

@ My thoughts on where Trade publishing and the value chain is right now >> No New Normal - The Value Web:

Stats in digital content / ebook use

BEA Video Interviews: Oren Teicher, CEO, American Booksellers Association |

LinkDAY 2 - Wednesday
Setup Monday

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bookexpo Set-up Monday

BookExpo hadn't even started before news that Larry Kirshbaum, was taking up a role with Amazon as their head of publishing dropped like the proverbial pin. Will B&N, which is rapidly growing their eBook and publishing business, adopt a similar approach? Meanwhile Kobo announced a new reader this afternoon which got many excited enough to start pre-ordering new equipment (more from LATimes)

At the IDPF conference there was much anticipation over the launch of ePub 3.0 which is nicely written up by Good eReader:

Primarily, this version of EPUB was formed from the working groups of the IDPF with the cooperation of over twenty companies who have come on board to implement it to their devices, and iBooks already support a subset of EPUB 3 right out of the gate while Adobe Digital Editions has forward plans. Additionally, one of the requirements from the IDPF was that EPUB 2 files still work on any device that uses EPUB 3, voiding any fears of obsoleteness and erasing participants’ concerns about needing to reformat EPUB 2 files to the new version.

The biggest crowd response came from the news that audio and video playback are synchronized with the text in real time through Media Overlays, as well as the fact that there is a pronunciation lexicon support . The new format will also mean greater global use, as the vertical language format for Japanese, as well as the right-to-left requirements from several languages will be workable; however, the real excitement there was that the entire book doesn’t have to be formatted for the one language, making it possible now to have a text with different language standards in it.

And they have some interviews in the rest of the article.

At the same conference Hannah Johnson wrote up the session: Publishers Debate Future of Enhanced E-books (PubP):
While the future of enhanced e-books and apps remains hazy, it’s clear that publishers are thinking a lot about how to monetize their content. They are making big investments (including the development enhanced e-books and apps) in order to find a solution. Nash is focused on building value through a community of writers and readers. Raccah at Sourcebooks has been successful building enhanced e-books and apps. This is just more evidence that the future of publishing isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario.
At the ABA sponsored Publishing University Susan Danziger, CEO of DailyLit and Michael Healy, executive director of the Book Rights Registry reprised their London BookFair roles as moderators of the big debate: Authors and readers are all that matter. Publishers will soon be irrelevant. Here written up by Publisher's Weekly's Danny Snow:
Nash closed in favor of publishers, citing 18 million creative writers today who want to reach the 65 million consumers who spend five hours a week reading. He concluded that publishers are the essential link between readers and writers, especially independent publishers.
Not surprisingly, in the post-debate balloting (with a larger portion of the audience participating), the publishers in the audience voted for themselves again -- but in smaller proportion: 68 voted for publishers; 33 voted against publishers; 9 were undecided
Finally Library Journal held a Day of Dialog and here are some selected tweets (#LJdod11) where Karin Slaughter seems to have made an impact:

@acornsandnuts: I don't want, as a librarian, to have to be the gatekeeper for quality. Publishers (& editors!) have such a important role to play

@HuisceBeatha: If you cut library funding, you decrease access to books, "the great leveller" in a democracy, says Slaughter

@DonLinn: Library tweets are making a compelling case for libraries as a benefit to publishers...not just to the community

@AudioGo: Books are power. Library is way of giving access to everybody , great equalizer-Slaughter

@acornsandnuts: I don't think our patrons care about advocacy in large enough #s to have it matter. Note what came up earlier re: the NYC libs.

@glecharles: Are publishers paying attention to library social media efforts? Critical discoverability point; how to support, partner?

@surlyspice: notes Karin Slaughter is just as adorable as she was last year, only now she is helping to save libraries all across the country.

@glecharles: Karen Slaughter notes history of book banning, forced illiteracy to control people. Ebooks + digital divide a similar angle?

LinkDAY 2 - Wednesday
DAY 1: Tuesday

Nook Color: Perfect for Magazines

From the NYTimes,

Recent best-seller lists for magazines on the Nook Color bear this out. Magazine top sellers include US Weekly, Shape, Women’s Health and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Men’s magazines like Maxim and Men’s Health rounded out the top 20 late last week, but they were the outliers.

On the surface, the reason for the strong performance of female-oriented publications on the Nook is relatively straightforward. Generically speaking, the iPad and other tablets are men’s toys, while the Nook Color and other e-readers are more popular with women. According to data from Forrester Research, 56 percent of tablet owners are male, while 55 percent of e-reader owners are female. Women also buy more books than men do — by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers — and are therefore more likely to buy devices that are made primarily for reading books.


Not only have the terms of selling magazines on the Nook Color been comparatively easy to negotiate, but the process of creating electronic versions of magazines is also far easier and less expensive than it is to create an iPad edition. Publishers need only send a PDF of their latest issue, and Barnes & Noble takes care of the rest.

“As soon as a magazine is ready to send its pages to the printer, they send them to us,” said Jonathan Shar, Barnes & Noble’s digital newsstand manager. “It’s very efficient, and that’s part of our strategy. We knew that was important to publishers.”

Nature's $49 eTextbook

The financial times is reporting that on Tuesday Nature publishing will announce an experimental eTextbook offering pricing an electronic textbook at $49 for lifetime usage including frequent updates to the content. More from the FT:

The inaugural textbook in this new programme, Principles of Biology, will be used by three California State University campuses beginning this autumn.

Gerry Hanley, senior director for academic technology services at Cal State, said the university intended to expand the programme. On two campuses, students will be responsible for purchasing the digital textbook dihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrectly from Nature. The third Cal State campus will purchase a site licence for the textbook and pass the cost along to students, a model similar to the way academic journals are sold.

The transition from an ownership model to an access model is already upending the music and film businesses, and Nature believes textbooks could be next. The textbook business is already under assault from websites such as Chegg.com, which match buyers and sellers of used textbooks. Nature’s new programme could provide yet another hitch.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N21): End of World Edition - An Essay on Privacy, Books & Marketing, Libraries + More

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed an essay on privacy from law educator Daniel J. Solove: Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide' (Chronicle):
Most attempts to understand privacy do so by attempting to locate its essence—its core characteristics or the common denominator that links together the various things we classify under the rubric of "privacy." Privacy, however, is too complex a concept to be reduced to a singular essence. It is a plurality of different things that do not share any one element but nevertheless bear a resemblance to one another. For example, privacy can be invaded by the disclosure of your deepest secrets. It might also be invaded if you're watched by a peeping Tom, even if no secrets are ever revealed. With the disclosure of secrets, the harm is that your concealed information is spread to others. With the peeping Tom, the harm is that you're being watched. You'd probably find that creepy regardless of whether the peeper finds out anything sensitive or discloses any information to others. There are many other forms of invasion of privacy, such as blackmail and the improper use of your personal data. Your privacy can also be invaded if the government compiles an extensive dossier about you.

Privacy, in other words, involves so many things that it is impossible to reduce them all to one simple idea. And we need not do so.
Matthew Ingram looks for the lessons in the success of Go the Fuck to Sleep (GigaOm):
What some call “piracy” can actually be free marketing, as noted by some prominent authors. Neil Gaiman, for example, has said he was initially outraged by unauthorized sharing of his books, and tried to help his publisher stop it, but eventually he came to the conclusion that what piracy really amounts to is “people lending books.” As he put it in a video interview earlier this year:
[U]nderstanding that gave me a whole new idea of the shape of copyright and what the web was doing. Because the biggest thing the web was doing is allowing people to hear things, allowing people to read things, allowing people to see things they might never have otherwise seen. And I think, basically, that’s an incredibly good thing.
Another prominent example of this is Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. The well-known fantasy author doesn’t just take piracy in stride — he has actually assisted people in pirating his own books, by uploading copies of them to file-sharing networks (as has Gaiman). In the case of one book, doing this with a Russian translation helped build awareness of his other books in that country, where Coelho now sells millions of copies. He pirated his own works over the protests of his publisher, but the outcome was spectacularly successful.
From PaidContent's Laura Hazard Owen: How Libraries Are Bypassing Big Publishers To Build Their E-Book Offerings (PaidContent):
As a result of these restrictions by big publishers, McCormack says librarians are turning to smaller presses, which are generally less restrictive about offering access to their ebooks. Library Journal‘s arrangement with NetGalley will introduce librarians to new titles from many of these smaller e-book-only romance publishers. Angela James, Executive Editor of Harlequin’s Carina Press, estimates that over half of digital-first content is in the romance genre.
James predicts that romance e-book originals will be a hit for libraries. “Romance readers are such voracious readers and they can’t afford to buy all that content,” she says. They also tend to be very loyal to specific authors, so checking out e-books in libraries gives them a chance to try out authors they’re unfamiliar with, she says.
The (NY) Observer profiles Bonnie Fuller while also rehashing the nastiness and doesn't provide a punch-line (Observer):
After walking away from Us Weekly at her peak, surprising colleagues and inviting still more biting press attention, it was on to American Media Inc., where she'd been hired as editorial director overseeing a number of titles, including Star. Ms. Fuller's fall was sudden and would have seemed almost random had it not made for such delicious wish-fulfillment among those who'd long rooted for her demise.
When she left American Media in May 2008, with plans to start a new company, Bonnie Fuller Media, few were heartbroken by the reversal of fortune. Ms. Fuller planned, vaguely, to take on cyberspace with a web startup that promised, as this paper put it, to "approach Ms. Fuller as a brand" and "feature her blogging about topics such as gossip, fashion, and romance."
Real life 'Dad’s Army' revealed in secret diary Life in the Home Guard was often as hapless and farcical as the antics depicted in Dad’s Army, a newly-discovered diary suggests. "Yes, Captain Mainwaring, Sir" (Telegraph)
The diary shows that, like Captain Mainwaring, Mr Foster is constantly frustrated at the actions of his platoon, with both the young and old members proving unreliable.
In one incident, he describes sending a pair of young volunteers off to guard a remote waterworks overnight. He is not confident that they will stay awake, so he walks to the spot to check. Sure enough, when he arrives all is quiet, as he makes his presence heard, he can hear the guards waking up.
In another incident, a rifle target practice session ends in farce because, having split the platoon into competing teams of old and young members, Mr Foster finds the more elderly volunteers cannot hit the target because of their poor eyesight.
Another exercise involved stacking two lots of chairs up opposite each other in the parade hall to create makeshift trenches. Members of the unit then had to attack them using “dummy grenades”. Again, the age of the volunteers showed, so while the “old men” did well, they were forced to “give in from fatigue”.
The unit also take part in a mock invasion exercise at night time, but a number of elderly members decline, because they are scared of going out in the dark.

No doubt lost on many....Whenever we are at home and Dad's Army comes on Mrs PND has been known to wail "Oh no, not Dad's Army again".

From the twitter:

Librarians fight for a role in a digital world: Globe&Mail

Waterstone's future looks positively Daunting

Re-winding A Clockwork Orange with Malcolm McDowell - video

Frederick Forsyth: 'I had expected women to hate him. But no...’

Philip Roth: "I'm not caged in by reality"

Sterling Partners With HarperCollins UK On Reprints Of Classic Thrillers
- Len Deigton and Alistair MacLean

Houghton Mifflin launches $250K education challenge

Pearl Jam to release new book, documentary & album to mark anniversary

Google ditches newspaper archive plan

Hargreaves report recommends overhaul of copyright laws

And in Sport: Champions of England for a record 19th time (MEN)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hanging Chickens: Chinatown

Hanging Chickens, Chinatown New York 2007
Another weekly image from the family archive.

This image is from Grand Street in Manhattan not that long ago. Walking through this part of town is like entering a different environment entirely although one that is very familiar to anyone who has visited Hong Kong. In some respects Grand Street is a mirror image of parts of HK.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BISG in Transition: Scott Lubeck Resigns

Very surprising news from BISG this morning that Executive Director, Scott Lubeck has resigned for personal reasons and will return home to Austin, TX.

Here is the release from BISG this morning:

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG), the industry's leading trade association for policy, standards and research, today announced that Scott Lubeck, Executive Director, has resigned for personal reasons and will be returning to Austin, Texas. Deputy Executive Director Angela Bole has been named to fulfill the functions of the Executive Director on an interim basis, working closely with members of the BISG Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

“BISG has grown enormously in the last two years, tackling bigger issues, expanding the Board of Directors and developing important new initiatives,” said Dominique Raccah, Chair of BISG and Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of Sourcebooks. “On behalf of the BISG Board and the Executive Committee, I wish Scott well in his future endeavors and thank him for his contributions, which have benefited BISG tremendously.”

“I have appreciated the opportunity to serve this important organization and to work with its Executive Committee, Board, membership and staff,” Lubeck said. “It has truly been an honor. I intend to remain a vital part of this industry, and to remain active in BISG and a supporter of its many initiatives.”

Kenneth Michaels, Vice Chair of BISG and Chief Operating Officer, Hachette Book Group, reports that BISG has formed a Search Committee to identify candidates for its Executive Director position. “The Search Committee is seeking a candidate who will expand and enhance the resources BISG provides,” Michaels said. “The book industry looks to BISG for leadership, innovation and vision in a changing marketplace, and we look forward to identifying a candidate who embodies those qualities.” BISG has engaged the services of Bert Davis & Associates to manage the search for a new Executive Director.

“New BISG resources, best practices and research projects are developing at an amazing pace,” said George Tattersfield, Vice President Merchandising, Ingram Content Group Inc., and BISG Treasurer. Over the next few months, he noted, BISG will be releasing:

  • BookStats, the fruit of a joint venture with the Association of American Publishers that provides a comprehensive view of book publishing sales aggregated by revenue, units, categories, formats and distribution channels
  • a series of webcasts on selling more books with metadata
  • best practices for e-book identification
  • a standardized vocabulary for streamlining rights transactions in the digital era.

More information on these initiatives and others in process is available from Angela Bole at angela@bisg.org or 646-336-7141.

Beyond the Book: Marybeth Peters on Copyright

From CCC:
On Monday, May 9, Copyright Clearance Center traveled to Washington, D.C. and the Newseum‘s Knight Studio for a lively and fascinating discussion on “Copyright and Commerce.”

First to speak with CCC’s Chris Kenneally was Marybeth Peters, U.S. Register of Copyrights, 1994 to 2010. “If you’re a member of Congress today, members identify with authors, they identify with publishers, but they also identify with their constituents and with consumers, with electronics companies and technology companies. They have a lot of people who are in front of them trying to tell them what is the best way to move forward with the copyright law.”

Topics discussed included the Google Books Settlement, about which Marybeth Peters, U.S. Register of Copyrights, 1994 to 2010, gave her opinion that copyright is, and should remain, an opt-in system, where content creators own the right to their works by default, as opposed to the proposed Google model of opt-out, where all works are free to use unless a creator objects to it.

Also discussed were new technologies in publishing with Tim Jucovy, Associate Counsel at The Washington Post, describing the paper’s experience with news aggregator iPad app Zite, which was aggregating Washington Post content, along with many other publishers, without permission from the paper. Jucovy described how The Post, along with 9 other publishers, successfully dealt with the situation, offering lessons for other publishers on how to handle similar scenarios.

Also of note from the Guardian today a report on how the UK may take new look at copyright (Guardian).

"Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago, with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators' rights, are today obstructing innovation and economic growth?" said Hargreaves. "The short answer is: yes."

Hargreaves said that the single biggest failing in the current system relates to copyright – "once the exclusive concern of authors and their publishers" – for which the current laws are "falling behind what are needed".

"The UK cannot afford to let a legal framework designed around artists impede vigorous participation in these emerging business sectors," he said. "This does not mean, however, that we must put our hugely important creative industries at risk".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

MediaWeek (V4 N20): Ebooks in the Classroom, Writers Life, Libraries Matter, Bob Marley

Inside Higher Ed on the use of eBooks in the classroom (almost an ongoing series):

E-textbooks, meanwhile, have continued to lag. Only 5 percent of the survey respondents said they purchased access to an e-textbook this spring. Two percent bought e-textbooks for more than one class. The most common reason for going electronic? “My professor required me to.”

Tablet computers, and especially the iPad, have nonetheless seized the cash and imaginations of students. As far as cachet, the Apple device is not quite as “in” as beer — but it is neck-in-neck with coffee, according to the survey, which polls students on a broad range of media and "lifestyle" tastes. More relevantly, the iPad is just as “in” (Student Monitor did not qualify the term) as laptops, even though 87 percent of respondents owned a laptop while just 8 percent owned an iPad. Nearly half reported being “interested in purchasing a wireless reading device,” with 70 percent of those students saying they had their eye on an iPad.

In fact, various forms of technology nearly swept the top trends on college campuses, with “drinking beer” the only non-tech interruption in a top 5 dominated by Facebook, iPhones, text messaging, and laptops. (“Working” and “going to grad school” were considered less “in” — though to the extent that the term might be interpreted as an observation of what is cool and/or new, that might not come as a surprise.)

Unique approach to testing at the University of Southern Denmark (IHEd):

On the issue of plagiarism and cheating, Petersen said that while there would always be legitimate concerns, online assessment presented a novel solution to the problem. "One way of preventing cheating is by saying nothing is allowed and giving students a piece of paper and a pen," she said. "The other way is to say everything is allowed except plagiarism. So if you allow communication, discussions, searches and so on, you eliminate cheating because it’s not cheating anymore. That is the way we should think."

Southern Denmark currently uses a plagiarism-detection program called SafeAssign, which is produced by Blackboard. Papers are checked against databases of source material before being delivered to lecturers for marking.

Petersen said that another benefit of the new Web-based system was that a strict limit could be imposed on the length of work submitted by students. This would force them to rethink how they write and prevent them from copying and pasting from other sources, she said.

Aspiring to be a writer yet with no idea what that means (Intelligent Life):

Stunned by a survey that showed "writer" as the number one career goal of British youth—ahead of astronaut and footballer—Sarah O'Reilly at the British Museum saw the project as a way to put across the real challenges that come with the profession. Culled from hundreds of hours of archived interviews, the excerpts "provide a useful corrective to the idea that the writing life is a glamorous life," she says. Indeed, aspiring writers should anticipate inhabiting a "place of total and complete solitude," offers Linda Grant, a novelist included in the collection.

Yet these CDs are instructive, too, with authors weighing in on developing characters, finding ideas, researching context and figuring out how it all works together. The nitty-gritty of when, where and how—pencil, pen or computer? Morning or night? Each day or as the spirit calls?—are as varied as the writers. If there is a single bit of common advice, it is to (in the words of Penelope Lively): "read, read, read". About this, everyone agrees. "You learn how to structure a novel from looking at the great novels of the past," says Philip Hensher, a novelist. As Peter Porter, a late Australian poet asks, "If literature had no effect on you, why would you write it?"

Laura Miller in Salon writes about Why Libraries Still Matter (Salon):

Some would also say that it's a superfluous part. Public libraries across the nation and the globe now face drastic funding cuts from politicians and administrators who often claim that they're obsolete. For months, Britain has been rumbling with protests against plans to close as many as 400 local branches. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he was cutting all state funding to California's libraries, leaving cities to pick up the slack. Defenders of such cutbacks typically ask why, in the age of Google and e-reader devices, anybody needs libraries.

Let's set aside the obvious rejoinder that many citizens can't afford e-readers and, furthermore, can only access Google via a library computer. The anniversary of the NYPL's main building is an occasion to talk about why the library needs to be a place as well as an ethereal mass of data residing somewhere in "the cloud." Not everything we need or want to know about the world can be transmitted via a screen, and not every experience can be digitized.

Related is my write up from a talk at NYPL a few weeks ago (PND)

On Bob Marley and his death after thirty years (Slate):

Marley has had an astonishingly successful commercial afterlife—the booming sales of his catalog virtually created the world-beat music category, paving the way for countless Buena Vista Social Clubs and Gipsy Kings—but his artistic reputation may never recover from it. His musical legacy has been hijacked and simplified by his cheesier fans (all those trustafarians toking in his memory). In turn, the music cognoscenti and hipsters seem to hold his mainstream appeal and lame followers against him. The fact that Marley is known by his weaker recordings like Legend or Exodus (which Time magazine—bizarrely to anyone familiar with the Marley canon—named "album of the century") doesn't help his cause.

Bob Marley's golden period was the three albums he cut with the original Wailers and the brilliant, certifiably insane, Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry: Soul Rebels, African Herbsman, and Rasta Revolution. These records are more satisfyingly complex, both lyrically and instrumentally, than much of Marley's later work. The Perry recordings are steeped in R & B and soul harmonies, but also tough. (Marley's earliest British fans were punk rockers.) The albums' layered rhythms—trancelike and jolting, like reggae by gunfighters—anticipated dub music and later stars like King Tubby and Augustus Pablo. When the English producer Chris Blackwell took over in 1973, intent on making Marley a star, the music, despite a couple of great albums, notably Catch a Fire! and Natty Dread, became steadily more mellow and digestible.

The Economist asks why the Patent Office can't keep up (Economist):
INNOVATION and jobs have become a modern version of motherhood and apple pie in Washington, DC. Everyone in America’s capital wants lots more of both, or so they say. So how come Congress and the White House have decided not merely to underfund a crucial cog in American’s innovation machine but actually to take away revenue it earns? And that at a time when that cog, the Patent and Trademark Office, is already struggling to keep up with the growing demands upon it? The recent budget deal for fiscal 2011 (the year to September 30th) allows the Patent Office to spend only $2.1 billion. That is less than it expects to collect in fees from applicants—$100m or so will disappear instead into Treasury coffers—and far less than it needs to do its job properly.
From the twitter:

The Original Chick-lit -

Richard and Judy in WH Smith deal - News, Books -

Elmore Leonard: 'To have a clear head in the morning was a new feeling for me'

GO the Fuck to Sleep - How it all happened.

EBSCO Publishing Extends Reach of Content with New iPhone App

Audible Creates Audio Rights Exchange,

Associated Press Report: Borders has possible bidder on some stores (Forbes)