Sunday, September 11, 2011

MediaWeek (V4, N36): Amazon Digital Library, Piracy, Newspaper Disruption, Private Blackboard + More

Jeff Trachtenberg of the WSJ reports that Amazon may be looking to launch a digital lending library for books.
It's unclear how much traction the proposal has, the people said. Several publishing executives said they aren't enthusiastic about the idea because they believe it could lower the value of books and because it could strain their relationships with other retailers that sell their books, they said. Amazon didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday. The proposal is another sign that retailers are looking for more ways to deliver content digitally, as customers increasingly read books and watch TV on computers, tablets and other electronic devices. Seattle-based Amazon makes the popular Kindle electronic reader and is expected to release a tablet to rival Apple Inc.'s iPad in coming weeks, people familiar with the gadget have said
Spotting The Pirates from The Economist and like most things piracy isn't simple:
Media piracy is more common in the developing world than in the rich world (see chart). The most piratical countries are places like China, Nigeria and Russia, where virtually all media that is not downloaded illegally is sold in the form of knock-off CDs and DVDs. But there is also great variation among rich countries. Piracy is far more widespread in the Mediterranean than it is in northern Europe, including Britain. America may be the least piratical country of all—oddly, since Napster was born there.
The result is that big labels have pruned their Spanish operations. Universal Music has shed a third of its Spanish staff. Max Hole, who runs Universal’s businesses outside America, says the firm is “holding out” in Spain, but largely in the hope that it will discover an artist who appeals to Hispanics in the United States. Mr Kassler says EMI is spending five or six times as much in Germany, a low-piracy market where music sales are declining more gently—by 11% between 2006 and 2010.
Again from The Economist their last essay in their recent special section on the Newspaper industry (Econ):
In the past decade the internet has disrupted this model and enabled the social aspect of media to reassert itself. In many ways news is going back to its pre-industrial form, but supercharged by the internet. Camera-phones and social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter may seem entirely new, but they echo the ways in which people used to collect, share and exchange information in the past. “Social media is nothing new, it’s just more widespread now,” says Craig Newmark. He likens John Locke, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin to modern bloggers. “By 2020 the media and political landscapes will be very different, because people who are accustomed to power will be complemented by social networks in different forms.” Julian Assange has said that WikiLeaks operates in the tradition of the radical pamphleteers of the English civil war who tried to “cast all the Mysteries and Secrets of Government” before the public.
News is also becoming more diverse as publishing tools become widely available, barriers to entry fall and new models become possible, as demonstrated by the astonishing rise of the Huffington Post, WikiLeaks and other newcomers in the past few years, not to mention millions of blogs. At the same time news is becoming more opinionated, polarised and partisan, as it used to be in the knockabout days of pamphleteering.
Not surprisingly, the conventional news organisations that grew up in the past 170 years are having a lot of trouble adjusting. The mass-media era now looks like a relatively brief and anomalous period that is coming to an end. But it was long enough for several generations of journalists to grow up within it, so the laws of the mass media came to be seen as the laws of media in general, says Jay Rosen. “And when you’ve built your whole career on that, it isn’t easy to say, ‘well, actually, that was just a phase’. That’s why a lot of us think that it’s only going to be generational change that’s going to solve this problem.” A new generation that has grown up with digital tools is already devising extraordinary new things to do with them, rather than simply using them to preserve the old models. Some existing media organisations will survive the transition; many will not.
From New York magazine and Boris Kachka on Why Debut Novels are Big Business Again:
But a funny thing happened on the way to austerity: growth. Book-publishing revenue is up almost 6 percent since 2008, and the monster advances are back, too—seven for first novels in the past year. “They’re coming back in a big way,” says Eric Simonoff, an agent at William Morris who sold a debut for more than $1 million in February. It may be that overspending isn’t such a luxury after all but a publicity pre­requisite, the only marketing gesture anyone believes anymore. HarperCollins’s Jonathan Burnham, who bid in the Harbach auction, often makes news by dropping seven figures on debuts, like Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, which posted disappointing sales, and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, which was more of a success. Burnham acknowledges the power of “measured overpaying”—“if it’s the right fit for the list, and it makes the right statement,” he says. “It creates a sort of sense of destiny, and in most cases, that’s a huge advantage. It becomes a source of gossip and excitement in the trade. Everyone’s twittering away about it—in the old-fashioned sense of twitter
Kachka refers to a Slate article entitled MFA vs NYC written by Chad Harbach (Slate)
The IHE hosted Digital Tweed blog has poses interesting set of speculations regarding the consequences of the privatization of Blackboard. This clip is from the intro of a long post: (DigitalTweed);
It’s been 20 days since the announcement that Providence Equity Partners would acquire Blackboard. The acquirer became the acquired in this transaction: Blackboard, which has spent more than a half a billion dollars over the past five years to buy a range of technology firms that focus on the education market (Angel Learning, Elluminate, iStrategy, NTI, Presidium, WebCT, and Wimba, among others) agreed to be purchased for approximately $1.64 billion.

Not surprisingly, the message from Blackboard, as reflected in a public letter from Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen, a blog post from Blackboard Learn president Ray Henderson, and an accompanying set of FAQs – is, in essence, that the sale to Providence will have little impact on the company’s relationship with clients. Chasen’s letter announced that he and the current management team “will remain in place and we do not anticipate any changes [in Blackboard’s] day-to-day operations.” Henderson’s blog provided some additional rationale for the financial deal, suggesting that private ownership frees management from the quarterly pressures to report continuously rising revenue and profits: “private equity now provides an alternative ownership model that’s more agile…firms like Providence include very long-term investors…willing to take longer-term perspectives.” Henderson also proclaimed that that the new owners “share our vision of improving the education experience for our clients, and of the mission critical role [Blackboard’s] platforms play in teaching and learning today.”
Repost from The Chronicle of Higher Ed: An Era of Ideas.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, The Chronicle Review asked a group of influential thinkers to reflect on some of the themes that were raised by those events and to meditate on their meaning, then and now. The result is a portrait of the culture and ideas of a decade born in trauma, but also the beginning of a new century, with all its possibilities and problems.
From the twitter this week:

Google to Buy Zagat:

Elsevier's Scopus Data Drives Visualization of International Collaborative Research Networks for Max Planck MarketWatch

HathiTrust full-text index to be integrated into OCLC services [OCLC]:

Amazon’s Future Is So Much Bigger Than a Tablet | Epicenter |

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