Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pippa Middleton's Sudden Fame Syndrome:

Pippa Middleton gets £400,000 for a party planning book.  Amusing assessment from the Independent :
The party tome is a classic Sudden Fame Cash-In Book, a low-brow genre even less dignified than the celebrity memoir. Whereas the latter tends to appear towards the end of a lengthy entertainment career, the former tends to be rushed out in haste soon after the author's first exposure to the public's gaze, for fear that their appeal may not survive the year.
The most recent example is Nancy Dell'Olio, who announced two weeks ago that she is to write a "lovers' guide" (with pictures of herself in saucy knickers). Ms Dell'Olio was known for years only as the hyper-maquillaged Italian girlfriend of the England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, but her celebrity was fast-tracked by her appearance on this year's Strictly Come Dancing.
An earlier example of the cash-in author, someone persuaded to produce a book despite having no particular talent or subject, was Christine Hamilton. Known only for her on-camera handbagging of Martin Bell during the 1997 election campaign, when he stood against her husband, Neil Hamilton, she was ridiculed by the press as a classic Tory harridan and Home Counties termagant. So, following the famous advice that when it's raining lemons you make lemonade, she published The Book of British Battleaxes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MediaWeek (V4 N48): Orwell on Police Actions, Dickens and Economist Book Festival + More

Conor Friedersdorf writing in The Atlantic asks What Orwell Can Teach us About OWS and Police Brutality
In Burma, Orwell remembers, every British police officer was a target of constant ridicule. "When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter," he writes. "This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves." The next passage captures what it is like to be a man trapped in a system you wouldn't have chosen and don't particularly like:
I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically - and secretly, of course - I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos - all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East...

All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.
Perhaps you know the rest of the story. Orwell gets a call about a mad elephant stampeding through the village. It killed one man. Being the officer in charge, he is expected to do something.
I am sure Niall Ferguson could find a silver lining in there somewhere (Guardian)


An exhibition at the British library makes the claim the Dickens stole a ghost story from a rival (Guardian):
Exhibition tells how Charles Dickens was spooked by ghost tale doppelganger: Bicentennial show at British Library says rival accused Dickens of plagiarism but author said he was amazed by story similarities.

The Economist running a books festival in combination with their annual book of the year round-up. (Economist):
The process starts in mid-November when we e-mail all our reviewers, soliciting their advice. This year, for the first time, we also ran a competition among our readers on Facebook.
The rules are simple: to be included a book needs to have been published in English between January 1st and December 31st 2011.

A handful have already been selected to feature in The Economist’s first “Books of the Year” festival at London’s SouthBank Centre. Among these is “A History of the World in 100 Objectsby Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, which began as a radio programme early in 2010; a new edition of the book is out this month. Also appearing will be Edmund de Waal, who opens the festival with a new illustrated edition of his bestselling family memoir, “The Hare with Amber Eyes”.
Join me on Twitter: PND

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Flying Freight

Joe Sharkey the peripatetic business traveller is like me having to deal with a life with no status - frequent flyer that is (NYT):
Lacking status, I was unable to choose a seat assignment at booking. At check-in, my seat assignment was 36C, an aisle seat in the next-to-last row for the first long leg of the flight, on an A320 operated by United with 138 seats — 90 in basic economy, where the seats had a paltry 31 inches of legroom.
Boarding with a coach ticket, bereft of status, is an exercise in knowing one’s humble place these days. You wait there, listening to the gate agent summoning the ranks into formation, starting with first class, working through the elite-status levels, then to the travelers holding various airline-branded credit cards. Medieval theologians who devised the ranks of heavenly hosts in the Celestial Hierarchy — seraphim and cherubim first, common angels last — used a simpler formula.
When I finally made it to the jetway at the tail end of the line, an airline employee blocked my way. “You need to gate-check that,” she said, grabbing my small backpack and slapping a tag on it.
More surprises awaited after takeoff. In the seat next to me was a man with a very large child on his lap. The child kept hitting me, which is a lot to put up with in cramped conditions on a four-hour flight. There were two lavatories in the back of the plane, one of which the flight attendants declared was “broken.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Media Week (Vol4, No 47): Lobbying for On Line Learning, Loan Bubble + More

A long article on how government lobbying activities have brought about significant changes in the prospects for online learning companies (Nation):
Despite the clear conflict of interest between her lobbying clients and her philanthropic goals, Levesque and her team have led a quiet but astonishing national transformation. Lobbyists like Levesque have made 2011 the year of virtual education reform, at last achieving sweeping legislative success by combining the financial firepower of their corporate clients with the seeming legitimacy of privatization-minded school-reform think tanks and foundations. Thanks to this synergistic pairing, policies designed to boost the bottom lines of education-technology companies are cast as mere attempts to improve education through technological enhancements, prompting little public debate or opposition. In addition to Florida, twelve states have expanded virtual school programs or online course requirements this year. This legislative juggernaut has coincided with a gold rush of investors clamoring to get a piece of the K-12 education market. It’s big business, and getting bigger: One study estimated that revenues from the K-12 online learning industry will grow by 43 percent between 2010 and 2015, with revenues reaching $24.4 billion.

In Florida, only fourteen months after Crist handed a major victory to teachers unions, a new governor, Rick Scott, signed a radical bill that could have the effect of replacing hundreds of teachers with computer avatars. Scott, a favorite of the Tea Party, appointed Levesque as one of his education advisers. His education law expanded the Florida Virtual School to grades K-5, authorized the spending of public funds on new for-profit virtual schools and created a requirement that all high school students take at least one online course before graduation.

“I’ve never seen it like this in ten years,” remarked Ron Packard, CEO of virtual education powerhouse K12 Inc., on a conference call in February. “It’s almost like someone flipped a switch overnight and so many states now are considering either allowing us to open private virtual schools” or lifting the cap on the number of students who can use vouchers to attend K12 Inc.’s schools. Listening to a K12 Inc. investor call, one could mistake it for a presidential campaign strategy session, as excited analysts read down a list of states and predict future victories.
And somewhat related: Is there a bubble in student education costs? ( New Yorker):
The bubble analogy does work in one respect: education costs, and student debt, are rising at what seem like unsustainable rates. But this isn’t the result of collective delusion. Instead, it stems from the peculiar economics of education, which have a lot in common with the economics of health care, another industry with a huge cost problem. (Indeed, in recent decades the cost of both college education and health care has risen sharply in most developed countries, not just the U.S.) Both industries suffer from an ailment called Baumol’s cost disease, which was diagnosed by the economist William Baumol, back in the sixties. Baumol recognized that some sectors of the economy, like manufacturing, have rising productivity—they regularly produce more with less, which leads to higher wages and rising living standards. But other sectors, like education, have a harder time increasing productivity. Ford, after all, can make more cars with fewer workers and in less time than it did in 1980. But the average student-teacher ratio in college is sixteen to one, just about what it was thirty years ago. In other words, teachers today aren’t any more productive than they were in 1980. The problem is that colleges can’t pay 1980 salaries, and the only way they can pay 2011 salaries is by raising prices. And the Baumol problem is exacerbated by the arms-race problem: colleges compete to lure students by investing in expensive things, like high-profile faculty members, fancy facilities, and a low student-to-teacher ratio.
From the twitter:

Anthony Burgess archive reveals vast body of previously unseen work
Guardian

Hilary Mantel novel Wolf Hall will be part of a trilogy 
Telegraph

Nora Roberts: The woman who rewrote the rules of romantic fiction
Guardian

Reed Elsevier fails to impress analysts despite revenue growth Reuters

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lake Taupo and Mt Ruapehu, September 1971

Lake Taupo and Mt Ruapehu, September 1971
Another weekly image from my archive. Click on it to make it larger.

The PND family lived in New Zealand between 1969 and 1973.  With one  black and white TV channel there were few reasons to stay indoors.  A favorite place for week long visits was the Lake Taupo/Wairakei area which is located almost in the center of the North Island.

As you can see from this image it's (was) quite scenic.  There are hot pools and volcanic sites all around this area which make it even more interesting for young boys. So we had a lot of fun.  That's the family Brett's Peugeot up front on the highway.  Where they are now I have no idea.

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

I now have an iPad version of this book for sale ($4.99) on the Blurb site which you can find here: STORE

I have to say, even on the iPad the book looks pretty good.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Economist Profiles Springer's Digitization Efforts

The Economist takes a look at how Springer has approached the digitization of their entire backlist/archive of books. They already provide electronic access to 50,000 titles published since 2005 but now they are looking at the remaining archive of 65,000 titles. Springer has been at the forefront of book digitization efforts and some may remember in the early days of the Google Scholar effort they were frequently the most active participants in panel discussions on the subject. (Economist):
Scanning Springer's backlist proved no mean feat. First, the company had to figure out for which works Springer holds copyright, surveying records at all the firms swept up in recent years, says Thijs Willems, who heads the book-archiving project. To create a definitive list his group scoured old catalogs and national libraries. They eventually assembled an archive of 100,000 print books in English, Dutch and German, many of which were different editions of the same work. The firm arranged access from libraries to those that Springer had lost due to the vagaries of time, war, etc. It decided to scan only the last available edition of a given work; earlier editions might be added to the trove in the future.
and they end with this,
Springer has painstakingly produced the highest possible quality of scans, principally to avoid having to start from scratch when today's viewing technology is superseded by something dramatically better. Mr Willems and his team also embedded rich metadata—details like author, date of publication, number of pages, and so on—in standard formats which are likely to persist for a while. They took especial care in reproducing illustrations. These digital books are, after all, meant to last for ever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Needless Government Regulation

About four years ago when I realized I was not only running out of book shelf space but that I had many books that I would never touch again, I decided to open a book store.  I do like collecting books and as with many book lovers each title exerts some type of talismanic feeling when you look at them and think about where you were and what you were doing when you were reading said title.  But this post has nothing to do with that.

Rather than throw the books out on the street or donate them (which I've done before) I decided to put them up for sale on Alibris.  For the first few years sales weren't so bad but with the recession and the fact my inventory is less than half what it was I only sell about a book every four months.  It looks like I am now saddled with about 100 books that will probably never sell.  I've been thinking about closing the store for a while but imagine my surprise when I recently visited the Alibris site and I was asked to present my social security id for tax purposes.  I'm selling books for 99c and the IRS want to tax my earnings: I'm not against taxation but this is completely nuts.  My cost of goods are ten times my selling price; do I have to hire an accountant to do my book sales taxes?

I'm pulling the shutters down on the store.  And it's not Alibris' fault by the way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 46): WW I Archive Goes Online, Mrs Beeton's 150, Silicon Valley's Daily, Cookbook Aps +More

An archive trove of documents relating to the first world war is to go online (Guardian):
Living witnesses to the war may no longer be with us, but British archives still hold a wealth of original documentation from those years and, although much of it is in danger of crumbling away, the range of testimony held by the British Library helps to broaden understanding of the war.
In an unprecedented effort to make this material available to the widest possible public, the library is to join forces with 12 European partners – including national libraries in Rome, Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen – to put key documents and images on the internet. The new three-year project, Remembering the First World War, will be finished in time for the ceremonies to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war in 2014. 
More than 400,000 first world war source materials, many of them rare and highly fragile due to the deterioration of the paper on which they are printed, will be freely available online for the first time. Those interested in finding out more about the conflict will no longer have to apply to see documents in person in the reading rooms of Europe.
"It is particularly important that this project includes organisations that were involved in different sides of the conflict," said Jamie Andrews from the British Library, who is leading the British project.
Mrs Beeton's cookbook is 150 years old. How do the recipes stand up? (Intelligent Life):
Beeton was a hard-pressed journalist rather than a practised cook: her biographer, Kathryn Hughes, says there is no evidence “that Isabella was interested in cooking”. Compiled under pressure of deadline, the recipes were shamelessly purloined from other cookbooks. Beeton’s claim in advertisements for the book that every recipe was tested seems doubtful, judging by her odder instructions. She maintains that large carrots should be boiled for 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours and macaroni for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Oddly, her recipe for haricot mutton contains no haricot beans, and she suggests that Brussels sprouts “may be arranged on the dish in the form of a pineapple”.  
On the plus side, “Household Management” is punctuated with background information about food. We learn that black turkey “approaches nearest to the original stock and is esteemed the best”. Beeton’s advice on fresh-cooked lobster could scarcely be bettered for precision. It should have “a stiffness in the tail which, if gently raised, will return with a spring”. Current culinary opinion has come back to her view on butter, “nutritious and…far more easily digested than any other of the oleaginous substances sometimes used in its place”. And the book as a whole provides a magnificent panorama of food in the middle of the 19th century. Along with items that have remained mainstays of British cuisine—rib of beef, pork pie, Welsh rarebit and bread-and-butter pudding (“better for being made about two hours before it is baked”)—there are numerous other recipes that have been forgotten.
The Columbia Journalism Review notes some sloppy citations on the Poynter Romenesko blog and all hell brakes loose (Poynter):
One danger of this practice is that the words may appear to belong to Jim when they in fact belong to another.
This style represents Jim’s deliberate choice to be transparent about the information’s origins while using the source’s own words to represent his or her work. If only for quotation marks, it would be exactly right. Without those quotation marks, it is incomplete and inconsistent with our publishing practices and standards on Poynter.org.
A long discussion of the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley’s own daily, which as CJR notes was poised to ride the digital whirlwind. What happened? (CJR):
Dave Butler has been a newspaperman since 1972, a self-described journeyman who became the editor of the Mercury News in 2008. The paper had been sold two years earlier by its longtime parent company, Knight Ridder, to the McClatchy Company. McClatchy in turn quickly sold it to MediaNews Group, whose chairman, Dean Singleton, put Butler in charge. Three months into the job, Butler wrote a memo to the staff, outlining a vision that could essentially be boiled down to a simple premise: the past could no longer animate the Mercury News. The days of four hundred people in the newsroom, revenues of $300 million and profit margins north of 30 percent, a bureau in Hanoi, aPulitzer for foreign news, Spanish and Vietnamese language editions, and a Sunday magazine, were gone. The staff of the Merc, now about half the size it was at its peak in the late 1990s, had no choice but to press on with vigor and a sense of mission: “Let’s carve some new trails in the jungle of journalism!”

Butler has the advantage of having missed his paper’s past, and so is unencumbered by the memory of what the place had been, not so long ago. Randall Keith knew. He had arrived earlier, in 1998, just in time to watch the great tech bubble inflate, carrying the Merc along with it. He had left a job as city editor of the Quincy, Massachusetts, Patriot Ledger to join a paper with a national reputation both for its journalism and its profitability. Time magazine had several years earlier dubbed the Merc the nation’s most tech-savvy newspaper. Its revenues from classified advertising—especially recruitment ads for all those many high-tech companies whose every product roll out and inevitable IPO were covered by the paper’s burgeoning business staff—had fueled ever more revenue, $288 million the year Keith arrived.
From the Observer: Ahmed Mourad was Hosni Mubarak's personal photographer and a thriller writer. (Observer):
"I was ready to explode because I had been living a dual life for five years, like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," says the dapper, quietly spoken Mourad. "During the day, I spent hours working with Hosni Mubarak – a man who had been burying the dreams of Egyptians for three decades – and at night I was with my friends, who were cursing him and wishing he would disappear. What was really making me angry was that I knew the Egyptian people were destined to live better and he was the reason why that wasn't happening." 
So was Mourad in fear for his job – or, indeed, his life – when Vertigo appeared? He does not answer the question directly. "I didn't think it would be published, but I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn't written down what I was thinking, if I hadn't joined the revolution," he says. "I would have regretted my silence."
I'll have an App for Christmas dinner (Observer):
Yet those domestic chefs who have long treasured their dog-eared copies of classics by Elizabeth David, Madhur Jaffrey or Delia Smith may find it difficult to accept a technological upgrade. Whether a favourite cookbook is marked with telling splashes and scribbled comments, or is merely read in bed, performing the function of a familiar comfort blanket, it still delivers something that the food writer and television presenter Jay Rayner suspects cannot be replaced.
"A cooking app is a brilliant thing, until you have to turn the page with hands caked in dough. A stained cookery-book page is a mark of commitment; a stained smartphone is a trip back to the shop," he suggests.
To develop the look of the new apps, publishers have brought in designers to draw up cartoon-like cooking aids that avoid the high production costs of filming a live chef working in a kitchen. Early internet services, such as the innovative British website Videojug, are still proving popular, but new, stylish, illustrated apps are coming up fast. From next summer even the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York will require its students to come equipped with a tablet computer pre-loaded with the school's new app.
From Twitter:

The future of books? Publishing by numbers: IrishTimes


Self publishing textbooks online saves Minnesota school district $175,000 (Link)

Australia gives up battle protecting its publishers, will reduce timeframe for retention of territorial copyright (PW)

Alec Baldwin hands over $250 Large to East Hampton public library. (EHampton)


Friday, November 11, 2011

Milking Snake Venom

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

There are six or seven images from this scene at a snake farm in Bangkok (August 1969). Yes, there are such things as snake farms and here the guy in white is showing the audience the snakes innards and in particular its fangs.  I've no idea what kind of snake this is but its about 15feet long and a gross yellow color.   I hate snakes but to these guys it's just another day in the office.

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

I now have an iPad version of this book for sale ($4.99) on the Blurb site which you can find here: STORE

I have to say, even on the iPad the book looks pretty good.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

BISG E-Book Consumer Study & Student eBook Usage

BISG released the next edition of their consumer study yesterday and among the findings they reported:
  • Power Buyers are spending more. More than 46% of those who say they acquire e-books at least weekly (considered “Power Buyers” in this survey) report that they have increased their dollars spent for books in all formats, compared with 30.4% of all survey respondents. This statistic is important because Power Buyers have proven to be a bellwether of overall consumer behavior by three to six months. 
  • Amazon momentum continues. Amazon.com continues to be the preferred source for e-book acquisition (holding steady at 70%) and e-book information (44%). Barnes & Noble comes in second at 26%, with Apple in third. One to watch: libraries, which are on the upswing as a preferred source for e-book acquisition. 
  • Satisfaction with e-reading devices is high. Seventy-five percent (75%) of respondents reported they are satisfied with their e-reading device, including more than 38% of respondents who reported being “very satisfied.” Less than 5% said they felt their e-reading device was not a good value for the money. 
  • Many barriers to e-book reading are falling. Survey results indicate that concerns about e-book availability are diminishing. And although the cost of e-reading devices remains a reported concern, the single most popular answer to the question of what hinders respondents from reading more e-books was “nothing” at 33% (up from 17.6% a year ago).
The full press release is located HERE

Interestingly, eBrary (which has the same corporate owner as Bowker the BISG partner) also released some findings from their global student eBook survey last week in advance of the Charleston conference: There findings we summarized in a press release:
Key findings of the survey of more than 6,500 students include the following: 
  • E-book usage and awareness have not increased significantly in 2011 over 2008 
  • Preference for printed books over electronic books has not changed: Both are still equally 
  • important 
  • The vast majority of students would choose electronic over print if it were available and if better tools along with fewer restrictions were offered
  • There is a need for reliable social media tools geared toward research 
“These survey results suggest digital content and services providers need to re-think our approach: Until more electronic content is available simultaneously with print, we cannot lose sight of the value of printed books to end-users, who expect to find the most authoritative information at the point of need. To accomplish this we need better integration and tools to increase the availability and discoverability of all types of information, both electronic and print,” said Kevin Sayar, President and General Manager of ebrary. “We do not take data points from this survey lightly, and we thank the library community for working with us to gather important knowledge that will help shape the future of the information industry.”

Beyond the Book: How Social Media is Keeping Alive the Journal Article

From CCC's Beyond to Book series, How Social Media is Keeping Alive the Journal Article:
Scholarly communication is rapidly changing, and information managers in private companies and other sectors are finding new ways to serve their users. Social media, mobile devices, data mining, semantic technologies and other developments are creating a whole new environment for publishing. Yet the old standby – the journal article— seems to have no real rival yet. 
In this edition of special programming from RightsDirect, CCC’s European subsidiary, Madrid-based Victoriano Colodrón speaks with Hervé Basset, a Paris-based expert in scientific information management, who blogs in English and French, and is currently writing a book on social media for the pharmaceutical industry.

Basset tells Colodron how the increasing professional use of social media by company researchers is influencing the use of more traditional sources of information, including scientific journals. He also explains why the growing use of social media is changing the role and the work of corporate information professionals.
 
Link to the Audio
Download Transcript 

Monday, November 07, 2011

Erotic German Publisher is Catholic!

For any Frankfurt book fair attendee the idea that the average German trade publisher would publish some erotic fiction would be met with a shrug.  More surprising would be a publisher that didn't, but when the publisher in question is the Catholic church then the whole thing degenerates into a race to characterize the entire Church as a porn broker.

From the Independent, there's pornography in the opening paragraph:
Germany's biggest Catholic-owned publishing house has been rocked by disclosures that it has been selling thousands of pornographic novels with titles such as Sluts Boarding School and Lawyer's Whore with the full assent of the country's leading bishops.
But then it is mere 'erotic' in the third:
Buchreport revealed that Weltbild's massive assortment of titles available to customers online includes some 2,500 "erotic" books with unmistakably lewd titles including Call Me Slut!, Take Me Here, Take Me Now! and Lawyer's Whore, to name a few. The publisher's website also pictures the titles' lascivious dust jackets that feature colour photographs of scantily clad women in high heels and erotic underwear.
Perhaps more interesting is the news that the church appears to be managed by some hard nosed business people who aren't afraid to shrug off a little criticism. Weltbild is a company with an annual turnover of €1.7bn and is Germany's largest bookseller after Amazon.
The Catholic Church bought Weltbild more than 30 years ago. The publisher has gradually transformed itself into one of Germany's largest media companies with the help of some €182mof Catholic Church tax levied on believers. To increase its profits, in 1998 the company merged with five other publishing houses that market pornographic titles. One of them is Droemer Knaur, which is 50 per cent church-owned. Another is Blue Panther Books, which was excluded from the list of participating publishers at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair allegedly because of the pornographic content of is titles. 
On their website they threaten to sue the slanderers.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Media Week (Vol 4, No 45): The New A&R, Problem Biographies, Scan your Books, Education, Libraroes + More

Changing the way music stars are made (Economist):
David Joseph, who runs the British arm of Universal Music, says A&R men used to be alchemists, discovering base talent and turning it into gold. “They made dreams come true,” he says.
These days they are venture capitalists. Particularly at big labels such as Universal, A&R executives increasingly expect acts to have built a self-sustaining, if modest, business before they offer them a recording contract. 
Large numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers help show that a band has traction. But record labels have become wary of social-media indicators. They know that desperate bands may chatter about themselves or hire marketing firms to inflate their online metrics. The labels also want to know whether a band is drawing a steadily growing number of people to its gigs. The bar rises constantly. Mumford & Sons (pictured), a successful folk-rock outfit from bucolic west London, had amassed a large live following and had released several EPs before signing with Island Records in 2009.
Louis Adler, CEO of Melbourne University Press reflects on the Julian Assange biography imbroglio (TheAge):
When publishers and authors resort to lawyers, injunctions, and secret book drops to bookshops, things have gone haywire. Demanding an advance is returned is rare, retrieving the cold, hard cash even less likely. Contracts, deadlines and copyrights may have legal force but the relationship always depends on good faith. One cannot bully a writer into delivering a manuscript good enough to publish or on time. That is why it is in the interests of both publisher and author to keep it ''nice'' and renegotiate when deadlines loom or the editorial direction differs from the original brief, or when the author wants to put ''your'' book on hold while they write another book for another publisher.
Scan all your books - yes, there's a service for that (Economist):
1DollarScan is the American outpost of the Japanese firm Bookscan, founded to solve the problem of scant space in Japan's poky urban dwellings and to prevent damage caused by bookshelf-toppling earthquakes. (Bookscan has no relation to Nielsen BookScan, an American retail-sales-tracking service). Ship your volumes to 1DollarScan, and the company will slice off the spine, and charge $1 for every 100 pages scanned. (The firm also scans routine documents and photos.) It uses high-speed Canon scanners, with optical-character recognition (OCR) software developed jointly by Bookscan and Canon. The process does not yet produce text in standard e-book formats; instead, customers receive PDF files that show the scanned image, but also have whatever text was successfully extracted in a separate, searchable layer. The resulting files are chunky: tens of megabytes per book, or 100 times bigger than Amazon's Kindle titles. But it is a start. 
Hiroshi Nakano, the boss of 1DollarScan, says a few thousand books have been received in the first month or so of operation. And that is before the firm has begun its marketing drive, or adapted its Japanese-language smartphone software (for reading and managing user accounts) for English speakers. One early surprise has been the linguistic diversity of books sent over: besides English, there have been Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic titles, among others. Boxes of books are being shipped in from Europe, too, in English and other languages. (The firm uses slightly different OCR software depending on the language in question.) Another difference is the volume of individual orders. Where Japanese customers send batches of 150 books, the California-based service is seeing an average closer to 30.
Commentary on the Dot Earth blog at the NYTimes about developing a different approach to education:
As I’ve written here before, finding and disseminating education methods that foster creative, collaborative and resilient learning and problem solving is a prime path toward fitting human aspirations on a finite planet. Nicholas Kristof’s recent column, “Occupy the Classroom,” explores relevant terrain. This approach is also particularly useful in the face of prolonged economic uncertainty. 
Notably, the potential learning-by-doing role of American students and scholars in advancing human prospects in struggling regions came up today at a meeting organized by the United States Agency for International Development (which just celebrated its 50th anniversary) and hosted by theWoodrow Wilson Center. Alex Dehgan, the science and technology adviser to the agency’s administrator, said you’ll know we’re there “when we have students not asking what is your major, but what is your problem.” 
Current classroom norms, which Goyal described as the “culture of fill in the bubble tests and drill-and-kill teaching methods,” aren’t a good fit in a complicated, connected, competitive world.
Nic Kristof in the NY Times takes a look at Room to Read which is one man's approach to solving illiteracy around the world (NYTimes):
I came here to Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book at a library that his team founded in this village in the Mekong Delta — as hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if they were the rarest of treasures. Wood’s charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools. 
Yes, you read that right. He has opened nearly five times as many libraries as Carnegie, even if his are mostly single-room affairs that look nothing like the grand Carnegie libraries. Room to Read is one of America’s fastest-growing charities and is now opening new libraries at an astonishing clip of six a day. In contrast, McDonald’s opens one new outlet every 1.08 days.

Talks under way to save UK's biggest music and drama lending library http://gu.com/p/335ka/tw

A jewel of an of obit, by Margalit Fox: Jimmy Savile, TV Personality, Dies at 84: http://nyti.ms/w0jozP

In sports: Sir Alex Ferguson describes his 25yrs as a fairy tale. http://bbc.in/vTSWAV



Friday, November 04, 2011

Melbourne Cup 1973

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

It was race day in Melbourne this past week and the annual big race produced the closest finish in history.  I am not 100% certain this is the actual race from 1973 but it was taken in the right month and there would have been little other reason to visit the track.  I bet that skyline looks a little different now.

I'm not a big horse racing fan, but I did place my first bet - I didn't do it someone else did it for me because I was too young - a few years after this.  I think it was in something called the Cheltenham Cup and the horse was "How Now" which came in a close second.  I had him to place and I think I won about $6.  I quit while the going was good.

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

I now have an iPad version of this book for sale ($4.99) on the Blurb site which you can find here: STORE

I have to say, even on the iPad the book looks pretty good.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Pearson Raises Outlook (Again)

From their press release this morning:
  • Sales up 6% and operating profit up 13%*
  • All businesses trading as expected
  • Adjusted EPS now expected to be approximately 83p per share, benefiting from lower interest and tax
Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, is today providing its regular nine-month interim management statement.
Pearson increased sales by 6% and operating profit by 13% in the first nine months of 2011. Our businesses once again produced strong competitive performances in generally weak market conditions, benefiting from premium content and services, digital innovation and presence in developing economies.
The fourth quarter is always a key selling season in education and consumer publishing. But with all of our businesses performing well, we are reaffirming our trading guidance for the full year in spite of the recent deterioration in the macroeconomic outlook.
In addition, we anticipate that our interest and tax charges on adjusted earnings will be lower than our previous guidance. As a result, we now expect to achieve adjusted earnings per share of approximately 83p for the full year (ahead of our previous guidance of approximately 80p). This guidance assumes that the current exchange rate of £1:$1.60 prevails in the fourth quarter.
Pearson’s chief executive Marjorie Scardino said: “The world economy is neither simple nor helpful this year, but we are producing another good year for Pearson. Our mix of markets and services, as well as our ability to invest and to implement, has given us competitive strength that makes us confident of that. We can’t count on the trading environment to get any easier any time soon, but we do expect our durability and our innovation to continue to help us succeed.”
This is the section of the press release specific to Education:
In education, our long-term investment in technology and services is enabling us to achieve sustained growth, even in tough markets for education materials. For our education company as a whole, sales are up 7% in the first nine months of the year.
In North America, textbook publishing markets have been weak in 2011, affected by state budget pressures, the transition to Common Core standards and slower college enrolments. For the first nine months of the year, total sales for the US School and College textbook publishing industries declined by 11% and 2% respectively, according to the Association of American Publishers. 
Even so, Pearson’s sales in North American Education were up 1% as our leadership in digital learning continued to produce market share gains. In Higher Education, we generated more than eight million student registrations for our subject-specific digital homework and assessment programmes (the MyLabs), and almost five million enrolments in online courses provided through Pearson’s LearningStudio (formerly known as eCollege). These student registrations represent growth rates of 23% and 33% respectively over the same period last year. 
Our Assessment and Information business remained resilient with good growth in clinical and diagnostic assessments and automated online test scoring outweighing lower national test revenues. 
Our School Curriculum business continued to face state budget pressures, a smaller new adoption opportunity (of approximately $660m) and uncertainty caused by the pending transition to Common Core standards. It benefited from the particularly strong performance of our blended print-and-digital programmes in new adoptions, helping Pearson to win an estimated 37% share of new adoptions in which we competed. In September, we announced the acquisition of Connections Education which operates virtual public schools in 21 states in the US and served more than 40,000 students in the current school year. 
Sales in International Education were up 19% after nine months. By product line, we achieved good underlying growth in English language learning, assessment and higher education; and by geography in China, the Middle East and Italy. We are also benefiting from the contribution of our newer services businesses including English language schools around the world and universities in South Africa. School textbook publishing has tended to be relatively weak, particularly in markets where purchases are publicly-funded. In the first nine months, MyLab registrations outside North America were up more than 30% on the same period last year to more than 600,000. In August, we announced the acquisition of Stark Holding, a leading provider of education materials including test preparation resources for pupils and teachers in Germany. 
In Professional Education, sales were up 21%. We continued to see good growth in Professional Testing, which administered almost six million tests in the first nine months of the year, benefiting from sales of additional services to existing customers. We are also investing in a major strategic partnership with the American Council on Education to develop an online General Educational Development (GED) test aligned with new Common Core standards. Market conditions in our professional publishing business remained challenging but our digital programmes performed well. We continued to benefit from our growing presence in professional training, as Pearson in Practice (formerly known as Melorio) grew well despite tougher conditions in construction training. In October we announced the acquisition of TQ, which provides vocational and technical education and training services to governments, institutions and corporations around the world. 
Even so, Pearson’s sales in North American Education were up 1% as our leadership in digital learning continued to produce market share gains. In Higher Education, we generated more than eight million student registrations for our subject-specific digital homework and assessment programmes (the MyLabs), and almost five million enrolments in online courses provided through Pearson’s LearningStudio (formerly known as eCollege). These student registrations represent growth rates of 23% and 33% respectively over the same period last year. 
Our Assessment and Information business remained resilient with good growth in clinical and diagnostic assessments and automated online test scoring outweighing lower national test revenues. 
Our School Curriculum business continued to face state budget pressures, a smaller new adoption opportunity (of approximately $660m) and uncertainty caused by the pending transition to Common Core standards. It benefited from the particularly strong performance of our blended print-and-digital programmes in new adoptions, helping Pearson to win an estimated 37% share of new adoptions in which we competed. In September, we announced the acquisition of Connections Education which operates virtual public schools in 21 states in the US and served more than 40,000 students in the current school year. 
Sales in International Education were up 19% after nine months. By product line, we achieved good underlying growth in English language learning, assessment and higher education; and by geography in China, the Middle East and Italy. We are also benefiting from the contribution of our newer services businesses including English language schools around the world and universities in South Africa. School textbook publishing has tended to be relatively weak, particularly in markets where purchases are publicly-funded. In the first nine months, MyLab registrations outside North America were up more than 30% on the same period last year to more than 600,000. In August, we announced the acquisition of Stark Holding, a leading provider of education materials including test preparation resources for pupils and teachers in Germany. 
In Professional Education, sales were up 21%. We continued to see good growth in Professional Testing, which administered almost six million tests in the first nine months of the year, benefiting from sales of additional services to existing customers. We are also investing in a major strategic partnership with the American Council on Education to develop an online General Educational Development (GED) test aligned with new Common Core standards. Market conditions in our professional publishing business remained challenging but our digital programmes performed well. We continued to benefit from our growing presence in professional training, as Pearson in Practice (formerly known as Melorio) grew well despite tougher conditions in construction training. In October we announced the acquisition of TQ, which provides vocational and technical education and training services to governments, institutions and corporations around the world.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

How to reform copyright

Lewis Hyde in the Chronicle of Higher Ed has some interesting observations and proposals for reforming copyright:
Focusing on the benefits of an initial registration requirement tells only one part of the story. Whenever copyright offers a second term, the renewal formality has even stronger commons-enhancing effects. After all, the commercial value of most creative work is exhausted fairly early. A study done of copyrights registered in 1934 found, for example, that half of them were worthless after 10 years, 90 percent after 43 years, and 99 percent after 65 years. It should consequently come as no surprise that many rights holders did not renew after the initial 28-year term. The numbers vary year to year and by genre (music rights being renewed more often than books, for example), but roughly speaking, for most of the 20th century, when owners were given a right to renew, only 15 percent chose to do so. As with initial registration, a renewal formality serves as a filter, releasing commercially dead work to the public without depriving authors of a longer term if they wish to have it. Put another way, formalities effectively shortened the term of the copyright grant during most of the last century; 85 percent of copyrights lasted only 28 years.
and this,
The last time that Congress added years to the term of copyright, a group of economists, both liberal and conservative (including five Nobel laureates), filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the extension made no economic sense. (Milton Friedman supposedly asked that the brief contain the phrase "no brainer.") It is patently clear to almost everyone that the term of copyright is now senselessly long. At the same time, it is almost certainly politically impossible to retreat from it; the few who benefit are too well connected, and the many who do not are too thinly spread. To my mind, the greatest appeal of new-style formalities, then, is that they would leave the nominal term untouched (and accord it to all who care) while greatly reducing the effective term. Sprigman calculates that during the 20th century, when the vast majority of rights holders did not avail themselves of the renewal option, the effective term of copyright was only 32 years. That's just four years longer than the nominal term the founders offered in 1790.