Friday, December 30, 2011

Images from 2011



View this in the full view mode (bottom right).  There are also comments on each image.  As always visit my flickr page to see lots more.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Year in Reading 2011

As I have on prior years, I've followed the lead of The Millions and thought about the books I read this year. In terms of quantity 2011 was a slower year for me mainly because I slogged through a book that had remained on my shelf unread for 10 years or so.  This was Q by "Luther Blissett" a novel about the insurgencies and guerrilla warfare that followed Martin Luther's declarations in the 1500's.  It was a dense novel and one of those that would have been better drunk in several long sessions rather than piece meal prior to falling asleep in bed.  Nevertheless, while I found it a difficult read I still think about it and coincidentally an article in the year end Economist last week wouldn't have interested me at all if I hadn't read Q.  The Economist article suggested that social networking as we know it today was similarly prevalent in the Reformation driven by easy access to printing technology.
"Scholars have long debated the relative importance of printed media, oral transmission and images in rallying popular support for the Reformation. Some have championed the central role of printing, a relatively new technology at the time. Opponents of this view emphasise the importance of preaching and other forms of oral transmission. More recently historians have highlighted the role of media as a means of social signalling and co-ordinating public opinion in the Reformation.
Now the internet offers a new perspective on this long-running debate, namely that the important factor was not the printing press itself (which had been around since the 1450s), but the wider system of media sharing along social networks—what is called “social media” today. Luther, like the Arab revolutionaries, grasped the dynamics of this new media environment very quickly, and saw how it could spread his message."
Another slower read was also a book that sat on my shelf for a while was the Claire Tomalin bio of Samuel Pepys.  She's a vibrant and interesting writer and I'm looking forward to reading her bio of Dickens.

As I mentioned above, 2011 was a down year in terms of volume:  My total this year was only 19 books against 27 in 2010, 22 in 2009, 17 in 2008 and 25 in 2007.  It has been my desire over the past five years or so (and it has taken me that long) to clear out as many of my unread books as possible.  I am happy to say that I've done very well at that task.

The book I most enjoyed this year was The Northern Clemency which wasn't technically on my shelf but Mrs. PND had been telling me for a while that I would really enjoy it.

Here is my full list and these are in my 'bookstore' (PND Bookstore)

The Dealer and the Dead - Gerald Seymour
Found Wanting - Robert Goddard
Piece of My Heart - Peter Robinson
Life - Kieth Richards
Field Grey - Philip Kerr
Innocent - Scott Turow
Close to Home - Peter Robinson
Q - Luther Blissett
The Northern Clemency - Philip Hensher
The Tenth Man - Graham Greene
Strange Affair - Peter Robinson
Friend of the Devil - Peter Robinson
Snowdrops - A. D. Miller
The Fear Index - Robert Harris
Prague Fatale - Philip Kerr
The Cut - George Pelecanos
Deniable Death - Gerald Seymour
Blood of Victory - Alan Furst
Samuel Pepys - Clair Tomalin

alIn the UK there was a lot of hype about Snowdrops by A.D. Miller which was a Booker nominee.  It was a good read and entertaining but it wasn't on the same level as Hensher's Northern Clemency which was short listed for the Booker in 2008.

Looking to 2012, I've already added another of Hensher's titles (The Mulberry Empire) from PND senior's shelf, Wolf Hall from Mrs. PND and my own selection Amanda Foreman's A World of Fire about the American Civil War from the English perspective.  In addition to those I've already got 10 others and Mrs. PND got me six very nicely bound Dickens classics from Penguin for Christmas, so it will be another busy reading year.  Just how we like it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Media Year (Vol 4, No 52) The Year in Review

Looks like I only missed three editions this year:

Week 51: ChromeBooks, Durrell eBooks, Hitchens & Dogs, Unbound & Vogue

Week 50: Khan Academy, Academic Libraries, Harvard Business School, Consumer Reports + More

Week 49: Revamping GED, HS Corporate Marketing, Book Blogging, Pretty Books + More

Week 48: Orwell on Police Actions, Dickens and Economist Book Festival + More

Week 47: Lobbying for On Line Learning, Loan Bubble + More

Week 46: WW I Archive Goes Online, Mrs Beeton's 150, Silicon Valley's Daily, Cookbook Aps +More

Week 45: The New A&R, Problem Biographies, Scan your Books, Education, Libraroes + More

Week 44: Books in Browsers, Photography, Drivel + More

Week 43: Tom Waits, Children's Books, The Booker, "Close the Libraries", Textbooks & Education + More

Week 42: Frankfurt, CS Forester, Martin Amis + More

Week 41: Frankfurt 2011, Indian Authors, Digital Rights,

Week 40: Scholarly Models, Literary Translations, Library usage Data, Fading Creative Class +More.

Week 39: Robert Harris, Dickens, Cultural Decline (or not), Colm Toibin + More

Week 37: Scholarly Publishing, Project Gutenberg, Literary Festivals, Lawsuits, + More

Week 36: Amazon Digital Library, Piracy, Newspaper Disruption, Private Blackboard + More

Week 35: Distance Learning, Libraries and E-Books, Digital Textbooks + More

Week 34: Content Management Systems, Student Knowledge, Textbook Rentals, Archives + More

Week 33: The Chronicle of Higher Ed on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

Week 32: Digital Storytelling, Report on Graduate Earning Power, Citation of Wikipedia, Forsyth's Jackal + More

Week 31: Financial resutls: Pearson, Wiley, Wolters Kluwer, Reed Elsevier

Week 30: Arundhati Roy, JSTORE Illegal Downloads, Kaplan's $1.6mm Bill, High Journal Prices, Three Rules of Reviewing + More

Week 29: Library of Congress, Bertelsmann, Michelin Guides, Bookstores, P.G. Wodehouse, Education Funding Report + More

Week 28: Hacking May Cost $100mm, Potter's Last-Not so Fast, Blackboard, Harvard & Social Hot water, Catch22 + More

Week 27: ProPublica's Newspaper Apps, Hemingway, EMI + More

Week 26: Books In Print, Journal Publishing, Joyce, Education and Technology, Area 51 and more.

Week 24: Georgia Copyright Case, Blackboard, HW Wilson, David Mamet's PR Campaign + More

Week 23: Romance or Not, Grief in The Killing, The Value of College, Nordic Crimewave + More

Week 22: Patriot Act, ALA Preview, Revolution Writing + More

Week 21: End of World Edition - An Essay on Privacy, Books & Marketing, Libraries + More

Week 20: Ebooks in the Classroom, Writers Life, Libraries Matter, Bob Marley

Week 19: EBooks on Campus, Jeffrey Archer, LexisNexis Sued, Archiving the Web

Week 18: Higher Ed, Author Promotion, Harper Lee, Libraries + Others.

Week 17: Morrissey, King James, Big Content, Sneering at Genres, Hitch, + More

Week 16: Alberto Vitale, Arab Market eBooks, B2B Magazines.

Week 15: Borders, Indigo

Week 14: Long Distance Learning, OpenSource Textbooks, CCC, Harpercollins

Week 13: Bookclub for the Homeless, Plagiarism or "Creative Reuse", Hollywood, Gallimard, Jean Auel

Week 12: Hay Festival, Reviewers, Heart of Darkness, Alice in NYC,

Week 11: UK Copyright, The Killing, History in the UK.

Week 10: Spy Magazine, Hiaasen, Casino Royale, Curious George and Ryan Giggs

Week 9: Information Concierge, Future of Education Publishing, Blackboard, The $16K/mth Sideline, Blurbs,  Marilyn Monroe

Week 8: Demise of Research Libraries, Online Education, Sir John Soane, Cuban Bookfair

Week 7: Underused eBook features, UK Tuition, Mills&Boone, Coin Art

Week 5: Eadweard Muybridge, Open Courseware, Education Aps, Lexis, Mother Russia, Taschen

Week 4: Changing Higher Ed. Book Awards, Pippi, 007, Forecasting Technology, Michael Lewis

Week 3: UK Libraries, Perceptions of US Libraries, Pearson Acquires, Wolters Kluwer Partner, Libraries in the Cloud

Week 2: ISBN Identification, UK Libraries under threat, Historian Hobsbawm, The Internet and Authors

Week 1: Digital Media Experiments, Murakami, Literary Illusion and Political Correction, Predictions, Cliche

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Economist on Euphemism

The economist has an amusing article on those things people say but what they really mean.
http://www.economist.com/node/21541767

"American euphemisms are in a class of their own, principally because they seem to involve words that few would find offensive to start with, replaced by phrases that are meaninglessly ambiguous: bathroom tissue for lavatory paper, dental appliances for false teeth, previously owned rather than used, wellness centres for hospitals, which conduct procedures not operations. As the late George Carlin, an American comedian, noted, people used to get old and die. Now they become first preelderly, then senior citizens and pass away in a terminal episode or (if doctors botch their treatment) after a therapeutic misadventure. These bespeak a national yearning for perfection, bodily and otherwise."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 51): ChromeBooks, Durrell eBooks, Hitchens & Dogs, Unbound & Vogue

Google's Chrome Lending program is set for a series of tests (DigitalTrends);
Google has been working with public libraries recently in order to circulate its Chromebook concept. At least three libraries have been working towards lending out Chromebooks to patrons for a period of time.
Most notably, the Palo Alto, California Library will begin making Chromebooks available for loan in January; patrons will be able to check-out the Google devices for up to one week. The pilot project is a first-of-its-kind, though the library had previously made Windows laptops as well as Chromebooks available to patrons in the Downtown, Main and Mitchell Park libraries for two-hour checkouts with library cards.
Along with Palo Alto, September brought Chromebooks to New Jersey’s Hillsborough Library where patrons were allowed to use the netbooks for four-hour time slots, with an additional two-hour renewal period. Also, Wired points out the Multnomah County Library has been testing 10 Chromebooks at five libraries in Portland, Oregon, though patron’s access has been limited and supervised.

I had to read a Gerald Durrell book in middle school (in Oz).  News his titles are being released in eBook format (Telegraph):
Pan Macmillan has launched a new digital imprint offering 10 Durrell titles as e-books, with five to follow in the New Year. The mixture of fiction and non-fiction includes Beasts In My Belfry, Catch Me A Colobus and Ark On The Move - the latter inspired a television series of the same name.
The advent of e-books could be a godsend for authors whose books are no longer in print. While reissuing backlists as physical books is a costly process, reviving them for Kindles and other e-readers is comparatively cheap.

Pan Macmillan is billing its new imprint, Bello, as a means of “reviving 20th century classics for a 21st century audience”. Other authors on the launch list include Vita Sackville-West and DJ Taylor.
Christopher Hitchens in quotes from The Telegraph: My favorite:
“[O]wners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realise that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” 
Is Unbound books the next big thing?  (Or was it based on all those stories last year?)  Here's the crux of the issue from the Observer:
So far, the company has had nine books funded (of which only Jones's and Fischer's have actually been published), with another 10 in the pledging phase, including a sci-fi novel by Red Dwarf star Robert Llewellyn. Traffic has been impressive: last month, the site attracted more than 200,000 unique users. Pollard reports that interest from authors has been "huge". And, surprisingly, agents have been enthusiastic.
If you are into fashion then perhaps you would want to subscribe to the new Vogue content database (NYT)
There are roughly 2,800 issues in the archive (Vogue was published weekly until 1912, and has been monthly, with the exception of some war years, only since 1973) and so it holds the potential for endless examination. The entire contents are searchable, so it is possible, for example, to see all of its Cher covers at once. (There were five, all published between 1972 and 1975.)
The covers alone provide a window into the evolving design of Vogue and its distinct looks under different editors: the elegant, iconic and occasionally abstract or surreal covers of Edna Woolman Chase; the frosted confections of Diana Vreeland; the peppy close-ups of models’ faces from the Grace Mirabella years; the celebrities in lavish settings from Anna Wintour.
Vogue, which developed the site with the trend-forecasting company WGSN, has positioned it for professional use, with an annual subscription price of $1,575. (Vogue provided temporary access for review purposes.) For designers or scholars researching fashion history, or, paradoxically, for those nostalgic for the way magazines used to be before the Internet, it may be worth the price. I could tell you more, but I am currently distracted by an article from Nov. 15, 1949, called “When I Entertain,” by Wallis Windsor.
From Twitter:

Georgia O'Keeffe's visit to Hawaii

Cal Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposes slashing textbook prices via legislation.LINK

OCLC Report: Libraries at Webscale, by Michael Cairns

Friday, December 16, 2011

Milan Cathedral 1961

Milan Cathedral August 1961
Another weekly image from my archive. Click on it to make it larger.

The PND seniors went to Milan and Florence for their honeymoon and this is one of the images from that trip.  Unfortunately, when I visited Milan in 2004 I didn't know this image existed in our archive otherwise I would have my own more recent image.  However, if memory serves from that trip the building is now far cleaner and the area in front of the cathedral is less like a bus depot and more like a pedestrian precinct.

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, December 14, 2011

Is the college bookstore doomed?

Rehash originally published August 30th, 2006:

Some recent examples suggest that print books continue to be the format of choice for college students but is this because they like the format or because the tangible item can be resold at the end of the semester? Is the problem really that no demonstrably better alternatives yet exist to replace the print version; i.e., electronic titles that offer a better learning experience? Clearly, e-books garner a lot of attention and investment from publishers and as I have discussed in an earlier post the opportunities in e-Content for publishers, students and administrators are potentially significant yet no one appears to have cracked the content code.

Electronic delivery of content will materially change the business model for students, institutions and publishers. In my view, the main reason this has not happened yet is that publishers and institutions are dealing with legacy issues that preclude a (willing) change in their business practices. Content creation in all but a few subject areas is an iterative process; meaning that few titles are created from scratch for each new edition. Indeed for some subject areas many have suggested that new editions are only created to mitigate the used book issue. While publishers recognize that the creation of e-books is critical, with few exceptions, they are not willing to start over and create a true e-book course product but are satisfied to convert existing titles to e-book format.

The institution on the other hand receives revenues from the sale of textbooks either directly or via trade agreements with store managers such as Follett and Barnes & Noble. As such, they have remained paradoxically disassociated from the annual chorus of criticism regarding textbook pricing. Assuming e-books become fundamental to course content, where will the bookstore fit in the relationship between publisher and institution?

Any number of publishers and vendors have or are developing models for direct delivery of content to students. Two vendors, Missouri Book Service (MBS) and Vitalsource have developed platforms which involve publishers and bookstores in the process. Intuitively, as a publisher, you might be encouraged to engage students directly and publishers are doing just that via services such as SafariX and Primus+ (McGraw Hill). MBS has been testing their program which integrates the sale of e-books into the retail bookstore for the past three seasons and has seen steady increases in the number of publishers and the amount of adoption of the content. In working with MBS, a publisher will not have to deal with certain college store issues such as returns and exchanges, campus debit cards and student financial aid. Centralized order process operations at publishers would find these issues difficult to deal with. E-Content in the MBS Universal Digital Textbook program is discounted 30% below the print price. The restrictions associated with this content have drawn some negative reactions particularly because the password expires at the end of the semester and the student has nothing of value to resell or reuse. As suggested above, the additional value for the user in this example may be more related to ease of use (weight) than much else because the e-content is a replica of the print version.

In the MBS solution, they protect their franchise and maintain a revenue stream for the bookstores. MBS is also creating a digital platform so that many publishers can make their titles available to students which in turn could create a competitive advantage for MBS in the provision of e-Content to students. Assuming a competitor wanted to challenge MBS for a store contract the challenger would have to match the platform capability and the content.

Vitalsource has taken a different approach to distributing e-Content to students and offer content creation through distribution help to reach students. They have had some success and are working with Wiley, Thomson West, Elsevier and others to deliver content. Their tools allow integration of ‘local’ content, unbundling of content and linking to related reference products. It isn’t clear what their relationships with bookstores is in the institutions where the product is sold; however, MBS recently added the Vitalsource format to their delivery platform.

MBS, Vitalsource, SafariX and others are generally offering discounts for the purchase of e-Content versions of the course material. There is tremendous hesitation to offer unlimited use of the e-Content because publishers believe they will create a problem greater than the used book issue. Not surprisingly, students have been slow to adopt these offerings. In my view a risk to publishers is that new entrants to the market will create new and innovate publishing products that rely on new but dynamic content that creates a profoundly different experience for students than an e-Content version of a textbook. Some of these new approaches are starting to find their way into general use and it is services like Blackboard/webCT that have created a platform for delivery of some of this content. Blackboard has an agreement with Merlot where you can find some interesting course material.

In the long run, publishers and or e-Content platform providers will have to pay to gain access to students at Higher Ed institutions. Institutions will either create their own open platforms or license from a vendor but this platform will become the store front. There may be a physical store on campus but it will not be the focus of textbook sales. As much as gaining knowledge of student purchasers is important to publishers in their drive to form long term learning relationships, institutions also realize the value of this information and will not be interested in stepping out of the chain.

Monday, December 12, 2011

OCLC Report: Libraries at Webscale

OCLC have released a report they've been working on this year looking at the impact of the web on our rapidly changing information environment.  I was asked to participate as an interviewee, which I found intellectually stimulating, and I'm looking forward to reading the full report (79 pages).

Here is a summary of the purpose of the study and report:
The document examines some of the ways in which the Web has impacted information seeking, and how new cloud-based, Webscale services are now at the center of many users’ educational and learning lives. This document contains views of library leaders and insights from trend watchers who write about the future of the Web.
Included are short essays that express the views of:
  • Leslie Crutchfield, author, speaker and leading authority on scaling social innovation and high-impact philanthropy
  • Thomas L. Friedman, reporter and columnist, and author of The World Is Flat and That Used to Be Us
  • Seth Godin, Internet marketing pioneer and author of We Are All Weird
  • Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, Vice President of Research and Enterprise, and Dean of the Graduate Research School, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Ireland
  • Steven Berlin Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
  • Kevin Kelly, cofounder and Senior Maverick of Wired magazine
  • James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University
  • Findings from The European Commission on Information Society and Media (ERCIM) on the how cloud computing is impacting the Web
  • The OCLC Global Council on the challenges and opportunities facing libraries today and in 2016
We interviewed dozens of library leaders about the future of libraries and key challenges and opportunities they face today and will face in 2016. Their ideas and quotes are presented and distilled in the report and to provide specific thoughts as to the need for “radical cooperation” in library services. Librarians from a wide variety of library types, across a worldwide geography were consulted. Surprisingly, though, their top concerns and aspirations were often in agreement, regardless of library size, location and type.
Download the full report here.

Pearson Rakes in $700MM from FTSE Sale

Pearson continues to shed non-core assets announcing today that they have sold their 50% interest in FTSE International Limited to The London Stock Exchange.  As they have done in the recent past, the company appears to have secured very good value from the divestiture.  Over the past two years, Pearson has quietly restructured their business, selling non-core businesses at high multiples, reorganizing internally and buying new businesses that expand their content distribution and service capabilities.

From the press release:
FTSE is a world-leader in the creation and management of more than 200,000 equity, bond and alternative asset class indices. With offices in London, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Madrid, Milan, Mumbai, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and Tokyo, FTSE works with partners and clients in 80 countries worldwide.
Pearson and London Stock Exchange Group currently each own 50% of FTSE. Under the terms of the agreement, London Stock Exchange Group will acquire from Pearson the 50% of FTSE that it does not own and continue to use the FTSE name. The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of 2012.
In 2010, FTSE reported total revenues of £98.5 million and total EBITDA of £40 million. At 31 December 2010, FTSE had gross assets of £100.8m.
Pearson expects FTSE to make a total post-tax contribution to Pearson’s adjusted earnings of approximately £18 million or 2.2p per share in 2011.
The transaction follows the sale of Pearson’s stake in Interactive Data last year for $2bn. It marks Pearson’s exit from companies that are primarily providers of financial data and strengthens the FT Group’s focus on global business news, analysis and intelligence, increasingly delivered through subscription models and digital channels.
In her quote CEO Majorie Scardino emphasized that the sale will enable the company to continue their strategy of buying digital and service oriented businesses that compliment their core businesses.  “For Pearson, the transaction further strengthens our financial position at a time of significant macroeconomic turbulence. We are freeing up capital for continued investment in a proven strategy: becoming more digital, more international and more service-oriented in education, business information and consumer publishing.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 50): Khan Academy, Academic Libraries, Harvard Business School, Consumer Reports + More

An interesting profile of The Khan Academy and its founder Salman Khan from Inside Higher Ed and what is most interesting is less the videos than the opportunity to provide assessment tools that monitor and measure comprehension. (IHEd):
One root of the problem is the fact that the college degree is issued by the same institution that is in charge of setting, and enforcing, the standards of that credential, says Khan, who holds four degrees himself. This is tantamount to investment banks rating their own securities, he says. Meanwhile, the accrediting agencies that are in charge of making sure those “ratings” are legitimate do not currently focus on what students coming out of those institutions measurably know.

That is why, when an audience member at Khan’s Future of State Universities talk asked whether Khan Academy was interested in credentialing, its tutor-in-chief answered with an enthusiastic yes-but. Khan told Inside Higher Ed that he does not want to turn his free, online trove -- whose 2,700 videos could theoretically be organized into course-length sequences -- into a credential-granting institution. What he does want to do is advocate for the creation and mainstreaming of credential-granting institutions that exist wholly separate (“decoupled,” in Khan-speak) from the institutions (including his) that do the teaching.

In Khan’s ideal world, this would mean an independent third party that tests specific competencies and awards credentials corresponding to knowledge areas in which a student can demonstrate mastery -- like the MCAT or standardized tests like a bar exam for calculus, physics, or computer science. “It would be much more useful, speaking as employer, if they show they’re just at the top of the charts on a certain skill set that we really want,” he said.
Barbara Fister writing in Inside Higher Ed questions whether more public space in academic libraries is what students really want ( IHEd)
Though the conventional wisdom these days about library spaces is that students want to be social, that group work and collaboration are how kids learn today, and that digital texts and digital tools will get used but printed collections won’t, students often disagree.I’ve heard more librarians talk about student demands for quiet and solitary spaces for study in the past year, perhaps because the information commons idea has become so standard it’s no longer an innovation. Recently a small group of students at the University of New Brunswick protested because their spiffy new library was too noisy, too public, and the books were squirreled away at the periphery. It wasn’t clear from the article that students wanted to read the books, but they wanted a quiet, serious place to study, and books were part of their idea of such a place.

A recent Project Information Literacy study found that students minimize technology use and try to unplug from their overly distracting social networks when working on projects or studying for exams. Last month, a couple of student speakers at a symposium on the future of the academic library went even further. They yearned to be disconnected at times, and speculated that if a section of the library was purposefully taken off the grid, with no wifi and no computers, it would be the most popular site on campus for stressed students who needed to focus and get things done. I just noticed that the most recent issue of American Libraries has an essay proposing that libraries consider having gadget-free zones. Ironically, the print copy comes with a QR code you can use to retrieve the essay online.
From The Economist, Harvard Business School is experimenting with a different model for teaching students (Economist):

Long before he became dean, Mr Nohria lamented the failure of business schools to fulfil their mission of turning management into a profession similar to law or medicine. Asked what should be expected from someone with an MBA, he replies that “obviously, they should master a body of knowledge. But we should also expect them to apply that knowledge with some measure of judgment.” MBA students have long been sent on summer internships with prospective employers, but HBS, like most business schools, did little else to help them with the practical application of management studies.

What happens in the second year of the new course is still being worked out. But the first year has three elements. First, team-building exercises. Students take turns to lead a group engaged in a project such as designing an “eco-friendly sculpture”. They learn to collaborate and to give and take feedback. These exercises are loosely based on ones used in the US army.

Second, students will be sent to work for a week with one of more than 140 firms in 11 countries. Already the new intake have had conference calls with these companies, ranging from the Brazilian soapmaker to a Chinese property firm, and gone off-campus to conduct product-development “dashes” like the one in Copley Mall. This sort of structured learning-by-doing is a world away from HBS’s traditional encouragement of students to “go on an adventure” outside of classes.
The NYT takes a look at how Consumer Reports is doing on the web. Not particularly insightful the numbers are interesting however ( NYT):
Consumer Reports started its Web site in 1997; by 2001, it had 557,000 subscribers. That number has grown to 3.3 million this year, an increase of nearly 500 percent in 10 years. It has more than six times as many digital subscribers as The Wall Street Journal, the leader among newspapers.

And in August, Consumer Reports started generating more revenue from digital subscriptions than from print — a feat that must make it the envy of the print world struggling to make that transition. Even more amazingly, Consumer Reports has enjoyed success on the Web without losing print subscribers — those have held steady since 2001 at around four million.

“Five years ago, the Web site was just the magazine put online, word for word,” says Kevin McKean, Consumer Reports’ editorial director. Formerly, products were tested in batches, but today testing occurs whenever a new model is released. Results are quickly available online, instead of being held up for the once-a-year roundup of reviews of a particular product category in the magazine. 
From the Twitter:

OCLC WorldShare Platform: OCLC Brands and Strengthens Its Webscale Strategy (Link)

Friday, December 09, 2011

Novice Monks on a Boat, Bangkok

Novice Monks on a Boat - Chao Phaya, Bangkok 2001
Another weekly image from my archive. Click on it to make it larger.

It's all hustle and bustle on this river that flows through Bangkok and there are all manner of ferries and passenger boats chis-crossing the river in all directions. It's certainly not uncommon to be on one of these ferries standing next to one or a group of these young men wrapped in their golden robes while you both admire the intense activity all around you.

Most boys receive religious education in Thailand and when they turn 20 they are eligible for ordination. Temporary ordination is the norm among Thai Buddhists, and most young men traditionally ordain for the term of a single rainy season and then return to lay life and go on to marry and raise a family.


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, December 07, 2011

BISG Policy Statement on ISBN Usage

The Book Industry Study Group after long deliberation and incredibly astute consulting has announced its policy recommendation for the use of ISBNs for digital products (Press Release):
This BISG Policy Statement on recommendations for identifying digital products is applicable to content intended for distribution to the general public in North America but could be applied elsewhere as well. The objective of this Policy Statement is to clarify best practices and outline responsibilities in the assignment of ISBNs to digital products in order to reduce both confusion in the market place, and the possibility of errors.

Some of the organizations which have indicated support of POL-1101 include:

  • BookNet Canada
  • National Information Standards Organization (NISO)
  • IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association
CLICK HERE to download
 Close readers of this blog will recall the work done by the identification committee of BISG:
In the spring of 2010, BISG's Identification Committee created a Working Group to research and gather data around the practice of assigning identifiers to digital content throughout the US supply chain. "The specific mandate of the Working Group was to gather a true picture of how the US book supply chain was handling ISBN assignments, and then formulate best practice recommendations based on this pragmatic understanding," said Angela Bole, BISG's Deputy Executive Director. "Around 60 unique individuals and 40 unique companies participated in the effort. It was a truly collaborative learning process."

Noted Phil Madans, Director of Publishing Standards and Practices for Hachette Book Group and Chair of the Committee in charge of developing the Policy Statement, "It was quite a challenge to bring some measure of consistency and clarity to what our research revealed to be so chaotic and confused that some even reported thinking ISBN assignment should be optional--a 'nice to have'. This, clearly, would not work."
The initial consulting report was discussed publicly about 12mths ago and I summarized that presentation in this post from January 17, 2011.

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

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

Any activity will ultimately prove irrelevant if the larger question regarding the identification of electronic (book) content in an online-dominated supply chain (where traditional processes and procedures mutate, fracture and are replaced) is not addressed. In short, the current inconsistency in applying standards policy to the use of ISBNs will ultimately be subsumed as books lose structure, vendors proliferate and content is atomized.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Corporate Blogging

A rehash originally from September 21, 2006:

As boss you are always worried - at least you should be - that your message is getting out to the troops. Getting this out to them and having them embody it is always a challenge. Having quarterly company wide get togethers is great if you can pull it off. I was lucky to do it once every six months even with a small company. The CEO blog is becoming an effective mechanism for not only presenting the corporate strategy and goals but also the person behind the big desk. CNN recently published this article on corporate blogging and Mr. Charkin is getting quite a reputation. While I didn't start this blog while I was at Bowker, I wish I had because it could have been an effective communication tool. While I spent most of my day with my staff, communication at the level of status meetings and product development discussions can be disjointed and somewhat out of context to the strategy. The type of corporate communication you strive for should be integrated, coherent and concise to be ingested and internalized by the staff. It can often be hard to attain this when you are dealing with the minutia in a editorial or IT status meeting. Offering a perspective on the big picture puts the daily activities in perspective which is what the CEO can do as king of the mountain. A blog entry once or twice a week can bring clarity to what everyone is striving for.

The other aspect of blogging is that is can be personal - Richard recently mentioned his cricket team's closing match and Karen Christensen (also mentioned by CNN) discusses all types of things that aren't strictly related to her publishing company. For staff, this makes their boss more human. You can't have a personal relationship with every employee but it is interesting how much commonality exists across the levels of an organization. Blogging if used as a pseudo-corporate communication method has to be kept up and it also should have some standards - good (not perfect) punctuation and no swearing. It wouldn't be terribly funny for the boss to be written for creating a hostile work environment via their blog. There is the confidentiality aspect which some PR departments are concerned about which is legitimate but I would hope blogging CEOs know enough about what they can say publicly or what they should be cagey about.

Bowker is a private company, but early on in my tenure I was paranoid about email messages from me getting to our competitors since there was so much inter mingling of staff over the years; however, as the years went by we were doing so many more interesting and positive things that I ceased to care. I am more surprised that more CEOs don't do this - maybe it has to do with more mundane matters such as an inability to write coherently in a free form manner.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 49) Revamping GED, HS Corporate Marketing, Book Blogging, Pretty Books + More

The GED test is being revamped (EdWeek):
Situating the GED as a pathway to higher education echoes its original intent. The first exams, in 1942, were envisioned as a way for returning World War II veterans to complete high school and use the GI Bill to attend college. In 1949, the first year statistics are available for nonmilitary test-takers, 39,000 people took one or more of the five sections of the test: reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies. By 2010, that number had risen to 750,000.
The GED is widely used as a high-school-completion tool by those in the military and in prisons, and by dropouts who are too old for the public school system. Although one-quarter of those who take the test are 16 to 18 years old, the typical GED candidate is 26, has completed 10th grade, and has been out of school nine years, according to ACE data.

But while the test has helped thousands move forward, it is dogged by criticism that it doesn’t reflect high-school-level achievement. Officials in New York City, for instance, said last December that the passing score reflects only middle-school-level content and skills. The city is helping pilot a new, accelerated GED curriculum and accompanying supports in a subdistrict of alternative schools.

Even as the GED is overhauled, scholars continue to debate its value.
Report looks at the connection between corporatism and educating children (NonProfit Quarterly)
If you haven’t been around schools and schoolchildren recently, get ready for some stomach-wrenching corporate curricula:
  • Shell‘s “Energize your Future” curriculum, which reimagines the oil industry behemoth as a leader in alternative energy technologies.
  • American Coal Foundation’s “The United States of Energy” fourth-grade curriculum, which is quite favorable, not surprisingly, to coal mining and use.
  • Coal Education Development and Resource’s (CEDAR) curriculum, which encourages coal use and students’ participation in regional “coal fairs.”
  • Kohl’s department stores’ “Kohl’s Cares for Schools” campaign promoted awarding $500,000 to the 20 schools that got the most votes on Facebook—and everyone who voted found themselves on Kohl’s mailing lists for promotions and advertisements.
  • Education Funding Partners (EFP) is marketing to schools to sell the naming rights to school cafeterias and auditoriums to corporations such as Apple and Adidas.
Here’s the kicker for all of us in the nonprofit world. Some of the corporate marketing is cloaked in the garb of corporate charitable partnerships (for example, the Kohl’s competition). Some of the marketing is carried out by nonprofit affiliates of the corporate interests (for example, the American Coal Foundation and CEDAR, both 501(c)(3)s). And some of the corporate marketers are corporations whose partnerships for schools and other causes are often lauded as standout examples of corporate philanthropy—Microsoft, Disney, Nike, Google, etc.

Is book blogging dead is the question asked by Jacket Copy (LATimes) in response to a email blast from William Morrow:
"Message is essentially: if you don't review enough of the books we send you, in the timeframe we want you to, you're out," Rebecca Joines Schinsky tweeted Thursday. Schinsky, who writes and edits The Book Lady's Blog, is one of the leaders of the latest generation of committed book bloggers.
"Can you imagine them sending this to Horn Book or The NYTimes?" added Pam Coughlin, who blogs at MotherReader.
Many publishers enthusiastically send books to bloggers, and today's book blogger may rake in free books like leaves after a windy fall day. But it wasn't always that way.
When blogging about first began, publishers, like many other long-established businesses, looked at the form with justifiable skepticism. If just anyone could start a blog, what role could bloggers have?
Eventually, that skepticism faded. People who like to read books, it turns out, were reading things on the Internet. Those things included blogs. They included book blogs. As time passed, many early book bloggers, many of whom focused on literary titles, moved on to other things -- book reviewing, publishing short stories, writing novels, even writing for newspapers.

Two articles about beautiful books from the NYTimes:
Many new releases have design elements usually reserved for special occasions — deckle edges, colored endpapers, high-quality paper and exquisite jackets that push the creative boundaries of bookmaking. If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.
“When people do beautiful books, they’re noticed more,” said Robert S. Miller, the publisher of Workman Publishing. “It’s like sending a thank-you note written on nice paper when we’re in an era of e-mail correspondence.”
The eagerly anticipated 925-page novel by Haruki Murakami, “1Q84,” arrived in bookstores in October wrapped in a translucent jacket with the arresting gaze of a young woman peering through. A new novel by Stephen King about the Kennedy assassination, “11/22/63,” has an intricate book jacket and, unusual for fiction, photographs inside. The paperback edition of Jay-Z’s memoir “Decoded” features a shiny gold Rorschach on the cover, and in March the front of “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller will bear an embossed helmet sculpted with punctures, cracks and texture, giving the image a 3-D effect.
And from the Guardian:
Publishers have started building their marketing strategies around form rather than content. The Everyman Library, which is coming up to the 20th anniversary of its modern relaunch, makes much of its books' elegant two-colour case stamping, silk ribbon markers and "European-style" half-round spines. In 2009, to celebrate its 80th birthday, Faber republished a collection of its classic poetry hardbacks illustrated with exquisite wood and lino cuts by contemporary artists. Not to be outdone, Penguin will next year be reissuing 100 classic novels in its revamped English Library series in what its press release describes as "readers' editions". What other sort could there be, you might wonder? The press release elaborates that these will be "books you will want to collect and share, admire and hold; books that celebrate the pure pleasure of reading". Translated into the material realm, this means cover designs that pay their respects to the classic orange spine of the original Penguin English Library, but modify its iconic "grid" in order to luxuriate in whole-cover retro prints.
It is not just the big publishing conglomerates that are paying more attention to the way their products look. Several boutique outfits have recently been established dedicated explicitly to making beautiful books. Full Circle and Unbound are just two, founded by the veteran publishing stars Liz Calder and John Mitchinson respectively. In their new incarnations as producers of exquisitely crafted books, Calder and Mitchinson spend more time than they probably ever did when they were helping to run companies including Bloomsbury and Orion pondering such arcane matters as cloth-slip covers, numbered limited editions, artwork that really is art, and paper so creamy you long to lick it.
Some other articles of interest:
Dr. Justin Marquis talks about the difference between "custom" textbooks and custom textbooks.

Richard Byrne points to an open math supplement, which reminded us that one of the benefits of using a custom text is that you can choose your own supplements from anywhere on the internet (or even create your own).

Nelly DeSa, a student, writes about the Textbook Pinch.

And finally Ken Ronkowitz at Serendipity35 asks if your students are buying the textbook...
 From the twitter:

 Thomson Reuters chief Glocer makes his exit

Save the UK's libraries? It's beyond me, admits US guru - UK -