Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Adobe Facilitates Massive Growth in Digital Content

As a prelude to their attendance at the Mobile World Congress, Adobe released some interesting data from over 600 publishers and 1500 tablet applications about the usage of their digital publishing platform.  From the press release:
The anonymous, aggregate data is derived from publications delivered using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite and shows shifts in reading patterns, willingness to pay for tablet applications, accelerated purchase funnel and advertising engagement. Tablets are driving new revenue for publishers as consumers pay for digital media content. Business publishers are also using tablet applications to drive awareness of their brands as well as the purchase of goods and services. Specific data points include:
  • Sixty-eight percent of readers worldwide currently pay for digital magazines and newspapers built with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. This is made up of single issue purchases (15 percent), subscriptions (26 percent) and bundles of print and digital issues (27 percent).
  • Readers are highly engaged with both editorial and advertising content. Every fifth page view in a Digital Publishing Suite magazine app is an advertisement. Interactivity, which includes Web views, videos, slide shows, audio clips, image sequences, hyperlinks and other overlays can also have a profound impact on a reader’s digital content consumption and engagement, with readers interacting with nearly half (48 percent) of all interactive features in Digital Publishing Suite apps. Out of the variety of interactive overlays included in applications, Web views and videos are the two types most frequently accessed by readers.
  • Over half (56 percent) of readers spend between 25 minutes to 2.5 hours a month reading their digital titles. Time spent consuming content has increased 70 percent over the last six months, which can be attributed to more sophisticated and engaging content as well as the continued adoption of tablets. Consumers tend to open a Digital Publishing Suite application up to five times per month on average, and nine percent of readers spend more than five hours per month reading digital titles, which suggests that they are frequently engaging on a tablet with the brands they love.
“We saw 16 million digital publications downloaded over the last 12 months, with no signs of fatigue,” said Zeke Koch, senior director of product management, Digital Publishing, Adobe. “As digital issues grow significantly, Adobe will continue to fuel this evolution by providing innovative features that allow publishers and corporations worldwide to drive digital revenue, accelerated readership and purchase of content.”
Publishers like Rodale Inc. and Active Interest Media and companies like Sotheby’s have recently published magazine, merchandising and customer loyalty applications. Similarly, enterprises now have the opportunity to add digital content into their mobile marketing mix by creating a broad range of digital publications using Digital Publishing Suite, including sales and marketing collateral, corporate communications, as well as brand loyalty, customer acquisition and customer retention materials.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Media Week (V5, N9): Pearson Keeps Growing, Economist on Enhanced Books + More

Pearson announced their preliminary 2011 results and unless you were living under a rock you shouldn't be surprised that they continue to be the poster publisher for revenue growth, operating efficiency, investment and dividend growth.  I've been following Pearson for almost 10 yrs and it is uncanny how they underplay their performance all year and deliver consistent performance year after year.  Here there is nothing of the divestiture scuttle but that surrounds McGraw Hill and Reed Elsevier and the company seems to have put behind them the issues around the FT group. Didn't Murdoch say he was going to bury the FT?

Here is the summary of their results from their press release:

Pearson 2011 Preliminary results (unaudited)

Financial performance

  • Sales up 6% at CER in spite of tough trading conditions in many markets.
  • Adjusted operating profit up 12% to £942m with growth in all businesses.
  • Adjusted EPS up 12% to 86.5p (headline growth).
  • Cash conversion remains strong at 104%; operating cash flow of £983m (£1,057m in 2010, which benefited from an unusually high working capital contribution).
  • Return on invested capital of 9.1%, above Pearson’s cost of capital; ROIC lower than in 2010 largely due to significant acquisition spend and higher cash tax.

Growth markets

  • Digital revenues up 18% in headline terms to £2bn, now 33% of Pearson’s sales. Substantial digital growth in all parts of Pearson including:
    • Students using our digital learning programmes up 23% to 43m.
    • Penguin eBook revenues up 106%; now 12% of total Penguin revenues.
    • FT digital subscriptions up 29% to 267,000; approximately 44% of total paid circulation.
  • Developing markets revenues up 24% in headline terms to $1bn ($834m in 2010), now 11% of Pearson’s sales.


  • Operating margins reach 16.1% (up 1.0% points)
  • Average working capital: sales ratio improved to 16.9% (20.1% in 2010).


  • Sustained organic investment of approximately £500m in new products and technologies.
  • £896m invested in acquisitions including Schoolnet and Connections Education in North America and Global Education in China.
  • Strong balance sheet (net debt of £499m) and approximately £1bn of headroom available for bolt-on acquisitions.

In Education, we expect to achieve continued growth in 2012. In North America, we anticipate modest growth in higher education as rapid take-up of our technology and services is partially offset by lower college enrolments and challenging conditions in the market for printed textbooks. We expect our Assessment and Information business to remain resilient as it prepares for the transition to next-generation Common Core assessments. We expect good growth in digital school programmes and services but another tough year for the School textbook publishing industry, which will continue to be affected by pressure on state budgets and delays in purchasing decisions during the transition to the new Common Core standards.

We expect our International education business to show good growth. Austerity measures will continue to affect education spending in much of the developed world, but we see significant opportunity in emerging markets in China, south-east Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa – which together accounted for more than 40% of our International education revenues in 2011. Across our education company, we will be integrating acquisitions made in 2011 (and expensing the costs) and making a series of organic investments in fast-growing segments including digital learning, English language teaching and institutional services. We expect our Professional education business to grow again, benefiting from the continued strength of our worldwide professional testing business. In the UK, government funding pressures and policy change relating to apprenticeships are creating a tough trading environment in professional training.

The FT Group’s profits will be lower in 2012 than in 2011, reflecting the sale of our 50% stake in FTSE International and further actions weighted towards the first half of the year to accelerate the shift from print to digital. The Financial Times and The Economist Group (in which Pearson owns a 50% stake) are predicting weak advertising markets but strong growth in digital subscription revenues. Mergermarket will benefit from its high subscription renewal rates, although the outlook for M&A activity remains uncertain.

Penguin has performed strongly in recent years in the context of rapid structural change in the consumer publishing industry. We expect it to perform in line with the overall industry this year, facing tough conditions in the physical bookstore channel but helped by its strong position in digital. eBook revenues accounted for 12% of Penguin revenues worldwide in 2011, up from 6% in 2010, and we expect this percentage to increase significantly again in 2012. 

Of course it's not all rosy since the FT journalists have voted to strike (Guardian)

The Economist on Enhanced Books:
Print purists needn’t retreat with horror to their laden shelves. Multimedia enhancement will still affect only a tiny proportion of new titles. Children’s books were first to get this bells-and-whistles treatment, but adult fiction has proven a harder sell. Few readers have been willing to pay more for extras at the back. While ordinary e-books continue to eat into print sales, a British experiment with adding author videos and other material to best-selling novels, called Enhanced Editions, was quietly abandoned last year.

Yet for certain kinds of book, such as biographies, cookbooks, literary classics and newer forms of interactive fiction, enhancement can add rich and startling new layers. Penguin’s forthcoming biography of Malcolm X, for instance, features rare archival footage and an interactive map of Harlem. The life of “Muhammad Ali” now comes with audio clips of him rapping about his prowess. Richard Dawkins’s “The Magic of Reality” (voted best app at the 2012 Digital Book World) and E.O. Wilson’s “Life on Earth”, are cunning fusions of documentary and textbook, with molecules and stories spinning at a finger’s touch.

Timeless classics have also proved to be good candidates for a bit of extra gloss. Breaking a losing streak of enhanced apps that failed to turn a profit, a multimedia edition of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” swiftly earned back its cost for Faber & Faber, says Henry Volans, the publisher's digital director. The “book” serves up Eliot’s original manuscript with footnotes and scholarly addenda, as well as video and audio recordings of the poem in performance. And this spring Faber will reach for the brightest star in the literary firmament and publish Shakespeare’s sonnets. Penguin, meanwhile, chose as its inaugural “amplified edition” the modern classic “On the Road”, featuring archival photos of Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript typed on a scroll, along with snapshots of his fellow Beats, some video interviews and maps of the cross-country journey.
From the Twitter:

Hawking Radiation: Figuring Out How Many Books Are Sold to Libraries (Kitchen)

It's a big day at BISG: Student Attitudes Toward Content Vol 2, Report 1 published today!(BISG)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pork on a Stick

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

Not your typical backyard barbeque from January 1973 in the North of New Zealand where we used to go for weekends.  We lived in Auckland for about four years and this would have been right before we left for Australia.  This was taken by by grand father but I must have been standing right next to him because I have a grainy black and white Instamatic image from almost the same spot.  Both are in my Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980   

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.

Cengage in Big Content Deal with CalState

We will see more of these types of deals between institutions and educational publishers to provide content Campus wide. This announcement from Cengage is more unusual because it's an entire system. From the press release:

- Cengage Learning, a leading global provider of print and digital teaching, learning and research solutions, today announced an agreement with California State University (CSU), the largest university system in the country, to provide discounted eTextbooks to students as part of the Affordable Learning Solutions campaign. One of the largest digital resources contracts signed by a university system, this three-year contract will allow more than 400,000 students on 23 campuses to access Cengage Learning eTextbooks at a substantial cost savings.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

BISG: Higher Ed Student Attitudes to Content Research Report

The BISG has released a second volume of its research into student attitudes toward content.  Here is a summary from their press release:
The first installment in Volume Two of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)'s ongoing Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education survey shows that students are rebelling against the rising costs of textbooks in a variety of ways. Some students are settling for older editions of assigned textbooks. In fact, less than 60% of surveyed students purchased current print editions -- new or used. The frequency of illicit behavior such as photocopying (measured for the first time in this survey) is less than expected. Still, it remains an issue with 4.1% of students saying they engage in these practices frequently and almost 25% saying they do this occasionally. Among the legal, low-cost alternatives students are exploring are textbook rentals, which 11% of respondents report using, a significant increase over the past year.

Student Attitudes Toward Content in Higher Education focuses on college student perceptions related to educational content and presentation media in the higher education marketplace. Volume Two is powered by Bowker Market Research and sponsored by Baker & Taylor, Cengage Learning, Chegg, CourseSmart, Follett Higher Education Group,, Kno, the National Association of College Stores (NACS), and Pearson.

"College students are reacting to high textbook prices by changing how they think about what's acceptable and what isn't," said Angela Bole, BISG's Deputy Executive Director. "When you pair this with the impact of rapid changes in technology, you have all the elements needed to create a confusing landscape. The motivation behind BISG's ongoing student attitudes survey is to eliminate this confusion. The report harnesses hard data that accurately plots trends, identifying both threats to business as well as the inevitable opportunities that emerge in dynamic marketplaces."
You can buy the report here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beyond the Book with Ingram's Phil Ollila

It's been a while since I've linked to a Beyond the Book interview but here is an interview with Ingram's Chief Content Officer Phil Ollila.  Phil speaks about how digital has changed the way Ingram operates and how that transition has enabled them to offer a broader array of services for publishers - especially on an international scale.  (BTB)

Here is a sample:
KENNEALLY: Right. And it changes the experience for the consumer. Obviously, they get the material, if not that moment as an e-book download, certainly, you know, within days, if not a day, in print form. But they’re getting access to a whole range of titles, millions of titles, in fact, that they simply wouldn’t have even thought were in their view before.
OLLILA: So a great example of that is what we did in Australia. In Australia recently, we opened a print on demand manufacturing facility in Melbourne that will serve the continent of Australia. Publishers throughout the world have authorized their content for distribution in Australia, and on the day that we opened that plant, we had over a million titles available for distribution in Australia. That’s more books than we’re – that have ever been available in Australia on an on demand basis for immediate distribution in history.
So one of the things that we’re proud of is the ability to bring content into Australia at very little cost to publishers, and exposing that content to consumers in Australia, where in the past, the distribution model would’ve been to sell the rights to an Australian publisher. The Australian publisher would have to negotiate with an Australian retailer. The book would have to go on a shelf. And by the time you get through all those steps, the cost of bringing that content onto the continent was incredibly high. So as a result, very little content actually got through to the Australian consumer.
Well, today I’m happy to say we have 5.5 million titles available in that database that, six months ago, we started with a million titles. So Australian consumers are really driving the bus in terms of availability of content. It’s not necessarily being driven by the supply chain.
Here is a link to the full transcript.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N8): Movies from Books, Digital Music, Coriolanus, Larsson & Journalists + More

From the Independent "Hollywood ate my Novel"
Novelists reveal what it’s like to have their book turned into a movie

Literary adaptations rule this year's Oscar nominations. But, for an author, having a book transformed by movie magic isn't always pleasant. Five writers tell Charlotte Philby what it's like to see your creation 'brought to life'.

Improving digital music but will we notice? (Economist):
Rock-and-roll, as usual, is leading the way. Bands such as Pearl Jam and Metallica have used FLAC to sell recordings of their concerts online. The rocker John Mellencamp issued a CD in 2008, which came with a lossless high-definition version on a DVD to demonstrate what the music should really sound like. In 2009, the Canadian singer/songwriter Neil Young ("the Godfather of Grunge") released the first of what is to be a ten-volume set of archives on Blu-ray Disc as well as CD and DVD. With its lossless codecs, Blu-ray can play high-resolution music way beyond a CD’s dynamic range.

Whether the listening public can actually hear the subtleties being conveyed is another matter. The perceived quality of a recording depends on what the listener’s ears have been trained on (as well as the quality of the audio equipment and the ambient noise). Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford University in California, gets his incoming students every year to listen to a variety of recordings compressed with different algorithms. Each year, their preference for music in MP3 format increases.
 Is Coriolanus relevant today? (Intelligent Life):
And yet a doubt persists: how “relevant” can this Shakespeare play be made to the present? Coriolanus’s tragedy begins after his return as a victorious general, when his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and his mentor (Brian Cox) want to capitalise on his military success by turning him into a politician as consul to the Senate. Coriolanus succumbs to their idea, but won’t play the part that political success requires. He won’t flatter the rabble he despises, won’t woo them, refuses to dissemble. His political opponents—two consummate performances by James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson—will of course do all these things and more. They know how to play the crowd, when to make it angry and when to please it, and naturally they win. We’re familiar with this depiction of politics as a tactical game played out by self-seeking hypocrites; physically at least, Jesson’s Brutus reminded me of Tony Blair’s smooth legal chum, Lord (Charlie) Falconer. It’s Coriolanus who is the unfamiliar figure in the film, the protagonist who tests our understanding and forfeits our sympathy because there is so very little in him to like. 
From the Guardian: Radical alternatives to conventional publishing (Guardian):
A new breed of radical publisher has emerged in recent years, with writers responding very quickly to current events. Here, some of their authors explain what marks them out.

One of the most exciting radical presses at the moment is Zer0 books. A shoestring operation begun in 2009 by the novelist Tariq Goddard, its impressive backlist covers philosophy, political theory, music criticism, contemporary cinema and much more. Its highlights include: Ivor Southwood's mordant Non-Stop Inertia, about the culture of precariousness that defines the modern workplace; and Marcello Carlin's The Blue In The Air, gorgeously constructed essays about pop, written by a widower while waiting for his new wife to fly over from Toronto so that they can start their new life together.
Zer0 has been particularly good at identifying a nexus of young, savvy writers – such as Owen Hatherley, Laurie Penny, Nina Power and Mark Fisher (better known as K-Punk) – whose work had previously surfaced mainly on blogs and whose bylines now regularly appear but in mainstream newspapers and journals.

It's been forever since we read a Steig Larsson article but the Columbia Journalism Review has stated our appetite (CJR):
But what make the trilogy so valuable to the cause of journalism are the things it gets right. Over the course of more than 1,750 pages, its author captures a remarkable number of the challenges that doing honest journalism involves, as well as the reasons it matters whether people keep doing it. This is significant, given the profession’s apparent inability to make a compelling case for itself, at least in the eyes of the readers, viewers, and listeners who do not appear to be concerning themselves terribly much with its rapid disappearance. The journalists’ credo can be found in the instructions offered by Erika Berger, Blomkvist’s lover, best friend, and editor, to one of the young writers in her employ: “Your job description as a journalist is to question and scrutinize critically—never to repeat claims uncritically, no matter how highly placed the sources in the bureaucracy. Don’t ever forget that.” This could sound like the kind of pabulum that has entered into the speeches of all the gruff, quietly heroic newspaper editors once concocted by Hollywood, from Humphrey Bogart in Deadline, USA through Jason Robards in All the President’s Men. But in Larsson’s gothic and twisted murder mysteries, the attention to journalistic detail with which readers must identify to make it to the end can only endear them to the men and women sufficiently dedicated to Berger’s lofty mission statement to stick with it.

From Twitter:

How Companies Learn Your Secrets:

The publishing industry has gone mad for film-style trailers - Features - Books -

I made Sunday dinner this week - which Mrs PND couldn't quite believe:  Bo Ssam

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The PND (Cairns) Photo Archive Vol 1: 1960-1980

As frequent visitors to PND will know, I have been posting images out of my family archive for about two years now. As it turns out, I've mixed images that were taken early on - that is, they are truly from the family archive versus some I've taken as an adult relatively recently. For most of you, I suspect that distinction has been missed but for me I've been really interested in the images my father and grandfather took between 1960 and 1980.  In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Blurb book of some of the images I really thought were special.  In the Blurb viewer below you can see the entire book and I hope you like it.  You can even buy it although it is expensive and I really don't expect anyone to do so.  I am thinking of creating a smaller (cheaper) format so let me know if you are interested.

From The Archive: 1960 - 1980 by James T., Michael A. and Michael P. Cairns

In our attic at PND Mansions (UK) I came across a large box containing almost all the slide images taken between 1960 and 1980.  While a few were still in their original boxes most were all in a jumble having been removed out of carousels after some long ago family slide show.  So, I gathered all these images together and at first tried to select only the ones that looked interesting.  Quickly, I decided to take the entire collection and have them all scanned.  I was tempted to purchase a slide scanner and do this myself but my practical side quickly convinced me this would be a time consuming nightmare.

After one false start, I found an online site named ScanCafe where I sent all the images (in several batches) and had them scanned.  This works really well and I would recommend ScanCafe if you are looking to do something like this with a lot of images.

If you are like me and like organization I can't underestimate how long it can take to reorganize a mass of images that have been thrown together.  Remember, in my case all my images were a jumble but I quickly learned the better organized these were in advance of sending the faster I was able to put them into better order when they came back.

I am very happy with the way this book turned out.  I plan on doing three or four more over the next few years as patience dictates.  I think I have selected the best images from this period (not including any family photos you might notice) and as a set of images that describes my first 20 yrs I think it's a pretty decent representation.  And that's a pretty awesome cover.

File Under "Bleedin' Obvious": Good Data Drives Sales

Nielsen Bookdata recently released a white paper/sales sheet on metadata enhancement which presents some real data on the direct link between deep accurate metadata and increased sales and long term revenue.  Unsurprisingly, the document finishes by noting that BookData provides enhanced metadata services for a fee which, assuming publishers don't have the where with all to handle this very basic activity themselves, they would be well advised to contract with Nielsen (or someone similar).

It occurs to me that there's some circuitous illogical aspect to working with a third party data enhancement provider: If, as a publisher I don't have the means to provide this deep information in the first place, how will I be able to know that the deep metadata services provided by a third party are accurate and optimal?  Nielsen will say "increased sales" and they'd be correct based on their own analysis yet it is always going to be the author, editor and marketing person at the publisher who is best placed to define and optimize their metadata.  Contracting this function out is not only likely to be sub-optimal but might also result in a staff who's experience becomes removed from the realities of market dynamics.  This is not to suggest that the third party will do a bad job but that the benefits to the publisher in doing it themselves far out weighs the benefits both in the short term and long term.

And what are the results of better metadata?  Neilsen's report is quite specific from this sample:
White Paper: The Link Between Metadata and Sales

Looking at the top selling 100,000 titles from 2011ii we analysed the volume sales for titles where either the BIC Basic or image flag was missing, and compared these with titles where one of the flags were missing and titles where both the BIC Basic and image flags were present, indicating that the BIC Basic standard was met. Figure 1.1 shows the average sales per title for these four different sets of records.

The positive impact of supplying complete BIC Basic data and an image is clear. Records without complete BIC Basic data or an image sell on average 385 copies. Adding an image sees sales per ISBN increase to 1,416, a 268% boost. Records with complete BIC Basic data but no image have average sales under 437 copies, but when we look at records with all of the necessary data and image
requirements, average sales reach 2,205. This represents an increase of 473% in comparison to those records which have neither the complete BIC Basic data elements or an image. Figure 1.2 shows a direct comparison between all records with insufficient data to meet the BIC Basic standard, and those that meet the requirements.

the average sales across all records with incomplete BIC Basic elements are 1,113 copies per title, with the complete records seeing an 98% increase in average sales.

Titles which hold all four enhanced metadata elements sell on average over 1,000 more copies than those that don’t hold any enhanced metadata, and almost 700 more copies that those that hold three out of the four enhanced metadata elements. In percentage terms, titles with three metadata elements see an average sales boost of 18%, and those with all four data elements 55% when compared to titles with no enhanced metadata elements.
In the still early days of Amazon we were always throwing out the (anic)data point that a book with a cover image was 8x more likely to sell versus one without.  Sadly we are still discussing much the same issue.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

History of Electronic Transformation in the Story of the San Jose Mercury News

I think I tweeted this article several months ago but I was reminded of it again during a pre-conference session at Tools of Change this morning.  The article from the Columbia Journalism Review is a fascinating tale of how an established media outlet - one in many ways pre-disposed to change - struggled to make the right decisions, the right investments and do these at the right time.

Here are some snips (These are fairly deep in the article - CJR):
By the time William Glaberson of the New York Times came to visit in early 1994, some five thousand new AOL subscribers had signed up to receive Mercury Center. The number, Glaberson noted, represented less than 20 percent of AOL’s subscribers in the Bay Area and less than 2 percent of the Merc’s readers. But Glaberson’s report in the Times was all that Ingle, Mitchell, and their staff could have asked for. Even with new sites at the Chicago Tribune, Gannett’s Florida Today, and a handful of other papers, it had taken less than a year for Mercury Center to emerge as arguably the most ambitious experiment in how to weave the new technologies into an existing news operation.
It was not only the volume of services that set it apart, but the extent to which the electronic services so dramatically expanded the definition of what it meant to be in the news business. Mercury Center, Glaberson noted, had carried an online chat with San Jose’s mayor, offered its telephone-only subscribers recordings of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, posted press releases (much to the newsroom’s consternation), and had also made available archives of all stories that had appeared in the newspaper since 1985. The archives, which came with an additional fee, had proven to be particularly popular. Ingle had thought their greatest appeal would be to schoolchildren working on reports. But the traffic was heaviest during the day, suggesting that the biggest users were business people eager for information about their industries and competitors.
Ingle told Glaberson that he was envisioning a new breed of journalist, dispatched with the sort of equipment that would allow filing in all sorts of ways, not merely for print. He called them “multimedia reporters.” Still, for the print side, the connection between the newspaper and Mercury Center involved little more than the addition of codes at the bottom of printed stories, so that readers could log on, or call in, for more. Some reporters had begun online conversations with their readers (everyone was asked to respond to reader e-mails). Others told Glaberson they saw the back and forth as peripheral to their work.
Christensen, a devout Mormon, was staking out a position that bordered on business heresy. In the face of disruptive technology, he wrote, the wise course was not to react to the demands of existing customers. It was imperative to lower revenue expectations for the products spun off by those new technologies. And it was essential to accept the inevitability of failure. If sustaining technology brought reassurance, disruptive technology sowed doubt.
Yates had been with Knight Ridder long enough to recognize how much Christensen’s case mirrored what had taken place at her company. Knight Ridder, under Jim Batten, had ended the Viewtron experiment because the market was judged too small and the cost too high. But now Christensen was presenting an argument suggesting that, in essence, the company had had it all wrong—that because it had lost so much money it could not appreciate that Viewtron did, in fact, serve a market, albeit a small one that could, over time, develop into a far larger one, once the technology became cheaper, accessible, and efficient. Once the personal computer with a high-speed modem became a household fixture, the newspaper would cease being the best way to read, and more importantly, to search for jobs, employees, cars, and homes. That was the moment of disruption. And when it occurred, the companies that had been cultivating their shares of the emerging markets found themselves no longer at the periphery, but, like eBay, in a position to dominate a market that, not so long before, did not appear to exist.
As if by chance, Ingle had in 1990 come upon the very corrective in Mercury Center that Christensen would prescribe seven years later—a small, inexpensive laboratory for trying out those disruptive technologies, a place where modest successes could be celebrated and built upon, a “skunk works” operation that the company could keep running as it waited to see whether the new markets might emerge, or existing ones catch up.

Note: Christensen wrote The Innovators Dilemma which was also specifically referred to this morning.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Media Week (V5, N7): Books on Facebook, UK Copyright, Big Data, Ireland & John Synge + More

Interesting experiment to publish a novel via Facebook (Haaretz):
Epstein says that his decision to publish his new book on Facebook, where it appears in a photo-album format, was a response to the situation of the publishing market in Israel: "I'm not saying anything new when I say that the vast majority of writers and poets in Israel are unable to make a decent living from their work." The fact that Epstein cannot support himself from his books is not the heart of the matter; that's already self-evident. What bothers him is the short shelf life of books in the stores.
"In the case of a writer like me," he explains, "who isn't a mainstream and best-selling author, what happens is that the literature has a very hard time reaching the readers. The only way is via the 'book cemetery' that is sometimes called Tzomet Sfarim and sometimes Steimatzky's" - the country's two largest bookstore chains. "A book in those stores is sold not as a cultural item but as a consumer item of the shallowest possible kind. Not because it isn't good, but because that way it gets sold."
Epstein says this paradox confronts many writers and poets: "It's one thing that you don't make a profit, but in the present situation nobody can even read you, because the books don't really reach anyone. What I tried to examine is whether it's possible to reach a relatively broad audience without going through the usual intermediary, who is systematically interested in money rather than culture. I'm interested in the work and not its financial aspect."
The Publisher's Association in the UK is proposing a copyright registry (Bookseller):
The Publishers Association has called for the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange  (DCE), which would act as a "one stop shop" for the exchange of information about how to license copyright online.
The PA has argued the online platform would negate the need for "dangerous" changes to copyright law proposed by the government in parallel consultation on copyright.
In a submission to the feasibility study into the DCE, which closes today (10th February), the PA urged government to suspend progress of the parallel Copyright Consultation launched by the Intellectual Property Office late last year, which recommends "drastically weakening" copyright. The body thinks the proposals would remove or undermine the ability of rightsholders to develop licensing business models, and "go against the grain" of the market-based voluntary arrangements proposed in the DCE.
Amanda Knox book in the works (NYTimes):
This makes the next step trickier for publishers vying this week for the rights to her memoir, whose blockbuster allure has a backdrop of unsettling details: Ms. Knox was arrested in 2007 in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in what prosecutors described as a sex escapade gone wrong, spent nearly four years in an Italian prison and was exonerated last October after an appeals court overturned the original conviction.
The surge of media attention that will surely accompany the book’s release — normally good for publishers — comes with risks. To some members of the public, Ms. Knox was an innocent abroad who was imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. To others, she is a cunning femme fatale who got away with murder.
And that brings some difficult questions: do book-buying Americans see Ms. Knox as a sympathetic figure? And if the book commands a seven-figure advance, as is widely expected, will it be worth it?
Big Data from the NY Times:
What is Big Data? A meme and a marketing term, for sure, but also shorthand for advancing trends in technology that open the door to a new approach to understanding the world and making decisions. There is a lot more data, all the time, growing at 50 percent a year, or more than doubling every two years, estimates IDC, a technology research firm. It’s not just more streams of data, but entirely new ones. For example, there are now countless digital sensors worldwide in industrial equipment, automobiles, electrical meters and shipping crates. They can measure and communicate location, movement, vibration, temperature, humidity, even chemical changes in the air.
Link these communicating sensors to computing intelligence and you see the rise of what is called the Internet of Things or the Industrial Internet. Improved access to information is also fueling the Big Data trend. For example, government data — employment figures and other information — has been steadily migrating onto the Web. 
In 2009, Washington opened the data doors further by starting, a Web site that makes all kinds of government data accessible to the public.  Data is not only becoming more available but also more understandable to computers. Most of the Big Data surge is data in the wild — unruly stuff like words, images and video on the Web and those streams of sensor data. It is called unstructured data and is not typically grist for traditional databases.  
But the computer tools for gleaning knowledge and insights from the Internet era’s vast trove of unstructured data are fast gaining ground. At the forefront are the rapidly advancing techniques of artificial intelligence like natural-language processing, pattern recognition and machine learning. 
Interesting article about returning to Ireland and the ghost of John Synge (NYT)
John Millington Synge writes of walking to see these beehive huts (clochans in Gaelic) in “The Aran Islands,” his classic account of living here for several months in the 1890s, when he gathered the material for his greatest plays. No other writer is more closely associated with this place and its people than Synge, although in many ways he makes an unlikely representative. He was Anglo-Irish, Protestant in his upbringing, fairly well to do, scientifically minded — there could have been, at the time, few Irish people possessing less in common with the peasantry he wound up making his subject and taking for his inspiration. Even in his famed descriptions, you can sense a remoteness. It was the artist in him, the very thing that made him a great writer. He never loved his own people too much to be able to see what was grotesque and silly and consequently most human in them. On his walk to the beehive huts, he’s following an old blind man named Mourteen, a local storyteller who gave him all sorts of material. The man knows the islands so well that Synge cuts his feet trying to keep up, despite the fact that his guide can’t see — “so blind that I can gaze at him without discourtesy,” is Synge’s phrase. The old man at one point indulges “a freak of earthly humour” and starts talking sex, saying what he would do if he could bring a girl into the hut with him. They pass a house where a schoolteacher lives alone. “Ah, master,” the old man says, “wouldn’t it be fine to be in there and to be kissing her?” It’s just the kind of scene that Synge’s detractors hated him for. The heroism of his characters comes purely from their helpless urge to be themselves, against all better judgment.
From the Twitter:

New York Diaries, in the Author's Hand:(NYT)

Pearson Takes 200,000 SF in Hoboken - Daily News Article

Rice University And OpenStax Announce First Open-Source Textbooks (Techcrunch)

Recalibrating Expectations for eTexts. Students are not embracing eTexts:  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dead Parrot (Fish), Tahiti 1972

Dead Parrot Fish Tahiti 1971
Another weekly image from my archive. Click on it to make it larger.

In the archive there is a sequence of four or five images of an old toothless Tahitian spear fisherman who, from the shoreline, launches a spear into the pacific and comes up this this parrot fish.  Despite the dead fish, this image is very detailed and in the book I was able to make it a full page spread. 

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. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

New Media Consortia - Horizon Report - Ten Top Trends in Education

The New Media Consortia has been publishing their annual Horizon report on trends in higher education for ten years. To celebrate that effort NMC brought together 100 thought leaders in education for a three day convocation in Austin.  The group identified 28 megatrends in education and released a press release that documented the most important first 10.  Here from their press release (NMC)
A wide lens was aimed at the world around education, and that lens had a uniquely global focus. What interested the group — which represented 20 countries from six continents — was what trends are truly international? Which are impacting learning and education worldwide, from the most advanced countries to the poorest?  From these discussions, 28 hugely important metatrends were identified. The ten most significant are listed here and will be the focus of the upcoming NMC Horizon Project 10th Anniversary Report:
1. The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative. As more and more companies move to the global marketplace, it is common for work teams to span continents and time zones. Not only are teams geographically diverse, they are also culturally diverse.
2. People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to.
Increasingly, people own more than one device, using a computer, smartphone, tablet, and ereader. People now expect a seamless experience across all their devices.
3. The Internet is becoming a global mobile network — and already is at its edges.
Mobithinking reports there are now more than 6 billion active cell phone accounts. 1.2 billion have mobile broadband as well, and 85% of new devices can access the mobile web.
4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and delivered over utility networks, facilitating the rapid growth of online videos and rich media. Our current expectation is that the network has almost infinite capacity and is nearly free of cost. One hour of video footage is uploaded every second to YouTube; over 250 million photos are sent to Facebook every day.
5. Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world. As authoritative sources lose their importance, there is need for more curation and other forms of validation to generate meaning in information and media.
6. Legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society. In anage where so much of our information, records, and digital content are in the cloud, and often clouds in other legal jurisdictions, the very concept of ownership is blurry.
7. Real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success. Access to learning in any form is a challenge in too many parts of the world, and efficiency in learning systems and institutions is increasingly an expectation of governments — but the need for solutions that scale often trumps them both. Innovations in these areas are increasingly coming from unexpected parts of the world, including India, China, and central Africa.
8. The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining our notion of literacy. Institutions must consider the unique value that each adds to a world in which information is everywhere. In such a world, sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information and media are paramount.
9. There is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities, and training. Traditional authority is increasingly being challenged, not only politically and socially, but also in academia — and worldwide. As a result, credibility, validity, and control are all notions that are no longer givens when so much learning takes place outside school systems.
10. Business models across the education ecosystem are changing. Libraries are deeply
reimagining their missions; colleges and universities are struggling to reduce costs across the board. The educational ecosystem is shifting, and nowhere more so than in the world of publishing, where efforts to reimagine the book are having profound success, with implications that will touch every aspect of the learning enterprise. 

These metatrends are the first of much yet to come in the next year. Watch for news and more throughout the Horizon Project’s 10th Anniversary

Monday, February 06, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N6): Serendipity and the Internet, Facebook Users, Canadian Copyright Issues + More

Serendipity killed the Internet: Ian Leslie writing in More Intelligent Life
The word that best describes this subtle blend of chance and agency is “serendipity”. It was coined by Horace Walpole, man of letters and aristocratic dilettante. Writing to a friend in 1754, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had just made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of…now do you understand Serendipity?” These days, we tend to associate serendipity with luck, and we neglect the sagacity. But some conditions are more conducive to accidental discovery than others.
Today’s world wide web has developed to organise, and make sense of, the exponential increase in information made available to everyone by the digital revolution, and it is amazingly good at doing so. If you are searching for something, you can find it online, and quickly. But a side-effect of this awesome efficiency may be a shrinking, rather than an expansion, of our horizons, because we are less likely to come across things we are not in quest of.
When the internet was new, its early enthusiasts hoped it would emulate the greatest serendipity machine ever invented: the city. The modern metropolis, as it arose in the 19th century, was also an attempt to organise an exponential increase, this one in population. Artists and writers saw it as a giant playground of discovery, teeming with surprise encounters. The flâneur was born: one who wanders the streets with purpose, but without a map.
Most city-dwellers aren’t flâneurs, however. In 1952 a French sociologist called Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe asked a student to keep a journal of her daily movements. When he mapped her paths onto a map of Paris he saw the emergence of a triangle, with vertices at her apartment, her university and the home of her piano teacher. Her movements, he said, illustrated “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives”
Interesting report from the Pew Internet that took a look at Facebook users.  From their summary:
The average Facebook user gets more from their friends on Facebook than they give to their friends. Why? Because of a segment of “power users,” who specialize in different Facebook activities and contribute much more than the typical user does.
The typical Facebook user in our sample was moderately active over our month of observation, in their tendency to send friend requests, add content, and “like” the content of their friends. However, a proportion of Facebook participants – ranging between 20% and 30% of users depending on the type of activity – were power users who performed these same activities at a much higher rate; daily or more than weekly. As a result of these power users, the average Facebook user receives friend requests, receives personal messages, is tagged in photos, and receives feedback in terms of “likes” at a higher frequency than they contribute. What’s more, power users tend to specialize. Some 43% of those in our sample were power users in at least one Facebook activity:  sending friend requests, pressing the like button, sending private messages, or tagging friends in photos. Only 5% of Facebook users were power users on all of these activities, 9% on three, and 11% on two. Because of these power users, and their tendency to specialize on specific Facebook activities, there is a consistent pattern in our sample where Facebook users across activities tend to receive more from friends than they give to others.  
  • On average, Facebook users in our sample get more friend requests than they make: 63% received at least one friend request during the period we studied, but only 40% made a friend request.
  • It is more common to be “liked” than to like others. The postings, uploads, and updates of Facebook users are liked – through the use of the “like” button – more often than these users like the contributions of others. Users in the sample pressed the like button next to friends’ content an average of 14 times per month and received feedback from friends in the form of a “like” 20 times per month.
  • On average, users receive more messages than they send. In the month of our analysis, users received an average of nearly 12 private messages, and sent nine.
  • People comment more often than they update their status. Users in our sample made an average of nine status updates or wall posts per month and contributed 21 comments.
  • People are tagged more in photos than they tag others. Some 35% of those in our sample were tagged in a photo, compared with just 12% who tagged a friend in a photo.
There's been a lot of controversy in Canada regarding proposed changes that the Canadian copyright clearance agency (Access Copyright) has imposed on copyright use.  After facing significant opposition to their new "all in" pricing model for universities, Access Copyright just announced the agreement of the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario to the new scheme.  While the agreement, based on a per student charge, is almost 50% less than the originally proposed rate it remains to be seen if this decrease will be enough to placate the other schools.  Opposition to the deal has already been voiced by the Canadian Association of Universtity Teachers (CAUT):
The Canadian Association of University Teachers is condemning an agreement two universities have made that allows for the surveillance of faculty correspondence, unjustified restriction to copyrighted works and more than a million-dollar increase in fees.

This week, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto signed a deal with the licensing group Access Copyright that includes: provisions defining e-mailing hyperlinks as equivalent to photocopying a document; a flat fee of $27.50 for each full-time equivalent student; and, surveillance of academic staff email.

“Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s actions are inexplicable,” said James L. Turk, CAUT executive director. “They have buckled under to Access Copyright’s outrageous and unjustified demands at a time when courts have extended rights to use copyrighted material, better alternatives are becoming available to the services Access offers and just before the passage of new federal copyright legislation that provides additional protections for the educational sector”.

Turk also pointed out that the Supreme Court is set to clarify the educational use of copyrighted works in the coming months, clarifications that could undercut Access’s bargaining position. In contrast to Western Ontario and Toronto, many institutions have opted out of agreements with Access Copyright or are fighting its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.

“These two universities threw in the towel on the copyright battle prematurely,” said Turk. “We call on other post-secondary institutions not to follow Toronto’s and Western Ontario’s example of capitulating to Access Copyright. It‘s time to stand up for the right to fair and reasonable access to copyrighted works for educational purposes”.
In the telegraph a look at 'vanity' magazine publishing impresses Thomas Marks (Telegraph):
Small magazines are proliferating in London. Steven Watson, the founder of the innovative subscription service Stack – which transfers the lucky-dip principle of the vegetable box to the delivery of independent magazines – speaks enthusiastically about the quality of their production values and content. There is The Ride Journal, freewheeling its way through cycle culture, Boat Magazine, a nomadic publication that relocates to a different city every six months, the offbeat fashion journal Address, the creative film criticism of Little White Lies. While many industry leaders are struggling for subscriptions and advertising revenue, their former readers have started generating editorial content for themselves.
No doubt some of these publications trade on their hipness and many flash and fade after a handful of issues. But they have an energy that raises them well beyond vanity projects: they begin like apprenticeships but the best evolve into impressive small enterprises. Nevertheless, there remains a certain amount of gratifying amateurishness involved: Scott and Smith describe lugging sale-or-return copies of Lost in London around London in a rucksack. Many writers and photographers relish the chance to take the imaginative risks they often avoid when they’re being remunerated – so long as they can find paid work elsewhere. 
From the Twitter:

Flow of venture capital into K-12 market exploded over the past year EdWeek

Utah is working on free online textbooks for high school

Opening the book conference to people who buy books. Finally, (well, 2013) - BookExpo for the readers.

Scientific publishing: The price of information

In sports, ManUtd fought back from three goals down to draw at Chelsea. (MEN)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Close Shaved Iranian Boy

Boy, Tehran September 1972
Another weekly image from my archive. Click on it to make it larger.

From September 1972, an Iranian boy wonders where his hair has gone.  I was traveling back home to New Zealand with my father and grandfather after having spent almost three months in the UK with my grandfather.  While this was a great vacation for me and I got to miss some school, I think it was a cunning plan by my parents that relieved my mother of having to deal with three boys all by herself while my father went to summer school at Cornell.      

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, February 01, 2012

Only Fools and Horses

There's news this week the the long running and well loved UK TV show Only Fools and Horses may be adapted for the US.  Personally, I think this is an impossible task mostly because the show is so culture based and the two actors, David Jason  and Nic Lyndhurst, who play the lead characters Dell and Rodney work so well together.

Here's what the Independent said:
A pilot episode is said to be in the pipeline, written by Steven Cragg and Brian Bradley, writers and producers of the US hit series Happy Endings and Scrubs. The adaptation is sticking closely to the basic premise of the hit BBC 1 comedy, centring on "the misadventures of two streetwise brothers and their ageing grandfather as they concoct outrageous, morally questionable get-rich-quick schemes in a bid to become millionaires".
As most Britons can confirm, it's an accurate description of Derek and Rodney Trotter's hapless money-making antics. The question is whether a US audience will appreciate the nuances of this peculiarly British hit programme. That will depend on how skilfully the makers can adapt David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst's unique comic blend for an audience unlikely to have heard of Peckham.

And to give you a taste of what this show was about here is a clip: