Saturday, March 31, 2012

Media Week (V5, N14): Frontline Video on NI Hacking, Blackboard Thinking, Taking the SAT (again), Book Awards + more

Frontline on PBS has spent an hour looking at how the Murdoch/News International phone hacking scandal has evolved from the start.  As you watch this just remember that The Guardian did not get newspaper of the year in the UK this year.  (Frontline);

Watch Murdoch's Scandal on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

People are still digesting the news about Blackboard's acquisition of Moodle.  Here is an interesting view from Audrey Watters at Inside Higher Ed.  I happen to agree that LMS providers could gain access to very significant data that many in the education supply chain would find useful and worth paying for (IHEd):
But I think the value's elsewhere. Or rather the value is in the customer, but not in terms of licenses or sign-ups or enrollment numbers per se. I think the value's in the data:
What are students reading? What are they buying at the bookstore? What are they checking out of the library? How much time are they spending on course materials? How often do they interact with other students? What does that interaction entail? How often do they interact with faculty? What does that interaction entail? How do students respond to feedback? How's attendance? How are grades -- not just at the end of the term, but in an ongoing and real-time basis? What classes do students want to take? What classes should they take? What classes should the university offer? Can it build a recommendation engine to help make suggestions to students? What faculty should it hire? And what are those faculty doing?
These are the sorts of questions that big data promises to answer for universities, as well as (I'd hope) for leaners. That's both a frightening and a thrilling prospect, I think, when we consider its implications. But learning analytics is still a largely open field right now, I'd say, even though there are pockets of early incumbants: companies who've built adaptive engines, companies who hold massive amounts of user data, companies who sell products and services to universities/professors/students.

Ever think of taking the SAT over again? Me either, but Drew Magary at Deadspin thought he would give it a try and hilarity ensues.  Parents, this is what you are putting your kids through. (Deadspin)
I mean seriously, HOLY FUCK. My mind exploded when I looked at this. You may as well have asked me to climb Everest using a fork. It took me five minutes just to try to understand the QUESTION. Once I had figured it out, time was up. I finished most of the verbal sections of the test under the time allotted. I had no such luck with the math sections. Even when I got the question right, the mental strain it took to try and dig through the piles of shit-encrusted mildew in my brain to retrieve the information needed to solve any given equation was brutal. How do you divide fractions again? Don't you flip the top number and the bottom number or something? And what's the top number called? The Ruminator? The Kilometer? OH FUCK IT.
Many times, I had to skip a question because I couldn't figure out the answer, and then I got that paranoia that's unique to someone taking a standardized test. I became fearful that I had failed to skip over the question on my answer sheet. So every five seconds, I'd double-check my sheet to make sure I didn't fill out my answers in the wrong slots. One time I did this, and so I had to erase the answers and move them all forward. Only I had a shitty eraser, which failed to erase my mark and instead smeared the mark all over the rest of my sheet. FUCK YOU, TRICK ERASER. I HATE YOU.
This year's Booker came under fire for being too low brow and this post on a scifi award shows that complaining about book award efforts is alive and well, but that hasn't stopped the Observer from launching a new award program to name the best book from 1962.  Why? Well, just because it was 50 years ago which I don't need reminding (Observer).
The Observer is sponsoring a new annual prize to decide which book of ideas from the crop published 50 years ago has had the most lasting influence on society's thinking. So, taking the class of 1962, the Bristol festival's Best Book of Ideas prize will come from this shortlist of 10:
1) Another Country James Baldwin
2) Capitalism and Freedom Milton Friedman
3) A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
4) Day (originally published as The Accident) Elie Wiesel
5) My Land and My People: The Original Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet Dalai Lama XIV
6) The Other America Michael Harrington
7) Sex and the Single Girl Helen Gurley Brown
8) Silent Spring Rachel Carson
9) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Thomas S Kuhn
10) Toward a Psychology of Being Abraham Harold Maslow
The winner, chosen by the festival board, will be announced on 21 May.
Speaking of which, Christopher Hitchens is one of 18 authors selected for the Orwell Prize for political writing.(Telegraph)

From Twitter:

Blackboard's Open Source Pivot | Inside Higher Ed: No one really knows what to make of it.

Presentation from BlackBoard User meeting on important trends impacting Higher Ed  

Great Potter round-up from Porter Anderson

Bertelsmann Weighs I.P.O. For Expansion

BBC News - Amazon boss Jeff Bezos 'finds Apollo 11 Moon engines' And they weren't in his warehouse.

UK Publishers Assoc Outraged It Wasn't Consulted Ahead Of The Public Over Open Access To Publicly-Funded Research

Friday, March 30, 2012

BookExpo Announce Independent Blog Awards

The AAP and GoodReads are co-sponsoring a blogging competition in advance of the Book Expo conference.
If you’re a blogger who loves books, that passion might get you far: all the way to New York and the publishing industry’s premier annual event, with free travel and an all-access pass.

Nominations are now open for the new Independent Book Blogger Awards, a free online contest recognizing bloggers unaffiliated with/not compensated by a publishing company who write primarily about books and the industry. Four winners, chosen by the public and a judging panel, will attend BookExpo America in June with free airfare and hotel accommodations and a pass to the three-day global gathering.

The contest is co-produced by the Association of American Publishers Trade Division member organizations and Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.
The Independent Book Blogger Awards calendar:
  • Nominations are now open until Monday, April 9, 11:59 PM
  • Readers’ voting runs from Tuesday, April 10, 12:01 AM until Monday, April 23, 11:59 PM
  • A shortlist of finalists will be announced the week of May 1, with expert panel judging to follow
  • Winners will be announced the week of May 7
All nominations and voting will take place through Goodreads on its special Independent Book Blogger Awards section.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

BISG Members Meeting on Identifiers for eBooks

There's an important meeting coming up to review comments on the draft recommendations for eBook identifiers.  Here are the details:

Members of BISG’s Identification Committee are invited to a special Committee meeting to be held on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT, at the offices of Hachette Book Group and via WebEx. Meeting details are below; please register online if you’d like to attend.


This session will be devoted to a review of BISG’s Policy Statement on the Best Practices for the Identification of Digital Products, which was developed by the Committee’s Identification of E-books Working Group and published in December 2011. The goal will be to review the document to see whether revisions are needed after four months of public review and to ensure that the Policy Statement accommodates the rapidly changing conditions in our industry.

To review the Policy Statement, please click here.

Meeting Location:
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue (between 45th & 46th Streets; enter on Lexington Avenue side)
Room 16-187 (16th Floor)
NYC 10017

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Outsell Report: Where Next for Textbooks?

Outsell spoke to us about the changes going on in education specifically in the development of custom textbooks and interviewed me for the report.

Here is the summary:
The digital textbook buzz has increased over the past two years, leaving no doubt that the usage of digital textbook content in the education market will increase substantially – predictably at the expense of their print equivalents. This report looks at changes in the textbook market over the last two years and forecasts market developments over the coming five years. The report also provides case studies of some of the key market offerings, discusses how both K-12 and higher education markets for textbooks and content are developing, and examines the potential opportunities and pitfalls for existing players and new market entrants. This report contains:
- Analysis of the textbook market, including graphs, according to format, market subsegment, and geography (Americas, EMEA, Asia Pacific);
- Graphical representations of the impact of digital textbooks on both the K-12 and higher education supply chains;
- Case studies of some key players: Apple, Cengage Learning: MindTap, CourseSmart, Flat World Knowledge, Kno, Inkling, and Nature Education: Principles of Biology;
- Discussion of market dynamics and key trends, plus market opportunities and threats;
- Essential actions for publishers.
The report is $895 available from Outsell.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blackboard Acquires Moodlerooms, NetSpot

Very interesting development in the world of learning management systems with the announcement that Blackboard has acquired open source solution providers MoodleRooms and NetSpot.  From the press release:
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Blackboard Inc. announced a major investment in open source today with news that it has acquired Moodlerooms and NetSpot, two leading providers of open source online learning solutions to the education industry. Both organizations will continue to operate independently to support their clients.
Moodlerooms and NetSpot are official Moodle Partners, and each will continue their current programs to support clients with no changes to their leadership or their support and service models.
In addition, each team will also become part of Blackboard's new Education Open Source Services group, dedicated to supporting the use and development of open source learning technologies globally.
Leaders from each company recently traveled to Perth, Australia to meet with Martin Dougiamas, founder of Moodle and Managing Director of Moodle Pty Ltd, and present their plans. The meeting included Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen and Chief Technology Officer Ray Henderson, Moodlerooms CEO Lou Pugliese and Chief Architect Tom Murdock, and NetSpot Managing Director Allan Christie.
"The decision of Moodlerooms and NetSpot to work under Blackboard may sound very strange at first to anyone in this industry," said Dougiamas, "but it's my understanding that these three companies have some good plans and synergies. I'm happy to say that Moodlerooms and NetSpot will remain Moodle Partners, and have promised to continue providing Moodle services, participating in the community, and contributing financially to Moodle exactly as they always have."
Both companies provide hosting, support, and consulting services and products to clients using open source systems including the Moodle learning management system (LMS) and the Mahara e-portfolio product. NetSpot is also an authorized reseller and service provider for Blackboard Collaborate(TM). Moodlerooms primarily serves clients in North America, while NetSpot serves a client base in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region.
In addition the company also published an open letter to the education community on their website where they detailed the reasoning behind their acquisition:
Two reasons. First, this shift is the result of the broader perspective that has come over the past few years as we have updated our vision and mission. Rather than focusing just on the LMS market, we're looking at the entire student lifecycle within the education institutions we serve. That broader vision led us to add complementary platforms like Blackboard Collaborate, Blackboard Mobile and Blackboard Analytics. And it led us to extend our services reach with Blackboard Student Services and the development of our online program management offering. Only when one takes the institution-wide perspective do the largest problems in education come into view. In that position, we've seen first-hand how much the value of the foundational LMS is expanded when it connects with and empowers other systems with core impact for the education experience – mobility, real time collaboration, analytics, campus life and student services, and more. So, we wanted to pursue a strategy that gets us more involved in leveraging the power of these intersections for institutions, whatever LMS choice they make based on their particular needs.
Second, online learning continues to grow all around the world, applied to increasingly diverse learning challenges every year. As usage deepens, needs not only expand, they also become more specialized. The result for education institutions is the need for increased choice among systems with different strengths and deployment models to best suit their particular situation. We believe that Blackboard Learn is one of the most capable and versatile platforms available today. But we also understand that that no single technology platform provides all the answers for online learning in its varied forms. At the same time, we've developed robust consulting, support and hosting expertise that today's mission critical online education programs require. So today's news is about bringing that expertise to more institutions, whether they choose technology platforms we develop or other well accepted alternatives.

Monday, March 26, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N13): Pew Reports: News Isn't Dead Yet, Slow Reading, Odd Titles + More

The Pew Research Center published their annual State of Media report this week and the research suggests some interesting trends are developing in the manner in which readers are accessing news.  Specifically, the research suggests that the rapid spread of mobile devices is also escalating our level of news consumption with traditionally news brands standing to benefit.  Here is their press release summary:
  • Americans are far more likely to get digital news by going directly to a news organization’s website or app than by following social media links. Just 9% of digital news consumers say they follow news recommendations from Facebook or Twitter “very often” on any digital device — compared with 36% who say the same about directly going to a news organization’s site or app; 32% who access news through search; and 29% who use news organizing sites like Topix or Flipboard.
  • Even so, social media are an increasingly important driver of news, according to traffic data. According to PEJ’s analysis of traffic data from Hitwise, 9% of traffic to news sites now comes from Facebook, Twitter and smaller social media sites. That is up by more than half since 2009. The percentage coming from search engines, meanwhile, has dropped to 21% of news site traffic, from 23% in 2009.
  • Facebook users follow news links shared by family and friends; Twitter users follow links from a range of sources. Fully 70% of Facebook news consumers get most of their story links from friends and family.  Just 13% say most links that they follow come from news organizations. On Twitter, however, the mix is more even: 36% say most of the links they follow come from friends and family, 27% say most come from news organizations, and 18% mostly follow links from non-news entities such as think tanks. And most feel that the news they get on either network is news they would have seen elsewhere without that platform.
  • Most media sectors saw audience growth in 2011 — with the exception of print publications. News websites saw the greatest audience growth (17%) for the year. In addition, thanks in part to the drama of events overseas, every sector of television news gained in 2011. Network news audiences grew 5%, the first uptick in a decade. Local news audiences grew in both morning and late evening, the first growth in five years. Cable news audiences also grew, by 1%, after falling the year before; in particular, MSNBC and CNN audiences grew in 2011, while Fox declined. Print newspapers, meanwhile, stood out for their continued decline, which nearly matched the previous year’s 5% drop. Magazines were flat.
  • Despite audience gains, only the web and cable news enjoyed ad revenue growth in 2011. Online advertising increased 23%, and cable ads grew 9%. Most media sectors, however, saw ad revenues decline — network TV was down 3.7%; magazines ad pages, 5.6%; local news, 6.7%; and newspapers, 7.6%.
  • As many as 100 newspapers are expected in coming months to join the roughly 150 dailies that have already moved to some kind of digital subscription model. In part, newspapers are making this move after witnessing the success of The New York Times, which now has roughly 390,000 online subscribers.  The move is also driven by steep drops in ad revenue. Newspaper industry revenue — circulation and advertising combined — has shrunk 43% since 2000. In 2011, newspapers overall lost roughly $10 in print ad revenue for every new $1 gained online. (That suggests no improvement from what a separate PEJ study of 38 papers found regarding 2010, when the print losses to digital gains in the sample were a $7-to-$1 ratio.)
  • The emerging landscape of community news sites is reaching a new level of maturity — and facing new challenges. As some seed grants begin to sunset, a shakeout in community news sites is beginning, along with a clearer model for success. and Chicago News Cooperative are among the prominent community news sites that ceased publishing in 2011 or early 2012. The model for success, epitomized by Texas Tribune and MinnPost, is to diversify funding sources and spend more resources on business—not just journalism.
  • Privacy is becoming a bigger issue for consumers, creating conflicting pressures on news organizations. Roughly two-thirds of internet users are uneasy with targeted advertising and search engines tracking their behavior, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. At the same time, though, consumers rely more heavily on the services provided by the companies that gather such data. News organizations are caught in between. To survive, they must find ways to make their digital advertising more effective — and more lucrative. Yet they also must worry about violating the trust of audiences to protect their strongest assets — their brands.

A movement towards slow reading advocated by Maura Kelly at The Atlantic:
With empathy comes self-awareness, of course. By discovering affinities between ourselves and characters we never imagined we'd be able to comprehend (like the accused murderer Dimitri Karamazov), we better understand who we are personally and politically; what we want to change; what we care about defending.
Best of all, perhaps, serious reading will make you feel good about yourself. Surveys show that TV viewing makes people unhappy and remorseful—but when has anyone ever felt anything but satisfied after finishing a classic? Or anything but intellectually stimulated after tearing through a work of modern lit like, say, Mary Gaitskill's Veronica?
And though a television show isn't likely to stay with you too long beyond the night that you watch it, once you've finished a slow book—whether it's as long as Tolstoy's epic or as short as Old Man and the Sea, as old as The Odyssey or as new as Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, as funny as Portnoy's Complaint or as gorgeous as James Salter's Light Years—you'll have both a sense of accomplishment and the deeper joys of the book's most moving, thought-provoking, or hilarious passages. Time and again—to write that toast, enrich your understanding of a strange personal experience, or help yourself through a loss—you'll return to those dog-eared pages (or search for them on your Kindle). Eventually, you may get so good at reading that you'll move on to the slowest (and most rewarding) reading material around: great poems.
The Booksellers annual oddest book title competition as noted in The Economist:
The Diagram Prize, organised by the Bookseller magazine, has offered an annual award to the most outlandishly titled books since 1978. Judges recently announced the seven shortlisted titles for the 2011 award. “Cooking with Poo”, a cookbook by Saiyuud Diwong, may not smell that sweet, but its title ensures intrigued shoppers will buy it. Ms Diwong’s competitors are a varied bunch, and include plenty of explanatory ones: “A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two”; “A Taxonomy of Office Chairs”; “Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World”; and “The Mushroom in Christian Art”.
Other shortlisted titles include “The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria”, a self-published effort, and “Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge”. The latter title was chosen to “get everyone’s attention,” says Kate Cloughan of Royd Press, its publisher. The tactic worked: “Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary” has seen greater sales than a typical release by Royd Press.
From the Guardian: Ian McEwan: 'I started Atonement with a careless sentence'
Author Ian McEwan in conversation with the Guardian's deputy editor Ian Katz at the Guardian Open Weekend festival. Here, McEwan discusses hiking; the importance of indolence to writers; moving house, which means the loss of his writing room; and how on 9/11 he broke with his policy of refusing journalistic commissions
From the Twitter this week:

BBC News - How the world's first rock concert ended in chaos

My hero: Stephen Haff by Peter Carey via

Ex-CEO to publish book on Olympus scandal - The Tokyo Times

St. Martin’s Press Marijuana Mystery -

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thai Birds a Fighting: 1971

Bird fighting used to be (maybe it still is) quite popular in Thailand.  I wasn't on this trip so I don't recall the event.  I wonder what makes a chicken mad?  How do you get a chicken riled up for a fight?  Something to contemplate.

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

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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rock Royal Neil Young At BookExpo

This will be more appealing than Barbara Streisand but that's just me.

Neil Young will be speaking at Book Expo to discuss his memoir.  Should be fun.  Here is the press release:
Officials at BookExpo America (BEA) have today announced that Neil Young will be appearing at the annual book industry trade show where he will discuss his upcoming memoir, Waging Heavy Peace.  The book will be published in North America by Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), in fall of 2012.  BEA will take place in New York City at the Jacob Javits Center June 4 – 7, 2012 and Mr. Young is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, June 6 at 12 noon in the Special Events Hall.  The program, which will be called “A Conversation with Neil Young”, will follow an interview format and will be free to all convention attendees.  Seating will be provided on a first come, first served basis.  Lunch will not be provided but guests are free to bring their own lunch.   Mr. Young’s interviewer will be named in the near future. 
Widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of his generation, Mr. Young is a singular figure in the history of rock and he has profoundly influenced popular culture over the past four decades.  He epitomizes the uncompromising artist.  In his book, Mr. Young will present a kaleidoscopic view of his personal life and musical creativity.  It is the year’s most awaited memoir and rights to the book have been sold around the world to a dozen countries so far including: Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain (and Spanish language in Latin America), Sweden and the United Kingdom. 
“I am profoundly grateful to Blue Rider and to Neil Young for making this stellar event possible,” notes Steve Rosato, Show Manager for BookExpo America.  “This appearance will be a highlight of our show and I am sure it will live on as one of our great all time moments in BEA history.   I have no doubt that on Wednesday, June 6 at 12 noon just about everyone in the Javits Center will be packed into the Special Events Hall!”
For more information about BEA, please visit and connect with BEA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Monday, March 19, 2012

MediaWeek (V5 N12): BBC on Education, UK Copyright Revision, Pricing Classes, Book Binding, B&N Speculation Continues + More

The BBC on Education:  Has The Internet Sparked a Revolution in Education (Video):
The internet is helping to reshape the very foundation education by both allowing individuals to learn from the comfort of their own homes as well as training them to be the entrepreneurial moguls.  The BBC's Matt Danzico investigates what place traditional academic institutions have in a world consumed by do-it-yourself education.
The UK government in a proposed review of copyright laws has music publishers up in arms about the proposed benefits from revision to copyright laws (Telegraph):
A plan to update outmoded laws and legalise “format shifting” – transferring a song from a CD to an MP3 player, for example – will deliver up to £2bn of growth alone, according to the Government projection, which was adopted from an independent review of IP laws . It is partly based on the premise that the existing rules prevent companies conducting the kind of innovation that led to the MP3 player.
Mr Mollet added that the £2.2bn that is estimated to come from the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange – a proposal for an online “one stop shop” for digital rights clearance Mr Mollet supports – is based on the “misappropriation” of an unrelated study.
“There are areas where copyright needs to be reformed. But we see a lot in the consultation on how [the proposals] would be good for anonymous entrepreneurs but there’s little on the cost for current creatives. That’s a damaging gap," he said.
Pete Wishart MP, of the all-party Intellectual Property Group, said: “ How the Government has got away with such bonkers figures is beyond me.”
But a Business Department spokesman said: “We’re not backing away from the £7.9bn figure.”
School costs more depending on popularity - Is this the new model? (Atlantic)
Since 2008, the Golden State has shrunk funding for its sprawling, 112-school community college system by 13 percent. Its cuts to higher-ed have not been the most severe in the nation, but they have been painful. Santa Monica alone has lost $9.9 million support. And like its institutional peers, the school has been forced to cut classes in response. It now offers 15 percent fewer courses than four years ago -- not nearly enough to meet the demand from students, many of whom simply cannot get enough credits to finish their degrees on schedule, or transfer to a four-year school. A Santa Monica spokesman told me that some courses have waiting lists twice the size of the actual class. Out of frustration, students have started transferring to expensive, for-profit schools, taking out high-priced loans in order to get their degree in a reasonable amount of time.
Santa Monica has come up with a smart, yet frustrating, solution. This week, the school announced that it would begin offering more expensive versions of its most popular courses during the summer in order to accommodate students who can't take them during the school year. The classes will be offered at cost, since the college is providing them without any subsidy from the state. The price works out to $180 a credit -- not a huge sum, but still five-times what students pay now.
Making books like art objects (Telegraph).  There is still art to books and book binding.
The books are so remarkable to look at they seem as though they might already be precious antiques – both because of the unearthed gems within the pages and the external format, a replica of the clothbound pocket hardbacks Jonathan Cape used to make in the Twenties. The creamy paper is the same as that used in the quarterly, the Slightly Foxed colophon is blind blocked on the front, and the title and author gold blocked on the spine. Each edition has a specially chosen cloth binding, contrasting endpaper, head and tail band and ribbon marker. The whole thing seems so handmade – indeed, as the film we’ve made shows, much of it is handmade – you can’t imagine how Slightly Foxed doesn’t make a huge loss. There aren’t even any dustjackets with which to sell the books or explain them, nor quotes of recommendation, nor blurbs. The books are, Wood suggests, like “portable sculptures”.
This weekend saw speculation that an offer had been placed for the (Barnes & Noble) college retail business that Barnes & Noble, Inc. absorbed a few years ago.

G Asset Management, a shareholder has lodged a bid for 51% of the business which in the carve out would also take on $410mm in debt.  Reported in the NY Post the story comes from the Bloomberg wire and notes that the business would be valued at $460mm.

In a letter to the board dated Febuary 17th, Michael Glickstein President of G Asset Management revisited his (and the funds desire) to 'unlock shareholder value' by proposing a break-up of the business.  Here is the text of his letter:
February 17, 2012

Members of the Board of Directors
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
P.O. Box 111
Lyndhurst, NJ 07071

Dear Members of the Board of Directors:

We are writing to reiterate our belief that taking strategic action to spin-off the Nook business would create substantial value for shareholders. We have communicated previously with you and with Chairman Riggio on this subject (our letters of April 5, 2011 and November 16, 2011 are attached).

We believe BKS should take strategic action as soon as practicable to unlock the value of the NOOK business and BKS as a whole. As shown in the attached summary of our analysis, we believe that very substantial shareholder value could be created by moving forward and executing a spinoff of the NOOK business. Furthermore, we believe that a spinoff by way of a rights offering in which each BKS shareholder would receive rights to exchange a proportion of their BKS shares for NOOK shares could create meaningful upside for both the NOOK and the parent firm.

While we were pleased to see the Company announce on January 5 of this year that it had decided “to pursue strategic exploratory work to separate the NOOK business,” we are concerned that there is no timetable for review and that the Company has said that it may decide not to take any action. We believe that BKS both can and should act without delay to reduce the risk that changes in technology and/or a reduction in current favorable high growth tech company valuations may occur. There is no assurance the same opportunity will be present down the line.

We are encouraged by management’s ability to improve results in a challenging industry environment and its ability to adapt and find new opportunities for growth. We have great confidence in the Board’s ability to take the steps needed to unlock the value of the NOOK business. Our attached November 16 letter notes the track record in successful spin-offs of Mr. Riggio and Dr. Malone’s Liberty Media.

We look forward to the Board’s consideration of this analysis and the taking of appropriate action as soon as practicable.
The above was submitted to the SEC and the submission also includes a Powerpoint deck describing in some detail their view.  (SEC).

Among numerous points made in the deck is a suggestion that in a 'sum of the parts' analysis the company could be worth $71 per share which is in excess of 400% more than the current market cap.  Nice!

Here is the deck via slideshare (since this is a scan it is a little difficult to read);

Barnes & Noble; G Asset Management SEC Filling
View more presentations from Michael Cairns.

From the twitter:

Literary legends brought to life in publisher's archive

Some deeply retro moaning about the internet from the Publisher of Harper's magazine Providence Journal

TechRadar - Encyclopedia Britannica now online only

Friday, March 16, 2012

Camel Market Kabul 1973

Camel Market Kabul 1973
Another weekly image from my archive. Click on it to make it larger.

By now you will recall that we visited Afghanistan and Pakistan sometime in the early 1970s.  I think it was 1973 but no one can really remember.  We went one morning from the hotel down into the town center where this was taken of the local camel market.  They are ungainly beasts and I recall thinking that camels have these enormous tongues.  We were offered the chance to sit on one and we did although you will have to wait to see that image!

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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N11); Wiley Results + More

John Wiley released their annual results this week.  From their press release:
Management Commentary
"Growth in STMS and Global Education was partially offset by weakness in our Professional/Trade business.  Unfavorable comparables to the prior year as a result of the bankruptcy of Borders in December 2010 weighed heavily on our Professional/Trade results this quarter," said Stephen M. Smith, President and CEO. 

Mr. Smith continued, "After conducting a strategic review of the Professional/Trade business, we have decided to explore opportunities to divest several consumer print and digital publishing assets to focus on information and solutions for professionals and lifelong learners. To that end we recently acquired Inscape Holdings, a leading provider of workplace learning and assessment solutions.  The acquisition will combine Wiley's valuable content and global reach in leadership and training with Inscape’s online assessment-delivery platforms, talent expertise and network of 1,700 independent consultants, trainers, and coaches."

"In STMS, we are encouraged by calendar year 2012 journal renewals, which are proceeding slightly better than expected.  Book sales have been softer than we expected but most of our leading indicators are positive, including our society wins and online usage.  Global Education showed modest growth this quarter."

"While the global economic environment remains difficult, we are very optimistic about the opportunities we see in research, professional development, and education.  We are excited with our recent acquisition, which will allow us to provide content-enabled services in leadership and training, globally.  And we are focused on reducing costs and improving efficiencies across the business."

Mr. Smith concluded, "Based on results for the first nine months and other leading indicators, we are maintaining our full year revenue guidance of low single-digit growth, excluding FX and our EPS guidance of $3.15 to $3.20, including FX and excluding the unusual tax benefits."
  • Revenue growth of 1% including and excluding foreign exchange (or "FX")
  • Revenue by segment, including FX:  STMS +3%, P/T -6% and Education +2%
  • Adjusted EPS grew 8% to $0.91, or 6% excluding FX.  Growth was driven by top-line results, prudent expense management and lower interest expense and income taxes.
  • Shared Services and Administrative Costs excluding FX, were up 3% to $91 million, driven principally by technology spending to support investments in digital products and infrastructure.   
  • Outlook:  Reaffirming FY12 revenue guidance of low single-digit growth excluding FX and EPS guidance in a range from $3.15 to $3.20 including the effect of FX and excluding the unusual tax benefits.  
  • Acquisition:  In February, Wiley acquired Inscape Holdings, a leading global provider of workplace learning solutions, for $85 million in cash. Inscape will be integrated into Wiley's Professional/Trade business where it will combine Wiley's extensive reservoir of valuable content and its global reach in leadership and training with Inscape's technology, distribution network, and talent expertise, including the innovative EPIC online assessment-delivery platform and an elite network of nearly 1,700 independent consultants, trainers, and coaches. Annually, Inscape generates approximately $20 million in revenue.
  • Divestment:  On March 7, 2012, Wiley announced that it intends to explore opportunities to sell a number of its consumer print and digital publishing assets in its Professional/Trade business as they no longer align with the company's long-term business strategy.  Fiscal Year 2011 revenue associated with the assets to be sold was approximately $85 million with a direct contribution to profit, before shared-service expenses, of approximately $6 million.  Assets include travel (including the well-known Frommer's brand), culinary, general interest, nautical, pets, crafts, Webster's New World, and CliffsNotes.  Wiley will re-deploy resources in its Professional/Trade business to build on its global market-leading positions in business, finance, accounting, leadership, technology, architecture, psychology, education, and through the For Dummies brand. 
  • Share Repurchases: Wiley repurchased 520,000 shares this quarter at a cost of $23 million.  The Company has 2.9 million authorized shares remaining in its program.
Writing in the Guardian, Frederick Filloux doesn't quite "defend the agency model" more like the status quo:
Pricing an item should be left to the one who produces it. The case of the book publishing industry is not as simple as, say, that of an appliance maker looking for the most potent retail channel for its hairdryers or toasters. The book sector is entering a painful transition: first, it needs to respond to consumers who want a large catalogue of inexpensive ebooks; second, there is a plateauing but still strong print market ($73bn worldwide). Managing a smooth decline for this segment is key to the industry's health, especially as the ebook market yields thinner margins. Legacy publishers are culturally ill-equipped for such a difficult transition; they now find themselves competing with the agile, cash-rich, data- and technology-driven players of the digital world.
From Twitter:

The Amazon Paradox: Coming to Terms With Publishing's Colossus,by Peter Osnos | The Atlantic  

Librarians Feel Sticker Shock as Prices for Random House Ebooks Rise 300 Percent -

Friday, March 09, 2012

Bali, Farmers and Buffalo, 1971

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

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.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Random House: In Dreams of My Data

It would be hard to imagine that a less equal business relationship exists than that between publishers and libraries.  Without even the semblance of discussion, negotiation or consultation Random House did what HarperCollins did last year and imposed a solution to mitigate a problem no one can even prove exists.  The problem: That loaning eBooks from a library is so easy that retail sales will be destroyed.  Curiously, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both of whom would naturally have a problem with free books, have always been fairly mute about how libraries retain a competitive advantage over these retailing behemoths.

Random House’s solution is to triple down on the price of the book; the logic of the tripling is just as opaque as Harpercollins choosing 26 loans until their books ‘expire’.  As a cop out, Random House suggests that more data is needed and on the delivery of said data they may adjust their pricing accordingly.  Those with rose colored glasses will want to view that as a possibility that they will bring their pricing downwards; but, really?  The whole notion of use-data is both a canard and disingenuous.  For one, I’m not aware of any publisher sponsored research or collaboration (with ALA, OCLC, etc.) where the purpose was to define the library patron and their purchasing behavior.   
It’s not like the behavior hasn’t been there to study for 100 years.   In fact the data is available – certainly not in one database but in three or four; for example, circulation data from an OPAC, bibliographic information from OCLC, psychographic information from GfK Group and retail sales information from BookScam.  What’s missing is the willingness to do the hard work.

Sadly, libraries have very little negotiating leverage or power.  And it’s not like they can go to their cities or states for more money so that they can buy these more expensive eBooks.  What’s the last public sector anything that had their budget raised 300%?  So, libraries are dependent on public outrage and even there most people will shrug their shoulders and move along.  Current ALA President Molly Raphael's statement was part cajoling, part plea – and who can blame her?  There aren’t that many options:
While I appreciate Random House’s engagement with libraries and its commitment to perpetual access,” Raphael said, “I am deeply disappointed in the severe escalation in ebook pricing reported today. Calling on our history together and our hope to satisfy mutual goals moving forward, the American Library Association strongly urges Random House to reconsider its decision. In a time of extreme financial constraint, a major price increase effectively curtails access for many libraries, and especially our communities that are hardest hit economically.
Also, ALA appreciates the data gaps that exist, and we commit to work quickly and collaboratively to address this concern. We must have better data to inform decisions that have such wide and deep implications.
Random House did not jump on the band wagon with the other large trade houses when they all went over to the agency model but with this unilateral action they probably have every trade house cheering them on.  Random House is unlikely to ‘make it up in volume’ because most libraries are simply going to buy other publisher’s eBooks (until they go up as well), and I can say categorically – because I have no data to back this up – that they won’t see a corresponding increase in retail sales either.

Any willingness y publishers to really work with public libraries to work out a solution has been spotty at best.  The fact that the prime distribution avenue into the public library segment seems to act as much like a bumbling doofus as it does a concerned partner probably serves the publishers perfectly.  Fellow traveler Eric Hellman perfectly numbers the real issues associated with eBook distribution into public libraries but resolving these to any degree is probably beyond expectation.

Monday, March 05, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N10): The Monkees, PayPal, Self-Publishing, Jeff Bezos + More

I was never that aware of The Monkees but the passing of Davy Jones generated a lot of reminiscing.  Mrs. PND recalls the time her Dad brought home the record - unprompted - becoming 'cool' in the process and in the last few days she has DVR'd what must be 24hrs worth of the show.  Here some thoughts from Neil McCormick at The Telegraph:
One of the most remarkable things about the Monkees is that the show, like the band itself, was sophisticated enough to be open to interpretation. Watching those endless repeats in my teens, I formed further ideas of the pop process. The myth of the Monkees is one of the great myths of pop culture: the manufactured band rebelling against svengali manipulators, briefly shining before burning up in the fires of ego. We see the same story played out again and again in the “real” pop world, from the Bay City Rollers to the Spice Girls, but with The Monkees, we can watch it happen in repeat, from the zany innocence of the TV series to the mad rush of their self-immolating movie, Head, in which the band attempted to break free of their constraints by exposing their own essential fiction, but only ended up destroying the illusion that sustained them.
All of this is really sustained, however, by genuinely fantastic music that has, remarkably, stood the test of time. The miracle of The Monkees is that this exploitative, manipulative, derivative children TV series was underpinned by brilliant pop songs, written to order by some of the great writers of the era (from Neil Diamond to Goffin and King), framed in colourful arrangements that captured the happy essence of the band’s spirit, performed with conviction and emotion. Last Train To Clarksville, I’m A Believer, Randy Scouse Git, Pleasant Valley Sunday … these are songs of such dynamic originality they put the imaginary band shoulder to shoulder with the heroes they were imitating.
PayPal the censorship enforcer?  Stranger than fiction as PayPal says it will strike off certain self-publishers (Independent):
From now on, the firm said, it will begin aggressively prohibiting erotic literature which contains scenes of bestiality, rape, incest and under-age sex. Ebook websites that sell such works will have their PayPal accounts deactivated. "It's underhanded, unfair and ludicrous, and it bodes badly for the future of free speech and expression," said Juillerat-Olvera, adding that Demon's Grace is now banned by self-publishing sites.
Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, one of the world's largest such sites, said the announcement has so far caused roughly 1,000 of the 100,000 novels that he stocks to be withdrawn from sale. "Regardless of whether you or I want to read these books, this is perfectly legal fiction and people have a right to publish it," he told The Independent on Sunday. "It surely isn't for some financial services company to control what is written by an author."
Mr Coker said that attempting to enforce PayPal's effective ban is likely to be impossible. "They say they won't have rape, bestiality or incest presented in a way that might titillate. But deciding what constitutes titillation is completely subjective," he said. "The Bible has incest in it, and rape. Nabokov's literature does. Should we ban the sale of those books?"
Articles about Self-publishing and the death of traditional publishing are as freckles on a haole.  Here's an interesting take from Atlantic author Alan Jacobs
But one of the illusions most common to writers -- an illusion that may make the long slow slog of writing possible, for many people -- is that an enormous audience is out there waiting for the wisdom and delight that I alone can provide, and that the Publishing System is a giant obstacle to my reaching those people. Thus the dream that digital publishing technologies will indeed "disintermediate" -- will eliminate that obstacle and connect me directly to what Bugs Bunny calls "me Public." (See "Bully for Bugs".) And we have heard just enough unexpected success stories to keep that dream alive.
Well, here's hoping. But a couple of months ago I decided to dip my toes into these waters: I wrote a longish essay called "Reverting to Type" about my own history as a reader -- a kind of personal epilogue to The Pleasures of Reading -- and decided to submit it as a Kindle Single. Amazon wasn't interested, so I decided to publish it myself using Kindle Direct Publishing. I announced its existence to the world: that is, I posted a link on my tumblelog and tweeted about it. A few people downloaded it; some pointed out typos that I had missed, but that a copy editor surely would have caught. I thought about ways to promote it better but haven't been able to come up with anything other than becoming a self-promoting jerk on Twitter. Last time I checked it had sold 98 copies.
And from the BBC, no more boring waffle (BBC):
Buy an e-book through, say, a Kindle, and one of the first things you will notice is that the length of the text itself is nowhere to be seen. Unlike a hardback, an e-book doesn’t have to have 250 pages any more than it has to cost a set amount, or sit handsomely on your shelf. There are some great losses wrapped up in these facts. As far as actually writing a book goes, though, the digital format has one significant advantage over the physical: it is much harder to get away with producing boring waffle.
Buy an e-book through, say, a Kindle, and one of the first things you will notice is that the length of the text itself is nowhere to be seen. Unlike a hardback, an e-book doesn’t have to have 250 pages any more than it has to cost a set amount, or sit handsomely on your shelf. There are some great losses wrapped up in these facts. As far as actually writing a book goes, though, the digital format has one significant advantage over the physical: it is much harder to get away with producing boring waffle.
From the Economist:
Taking the long view - Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owes much of his success to his ability to look beyond the short-term view of things.
Mr Bezos’s willingness to take a long-term view also explains his fascination with space travel, and his decision to found a secretive company called Blue Origin, one of several start-ups now building spacecraft with private funding. It might seem like a risky bet, but the same was said of many of Amazon’s unusual moves in the past. Successful firms, he says, tend to be the ones that are willing to explore uncharted territories. “Me-too companies have not done that well over time,” he observes.
Eyebrows were raised, for example, when Amazon moved into the business of providing cloud-computing services to technology firms—which seemed an odd choice for an online retailer. But the company has since established itself as a leader in the field. “A big piece of the story we tell ourselves about who we are is that we are willing to invent,” Mr Bezos told shareholders at Amazon’s annual meeting last year. “And very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”
Could they have made Jeff's eyes more freaky in that image?

From the Twitter this week:

Librarians Feel Sticker Shock as Prices for Random House Ebooks Rise 300 Percent -

College Publishing Comes of Age: Highlights of the BISG Higher Education Conference (BookBus)

Jackie Collins experiments with self-publishing The Bitch Hilarious headline. So is "Queen of bonkbuster"

Friday, March 02, 2012

Between Hong Kong and Macao 1972

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

To that long ago the Chinese 'junks' seen floating about the South China Sea would have been legitimate trading and merchant vessels.  Less so now, as most of the 'junks' seen in the waters around Hong Kong would cater to the sunset cruise crowd.  No matter since this is a pretty good image and I used it as a full page spread in the book.

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.

Guardian's Three Little Pigs Story - Discuss