Monday, April 30, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N18): Cloud Education, Navigating LBF, NYPL Rennovations, Pottermore + More

Is the cloud the future to revolutionizing education?  Gordon Freedman in the Chronicle proposes some interesting ideas (Chron):
The problem with many academic systems is that they are "dumb" to who their users are, what they are doing, and what other systems they are using. This is largely because colleges have different buyers for different functions—learning management, student-information systems, digital-content management, campus analytics, and e-mail systems.
While there are single sign-on systems to get to all of these systems with one log-on, that does not make them "smart." A smart system integrates all of these functions to do two things: serve the end user (students, faculty, administrators) and interpret the data to improve performance.
At the moment there is no clear path to smart systems in higher education. The big data and identity engines of Silicon Valley are not idling, however. They are starting to accelerate, with the higher-education market squarely in their sights. While private equity is rearranging many of the traditional education-technology and content players, mostly on the East Coast, a new breed of venture-backed education start-ups are taking what their founders learned at Google, Facebook, Zynga, and Twitter and focusing on education.
How goes the London Book Fair?  Mark Medley from Canada's National Post follows Canadian publisher House of Anansi Press around the fair (NatPo):
There isn’t much trembling at the fair, at least on the surface. The London Book Fair makes you forget about the paper-thin profit margins, closing bookstores, and falling advances. Walking through Earls Court’s cavernous main hall, one is transported to an alternate-universe where the popularity of books is at an all-time high. It is a circus atmosphere: a man on stilts distributes leaflets; pirates welcome visitors to the L. Ron Hubbard display; a half-naked man hands out copies of 50 Shades of Grey. While there are plenty of smaller displays, the larger publishing houses have all built lavish shrines to the printed page. Wiley’s booth is equipped with 23 individual meeting desks and looks more like a stock market trading floor than a book fair display; Hachette’s multi-tiered mansion rises two storeys in the air, like a middle finger, and Little, Brown, part of the Hachette empire, flaunts an oversized photo of J.K. Rowling, as if to remind other publishers that they, and not you, are publishing her upcoming novel.
“We keep it in the basement, I guess, and wheel it out for every London Book Fair,” says Stuart Williams, an editor at The Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House UK, when I ask where the booths come from.
Over in Earls Court Two, which opened in 1991, adding 17,000 square metres of floor space, the Chinese contingent dominates the centre of the mammoth hall. Nearby is the sleek and minimalist Digital Zone, where attendees wait for the day they take over the main space. Dozens of individual countries are present, from Romania to Saudi Arabia to Turkey, next year’s market focus. The Sultanate of Oman is housed in a castle. There are also booksellers, textbook and university publishers, business books, children’s publishers, travel guides, accessories for e-readers. There are even booths advertising other book fairs, such as the Sharjah International Book Fair, which takes place in the U.A.E.
The debate over the New York public library's house cleaning continues (IHE):
Efforts to spin the news are to be expected. Much more of a problem with the proposed changes is the lack of transparency. The actual Central Library Plan itself had not been made public last year, when The Nation published Scott Sherman’s long report on the proposed changes. Four months later, it still isn’t. Nor are officials responsive to serious questions. When the New York writer Caleb Crain was invited to join an advisory panel concerning the Central Library Plan, he assumed it meant the administration would be forthcoming about details. At least he cleared up that misunderstanding pretty quickly. “I don't think anyone should expect this advisory panel to have much investigative authority or capacity,” Crain wrote on his blog two weeks ago. “I've pressed as hard as is consonant with civility, and I'm afraid I don't have much to show for it publicly. I've been given private answers to some of my questions, but I worry that unless the answers are offered to the public, there's no way to recruit outsiders to help fact-check them, and no way to hold the library accountable later for promises implicit in its reassurances.”
 The Economist on Pottermore and the power of Rowling.  I continue to believe Pottermore is a storefront and platform for a lot more than the Potter franchise. (Econ):
“With great power comes great responsibility,” is a lesson learned by Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins and Peter Parker. High expectations are the price of Pottermore’s guaranteed success. Ms Rowling knows full well that she, like The Boy Who Lived, does not abide by ordinary rules. Already she has changed the e-book retailing model. By retaining her own e-book rights, and then forcing Amazon and others to sell them via Pottermore, as well as offering vastly extended access to libraries and schools, she is evening the playing field. Fans responded by buying $1.5m in e-books in the first three days, particularly the seven-book set. The sales are fundamental, Mr Redmayne says, to financing the free Pottermore platform, which can be accessed in a variety of languages.
Whether Ms Rowling and her team can bring this same disruptive innovation to the Pottermore world itself, and sustain the momentum of the original series remains to be seen. How fast, and how creatively, the site builds out will determine the answer. An entire world of linking interactivity between the digital books and the online universe of Pottermore is possible. The medium is in its infancy. One thing is certain: if there’s anyone who can turn an e-reader into a device that “apparates” from the everyday into the truly magical, it will be Harry Potter.
Thinking about NetFlix and their changed business model that generated so much aggro (S&B):
In October 2011, one of the great backflips in the annals of business strategy took place. Netflix Inc., the most prominent video rental service company in the world, had begun to charge separately for its DVD-by-mail service and its streaming service in July, which in effect had increased prices by 60 percent for customers who used both services. Then, in September, Netflix had gone further, announcing it would split those services into two separate businesses, renaming the DVD-by-mail operation Qwikster. Consumer protests, conducted largely over the Internet, forced the retraction in October; Netflix announced it would revert to providing a combined service under one brand. By November, the company’s market cap had dropped by 70 percent and more than 800,000 subscribers had fled. The online mea culpa that CEO Reed Hastings wrote to customers only added fuel to the flames. In January 2012, a group of investors sued the company for loss of profits. Clearly, a bit of the company’s luster as a Silicon Valley darling has been lost, and Reed Hastings’s reputation as a strategically adept CEO has been damaged.
From the twitter this week (PND):

Flipboard is ‘head-on competitor’ on Economist’s road to all-digital

Apple's iBooks Author: the iTunes of self-publishing apps?

The digital world has invigorated publishing, not doomed it  

If Harvard Can’t Afford Academic Journal Subscriptions, Maybe It’s Time for an Open Access Model

Pearson says first-half profits will dip -

Fight heats up between John Wiley and patent lawyers over journals

U of M opens up to open source textbooks

Saturday, April 28, 2012

PND Mascot Charlie

Some of you will recall meeting Charlie when I took him to the office.  On that day, I had an almost all day meeting and I put him in my office by himself.  He wasn't having it and barked constantly until my assistant took him and put him under her desk.  He should have had three more years but then, there are few guarantees in life.  This from Mrs PND:

May 13, 2000 – April 26, 2012

A beautiful dog inside and out, Charlie had a brave heart, an old soul
and an iron will. He exceeded the life expectancy for dogs with
Transitional Cell Carcinoma by almost two years with a cheerful outlook,
a fighting spirit and a patient acceptance of being poked, prodded
and medicated. A peaceful, playful and loving companion to us, Charlie
was a tolerant friend to puppies and small children
and an enemy of squirrels, skateboards and big mean dogs
till the very end.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N17): Academic Publishing, Canadian Copyright, Linked Data + More

I was in London all week where I had a terrific London Book Fair and met many new publishers and partners which accounts for the lack of posts this week - even missed my weekly photo image.

Academic and Scientific publishing is still hitting the main stream news with little or no real counter pr campaign mounted by the publishers in question.  Elsevier is taking the brunt of the attention as in this article from the Observer on Sunday:
The most astonishing thing about this is not so much that it goes on, but that people have put up with it for so long. Talk to university librarians about extortionist journal subscriptions and mostly all you will get is a pained shrug. The librarians know it's a racket, but they feel powerless to act because if they refused to pay the monopoly rents then their academics – who, after all, are under the cosh of publish-or-perish mandates – would react furiously (and vituperatively). 
And as you might imagine there are many comments.

In an opinion piece the Economist also weighs in:
There are some hopeful signs. The British government plans to mandate open access to state-funded research. The Wellcome Trust, a medical charity that pumps more than £600m ($950m) a year into research, already requires open access within six months of publication, but the compliance rate is only 55%. The charity says it will “get tough” on scientists who publish in journals that restrict access, for example by withholding future grants, and is also launching its own open-access journal. In America, a recent attempt (backed by journal publishers) to strike down the existing requirement that research funded by the National Institutes of Health should be made available to all online has failed. That is good news, but the same requirement should now be extended to all federally funded research.

A little hysteria in the run up to London Book Fair from the Guardian:
It's not only new names commanding attention at this year's London Book Fair, a three-day event attended by over 24,000 publishing professionals from around the world, where rights in the hottest new books are bought and sold. Literary novelist William Boyd's take on the James Bond legend, announced last week, has already been sold to publishers in Germany and France, while agent Deborah Rogers has been signing deals left, right and centre for McEwan's latest. Set in 1972, Sweet Tooth is the story of Serena Frome, the daughter of an Anglican bishop, as she enters the intelligence service and falls for a promising young writer while on a mission. Out in the UK this summer, Rogers has already sold it to 14 other countries and promises this is "just the beginning". "It's only just come in and it's moving very quickly," she said. "A new Ian is always a very exciting moment."
There's been a copyright wrangle in Canada for the past 12 months or so which keeps percolating nicely (
The deal between the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada and Access Copyright, which collects money for copyright holders from such institutions as schools, libraries and businesses for the right to photocopy and distribute copyrighted works.
Under terms of a deal announced earlier this week, students could pay more than $25 per semester to access copyrighted materials. That's up from less than $4 a semester in 2010.
Under the former agreement, students were charged 10 cents per page for printed readings and similar works.
Nature have launched a linked data platform to aid searching over their 450,000 journal articles (Folio):
Essentially, this linked data platform connects publication dates and other features within manuscripts like institutions, journal titles, volumes, issues and authors. That creates what Wilde refers to as triples.
“A triple is an object, an assertion and a destination,” he says. “A subject, a predicate and an object are the official way of describing it. Many believe linked data itself is the next generation of the Internet and semantic Web—being able to understand and create links between information that may not necessarily be directly linked. For example you can say an article is written by me and via linked data you can find out what else I’ve done—you’re starting to create connections of information by how they relate to each other.”
In the Economist I found this interesting in how behavioral economics are being used in public policy
All this experimentation is yielding insights into which nudges give the biggest shove. One question is whether nudges can be designed to harness existing social norms. In Copenhagen Pelle Guldborg Hansen, founder of the Danish Nudging Network, a non-profit organisation, tested two potential “social nudges” in partnership with the local government, both using symbols to try to influence choices. In one trial, green arrows pointing to stairs were put next to railway-station escalators, in the hope of encouraging people to take the healthier option. This had almost no effect. The other experiment had a series of green footprints leading to rubbish bins. These signs reduced littering by 46% during a controlled experiment in which wrapped sweets were handed out. “There are no social norms about taking the stairs but there are about littering,” says Mr Hansen.
John Wiley is working with Blackboard to make the Wiley content available to Blackboard users as an integrated option (Press Release):
The field trial involves students, faculty and campus administrators across 42 courses at two and four-year higher education institutions in the U.S. and Canada. More than 50 instructors and 2,900 students have been providing ongoing feedback on their experience with the integration that significantly enhances the use of Wiley’s content within the Blackboard Learn™ platform.  Instructors have expressed great satisfaction with the integration, which lets them easily add digital content to their courses in Blackboard Learn and synchronize grades and other data from Wiley’s research-based, online teaching-and-learning-environment, WileyPLUS.  “I can set up my Blackboard class and integrate WileyPLUS assignment links with Blackboard tools, like discussion boards,” said Julie Porterfield, an Anatomy and Physiology instructor at Tulsa Community College. “Students can easily tell in what order they need to complete certain tasks and assignments. I have been using WileyPLUS for four years and so far, this semester is even more successful in terms of student use and tracking data.”
From Twitter:

Supreme Court to rule on “grey market” goods in books case

Not a good weekend in sports (and I was there to make it worse) MEM.

Monday, April 16, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N16): Texas Custom, Apps For Education, William Boyd, Official Chinese Authors, + More

Tarrant county (Texas) attempts to save students money on textbooks runs into faculty resistance (IHEd):
The push for cheaper textbooks isn’t new, and the spat in Tarrant County frames larger debates about the use of open-source texts and the best way to increase student learning while controlling costs. Some community colleges have saved money by working with publishers to create custom books for widespread adoption. Some textbook writers have started making their materials free on the Web, and a recent Rice University effort expanded that medium. Tarrant County administrators hope that using a common textbook in every class will help push costs down, which will allow more students to buy the books and in turn perform better in the classroom.
But some professors aren’t convinced. The faculty resolution expressed agreement with the goal of reducing textbook costs, but questioned whether this was the best way to do it. We "ask that the 'common course textbook' plan be suspended and that the college faculty be allowed to develop meaningful, realistic strategies for reducing student textbook costs to be implemented by the fall semester of 2014," the resolution reads.
Efforts to open up education information might create an App culture which has educators and technologists keenly interested (Chronicle):
In the case of the MyData button being promoted by the Education Department, it's not clear how many different types of information will be made available, although the data will exist in machine-readable, open formats. Participants will be required to specify how the exported data are formatted. Because participants are not required to export data in an identical format, a department official explains, developers may have to do more work upfront, but the information will get into students' hands more quickly.
At least one company, Fidelis Education, has committed itself to use the data students can download from the Veterans Administration's blue button.
As an enterprise that helps veterans pursue higher education and training for civilian careers, Fidelis plans to use the blue button's military-service data in the admissions process to verify that applicants are who they claim to be. Gunnar Counselman, a co-founder and chief executive of the company, says having access to an even more robust set of data about alumni satisfaction and employment could provide students with a personalized way to pick colleges that goes beyond rankings.
He's not convinced that such data will be available anytime soon. But the emergence of start-ups has had a "Hawthorne effect" on universities, he says—they're more open as a result of being observed so intently by outsiders.
 Profile of William Boyd who has been tasked with giving James Bond some new assignments (Independent):
They're still reviewed, however, in the serious, literary-fiction pages of the national press. Although Restless was a "Richard and Judy" selection in 2007, it won the high-profile Costa Award. Literary editors and judges refuse to relinquish their view of Boyd as a superior literary being, a writer of subtlety, poignancy and psychological nuance, as his earlier novels revealed him to be. He is, they admit, a 21st-century avatar of Graham Greene, who blithely interspersed "serious" works (The End of the Affair, A Burnt-Out Case) with action-thriller "entertainments" such as Brighton Rock and Our Man in Havana. The reading public couldn't care tuppence about such matters. They buy Boyd's books in hundreds of thousands because they know him to be the most reliably page-turning of modern English novelists, full of old-fashioned storytelling virtues, of place evocation, pace, drama and sex.
Of the generation nominated "Best of Young British Writers" by Granta in 1983 – the generation of Amis, Barnes, McEwan, Rushdie, Rose Tremain, Pat Barker, A N Wilson, Adam Mars-Jones et al – Boyd's probably the author for whom ordinary readers feel the most fondness. The Queen is known to be a fan, though possibly more because of his Commonwealth background and blue-eyed charm than his prose style. He lives in a handsome Chelsea townhouse, with his wife Susan, editor-at-large at the American Harper's Bazaar magazine (he married her at 23 – they've been married for 37 years, and have no children) and in a converted farmhouse in Bergerac, where he owns a vineyard, Chateau Pecachard. For a chap who turned 60 in March, it seems an enviable life.
China is the focus at London Bookfair which predictably has raised some commentary about how some authors where chosen over others (Independent):
Did the BC have any alternative? Almost certainly not. But, via its literature director, it has chosen to tell us, chillingly, that "There was no disagreement with the Chinese government about the final list of... writers who regularly appear on well-respected lists of the best novelists and poets in China." Indeed. But so do many other Chinese writers - who live not only in exile but also at home, where they may have a vexing relationship with the cultural authorities. That's not to mention the dozens brutally silenced in the courts. At Amnesty International, the Tiananmen Square veteran Shao Jiang has greeted the run-up to the Book Fair with an invaluable day-by-day log of imprisoned Chinese writers: learn their stories at blogs/countdown-china.
The non-state Chinese Independent PEN Centre comments, with grave courtesy: "We cannot but ask: to understand Chinese literature, should the British people rely on... recommendations by the Chinese government alone?" The Centre has objected to the British Council's collaboration with the GAPP, saying that if it "wishes to promote an authentic cultural exchange in a free and civilised way, please do not disregard the independent writers whose works are dedicated to shaping Chinese civil society".
Juicy gripping true crime story reviewed in the Observer:
In 1877, Harriet Staunton's husband and three others were accused of starving her to death and lurid newspaper reports of the Penge murder trial held the nation's rapt attention. A bestselling novel about the affair – written in 1934 and now republished – proves as gripping today .
Creating, writing editing and producing a magazine as performance art (Observer):
The idea to create twenty-four began selfishly: I wanted to make a magazine. For me, print magazines are a fascinating medium, combining content, design, a crafted physical object and the opportunity to curate an ongoing conversation around a single idea. Twenty-four is simultaneously a print magazine, an online experience and a creative challenge. The goal is simple: a small team of creative professionals conceptualise, design, write and photograph a print magazine in 24 hours and document everything via Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, Storify and Kickstarter, making the process part of the product. Time-restricted projects have been done for comics, art shows, albums and other magazines before; it seems we increasingly invest in experiences over products and we want more transparency from the artists we love. This is why twenty-four was designed with documentation in mind; revealing our process live meant that we were not only producing a magazine for print but also creating a sort of online improv show.
From Twitter this week:

Amazon Massively Inflates Its Streaming Library Size

(In case you missed it) BBC News - US sues Apple and publishers over e-book prices

ALA Releases State of American Libraries 2012 Report.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hong Kong Harbor September 1968

Car ferries cross from Kowloon to Hong Kong which was the way we first made the journal in 1968.  Since then several tunnel have been built to carry much more traffic.  If you look closely on the left side of the photo you can see a passenger jet lining up to landing at Kai Tak.  On approach it will skim over the rooftops and land on a runway to points right out into the ocean.  That airport is long closed now.

Monday, April 09, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N15): NYPublic remodels, Creative Thought, Gunter Grass, Pew eReader Study + More

The New York Public library is undergoing a renovation of sorts and will be moving a large segment of its' print collection to off-site storage.  Many large academic libraries (in particular) have or are under-going similar realignments among them the British Museum, Stanford, NYU and Ohio State.  Naturally, there are some who just don't like the idea (Guardian):
The removal of the books – some to a site underground in adjacent Bryant Park, the rest to a facility in suburban New Jersey that the NYPL shares with Princeton and Columbia universities – is part of a gargantuan $300m reorganisation aimed at lugging the central library into the 21st century.
Eight storeys of Carnegie steel stacks will be ripped from the central library building's interior to make room for a new public space designed by star architect Norman Foster, whose firm designed London's city hall and the reichstag in Berlin. The library has said that the books in the stacks are showing signs of environmental wear and will be better preserved elsewhere.
The sleek new interior space – two city blocks long, eight storeys high and a quarter of a block wide – will come equipped with banks of new computers and, for the first time in two generations, a lending library. It will give a dramatically more modern look and feel for the system's central branch.
"We are aiming to create the greatest library facility in the world," Anthony Marx, the library's CEO and president, told the Guardian. "And we are as committed as the scholarly community to ensure that it continues to be a great research facility."
Interesting article on the creative thought process (Guardian):
Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problems were impossible to solve. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs. The danger of telling this narrative is that the feeling of frustration – the act of being stumped – is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer – before we probably even know the question – we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. It's often only at this point, after we've stopped searching for the answer, that the answer arrives. All of a sudden, the answer to the problem that seemed so daunting becomes incredibly obvious.
This is the clichéd moment of insight that people know so well from stories of Archimedes in the bathtub and Isaac Newton under the apple tree. When people think about creative breakthroughs, they tend to imagine them as incandescent flashes, like a light bulb going on inside the brain.
These tales of insight all share a few essential features that scientists use to define the "insight experience". The first stage is the impasse. If we're lucky, however, that hopelessness eventually gives way to a revelation. This is another essential feature of moments of insight: the feeling of certainty that accompanies the new idea. After Archimedes had his eureka moment – he realised that the displacement of water could be used to measure the volume of objects – he immediately leaped out of the bath and ran to tell the king about his solution. He arrived at the palace stark naked and dripping wet.
Gunter Grass in stepped in it again with a poem decrying the military first strike mentality specifically referencing Israel's supposed intention to bomb Iran's nuclear sites. (THR):
The poem is, to put it bluntly, morally obtuse and politically embarrassing. Having reversed the arrows of causation, Grass says nothing about the hatred of Israel that the Iranian regime has publicly expressed since 1979, about its specific threats to “wipe it off the map” in the past decade, or the vicious Jew-hatred that is a steady diet of its propaganda. Apparently he has not read the most recent reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency that confirm Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons. Nor does Grass understand that the purpose of missile-carrying submarines is to ensure the credibility of a second strike should Iran or any other power attack Israel first. These submarines are essential for a stable system of deterrence. No Israeli leader has spoken about delivering a first strike with nuclear weapons that would “extinguish” the Iranian people. All of this comes from a man who was “silent” for five decades of his very successful literary career about the fact that as a young man he was a member of the Waffen SS at the end of World War II.
The idea, put forward by Grass, that there is a taboo in German intellectual and political life about criticizing Israel and its policies has been a favorite theme of Israel’s critics since the 1960s. But the taboo does not exist. There has been no silence in Germany, especially in such places as Der Spiegel or the Süddeutsche Zeitung, not to mention among intellectual and political forces to their left, for many decades. On the contrary, hostility to both Israel and the United States, and the view that these two countries are the major threat to world peace, became embedded in the German left-wing and left-liberal mainstream many decades ago. In this sense, Grass’s diatribe is part of a long established conventional wisdom. It takes neither courage nor intelligence to run with the mob. Grass’s poem seeks to make the mob yell even louder.
Pew Study on e-Reading confirms some interesting trends.  Among them (Pew):
30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now. Some 41% of tablet owners and 35% of e-reading device owners said they are reading more since the advent of e-content. Fully 42% of readers of e-books said they are reading more now that long-form reading material is available in digital format. The longer people have owned an e-book reader or tablet, the more likely they are to say they are reading more: 41% of those who have owned either device for more than a year say they are reading more vs. 35% of those who have owned either device for less than six months who say they are reading more.

The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer. Some 78% of those ages 16 and older say they read a book in the past 12 months. Those readers report they have read an average (or mean number) of 17 books in the past year and 8 books as a median (midpoint) number.

 Will Self takes a look at Twitter (New Statesman):
Is all this human twittering in any meaningful sense crazy? Not, I'd argue, if you see it for what it is - but if it's considered to be an advance of some kind in the sphere of human relatedness, that has to be nuts. I spent a great deal of the 1970s avoiding bores with slide carousels who wanted their holiday slides writ large on suburban walls - why on earth would I want to reacquaint myself with such tedium in the form of Facebook's petabytes of snapshots? I think it was the anthropologist Robin Dunbar - one of the proponents of the "social mind" conception of human cognitive evolution - who theorised that language developed as an outgrowth of the group cohesion that other great apes cement by picking parasites from each other's fur.
Speaking of which, from the twitter this week:

Essay defending the planned changes at New York Public Library Inside Higher Ed:

New post: My exciting new job at Elsevier: Inaugural editor-in-chief of The Journal of Applied Publishing Experiments:

Is making books social a good thing or a bad thing?

We've been giddy here in the PND sports department over the past month and it's looking like delirium in Salford and weeping in the City.  Man Utd are closing in on number 20 and the boss pays tribute to Paul Scholes (MEN)