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

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