Sunday, December 30, 2012

Media Week (V5, N51): New York Public, Big Data, Independent Bookstores, Denialbility

The end of the year...

From New York magazine an envisioning (without the hysteria) of what the rennovated NYPL will look like.
Now we finally have schematic drawings by Foster + Partners, and though they’re far from final, it’s wonderful to see intelligent architecture trump panicky rhetoric. Since the day the library opened in 1911, anyone, from the barely literate to the Nobel laureate, could pass between the friendly lions and climb the imperial-scale stairs to the third-floor reading rooms, with their profusion of sunlight and carved timber, and their great oak tables burnished by millions of elbows. But temples grow shabby, books decay, funds run short. The architects and administrators are tackling an inescapable trilemma: You can safeguard the library’s mission, its books, or its physical structure, but you can’t keep all three exactly as they are.

Recently, I clattered down a metal staircase into the claustrophobic and endless honeycomb where 4 million volumes molder away in a warm, damp fug. This is both the library’s heart and its skeleton. Thickets of iron columns and seven levels of tightly gridded shelves, held in place by ornamental cast-iron plates, support the upper floors. The library’s habitués harbor a great affection for this ink-and-paper habitat—or for the idea of it. The research collection’s stacks are almost mythically inaccessible: whenever a call number is dropped into the building’s bowels, a library page (aptly named) scampers down the aisles and places books on a conveyor belt like hunks of coal in a mine. None of that needs to change, except that the books — and the pages — will both enjoy a better quality of air.
Business leaders are beginning to see 'big data' as the fourth factor of production (FT):
As the prevalence of Big Data grows, executives are becomingly increasingly wedded to numerical insight. But the beauty of Big Data is that it allows both intuitive and analytical thinkers to excel. More entrepreneurially minded, creative leaders can find unexpected patterns among disparate data sources (which might appeal to their intuitive nature) and ultimately use the information to alter the course of the business.

More cautious, analytical leaders, on the other hand, might find solace in new and multiple sources of information to bolster an existing strategy, for example taking the temperature of the market by collating public opinion on social networks.

More often than not, effective analysis of Big Data involves both a subjective and an objective judgment, i.e both intuitive and analytical thinking. A hotel chain might already base its pricing on analytics, for example (setting prices by linking occupancy rates to the time remaining - much like budget airline price their seats). It might make the intuitive decision to raise prices for a special event, the London Olympics, let’s say.
ChaChing: Jury Awards Carnegie Mellon $1.17Billion in patent infringement case (Chronicle):
A federal jury in Pittsburgh on Wednesday found that the Marvell Technology Group and Marvell Semiconductor Inc. infringed on patents stemming from the work of a Carnegie Mellon University professor and a former student, and awarded the university roughly $1.17-billion in damages, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
How "mistakes were made" pervades everything even accidentally on purpose (The Nation):
As the first-ever government agency with deniability written into its charter, the CIA was from the beginning a storytelling machine. It was no coincidence that in its early days the organization was full of literature students and writers recruited by influential scholars of English, or that for decades it operated as perhaps the most generous literary patron in the West, funding scores of novels, translations and literary journals. And so it is oddly apt that most Americans know most of what they know about the covert sector—or, more accurately, half-know most of what they half-know—not from fact-oriented discourses like journalism, history and the law, but instead from novels, films, TV shows, comic books and narrative video games: in other words, through fictions, some of them quite outlandish, some chock-full of accurate information and insight, most somewhere in between, and all of them more or less dismissible as “just fiction.”

Melley’s boldest suggestion is that fiction about the covert activity assumes an outsize role not only for members of the general public, but also for most individuals within the covert sector. This is, he argues, a natural consequence of the secret government’s size and “hypercompartmentalization,” itself a natural outcome of its foundational obsession with deniability. The covert sector is so large, so fragmented into agencies, subdivisions, private contractors and shell companies—often competing with each other for funding and operational jurisdiction—that it can be difficult, if not impossible, for any one of the beast’s many tentacles to know what the rest have in their clutches. This is exacerbated by complex classification schemes that parcel out information—even of a single operation—piecemeal on a “need to know” basis, a process that can leave even those with high-security clearances in the dark. Often, Melley claims, those at the top of the totem pole are the most ignorant of all, because what is required of them is not knowledge but its opposite: public expressions of shock when, against the odds, this or that unsavory activity comes to light. Even if those technically “inside” the covert state know a bit more than John Everyman, it is certainly plausible that they hanker to know more—to view the monster from above, and to see its many tentacles writhing at once. Like the rest of us, some often have nowhere better to turn than fiction.

Such a proposition is difficult to prove, but Melley attempts to marshal compelling evidence. In the 1960s, he notes, CIA employees reportedly watched Mission Impossible each week in search of ideas for new gadgets. JFK loved Ian Fleming novels and wanted America to find “our James Bond.” The “ticking time bomb scenario,” so endlessly invoked in recent debates over the efficacy and morality of torture, has apparently never occurred in real life but famously first appeared in Les centurions, a 1960 French thriller in which French soldiers use torture to extract information from Muslim members of the Algerian resistance. Today, the book is a favorite of US counterinsurgency professionals, including (by his own admission) David Petraeus, until recently the director of the CIA. After 9/11, the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security started recruiting artists—
including thriller author Brad Meltzer—for Red Cell, a project dedicated to imagining how the terrorist attacks of the future might play out. The Pentagon ran a similar program. And in 2008, Defense Intelligence Agency recruits started training on Sudden Thrust, a video game written by a Hollywood screenwriter.
More about Ann Patchet's bookstore in Nashville (Atlantic);
Meanwhile, back in Nashville, Karen and Mary Grey had hired a staff, and together they washed the warehoused Borders bookshelves again and again while they waited for the paint to dry and the new flooring to arrive. In a burst of optimism, we had hoped to open October 1. Lights were still missing when Parnassus finally did open on November 16. We had forgotten to get cash for the register, so I ran to the bank with my checkbook. That morning, The New York Times ran a story about the opening, along with a photo of me, on page A‑1.

Imagine a group of highly paid consultants crowded into the offices of my publisher, HarperCollins. Their job is to figure out how to get a picture of a literary novelist (me, say) on the front page of The Times. “She could kill someone,” one consultant suggests. The other consultants shake their heads. “It would have to be someone very famous,” another says. “Could she hijack a busload of schoolchildren, or maybe restructure the New York public-school system?” They sigh. It would not be enough. They run down a list of crimes, stunts, and heroically good deeds, but none of them are A-1 material. I can promise you this: kept in that room for all eternity, they would never land on the idea that opening a 2,500-square-foot bookstore in Nashville would do the trick.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Year in Reading 2012

Looking at what I wrote on this subject last year I am almost appalled that I failed to keep my promises regarding my expected reading for 2012.  Still, the Amanda Foreman title about the American Civil war sits above my desk with not one of the 800 pages having been cracked and, in addition, none of the Dickens books from the Penguin Classics collection have been read either.  In the case of the Dickens books, my excuse is that they are bound so nicely I don't want to spoil them.  I will get to all of these soon enough.  I read 19 books this year which is the same as last year and several books took me a while: Something Happened by Joe Heller and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel both of which I found very slow going.  In the case of Wolf Hall, I know a lot about the history and I recognize the fine writing but I found it dense and I'm not sure I'll be reading the next one.  (Accidentally, we started watching The Tudors on the TeeVee box which is far more enjoyable but of course more sudsy.)

As in other years, The Millions keeps asking people what they've enjoyed reading in the past year and their link is here.

Here's my list in reverse order and check out my LibraryThing and my Bookstore

Re Imagine - Tom Peters
Fault Line - Robert Goddard
The Prague Cemetary - Umberto Eco
Waging Heavy Peace - Neil Young
Iron War: Dave Scott & Mark Allen in the Greatest Race - Matt Fitgerald
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Mr. Timothy - Louis Beynard
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
The Mulberry Empire - Philip Hensher
Mr. Paradise - Elmore Leonard
Mission to Paris - Alan Furst
Death and Life of Bobby Z - Don Winslow
Penguin Book of Fights, Fueds, Hart felt Hatreds - Philip Kerr
Unfamiliar Fishes - Sarah Vowell
Before the Poison - Peter Robinson
Stone's Fall - Iain Pears
Royal Charles - Antonia Fraser
Something Happened - Joe Heller

Neil's book was very enjoyable - discursive - but he showed a lot more of himself in this book than I thought he would.  My other favorites from this list were Iron War, The Power of Habit, Mission to Paris and Royal Charles.

Iron War tells the story of the intense rivalry between triathletes Dave Scott and Mark Allen which had its apotheosis (for those like me who deify supreme athleticism) in the 1989 Kona Iron Man where the two men swam, rode and ran literally side by side for 138 of 139 miles.  Not only do I recall seeing this on television at the time but when I was in high school on Maui in the early 1980s I recall hearing about a crazy bunch of guys who had done the first Kona race and I recall laughing at the whole idea.  I have run 15 marathons and I can't conceive of how hard a triathlon is and to do one in the manner in which Scott and Allen did that day is just unbelievable to me.  By the way, between them they won Kona 12 times.

One of my Random House friends gave me The Power of Habit which I enjoyed and it made me think about how triggers and rewards help me manage my activities and priorities.  What I found interesting were things I do to organize my life which fell into the methodology Duhigg spoke about in his book.

Royal Charles was immensely enjoyable and tells the history of the second King Charles who ascended the thrown not only after Parliament had killed his father, he had escaped death several times, wandered around Europe almost penniless all while the country underwent a revolution and the dictator (Cromwell) tried to pass the mantel to his son.  Once eventually crowned King he was largely successful in stabilizing government but sadly died before the succession could be fixed and we ended up with James who was a complete ass.

In 2013, the Forman book and those Dickens books will feature again on my list as will several other books that have remained unread for a very long time.  By way of example, the Royal Charles book was a gift from Mrs PND in 1993.  As was the case this year, newer titles not currently on my shelf will interrupt the balance but not, I hope, to the extent that I push Foreman to 2014.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

London Christmas 1993

Christmas decorations in London generally don't match NYC and the tree in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar square usually looks very lonely.  In addition, in the years following the mid-nineties there were some unpleasant events on new years eve which prompted the authorities to close off the square in the run up to the end of the year.  So the square can be a desolate place in early winter.  On a more positive note, traffic has been diverted around the square since this picture was taken so cars and buses no longer pass between the museum and the monument and so tourists don't risk death in their rush to feed the pigeons.  Why anyone would want to do that in the first place is beyond me.

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    

Monday, December 17, 2012

Revisiting The Search For Attention

My predictions made in January 2012 are a good introduction to people visiting here the first time as well as a prelude to predictions for 2013 which I should get around to in early January.

If you are visiting for the first time consider signing up for the RSS feed or you can recieve updates via email by clicking here and registering.  I've been blogging since 2006 (as a experiment) and my output has remained fairly constant over the years.  If you would like a pdf 'book' of my annual prediction posts and also some self-defined highlights from the last six years let me know via email and I will send it to you.  It is about 100 pages.  (michael @  Or you can get it on SlideShare.

Here are the predictions for 2012 originally posted on January 7th, 2012 and look for my thoughts on 2013 in early January.

Predictions 2012: The Search for Attention

There’s little more to say about eBooks these days: The migration is now embedded into business operations across the industry. Yes, there remain some issues and problems day-to-day but it would seem that the issue of most concern to publishers for the past five years (trade particularly) is now subsumed under business operations as usual.  And that bores me.
Sure, we could argue about the future purpose and value of a publisher but most (if not all) the big trade houses are doing better now than they were three years ago and continue to sign the big authors and sell lots of units.  The amount of attention given to the self-publisher model is disproportionate to its viability as a solution better than that delivered wholesale by a traditional publisher. Yet, to some, the counter argument or disruptive solution is always more interesting and therefore garners more attention.  There will be more big success stories in self-publishing but the larger point isn’t about replacing the old model with the new—it’s more about incorporating the new model into the old.  Where self-publishing was derisively termed ‘vanity publishing’ 10 years ago, it could now be considered a vital component of a better, more efficient publishing industry.
This set of predictions was harder to conceive that those in prior years and I am not sure why that it is.  I’ve been going through this exercise since 2007 (the year I started this blog) and so went back over some of the things I suggested in years past.  For example, in 2007, I said:
  • Several major US colleges will teach various social science courses entirely in simulation. The courses will not be taught in traditional lecture form but entirely within the software simulation.
Now, five years later, there have been some experiments in this area but my comment was uttered in a time when everyone was building a home in the simulation game world and, at the time, it seemed inevitable we would all be spending half our lives in SecondLife.  Clearly that never happened, and on the other hand, during 2011, I spent many weeks looking into the medical simulations ‘business’ which is very impressive and continues to push the boundaries of real simulation in education and training.  What’s important here is that simulations solve several business, operational and administrative issues for schools and hospitals which drives the business case for their adoption.  That might not have been the case for SecondLife (at least in a comprehensive sense).
The anticipated benefits of simulated learning will only be realized if they solve a business problem(s).  As I saw during my short research project, in medicine and especially nursing, there are very real addressable problems that simulations solve for educators and administrators.  Some of the simulations centers I visited are almost exact replicas of hospital wards and operating theatres.  It is quite incredible.  The money poured into hardware at these centers is significant (and growing) but the next big change in simulations training will be how traditional medical content is integrated into delivery in the simulations context.  No easy thing, but the merging of the practical and the theoretical is viewed as critical by educators and practitioners.  The medical segment is representative of how education publishing in particular still has significant challenges to address as their industry deals with changes in technology, delivery and performance measurement.
The following year (2008), I incorrectly predicted “McGraw-Hill will reorganize its business much as Thomson [Cengage] has done. MGH education could be sold to private equity.”  The impact of the sale of MGH in 2012 is unlikely to drastically change the publishing landscape in the short term, but there may be larger structural changes across the entire business that will be more interesting.  As we know, Apple is set to make an announcement soon which is rumored to be about educational publishing. If that’s true, it might stimulate some fundamental changes in education similar to the impact iTunes had on the music business.
Sticking with education, in 2009 I suggested that the Obama administration would make wholesale changes in education policy and become more ‘federalist’ in approach.  As some ‘celebrate’ the ten-year anniversary of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ the administration is pushing more (or allowing more) responsibility to the states for education policy while at the same time providing more assistance to ‘failing’ schools so they can improve.  If anything, the Obama administration may be more ‘activist’ with their assistance versus the prior administration and this policy (or set of policies) is likely to aid education publishers in the provision of the next generation of assessment tools, which will be oriented more toward remediation and intervention (and which I touched on in 2010).
Last year, I focused my prognostications on the concepts of curation and community: 
The growth of intimacy assumes that users will seek closer relationships with their core community of friends, workers or communities of interest in order to make decisions about the content they access, the products they use and the entertainment decisions they make. Book publishers, retailers and authors will need to understand how to actively participate in these communities without ‘marketing’ or ‘selling’ to them. Facebook is obviously the largest social community but, within Facebook, there are a myriad of smaller ‘communities’ and, within these communities, the web becomes highly personal. The relationships among the participants becomes ‘intimate’ in the sense that the participants share knowledge, information, even personal details that in a traditional selling or marketing environment would never be breeched by the vendor. The dynamic of selling becomes vastly different in this context and publishers must find a way to understand these new communities, the influencers that dictate behavior and the motivations that contribute to selling products (and services potentially).
I still believe the above to be a trend even though it hasn’t developed as quickly as we might have expected. I fully expect the concept to mature over the coming years.
Which suggests a lead-in to a theme for my 2012 predictions: Where 2011 was about the community providing a filter for its ‘members,’ 2012 will be more about the community helping focus/apportion the attention of its members.  In a screen-based entertainment world, publishers will struggle to assert their right to a user’s time against competition that includes every media option out there from games to TV to social networks.  This is different than the former paradigm because all media usage is rapidly migrating to tablet and applications-based consumption.  And this includes television.
With both major book retailers actively engaged in the tablet wars, it seems inevitable that tablets will be the predominant delivery mechanism for publishers’ content, including trade and education content.  So, if our content is delivered on these devices, how do we establish and hold the user’s attention in an environment where the user can skip from media to media with almost no friction whatsoever.
The answer to this question is partially reflected in last year’s post regarding community and curation.  The most significant challenge publishers will face is getting their content shared and linked to and powerful social network marketing programs will be at the center of this effort.  This doesn’t only apply to trade content--‘communities’ organized around ‘influencers’ such as academics/professors, institutions, specific courses, etc. will also drive the sharing and linking of educational publisher content.  For example, an individual interested in business entrepreneurship might ‘friend’ the Harvard class ‘Entrepreneurship 101’ and use the reading list to guide his or her personal reading.
Another key aspect of the quest for attention revolves around the metadata and the supplemental content publishers produce for all their content.  Most of this remains either dis- or un-organized.  A lack of depth and accuracy of meta-data is still a deficiency shared by most publishers, even as the need for more meta-data expands.  On the whole, publishers are probably getting further behind.  The thing that will help publishers win a larger share of attention will be multiple ‘entry points’ that enable the user to interact with their content and allow influencers to share and link to it.  Not only do meta-data files need to be robust and detailed, but users need to be able to easily find references, indexes, TOCs, links, etc. and reviews as well as alternate views of the content (audio, video, even perspectives).  Not only do these various elements provide ‘hooks’ which users can grab in multiple ways, they will also serve to build loyalty and authority for the content itself.  And this could ‘index’ the content so that it scores high-ranking positions when consumers seek the content you are selling.  Thus, the entire process feeds on itself.
Searching for Attention will represent a significant challenge for all content owners but particularly publishers, as content amalgamates via the tablet platform.  Not for nothing, I think I’d rather go on that journey with B&N and Amazon versus Apple or Google because at least they are booksellers.  Whether that’s enough remains to be seen.
Here are some additional trends to watch for over the next year or two:
  • The MGH deal aside, there’s a good chance we will see additional movement in the ownership of segments of the education business.  Cengage will have little difficulty with their refinancing (doesn’t mean there won’t be any pain) but educational units on the periphery (medical, legal, etc.) may witness more consolidation in the coming year.

  • With the ‘settling’ of eBook content and processes within many publishing houses, we’ll begin to see more experimentation from publishers especially with expanded definitions of traditional book content.  We’ll see eBook content – the ‘book’ part as a component of something that looks more like an issue of an online magazine.  Obviously, an ‘issue’ where the ‘book’ part is the focus but ancillary material (in the magazine sense the supporting articles) lend deeper meaning, context and even leads to obvious tie-ins and sequels.  Essentially, I think we will begin to see the beginnings of the renaissance of the ‘book’ that everyone has been moaning about.

  • In an area that I am focused on, we will begin to see a rapid movement towards atomizing educational content.  Apple may well announce an educational publishing version of iTunes where content is such as chapters, cases and articles are sold in parts as songs are sold versus albums.  Watch for a painful realization about pricing.  The al a carte approach for content purchasing is something educators and institutions are looking for and initiatives similar to the iTunes model are being welcome because they empower people to make better choices.

  • In sport, it will be a tight run thing at the top of the premiership this year but I still believe Manchester United will beat out Manchester City for the title.  England will come second in the medals table at the London Olympics.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Media Week (V6, N51): StraighterLine, Education, Bond + More

Set your price online courses. Straighterline gives credit and cash. (Chronicle)
The new service is run by StraighterLine, a company that offers online, self-paced introductory courses. Unlike massive open online courses, or MOOC's, StraighterLine's courses aren't free. But tuition is lower than what traditional colleges typically charge—the company calls its pricing "ultra-affordable." A handful of colleges accept StraighterLine courses for transfer credit.

Instructors who offer courses on Professor Direct will be able to essentially set their own sticker prices, as long as they are higher than the company's base price. One professor teaching an online mathematics course with a base price of $49, for example, plans to charge $99. For each student who signs up, the company will pocket the $49 base price, and the professor gets the remaining $50.

The instructor in that math course is Dan Gryboski, who has previously taught as an adjunct at the University of Colorado but is taking the year off from traditional teaching so he can stay home and take care of his three young children. He views Professor Direct as a way to keep up his teaching within the time windows he now has for professional work.

It's also up to each professor using Professor Direct to decide what services to offer students in addition to a core set of materials prepared by the company. Mr. Gryboski says he is promising students who sign up for his two math courses that he will quickly respond to any e-mail questions they have about the material, that he will be available for online office hours for two hours a week, and that he will create additional tutorial videos to supplement the existing materials for the courses.
Job Posting at the Dalkey Archive called the worlds worst job listing (IHEd):
The largest publisher of translated literature in the US, Dalkey has also opened offices in London and Ireland. Their name comes from a novel of the same name by Flann O’Brien (a pseudonym, so no relation), an Irish satirist and one of my favorite writers. The Press’s founder and Chief Everything Officer, John O’Brien, can be a bit…prickly, so satire might be an expected vehicle for the job posting he seems to have written himself.

“Any of the following will be grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period: coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies. DO NOT APPLY if you have a work history containing any of the above.”
If you read the whole posting you'll realize that applicants are unlikely to have any work history at all.

Digital Education in Kenya and the Use of Tablets (Economist)
A for-profit venture, eLimu (“education” in Swahili) is one of several local publishers which are looking to disrupt the business of traditional textbook vendors, which are often slow and expensive. It aims to show that digital content can be cheaper and better.

Safaricom, the Kenyan mobile operator that pioneered the M-Pesa service, hopes to repeat its success in digital education. It is developing classroom content, from videotaped lessons to learning applications, that any of Kenya’s 7,000 state secondary schools will be able to access online.

The prospect of many of Africa’s 300m pupils learning digitally has not escaped the attention of global technology giants either. Amazon has seen sales of its Kindle e-readers in Africa increase tenfold in the past year. The firm’s developers are adding features to its devices with the African consumer in mind: talking books, new languages and a longer battery life.

Intel, a chipmaker, hopes that education will generate much of the double-digit growth it expects in Africa. The firm has been advising African governments and helping them buy entry-level computers. In Nigeria Intel brought together MTN, a telecom carrier, and Cinfores, a local publisher, to provide exam-preparation tools over mobile phones, a service that has become hugely popular.
William Boyd who will be writing a new Bond book is interviewed in the Independent:
The "troubled, complex" James Bond is the one we will read about when Boyd's book is published next autumn. Era-wise, Boyd has dived back into Fleming's world, setting his story in 1969, five years after Fleming released his last work, The Man with the Golden Gun. Forced to jump to my own conclusions, I'm betting the action takes our hero to Africa, scene of both Boyd's formative years and his early books such as An Ice-Cream War; A Good Man in Africa; and Brazzaville Beach.

For the record, I'm basing my assumption on the wry smile Boyd gives when I ask if he's planning to set another novel in Africa. "I may well do, I may well do," the 60-year-old says in his softly Scottish accent. It's been years, decades even, since Boyd journeyed there, literarily and literally. He says Africa – he was born in Ghana and lived in Nigeria until his late teens – yields the "pure source of memories" he uses as a writer, and another reason that I'm guessing he might draw on that continent for Bond's adventures.
Making money from the stuff you make is easier than you think (Techcrunch)
Loccit‘s latest product — launched last Friday — is a personalised diary populated with photos and updates from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The startup says it sold 8,000 of these diaries in the first 48 hours of the product going on sale, which indicates there is an appetite for repackaging people’s digital footprint and selling it back to them in a more permanent form (in this case: paper — with a choice of hard or soft cover).

Loccit’s system is pretty rough round the edges — currently displaying a big warning to users that non-English characters won’t print correctly yet, and requesting they “please drop back in a week”. It can also be very slow to pull in content from social networks, if indeed it pulls it in at all — so it’s even more impressive they managed to flog 8,000 of the books in two days.
From twitter this week:

Earliest pocket-size country pursuits manual to be shown at British Library Telegraph Squiring for Dummies

Leading British Universities Join New MOOC Venture. Chronicle

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Libraries, Discovery, and the Catalog: Scale, Workflow, Attention Educause

A School Where Courses Are Designed by Business NYTimes

Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university? Guardian

Developers to break ground on massive Hoboken waterfront office and retail space.

Friday, December 14, 2012

St Joseph's Church, Kaupo Maui 1995

KAUPO MAUI St. Joseph's Church
This church is on the back side of Maui past Hana and on the road to Ulapalakua and is quite desolate.  The church was built in 1862 and when this image was taken in1995 the church had just undergone a recent renovation.  Since then it has apparently fallen into disrepair which isn't surprising since it can't have much of a congregation.  In the back ground is the Haleakala crater rim and the big dip above the church is the Kaupo gap which is where if you hiked from one end of the crater to the other you could come out this gap and hike all the way down to the ocean.  I did that in high school.  Bet it's a lot different going up the gap rather than coming down.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mr Townshend at The New York Public Library

From the NYPL Live series a meeting with Mr. Pete Townshend:
In conversation with Paul Holdengräber, one of rock-and-roll’s biggest icons will talk about his most intimate memories; from the inner sanctum of Eric Clapton’s drug-ridden hotel rooms to the feet of Jimi Hendrix and his electric kool-aid guitar; from the first trial performance of Townshend’s rock opera, Tommy, in a London bar to setting the record with The Who as the world’s loudest band, Townshend will unload the journey that left him writing songs for “the best live band of all time.” Hear the stories straight from the mouth that sang on the front lines of rock-and-roll’s takeover of the music world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Media Week (V5, N50): MOOC Business Model, Popova Profile, Tim Cook, Printing 15th Century + More,

Wondering where the business model is for MOOCs? Some providers are now charging for access to student data (Chronicle):
On Tuesday, Coursera, which works with high-profile colleges to provide massive open online courses, or MOOC's, announced its employee-matching service, called Coursera Career Services. Some high-profile tech companies have already signed up—including Facebook and Twitter, according to a post on Coursera's blog, though officials would not disclose how much employers pay for the service. Only students who opt into the service will be included in the system that participating employers see, a detail stressed in an e-mail message that Coursera sent to its nearly two million past or present students on Tuesday.

Each college offering a course through Coursera is also given the chance to opt out of the service—meaning that if a college declines, then no students in its courses can participate in the matchmaking system.

"Some universities are still thinking it through, so not all have said yes," Andrew Ng, a co-founder of Coursera, said in an interview on Tuesday. "I don't think anyone said, 'No now and no in the future,'" he added. "This is a relatively uncontroversial business model that most of our university partners are excited about."

Udacity, another company that provides free online courses, offers a similar service. Udacity works directly with professors to offer courses, rather than signing agreements with colleges.
Profile of Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) in the NY Times:
She has faced criticism, of course. She has been dismissed as elitist and condescending. An initiative she helped start last spring, the Curator’s Code, which called for more respect and attribution in the Twittersphere, was harshly criticized. Ms. Popova responded in a blog post that began, “In times of turmoil, I often turn to one of my existential pillars of comfort: Albert Einstein’s ‘Ideas and Opinion.’ ” She ended with this thought: “There is a way to critique intelligently and respectfully, without eroding the validity of your disagreement. It boils down to manners.”

Old-fashioned, indeed.

As for her future, Ms. Popova said she had little interest in expanding her brand. “I get asked all the time, ‘How’s it going to scale?’ ‘What’s next?’ ” she said. “What I do is what I do, and I don’t think I’m ever going to change that.” The woman who rails against her contemporaries for turning their backs on old books said she had no interest in writing one. “That’s such an antiquated model of thinking,” she said. “Why would I want to write something that’s going to have the shelf life of a banana?”
Long interview with Tim Cook of Apple in Businessweek:
The key in the change that you’re referencing is my deep belief that collaboration is essential for innovation—and I didn’t just start believing that. I’ve always believed that. It’s always been a core belief at Apple. Steve very deeply believed this.

So the changes—it’s not a matter of going from no collaboration to collaboration. We have an enormous level of collaboration in Apple, but it’s a matter of taking it to another level. You look at what we are great at. There are many things. But the one thing we do, which I think no one else does, is integrate hardware, software, and services in such a way that most consumers begin to not differentiate anymore. They just care that the experience is fantastic.

So how do we keep doing that and keep taking it to an even higher level? You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration. We’ve got services all in one place, and the guy that’s running that has incredible skills in services, has an incredible track record, and I’m confident will do fantastic things. Jony [Ive, senior vice president of industrial design], who I think has the best taste of anyone in the world and the best design skills, now has responsibility for the human interface. I mean, look at our products. (Cook reaches for his iPhone.) The face of this is the software, right? And the face of this iPad is the software. So it’s saying, Jony has done a remarkable job leading our hardware design, so let’s also have Jony responsible for the software and the look and feel of the software, not the underlying architecture and so forth, but the look and feel.

I don’t think there’s anybody in the world that has a better taste than he does. So I think he’s very special. He’s an original. We also placed Bob [Mansfield, senior vice president of technologies] in a position where he leads all of silicon and takes over all of the wireless stuff in the company. We had grown fairly quickly, and we had different wireless groups. We’ve got some really cool ideas, some very ambitious plans in this area. And so it places him leading all of that. Arguably there’s no finer engineering manager in the world. He is in a class by himself.
Some interesting ideas (relevant for books) on better magazine publishing for digital from Craig Mod:
A Subcompact Manifesto:

Subcompact Publishing tools are first and foremost straightforward.

They require few to no instructions.

They are easily understood on first blush.

The editorial and design decisions around them react to digital as a distribution and consumption space.

They are the result of dumping our publishing related technology on a table and asking ourselves — what are the core tools we can build with all this stuff?

They are, as it were, little N360s.

I propose Subcompact Publishing tools and editorial ethos begin (but not end) with the following qualities:
Small issue sizes (3-7 articles / issue)
Small file sizes
Digital-aware subscription prices
Fluid publishing schedule
Scroll (don’t paginate)
Clear navigation
HTML(ish) based
Touching the open web
Two interesting data modeling/visualization projects:

The expansion of Printing across Europe during the 15th century (The Atlantic):

Harvard's metaLAB is "dedicated to exploring and expanding the frontiers of networked culture in the arts and humanities," pursuing interdisciplinary research like this fascinating look at the spread of printing across Europe in the 1400s. Drawing on data from the university's library collections, the animation below maps the number and location of printed works by year. Watch it full screen in HD to see cities light up as the years scroll by in the lower left corner. Matthew Battles, a principal and senior researcher at metaLAB and past Atlantic contributor, describes the research and technology that went into the visualization in an interview below.
And Bombsite, a project that shows where bombs fell on London during the Blitz.
The Bomb Sight project is mapping the London WW2 bomb census between 7/10/1940 and 06/06/1941. Previously available only by viewing in the Reading Room at The National Archives, Bomb Sight is making the maps available to citizen researchers, academics and students. They will be able to explore where the bombs fell and to discover memories and photographs from the period.

The project has scanned original 1940s bomb census maps , geo-referenced the maps and digitally captured the geographical locations of all the falling bombs recorded on the original map. The data has then been integrated into 2 different types of applications:

And a good day in Sport:

Manchester United and a very exciting game (Guardian)

England Cricket win (Guardian)

Friday, December 07, 2012

Pearl Harbor 1978

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

This is a scan from a print so it is not a particularly good photo but it suffices to note the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  This is taken from an aircraft on approach to Honolulu International airport which is to the south west as you look at this image.

Here is a first hand account published in the WaPo

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

Custom Jumps the Shark

On your next purchase of Johnnie Walker Blue consider adding your own engraved message on the bottle.  Silly me, I forgot the question mark.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Business Insider: The Future of Digital

Very informative set of slides on digital and especially mobile computing. Click on th "Future of Digital" link towards the bottom of the post.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Off The Cuff: What are the important issues facing publishing?

At a soiree the other day someone (not in the industry) asked me the above question, so with martini in hand I threw off the following:

Firstly, the transformation from print to digital (obvious) but in that transformation the impact on every aspect of how a business is run: From author relationships to product delivery.  It is this latter piece that most executives & managers don't immediately understand.  Looking back retrospectively on some of the transformations I have gone through I am often amazed that we (as a management team) didn’t see some of the problems we faced but thankfully we became very attuned, very quickly to the different signals that present themselves in a digital publishing environment versus the print world.  As people suggest, it is like running two companies at once but I’ve found it is more than that because in the new world you have no frame of reference and you must form that very quickly.

Second, the 'unit' of sale is beginning to change.  For example, we see this in increased permissions revenues where users are proactively looking for (just) an article or chapter or business case.  This trend will manifest itself most immediately in the education market where content is becoming disaggregated and faculty (and administrators) execute more control over content choice.  At the opposite end of the value chain in content creation, the 'unit' may not be a book (as in the old world) but it could be a set of services providing deeper engagement with the content or a set of public appearances and direct connections with the author.  In truth, it’s likely to be both types and many other similar variations and changes to the ‘unit’.   Closely related to this paradigm change is the issue(s) of discoverability which often manifests itself in the depth and relevance of metadata.  Increasingly metadata will define success for content owners (even more important that it is now) because the best, most complete and comprehensive metadata will drive revenues.  As content becomes more flexible (XML workflow) in composition and delivery the metadata that describes this content will determine success of failure if the content can’t be discovered by the user when they need it.

Third customers are becoming more amorphous; publishers will still work with a buyer who buys a category for an entire chain but they are increasingly working directly with 'the wo/man on the street' who not only wants a direct relationship with the author and/or the content but also wants the content on multiple devices, in different contexts and possibly with different applications built in depending on what their objectives are.

Fourth, there is also the challenge of content pricing and in particular journal pricing.  This is a real issue but oddly less so for Big Dutch Publisher (BDP) because a very large publisher will have the resources to provide value-add to replace/offset the revenue that may be lost as more content is provided via free resources.   What may worry BDP is whether a community or marketplace could evolve around some of these free access points (PubMed for example) that, via collective effort, are somehow able to support/provide a similar level of value-added service that BDP does but also make those additions as free as the content.  That might be hard to image but not impossible.

 Not bad for off the cuff and all in all, a very exciting time to be in publishing.

Monday, December 03, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N49) Library World Overview, OCLC

A catch-up on what's going on in library land that I didn't intend to be an OCLC catalog of achievement yet that's what seems to have happened.  Most everyone else (vendors, content suppliers, etc.) seem to have been quiet over the past 6mths.  Especially interesting however is the LJ overview of the market which is their annual review from March.  If you haven't kept up to date on what's going on specifically with vendors in the library world give this a read.

  • NEXT SPACE: OCLC WorldShare: Sharing at Webscale (LINK)
  • More Libraries Join Worldshare Platform (LINK)
  • OCLC Improves Worldshare Metadata Program (LINK)
  • WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (LINK)
  • From March 2012 a Library Journal review of the library automation business (LJ):
Other News:
  • GoodReads and OCLC to work together (LINK)
  • OCLC Continues to Add Publisher Content (LINK)
Presentations and Research:
  • A joint OHIOLINK/OCLC project to determine how library resources can be used more effectively (LINK)
  • Libraries in 2020 – Pew Report (LINK)
  • Richard Walis Presentation on Linked Data to OCLC Members Committee Meeting (LINK)
  • The OCLC Global Council meeting was webcast live.
  • From Charleston Conference: The Digital Public Library of America (LINK)

NEXT SPACE: OCLC WorldShare: Sharing at Webscale (LINK)
Libraries are built on a foundation of sharing. They are the places where communities bring together important, unique and valuable resources for the benefit of all. OCLC WorldShare extends those values to allow all members to benefit from the shared data, services and applications contributed by each individual institution.

OCLC WorldShare is more than a new set of services and applications. It is the philosophy and strategy that will guide the cooperative in its efforts to help member libraries operate, innovate, connect, collaborate and succeed at Webscale. WorldCat data provides the foundation for WorldShare services. And WorldCat discovery and delivery applications help connect information seekers to library resources.
While the philosophy is broad, it also includes two very real, very specific sets of resources that can help libraries make the move to Webscale today: the OCLC WorldShare Platform and OCLC WorldShare Management Services.
More Libraries Join Worldshare Platform  (LINK)
OCLC WorldShare Management Services enable libraries to share infrastructure costs and resources, as well as collaborate in ways that free them from the restrictions of local hardware and software. Libraries using WorldShare Management Services find that they are able to reduce the time needed for traditional tasks and free staff time for higher-priority services.

"We selected WorldShare Management Services because we really wanted to get away from managing servers and back-office infrastructure and focus more of our time on working with student- and faculty-specific projects," said Stanley J. Wilder, University Librarian, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, one of the newest members of the WorldShare Management Services community. "Plus, we wanted the ability to manage all of our various library services under one platform—using true multi-tenancy architecture that also would allow UNCC to benefit from cloud-based collaboration among our library peers."

UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research university. It is the fourth largest campus among the 17 institutions of The University of North Carolina system and the largest institution of higher education in the Charlotte region.
Among the new subscribers to OCLC WorldShare Management Services:
•    College of the Siskiyous (Weed, California)
•    De Anza College (Cupertino, California)
•    Glendale Community College (Glendale, California)
•    Indiana Institute of Technology (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
•    Iona College (New Rochelle, New York)
•    Lake Tahoe Community College (South Lake Tahoe, California)
•    Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, California)
•    Nashotah House (Nashotah, Wisconsin)
•    North Central University (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
•    Northwestern Oklahoma State University (Alva, Oklahoma)
•    Saint Leo University (St. Leo, Florida)
•    San Bernardino Valley College (San Bernardino, California)
•    The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, California)
•    Tyndale University College & Seminary (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
•    The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
•    Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pennsylvania)

OCLC WorldShare Management Services were released for general availability in the United States 16 months ago. Today, a total of 148 libraries have signed agreements to use the new services and 52 sites are already live.

WorldShare Metadata collection management automatically delivers WorldCat MARC records for electronic materials and ensures the metadata and access URLs for these collections are continually updated, providing library users better access to these materials, and library staff more time for other priorities.
OCLC Improves Worldshare Metadata Program (LINK)
OCLC worked with libraries in North America to beta test the new functionality as part of OCLC WorldShare Metadata services. Pilots of the new functionality are planned in different regions around the world.

"The WorldShare Metadata collection management service is a step forward because we can now use the records in the WorldCat database to provide access to our electronic collections in a way that incorporates access changes quickly and easily," said Sarah Haight Sanabria, Electronic Resources Cataloger, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University, who participated in the beta test.

Libraries use the collection management functionality to define and configure e-book and other electronic collections in the WorldCat knowledge base. They then automatically receive initial and updated, customized WorldCat MARC records for all e-titles from one source. With the combination of WorldCat knowledge base holdings, WorldCat holdings and WorldCat MARC records, library users gain access to the same set of titles and content in WorldCat Local,, the local library catalog or other discovery interfaces.

OCLC WorldShare Metadata collection management services are available to all libraries with an OCLC cataloging subscription and work with other components of OCLC WorldShare Management Services as well as other library systems.
WorldShare Interlibrary Loan (LINK)
The release of WorldShare Interlibrary Loan represents the first large migration of OCLC member libraries to the OCLC WorldShare Platform, where they will benefit from expanded integration across a growing number of services. The platform will enable library staff and others to develop applications that will help them connect the service with other services in use within their libraries. They may also use the new service it in conjunction with other components of OCLC WorldShare Management Services.

The phased rollout of the service has begun and will continue through December 2013. Open migration for all WorldCat Resource Sharing users will begin in February 2013 and continue until the end of access to WorldCat Resource Sharing on December 31, 2013.

OCLC has invited a small group of libraries with a low volume of borrowing-only interlibrary loan activity to participate in the initial 90-day managed migration currently in progress. Participation in the next managed migration group, scheduled to begin in October 2012, will be open to interested WorldCat Resource Sharing librarians whose normal interlibrary loan activities can be supported by available functionality in the service before its full release in February.
From March 2012 a Library Journal review of the library automation business (LJ):
In 2011, the library automation economy—the total revenues (including international) of all companies with a significant presence in the United States and Canada—was $750 million. This estimate does not necessarily compare directly to 2010’s $630 million, as this year’s estimate includes a higher proportion of revenues from OCLC, EBSCO, and other sources previously unidentified. (Using the same formula, 2010 industry revenues would be estimated at $715 million.)

As OCLC becomes ever more involved as competition in the library automation industry, we have performed a more detailed analysis of what proportion of its revenues derive from products and services comparable to other companies considered in this report. Of OCLC’s FY11 revenue of $205.6 million, we calculate that $57.7 million falls within that scope.

A broader view of the global library automation industry that aggregates revenues of all companies offering library automation products and services across the globe totals $1.76 billion, including those involved with radio-frequency identification (RFID), automated handling equipment, and self-check, or $1.45 billion excluding them. Library automation revenues limited to the United States total around $450 million.

The overall library economy continues to suffer major cutbacks that may never be fully restored, so library automation vendors are facing enormous challenges to find growth opportunities. Libraries may only be able to justify investments for tools that enable them to operate with fewer resources. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployments, for example, result in revenue gains through subscription fees commensurate with delivering a more complete package of services, including hosting; libraries see overall savings as they eliminate local servers and their associated costs. Stronger companies can increase their slice by taking on competitors with weaker products, especially those in international regions.

The ongoing trend of open source integrated library systems (ILSs) cannot be discounted. Open source ILS implementations shift revenues from one set of companies to another, often at lower contract values relative to proprietary software. Scenarios vary, so it’s difficult to determine whether these implementations result in true savings in total ownership costs and to what extent costs shift back to the libraries or their consortial or regional support offices.

The above comes from the management summary and there are more detailed reports as follows:
•    Three-Year Sales Trends by Category
•    2011 Personnel Trends
•    2011 Sales by Category
•    Discovery Trends
•    Company Profiles

GoodReads and OCLC to work together ((LINK)
The new agreement pledges to improve Goodreads members’ experience of finding fresh, new things to read through libraries. It will also provide libraries with a way to reach this key group of dedicated readers through social media. As a traffic partner since 2007, Goodreads has sent more than 5 million Web referrals to

“We are always looking to give the Goodreads community even more ways to connect with their favorite titles and authors,” explains Patrick Brown, Community Manager for Goodreads. “Linking to libraries through WorldCat and OCLC has always been important to Goodreads, and this agreement helps ensure that our more than 12 million members find their local library and that their local library finds them.”

The expanded partnership includes several components:
•    A joint marketing effort to get libraries to join the Goodreads site and create a library “group” page, which will now be listed at the top of the groups page.
•    Engagement reports from Goodreads that show how many libraries have joined and created group pages and how fast membership is growing for individual libraries on Goodreads.
•    An upcoming webinar held specifically for librarians and library staff members, to learn more about Goodreads and how to optimize the library’s presence.
•    Library-specific promotional materials to encourage patron participation in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 during the month of November.
•    A discussion session planned for ALA Midwinter 2013 to hear library feedback and solicit ideas for additional visibility and collaboration.
OCLC and Amazon (LINK)
OCLC WorldShare platform has an Amazon app that takes information about orders from the OCLC acquisitions web service and combines it with pricing and availability information from Amazon.  You can then see pricing and availability for titles and choose to purchase them from Amazon via a cart created on the fly.   (see p. 12)

Authority Control for Researchers: Orcid is another attempt at author/contributor authority (LINK)
Wouldn’t it be great if we had authority control for every researcher?  Of course, we do spend lots of time on authority work already but efforts are underway “to solve the author name ambiguity problem in scholarly communication.”  The ORCID project ( aims to resolve this ambiguity by issuing unique identifiers to authors.  The next stages of this project will focus on three areas:
•    “Allowing researchers to claim their profiles in an open environment that transcends geographic and national boundaries, discipline, and institutional constraints
•    Allowing researchers to delegate control of the ongoing management of their profile to their institution
•    Providing an interoperable platform for federated exchange of profile information with systems supplied by publishers, grant managers, research assessment tools, and other organizations in the scholarly community”
What is ORCID?
ORCID is an open, non-profit, community-based effort to create and maintain a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers.  ORCID is unique in its ability to reach across disciplines, research sectors, and national boundaries and in its cooperation with other identifier systems.  ORCID works with the research community to identify opportunities for integrating ORCID identifiers in key workflows, such as research profile maintenance, manuscript submissions, grant applications, and patent applications. 

ORCID provides two core functions:  (1) a registry to obtain a unique identifier and manage a record of activities, and (2) APIs that support system-to-system communication and authentication.  ORCID makes its code available under an open source license, and will post an annual public data file under a CCO waiver for free download. 

The ORCID Registry is available free of charge to individuals, who may obtain an ORCID, manage their record of activities, and search for others in the Registry.  Organizations may become members to link their records to ORCID identifiers, to update ORCID records, to receive updates from ORCID, and to register their employees and students for ORCID identifiers.
OCLC Continues to Add Publisher Content (LINK)
OCLC has signed new agreements with leading publishers around the world and has added important new content and collections to WorldCat Local, the OCLC discovery and delivery service that offers users integrated access to more than 922 million items.

WorldCat Local offers access to books, journals and databases from a variety of publishers and content providers from around the world; the digital collections of groups like HathiTrust and Google Books; open access materials, such as the OAIster collection; and the collective resources of libraries worldwide through WorldCat.

WorldCat Local is available as a stand-alone discovery and delivery service, and as part of OCLC WorldShare Management Services. Through WorldCat Local, users have access to more than 1,700 databases and collections, and more than 650 million articles.

OCLC recently signed agreements with the following content providers to add important new collections—including some searchable full text—to WorldCat Local, and OCLC WorldShare Management Services:
June Announcement of earlier publisher additions (Link)
Presentations and Research:

A joint OHIOLINK/OCLC project to determine how library resources can be used more effectively
(LINK) via (Ohio Library Director)
This OCLC report by Julia Gammon (Akron) and Ed O’Neill (OCLC) was conducted to “gain a better understanding of how the resources of OhioLINK libraries are being used and to identify how the limited resources of OhioLINK member libraries can be utilized more effectively.”  The study collected and analyzed circulation data for books (30 million items in the final set used for analysis) in the OhioLINK union catalog using FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) analysis.  It would take me pages to explain what FRBR does, but put most simply, it helps you look at items from a title level (all formats and types of holdings) rather than each type of format of the same content as separate.  Check out page 14 for a better explanation of FRBR.

For those of you looking for new research projects, the full data set for individual institutions is available from the project website at  Figure 3 in the report shows the spreadsheets for OSU.

Here are a few conclusions that the authors draw
•    “The academic richness and histories of the OhioLINK member institutions are reflected in the uniqueness of their library collections. Unique items are not limited to a few large institutions but are widely distributed across many different types of member institutions. The membership should avoid collection practices that homogenize the state-wide collection through unnecessary duplication.
•    Individual institution members commented with surprise on the low use of their non-English language collections. Further study is needed to discover potential causes and trends of these collections’ usage patterns.
•    The most fascinating result of the study was a test of the “80/20” rule. Librarians have long espoused the belief that 80% of a library’s circulation is driven by approximately 20% of the collection. The analysis of a year’s statewide circulation statistics would indicate that 80% of the circulation is driven by just 6% of the collection.”
Libraries in 2020 – Pew Report (LINK) 
Richard Walis Presentation on Linked Data to OCLC Members Committee Meeting (LINK)
The OCLC Global Council meeting was webcast live. 
From Charleston Conference: The Digital Public Library of America (LINK)