Wednesday, August 29, 2012

US Open Tennis 1972: Evonne Goolagong, Stan Smith, Billie-Jean King +more

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US Open Tennis 1972, a set on Flickr.
Mr and Mrs PND are off to the US Open tomorrow. Here is the archive set from 1972 when PND Senior went to see some of the greatest players ever: Ashe, Laver, Evert, Smith. I've only been twice before (and the second time we were rained out). The first time in 1996 was fun and the tickets were $20 which is less than a hamburger will cost me tomorrow. We'll have fun nevertheless and if I can photo half as many stars as this set I will be pleased with myself .

Monday, August 27, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N35) Retail Bookstore Results: BN, Smiths, BAM, Dymocks (Aust) Strategy + More

Barnes And Noble reported their first quarter results which were mixed (Press Release)
First quarter consolidated revenues increased 2.5% to $1.5 billion as compared to the prior year. First quarter consolidated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was $4 million as compared to a loss of $24 million a year ago. The consolidated first quarter net loss declined 28% as compared to the prior year to $41.0 million, or $0.78 per share.

Digital Content Sales Increase 46%
Bookstore Comparable Sales Increase 4.6%
Retail EBITDA Increases 88% to $75 million

“During the first quarter, we continued to see improvement in both our rapidly growing NOOK business, which saw digital content sales increase 46% during the quarter, and at our bookstores, which continue to benefit from market consolidation and strong sales of the Fifty Shades series,” said William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble. “The growth in comps at retail and the continued strong growth of our digital content business, as well as increased cost management focus, were drivers in the business turning from an EBITDA loss last year to slightly positive EBITDA in the first quarter of this year. As announced yesterday, we are excited to expand our award winning NOOK digital bookstore and devices beyond the U.S. market and to work with U.K. retailers to bring millions of U.K. customers the best experience in digital reading.”

Retail

The Retail segment, which consists of the Barnes & Noble bookstores and BN.com businesses, had revenues of $1.1 billion for the quarter, increasing 2% over the prior year. Comparable bookstore sales increased 4.6% for the quarter, as compared to the prior year period. Comparable bookstore sales continued to benefit from the liquidation of Borders’ bookstores in fiscal 2012 and strong sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Core comparable bookstore sales, which exclude sales of NOOK products, increased 7.6% for the quarter. BN.com sales continued to decline for the quarter.

Retail earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased from $40 million to $75 million during the first quarter, an 88% increase, driven by comparable sales increases, a higher mix of higher margin core products and increased store productivity.

College

The College segment, which consists of the Barnes & Noble College bookstores business, had revenues of $221 million during this non-back-to-school rush period. Comparable College store sales decreased 2.0% for the quarter, as compared to the prior year period. College comparable store sales reflect the retail selling price of a new or used textbook when rented, rather than solely the rental fee received and amortized over the rental period.
College EBITDA losses increased by $2 million during the quarter from a loss of $12 million a year ago to a loss of $14 million, driven by new store expenses and investments in digital education.

NOOK

The NOOK segment, which consists of the company’s digital business (including Readers, digital content and accessories), had revenues of $192 million for the quarter, essentially flat as compared to last year. Digital content sales increased 46% for the first quarter. Digital content sales are defined to include digital books, digital newsstand, and the apps business. Device sales declined for the quarter due to lower average selling prices and production scaling issues surrounding the popular newly launched GlowLight product resulting in unmet demand.

NOOK EBITDA losses increased by $6 million, from a loss of $51 million to a loss of $57 million, as a result of product markdowns on the recently announced NOOK price adjustments, as well as continued investments in the NOOK business.

Newco Formation

On April 30th, the company announced that it has formed a strategic partnership with Microsoft to form a new subsidiary, Newco, which is comprised of the company’s NOOK digital and College businesses. The company continues to be actively engaged in the formation of Newco and is in the process of implementing the work necessary to complete the Microsoft transaction. The company expects the Microsoft transaction to close this Fall.

Related:

BusinessWeek: Barnes & Noble Investor Elation With Microsoft Deal Fades
Publishers' Weekly: Content Drives Improvement at Barnes & Noble
Things seem to be going well for UK retailer WH Smiths which in advance of their full year results they announced they would perform at the top end of analyst expectations: Press Release:
WH Smith PLC will announce preliminary results for the year ending 31 August 2012 on Thursday 11 October 2012. Prior to its close period, the Company today issues the following pre close update.

The Travel business continues its good performance despite the current economic climate and its UK store opening programme remains on track. We continue to manage costs tightly and have delivered strong gross margin gains driven by good mix management. Travel continues to make good progress in winning new business in its international channel.

In the High Street business our focus on gross margin and tight cost control continues to deliver a good performance. In addition, High Street has seen an improvement in the sales trend of books following the recent positive publishing schedule.

WH Smith PLC expects the outcome for the year to 31 August 2012 to be at the top end of market expectations.  Both businesses remain highly cash generative.

Related:
Guardian: WH Smith shares hit all-time high as retailer expects good profits
Telegraph; Questor share tip: Update leaves WH Smith looking anything but grey
Books A Million announce their second quarter results (Press Release)
Books-A-Million, Inc. (NASDAQ:BAMM) today announced financial results for the 13-week and 26-week periods ended July 28, 2012. Net sales for the 13-week period ended July 28, 2012 increased 14.9% to $120.4 million compared with sales of $104.8 million in the year-earlier period. Comparable store sales for the second quarter increased 0.5%, compared with the 13-week period in the prior year. Net loss from continuing operations for the second quarter was $0.9 million, or $0.06 per diluted share, compared with net loss from continuing operations of $2.9 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, in the year-earlier period.

For the 26-week period ended July 28, 2012, net sales increased 12.7% to $233.5 million from net sales of $207.2 million in the year-earlier period. Comparable store sales declined 1.8% compared with the same period in the prior year. For the 26-week period ended July 28, 2012, the Company reported net loss from continuing operations of $2.8 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, compared with net loss from continuing operations of $6.3 million, or $0.40 per diluted share, in the year-earlier period.

Commenting on the results, Terrance G. Finley, Chief Executive Officer and President, said, "Results for the quarter reflect the contribution from our new stores that opened in the 4th quarter, the phenomenal success of the Fifty Shades of Grey series, and continued solid performance in kids, teen and general merchandise. Our team remains focused on diversifying our store assortments and adjusting our store layouts to support our core business and new categories as we prepare for the upcoming holiday season.”

The Company also announced today that the Company’s Board of Directors has authorized a program to repurchase up to $5 million in shares of its common stock. Stock may be purchased on the open market or through private transactions from time to time through March 31, 2014, dependent upon market conditions. The plan does not obligate the Company to repurchase any specific number of shares and may be suspended at any time at management’s discretion. The Company currently has 16.0 million shares of common stock outstanding.

Related:
Publishers' Weekly:: New Stores Boost Books-A-Million
Interesting write-up on the state of the Australian retail book market with a focus on Dymocks the largely franchise operator of bookstores (Sydney Telegraph)
Dymocks managing director Steven Cox said Dymocks had benefited from the Borders and A&R collapse. Stores that were competing, in many cases, against a Borders and an Angus & Robertson store became the only specialist seller in the shopping centre. "We have gone from an over-supply in the Australian market to having gaps in the market and locations with no bookstore," Mr Cox said. "We have a real opportunity to connect with more customers."

Dymocks opened eight new stores last year and a new store at Charlestown this year, with one at Wollongong soon to open and several more in the offing, including one at Hornsby, which was left without a specialist bookstore after Borders closed. He is less concerned about Amazon. "We've competed with Amazon for many years and we spend a lot of time connecting with our customers," Mr Cox said.

"The challenge people have is finding something of quality. We have really knowledgeable staff, our stores are locally owned and operated, and we help people find great books. "Readers want to have confidence they are buying a great book and our strength is in that. Amazon can't compete with our level of service."

On price, Mr Cox insists that without changes to the import laws, bookstores will struggle to compete with online retailers. His stance pitches him against publishers, who won a battle in 2009 when the federal Labor government rejected parallel import laws.

Australian publishers have the exclusive right to publish books written by overseas authors. So if a major American or British author brings out a book, booksellers such as Dymocks must wait until the local publisher prints it, which in some cases can be months after the overseas release. For the publisher, it means they can effectively subsidize Australian authors through the sales of big-name overseas authors and profit from the biggest releases.
Borders (Australia) Online name to disappear (The Bookseller):
The Borders name will soon be retired as the Pearson Group looks to rebrand the remaining online store under their Bookworld banner.

Despite Borders stores disappearing from the UK and USA, the name had continued in Australia as an online e-book store, but will soon be replaced, according to reports in The Australian.

James Webber, the chief executive of Bookworld, a division of the Pearson Group, told the newspaper: “We just believe the Borders brand has had its day. There are no stores left and globally it’s been in demise so we believe there’s an opportunity to revitalize (the franchise).”
From Twitter:
Digitize Your Personal Backlist? For a Dollar?
Julian Barnes pays tribute to Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford for 
Nebraska Book Company Names Steve Clemente President And CEO (PRNews)
Why All Schools Need iPads: Ending Texas's Bizarre Control Over National History Textbooks

Friday, August 24, 2012

Goolagong at Kooyong 1976

Evonne Goolagong Kooyong 1976
Through family friends we had members tickets to Kooyong and at the 75, 76 and 77 championships I was able spend many full days there.  On this day, for some reason I don't recall, Moms PND and I got to sit court side and someone let me use their 35mm camera.  They came out OK for a first time effort - just a bit dark.  Here Evonne has just destroyed another opponent and she went on to win the Open that year.  As with all these early tennis images the thing that strikes you is the lack of equipment and the big bags of stuff all the players carry with them now.  The funny thing here is she is clutching a couple of cokes for later as though that's all she's going to get!

A few years ago, (on a whim) I thought I would check what newspaper images existed for the championships in the years I went.  I checked out the News International newspaper site and sure enough I was able to find myself in the crowd sitting behind the server in some early round match in 1975.  Pretty funny. 

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

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Changes in Educational Publishing: The Textbook in the 21st Century

A repost from July 13, 2006.  A still relevant post regarding the evolution of the textbook. 

As I have mentioned before, I believe educational publishing - particularly in College - to be an industry ripe with opportunity and therefore very interesting. Challenges obviously exist but educational publishers have an opportunity, facilitated by the internet, to build a virtuous circle connecting the publisher/author, student, educator, advisor and institution. (Even the parent could be part of this grouping). Traditional publishing content remains the 'glue' within this grouping but publishers are also building 'platforms' adding sophisticated testing and evaluative modules, administrative modules and ultimately a social networking component that will further facilitate a level of communication among the groups heretofore unheard of. I have spoken a little about this in an earlier post.

There will be many changes resulting from this different publishing paradigm not least of which the content itself. I doubt many publishers would contest the notion that the existing construct of the traditional published text book will remain the same for much longer. In the not too distant future the course textbook is going to have more in common with an online newspaper that it will with a physical print product encased in board. Editorial and authorship may become more important than it currently is since the product will become dynamic and subject to on-going news events, reinterpretations and the feedback from users. Incorporation of audio and video, blogging and chat also add a 'real time' component that will require monitoring and management.

What is interesting about this article in the NYT today is that it highlights the significant fallibility of the textbook unit when viewed from today’s 'instant update' environment. The article points out a number of things including the surprising similarity across texts, the apparent lack of motivation to change - evidenced by continuing to publish 'name' authors in updated editions even after they were decreased and the clear lack of feedback from user to publisher/author that allowed continued publication of the same material year after year.

In many ways the article makes publishers out to be dummies but there may have been important reasons to leverage a known author for many years. Profits. Institutions, Professors, etc. act conservatively and go with what they know. Rebuilding around a new author increases the risk that the customer may go to a competitor. In addition, from a publisher point of view it is easier to tweak an existing text than start over with a new one. (Although in reading this article you may gain the impression that none of them ever start from scratch).

All the big educational publishers - Wiley, Pearson, Harcourt, McGraw Hill are building online educational content that is - or will represent - a fully interactive educational product. For publishers to gain direct access to a student that enables the student to build an online bookshelf of educational material that they can carry with them forever, and furthermore to establish a relationship with the student after they leave college, is what these publishers are really looking for. Exciting stuff if you are a publisher. And great benefits for students and educators as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NACS Study: A Comprehensive Analysis on Textbooks and Course Materials, 2012

An annual study from the National Association of College Stores on student attitudes and perceptions.
Highlights outlined in their press release include (NACS):
  • Students estimate spending $655 (down from $667) on required course materials within the past twelve months. An average of 57% is spent at the college store either in store or online.
  • Prior to the start of the term, the majority of students (47%) go to their physical campus bookstore or to their campus bookstore’s web site to find information about which required course materials they need for class.
  • Approximately 67%--up from 57% of students report regularly (“often” and “always”) comparison shopping for required course materials.
  • Students indicated that the most important factor when deciding if they will purchase required course materials for a class is the price of the course materials. In previous studies the two most important factors were linked to the class itself - the extent to which there are assignments, exams, or in-class work based on the course materials and whether the class falls within their major of study—these have now fallen to the second and third most important factors.
  • Interestingly, given the importance of price, most students rarely or never consider the cost of course materials when deciding on a career, major, or which courses to take.
  • Students rated the confidence they are getting the lowest possible price as the most important factor when considering where to purchase their required course materials.
  • If students decided not to purchase their required course materials, the top three reasons selected were price (22%), didn’t want it/didn’t think they would need it (19%), and already owned the textbook/materials (17%).
  • Of students who say they have purchased required course materials from an online source within the past 12 months, approximately 23% (up from 19%) say they experienced a delay in expected order delivery.
  • Approximately 24% (up from 18%) of students wait until after classes begin to purchase their required course materials. Only 13% of students purchase their required course materials a month or more before classes start.
  • Approximately 20% of students reported renting textbooks for the fall 2011 term.
  • Seventeen percent of students own an eReader device. Of those owners, 39% purchased it for school use.
  • The most common ways students are accessing digital/electronic textbooks include purchasing a pin code or access code at the college or university bookstore (57%—up from 51% in 2010) purchasing an e-text directly from a publisher (42%) and accessing electronically through a course management system or professor web site (e.g., WebCT, Blackboard) (34%--down from 42%).
  • According to students, professors utilizing required course materials continues to decline—to 75% from 79% in 2010, and 81% in 2008.
  • Fifty-six percent of students use a smart phone as their primary mobile phone.
Student WatchTM Student Attitudes and Perceptions:
Linking Course Materials to the Connected College Student A Comprehensive Analysis on Textbooks and Course Materials, 2012
Order now
!

Monday, August 20, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N34): Copyright, Digital Public Library, Colleges & Big Data + More

University of California at Berkeley professor Dr. Pamela Samuelson in The Chronicle from a few weeks ago on Copyright reform and the creation of a comprehensive digital library (Chron):
The failure of the Google Book settlement, however, has not killed the dream of a comprehensive digital library accessible to the public. Indeed, it has inspired an alternative that would avoid the risks of monopoly control. A coalition of nonprofit libraries, archives, and universities has formed to create a Digital Public Library of America, which is scheduled to launch its services in April 2013. The San Francisco Public Library recently sponsored a second major planning session for the DPLA, which drew 400 participants. Major foundations, as well as private donors, are providing financial support. The DPLA aims to be a portal through which the public can access vast stores of knowledge online. Free, forever.
Initially the DPLA will focus only on making digitized copies of millions of public-domain works available online. These include works published in the United States before 1923, those published between 1923 and 1963 whose copyrights were not renewed, as well as those published before 1989 without proper copyright notices, and virtually all U.S.-government works. If a way can be found to overcome copyright obstacles, many millions of additional works could be made available.
It's no secret that copyright law needs a significant overhaul to adapt to today's complex information ecosystem. Unfortunately the near-term prospects for comprehensive reform are dim. However, participants at a conference last spring at Berkeley Law School on "Orphan Works and Mass Digitization: Obstacles and Opportunities" believe that modest but still meaningful reforms are possible.
Her comment about the institutional license for the Google database reminded me of the analysis I completed in 2010.

The Atlantic takes a more detailed look at the Digital Public Library (of America):
The DPLA is the most ambitious entrant on the digital library scene precisely because it claims to recognize this need for scale, and to be marshaling its resources and preparing its infrastructure accordingly. With hundreds of librarians, technologists, and academics attending its meetings (and over a thousand people on its email listserv), the DPLA has performed the singular feat of convening into one room the best minds in digital and library sciences. It has endorsement: The Smithsonian Institution, National Archives, Library of Congress, and Council on Library and Information Resources are just some of the big names on board. It has funding: The Sloan Foundation put up hundreds of thousands of dollars in support. It has pedigree: The decorated historian Darnton has the pages of major publications at his disposal; Palfrey is widely known for his scholarship on intellectual property and the Internet; the staging of the first meeting on Harvard's hallowed campus is not insignificant. Ideally, the consolidation of resources—specialized expertise, raw manpower, institutional backing and funding—means that the DPLA can expand its clout within the community, attract better financial support, and direct large-scale digitization projects to move toward a national resource of unparalleled scope and functionality. "We believe that no one entity—not the Library of Congress, not Harvard, not the local public library—could create this system on its own," Palfrey says. "We believe strongly that by working together, we will build something greater."
The Economist takes a look at an exhibition at the British Library on the life of Shakespeare (Econ):
Shakespeare is such a global brand that the man himself almost disappears. The aim of “Shakespeare: Staging the World”, at the BM until November 25th, is to make the playwright specific and particular, to root him in his time, 400 years ago. The exhibition summons his physical world with an array of culturally evocative objects, many of which were used in “Shakespeare’s Restless World”, a splendid BBC radio series presented by the BM’s director, Neil MacGregor, earlier this year.
The show unfolds in a dark circular space, with curving rooms that wind from one to the next, each subtly lit and discreetly atmospheric of its contents: arrow slits in the room about the history plays, a hint of trees to suggest Warwickshire and the Forest of Arden, a touch of charring on black walls for the gunpowder and witchcraft of James I’s reign (when Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth”), and finally a pale dawn for the Americas, the “brave new world” of “The Tempest”. All this sits within the embrace of the old Reading Room, its shelves and dome dimly glimpsed through gaps here and there. This globe within a globe, as it were—one full of artefacts, the other of books—glances at the play between word and object that underlies the exhibition.

Fascinating (potentially spooky) article at the NYT on how colleges are beginning to use "big data" to manage student performance and even play match maker (NYT):
Data diggers hope to improve an education system in which professors often fly blind. That’s a particular problem in introductory-level courses, says Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. “The typical class, the professor rattles on in front of the class,” she says. “They give a midterm exam. Half the kids fail. Half the kids drop out. And they have no idea what’s going on with their students.”

As more of this technology comes online, it raises new tensions. What role does a professor play when an algorithm recommends the next lesson? If colleges can predict failure, should they steer students away from challenges? When paths are so tailored, do campuses cease to be places of exploration?
“We don’t want to turn into just eHarmony,” says Michael Zimmer, assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he studies ethical dimensions of new technology. “I’m worried that we’re taking both the richness and the serendipitous aspect of courses and professors and majors — and all the things that are supposed to be university life — and instead translating it into 18 variables that spit out, ‘This is your best fit. So go over here.’ ”
From the Twitter this week:

ALA Releases Report on Library E-book Business Models

Media Decoder: Google to Buy Frommer's From Wiley Publishing

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ducks to Market, Hong Kong 1972

Central Market, Hong Kong June 1972

These ducks/geese seem drugged to me in the manner in which they are submissively sitting on the sidewalk.  They are quietly sitting outside the Hong Kong central market (which I think is still there) and they'll probably be sold live to customers inside the market.  Nothing like fresh meat.

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

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Will a (B)Million Dollar Question and Lots of Money Spell the End for Collecting Agencies?

Some say that New Jersey is the most politicized state in the nation because the ratio of elected officials to state citizens is one of the highest in the land. Rest assured this post isn’t a bash about participatory democracy but, in thinking about this. I realized two things. Firstly, there are many elected officials whose job and function I am convinced the electorate knows nothing about (e.g., Freeholder, Sheriff, Advocate), and, secondly, each of these officials has a desk, chair and bookshelf lodged in an office park somewhere as well as a gas allowance and a Staples credit account. The embedded expense drain alone should cause all citizens to question why we need so much “representation”. Evolution has yet to come to New Jersey politics but it will, as technology begins to light up the obscurity.

Technology has helped break down barriers in many industries and its creeping impact on the media industry is inexorable. I was reading recently of proposals to improve the way European collecting agencies operate and was struck by an odd similarity to New Jersey politics: An ignorant proletariat saddled with an overhead-laden bureaucracy. The way royalty collecting agencies operate in a connected world may mean they will be the next media ‘industry’ to face disruption: New technology and consequent changes in the way content owner’s license content should eliminate the need for duplicative collecting agencies around the world. The signs are already there.

Royalty collection reform legislation submitted to the European Commission presents a picture of operational obscurity, questionable business practices and general mismanagement which appear to have long plagued the relationship between content owners and the local agencies charged with protecting their interests. Musicians (especially) and other content owners should be looking forward to a future in which technology will enable a more transparent system of policing and collection, which will lead to fairer compensation (to them). Regrettably, the proposals put forth in this reform legislation don’t point directly to that future; rather, they serve only to embed the incumbent collecting societies, requiring them simply to adopt some new policies, procedures and standards.

If it were up to Pink Floyd (which one’s pink?) and RadioHead, the whole lot would go in a liberalization of the entire marketplace. In their view, protectionism is precluding better accountability and a more expansive commercial market.
"We are deeply disappointed by your choice to defend the interests of a minority of managers and stakeholders," said a letter signed by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason, Radiohead's Ed O'Brien, British singer Sandie Shaw, producer CJ Bolland and the director of Younison (an artists' lobby) Kelvin Smits.

 According to the artists and the commission’s report, collection societies -- up to 250 of which operate in Europe -- keep "substantial amounts of money" on their books pending distribution or varying time schedules, to the detriment of the artists they are tasked with supporting. In their letter to the commission, the musicians were blunt as to the conclusions suggested by the report (TheVerge),
"You thus legitimise one of the most problematic forms of embezzlement adopted by some collecting societies in Europe," their letter reads.
According to research completed by the commission, in 2010 major societies owed 3.6 billion euros ($4.41 billion) in (undistributed) royalties to the creators. That’s some serious cash money.

Even with the new improvements, there’s a suggestion that some of these societies don’t have the operational capacity or technology wherewithal to accommodate the significant changes in the market place that are already present.  They haven't invested appropriately in new systems to an extent that they are already struggling to cope.  That reality, and a pervading notion that the agencies have never been able to collect all royalties due artists, must really rankle with the artists playing close attention to this issue.  (Some of the agencies see things differently and have, by their own account, been investing in their operations WSJ).

To the latter point, the US recently saw the launch of a new company (TuneSat) that promises to revolutionize the collection of music and performance royalties and, in the process, collect a far greater percentage of collectable royalties for artists and content owners. Profiled in the WSJ, one of the founders of TuneSat notes that many collecting societies operate the same way they have for the last 75 or 100 years. As with many good ideas, TuneSat was founded in response to a specific problem and out of frustration with the way things operate; and the founders chose to solve that problem in a completely different way. TuneSat monitors digital television signals to capture the ‘plays’ of digital content as described in the WSJ article:
TuneSat… uses digital technology to monitor satellite TV signals from around the world and keep track of how music is being used in theme songs, advertisements, background soundtracks and other broadcast situations. Schreer is CEO and Woods is COO of the company.
Beyond that, they say TuneSat may help disrupt the performing rights business, an industry with $2 billion in revenue in U.S. and $9 billion worldwide, by putting powerful algorithms directly in the hands of copyright owners that allow them to scour and analyze the use of their work across the entire national TV market. A web-based application allows subscribers to access TuneSat’s servers and its proprietary analytic tools, in the process allowing them to bypass traditional royalty rights organizations, if they choose.
TuneSat has the opportunity to be a real disruptor in the content business and it would seem unlikely that many of those 250 local (European) operators would be able to withstand a challenge from companies like TuneSat. And with a $9Billion market opportunity, there are likely to be more competitors emerging.

While the founders of TuneSat believe that the existing agencies are undercounting royalties earned (and data collected by TuneSat seems to bear this out), artists also believe that collecting agencies are impeding the growth and development of markets. The collecting agencies may not be very good at collection and might also be limiting the exploitation of the rights they manage. Rights holders have pointed to the lower penetration levels of digital content in Europe as evidence of the impediments collecting agencies place on markets. Pink Floyd and RadioHead blame the fiefdom-like structure of the ‘market,’ which gave rise to more than 250 collecting agencies in continental Europe, for suppressing the establishment of new businesses in the pan-European market.

It would seem that the European collecting agency market is ripe for disruption and, with the significant amounts of money at stake, it’s only a matter to time before that happens. The European government must realize that interests of the many trump the interests of the few: A more open market will ultimately benefit consumers by encouraging the provision of new services and products, while giving artists and content owners more options for managing their interests. It’s just not clear whether the European commission aspires to either of these ends?

Million Dollar Question
Money

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

ALA: Info Report on eBooks for Libraries

A short information report on eBooks in libraries has been produced by the Digital Content & Libraries Working Group of the American Library Association (ALA).  Working in close collaboration with ALA’s president and executive director, the group has focused on influencing the largest (“Big 6”) trade publishers to sell ebooks to libraries on reasonable terms. Here is a sample from the report (pdf):
Three basic attributes are beneficial to libraries under any business model for ebooks. While it may not be feasible to realize all of these immediately, and a library may elect to do without one or more in return for more favorable terms in other areas, at least temporarily, these features are ultimately essential to the library’s public role:
Essential Features All ebook titles available for sale to the public should also be available to libraries for lending. Libraries should have an option to effectively own the ebooks they purchase, including the right to transfer them to another delivery platform and to continue to lend them indefinitely. Publishers or distributors should provide metadata and management tools to enhance the discovery of ebooks.
  • Inclusion of all titles — All ebook titles available for sale to the public should also be available to libraries for lending. Libraries may choose not to purchase some titles if restrictions or prices are deemed unacceptable, but withholding titles under any terms removes the library’s ability to provide the services its patrons need and expect.
  • Enduring rights — Libraries should have an option to effectively own the ebooks they purchase, including the right to transfer them to another delivery platform and to continue to lend them indefinitely. Libraries may choose more limited options for some titles or copies, or in return for lower pricing, but they should have some option that allows for permanent, enduring access.
  • Integration — Libraries try to provide coherent access across all of the services they offer. To do this effectively, they need access to metadata and management tools provided by publishers or distributors to enhance the discovery of ebooks. Separate, stand-alone offerings of ebooks are likely to be marginalized, or to diminish awareness of other library offerings. Mechanisms that allow ebooks to be discovered within the library’s catalog and checked out or reserved without undue complexity are basic needs.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N33 ) The Cost of Higher Education in the US - Chronicle, Economist, Bain + More

The problem with the cost of education in the US (Economist):
A crisis in higher education has been brewing for years. Universities have been spending like students in a bar who think a Rockefeller will pick up the tab. In the past two years the University of Chicago has built a spiffy new library (where the books are cleverly retrieved by robots), a new arts centre and a ten-storey hospital building. It has also opened a new campus in Beijing.
And it is not alone. Universities hope that vast investments will help them attract the best staff and students, draw in research grants and donations, and ultimately boost their ranking in league tables, drawing in yet more talent and money. They have also increased the proportion of outlays gobbled up by administrators (see chart 2).

To pay for all this, universities have been enrolling more students and jacking up their fees. The average cost of college per student has risen by three times the rate of inflation since 1983. The cost of tuition alone has soared from 23% of median annual earnings in 2001 to 38% in 2010. Such increases plainly cannot continue.
And The Chronicle also takes a look at the sober truth exacerbated by the slow economy (Chron):
This anecdotal evidence seems to be supported by reports in the past several weeks on the financial state of higher education. An analysis by Bain & Company and the private-equity firm Sterling Partners found that one-third of all colleges and universities in the United States face financial statements that are significantly weaker than before the recession and find themselves on an unsustainable fiscal path. Another quarter of colleges are at serious risk of joining them.

Meanwhile, two major credit-rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service, released warnings that put a negative outlook on all but the name-brand market leaders in higher education. “We’re seeing prolonged, serious stress,” Karen Kedem, a vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s, told me.⁠ What is significant about the move by Moody’s is that it typically rates only colleges with strong balance sheets to begin with.
Here is that link to the Bain report:
Despite this success, talk of a higher education “bubble” has reached a fever pitch in the last year. The numbers are very familiar by now: Annual tuition increases several times the rate of inflation have become commonplace. The volume of student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion and is now greater than credit card debt. Most college and university presidents, as well as their boards, executive teams and faculty members, are well aware that a host of factors have made innovation and change necessary.
Last month Blackboard held their annual get together and Inside Higher have a podcast of the highlights
In this month's edition of The Pulse podcast, Rod Murray discusses highlights from the annual Blackboard World 2012 gathering, including information on its new products, services and applications.
From FT writer Simon Schama a contrasting views of the US and UK popular reaction to the games (FT):
At a time when the gap between rich and poor is growing wider, the educational prospects for minorities are loaded with prohibitive debt, when democracy has become the catspaw of plutocrats; what the American people want from the strength, grace and resolution of their athletics is one place where the founding promise of upward social mobility, that Dream thing, is not a sick joke. In the republic of exertion the dream comes true. You have your gift, you work it to the max; you bring it to the day; you breast the tape, touch the lip of the pool, you let yourself weep as the Star Spangled Banner plays and you fold it about your shoulders – and it feels still that there is a place for young Americans, against whom the odds have never been more brutally stacked, to be winners.

If anything, there’s even more at stake for the British. The economy is flatlining; the coalition seems to have lost the plot. Yet from Danny Boyle’s Fabian extravaganza to the sudden cascade of golds that began with Heather and Helen sitting in their boat looking as ecstatically amazed as all the rest of us, a startled, almost embarrassed, suspicion, that the British could actually be world beaters by being themselves, began to dawn.
Coelho has a go at James Joyce and The Economist's Prospero takes exception:
The above two quotes neatly show the dividing line in this latest literary skirmish. Mr Coelho and Salman Rushdie are the same age, are widely read and employ magical realism in their work. Both authors have received prestigious international prizes, and find inspiration in the Bible and "One Thousand and One Nights". But only one of them credits his sources, writes literature, and worships James Joyce.

Another line worth quoting is Mr Coelho’s dictum that a writer has “a duty and an obligation never to be understood by his own generation.” Let’s see here…hmmm...Joyce was the very picture of a starving artist, a virtual exile from his own country, accused of pornography and reviled in his lifetime (and occasionally since) as a writer of unreadable books. Mr Rushdie is similarly big in Tehran. The impossibly avuncular Mr Coelho, on the other hand, may be the Most Understood Author on the planet. Every Coelho bookcover trumpets his success, wooing potential buyers with the promise that he has sold hundreds of millions of copies in over a 160 nations, translated into over 72 languages—the most by a living writer, Guinness confirmed. One wonders if his business card touts: “Over 150 Million Served.
From my twitter feed this week:

Amazon Stops Processing Payments For Crowdfunding Platform For Creative Commons Books http://dlvr.it/1zQPpr

Adam Gopnik remembers Robert Hughes: "One of the indispensable mavericks of modern humanism." New Yorker

Amazing: 'History Man' - the front page of tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph Telegraph

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bullet Train and White Patent Leather Japan 1972


When we heard PND Senior had been on a bullet train we were very excited although as kids we really had no idea what a bullet train was and were really only reflecting the excitement of the parents.  Nevertheless, as you see from this image the engine seems to have genuine character like a bear with a big nose.  What an invention!  As side from the train there are two things I really like about this image.  The first is the tight green banding that runs around the top of the newsstand; if doesn't look like it serves any function other than for style and flair.  This image is almost mono-chromatic which makes the green stand out. Perhaps the green light means the shop is open.  The other thing I like are her white patent leather shoes.  I'm not convinced they match the outfit but then who am I to judge?


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

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Paying For It: Tax Payers Provide Profit Educators with 86% of Revenue

Last week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee looking into 'for profit' education released a scathing report into the business practices of many of the brand name education companies operating in the US.  Much of the negative business reporting has been presented over the past several years but this report is a complete catalog of an environment wholly driven by profit rather than outcomes beneficial to tax payers (who indirectly fund many of these operators).  In a press release Chairman Harkin said,
“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of overpriced tuition, predatory recruiting practices, sky-high dropout rates, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on aggressive marketing and advertising, and companies gaming regulations to maximize profits.  These practices are not the exception -- they are the norm; they are systemic throughout the industry, with very few exceptions,” Harkin said. 
An executive summary is here (pdf) and the full report here but some of the juicier findings from the executive summary are noted below:
  • Committee staff estimates that in 2009 when all sources of Federal taxpayer funds, including military and veterans’ benefits, are included, the 15 publicly traded for-profit education companies received 86 percent of revenues from taxpayers.
  • During the same period [2004-2010], the companies examined spent $4.2 billion on marketing and recruiting, or 22.7 percent of all revenue. Publicly traded companies operating for-profit colleges had an average profit margin of 19.7 percent, generated a total of $3.2 billion in pre-tax profit and paid an average of $7.3 million to their chief executive officers in 2009.
  • For profit colleges are rapidly increasing their reliance on taxpayer dollars. In 2009-10, the sector received $32 billion, 25 percent of the total Department of Education student aid program funds.
  • Pell grants flowing to for-profit colleges increased at twice the rate of the program as a whole, increasing from $1.1 billion in the 2000-1 school year to $7.5 billion in the 2009-10 school year.
  • Congress has failed to counterbalance investor demands for increased financial returns with requirements that hold companies accountable to taxpayers for providing quality education, support, and outcomes. Federal law and regulations currently do not align the incentives of for-profit colleges so that the colleges succeed financially when students succeed.
  • Many for-profit colleges fail to make the necessary investments in student support services that have been shown to help students succeed in school and afterwards, a deficiency that undoubtedly contributes to high withdrawal rates. In 2010, the for-profit colleges examined employed 35,202 recruiters compared with 3,512 career services staff and 12,452 support services staff, more than two and a half recruiters for each support services employee.
  • This may help to explain why more than half a million students who enrolled in 2008-9 left without a degree or Certificate by mid-2010. Among 2-year Associate degree-seekers, 63 percent of students departed without a degree.
There's more,  much more.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N32): Team GB, Big Data on Campus, Libraries and eBooks, Amazon Daily Delivery + More

First the important stuff:  TEAM GB!
From Andy Murray's gold to the men's lightweight four landing a dramatic silver, here are Britain's medal winners of the Games.
And this: Britain's medal winners are a portrait of the United Kingdom as a whole rather than of London and the south-east

Big data on Campus (NYTimes):
This is college life, quantified.
Data mining hinges on one reality about life on the Web: what you do there leaves behind a trail of digital breadcrumbs. Companies scoop those up to tailor services, like the matchmaking of eHarmony or the book recommendations of Amazon. Now colleges, eager to get students out the door more efficiently, are awakening to the opportunities of so-called Big Data.
The new breed of software can predict how well students will do before they even set foot in the classroom. It recommends courses, Netflix-style, based on students’ academic records.
Data diggers hope to improve an education system in which professors often fly blind. That’s a particular problem in introductory-level courses, says Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. “The typical class, the professor rattles on in front of the class,” she says. “They give a midterm exam. Half the kids fail. Half the kids drop out. And they have no idea what’s going on with their students.”
As more of this technology comes online, it raises new tensions. What role does a professor play when an algorithm recommends the next lesson? If colleges can predict failure, should they steer students away from challenges? When paths are so tailored, do campuses cease to be places of exploration?
An interesting discussion about the choices libraries must make when building an eBook collection from Andromeda Yelton writing in Library Journal:
The one thing I know for certain about the future of ebooks in libraries is that it’s about tradeoffs among deeply held values. Right now, we have lots of options which protect ebook access via established distribution chains and publisher agreements — but they also limit it through DRM, restricted format support, and outright refusal by some publishers to sell ebooks to libraries. Negotiating preservation can be complicated or impossible; privacy questions lurk; and checkout limits put sharing at risk.
The eleven emerging models profiled in the In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, referenced above, provide different tradeoffs.  (Disclosure: one is my employer, Unglue.it.)  They vary in who hosts the files, whether libraries are free to make copies, whether DRM is applied, and what legal terms govern the use of the ebooks. This gives each of them a unique set of values tradeoffs. In general, they offer libraries more options in terms  of sharing, preservation, and privacy.  However, right now, all emerging models are limited in terms of access.  Some are theoretical or in a prototype stage, so they don’t offer any content yet. Others require libraries to negotiate themselves for content access, rather than outsourcing this to a distributor. While this puts libraries in a better position to advocate for their values, it also means more work.
I believe it’s important for libraries to do this kind of work. We need to have passionate, engaged conversations, with our eyes open, about which values we most want to defend in the ebook fray — and which we’re willing to compromise on. We need to consider which of many imperfect models offer the best tradeoffs for enacting library values. And we need to do this, not just in service to the patrons of 2012, but to the patrons of 2020 as well. How do the choices we make today affect their options for private, shared, lasting, accessible ebooks?
Getting that bucket, fan, shaving cream or book today with little or no effort is about to get a whole lot easire as Amazon shoots for same day delivery (Slate):
Can Amazon pull it off? It’s sure spending a lot of money to try, and it has already come up with a few creative ways to speed up deliveries. In each of the deals it has signed with states, the company has promised to build at least one—and sometimes many—new local warehouses. Some of these facilities are very close to huge swaths of the population. Amazon is investing $130 million in new facilities in New Jersey that will bring it into the backyard of New York City; another $135 million to build two centers in Virginia that will allow it to service much of the mid-Atlantic; $200 million in Texas; and more than $150 million in Tennessee and $150 million in Indiana to serve the middle of the country. Its plans for California are the grandest of all. This year, Amazon will open two huge distribution centers near Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, and over the next three years it might open as many as 10 more in the state. In total, Amazon will spend $500 million and hire 10,000 people at its new California warehouses.

But Amazon isn’t simply opening up a lot of new shipping centers. It’s also investing in making those centers much more efficient. Earlier this year, it purchased Kiva Systems, a company that makes cute, amazingly productive “picking robots” that improve shipping times while reducing errors. Another effort will allow the company to get stuff to you even faster. In Seattle, New York, and the United Kingdom, the firm has set up automated “lockers” in drug stores and convenience stores. If you order something from Amazon and you work near one of these lockers, the company will offer to drop off your item there. On your way home from work, you can just stop by Rite Aid, punch in a security code, and get your stuff.
Will the flipped classroom lead to lower costs - A Provosts perspective. (Inside Higher Ed)
But the cost savings may be more imaginary than real depending on what you are looking for the education to accomplish.  The more you expect education to accomplish and the more personal the educational experience, the lower the actual savings (if any) will be. For example, if the faculty member involved in preparing the class material and the faculty member meeting with the class for questions, projects, analysis and discussion is one and the same and if the class size remains unchanged, there will be no savings in moving from in-person to blended. There are still variables that can result in savings: an adjunct faculty member in place of a full-time faculty member, or a larger class in place of a smaller class.  At the other cost extreme, you can have students take the free online courses now offered by a number of Ivy League schools  and couple that experience which would count as the lesson with a classroom experience that covers questions, analysis, greater depth, etc., taught by graduate students or adjuncts at a significantly reduced cost.  Smaller class size and greater use of full-time faculty will increase the cost of this experience.
Establishing standards in community college education - Not as easy as hitting a baseball (Inside Higher Ed):
Why baseball batting? Williams includes a chart showing that a baseball can pass through the strike zone in 77 different places. I have no trouble seeing a Ted Williams chart worth of pitches headed at me when I step up before these students each day.
I am not going to trivialize students by naming them  “Curve,” “Slider,” “Changeup,” “Forkball,” or “Sinker.”  Consider the variety of pitches?  Some students are high school graduates and some have GEDs.  A Somalian explained at the start of one semester that the challenges impairing her high school experience included dodging snipers on the way to school and frequent raids on the school, machine guns firing, by rebels kidnapping future child soldiers.
The first languages that any class might pitch to me include Arabic (Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese dialects), Armenian, Russian, Portuguese – via Brazil and Angola -- Spanish from every South and Central American country.  Somali.  French.  Creole.  Swahili.
Hunger is a more frequent pitch.  These students may not have eaten that day.  Last spring, two students had bosses who thought nothing of scheduling 8 a.m.- 4 p.m., 4 p.m.- midnight, and midnight to 8 a.m. shifts all during one week.  One semester, I had a veteran who vanished (later found) after two more buddies from his unit committed suicide.  Once, a student was shot and murdered.  Last spring was the first semester in a while where no one in the class reported anyone shot in their family.
Shakespeare at the British Museum - The Economist:
Out of this miscellany emerges a larger story about the evolution of a British national identity, independent of the papacy, with its own history and imperial ambitions. It was a process in which history, geography, religion and myth were promiscuously pressed into service. Ancient Rome was as likely to turn up in a painting of Queen Elizabeth as an American Indian cherub (with ostrich) in an engraving of London. During Shakespeare’s life, it became possible for the first time to visualise Britain and its place in the world through maps. “He does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies,” says Maria of Malvolio in “Twelfth Night”. Behind her words lies a world of travel and history—from the medal commemorating Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe to little playing cards printed with the counties of England.

From Twitter this week:

New Video in BBC #Archives Series Looks at “New Kinds of Metadata”

Germans blow off steam with swearing hotline Reminded me of classic Python:

Our dad, Joe Strummer, remembered

Friday, August 03, 2012

Best & Co, Fifth Avenue 1968

Fifth Avenue and 51st - August 1968

Close watchers (and there are several) will know there have been several images from this roll taken while my parents were visiting in 1968.  My father took in some summer classes at Cornell - where he also met the guy that hired him for his next job - and then met my mother in NYC.  I am pretty sure this is a late morning/mid day shot and if you have visited NYC at anytime in the past 15 years you probably know this area is always swarming with tourists.  Here the sidewalks look quite manageable.


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

In addition to the images I've posted on Flickr and those I've periodically posted on PND, I have now produced a Big Blurb Book: From the Archive 1960 -1980 of some of the images I really thought were special.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Amazon The Monopoly

Re-post from March 28,2008

Trouble at Mill. Manufacturing of old had it that the mill owner owned the means of production and the mill workers toiled within an inch of their lives, lived in company barracks, spent scrip at the company store and if they had anything left they banked at the company bank. Amazon is a latter day mill owner. The company is attempting to tie their client/POD publishers to them to the exclusion of other relationships the client publishers may have through Amazon's web of administrative, financial, distribution and content tools. As a practical matter, it is becoming harder (and may be financially impossible for many small POD publishers) to maintain separate relationships with Amazon and all the rest of the publishing community.

The blog world is enraged at the moment over Amazon's new policy on POD. The company is effectively telling POD customers that if you want to sell your POD products via the Amazon store you need to be on our platform using our tools. If that means all your titles need to be converted then that's your problem. This is not a situation where these POD publishers can say 'I'll just go some place else'. Amazon has sucked them in because of all the wonderful tools they offer the publishers and of course the sales penetration. In announcing the Booksurge/ CreateSpace merge in August 2007, Amazon's senior v-p, North American retail, Jeff Wilke said, "The new CreateSpace Books on Demand service removes substantial economic barriers and makes it really easy for authors who want to self-publish their books and distribute them on Amazon.com." As it turns out this is true, but there are some significant caveats.

The Wall Street Journal was kind (and misleading) in its assessment of this Amazon initiative:
"Amazon.com Inc., flexing its muscles as a major book retailer, notified publishers who print books on demand that they will have to use its on-demand printing facilities if they want their books directly sold on Amazon's Web site. The move signals that Amazon is intent on using its position as the premier online bookseller to strengthen its presence in other phases of bookselling and manufacturing.
Amazon hasn't been merely a book retailer for some time. While many in the industry - PND included - can't help but have admiration for this company they have amassed a level of market influence across the publishing value chain that should concern everyone. Today, the issue is focused on a small (ardent and vocal) minority of POD publishers who's entire livelihood in many cases is dependent on the Amazon retail expanse. The WSJ should know better. Without being too dramatic, the release of Windows 3.1 heralded a period of intense exclusion at Microsoft: If you didn't play ball with them you essentially had no marketplace. Perhaps at first blush the publishing industry doesn't appear to have any correlation to the software world but with the migration to 'platform' based publishing (a publishing version of iTunes for example) we are seeing the germination of a world where there are only one or two legitimate channels to the consumer. If their actions in the POD world over these past two months are anything to go by then Amazon definitely has monopolistic tendencies.