Monday, April 28, 2014

MediaWeek (V7, N17): GoldenAge of Media, Resilient physical books, Open Access, Mills & Boone + More

The flipboard version of this is here: FlipBoard

In the 'golden age of media' there are many new business models (HBR)
People with money are talking about the news business, too. The venture capitalist and Web pioneer Marc Andreessen (who has investments in three digital news operations) unleashed a spirited discussion on Twitter early this year with his visions of a bright digital future for news.
At one point Andreessen offered up the “most obvious 8 business models for news now & in the future.” After listing today’s staples, (1) advertising and (2) subscriptions, he continued with (3) premium content (that is, “a paid tier on top of a free, ad-supported one”); (4) conferences and events; (5) cross-media (meaning that your news operation also generates books, movies, and the like); (6) crowd-funding; (7) micropayments, using Bitcoin; and (8) philanthropy. Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s Web site and a co-founder of the digital sort-of-magazine The Atavist, chimed in with two more: (9) “while building product you’re passionate about, create software you then license widely!”—The Atavist’s approach—and (10) “fund investigative business stories + then short stocks before publishing,” a reference to the billionaire Mark Cuban’s controversial relationship with Sharesleuth.
Physical books may be looking more resilient than we had expected (NYTimes):
So it is a funny thing, about this transitional era for the book, just how filled with bound pages it has been so far. A new kind of hard-copy bibliomania has without question sprung up along the banks of digital reading. I don’t really have a friend, either heavy reader or the sort still getting through the Malcolm Gladwell she got for Christmas, who doesn’t want, have or feverishly dream of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I am not sure that floor-to-ceiling bookshelves haven’t even become my generation’s — or at least my peer group’s — No. 1, most-desired décor scheme. Celebrities like Leelee Sobieski and Scarlett Johansson are now photographed in front of their vast spans of spines, the way woolly-browed rabbis and ponderous authors used to be. James Franco tweets shots of his bookshelves, and the landscape of 30-something lifestyle bloggers lights up like a stoner’s brain on an M.R.I.
In more paranoid moments, you might wonder if some marketing mastermind is behind any of this. In the 1930s, another era in which books produced greatly outnumbered books bought, Edward L. Bernays — the “father of spin” who more or less invented modern P.R. — was approached by a group of publishers, including Simon & Schuster and Harcourt Brace, to try to get people to buy more books, despite the tough economic times. Bernays is said to have pronounced, “Where there are bookshelves, there will be books.” He then went about getting top architects and decorators to put book shelving into the homes of their V.I.P. clients — clients encouraged to go forth and fill these shelves up, for the benefit of, among others, magazine photographers.
Certainly, you’d be hard pressed today to find a catalog from the likes of Restoration Hardware that doesn’t contain a photo with a swath of books within frame. Same with magazines like Elle Décor, the dense shelves of reading often found in unlikely places, like the dining room, the story being that you are peering into the inner sanctum of an eccentric and ebullient mind that just won’t quit. Even if it’s just canned soup and loneliness for dinner, it’s still a feast for the intellect.
The UCSF student newspaper did a series on Open Access publishing.  Here is the last installment on new business models:
Biomedical sciences journals charge the highest APCs of any science, technology and medicine (STM) discipline, with the average fee in 2010 running just over $1,000, according to an article by Drs. David J Solomon and Bo-Christer Björk published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. According to their calculations, the biomedical field spent over $64 million in APCs for open access journals, with many journals charging between $700 and $1800.
“I’m seeing some pushback from faculty, mostly to the ‘author-pays’ model of open access,” said UCSF Library’s Director of Serials Anneliese Taylor. “Those who are opposed think that the university is pushing costs off on researchers, while at the same time their research awards are decreasing.”
But this should not be a disincentive for scientists to publish in open access journals, according to Johnson.
“The critical thing is to look at the entire cost of a research project—and the journal publication charges are a very small part of that,” he said. “Compared to the salaries that are being paid to people and the cost of supplies and the infrastructure, it’s a very small percentage of the overall cost.
 A short video from BBC news on the new Mills and Bone romance book app.

More articles on Flipboard.

Data analysis tops publishers' priority for investment in 2014 (Guardian)
We are drowning in data about readers and attention, but which metrics really matter? You won’t like the answer. (GigaOm)
Major media publisher admits it is “afraid of Google” (ARS)
New Thai press museum in Bangkok (BPost)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MediaWeek (V8, N15): Hilary Mantel, Easy Printing, Science Fiction, NYC Bookstores + More

Here is the flipboard version of PND

From London's Evening Standard last week a look at Hilary Mantel's writing after the stage productions of her Cromwell books:
The experience of seeing her characters brought to life in the RSC’s stage adaptations of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, about to transfer to the West End, has changed Hilary Mantel’s writing for ever, she tells Alison Roberts

The third part of the Cromwell opus, called The Mirror and the Light, is even now “unspooling” before her eyes and ears, though there’s still no date for its appearance — “I won’t commit to that because this is the big project of my career and it has to be right, not only for all those readers who are waiting for it, but for me too”.
“Things happen on stage or I might happen to have conversations with actors that spark something off that will change my thinking and change the third book.”

The Economist (Babbage) learns how easy it is to get a book printed.  (I could have told them that).

Yet this Babbage has found that not to be the case, even though he has worked with e-books for decades across many formats. Your correspondent also has printer's ink in his veins: he trained as one of the last dedicated typesetters, worked in a printing plant in his 20s, and designed and produced dozens of books in the 1980s and 1990s. But even he was unprepared for how easy it has become to print a book and how difficult it remains to produce an electronic version suitable for a range of e-readers, including the Kindle.
As the result of a Kickstarter campaign, Babbage hired designers he knew and a recommended printer, and contracted to have made 1,500 copies of a 216-page book with a clothbound hardcover and dust jacket. While the process took longer than he'd hoped and expected due to his own bandwidth limitations, once the digital files went into the printing firm's operations, there was little to do but wait as a series of specialists carried out successive tasks at the printing plant. The final result exceeded his expectations, and as the project's backers have received the tome, delighted e-mails and tweets abound.
Underrated universal appeal of Science Fiction (Atlantic):
And now, a qualitative distinction creeps in. The assumption is made that the stuff on the “general fiction” shelves is the serious stuff—after all, it includes the literary greats—while the stuff cordoned off in those corners is, by definition, light, inconsequential, or even trashy. In fact, generalizations are made about the whole of “genre fiction” as if it were all one thing. “Genre fiction,” says Wikipedia, “also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.” (Notice how, in a single sentence, the word “genre” is used in both of the two different ways I’ve described.)
Don’t get me wrong: You can certainly find lightweight stuff on the science-fiction shelves, and if you think of yourself as someone who doesn’t like science fiction, you would have no difficulty at all putting your hands on books there that would confirm all your assumptions completely. But then again, the fact that you can find lightweight, formulaic stuff on the “Romantic Fiction” shelves doesn’t mean that you dismiss any novel that deals with romantic love. Anna Karenina? Sons and Lovers? The Great Gatsby? Just because it is possible to assign a book to a “genre” (in the neutral sense of the word), doesn’t mean that it is “genre fiction” (in the loaded sense).

There are some thriving New York bookstores.  Go visit.  (NY Mag)

Does Michael Wolff make stuff up?  You be the judge (CJR)

Amazon Acquires Digital Comic Book Store Comixology


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Interview with Publisher's Weekly

I was interviewed for the PW Daily at LBF this week:
What has surprised you about the digital landscape in 2014? Can you give us an example of the kinds issues you see for publishers, looking forward?
Perhaps the thing that surprises me most is the we haven’t seen the erosion of foreign rights as quickly as I might have thought, given how digital distribution is no longer dependent on needing a local distribution node. I think that’s doubly odd, given the precipitous decline in physical retail options in places like Australia and New Zealand and to a similar extent in the U.K. and other English-language markets. Perhaps part of the reason is that print may be a little more resilient than we give it credit for.
I think one of the increasing concerns we work with is around reporting and how to interpret the vast amount of data that can be—and often is—collected through publishers’ platforms and their content. While we produce a raft of standard reports for our publishers, understanding and interpreting data is a significant gap in capability, and I think one of our added-value services could be to help publishers better understand and act on the information contained in these reports. There is also a lack of standardization across reporting formats and methodology that can make comparisons between sites and providers very difficult. Understanding these issues can make the marketing and sales staffs smarter about how they allocate resources, and I think we will see a lot more emphasis placed in these areas in the years to come.
More at PW Daily

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

MediaWeek (V8, N14): VIvian Maier, Rizzoli Bookstore, Amazon Prime, Local Bookstores, + More

Flipboard version:

Vivian Maier: The Unknown Photographer (Economist)

VIVIAN MAIER'S name deserves to be immortalised in the history of photography alongside the greats of the 20th century like Robert Frank, Helen Levitt and Diane Arbus. Yet the work of this Chicago-based nanny was unknown until the very last years of her life. Indeed it might have languished in obscurity forever were it not for the auction in 2007 of the contents of a storage locker on which she had stopped paying rent.
John Maloof, then a 26-year-old amateur historian, spent $380 on one box of negatives and undeveloped rolls of film. He put it aside for months, but eventually set about scanning the images, and duly uncovered thousands of captivating black-and-white photographs from the 1950s and 1960s: children crying, old men reading newspapers, women peering out from cars.
The building in which the Rizzoli Bookstore is located is being torn down (LBT)
All hope is not lost in the effort to save New York City’s beloved Rizzoli Bookstore and surrounding buildings from demolition, even as the fight between developers and preservationists on Manhattan’s rapidly changing 57th Street is getting dirtier -- literally.
Sources say Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE:VNO), which co-owns the three properties at the center of the dispute, deployed contractors to deface the exterior of the buildings in a premeditated effort to derail the landmark-evaluation process. “Preemptive demolition,” as the tactic is known, is not an uncommon strategy for property owners, which have been known to purposely disfigure a building’s distinctive features after catching wind of an effort to designate a property for landmark protection. In this case, the tactic was alleged in detail on the Save Rizzoli blog. The blog’s anonymous author noted that the gold caryatids and ornamentation at 29 West 57th St., a 90-year-old former piano showroom known as Chickering Hall, had been torn off the building’s exterior.
SF Chron has created a literary map of the city:
The interactive map plots literary facts from around the Bay Area onto a Google Map. Readers can find locations from novels, see where authors lived and wrote, as well as read passages from books set in the city. The map also includes a list of bookstores and Literary Journals that are currently active in the city.
Is there a renaissance in the local non-chain book market?  Can they be compared to restaurants? (Salon)
What explains this renaissance? The collapse of Borders in 2011 is one big piece of the puzzle. (Removing a dominant carnivore from the savannah gives all the other animals a little more breathing room.) The end of the recession also contributed to a more nurturing economic environment.
But there’s more to the story. There is increasing evidence that the same digital transformation that has so dramatically reshaped the publishing industry, and driven millions of consumers online, also paradoxically rewards locally rooted authenticity. Our digital tools are steering us toward brick-and-mortar stores that promise a more satisfactory consumer experience than either chain stores or online emporiums can provide.
In a world increasingly influenced by our social media interactions, it’s turning out there may well be enough room for the little guy to survive — and perhaps even thrive.

HBR has a look at Amazon Prime pricing:
Amazon recently hiked the price of its Prime service, which includes two-day shipping, Kindle book loans, and streaming video. Raising Prime’s price is especially risky as it’s a key marketing conduit that draws in and engenders loyalty from customers. Analysts estimate Prime members spend over double compared to the average Amazon patron. With a P/E ratio exceeding 550, Wall Street is expecting Amazon to continue dazzling investors with eye-popping annual revenue increases. As a result, the Seattle-based retailer needs to keep Prime – its key engine for growth – in tune.
Amazon did a solid job of raising the price of Prime from $79 to $99. Given its success, managers of all companies can learn from the tactics it employed:

From twitter:
The Killing’ Creator to Pen Crime Noir Version of Macbeth
News: During Cold War, CIA Used 'Doctor Zhivago' As A Tool To Undermine Soviet Union