Saturday, January 02, 2010

MediaWeek (Vol 2, No 53): Television, Amazon, Libraries, And a book about running.

Wasn't sure if I was going to do one of these this weekend but what the hey. Next week we start back at week one. I will be posting my 2010 predictions on Tuesday and I hope you find them interesting. The Independent gives us a heads up on some of the TV adaptations that may be coming our way. (As I mentioned last week a second series of Cranford is on its way here in January). Independent:
Book publishers have fallen on hard times but a new crop of festive television adaptations is luring in new readers and boosting sales. .... "A TV adaptation can be the best free advertising a book can get," said a spokeswoman for Waterstone's, which saw sales of John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps treble in the week after a festive screening in 2008. "Frequent Jane Austen adaptations garner remarkable sales and reintroduce new generations of readers to her books. Where the effect is most obvious, though, is with relatively obscure classics and with contemporary novels."

Sales of Elizabeth Gaskell's "lost classic" Cranford soared by more than 500 per cent at Waterstone's in the four weeks during and after its BBC airing in 2007, compared with the four weeks before the serialisation. The bookseller expects another, albeit less dramatic, sales rise after the bonnet drama's recent return.

Reuters suggests that Amazon's 'coyness' with respect to full disclosure of eBook and Kindle sales could come back to bite them if they begin to see a softening in the numbers. Currently, all good news but what if things backtrack and what will that do to their share price. I wonder if Bezos cares. (Reuters):

But investor patience with the lack of details has begun to wear thin, particularly as Amazon shares hit an all-time high in early December on expectations it will be one of the biggest winners in overall sales growth this holiday season.

That benefit of the doubt could be further tested in 2010 as more e-readers enter the market and challenge the Kindle.

"As long as Amazon continues to have the right margins and the right profit numbers at the end of every quarter, they can probably get away with that," said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.

But if the Kindle's streak goes cold and Amazon continues to keep investors in the dark, they could turn on the stock.

"You may suffer a 10 to 15 to 20 percent correction because the uncertainty factor would be so high," McQuivey said. "It ensures that if there is bad news, people imagine the worst."

John Naughton at the Observer picks up the same theme on Sunday:
But the combination of the two "facts" has further ratcheted up speculation that 2010 will be the Year of the Kindle and the end is nigh for the printed codex.

If you detect a whiff of what philosophers call "technological determinism" in this, you're in good company. I have on my shelves a (printed) copy of The Myth of the Paperless Office by Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper, a wonderful antidote to the irrational exuberance of Kindlemania. The authors conducted an ethnographic study of how people actually use paper in order to reach an understanding of which of those uses might conceivably be eliminated by electronics, and which might not. It should be required reading for anyone showing the early symptoms of Kindlemania.

Do you think you've got the autobiographic goods? If so, your life story could become a bestseller in a competition to be run by the BBC and the Daily Mail:
As many as 15 true life stories will feature in a new five-part TV series called My Story, to be broadcast on primetime BBC1 next year. And every week, after each programme, one person's story will be published, with an advance of £20,000 from a leading publisher.
There's going to be some stiff competition if Petty Officer Parton is anything to go by. More from the Observer that suggests UK readers may be talking about India's Abraham Vergese's stunning story of Siamese twins in Ethiopia which will be getting a boost from a TV tie-in (Observer):

A novelist, even a well-reviewed one, may sell just a couple of thousand books. It is no way to make a living, unless of course you catch the attention of Britain's biggest literary star-maker, the television producer Amanda Ross.

Novels that find favour with Ross can be expected to achieve much, much more. The film The Lovely Bones, to be released at the end of this month, is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold which shot up the bestsellers list after it was featured on the programme Ross devised, Channel 4's Richard & Judy. Cecilia Aherne's PS I Love You followed the same route to the cinema, while Victoria Hislop's The Island was plucked from relative obscurity by the show's regular book review slot.

The Guardian Blogs that playlists could do for books what they have done for music sites like Spotify (Guardian):
But perhaps there is more to the notion of the playlist than first meets the eye. Not long ago, I was mucking about on Spotify when a thought occurred me. The online music library's extensive catalogue impresses for obvious reasons, but what genuinely recommends the service is the public playlist facility, allowing individual users to curate and publish groupings of songs based on whatever criteria take their fancy. It's a fascinating way to discover music, to expand one's tastes, and the only limitation is the imagination of the curator. And I wondered: why not a similar facility for books?
Librarians in Aberdeen - and now online - are learning to combat information overload (Press & Journal)

This enormous mass of information (often conflicting) requires organising and managing in order to make some sense of it, and to enable others to make best use of it. These skills of information organisation go to the heart of what it means to be an information professional: a role found in a huge variety of different types of organisation.

It is a dynamic and challenging career path to follow, but one which is very rewarding. The department of information management at Aberdeen Business School at The Robert Gordon University delivers full-time and online master’s degrees in information management and information and library studies accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Recently, the department has also developed a new and innovative course, the Access Foundation (Graduate Certificate) Information Studies (GCIS), to provide flexible access routes into its master’s degrees. The GCIS course is delivered entirely online over a period of nine months. It provides a new access route for students with experience of information work, but without the necessary educational qualifications for entry to postgraduate courses.

Several librarians take issue with how library's role in the Google Book Settlement has been characterised by Harvard's Robert Darnton (NYRB):
In his recent article criticizing the Google settlement ["Google and the New Digital Future," NYR, December 17, 2009], Robert Darnton fails to acknowledge the significant role that libraries have had in the creation of Google Book Search as well as the concrete steps they are taking to address the sorts of concerns he raises. Libraries are using Google-digitized volumes to create the "truly public library" that he seeks, and these same libraries are taking responsibility for the preservation of Google-digitized volumes. ... Libraries are much further ahead in the game than Darnton would have readers believe. Although there are disappointments for Google partner libraries in the settlement agreement, libraries have worked to secure important privileges, including significant influence over the commercial pricing of Google's Book Search product. The settlement also sanctions important uses of digital volumes, including those that are in copyright. These include providing access to content to users with print disabilities and using libraries' digitized volumes in large-scale computational research. Opening the enormous body of Google-scanned content to new user populations and methods of inquiry will have a transformative effect on our ability to produce and analyze knowledge about our society, our heritage, and the world. We invite Harvard to join us in this endeavor!
UK Libraries are in a mess and all kinds of suggestions are being offered. "Why shouldn't libraries sell books," asks minister Margaret Hodge raises prospect of libraries expanding role beyond lending books in major reconsideration of policy (Guardian)

A report on 2008 library statistics: The Academic Libraries: 2008 First Look summarizes services, staff, collections, and expenditures of academic libraries in 2- and 4-year, degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia (link). Tim Spalding from LibraryThing on a boon doggle to Christchurch, New Zealand in this video on social cataloging (Vimeo). A book about running (Observer)
Even though running is the world's most popular hobby, the running bookshelf is curiously empty. Of the few books on the subject in print, nearly all fall into one of two categories: either how-to tips or personal accounts of one man's perseverance against pain. Both share one weird feature: as celebrations of running they make running seem pretty awful. It comes across like performing home surgery – it'll hurt, require expensive equipment and leave scars. ... Gotaas combs the world for true running tales, and comes up with some beauties. Who knew that naked running was the vogue in 18th-century England, with men and women racing separately and thousands of spectators lining the race course? Or that in ancient Egypt, Ramses II legitimised his hold on the throne by performing a long-distance run every few years, a ritual he performed until he was over 90?
I ran a lot in 2009 and had some good race times. That's not a bad collection for the end of the year.