Sunday, February 27, 2011

Media Week (V4-N9): Information Concierge, Future of Education Publishing, Blackboard, The $16K/mth Sideline, Blurbs, Marilyn Monroe

We have a digital concierge at the publisher and now we have an information concierge at the library. The Chronicle looks into it:
At the start of each class session, the professor, Gardner Campbell, asked the 11 students to open their laptops, fire up Twitter, and say hello to their librarian, who was following the discussion from her office. During the hourlong class, the librarian, Ellen Hampton Filgo, would do what she refers to as “library jazz,” looking at the questions and comments posed by students, responding with suggestions of links or books, and anticipating what else might be helpful that students might not have known to ask.

“I could see the sort of germination of an idea, and what they wanted to talk about,” she said, noting that it let her in on the process of students’ research far sooner than usual. “That was cool for me,” she added.

“When I work with students at the reference desk, usually they’re already at a certain midpoint of their research.” When the class was discussing the work of the science-fiction author Clifford D. Simak, for instance, she tweeted a link to his archives at the University of Minnesota.

“One of the students said, ‘Hey, is there anything like that for Rilke?’,” Ms. Filgo said. “He was all excited. I don’t even think he knew of the idea that a library might collect an author’s papers.”
Again from The Chronicle: Podcast: The Future of the Textbook, as Seen by Publishers

“An e-book is not an engaging experience, merely replicating a textbook,” say William D. Rieders, executive vice president for new media at the publishing company Cengage Learning. At the 2011 Higher Ed Tech Summit, he said this major publisher sees little future in e-books, despite the proliferation of Kindles and other e-book readers, and tablets like the iPad. The biggest areas for Cengage, he says, are software programs like homework solutions and assessment tools. Print textbooks are still healthy, but they function now as a reference for professors and students, while these other materials are taking center stage in the learning experience.
Thinking about Blackboard's next business phase from Inside Higher Ed:
For those who have been watching closely, this development should not come as a surprise. Blackboard has been laying the groundwork for this second phase over the last few years, slowly absorbing e-learning companies that are not involved in learning management and rebranding them as Blackboard imprints. Blackboard Analytics, formed earlier this month after Blackboard acquired the analytics firm iStrategy, is the latest addition to Blackboard’s inventory of acquisitions. It joined Collaborate, which Blackboard created last year after buying live-communications companies Wimba and Elluminate; Mobile, which Blackboard disaggregated from the Learn platform in 2009; and Connect, which Blackboard inaugurated after buying the notification company Connect-ED in 2008.

As far as the U.S. higher education market goes, several business analysts who monitor Blackboard described this shift as a natural phase in the evolution of a company that has reached the edge of the earth and can only continue to grow by building on existing territory (the K-12 and international higher ed markets are still rife with unclaimed lands, officials point out). When you can no longer sell your core product to additional customers, the analysts said, you have to sell additional products to your core customers — that is, if you want to keep expanding. And Blackboard, a publicly traded company, does. (Desire2Learn, a private company that also sells license-based platforms, is taking a similar tack for the same reasons, according to Kenneth Chapman, its director of product strategy.)
Priced at .71p watching these download is thrilling - sorry. (Observer):
To maximise sales, he priced his books at Amazon's minimum for independent writers – about 70p (the equivalent of 99 cents). At this level, authors receive a cut of only 35% of the price; under Amazon's pricing structure, this rises to 70% if they price their books above the equivalent of $2.99. He then went on various forums to drum up awareness. Within a couple of weeks, all three titles were in the top 20 and "by November I'd knocked Stieg Larsson off the top spot".

"I knew the wave was going to break on Christmas Day. I got myself in position to take advantage, I got on and I've been riding it ever since.

"Yet while he is making significant sums just through ebook sales – "up to £11,000 a month" – he still only sees it as a sideline to his main writing career. "I never went into this to make money. I went into it as a way of widening my readership. My hope was that readers would read my book on Kindle, say, 'I really enjoyed that', then when my new thriller came out with Hodder, they'd remember it and buy that too."
Suggesting that's a sideline is a bit rich.

Getting that copy blurb can be troublesome and it's sometimes best to be forthright (Salon):
Like yourself (no doubt) I find blurbing to be absolutely repulsive. It is crass, pathetic and couldn't be less artistic. Just so you know, I am only doing this because the more I think about it, the more I would like to make a lot of money. Full disclosure: I named my conjoined Siamese cats Tommy and Pinchie. Tommy just died, which has made movement difficult for Pinchie. But she pushes on like a feline boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (F. Scott Fitzgerald). Like blurbs, an author's choice of title is very important for sales. Take "Gravity's Rainbow." That is a terrific title. Why? Because it tells you exactly what the book is about. I would like to think that my book's title does the same: Cream of America Soup.
Jefferson's lost books found in Missouri (JacketCopy):
It turns out they've been there since 1880, when Jefferson's granddaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge, and her husband donated them to the university. They were part of a collection sold two years after Jefferson's death, and acquired by Ellen's husband through a friend; the family was particularly interested in books in which Jefferson had made notes. Although a pair of scholars turned up the 69 new books, more researchers than that have been on the case.

Like many historical and well-known readers, Jefferson's library has been reconstructed online by volunteers at LibraryThing. There you can find the details of Jefferson's own cataloging of his books, as well as more information about his collections, sales and distributions.
And it's always good to remember the British like a good bonfire.

Speaking of liking it hot here's a look at a new book that brings to light some of Marilyn Monroe's lost files (Telegraph):
What is certain is that sometime on the night of 4 August the cabinet in the guest cottage was broken into, and that crucial files were removed – perhaps pertaining to Monroe's relationship with the Kennedys and their links with the Mafia boss Sam Giancana, perhaps to her contractual arrangements with Twentieth Century-Fox.

How did these immensely valuable cabinets manage to vanish for so long only to resurface in a quiet corner of suburban California? The key to the mystery is Inez Melson, Monroe's business manager in the mid-1950s, guardian of Monroe's schizophrenic mother, and, following Monroe's death, administrator of her Los Angeles holdings.

In the days and weeks after Monroe died Melson, who received nothing in Monroe's will (the bulk of the estate and her personal effects were left to Lee and Paula Strasberg, her acting coaches), made sure the filing cabinets ended up in her possession.
From the twitter this week:

Publishing: Why Warren Buffett should be more like Liza Minnelli

BBCWW Seeking An Online Partner For Lonely Planet

Who's Killing The Dewey Decimal System?

And in sports - England played to a thrilling draw against India on Sunday: BBC

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