Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Librarians in the Breech

Many recent stories about how some individuals on the right are criminalizing children's access to educational and health related books and other content. 

Librarians face significant new obstacles in building broad based reading programs that include books reflecting many of the core values which APA represents. This article in the the Washington Post describes many of the new challenges faced by librarians in the current highly politicized environment. As the article notes, Librarians normally have Masters degrees, teacher certification and many years of experience which eclipses the 'experience' of those tasked with reviewing their selections. The situation in many school and public libraries is fast becoming a crisis. 

For APA Publishing (where I work), this is a critical issue for our Magination Press titles. While we publish on many of these issues our titles will be banned and/or excluded from the audiences they are designed to help and support and that's the real crime.

From WAPO:

Students are upset, especially LGBTQ students, said a Keller employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional retribution. “They want to see themselves in books, they want to see themselves reflected, and they’re not able to.”

The district wrote in a statement that the book selection “process we have in place … allows librarians to take the lead in curating our libraries, while inviting our community to provide input and to partner with staff to protect our students.” It continued: “Books are not removed simply because they feature LGBTQ characters, and there are still books available that include these characters.”

And this (WAPO)

In one Texas school district, school librarians have ordered 6,000 fewer books this year than the year before, because under a new rule parents must have 30 days to review the titles before the school board votes to approve them. In Pennsylvania, a school librarian who must now obtain her principal’s okay for acquisitions has bought just 100 books this school year, compared with her typical 600.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Where's all the data?

Fascinating discussion about how book data can inform cultural awareness and potentially improve publisher and the reporting on book publishing.

Where Is All the Book Data?

Perhaps most importantly, however, it is likely that books end up much more racially homogenous—that is, white—as a result of BookScan data, too. For example, in McGrath’s pioneering research on “comp” titles (the books that agents and editors claim are “comparable” to a pitched book), she found that 96 percent of the most frequently used comps were written by white authors. Because one of the most important features of a good comp title is a promising sales history, it is likely that comp titles and BookScan data work together to reinforce conservative white hegemony in the industry.


The many ways that SPL checkout data might be used to understand readers or literary trends are still relatively unexplored. In 2019, The Pudding constructed a silly “Hipster Summer Reading List” based on SPL data, highlighting books that hadn’t been checked from the SPL in over a decade (a perversely funny list but definitely a terrible poolside reading list).

This checkout data is also used internally for a variety of purposes, including to make acquisition decisions, as SPL selection services librarian Frank Brasile explained. But the factor that apparently influences library acquisitions the most is simply what the Big Five choose to publish. “We don’t create content,” Brasile reminded me in a somewhat resigned tone. “We buy content.” To a large extent, then, public libraries inherit the pervasive, problematic whiteness that is endemic in the publishing industry.

As head of Bowker many years ago, we collected book data for higher ed publishers and charged a lot of money for it. At the time we were very interested in expanding into trade books but were not able to pull off the deal to buy the UK firm which launched Nielsen Book Data in the US. Even then, it was clear there were many holes in the data - even with more corporate booksellers - and it only reflected a segment of the market. While this article focuses on trade data, I would speculate that college textbook authorship is singularly (if not more so) (mis)representative.




Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Personanondata - The Magazine: Interesting Media and Publishing News.



I've not added individual news items here for a while but I have been adding them to my flip board magazine.

Check out these interesting media & publishing stories from the past several months:



Thursday, May 26, 2022

Publishing Technology Software & Services Market Report 2021 - Special Price

A fully revised version of my Publishing Technology Software and Services Report is now available at a special price of $499.00. To complete this report my team and I identified more than 200 software and services companies popular with publishers and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 31 of the most relevant companies. We also spoke with customers to apply their views and opinions about the market and these suppliers.

Included in each purchase is a poster version of the 'subway' map we designed to descriptively describe the publishing technology market. (Posters measure approximately 20 by 30 inches and look great).

Click on this paypal link to purchase:

In this 170 page report we cover many operational and functional areas served by these companies including Order to Cash, Financials, Title (Product) Management, Contract Rights and Royalties, Editorial, Production and Scheduling, Subscription Management, Digital Asset Management, Digital Asset Distribution and Content Management Services. 

To produce this report, we interviewed more than 31 companies and approximately 50 people in total. Each interview was approximately 60 mins. We transcribed these interviews and created 3-5 page profiles of each company and included company product information and, in some cases, graphics provided to us by the company.  We have also created our own supplemental information to support the analysis.

This report is informative and relevant for any publisher with technology requirements.

The following companies were profiled in detail:

See how we put together the Subway map here.

Monday, March 28, 2022

London Calling - (But I have no fear)

I am excited to get back on the road again and be able to meet face to face with business partners.  I am looking forward to seeing London again as well.  So it is off to the London Bookfair!

APA is exhibiting in the American Collective Stand (6B80) so please drop by and let's touch base.

LBF has never been my favorite conference although I expect this will be very different than past shows. In the past, I never found the interactions as good as Frankfurt but I also seemed to be beset with bad experiences over the years. 

On one visit, a dinner on the eve of the conference to celebrate an acquisition gave me food poisoning so bad I couldn't leave my hotel for four days. On another occasion, I played Batman and chased a would be thief who had stolen a staff member's handbag through the length of Olympia hall. (I got it back). Last (and possibly the worst), we arranged an Ingenta customer lunch at great expense and no one showed up. A classic Ingenta performance.

But this will be different and I am happy to get back on the road again. Happy to get out and meet people and while not everyone is ready to meet physically, I do have meetings set up for the conference. 

Come by our booth (6B80) or email me to set up a meeting;



Monday, March 21, 2022

Media Week (Vol 10, No 1) Pearson Offer, Textbook Oligarchy, B&Ned, Wiley, Scholastic Results, HMH Acquired, Designing with Books +More

Pearson receives unsolicited offer to take the company private.

The company confirmed they received more than one offer to acquire the company since November and indications are that there is now an unofficial bidding war going on among several PE groups.  In the most recent bid, Apollo Management valued the company at approximately £6.5billion (£8.5.share). (Thisismoney).  Thusfar, the Pearson board has rejected these bids on the pretext that they significantly undervalue the company as a whole.

It seems likely a deal will be done and it's only a matter of what price they settle on. Here at PND we'd anticipate a price around £8billion which equates to around £10.00/share. (Note: Share chart in US$)

 +The Guardian

Also recently, Pearson paid $140MM for Credly a company they already had a 20% stake in.  Credly is a platform which provides digital workforce credentialing. (ZDNet)

Via the Arizona State campus newspaper a well argued analysis of the influence of large publishing on campus. They call it the "textbook industrial complex":

College course materials are still expensive and proprietary, but their price tags are less visible than ever before. Against the backdrop of a digital revolution in education, the largest publishers have found a way to quietly maintain their dominance of the curriculum market.

Instead of opportunistically jacking up consumer textbook prices like they may have in the past, companies like Pearson and Cengage are tapping directly into the tuition revenue streams of colleges themselves.

By contracting out a broad new range of services — including software management, curriculum design, student recruitment and marketing — publishers underwent a radical business model transformation by having a direct stake in student enrollment and how much they pay in tuition.

Woes continue at B&N Education which showed some improvement over COVID year 2021 but still not a strong performance for 2022 (Press Release):

The Company’s fiscal 2022 third quarter results continued to be affected by the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant which impacted students return to campus and on-campus activities. While the majority of the Company’s institutional partners brought students back to campus in early January, some chose to conduct classes remotely for the beginning of the semester, while other schools chose to delay their start dates, and some chose to both delay their start dates and begin the semester with remote learning.
Financial highlights for the Third Quarter 2022:
Consolidated third quarter GAAP sales of $402.8 million decreased 2.1%, as compared to the prior year period.
Consolidated third quarter GAAP gross profit of $87.0 million increased 23.2%, as compared to the prior year period.
Consolidated third quarter GAAP net loss of $(36.8) million, compared to a net loss of $(48.3) million in the prior year period.
Consolidated third quarter non-GAAP Adjusted Earnings of $(28.9) million, compared to $(25.6) million in the prior year period.
Consolidated third quarter non-GAAP Adjusted EBITDA of $(13.1) million, compared to $(20.8) million in the prior year period.

 John Wiley reported Q3 2022 results (Press Release):


  • GAAP Results: Revenue of $516 million (+7%), Operating Income of $46 million (+34%), and EPS of $0.63 (+62%)
  • Adjusted Results (at constant currency): Revenue of $516 million (+7%), Adjusted EBITDA of $100 million (-5%), and Adjusted EPS of $0.95 (-9%)


  • GAAP Results: Revenue of $1,537 million (+9%), Operating Income of $161 million (+20%), EPS of $1.86 (-2%), Cash Provided by Operating Activities of $158 million (+2%)
  • Adjusted Results (at constant currency): Revenue of $1,537 million (+8%), Adjusted EBITDA of $322 million (+4%), Adjusted EPS of $3.09 (+4%), Free Cash Flow of $77 million (-3%)

Scholastic reported Q3 (Press Release)

Peter Warwick, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “Strong demand for our products resulted in a 24% increase in revenues in the third quarter with the biggest impact coming from higher than expected revenue per fair from book fairs, where fair count continues to approximate 70% of pre-pandemic levels. As parents and teachers around the world seek to close the learning gaps created by the disruption of in-person learning, demand for our proven educational products is getting stronger. Whether it’s from our core Trade backlist titles, GraphixTM series, engaging educational materials or the exciting way we deliver book fairs to schools, our loyal customers are turning to Scholastic to reinforce the love of reading in children."

“We are looking forward to a strong and successful fourth quarter which will include the spring book fair season for U.S. schools and the start of the peak selling season for Education Solutions. The enduring strength of the Scholastic brand and our iconic book properties also continue to drive interest from top tier production and entertainment companies. We are particularly excited about the upcoming April theatrical release of The Bad GuysTM movie from Dreamworks® and our live action Goosebumps® series which was greenlit for Disney+TM."

"Operationally, we expect to maintain our strong margins through the current fiscal year. In addition to the benefit of previous cost savings initiatives, we will continue to take steps to mitigate risks associated with inflationary cost pressures, supply chain challenges and higher oil prices.”

Veritas Capital has entered a purchase agreement for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt valued at $2.8B (THE)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co., a provider of K–12 core curriculum, supplemental and intervention solutions, and professional learning services, today announced it is being acquired by private investment firm Veritas Capital in a deal valued at $2.8 billion.

Executives at HMH — which serves more than 50 million students and 4 million educators in 150 countries — said in a news release that the acquisition will allow the company to grow its product offerings and reach more students and educators globally. HMH also is parent company to professional development and leadership consultancy the International Center for Leadership in Education and Heinemann, a publisher of professional resources for teachers.

The agreement calls for HMH shareholders to receive $21 in cash per share, representing a 36% premium to the company's share price as of January 13, 2022

 Designing with books: It's all about the color combos (WAPO)

Want 10 feet of purple-spined, 10-inch-tall books that have never been opened? How about 100 feet of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet books to make your shelves look like a rainbow flag? It’s doable — and it’s been done.

What can those great works of literature teach us?  Inside Higher Ed

Robert F. Barsky, an astute legal scholar and linguist whose research combines a focus on social justice, human rights and border and refugee studies, argues in his recent book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, that public understanding of the issues surrounding refugees and asylum can benefit greatly from the study of great works of literature. His book examines a host of classic and canonical texts—from The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost and Faust to Oroonoko, Frankenstein, Alice in Wonderland and the works of Kafka—that speak to issues involving displacement, persecution, exile, marginalization and xenophobia.

In grade school I once tried to map the escape journey of someone from a Chinese gulag. These people take it to a much deeper level (Guardian)

Exploring this tension, while also charting the ways that the relationship between maps and literature has changed through eras and genres, the Huntington’s new exhibit Mapping Fiction brings together literary maps from hundreds of years of literary history. Drawing from the Huntington’s archives of rare literary texts, the exhibition goes back to the early days of modern literature with texts like The Pilgrim’s Progress and Journey to the Center of the Earth (not Jules Verne’s version but rather a 1741 book written by Norwegian writer Ludvig Holberg), continuing up to the contemporary era with mappings of Octavia Butler’s life and works and artist David Lilburn’s 2006 mapping of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Nothing to do with publishing but I found this article about the sharing economy fascinating (Economist)

The very thought that an item might be rented out or resold in the future changes how consumers approach buying it in the first place. Ms Wainwright of The RealReal says that most of its users regularly shop at posh department stores. Its proprietary surveys find that they “are starting to check The RealReal first to see how a luxury item retains value on the secondary market before making primary market purchases”. That is, they are more likely to buy high-quality garments, knowing that at least part of the cost may be recouped.

The biggest shift in perception, however, is not among people who sell or rent their clothing, but at the other end of the deal. A poll in 2016 by GlobalData found that 45% of adults had bought second-hand clothing, or said they would consider doing so. That share is now 86%. Influencers document trips to charity shops and show off their purchases. A decade ago wearing second-hand clothes was uncool, and teens hung out in Abercrombie & Fitch or Jack Wills. Stroll a hipster neighbourhood today—Williamsburg in Brooklyn, say—and passers-by will have bought their outfits in thrift stores like Goodwill and Housing Works, or curated shops like Awoke Vintage.

 Research from Pew indicates that 3 in 10 Americans now read eBooks (Pew)

Overall, 75% of U.S. adults say they have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, whether completely or part way through, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2011, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8, 2021. Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 65% of adults saying that they have read a print book in the past year.

More from my Flipboard magazine