Monday, December 27, 2021

Goodbye 2021 Out From the Haze

When I sat down to summarize 2020, I started with the fact I had not traveled on a plane the entire year for the first time since I was ten years old. As it turned out, I wasn't on a plane in 2021 either! I expect this will change in 2022 and if I can at least get to the UK to see my family I will be happy.

I did continue to run regularly and finished the year over 1300 miles and have now totaled 25,000 miles in the last 25 years. Not too bad. In my early days, I used to only catalog my good times (and not total miles run) so I can only go back 25 years when I started to count. Check back in another 25 years and see if I kept it up. I also did not return to the New York Sports club gym as I anticipated and, due to their terrible customer management, will never return.

In 2021, I read a few long non-fiction titles which took a lot of time, so my total titles read was less than the last few years. Two of these books - Stalin and The Romanovs, were pretty heavy going. I had the latter on my list for a while based on a review I read, but having watched Catherine The Great (Hulu) I decided to read the real truth. The same author wrote the Stalin title. Both are recommended but note, these are very violent people.

My favorite book of 2021 was Muhammad Ali's autobiography which was very entertaining and revealing. During the read, I also went back and watched some of the fight videos against Liston, Fraser and Foreman. It was great to watch the video and then read what was happening in the background.

As noted, last year there were far fewer photos taken in 2021 versus other years; sadly, a reflection of the minimal travel schedule for the year. I hope this changes in 2022.

I don't listen to many podcasts but my consistent favorites continue to be Pod Save America, Lovett or Leave it and POD Save the World by the ex-Obama staffers at Crooked Media. My three favorite Podcast episodes were not from them however; these were, an episode from Stay Tuned with Preet where his partner Joyce Vance interviewed Roger McNamee about his relationship with Facebook, an interview by Tony Belew (is Angry) of Ricky Gervais was a riot and the annual round-up by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway on Pivot was great.

Television was less exciting this year versus 2020, but we still enjoyed Catherine The Great (Hulu), The Beatles (Disney+) and Mare of Eastown (HBO). We are also in the middle of re-watching every Seinfeld episode (Netflix) and Better Call Saul (AMC).

This blog went over 1.5 million page views in 2021 which I guess is a decent milestone but could have been a lot more if I'd been more consistent posting over the past five years.

Here's hoping 2022 is much better than the past two years: I very excited about my new role with APA and I expect to move to a new house in March so there's every chance.

Good luck for 2022.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Quarterly Newsletter: Publishing News and Articles of Interest

Publishing Industry Headlines curated by Information Media Partners
Monday November 15, 2021

As much as any city, Portland, Ore., has been through hell. Its landmark store, Powell’s Books, must finally build a viable online business while recapturing its downtown success.

'Crucial time' for OA monographs (Research Information)

Without investment in pilots and without author engagement, we will reach a bad place. We will reach a world where all scientific work is free to read by the public, but all humanities work is prohibitively expensive.
Is Amazon Changing the Novel? (New Yorker)

In the new literary landscape, readers are customers, writers are service providers, and books are expected to offer instant gratification.
“Too Late to Stand Up Against Amazon”: (Vanity Fair)

Book-Industry Insiders Back the Biden Administration’s Bid to Stop a Publishing Mega-Merger. Has the Simon & Schuster deal with Penguin Random House hit the rocks?

Language technology is fast growing with demand fuelled by the pandemic. Edtech has grown into a record-breaking £197 billion industry
Information Media Partners is a boutique consulting company delivering business strategy solutions for publishing, media and information companies and other media-related companies.  Contact Michael Cairns if you have a project to discuss.  Clients include: John Wiley, Cengage, Reed Elsevier, Simon & Schuster, Private Equity Investors, Ingenta, Klopotek.
Check out my interview with Klopotek Radio where I discuss digital transformation in publishing and who I would like to invite to dinner. 
Watch The Future of the Textbook (video) where I interview Norwegian Publisher Aschehoug's Editor-in-Chief Arne Fredrik Nilsen about the future of print, augmented reality and blended learning in education publishing.
Our recent project for The Book Industry Study Group (video) determined that there is room for an industry-led improvement effort in the form of  for cost elimination, process efficiencies and ecological sustainability  A few booksellers have improved their returns process and  reaped some benefits. If approached universally, the industry could achieve significant gains.
The Annual  Publishing Technology Market Report is available.  In it, we identify more than 100 of the top software companies offering ERP, Order to Cash, Subscriptions, Product Information, Contract Rights & Royalties and Content Management solutions for publishers and profile 30 companies in detail. Use discount code PTReport21 for a reduced price.
Digital is coming for your textbook. The textbook is a very, very reliable medium to educate students and to facilitate the distribution of content to students. Publishing analyst Michael Cairns recently examined the latest developments in the creation, sourcing, and delivery of textbooks. (Interview) And, Digital First Textbooks (Interview)
Other Publishing News and Commentary
Flipboard Magazine:

A curated selection of articles on publishing, media and industry trends taken from a cross section of magazines, journals, websites and newspapers. (Link)
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Monday, November 01, 2021

Media Week (Vol 9, No 10): Supply Chain Issues, Elsevier, Cengage, Wikipedia, AP & Blockchain + More

Elsevier and American Chemical Society remove 200,000 articles from ResearchGate (ChemistryWorld)

The academic social networking site ResearchGate has removed about 200,000 files from among the research papers it publicly shares, prompted by a spate of new copyright complaints from Elsevier and the American Chemical Society (ACS). ResearchGate, which is based in Germany and has more than 20 million users, says the majority of these files were Elsevier articles.

While requests to delete material from ResearchGate are not new, these most recent requests were notable because of the number of articles involved. ‘In the context of a community of over 20 million researchers this is unfortunate, rather than existential, but it has sparked an acute reaction from many of our members who believe in the importance of open science.

Also - Deadline looms as UK Universities reject Elsevier deal (TimesHEd)

Cengage launches "Cengage Infuse" to support faculty with digital instructional materials (PressRelease)

Cengage Infuse is a first-of-its-kind, digital learning solution that leverages LMS functionality for course set up and management. From set up to assignments and quizzes, no one ever needs to leave the LMS, which eliminates confusion for students on where they need to go to locate materials and complete assignments.

Developed with the input of more than 600 faculty and 400 students across 500 institutions, Cengage Infuse was created using a human-centered design approach. The collaborative process began with discussions to understand instructor needs and pain points, especially those who were not using digital tools, and led to the formation of an advisory board and Development Partners program which informed the iterative design, development, and testing of Cengage Infuse.

Wiley has acquired an editorial services company (Wiley)

J&J Editorial provides expert offerings in editorial operations, production, copy editing, system support and consulting, allowing more than 120 clients to publish world-class titles that power the global knowledge ecosystem.

What's going on with the book supply chain?  (Vox)

According to industry tracker NPD Bookscan, printed book sales have increased 13.2 percent from 2020 to 2021, and 21 percent from 2019 to 2021.“Usually a good year means going up maybe 3 or 4 percent,” says NPD books analyst Kristen McLean. “The growth that we saw last year and this year is pretty unprecedented.” McLean says it’s clear that the pandemic is what’s driving the growth in book sales, in part because of what kind of books are selling well and which aren’t. As global lockdowns began in March of 2020, sales of traditionally high-performing categories like self-help books and business books plummeted, while sales of educational books for home-bound kids and first aid books for emergency preppers took off


Paper, ink, and printing presses are all at a premium right now. There’s not enough of any of them, and what we do have costs a lot.

How do you turn casual, infrequent visitors to your website into subscribers. Take note of the newspaper industry (NiemanLab)

Cater to light readers. Stories and topics that attract your light readers will succeed with your heavy readers, too. But it doesn’t work the other way around. “Almost by definition, light-reading subscribers are more selective in what they read on the website than heavy users,” the INMA report notes. “It seems clear that it’s better to concentrate on boosting the engagement of lighter readers rather than maximizing the engagement of those who are already heavily invested in your product.” Heavy readers and fans bring the highest lifetime value and help fund future growth, the report notes. But the majority of subscribers will be light readers. Every publisher, INMA argues, should be segmenting and studying this audience.

Ever wondered how Wikipedia works and doesn't turn in to a personal promotional vehicle?  You can't just write what you want.  (WAPO)

In a world of inequality, we are well accustomed to rich, powerful, connected people getting preferential treatment, whether a good table at a restaurant, admission to a selective college for their offspring or a torn-up speeding ticket. Despite its countercultural tendencies, the digital world has wound up in a quite similar place. On large platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the most important, newsworthy users are given VIP treatment. Their voices are amplified; their misdeeds are excused; they are, up to a point (see: Trump), freed from the automated policing that the rest of us have to endure. The notable exception is Wikipedia. There, VIPs have been shouting “Do you have any idea who you are dealing with?!” for years, only to be told either, not really, or, don’t care, and then instructed, as Eastman was, to take their objections to a Talk page where the community can weigh in.

Is Amazon Changing the Novel? In the new literary landscape, readers are customers, writers are service providers, and books are expected to offer instant gratification. (NewYorker)

Hence McGurl’s focus on the explosion of genre fiction—the bulk of fiction produced today. Here we find the estuary where books merge with Amazon’s service ethos, its resolve to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Genre has, of course, always been an organizing principle in book marketing. The shiny embossed titles of the books on the spinning rack at an airport kiosk promise a hit of reliable pleasure to readers craving a Robert Ludlum thriller or a Nora Roberts love story. But Amazon brings such targeting to the next level. Romance readers can classify themselves as fans of “Clean & Wholesome” or “Paranormal” or “Later in Life.” And Amazon, having tracked your purchases, has the receipts—and will serve you suggestions accordingly. These micro-genres deliver on a hyper-specific promise of quality, but also end up reinforcing the company’s promise of quantity. What else does genre guarantee but variations on a trusted formula, endlessly iterated to fill up a Kindle’s bottomless library?

From Australia, a review of different publishing model experiments (ArtsHub)

AP is making its reporting data available on the blockchain via Chainlink (AP)

The availability of AP’s datasets via Chainlink comes as smart contracts — tamper-proof computer programs that trigger outcomes when certain conditions are met — are growing in popularity, especially in industries like decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs.

“Chainlink technology is the ideal way to provide smart contract developers anywhere in the world with direct, on-demand access to AP’s trusted economic, sports, and race call data” said Dwayne Desaulniers, AP director of blockchain and data licensing. “Working with Chainlink allows this information to be compatible with any blockchain. The open-source software is reliable, secure, and widely used across leading blockchain networks.”

More from my Flipboard magazine.


Monday, October 11, 2021

MediaWeek (Vol 14, No 9) Pearson vs. Chegg Legal Issues, Bookstore eBook Sales + More

Legal Experts On Pearson V. Chegg And Why It Could Be A Huge Deal (Forbes)

The essence of Pearson’s legal claim is that Chegg is engaging in “massive” violation of copyrights held by Pearson because Chegg has published, and sold, answers to the tests and practice questions Pearson has in its textbooks. Pearson argues that the questions and answers belong to it and it should be able to decide when and how they are used.

If Pearson prevails, it could damage not only Chegg’s business model but the enterprises of several other companies that sell answers to academic questions written by text publishers, professors or professional licensing bodies. Those companies include illicit cheating services, file sharing companies that sell access to tests and answers, as well as the respectable tutoring and test preparation companies.

With More Bookstores Open, Soaring E-books Sales Fall Back to Earth, NPD Says
“With brick-and-mortar stores closed last year, e-books were simply easier to buy than print books,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “The digital format allowed for frictionless, virus-free purchasing. Now that bookstores are open again, we expect full-year 2021 e-book volume to fall below 2020 levels, with the caveat that supply-chain disruption could cause another lift, if key books are unavailable during the holidays. Regardless, the e-book format will definitely remain a vital ongoing part of the U.S. book market — and a key format for certain categories.”
How Students Fought a Book Ban and Won, for Now (NYTimes)

But what began as an effort to raise awareness somehow ended with all of the materials on the list being banned from classrooms by the district’s school board in a little-noticed vote last November. Some parents in the district, which draws about 5,000 students from suburban townships surrounding the more diverse city of York, had objected to materials that they feared could be used to make white children feel guilty about their race or “indoctrinate” students.

The debate came to a head with the return to in-person classes at the start of the current school year. The Sept. 1 article in The York Dispatch quoted teachers who were aghast at an email from the high school’s principal listing the forbidden materials.

Spotify for readers: How tech is inventing better ways to read the internet (Protocol)

After all, what does Spotify do? It takes a corpus of stuff (music) and finds endless new ways to show it to users. Users can save the stuff they know they like (a library), explore things curated by other users (playlists) or turn to the app's machine-learning tools for ultra-personalized recommendations (Discover Weekly and the like).

So now imagine a reading app. You can save all the articles, tweet threads, PDFs and Wikipedia pages you want into your library. You can follow other users to see what they're saving, or check out what a curator thinks you might be into. The more you read, the more the app begins to understand that you like celebrity profiles, you're learning a lot about NFTs right now, you worship at the altar of Paul Graham and you'll read anything anyone writes about "The Bachelorette." Now, every time you open the app, it's like a magazine made just for you.

Watch my PodCast on Business Transformation (Link)

Business Transformation and Technology Improvement – podcast with Michael Cairns Michael Cairns is the CEO and founder of Information Media Partners, a business strategy consulting firm. With a wide career span in publishing and information products, services, and B2B categories, Michael has held executive roles at several publishing companies including Macmillan, Berlitz, and R.R. Bowker.

How to remember more of what you read (MarieClaire)

After three decades in the tech world, former Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior—a self-proclaimed “obsessive reader” as a child—has turned a new page in her career journey. In July 2021, she founded Fable, a social reading platform. According to Warrior, complaints about reading often fall into three categories: People don’t know what to read, they don’t have time to read, or they want to read with other people. Unlike existing platforms that try to focus on just one of those pain points, Fable seeks to tackle all three. 


Publishing Technology Software Report:

A fully revised version of my Publishing Technology Software and Services Report will be formally published on September 15. To complete this report we 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.