Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Five Academic Publishing Predictions for 2015

The following was originally posted to the Publishing Technology blogsite. 

While trade publishing is arguably still in the middle of its first digital disruption, the academic publishing landscape is in a much more mature stage of development. Indeed the biggest disruption to face academic publishing has been the rise of open access journals, which are now considered as part of the ‘new normal’ of the sector. Last year we explored what the post-open access future for academic publishing might look like in two high profile panel events at The London Book Fair and Frankfurt Book Fair.

This week we’re taking the insights we gained from those events and our own view of the market to make our predictions for scholarly and academic publishing in 2015.

1. Porous Paywalls
Much of the success of academic and scholarly publishers in the digital era thus far is due to subscription paywalls. While news publishers have struggled to transition from free to paid content access models, academic publishers succeeded by applying site licenses, an innovation first introduced by the software industry to content access. These allowed institutions such as universities to subscribe to individual journals or groups of journals and grant access to individual students and researchers, usually via their library infrastructure.

This approach has worked very well in terms of protecting publishers’ revenue streams, but they have also had the effect of inhibiting the dissemination of content from paywalled journals. Without authentication privileges it often remains difficult for users at smaller institutions or in the developing world to access the content they need to further their research.

This situation may very well change in 2015 in the form of more porous paywalls. Late last year, Nature Publishing Group announced that it was introducing changes to its paywall structure that allowed subscribers to share journal articles from Nature.com with non-subscribers though ReadCube technology. Non-subscribers would not be able to download or share this content themselves, but they would be able to read it, therefore increasing the theoretical reach (and even impact) of Nature articles.

The first week of 2015 has also seen Elsevier join this trend in the form of its new virtual journal Atlas Research. This is a project that seeks to make the research Elsevier publishes relevant to a wider lay audience by selecting  research from its journals that “can (or already has) significantly impact(ed) people’s lives around the world”. This is then published on the Atlas Research website in an accessible format.

These initiatives have very different objectives – one is designed to spread research around the scientific community, while the other reaches outside of it – but they hint at an intriguing future for journals. They suggest that even if academic publishers continue to derive the bulk of their revenue from paywalls, the impact of the research they publish will be measured by how it is shared and where it is seen outside of them.

2. Start-Ups: Even more disruption, but not much change
In the technology sector it seems that every new year brings a new wave of disruptive actors who turn every market from photography to enterprise software upside down. The academic publishing sector also has its fair share of disruptive entrants, all with big ideas, but unlike in the technology sector very few of them have scaled to the point that they have fundamentally changed the market by themselves. To put it another way, academic publishing has produced plenty of Friendsters but has yet to produce a Facebook.

Instead, what we have seen to date is that interesting companies with intriguing solutions, models and technology are destined not to displace academic publishers but find themselves being bought by them. The most recent example of this trend is Elsevier’s acquisition of Newsflo in January 2015. At least some of this is down to the fact that academic publishers such as Elsevier or Macmillan have been unusually far-sighted in growing their own innovation through canny investment and starting their own accelerators to nurture nascent start-ups.

Given therefore that the success of academic publishing start-ups is inextricably linked with those publishers themselves, it’s incredibly unlikely that 2015 will see a big change in the relationships between the two. There will be more disruption – but comparatively little change.

3. Libraries become major funders of research publishing
Last year we published the results of our sister company PCG’s Open Access Library Survey. Perhaps its most surprising insight was that now that open access journals are finding their way in to library collections, libraries themselves are paying for the publication of research. PCG found that nearly a quarter (23%) of libraries were funding the Article Processing Charges (APCs) that are required before research by faculty members or researchers from their institutions could be published in open access journals.

While nearly a quarter (24%) of libraries were funding this activity through new sources of funding, 70% said they were paying APCs from their existing budgets. If this continues, which is logical, given the continued growth of the open access sector, we will see more libraries diverting funding they would historically have devoted to collection building towards activity that supports the research ranking of their institution. This will raise some intriguing and lasting questions about the role and importance of the institutional library, as well as individual libraries’ relationships with journal publishers.

4. From the BRICs to the SAMPCs
In recent years developing markets have contributed an increasing amount to the growth of academic publishers’ businesses. Institutions in the so-called BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have begun investing in journal subscriptions as their universities and businesses have started to compete directly with their equivalents in the developed world.

As a consequence we’ve tracked growing traffic from BRIC countries on our ingentaconnect portal
for academic content. As Toby Plewak blogged on this site last year, 9.2% of all unique visits to scholarly content hosted on ingentaconnect in the 12 months to September 2014 came from China, with India accounting for 4.5% and Brazil 1.9%. Only Russia, whose general economic performance has fallen behind that of other BRIC nations, has yet to account for a significant proportion of ingentaconnect traffic, though it remains in the top 10% of all developing markets accessing the site.

Now that the BRICs are relatively mature markets for scholarly content (though with plenty of upside still left), we will start to see academic publishers look beyond these territories for new opportunities. As to where these new opportunities will be, we’ve observed some interesting trends in institutional registration growth by country on ingentaconnect that could give publishers a few hints.

Over the past five years, we saw registrations in Pakistan grow by a remarkable 40%. Registrations in Mexico rose by 28%, while Chile and South Africa both grew by 27%. As yet all are relatively small markets, but large rates of growth from small bases suggest there is pent-up demand of which publishers can take advantage. If this trend continues into 2015, we may very well be talking about the SAMPCs (South Africa, Mexico, Pakistan, and Chile) alongside the BRICs this time next year.

5. Beyond the site license
Thanks to their adoption of the site license and willingness to look beyond familiar markets for sales, academic publishers have enjoyed decades of sustained growth. As we have seen in these other predictions though, it’s possible that publishers will soon reach the natural limits of the site license.

They may compensate for static or falling library budgets in the developing world by selling site licenses to the BRICs and then to the SAMPCs. But as these markets mature and become low growth too, publishers may need to start creating new business models that complement the site license and set the stage for future growth.

We may have already seen the first glimmers of these new business models in initiatives such as Nature Publishing’s decision to enable sharing of content by social media. This could presage a new era for the individual journal subscription or even pay-as-you-go access. Or another new revenue stream in waiting may come from Palgrave Macmillan’s experimentation with extending the open access model to monographs, Palgrave Pivot. What matters is evidence that established publishers or new market entrants are showing the willingness to experiment and a source of income that isn’t dependent on institutional subscriptions.

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In addition Publishing Perspectives posted our Predictions for Trade Publishing in 2015.

My Big Book of Posts and Predictions (2013)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Wire Cast Reunion at the Paley Center.

One of the benefits of traveliing as much as I have in the past 18mths is I get to catch up on a lot of TV. This show is one of the best ever and close watchers will know that the scripts benefited from the likes of George Pellecanos, Denis Lehane and Richard Price. (Cameo's for all I think).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mobile Reading Trends: How solid is the Kindle's position?

The following series of blog posts were originally published on the Publishing Technology blog during Frankfurt and speaks to research the company conducted into mobile reading habits.


What we learned when we asked 3,000 people whether they read books on their phones

While the publishing industry continues to debate the relative merits of print books versus eBooks a far bigger shift in the way we find and consume information is taking place under our noses. The digital revolution in publishing is often dated back to November 2007, when Amazon launched the first Kindle e-reader. Yet earlier that year, another technology company released a product that has had a far more disruptive effect on the world than the e-reader. It was Apple, and that device was the first iPhone. Seven years on from that launch and the creative destruction of the smartphone has created whole new industries while destroying others. The market for ‘smart connected devices’ (as smartphones used to be called before the iPhone) has grown from 53 million in 2006 to a projected 2.4 billion in 2015. To put this in context, recent estimates suggest that over the same period, Amazon has sold just over 20 million Kindle devices.

The scale of the mobile opportunity dwarfs the accomplishments of e-readers, which is possibly why Amazon has since entered the phone and tablet business too. This year we decided to take a closer look at how the mobile revolution had affected our reading habits, and what publishers could learn from those changes. We commissioned research covering 3,000 consumers in the US and the UK. We also decided to focus on reading on mobile phones only. This is because while reading on devices like e-readers and tablets is interesting, the markets for both of those devices are much smaller and lower-growth than in mobile phones. Our Mobile reading research yielded some surprising results, which we’ll be sharing with you on this blog over the coming week. Every day this week we'll be exploring a different aspect of what this research tells us about how people are consuming books at the moment on their phones and what can be done to encourage more people to acquire the mobile reading habit.  

Reading on mobile phones may account for nearly 5% of all book consumption in the UK

Today we published our mobile reading research report, which surveyed 3,000 consumers in the UK and US to assess the state of mobile reading in two of the world’s most developed smartphone markets. One of the key headlines from this research was the extent to which mobile reading had penetrated on both sides of the Atlantic. Nearly half (44%) of smartphone owners in the UK and US said they had read an eBook or part of an eBook on their phones in the last twelve months. Let’s put that number into some context, starting with Deloitte UK’s estimate that there are currently 35 million smartphone users in the UK. If we assume that 44% of these smartphone owners read just one eBook on their phone (which is all our research asked to define a mobile reader) that’s equivalent to 15,400,000. Then, if Nielsen is correct when it says that 323 million books were sold in the UK in 2013, that means 4.7% of the total UK book market was read on a smartphone. If we apply the same methodology to the US a similar picture emerges.

According to our research 43% of US smartphone owners had read at least one eBook in the past year. Nielsen estimates that there are 171.5 million smartphone users in the US, so this is equivalent to 73,745,000 eBooks. Then, if we accept the Association of American Publishers assessment that 2.32 billion books were sold in the US in 2013 that means 3.1% of all books sold were consumed on a mobile phone. While it’s clearly not a majority activity just yet, two thirds (66%) of respondents who said they read books on their phones also said they did so more frequently now than a year ago. Mobile phone consumption of books is growing, and publishers and booksellers have the chance to capture some of that growth. As we’ll explore in future blogs, however, before it can grow, publishers, booksellers and reading platform providers need to overcome some serious objections to the reading experience they provide on mobile.  

Forget Kindles, mobile reading is all about the iPhone

Today at the Frankfurt Book Fair, we’re taking a closer look at our Mobile Reading research at our event, The Great Debate: How Much Money is in Mobile? And on the blog we’re exploring what devices consumers really use to read eBooks. According to our research, the iPhone is the UK consumer’s top device for reading, with 40% of mobile readers doing so on an Apple phone. Apple’s closest competitor in terms of mobile reading was Samsung, with a reading market share of 28%. HTC and Nokia were in third and fourth place respectively, with 7% of the market each. These are interesting figures inasmuch as they give us a view of what consumers are reading on. But more importantly, they also make it possible for us to compare the mobile reading segment of consumers with the broader market. This allows us to make a few intriguing extrapolations about who those readers are and what implications this has for publishers and booksellers:
  • In the UK, mobile readers are more likely than the average to be iPhone owners. According to recent Kantar Worldpanel research, Apple had a 32.1% share of the UK smartphone market), but 40% of the mobile reading market. 
  • People who read books on their mobile phone are slightly less likely to own a Samsung phone than the average. Samsung has recently seen its UK market share dip from 36% to 30% according to the same Kantar research, while among mobile book readers it had a share of 28%. 
  • Mobile phone readers were less likely than the average to be Nokia Windows Phone users (10% actual market share, versus 7% mobile reading share). 
  • People who read books on their mobiles were also more likely to be HTC device owners than the general smartphone owning population.Kantar’s estimate put HTC’s UK market share at 4%, but among book readers it’s slightly higher at 7%. Broadly speaking this indicates that mobile book readers over-index on the Apple iOS devices and under-index on Android and Windows devices. 
From a consumer marketing point of view, this offers some clear advantages for publishers and booksellers. iPhone owners are generally acknowledged to be a younger, wealthier and more highly educated group than those who own Samsung, HTC or LG Android phones. Some Comscore research published last year suggested that the median iPhone user in the US earned $85,000, and that the difference in earning power between an Apple and Android owner was as much as 40%. Not only do they earn more, iPhone users also spend more – seven times more, in fact - than Android users on apps and content. Demographically speaking, iPhone users therefore map almost exactly to the profile of regular book readers identified last year by Pew Research. This painted a picture of heavy readers as being a group of people who are urban, college educated, earn over $75,000 a year and under the age of 50.

All this means that the iPhone audience is the reading audience. Apple’s device represents a ready-made opportunity for publishers and booksellers to sell content to a receptive audience that spends money on its phones. If the publishing industry’s objective in investing in mobile is to reach its existing audience in new places and encourage them to buy more, then Apple’s iOS ecosystem is the place to be. If, however, it wants to grow the overall size of the book market and sell content to audiences who don’t currently buy books, it may have a bigger challenge on its hands in selling content to Android users.  

Kindle is the king of mobile reading platforms, but iBooks is catching up - fast

One consistent source of alarm within the publishing industry over eBook reading is Amazon Kindle’s apparent dominance of the market. Earlier this year we reported on Hachette revealing that Amazon accounted for 60% of its eBook sales in the US and 78% in the UK. In our mobile reading research, which we unveiled at the Frankfurt Book Fair, we wanted to test the hypothesis that Amazon had an over-mighty position. So we asked the 2,000 people we surveyed in the UK which e-reading platforms they used to read books on their mobiles.

The results were interesting in that while they revealed that Kindle does enjoy the largest share of the mobile reading market, readers have more omnivorous habits than we expected. Our research challenged Hachette’s experience that Kindle is the only game in town, at least when it comes to reading on smartphones in the UK. According to our respondents, Kindle is used by 50% of mobile readers, while Apple’s iBooks is at 31%. The next nearest competitor is Kobo, which at 9% also seems to be struggling to achieve cut-through in this territory, followed by Nook at 6%. Given yesterday’s blog about the high demographic correlation between iPhone ownership and general disposition to read books, it makes perfect sense that iBooks should enjoy a strong second place. As the default e-reading app available to iPhone owners, iBooks would theoretically enjoys a significant advantage over its rivals on Apple devices and the results bear that out. We also decided to break these results down by age group, as this was one of the chief markers as to whether someone was an iPhone reader or read on an Android device. This yielded some results with important implications for publishers.

We found that among 18-24 year old readers in UK, Kindle was ahead of Apple in terms of market share (41%), but only just. Of this audience, 39% of readers used iBooks. Among 24-35 year olds, Amazon maintained a larger lead (49% Kindle, 33% iBooks), but with Apple still representing a third of eBook sales within this market segment. It was only when we started looking at significantly older audiences (55+) that Amazon’s lead appeared unassailable, with 59% of this audience using Kindle compared to 27% iBooks. Yesterday we explored how consumers’ decisions to read on their mobile is determined by their handset.

This data seems to suggest that a reader’s age is a very important factor in determining which e-reading ecosystem they will use on their phone. It also implies that publishers have a choice as well in terms of how they promote and market their books. This data suggests that if you’re publishing books designed to appeal to an older audience then it’s a good idea to spend time and money marketing them on Kindle. If, however, you’re chasing a younger audience then it’s likely that you’ll achieve more cut-through marketing on the less crowded and more targeted iBooks platform.  

The biggest barrier to greater mobile reading is poor User Experience

In this week’s final blog post on the results of our Mobile reading survey, we’ll be turning our attention to the people who said ‘no’. While we were heartened to discover that 43% of smartphone owners on both sides of the Atlantic were using their phones to read books, that still meant that over half of these groups had decided this wasn’t for them. We wanted to know why, and what the publishing and bookselling industry could do to convert them.

The reasons that mobile reading refuseniks gave for not reading on their smartphones suggested that mobile reading platforms, publishers and booksellers have a job on their hands if they want to change their minds. 36% of non-mobile readers in the US said they found the experience of reading on a mobile unpleasant, as did 29% of UK respondents. Meanwhile 26% of refuseniks in the US and 21% in the UK said they found mobile reading platforms too difficult to use. Both of these point towards continued limitations in the User Experience (UX) that publishers, e-reading ecosystems and booksellers offer eBook readers in the mobile space. This seems like a serious oversight. App developers in every segment from gaming to social networking pour time, effort and money getting the UX of their products and services right for their users. They know that providing a clear and pleasant UX is how they retain users who are only ever one swipe away from leaving their apps altogether. The above findings suggest that together publishers, booksellers and e-reading platform providers are under-investing in User Experience.

This can take many forms. It ranges from the poorly formatted eBooks, to irrelevant search results in eBook stores driven by incomplete metadata or convoluted instructions to sideload eBooks onto phones. And what it says to users is that reading on their phone offers frustrations and limitations on a platform that is meant to offer choice and convenience. It would be a fatal error for the publishing industry to assume that losing a mobile reader merely means that the same person will put their phone away and pick up a print book. The mobile user who abandons an eBook halfway through will just turn to another app. They will play a game, do some social networking, look something up online, watch a video or listen to music. The phone in their hands offers a conduit to an endless choice of information and entertainment. In 2015, 2.4 billion smartphones will be sold worldwide. That’s approximately 120 times the total number of Kindle e-readers sold between 2007 and 2014. If the publishing industry can convert even a relatively small number of those new smartphone users into being smartphone readers too, then it has a hope of returning to growth.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

MediaWeek (V7, N31): Bezo's WaPo, Publishing a Book, BitLit, James Garner + More

These articles and a lot more are all in my 'magazine' on Flipboard.

The Columbia Journalism Review takes a look at Bezo's WaPo:
At the time of the sale to Bezos, Donald Graham, Weymouth’s uncle and the chairman of The Washington Post Company, explained that he and his niece felt unsure of the direction in which to take the paper, or how to reverse years of declining revenues. He had approached Bezos as a buyer, he said, because the billionaire could offer deep pockets, a digital brain, and, between the two, a way forward.
From The Chronicle of Higher Ed: Things you should know before publishing a book.
You can probably make more money having a first-class yard sale.
WaPo report on the Hachette Amazon feud with the answer to everyone's question:
Amazon.com has finally laid out the reasons behind its months-long e-book dispute with Hachette Book Group, arguing that it is advocating for a new pricing and revenue sharing plan that will ultimately boost book sales, lower prices and benefit the entire publishing industry.
Techcrunch: Can BitLit solve the eBook/pBook gap?
This is still a pilot so there aren’t many books, but it’s a clear validation that BitLit’s concept is gaining traction in the publishing world.
Clive James in The Atlantic writes an appreciation of Jimmy Garner.  (And I've been catching up with The Rockford files over the past few weeks - always a great opening sequence).
James Garner, you can bet on it, has never told an important lie in his life. He really is like the men he plays onscreen, even unto the modest requirements symbolized by the humble trailer that serves Jim Rockford for a residence. 
 Three Economist articles that I thought were interesting:
In Estonia - a national digital id scheme might go global.

On competition: The growth in online travel agents.  Interesting because it shows how competitors can develop and grow even when there is a highly dominant competitor.
The digital degree: So demand for education will grow. Who will meet it? Universities face a new competitor in the form of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. These digitally-delivered courses, which teach students via the web or tablet apps, have big advantages over their established rivals.
From the PND Twitter feed:
Lindsay Lohan Wants Fifty Shades Of Grey's EL James To Write Her Biography - Report | EntertainmentWise Tragic.

Building a Better Amazon by

Warner Bros. Snatches Up Movie Rights to ‘The Goldfinch’

Amazon Partners with Warner Bros for Digital First Imprint

Enid Blyton's Famous Five to get big screen adventure  

Monday, July 21, 2014

MediaWeek (Vol8, N 29): Amazon, The LMS, Director's Cut, Open Access + More

Read these articles on flipboard:

From the NYTimes: Amazon, a Friendly Giant as long as it's fed.
“Everything Amazon has promised me, it has fulfilled — and more,” he said. “They ask: ‘Are you happy, Vince? We just want to see you writing books.’
Changes ahead for the humble learning management system (Inside Higher Ed)
“I think we’re in a weird place right now in the marketplace -- partly because there’s a lot of parity between the systems,” Severance said. “You can almost throw a dart at a dartboard and pick an LMS, and it won’t be that bad.”
Andrew Ladd at The Newstatesman thinks publishers should think about the director's cut.
Besides, what’s wrong with a little naked commercial ambition in the publishing industry, given everything we’re always hearing about the death of the book? There’s clearly a demand for this sort of thing.
Lots of print about the Kindle all you can eat. Almost as much fun as the race between GigaOm and PL in getting the story out.
No big-5 publisher appears to be participating yet, based on my preliminary glance through the test pages. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have both made their ebooks available to Scribd and Oyster, but I haven’t yet seen books from those publishers on the Kindle Unlimited page
Open access is not enough according to The Guardian.
Earlier this month, Nature Publishing Group launched Scientific Data – a broader, interdisciplinary publication dedicated to a more specific type of data paper: the data descriptor. This new category of peer-reviewed publication provides detailed descriptions of individual or combined experimental, observational and computational datasets.
At the Hong Kong bookfair people camp out to get in first and also plan to spend thousands (SCMP)
Vacilando Yip Chun-kit, 18, left his home in Sheung Shui last night and joined the queue at 4am to be among the first batch into the fair.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Photo: High school throw back.


Biggish reunion this weekend.  At one point there were five Michaels in this class.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

MediaWeek (V8, N26) Dangerous Literature, Newspapers, Ranking Publishers, MOOC Feedback + More

More here: Personanondata - The Magazine  via @flipboard

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed, a discussion on when books were dangerous:
The American Library Association, which designates the final week of September as Banned Books Week, has no problem finding titles to fill its annual lists of books under siege. However, these are generally books that have been removed from particular libraries or schools, not the kind of total proscription imposed on Ulysses, as well as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, Lolita, and other works that have since become staples of literary study. Over the decades since the Woolsey decision, authors, publishers, and judges have struggled to parse the differences between "indecent" and "obscene" and determine the meaning of such terms of art as "prurient interest" and "redeeming social value." However, the upshot is that, though sexual explicitness and offensive language are the most frequently cited reasons for which books are now challenged, neither is now a legal barrier to publication or sale.
Publishers Weekly has updated their hugely useful listing of top publishers by revenues:
Although there was a fair amount of deal making among the global book publishing giants last year, those mergers and acquisitions did not have much of an impact on the top of Livres Hebdo/Publishers Weekly’s annual ranking, based on annual revenue, of the world’s largest publishers in 2013. Pearson came in first, with $9.33 billion in revenue, followed by Reed Elsevier, Thomson/Reuters, and Wolters Kluwer. All four educational and professional publishers held the same respective positions on the list in 2012.
Wired Campus blog at CHEd has a look at digital versus print from the AAUP annual meeting last week in New Orleans.
Christopher Schaberg, an associate professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans, said he appreciates well-done print books more now than before the rise of e-books. Mr. Schaberg is not averse to e-publishing; he is a co-editor of the Object Lessons book and essay series, which appears in both print and digital formats. But he pointed out that e-texts aren’t necessarily more efficient for teaching purposes; he recalled a class in which everybody had an iPad but it took much time to get all the students on the same page, so to speak.
On a global scale it has long been arguable that newspapers are dying and here is another look by The Atlantic.
This captive readership is also the bedrock of the business model. Businesses seeking to target immigrant communities often find more value in advertising in these small publications than the mainstream press.

Disruptions like Craigslist, which has bled dry classified sections of large print publications, have had limited impact on these publications. The foreign-language ethnic press is reaching an audience that isn’t necessarily online and doesn’t always understand English. Nearly a quarter of New York’s population, according to the U.S. Census data, isn’t proficient in English.

The result is that many of these publishers can still support their operations with revenue from print advertising. Castaño, for example, makes 90 percent of his money from print ads, with the majority coming from local businesses. “I’ve been profitable since the beginning,” he told me.

That’s also partly because the Queens Latino only has one full-time employee: Castaño. The rest of the work is done by freelancers, and Castaño’s wife does the layout and design.

At the Urdu Times, Rehman has outsourced most of his newspaper’s operations to a small production unit in Pakistan. “I have 18 people working for me in Lahore,” he explained. The copies are drafted there and then emailed to the basement in Queens for proofreading, as are all the page layouts. Rehman and his wife approve everything, and then forward it to the printers. His only full-time employee in New York is an advertising manager, who has his own desk at the back of the store above the basement.
Rowling may be telling the publishing industry what she thinks about the industry in her newest book as contemplated by The New Republic:
It’s also one of ego-maniacs. And the writers, or would-be writers, are the worst of the batch. When the amateur author of erotica describes her work to Strike in rehearsed phrases and sound bites, he wonders how many people “who sat alone for hours as they scribbled their stories practiced talking about their work during their coffee breaks.” (One wonders: Did—or does—Rowling do this?) Meanwhile, Quine’s agent describes him “as a bigger glutton for praise than any author I’ve ever met, and they are most of them insatiable.” Of course, this agent, a wannabe writer with a first in English from Oxford but no novels to her name, turns out to be pretty insatiable herself.
Instant gratification can be a double edge sword for academics serving online courses (The Conversation):
When your classroom is a global one, filled with well-informed online learners, they don’t cut you much slack. Hundreds of people pore over every element of your course, making well-informed and sometime acerbic comments. Academics who run Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are finding that they can’t afford any sloppy reasoning, one-sided arguments, or narrow perspectives when teaching to a massive global audience.

As academic lead at FutureLearn, a company offering free online courses from UK universities, I’ve seen that this instant feedback can be eye-opening for course designers.

On a university campus, students stick around even though the teaching may be dreadful, because they need the degree qualification. In MOOCs they leave as soon as they lose interest.

So far, much of the debate in the United States about MOOCs has focused on the dropout rate. Typically, just 7-10% of students enrolled on a course from a US MOOC provider reach the end. But that assumes completion should be the goal of online learning, and that students who drop out early are failures. Much of the early publicity around free online courses focused on them as alternatives to an expensive campus university education. It’s hardly surprising that the simplest measure of failure, student dropout, has been picked up by commentators hoping to burst the MOOC bubble.
For the music lovers, something from Salon on Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III have recently been given deluxe reissues by Atlantic Records. Each package contains a remastered version of the original album, along with a generous helping of bonus tracks. The first boasts a live set from a concert in Paris in 1969 (which has been floating around the Internet for years) while the second two include collections of rough mixes from the sessions from Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III, respectively.

The remastering is pretty superfluous: These are, and always have been, three of the most perfect sounding rock albums ever made. The rough mixes of II and III, though, are a revelation, casting light on Jimmy Page’s immense talents as a producer and giving us the opportunity to rediscover this band as they were, four absurdly gifted young people making music together, as opposed to the rock deities they’d forever after be imagined as. You can hear Page’s pick scraping string on a demo-ish “Whole Lotta Love,” Robert Plant feeling his way through an early pass at “Ramble On,” Bonzo counting the band back in on a skeletal version of “Moby Dick,” the careful interplay of Page’s acoustic and John Paul Jones’ mandolin on a rough cut of “Gallows Pole.” Listening to the ragged life behind these recordings reminds us, on the one hand, that four guys made these records. It also reminds us, on the other, that four guys made these records. Sometimes being made human only heightens your immortality.
James Bridle in the Guardian tells us why digital art matters:
Given this, it seems crucial that it is also accessible to all; not merely engineers, scientists, politicians and policy-makers, but also artists, commentators and the general public. There has never been a greater need for critical engagement with the role technology plays in society, but there's a corresponding problem with that engagement, as severe now as it was when CP Snow diagnosed it in 1959: the lack of understanding between the sciences and the humanities.

If anything, digital technologies have rendered this problem even more acute, as the vast and smoking industrial architectures of the 20th century give way to the invisible, intangible digital architectures of the 21st. If technological literacy is going to rise, it's going to need the help of artists to enlarge its vocabulary, and the leadership and guidance of cultural institutions to frame the discussion.

Different institutions are approaching this in their own way. This summer, the Barbican unveils its take, called Digital Revolution. The Barbican has form in this area: in 2002, it staged the hugely popular Game On, a retrospective of video games which included everything from original Space Invaders arcade games to Grand Theft Auto. Digital Revolution aims to walk a similar line through the entire history of digital creativity, showcasing not only some of its signature events and works, but also the stories of their creators. According to the curator Conrad Bodman, "It's not a show that just looks at contemporary art, but film, music, video games and design, the way they relate to each other, and sometimes merge into one."
Columbia Journalism Review looks into investments in media for millenninials
This problem goes deeper than man-buns and Lena Dunham, though. This month, for example, the GroundTruth Project, which trains young reporters as international correspondents, launched a project called “Generation TBD: Despair and opportunity for millennials in an uncertain global economy.” It will deploy 21 reporting fellows in 11 countries to dig into an issue legacy media has, at times, treated like a joke—the place of millennials in the economy today.

Although GroundTruth Project isn’t explicitly targeted towards any generation, it is distinctively millennial in its desire to make a difference in the world.

“It’s such a rough time—it’s risky to care too much. We’re trying to build an environment in which caring is fine,” says Kevin Grant, the managing editor.

GroundTruth Project grew out of the international news site GlobalPost; the initial idea was to raise nonprofit funding to cover social justice issues in more depth. The project, says Grant, works “to identify these big stories that impact a lot of people, and we try to identify them before our colleagues at other organizations.” And for “Generation TBD,” the GroundTruth Project, with its team of young reporting fellows, has an in and an angle to this story that older media organizations might not

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Image: Dutch Haven 1970 Pennsylvania


I don't know what a shoo-fly pie is but it must have something to do with wind mills.  I believe this place is still there.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Global Library Budgets Study from PCG



Recently the Publishing Technology business unit PCG released their annual library study for 2014.  Here is the executive summary and here is a link to the downloadable report.

Governments around the world have reacted differently to the economic situation they find their country in. Many have introduced austerity measures, while others have pursued an altogether different policy of stimulus. The plight of national economies is important as it impacts library budgets for the coming year/s.

The IMF reported in April that global economic prospects had improved1. More recent announcements from the IMF suggest that the recovery is bumpy and that global growth in 2013 would be just over 3%2, slightly down on their earlier forecasts. While growth is higher in major emerging economies, there has been a downward shift; within the euro area the recession has proven to be deeper than expected, and in the US the economy is expanding, but not as fast as expected. In contrast growth has been
stronger than expected in Japan, mostly due to the depreciation of the yen.

Similarly to the economic global outlook, the prospects for library budgets in 2014 are more positive - overall library budgets are expected to grow, albeit at a low rate of 1%. The materials budget is also set to increase by 1%. In respect to the underlying serials and books budgets, we see slightly higher increases. By diverting funds from other budget lines libraries indicate they will increase their serials and books budgets by 1.5% and 2% respectively.

Although library budget forecasts this year are more positive than in previous years, many expect information price inflation to be greater than their predicted budget increases and many believe they will be pressed to maintain existing services.

When forecasting further forward, the picture looks slightly better.  Forecasts show that between now and 2017 the materials budget will increase by a year on year average of 1.7%.

In geographical terms, Asia Pacific region predicts the most growth, with overall budgets set to increase by 4.2%. It seems many institutions are able to maintain or improve their holdings.  In spite of the depreciation of the yen, which has reduced the purchasing power of libraries, Japanese librarians are a little more optimistic than they have been in recent years. This is likely due to the new Japanese government introducing quantitative easing and a fiscal stimulus that included a substantial investment in science3. North American and European budgets are largely static, but with a slight negative leaning. The overall budgets for these two key regions are expected to decline by 0.5% in 2014.  Europe presents a slightly more mixed picture - although the overall budget is expected to decline slightly, through the management of various budget lines libraries will be able to increase their serials and books budgets. South America sees marginal increases across all four main budgetary areas, this follows decreases of between 3-4% forecast for 2013.

As economic conditions continue to challenge, the allocation of budgets remains a careful balancing act. Given the optimistic forecasts for 2014, the expectation is that some budgetary pressures will ease as recovery from global recession continues.