Monthly Archives: May 2012

From Basilisk to Bandersnatch – Children’s Imaginative Language Use

30 May 2012

From the University of Oxford:

Innovative use of language, a firm grasp of technology, and a thirst for unusual words are just some of the findings revealed about how children use language according to new Oxford University Press (OUP) research.

The research was compiled by lexicographers in OUP’s Children’s Dictionaries team based on an analysis of thousands of short stories sent into a BBC radio competition for children in the UK.

A summary of the report has been released, revealing a wealth of information about children’s patterns in language, grammatical structures, and vocabulary use.

The results show that children are extremely inventive in their storytelling and language use, with many stories focusing on genetic experiments, espionage, and futuristic gadgets. Favourites of the researchers included the ‘fingerlaser,’ a planet-shrinking ‘zaporator’ and the ‘electrostone’, a device that can disable electrical circuits. Robotic hybrids such as the ‘dog-bot’, ‘robo-dog’, and ‘teacherbot’ grabbed adults’ attention in equal measure.

. . . .

The research also found that many of the words contained in children’s stories are repeated from celebrated writers – suggesting a continued love of reading. Words included creatures such as J.K. Rowling’s basilisk and hippogriff, J.R.R. Tolkien’s orcs, and Lewis Carroll’s bandersnatch.

Link to the rest at the University of Oxford

Things need not have happened

30 May 2012
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Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.

Neil Gaiman

TREEbook, a New Time-Triggered E-book Format

30 May 2012

From Publishers Weekly:

In a phone interview, Medallion president Adam Mock said the name of the new e-book format,TREEbook, stands for Timed Reading Experience E-Book, and said the technology goes far beyond adding video or animation to an ebook. The new format will allow authors and publishers to embed multiple storylines, or narrative branches, into a story that are triggered by readers behavior or even lack of action.

. . . .

“The TREEbook is a time sensitive e-book with multiple story branches,” Mock said, “and the beauty is the passivity of the technology. There aren’t active decisions to be made—its not a choose your own ending approach—you can read the book without being aware that the story is changing. The time triggers are not in your face.”

. . . .

Mock describes the TREEbook technology as creating “branches,” and said a TREEbook is “alive and wants you to engage with it.” Once downloaded to a device with TREEbook compatible e-reader software, the book essentially learns your reading style, measuring the reader’s individual reading pace, time of day reading and length of reading sessions and uses this personalized data as the basis for triggering new narrative events in the book. While each TREEbook novel has a main narrative, the format allows an unlimited number of storylines to be introduced based on these triggers. If a passage says the hero has 5 minutes to stop a bomb from going off, if the reader does not keep reading for the 5 minutes, they will likely either miss the bomb or miss a chance to stop the bombing and arrive in its aftermath.

“If you stop reading or forget to pick up the book, the book knows and will continue on and you might miss something. TREEbooks can include all kinds of easter eggs and side stories, its all up to the creativity of the author to come up with new playful options.”  Mock said the publisher can even send out notifications to the book alerting readers that they may be missing new events if they don’t pick the book up within a certain time frame. While Mock emphasized that the books still have “one standard reading experience,” he said, in fact, two friends reading the same book will likely confront different narrative events based on the pacing and quirks of their individual reading habits.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

This sounds like one of those technologies which could be either cool or annoying.

Les Mis – Again

30 May 2012

Les Miserables fans can never get enough.

An Early Self-Publishing Story

30 May 2012

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1849 that Henry David Thoreau self-published A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, his first book. It was an account of the two-week boating trip Thoreau had taken with his brother, John, 10 years before, from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and back.

. . . .

Since A Week was initially rejected, Thoreau was only able to publish it by paying for its printing from its sales. Four years later, after paying off the printing debt, Thoreau wrote in his journal that his publisher had delivered the remaining unsold copies to his home. He wrote, “I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.”

Link to the rest at The Writer’s Almanac

Strange Template Issues

30 May 2012
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PG just noticed that the links at the top of the blog have spontaneously changed their appearance.

He’s working on a fix and apologizes for any inconvenience.

UPDATE: The problem that appeared was that two page links, Contract Collection and Social Networks, had somehow started to wrap so the top Nav bar showed the second word in each of these links on a second line below the first instead of on a single line.

PG’s fix was to edit the title of each page by inserting an invisible space –   – between the two word title for each page.

If this causes the Nav bar to look strange for anyone, please send a message to PG through the Contact link to tell him what you see.

Blowing the bundle bugle

30 May 2012

From FutureBook:

In amidst the (continuing) Amazon-Devil-Daunt discussion, there has been talk of bundling, as if the desire of consumers to buy two versions of each book they purchase had somehow been proven as fact. In a perfect world the idea of buying one edition, and having access to all formats on-demand looks attractive.

. . . .

[F]or the booksellers it is a chance to get punters back into shops, even if they secretly want the e-book; for the publisher it is an opportunity to maintain the value of the ‘package’). Either way, no-one had any evidence, except anecdotes, that it was something the consumer wanted. If bundling worked, said one, why wasn’t Amazon doing it, or pushing for it? One reason could be that for those who have a choice, books are becoming polarised – some are desired only digitally, others remain attractive as print, but rarely are both required (at least not at the same time).

Link to the rest at FutureBook

Passive Guy thinks the concept of bundling an ebook with a hardcover book is a monumentally lame idea.

Who is the target audience? People with Kindles who are married to people who hate Kindles but want to read the same books?

If this is the best ebook marketing strategy that a large bookstore chain can come up with, it’s doomed.

Parents Prefer Reading Print Books With Their Children

30 May 2012

From Digital Book World:

Parents prefer reading print books with their children over digital options and they believe that their children prefer being read to in print, too, according to a recent survey.

A new survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a New York-based non-profit dedicated to studying and promoting children’s reading, asked 1,200 parents who read with their children on what platform they preferred doing so and what platform they thought their children preferred. A majority answered “print” to both questions.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Are You Sleeping With Your Smartphone?

30 May 2012

PG is a sucker for a good headline.

From the Harvard Business Review:

Do you check your wireless device when you’re not working? What causes you to do so? Does the job require it? Do you like feeling needed?

Yes, the client or customer might call. Yes, there are stresses from managing across time zones. Yes, there are real external and legitimate factors that affect how much we work. But, none of this adequately accounts for how much we are actually connected.

Rather, as I discovered in my research, accepting the pressure to be “on” — usually stemming from some seemingly legitimate reason, such as requests from clients or customers or teammates in different time zones — in turn makes us accommodate the pressure even more. We begin adjusting to such demands, adapting the technology we use, altering our daily schedules, the way we work, even the way we live our lives and interact with our family and friends, to be better able to meet the increased demands on our time. Once our colleagues experience our increased responsiveness, their requests on our time expand. Already “on,” we accept these increased demands, while those who don’t risk being evaluated as “less committed” to their work.

I call this the “cycle of responsiveness” — teammates, superiors and subordinates continue to make more requests, and the conscientious employee in us is inclined to respond to these marginal increases in demands, while our expectations of each other (and ourselves) continue to rise.

. . . .

  • Join forces with those with whom you interact most frequently. Agree on a shared unit of predictable time off that you will each strive to achieve — each week (e.g., an afternoon or evening off, email blackouts, uninterrupted periods of work time). Make sure it is something that is doable but a stretch — don’t make it easy or it won’t have a profound impact. It must also be the same for everyone in the group to avoid any incentive to cheat or point fingers. That said, everyone should not take the same time off, rather only the same unit of time off (e.g., a different week night off), so you can learn to cover for each other.
  • Experience the joy of turning off. Many of us don’t know what that actually feels like and are not so sure we even want it — but trust me, you will find it beneficial!

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

PG thinks this can be a big issue with writers who also use social media in their marketing. It’s so much easier to check Twitter than finish the chapter.

Can ‘Bıg Data’ Fix Book Marketing?

29 May 2012

From Publishers Weekly:

Thanks to a new generation of software and computing tools, in the future, book marketing will be determined by data rather than by intuition.

If you’re a publishing executive and you haven’t been reading about Big Data, then you soon will be. Big Data is just what it sounds like—data collections of such enormous size they are awkward, expensive, and impossible to process with conventional computing. Big Data also refers to the ability to use distributed computing—parsing out these huge data sets and processing them simultaneously on multiple computers—plus new software tools and deep analysis to create new kinds of predictive business models that will drive the decisionmaking in the future.

But Big Data is also a broad and informal term used to refer to the vast amounts of raw data generated by global online networks and an ever-increasing variety of data-capturing digital technologies. “All the stuff we do online” is how  Jake Freivald, v-p, corporate marketing at Information Builders, characterized it. His company, a business intelligence and data analysis firm very much involved in Big Data, spoke on the topic at BISG’s recent Making Information Pay conference.

. . . .

In an era when more people than ever are shopping online and consumers are making use of digital apps, e-books, and digital reading devices, all of which capture and transmit a wide variety of usage data back to publishers and retailers, “Big Data holds the promise of helping publishers make better decisions,” Steele said. Publishers can get feedback on how long a reader stays on a certain page or why readers have stopped reading on a certain page. “E-books allow you to modify pricing, and data analysis will let you see how the market responds in real-time, and make changes,” Steele says. Indeed the aggregation, processing, and deep analysis of this kind of data set gives publishers the ability to tie consumer purchases to a promotion, to their friends’ purchases, to reviews, and more.

. . . .

Todd Lipcon, an engineer with the Apache Hadoop project management committee, emphasizes that most publishers will make use of Big Data by way of vendors and middlemen rather than try to set up their own processing in-house. Apache Hadoop is described as the core technology driving the adoption of Big Data and the ability to quickly and economically process the huge datasets. “Smaller companies may not need to use it but they still need to think about the kinds of data they do need to collect and whether collecting more data could help their business,” says Lipcon.

. . . .

“Publishers aren’t quite there yet,” says Dumbill, referring to the number of publishers he sees at the Strata conferences. Utilizing Big Data projections, he says, will mean a shift from “operational applications to creative and profitmaking applications, in other words, the ability to uncover [new business] opportunities. You have to dig deeply into this information and it will change how a business views data. You will find stuff that you might have missed in the past.”

But Dumbill also makes it clear that Big Data “can also be controversial. You may find out that the grand old men that are supposed to know how the business works may not know it so well. It’s a completely different way of doing business.”

. . . .

Bookseer and CoverCake, two recent startups focused on data collection in the book market, have positioned themselves (with differing initial results) as Big Data solutions for book publishers, offering to provide data that will help them decide which promotions are working and which one’s are not.

Launched less than a year ago, Bookseer is a market analysis and intelligence firm based in London and New York, designed to provide data services—with a focus on book marketing—specifically to the publishing market. Started by U.K. publishing veteran Peter Collingridge and technologist Stephen Betts, Bookseer can track and collect data from a wide variety of media outlets—from Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to Amazon sales, Nielsen BookScan sales reports, Google searches, and BitTorrent. After collecting the data, the Bookseer technology can superimpose a timeline of each data feed in a visual outline that allows a publisher to essentially connect the dots. If the marketing department launched an ad campaign or an author is appearing on Good Morning America, Bookseer can provide evidence that a campaign or media appearance very likely caused a spike in print or e-book sales—or didn’t. Collingridge says Big Data has the potential to make book marketing a “demand-driven” practice rather than one driven by supply or by a publisher’s intuition. Collingridge says, “[Publishers] have lots of marketing that doesn’t work and yet they keep throwing money at it because there’s never been a way to measure this stuff. Now, if something’s not working, we can see it and try something else.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

In a former life, PG was an executive with a company that built software used in business intelligence and big data applications.

Massive and sophisticated data analysis is built into Amazon’s DNA. Contrary to popular opinion, PG believes the key to Amazon’s success is not low prices (although they’re important), but paying very close attention to customer behavior and constantly upgrading the Amazon experience for its customers.

Incidentally, Amazon is not the first major retailer to do this. Extremely sophisticated data collection and analysis was the key to Wal-Mart’s rise during the 1980’s and 90’s to preeminence in meatspace retailing. Wal-Mart’s system could allow someone at corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to monitor sales at a single cash register in a store in Minneapolis.

As with so many things, utilizing the benefits of big data may not fit well within the dominant culture of Big Publishing. It requires a giant mindset change and costs a lot of money to do well.

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