Monthly Archives: February 2014

Barnes & Noble Nook Unit Continues to Sputter

28 February 2014

From The New York Times:

Barnes & Noble said on Wednesday that it would release a new color tablet later this year, even as losses in its sputtering Nook division continued to weigh down the bookseller in its most recent quarter.

The nation’s largest bookstore chain, with 663 stores, said it was “in discussions” with outside hardware companies to produce the new tablet, a sign that Barnes & Noble was rapidly moving away from the production of its own Nook devices. The company did not introduce a new device in 2013.

. . . .

Michael P. Huseby, the chief executive, described the current status of the Nook division, once viewed as the centerpiece of the company’s growth strategy, as “in a rebuilding period.”

In an interview, Mr. Huseby said that while the division in the last several years had focused on making e-readers to promote the sales of e-books, it had pulled back on those efforts. The current emphasis is on increasing content sales, hopefully by forming partnerships with other companies, he said.

“We’re really focusing on, How do we leverage relationships with others?” he said. “We want to retool the company and stop content revenues from declining.”

. . . .

 Mr. Huseby said executives believed that the company currently held about 20 percent of the e-book market, according to their conversations with major publishers. That would be a decline from two years ago when it was believed to be 25 to 27 percent.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

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The most disgusting little blister

28 February 2014

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

First line of Matilda, Roald Dahl

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Amazon’s Move That Should Have Authors Worried

28 February 2014

From Digital Book World:

In a blog post yesterday, Amazon’s Audible audiobooks service announced that it was lowering the royalty rates it paid content creators.

It’s not the first time that Amazon has lowered the amount of money it pays authors and publishers for the audiobooks they sell through its platform and, GigaOm news editor Laura Owen points out, it’s a reminder that Amazon could always change its royalties for Kindle ebooks.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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When It Comes To Women’s Writing, How Do Publications Stack Up?

28 February 2014

From National Public Radio:

If it seems like male authors get more attention, there are hard numbers to back that up: The VIDA count.

VIDA is a women’s literary organization, and the “count” is the result of eight months spent tracking gender disparity in leading publications. VIDA tallies the gender of authors whose books are being reviewed as well as the gender of those doing the reviewing.

The VIDA numbers have changed very little over the last four years. The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, The New Republic and The Nation have all had an overall ratio of 75 men to 25 women, including both reviewers and those reviewed. At The New York Review of Books, it’s 80-20. VIDA’s count director Jen Fitzgerald says the numbers are so clear that they’re starting to change the conversation.

. . . .

“I don’t know the numbers in terms of what’s being published, how many books are by women and how many books are by men,” says Pamela Paul, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. The Timesshowed improvement in this year’s VIDA count: In 2013, the number of male and female book reviewers was almost equal, and they reviewed 332 books written by women and 482 by men. Paul took over as editor during that time, and she says diversifying the book review section was a priority for her.

“It is not hard work at all. That’s the big secret — it’s not hard,” Paul says. “There are so many good books out there by women, and there are so many incredibly good book critics out there who are women. So I actually have to say that I didn’t find it to be an incredible strain. I don’t think any of our editors at the Book Review felt that we were unduly burdened.”

. . . .

But Beha says other changes are needed too. He contends men and women approach the magazine differently with ideas and that may also affect the numbers.

“Speaking broadly, of course, a male writer comes to you with an idea and you say ‘This isn’t quite right for us, try us again.’ If I say that ‘try us again’ in the email, I may get a response the next day with three new ideas,” Beha says. “And there is a tendency, I think, among female writers to emphasize the ‘this isn’t right for us’ part, rather than the ‘try us again’ part.”

Link to the rest at NPR and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

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Amazon Audiobook Royalties Dropping

28 February 2014

ACX is Amazon’s audiobook publisher.

From ACX.com:

The current ACX royalties and $25 Bounty program will be changing. Effective for projects started on or after March 12, 2014, titles distributed exclusively to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes will earn a non-escalating 40% royalty paid to the Rights Holder (or, on Royalty Share deals, split equally between the Rights Holder and the Producer). Non-exclusively distributed books will earn a non-escalating 25% royalty through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

. . . .

We are lowering the royalties as we continue our mission to accommodate more audiobook productions. Our royalties still remain well above those offered by traditional audiobook publishers. Furthermore, we want to encourage authors, and Rights Holders to promote their audiobooks with the increased bonus payment from $25 to $50 (or from $12.50 to $25.00 on Royalty Share deals).

. . . .

On and after March 12, 2014, only the new royalty structure will be in effect for new projects. However until then, the current royalty structure will be honored for any audiobook offers made before that date that are accepted before the offer expires. In other words, any offers made prior to March 12, 2014 that are accepted before the offer expiration date will earn escalating royalties ranging from 50% to 90% (of unit sales of exclusively distributed titles), or 25% to 70% (of unit sales of non-exclusively distributed titles).

Link to the rest at ACX.com and thanks to J.A. and several others for the tip.

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How computer-generated fake papers are flooding academia

28 February 2014

From The Guardian:

Like all the best hoaxes, there was a serious point to be made. Three MIT graduate students wanted to expose how dodgy scientific conferences pestered researchers for papers, and accepted any old rubbish sent in, knowing that academics would stump up the hefty, till-ringing registration fees.

It took only a handful of days. The students wrote a simple computer program that churned out gobbledegook and presented it as an academic paper. They put their names on one of the papers, sent it to a conference, and promptly had it accepted. The sting, in 2005, revealed a farce that lay at the heart of science.

But this is the hoax that keeps on giving. The creators of the automatic nonsense generator, Jeremy Stribling, Dan Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn, have made the SCIgen program free to download. And scientists have been using it in their droves. This week, Nature reported, French researcher Cyril Labbé revealed that 16 gobbledegook papers created by SCIgen had been used by German academic publisher Springer. More than 100 more fake SCIgen papers were published by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Both organisations have now taken steps to remove the papers.

. . . .

Academics are under intense pressure to publish, conferences and journals want to turn their papers into profits, and universities want them published. “This ought to be a shock to people,” Krohn said. “There’s this whole academic underground where everyone seems to benefit, but they are wasting time and money and adding nothing to science. The institutions are being ripped off, because they pay publishers huge subscriptions for this stuff.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Given the draconian contract terms imposed by academic and scientific publishers on authors and the profit margins generated for those publishers, PG can’t get too upset by this story.

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The Web at 25 in the U.S.

27 February 2014

From PewResearch Internet Project:

This report is the first part of a sustained effort through 2014 by the Pew Research Center to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Lee wrote a paper on March 12, 1989 proposing an “information management” system that became the conceptual and architectural structure for the Web.  He eventually released the code for his system—for free—to the world on Christmas Day in 1990. It became a milestone in easing the way for ordinary people to access documents and interact over a network of computers called the internet—a system that linked computers and that had been around for years. The Web became especially appealing after Web browsers were perfected in the early 1990s to facilitate graphical displays of pages on those linked computers.

It thus became a major layer of the internet. Indeed, for many, it became synonymous with the internet.

. . . .

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Adoption: 87% of American adults now use the internet, with near-saturation usage among those living in households earning $75,000 or more (99%), young adults ages 18-29 (97%), and those with college degrees (97%). Fully 68% of adults connect to the internet with mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.

The adoption of related technologies has also been extraordinary: Over the course of Pew Research Center polling, adult ownership of cell phones has risen from 53% in our first survey in 2000 to 90% now. Ownership of smartphones has grown from 35% when we first asked in 2011 to 58% now.

Impact: Asked for their overall judgment about the impact of the internet, toting up all the pluses and minuses of connected life, the public’s verdict is overwhelmingly positive:

  • 90% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for them personally and only 6% say it has been a bad thing, while 3% volunteer that it has been some of both.
  • 76% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for society, while 15% say it has been a bad thing and 8% say it has been equally good and bad.

 . . . .

53% of internet userssay the internet would be, at minimum, “very hard” to give up, compared with 38% in 2006. That amounts to 46% of all adults who now say the internet would be very hard to give up.

. . . .

In addition to this enthusiasm, a notable share of Americans say the internet is essential to them. Among those internet users who said it would be very hard to give up net access, most (61% of this group) said being online was essential for job-related or other reasons. Translated to the whole population, about four in ten adults (39%) feel they absolutely need to have internet access.

. . . .

There is considerable debate about whether online communication—through email, messaging, or social media—has strengthened or weakened relationships. Internet users’ own verdict is overwhelmingly positive when it comes to their own ties to family and friends: 67% of internet users say their online communication with family and friends has generally strengthened those relationships, while 18% say it generally weakens those relationships.

Interestingly enough, there are no significant demographic differences tied to users’ feelings about the impact of online communication on relationships. Equal proportions of online men and women, young and old, rich and poor, highly educated and less-well educated, veterans and relative newbies say by 3-to-1 or better that online communication is a relationship enhancer, rather than a relationship detractor.

Asked for a broad perspective about the civility or incivility they have either witnessed or encountered during their online tenure, 76% of internet users said the people they witnessed or encountered online were mostly kind and 13% said people were mostly unkind.

People were also considerably more likely to say they themselves had been treated kindly than they had been treated unkindly or attacked. And internet users were more likely to say online group behavior they had seen had been helpful, rather than harmful.

. . . .

In possibly the first survey of its kind, in 1983, polling firm Louis Harris & Associates asked U.S. adults if they had a personal computer at home and, if so, if they used it to transmit information over telephone lines. Just 10% of adults said they had a home computer and, of those, 14% said they used a modem to send and receive information. The resulting estimate was that 1.4% of U.S. adults used the internet.

Personal computer owners were then asked, “Would your being able to send and receive messages from other people…on your own home computer be very useful to you personally?” Some 23% of the computer owners said it would be very useful, 31% said it would be somewhat useful, and 45% of those early computer users said it would not be very useful. And 74% of computer owners agreed with the statement, “The trouble with purchasing and bill-paying by computer is that it will be too easy to buy too many things that aren’t in the family budget.”

. . . .

Early researchers were not too far off the mark, however, focusing on computer penetration into American households, schools, and businesses. Twenty-five years ago, anyone who wanted to use the internet needed to have access to a computer. Again, in 1995, 42% of U.S. adults said they used a computer at their workplace, at school, at home, or anywhere else, even if only occasionally.

Now, eight in ten U.S. adults (81%) say they use laptop and desktop computers somewhere in their lives—at home, work, school, or someplace else.

. . . .

Nowadays, desktop or laptop computer access is no longer a prerequisite for internet access. Ninety percent of U.S. adults have a cell phone and two-thirds of those say they use their phones to go online. One third of cell phone owners say that their primary internet access point is their phone, not some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.

. . . .

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. . . .

53% of internet users say the internet would be, at minimum, very hard to give up, compared with 38% in 2006. That amounts to 46% of all adults who say now that the internet would be very hard to give up. Online women are somewhat more likely than online men to say this (56% vs. 48%) and those with higher levels of education and household income are more likely than others to report it would be difficult to give up the internet. In addition, longtime internet veterans are more likely than relative newcomers to say the internet would be very hard to give up: 62% of those who started online in 1999 or sooner say so, compared with 46% of those who started online in the 21st Century.

. . . .

35% of all adults say their television would be very hard to give up, compared with 44% who said that in 2006. And the numbers are particularly striking for young adults: Only 12% of those ages 18-29 say television would be very hard to give up.

Link to the rest at PewResearch Internet Project

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Around Barstow

27 February 2014

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.

First line of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

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Traditional publishing isn’t broken, just antiquated and inefficient

27 February 2014

From GigaOm:

The founders of Inkshares don’t think the traditional publishing industry is broken, just antiquated and inefficient — and they think marrying crowdfunding and the kinds of services publishers used to offer makes for a pretty compelling service for writers and ultimately for readers as well.

. . . .

As with so many other media and publishing-related businesses, the book industry has been massively disrupted by the internet, to the point where an increasing number of authors have found success by avoiding the traditional publishing system altogether. But is the old-fashioned publisher model totally without value? The founders of Inkshares don’t think so — which is why they are trying to create a kind of hybrid platform that combines the benefits of crowdfunding with some of the services that traditional publishers have offered in the past.

. . . .

Gomolin’s co-founder Larry Levitsky, who worked in the traditional publishing industry for many years at McGraw-Hill and then at Microsoft’s publishing unit, says many authors don’t have the type of personality or motivation that allows them to do all the things that are involved in producing and selling a book, such as editing or marketing or distribution. That’s where Inkshares comes in, says Gomolin — it wants to bring the kind of support relationship that authors have with a good editor or publisher to the digital publishing model.

“All the things that go into making a great book — too many people don’t get a chance to be part of that process. We want to be disruptive, but there’s also this love for certain core components of traditional publishing process, like the relationship between an editor and an author.”

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to Jay for the tip.

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Selfie

27 February 2014

Nothing to do with books, but, PG thinks, diverting.

 

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