Monthly Archives: April 2016

Prince, Estates, and The Future

29 April 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Last week, the death of Prince hit me hard. I was in the middle of teaching the Romance Workshop, here on the Oregon Coast, and working my tail off. A satellite radio station that I always listen to had breaking news—something they never do (which is why I listen to them)—that I could barely hear. I heard “prince” and “died” and “young” so I’m wondering Prince Harry? Prince William? I pick up my iPad across the kitchen to look up the news, and that’s when I see it.

. . . .

I was thinking maybe it was the exhaustion from the workshop, but no. I realized it was because Prince had a huge influence on the way I go about handling business. Doing my work. Taking control of my contracts, my royalties, my art.

I immediately planned an entire blog post on Prince and business.

. . . .

I was still on the fence about how I was going to approach the blog—Prince, control, business, or thinking long-term and contracts—until late yesterday, when I saw on the news that Prince did not have a will.

I sighed. I was afraid of that.

. . . .

Why would someone as smart as Prince about business make this kind of mistake? A million reasons, some of them psychological. None of us believe we’re going to die, not really. And Prince had no children to leave things to. He was famously private, and putting together a will that would handle an estate of that size, with all of its future earnings potential, means that lawyers, financial advisors, and estate planners would have been combing through every aspect of his life, trying to figure out what would happen past his death.

. . . .

Like so many of us, Prince handled his own business. He hired help, of course. Otherwise continuing to be creative would have been impossible. Sometimes he partnered with a record label, sometimes he did not. But he had his fingers in everything.

He had his hands full. Estate planning was probably something he figured he could do later. Of course, later never came.

I’m sure that a lot of projects died with him. A lot has been written just this week about all the music he kept in a temperature-controlled vault at his Paisley Park estate. Speculation about what’s in that vault is rife, but Prince was clear about it. He believed the music in that vault was raw, not ready to be released, for whatever reason. He made conflicting statements about what he wanted done with that music—burned upon his death or eventually released, once it was ready.

It’s not ever going to be ready now, not the way that Prince envisioned, anyway. It’ll be up to whoever ends up managing the estate.

. . . .

I know how much work it will be to manage my estate. A friend of mine, with maybe 20 or so novels to his name, wrote an eight-page single-spaced sheet of instructions to the person who will inherit under his will, explaining terms (like intellectual property) and where the heir can look for more information on things like copyright.

In the middle of this document, which he said I can crib from when I get back to my estate posts, he writes that he has attached a spreadsheet which is a master file to all of his work, including the name of every work published, the ISBN of the print publications, date of publication, what channels the work has been published in, and whether or not the work has been registered with the copyright office. He added a separate file of all his passwords, and then a map on how to find the files (and their backups) for everything he’s ever written.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG says that, while there is lots of material about self-publishing, marketing, promoting, pricing, getting an agent, getting a publisher, etc., etc., Kris is the only writer he knows who has shared thoughts about what can/should happen when an author dies.

A great step forward by Sourcebooks which we expect other publishers will imitate

29 April 2016

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Since I started working with Peter McCarthy, he has been impressing me with the importance of publishers doing “research” in the digital age, by which he means“audience research” done with a variety of online tools. That audience research should inform what publishers do to market their books by identifying, segmenting, locating, and understanding the potential buyers for those books. That enables publishers to “aim” their marketing efforts where they are likely to do the most good.

. . . .

What we were already beginning to see then (and more since) is that many publishers, and by now most of the big ones, have created an executive position with the word “audience” in the title or job description. The responsibilities to address audiences required research as a prerequisite, but it has seldom been framed that way.

This week we were delighted to see that Sourcebooks, a legitimate contender for the title of “most innovative company in book publishing”, has created a “data and analysis” department. As reported by Shelf Awareness in its newsletter (and also reported by Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly):

Sourcebooks has created a data and analysis department that brings together “experts from supply chain, editorial, and sales” to streamline data functions and offer a higher level of analytical support to departments, partners and customers.

The only part about this that is disappointing is that the word “research” is not in the department name or description. But the separate department to specialize in “data and analysis” is exactly what we were advocating when we called for creation of research departments.

It is important to keep the connection between “data and analysis” and “research” in mind because, historically, “data and analysis” in publishing have meant “post mortem analysis” of specific marketing efforts. Indeed, many publishers have “analytics” roles already, but they are not cross-functional and they tend to be focused on analysis of time-honored activities, not applying new techniques on audiences as is enabled in the digital age.

As an industry, we have usually used “data and analysis” to measure the effectiveness of prior activities rather than to understand what we’re aiming at in the future. Being explicit about the fact that “research” is the core function means you are also being explicit that the primary purpose of that function is to aim future efforts, not evaluate the successes or failures of prior ones. Research is seeking to be predictive as well as to inform rapid response to an ever-changing landscape. With most of their existing capabilities and activities, in Pete’s words, “publishers don’t look out; they don’t look forward; and they don’t look ‘big’”.

. . . .

We applaud the Sourcebooks approach to staffing their data and analysis group, which acknowledged that “editorial, sales, and supply chain” needed to participate.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG was going to “comment” about “research” but decided not to.

 

‘Star Trek’ Lawsuit: The Debate Over Klingon Language Heats Up

29 April 2016

From The Hollywood Reporter:

When Paramount and CBS ended last year with a lawsuit over a crowdfunded Star Trek fan film titled Axanar, the two studios probably had no idea that they were about to get mired in an esoteric legal debate about the protectability of the Klingon language. But that’s exactly what’s happened, and with the language of digital coding hanging in the background, a California federal judge’s forthcoming decision could hold significance — so large, in fact, that this otherwise run-of-the-mill copyright action has now drawn an amicus brief from a language society that quotes a Klingon proverb translated as “we succeed together in a greater whole.”

To review, after the Star Trek rights holders filed their complaint, the defendant production company demanded particulars of the franchise’s copyrighted elements. In response, Paramount and CBS listed a lot, but what drew most attention was claimed entitlement to the Klingon language. The defendant then reached back to a 19th century Supreme Court opinion for the proposition that Klingon is not copyrightable as a useful system.

On April 11, that drew an entertaining response from the flummoxed plaintiffs.

“This argument is absurd since a language is only useful if it can be used to communicate with people, and there are no Klingons with whom to communicate,” stated a plaintiffs’ brief authored by David Grossman at Loeb & Loeb. “The Klingon language is wholly fictitious, original and copyrightable, and Defendants’ incorporation of that language in their works will be part of the Court’s eventual substantial similarity analysis. Defendants’ use of the Klingon language in their works is simply further evidence of their infringement of Plaintiffs’ characters, since speaking this fictitious language is an aspect of their characters.”

Before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner gets a chance to rule on a motion to dismiss, he’s now being asked permission to review a friend-of-the-court brief from the Language Creation Society.

The brief, authored by Marc Randazza, begins with background that the Klingon language was invented in 1984 by Marc Okrand for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

“Before that, when actors played Klingons in Star Trek television programs or movies, they simply uttered guttural sounds or spoke in English (Federation Standard),” writes Randazza. “Given that Paramount Pictures commissioned the creation of some of the language, it is understandable that Paramount might feel some sense of ownership over the creation. But, feeling ownership and having ownership are not the same thing. The language has taken on a life of its own. Thousands of people began studying it, building upon it, and using it to communicate among themselves.”

. . . .

Now, with 250,000 copies of a Klingon dictionary said to have been sold, Klingon language certification programs being offered, the Microsoft search engine Bing presenting English-to-Klingon translations, one Swedish couple performing their marriage vows in Klingon, foreign governments providing official statements in Klingon and so on, the Language Creation Society is holding up Klingon as having freed the “bounds of its textual chains.”

Ultimately, the amicus brief comes back to the theory that Klingon is not copyrightable.

“What is a language other than a procedure, process, or system for communication?” asks the society. “What is a language’s vocabulary but a collection of words? The vocabulary and grammar rules of a language provide instructions for a speaker to articulate thoughts and ideas. One cannot disregard grammatical rules and still be intelligible, and creating one’s own vocabulary only worked well for the Bard. Vocabulary and grammar are no more protectable than the bookkeeping system in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 101 (1879).”

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter and thanks to Antares for the tip.

Parts of the amicus brief are written in Klingon.

Jeff Bezos just made $6 billion in 20 minutes

29 April 2016

From Fast Company:

Not a bad afternoon’s work. The Amazon CEO saw his 82.9 million shares increase in value by $6 billion as the company’s shares jumped over 10% in after-hours trading on earnings results that beat expectations.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG would love to know how much Amazon paid authors via KDP.

Amazon tablet shipments surge 5,000 percent YoY

29 April 2016

From ZDNet:

Tablet shipments declined more than 14 percent worldwide during the first quarter of 2016, according to the latest stats from IDC.

The research firm said the decline was due to general seasonality combined with an overall disinterested customer base.

. . . .

As for the vendors, the most dramatic year-over-year change comes from Amazon, which increased tablet shipments by an astronomical 5421.7 percent to claim the No. 3 spot on the list. The tech giant wasn’t even included in the top five tablet vendors in the first quarter of 2015.

Amazon’s growth is due primarily to its range of slate tablets, such as the $49.99 version of Amazon’s Fire tablet, which have become synonymous with the low-end of the market.

For Amazon, the low price is part of a strategy that CEO Jeff Bezos has referred to as “the Amazon Doctrine.” In a nutshell, Amazon cares less about tablets as end products and more as direct commerce channels for users to buy products from Amazon.

. . . .

Apple and Samsung still claim the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, however Apple’s tablet shipments declined 18.8 percent, while Samsung’s dropped just over 28 percent annually.

Link to the rest at ZDNet

Amazon.com Announces First Quarter Sales up 28% to $29.1 Billion

28 April 2016

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon.com, Inc. today announced financial results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2016.

Operating cash flow increased 44% to $11.3 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $7.8 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015. Free cash flow increased to $6.4 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $3.2 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015. Free cash flow less lease principal repayments increased to $3.5 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $1.5 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015. Free cash flow less finance lease principal repayments and assets acquired under capital leases increased to $1.6 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with an outflow of $1.2 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015.

. . . .

Net sales increased 28% to $29.1 billion in the first quarter, compared with $22.7 billion in first quarter 2015. Excluding the $210 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 29% compared to first quarter 2015.

Operating income was $1.1 billion in the first quarter, compared with $255 million in first quarter 2015.

Net income was $513 million in the first quarter, or $1.07 per diluted share, compared with net loss of $57 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, in first quarter 2015.

“Amazon devices are the top selling products on Amazon, and customers purchased more than twice as many Fire tablets than first quarter last year,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “Earlier this week, the $39 Fire TV Stick became the first product ever — from any manufacturer — to pass 100,000 customer reviews, including over 62,000 5 star reviews, also more than any other product ever sold on Amazon. Echo too is off to an incredible start, and we can’t yet manage to keep it in stock despite all efforts. We’re building premium products at non-premium prices, and we’re thrilled so many customers are responding to our approach.”

. . . .

  • Amazon was ranked #1 in corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies in America, according to the 23,000-person Harris Poll. Amazonwas also ranked #1 on the Reputation Institute’s U.S. RepTrak 100 list of the most reputable companies, which is based on more than 83,000 ratings.
  • U.K. consumers ranked Amazon #1 in customer satisfaction in a nationwide poll from the Institute of Customer Service. And for the second year in a row, customers selected Amazon.in as India’s most trusted online shopping brand, according to an annual Trust Research Advisory survey.
  • The Amazon Global Store on Amazon.cn has grown to over 10 million items, providing Chinese customers with an easier and more convenient shopping experience with authentic products curated from the Amazon.com website.

. . . .

Second Quarter 2016 Guidance

  • Net sales are expected to be between $28.0 billion and $30.5 billion, or to grow between 21% and 32% compared with second quarter 2015.
  • Operating income is expected to be between $375 million and $975 million, compared with $464 million in second quarter 2015.

 

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

The Human Brain as a Word Cloud

28 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

The human brain is a living word cloud, turning spoken language into intricate neural patterns of meaning that we all appear to share, new research suggests.

In research reported Wednesday in Nature, neuroscientists at the University of California at Berkeley created a comprehensive atlas of these patterns, showing how shades of meaning in natural speech stir the brain.

To make it, the researchers employed an imaging method known as functional MRI to identify places throughout the brain stirred by the meaning of words in stories told aloud. In the pulsed patterns of neural blood flow monitored by the imaging device, they found a tapestry of responses with narrative threads reaching into more than 100 areas in the cerebral cortex.

. . . .

“These are maps of the meaning in language, not the words themselves,” said UC Berkeley neuroscientist Jack Gallant, a senior researcher in the study. “The brain somehow represents the concepts in this smooth gradient distributed across the brain.”

. . . .

In the new study, volunteers were brain-scanned as they listened to seven stories between 10 minutes and 15 minutes long, originally recorded on the Moth Radio Hour produced by Atlantic Public Media.

These autobiographical narratives ranged from a story of a man who recovers repressed childhood memories to a tale told by a woman who briefly became an exotic dancer.

All told, the anthology comprised more than 10,000 words of narrative speech. The researchers grouped the words into 200 clusters of meaning, such as family, violence, music or touch. Then, as the seven volunteers listened inside the scanner, the researchers calculated the relative strength or weakness of the brain’s response to these concepts at thousands of points in the cortex.

. . . .

The new map revealed a much more extensive landscape of meaning that encompassed both sides of the brain, with a pattern that listeners shared.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

I went to a bookstore

28 April 2016

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

George Carlin

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