Monthly Archives: November 2017

And here I say to parents

29 November 2017

And here I say to parents, especially to wealthy parents, ‘Don’t give your son money. As far as you can afford it, give him horses.’ No one ever came to grief except honourable grief through riding horses. No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle. Young men have often been ruined through owning horses, or through backing horses, but never through riding them unless of course they break their necks, which, taken at a gallop, is a very good death to die.

Winston Churchill

Cyber Monday Sets New Record as Largest Online Sales Day

29 November 2017

From Multichannel Merchant:

Adobe reported that Cyber Monday hit a new record as the largest U.S. online sales day in history, with $6.59 billion in sales, up 16.8% from $5.6 billion in 2016.

According to Adobe, Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day brought in $5.03 billion and $2.87 billion, respectively. The holiday shopping season so far has totaled $50 billion in online revenue, again a 16.8% increase and more than $1 billion per day. Adobe is predicting this will be the first-ever holiday season to break $100 billion in online sales.

“This past Cyber Monday, the behavior of shopping your work computer during the day is almost completely reversed,” said Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights. “This year, mobile shopping was dominant both in the morning and afternoon, and desktop only staged a comeback in the evening when people were home.”

Web traffic to retail sites increased by 11.9% on Cyber Monday, nearly double the holiday season average to date (5.7%). Mobile set a new record with its first $2 billion sales day. Smartphones accounted for 37.6% of retail visits and 21.3% of revenue, Adobe said, while tablets were used more as entertainment. Gaming devices accounted for 8.2% of retail visits and 9.1% of revenue on Cyber Monday.

. . . .

Gina Ashe, CEO of ThirdChannel, said despite retailers’ optimistic comments over the weekend about online success and steady in-store traffic, doubts remain about brick-and-mortar performance through the rest of the holiday shopping season.

“The vast majority visit stores only after researching products and gifts ahead of time, so they expect staff to tell them something they don’t know about a product, or give them an immersive demo or experience that can’t be replicated online,” Ashe said.

She added if brands don’t prepare staffing, displays and inventory to demonstrate that value when shoppers hit their store, they’re bound to lose interest.

Link to the rest at Multichannel Merchant

Last Vacay Photos

29 November 2017

Mrs. PG and PG spent a few days with their daughter and her family in the Central Valley of California. For those unfamiliar with the Central Valley, it lies between some coastal mountain ranges on the west and the Sierra Nevada mountain range on the east. The valley is 40-60 miles wide from east to west and about 450 miles long from north to south and has a hot Mediterranean climate.

The Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world and provides more than half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. More than 230 crops are grown there, including oranges, olives, peaches, pomegranates, figs, kiwifruit, lemons, strawberries, tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, apricots, and asparagus. The Valley also grows a wide variety of Asian vegetables, primarily for export markets.

The PG’s stayed in a lovely b&b during the visit. It is an old farm house, built in the late 1800’s and owned by the same family every since. Large groves of Valencia orange trees surround the farm buildings, houses and b&b.

The owners have included a lot of lovely touches inside and outside of the old farmhouse. Photos of a few follow:

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How to Get Your Mind to Read

29 November 2017

From The New York Times:

Americans are not good readers. Many blame the ubiquity of digital media. We’re too busy on Snapchat to read, or perhaps internet skimming has made us incapable of reading serious prose. But Americans’ trouble with reading predates digital technologies. The problem is not bad reading habits engendered by smartphones, but bad education habits engendered by a misunderstanding of how the mind reads.

Just how bad is our reading problem? The last National Assessment of Adult Literacy from 2003 is a bit dated, but it offers a picture of Americans’ ability to read in everyday situations: using an almanac to find a particular fact, for example, or explaining the meaning of a metaphor used in a story. Of those who finished high school but did not continue their education, 13 percent could not perform simple tasks like these. When things got more complex — in comparing two newspaper editorials with different interpretations of scientific evidence or examining a table to evaluate credit card offers — 95 percent failed.

. . . .

In one experiment, third graders — some identified by a reading test as good readers, some as poor — were asked to read a passage about soccer. The poor readers who knew a lot about soccer were three times as likely to make accurate inferences about the passage as the good readers who didn’t know much about the game.

That implies that students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

The End of the Social Era Can’t Come Soon Enough

29 November 2017

From Vanity Fair:

Many people imagine 19th-century antebellum America as a frontier fantasia: men with handlebar mustaches sitting in dusty saloons, kicking back moonshine whiskey, as a piano player picks out tunes in the background. In reality, though, life was a little more sordid: Americans spent their time after work in fully legal heroin dens; in 1885, opium and cocaine were even given to children to help with teething. “Cocaine Toothache Drops,” which were marketed as presenting an “instantaneous cure” were sold for 15 cents a box. Today, in the midst of our opioid crisis, we hear about this past and wonder unequivocally, what the hell were they thinking?

I often wonder the same thing when I think about social media and its current domination of our society. Will a future generation look back in 10, 20, or maybe 100 years from now and wonder, mystifyingly, why a generation of humans believed in these platforms despite mounting evidence that they were tearing society apart—being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections—despite the obvious benefits and facilitations they provide? Indeed, some of the people who gave us these platforms are already beginning to wonder if this is the case. Last month, I wrote a piece detailing how some early Facebook employees now feel about the monster they have created. As one early Facebook employee told me, “I lay awake at night thinking about all the things we built in the early days and what we could have done to avoid the product being used this way.”

After the piece published, I expected to receive angry e-mails and text messages from current or former Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram employees. Instead, my inbox was flooded with former (and even current!) employees of these social networks, who confided that they felt the same way. Some even mentioned they had abandoned the platforms themselves. The people who reached out ranged in pay grade from engineers to C-suite executives. Some venture capitalists who once funded the companies, or their competitors, have told me that they no longer use them—or do so sparingly.

. . . .

[T]he social-media boom, powered by the growth of mobile computing, is over. “Whether the tech industry can move beyond mining our social anxieties to sell ads, or feeding our anger to increase engagement, may require renegotiating a new relationship between the Bay Area and the rest of the country.”

. . . .

I deleted Instagram, Facebook, and Snap from my phone. I now log onto Facebook once a month, if that (and it’s more for a drive-by look to make sure no one has messaged me on there, rather than to like a post or comment on a picture). I haven’t logged into Snap in a year or more. I went from sharing a picture on Instagram three times a day, to now doing so three times a year. While I still use Twitter sparingly for professional purposes, I delete the app from my phone on weekends because looking at it either makes me sad, angry, or anxious.

Link to the rest at Vanity Fair

Type & Tell Is Closing

28 November 2017

From Type and Tell:

It is with great regret that we have to announce that Type and Tell UK will cease trading at the end of 2017.

As a result, it is no longer possible to create a new account, and packages and services are no longer available for purchase. All registered users can download files from the Book Editor as Word documents.

Please do this before 9th December 2017 – after this date your T&T Dashboard will no longer be available.

Our customer service centre will remain fully operational until 5.30pm on our last day of business – which will be on 20th December 2017 – so if you have any enquiries about your files or require any further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at hello@typeandtell.com.

Link to the rest at Type and Tell and thanks to Jan for the tip.

It appears to PG that this was a variation of a basic vanity press operation, including:

How independent bookstores thrived in spite of Amazon

28 November 2017

From Quartz:

When Amazon.com burst onto the nascent online retail scene in 1995, the future seemed bleak for brick-and-mortar independent bookstores—which already faced competition from superstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Indeed, between 1995 and 2000, the number of independent bookstores in the United States plummeted 43%, according to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the promotion of independent bookstores.

But then a funny thing happened. While pressure from Amazon forced Borders out of business in 2011, indie bookstores staged an unexpected comeback. Between 2009 and 2015, the ABA reported a 35% growth in the number of independent booksellers, from 1,651 stores to 2,227.

. . . .

Five years ago, [Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School] set out to discover how independent bookstores managed to survive and even thrive in spite of Amazon and other online retailers.

. . . .

Here are some of Raffaelli’s key findings so far, based on what he has found to be the “3 C’s” of independent bookselling’s resurgence: community, curation, and convening.

  • Community: Independent booksellers were some of the first to champion the idea of localism; bookstore owners across the nation promoted the idea of consumers supporting their local communities by shopping at neighborhood businesses. Indie bookstores won customers back from Amazon, Borders, and other big players by stressing a strong connection to local community values.
  • Curation: Independent booksellers began to focus on curating inventory that allowed them to provide a more personal and specialized customer experience. Rather than only recommending bestsellers, they developed personal relationships with customers by helping them discover up-and-coming authors and unexpected titles.
  • Convening: Independent booksellers also started to promote their stores as intellectual centers for convening customers with likeminded interests—offering lectures, book signings, game nights, children’s story times, young adult reading groups, even birthday parties. “In fact, some bookstores now host over 500 events a year that bring people together,” Raffaelli says.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Dave for the tip
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PG is in favor of people being free to start and run businesses which they believe will provide useful products/services that customers will enjoy and pay for. According to the OP, that appears to be what the owners of Porter Square Books are trying to do.

Porter Square Books is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For those unfamiliar with Cambridge, it is full of people who are those associated in one way or another with extremely expensive private universities – Harvard (estimated annual undergraduate cost of $63,025 for tuition, room, board, and fees) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (estimated annual undergraduate cost of $ $65,478 for tuition, room, board, and fees).

Harvard pays its full professors an average salary of $198,400 per year. The median price of a single-family home in Cambridge hit $1,675,000 during the first four months of 2016.

PG is not denigrating Cambridge or its institutions in any way. He has always enjoyed his many visits there. It’s a stimulating and active community environment and right across the river from downtown Boston which offers an even wider range of attractions and amenities for those who are able to afford them.

PG’s point is that the business environment in which Porter Square books operates is probably optimum for a physical bookstore in 2017 and also atypical of most US cities and suburbs.

The population of Cambridge is currently estimated at 105,162. Fargo, North Dakota, Charleston, South Carolina, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, have populations about the same size.

Green Bay has a median household income of $43,063. The median home price is $129,600.

PG wonders how Porter Square Books would do if it were operating in Green Bay.

A quick internet search found something PG had not expected, Readers Loft Bookstore in Bellevue, a suburb of Green Bay, which appears to be doing well as an indie. PG will leave his earlier remarks in place so you can see a failed snark setup in action.

This is a C-span video and PG apologizes for not being able to get it to embed.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?321818-1/readers-loft-bookstore#

Amazon shares to pop another 20% thanks to ‘rapid’ innovation: Goldman Sachs

28 November 2017

From CNBC:

Amazon shares will soar in the next year thanks to its rapid pace of innovation and increased price flexibility, according to Goldman Sachs.

Goldman expects big things from the e-commerce giant at its annual re:Invent conference this week, where analyst Heath Terry sees a number of product announcements. Terry reiterated his buy rating and increased his price target on Amazon to $1,450 from $1,300, implying 21 percent upside from Monday’s close.

“The number of product announcements made during re:Invent has significantly increased in recent years, with more than 15 announced in 2016 versus less than 10 in each of its first 3 years,” Terry wrote on Tuesday.

. . . .

Led by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the company has seen its shares appreciate roughly 60 percent since the start of January, preceding what is expected to be a strong holiday season.

Data from Adobe Analytics showed online Black Friday sales rose nearly 17 percent from last year.

Link to the rest at CNBC

PG is anything but an expert on the stock market, but a prediction (from a credible source) of a 20% single-year increase in the value of a company as large as Amazon is astounding.

An investment in Amazon common stock five years ago would be worth almost 5X the invested amount today. An investment of $1000 in Amazon stock ten years ago would be worth over $12,000 today.

Again, PG is not an expert on the stock market or investing and makes no prognostications about the growth of Amazon’s share price in the future. He cites the share price increase strictly as one measure of Amazon’s extraordinary rate of business growth.

Agencies Are Scrambling to Meet Client Demands for Amazon-Specific Solutions

28 November 2017

From AdWeek:

Amazon is no sleeping giant.

As the Bezos behemoth continues along its unstoppable, disruptive path, brands are increasingly requesting Amazon-tailored services. Agencies have been ramping up their capabilities on the platform and even launching dedicated practices as a response.

Many marketers now view Amazon as a legitimate competitor to Facebook and Google, according to 22squared vp, director of media planning Brandy Everhart. “What they bring to the table is an expensive data set that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of successful campaigns that are focused on driving conversions on the Amazon platform.”

Even brands that don’t sell on Amazon are asking questions due to the power of its search reach and the benefits of its data sets. “Clients want me to increase their engagement in every possible way,” said Matt Bijarchi, founder and CEO of digital brand studio Blend. “We’ve learned ecommerce is also a brand-building opportunity.”

. . . .

Frank Kochenash explained that the agency developed Amazon-related services well before the partnership, offering “everything from strategy to content development to content optimization, paid search management, media management, all on or within the Amazon ecosystem.”

Explaining the Mindshare partnership, Kochenash added that conquering Amazon is a challenge for his clients, as “some are scared and some see the opportunity, but they need an Amazon answer.”

. . . .

Specifically, Kochenash said the Alexa algorithm has “a tremendous amount of control” in determining purchasing patterns, something “brands are rightfully concerned about how to address.” He noted brands face two paths to success on Amazon: either create a great product that results in continual reordering, or have a brand that’s already so strong that customers actively seek it out.

Nick Godfrey, COO of digital consultancy Rain, explained that Alexa was so technologically advanced compared to Siri’s first iteration that Amazon had a “head start” over competitors like Google and Apple. Alexa’s established user base also better justifies innovation budgets for clients and agencies.

. . . .

“If you’re a brand in 2017, you better have an Amazon strategy,” said Godfrey. “The dominance of Amazon goes hand in hand with the dominance of Alexa.”

Link to the rest at AdWeek

PG notes that Alexa was introduced just three years ago and some experts ridiculed the idea. PG has recently read that Hindi and Japanese versions of Alexa are under development.

Gould’s Book Arcade: the political, literary legacy of Newtown’s dusty wonder

27 November 2017

From The Guardian:

If you studied at a university in Sydney, chances are you’d have a memory of one of Bob Gould’s shops. My first encounter was when I was 18 and had just moved out of home into Newtown, with an empty used bookshelf I found on the side of the street.

I unpacked and walked straight to Gould’s Book Arcade on King Street: a legendary, cavernous warehouse-type space, crammed floor to ceiling, side to side, with what seemed to be every used book and dust mite in the world.

The bearded Gould, then in his 60s, sat at the front desk, swamped in piles of paper and peering out into his realm. I asked him for a specific author – something Russian, ostentatious, arts degree-esque – and he slowly pointed from one side of the shop to the other, with a shrug: it could be anywhere out there.

The service was gruff, but it was also kind of perfect, and I spent hours tiptoeing through aisles and over piles that day. I never found the book I came for, but left with so many others that I had to catch the bus back home.

The federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh told his own, livelier memory of the shop in a parliamentary tribute to the activist and bookseller, who died in 2011.

“I was walking down an aisle and brushed past two precarious stacks of books on either side. Both collapsed on me, trapping me for about five minutes, until Bob heard my cries for help and ambled over,” Leigh said.

According to Natalie Gould – who has been running Gould’s with her mother, Bob’s first wife Mairi Petersen, since her father died in 2011– that risk of literary avalanche is one of her favourite things about it.

“It’s always been part of this place,” Natalie says.

. . . .

“It’s the book that falls on your head, or the book that you stumble over – it’s the one that you didn’t know you wanted,” she says. “That’s one of the things I love about this place … secondhand bookshops are much more interesting, and more fun.”

Gould’s Book Arcade has been the dusty wonder of Newtown since it opened on King Street 30-odd years ago, and soon the doors will close. Rising rents have collided with a dip in demand for tattered reads, magazines and preloved records – to say nothing of the looming threat of Amazon – and Natalie and Mairi can no longer afford to keep the place.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG has certainly put in his time wandering around old and somewhat legendary bookstores with no discernible organizational principle, but he wonders if they are an idea that has come and gone.

Is it really fun to regularly stumble around an old store for significant numbers today’s college students and twenty-somethings?

PG can find far more exotic books online than he ever could ambling through a dozen physical stores. Perhaps it’s the incipient codgerdom talking, but PG would rather get the book instead of looking for the book.

He has no problem thinking of a great many more enjoyable activities than looking for books. When finding an interesting book required that he spend time looking through shelf after shelf for an interesting book, PG was willing to put in the time, but now that it’s not, he’d rather not be thumbing through crumbling paperbacks.

Whenever PG hears about an interesting book, it goes on an Amazon wish list and happily resides there, ready for instant download upon PG’s slightest whim. He doesn’t specifically think about it, but the time saved from book-searching goes into book reading which is much more fun.

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