Monthly Archives: November 2017

Posterity

27 November 2017

Another reader in the family.

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Amazon 1999

27 November 2017


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Thanks to Christina for the tip.

The Future Of Retail In The Age Of Amazon

27 November 2017

From Fast Company:

The Mall of America’s terrazzo floors, glazed white like doughnut frosting, ribbon out in every direction, creating a vast mirror maze of consumerism with 520 glassy storefronts. Shoppers, who have escaped an endlessly gray Bloomington, Minnesota, sky on a Monday morning in October, drift through the largest mall in the United States like tourists at an Atlantic City buffet. A couple holding hands strolls into a Zales while buttery perfumes emanate from an Auntie Anne’s next door. Kids and some willing parents fling around on the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster, one of 27 rides at the Nickelodeon-branded amusement park on-site. Distant echoes of saxophone Muzak clash with both elevator whirs and bubbly pop songs. Somewhere in this otherworldly commercial expanse are five Lids stores and four Sunglass Huts.

When the mall opened, in 1992, it represented the pinnacle of retail convenience and a mecca for young people to gather and spend. But the $650 million megamall was always “vaguely unreal . . . exuding the ambience of a monstrous hallucination,” as novelist David Guterson described it in a 1993 Harper’sarticle, calling it “monolithic and imposing.” Two years later, Jeff Bezos launched his online book marketplace, which quickly grew into a new type of Everything Store, one that fundamentally redefined the shopping experience and led some to argue that commercial centers like the Mall of America would become gaudy relics of an antiquated era.

Now, Wall Street analysts say, the retail apocalypse is upon us. Amazon dominates e-commerce and has gobbled up 5% of total U.S. retail sales. Some expect that the company will own half the online market within the next five years, a period during which, Credit Suisse predicts, a quarter of all malls will close. By the end of this year, more than 8,600 stores will have shuttered in 2017, the worst year on record.

But here’s the thing about the Mall of America: It’s fighting back. “I hear all this doom and gloom in the industry,” says the mall’s SVP of business development, Jill Renslow, with an upbeat, Midwestern delivery. “I’m like, ‘Folks! Keep your chin up! There’s so much opportunity!’ ” The mall completed a $325 million expansion in 2015, says Renslow, who started working there as an intern in the mid-1990s and has seen it endure recessions and upheaval before. A new 342-room JW Marriott has opened upstairs, and retailers like Zara and Anthropologie are being lured to the space.

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“Amazon alone isn’t holding the knife,” says NYU Stern professor of marketing Scott Galloway, who studies the retail industry. Cultural tastes have changed. Malls grew too quickly, at twice the rate of the population, from 1970 to 2015. Many retailers succumbed to quarterly earnings pressures, invested in share buybacks rather than their stores, became saddled with private-equity debt, or failed to keep pace with digital trends. What we’re seeing now, industry executives say, is a rational, albeit painful, course correction.

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“Retail is under huge pressure, but the death of stores is greatly exaggerated,” says Galloway, who believes that while Amazon will continue to disrupt the market, an increasing number of competitors will discover new ways to respond. “In the age of Amazon, retailers must leverage assets that [Bezos] doesn’t have: When Amazon zigs, retailers must zag.”

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Target’s digital efforts continue to lag. When Mulligan takes me to the back to show off the redesigned storeroom, I don’t see any floor-roaming robots or automated conveyer belts, despite the fact that Target has stated that it plans to use its more than 1,800 stores as fulfillment centers (80% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Target). Instead, I find just one store clerk manually taping cardboard boxes for in-store pickup. Later, when I arrive to retrieve a $14.99 Goodfellow Henley shirt I purchased via Target’s app, the cashier asks for my ID because the flagship store’s smartphone scanner is broken. When I test Target’s new curbside-pickup service to buy paper towels, it fails at three consecutive outlets within the Minneapolis area. Ultimately, I give up.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Inside the Wal-Mart vs. Amazon Battle Over Black Friday

27 November 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

As more holiday sales shift online, both retailers use new tactics, play to their strengths

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. battled to capture spending over the holiday weekend, as the shifts that have upended the retail industry this year were on display: fewer people visited traditional stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday while online purchases continued to surge.

On Thanksgiving evening, Alex and Yanira Garcia, who say they traditionally buy nearly everything on Amazon, chose to stand in line at a busy Wal-Mart store in Westbury, N.Y., to purchase pajamas, toys, a TV and other gifts that filled two shopping carts.

“I heard that lots of stores are giving you deals so you come in the store,” said Mr. Garcia, a 39-year-old cook at an elementary school. “So here we are.”

The number of people visiting U.S. stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday fell 4% from last year, according to RetailNext Inc., which analyzes in-store videos to count shoppers. Meanwhile, online sales increased 18% over that period, said software company Adobe Systems Inc., a shift that is forcing traditional retailers to adopt new tactics.

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Wal-Mart also calibrated the selection of discounted products it offers online versus in stores, U.S. CEO Greg Foran said in an interview.

Online, the retailer offered more electronics and bulky toys that customers want shipped to homes, then stocked stores with additional lower-priced deals like $5 DVDs, pajamas and other items customers prefer buying immediately or are unprofitable to ship, Mr. Foran said.

In stores, “is [Black Friday] the mayhem that it might have been eight or 10 years ago?” Mr. Foran said on Thanksgiving. “I think that world is gone.”

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Rosa Hilburn, 58, was among the first people inside a Target in Houston on Black Friday morning, but she was in and out in minutes with only a small bag of loot—several shirts and a Garth Brooks album for her husband.

Ms. Hilburn said she was “really shocked” there weren’t more people at the store but attributed it to the changing times. “Most people do it online now like the millennials,” she said. “But I still like to see and touch things.”

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

8 Ways For Authors to Waste Their Money

26 November 2017

From The Digital Reader:

Publishing a book can get quite expensive. A good cover designer can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and the editorial costs alone can set you back even more.

While there are many important expenses, there are also many ways to spend money and get nothing useful back. For example, take the Bowker SAN. This costs $150, and is basically a way for you to list your physical address in a Bowker database – something you can do with your website, or  dozen other services, at no cost to yourself.

I recently polled a number of experts, including David Gaughran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joel Friedlander, Victoria Strauss,  Jane Friedman, and Hugh Howey. The following post lists a few of the things they thought were a waste of money.

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Publicists

Of all the suggestions made by the experts, publicists topped the list, with several experts saying that publicists just weren’t worth the cost. “They don’t do much you can’t do on your own, and what they do, they do poorly,” I was told.”They also cost tens of thousands of dollars.”

It would cost less to learn how to do the work yourself (or at least get a virtual assistant to do it), and you’ll get better results.

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Classes on the “Secrets” of Millions Sales

Like most professions, it takes a lot of learning to be a successful author, and you have to keep picking up new tricks all the time. And there are many experts out there who can teach you what you need to know, but there are also a lot of scammers who promise more than they can deliver.

Authors would be wise to avoid any course that promise to show you “the secret” to getting millions of sales. Before you sign up, you should check to see if the “guru” has actually written and sold a lot of books or just teaches marketing courses for a living.

Many of these million “sellers” have either given away most of their copies or sold the copies of their fiction books at a loss. Other have sold hardly any books at all, and are making money from their marketing tips, not from their writing.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

‘China’s Tolkien’ aims to conquer western readers

26 November 2017

From The Guardian:

Guo Jing, a young soldier among the massed ranks of Genghis Khan’s invading army and son of a murdered warrior, may soon become as familiar a questing literary figure as Frodo Baggins from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. In fact, this Chinese fighting hero is already part of phenomenon that can match both of those epics in size. For the books of Guo Jing’s creator, the author known as Jin Yong, have already sold more than 300m copies.

The world’s biggest kung fu fantasy writer, Jin Yong enjoys huge popularity in the Chinese-speaking world. In the west, however, his name is barely known, largely due to the complexity of the world he has created and the puzzle that has posed for translators.

Now, for the first time, the beginning of his extraordinarily popular series, Legends of the Condor Heroes, has been translated into English for a mainstream readership. It is a task that has already defeated several translators, yet Anna Holmwood, 32, from Edinburgh has managed it – or at least the first volume. Her British publisher, MacLehose Press, plans a 12-volume series, with Holmwood’s first volume, A Hero Born, due out in February.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Posterity

26 November 2017

PG has been visiting family over the Thanksgiving holiday. Here are a couple of delightful female descendants of PG and Mrs. PG. The first image is a granddaughter.

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The granddaughter in the following photo never walks when running is possible and produces extraordinarily loud sounds when any of her older brothers infringe upon what she considers her domain. Her motto might be Maximum Speed/Maximum Volume.

Florence court prohibits unauthorized commercial use of David’s image

26 November 2017

From IPKat:

Earlier this week the Florence Court of First Instance (Tribunale di Firenze) issued an important and interesting decision [not yet available], which has been widely reported by newspapers in Italy.

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The Avvocatura dello Stato, this being the body responsible for advising and representing the Italian state (including in legal proceedings), sued a company, Visit Today, before the Florence Court of First Instance, seeking to obtain a decision that would prohibit this from selling unofficial tickets for the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, also using brochures and materials depicting what is probably the most famous guest of this beautiful museum: Michelangelo’s David.

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[I]n Italy moral rights protection is perpetual and also the State [or rather, the Head of Italian Government: see Article 23 of the Copyright Act] can enforce an author’s own moral rights.

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Article 106 of the [Italian Cultural Heritage] Code sets the general principle that for cultural heritage items subject to their own control, the State, the various Italian regions and local public bodies may allow individual applicants to use such items for purposes compatible with their own cultural value.

This means that for-profit uses of cultural heritage under the responsibility of Italian public administration are not generally free: instead, they are subject to preventive authorization.

Articles 107 and 108 of the Code provide that the competent public administration may allow third-party uses of an item – including an artwork – belonging to Italian cultural heritage, subject to the payment of royalties to be determined on the basis of – among other things – the type of use requested and the possible economic gain that the user would obtain from the use of the item.

Link to the rest at IPKat

European Booksellers Cheer as Digital Market Talks on Ebooks and Geo-Blocking

25 November 2017

From Publishing Perspectives:

“We trust that the European Commission will take the specific nature of the (ebook) sector into account,” says the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels’ Jessica Sänger as the EIBF celebrates ebooks’ proposed exemption from geo-blocking.

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When Publishing Perspectives readers last were updated on the “geo-blocking” controversy for publishers and booksellers in Europe’s Digital Single Market developments and the draft law under discussion, the European & International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) had raised the alarm.

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Dr. Jessica Sänger, legal counsel and director of European and international affairs with the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s Publishers and Booksellers Association, geo-blocking is not about “portability” of ebooks and other digital products which customers have purchased, and the EIBF and its member booksellers aren’t against selling ebooks across borders.

Instead, the concern was that the proposed legislation in play over the summer could force booksellers to sell ebooks to users in all EU countries, and that requirement to service the union’s wide range of member nations’ varying taxation levels, fixed prices, and other constraints, would be too costly for many booksellers to bear.

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EIBF’s administration says that it  “notes with great satisfaction that the negotiations held between the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (trilogue) about the geo-blocking regulation were positive. The proposal agreed yesterday [November 20], and tabled by the Estonian presidency leaves copyright-protected material, including ebooks, out of the scope of the regulation and proposes a review clause of two years”–and in actuality, the organization notes, this will put the review near the end of 2020 or early in 2021.

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“It’s very important to us that a proper impact assessment is to be undertaken before traders are potentially compelled to make their Web shops capable of selling ebooks to every member State” in the European Union.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

When is stress good for you?

25 November 2017

From Aeon:

Stress pervades our lives. We become anxious when we hear of violence, chaos or discord. And, in our relatively secure world, the pace of life and its demands often lead us to feel that there is too much to do in too little time. This disrupts our natural biological rhythms and encourages unhealthy behaviours, such as eating too much of the wrong things, neglecting exercise and missing out on sleep.

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The psychologist Jerome Kagan at Harvard University recently complained that the word ‘stress’ has been used in so many ways as to be almost meaningless; he suggests it’s warranted only for the most extreme circumstances or damaging events. But my decades of experience suggest another approach. The insidious power of stress to ‘get under the skin’ was the focus of a MacArthur Foundation Research Network that I joined more than two decades ago, uniting me with social scientists, physicians and epidemiologists around a common problem: how to measure and evaluate stress from our social and physical environments. Our collaboration, continued under the auspices of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, has shown that stress acts on the body and brain, profoundly influencing health and disease.

Our findings are nuanced, starting with the fact that not all stress is the same. ‘Good stress’ involves taking a chance on something one wants, like interviewing for a job or school, or giving a talk before strangers, and feeling rewarded when successful. ‘Tolerable stress’ means that something bad happens, like losing a job or a loved one, but we have the personal resources and support systems to weather the storm. ‘Toxic stress’ is what Kagan refers to – something so bad that we don’t have the personal resources or support systems to navigate it, something that could plunge us into mental or physical ill health and throw us for a loop.

Now let us put these three forms of stress into a biological and behavioural context by invoking ‘homeostasis’ – the physiological state maintained by the body to keep us alive. It is through homeostasis that we maintain body temperature and pH (alkalinity and acidity) within a narrow range, keep our tissues perfused with oxygen and our cells fed. To maintain this steady state, our body secretes hormones such as adrenalin. Indeed, when we encounter an acute perceived threat – a large, menacing dog, for example – the hypothalamus, at the base of our brain, sets off an alarm system in our body, sending chemical signals to the pituitary gland. The pituitary, in turn, releases ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone) that activates our adrenal glands, next to our kidneys, to release adrenalin and the primary stress hormone, cortisol. Adrenalin increases heart rate, blood pressure and energy supplies; cortisol increases glucose in the blood stream and has many beneficial effects on the immune system and brain, among other organs. In a fight-or-flight situation cortisol moderates immune-system responses, and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes, as well as signalling brain regions that control cognitive function, mood, motivation and fear.

Biochemical mediators such as cortisol and adrenalin help us to adapt – as long as they are turned on in a balanced way when we need them, and then turned off again when the challenge is over. When that does not happen, these ‘hormones of stress’ can cause unhealthy changes in brain and body – for example, high or low blood pressure, or an accumulation of belly fat. When wear and tear on the body results from imbalance of the ‘mediators’, we use the term ‘allostatic load’. When wear and tear is strongest, we call it allostatic overload, and this is what occurs in toxic stress.

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Failure to turn on cortisol when needed is bad, leaving the door open for the body’s inflammatory response to compensate in an imperfect way. Too much inflammation can kill us as in septic shock. Failure to turn off cortisol after the stress is over produces negative effects too. Among the consequences are an increase of fat production, leading to obesity, diabetes, depression and eventual heart disease – all contributors to allostatic load.

Given our need for a robust cortisol response in the face of stress, the second misunderstanding about cortisol is the notion that it’s the ‘bad guy’. Rather, cortisol has a normal physiological role; it helps us adapt to stressors and coordinates our metabolism with daily activity and sleep patterns. We would not live very long or well without our cortisol! As my former student Firdaus Dhabhar, now a neuroimmunologist at the University of Miami, found, the early morning rise of cortisol, along with the stress response, activates immune function so that we can fight an infection or repair a wound. Likewise, the normal ‘morning awakening’ rise of cortisol that helps rouse us and makes us hungry for breakfast enhances the body’s response to immunisation if administered in the morning. The body’s response is like an orchestra involving many players working in harmony.

Link to the rest at Aeon

PG notes the holiday season can be an occasion for heightened stress.

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