October 16, 2013
I heard an AAAS podcast about fake academic papers in open access publications. I did not catch much information from the 20 second sound bite. I navigated to Google and keyed this query:
aaas open access journals
The hit I sought was number eight on the search results page. What is interesting is that the current “hot” item ranked below older information. In one case, the hit was irrelevant to my intent filtered by Google’s behind-the-scenes personalization methods; for example, www.sciencemag.org. Another hit pointed to a couple of outdated studies dating in one case from 2005.
And Bing? Same query. No relevant hit on the first page of the Bing results list. What about that Bing off stuff? Maybe baloney?
And Yandex? Same query. No relevant hits on the first page of results.
And DuckDuckGo, the metasearch engine causing some to swoon? No relevant hit.
- Timeliness is not a priority in the free Web indexing systems
- Access to rich media containing relevant information for a user’s query is NOT indexed. For all practical purposes, the podcasts are invisible without prior knowledge
- Junk results are not filtered by any of the systems.
No big deal for me. Just another example of how the simplest query can return some darned interesting results.
By the way, the Google results page include two ads, both from “traditional publishers.” One of the advertisers publishes commercial databases. My recollection is that some of the content in these information services could be viewed as incorrect. In fact, one of the Google advertisers accepted the bogus paper.
What’s my point?
The task of finding relevant, on point information is getting more difficult, not easier. Furthermore, as folks shift to “hectic” modes of work, the idea that most people will double check information before accepting it as gospel may be outmoded.
Stephen E Arnold, October 16, 2013
September 30, 2013
Short honk. I stopped by the LexisNexis booth at the recent intelligence and police conference. I gave two lectures but apparently my topics did not have enough magnetism to “pull” LexisNexis attendees. I rectified the situation by stopping at the LexisNexis booth. I spoke with two LexisNexis professionals. I cut right to the chase. I asked:
How is LexisNexis revenue tracking to the Reed Elsevier plan?
Not surprisingly, the LexisNexis professionals were not able or willing to answer my question. The reason I asked is that I had heard that like a number of other high profile electronic publishing outfits, generating top line revenue growth was getting more and more difficult. Furthermore, delivering a profit to stakeholders and those who “share” in the organization’s profits was requiring quite a bit of ingenuity. I use the word “ingenuity” to refer to McKinsey and Booz Allen-type of cost control.
In my experience, once the easy costs have been trimmed, costs have an odd way of continuing to go up.
After my booth conversation, I saw the news story “Reed Elsevier CFO Resigns.” I assume that the information is correct, but even the rumor of a high level resignation catches my attention. The story reported:
Reed Elsevier PLC said Wednesday its Chief Financial Officer Duncan Palmer has resigned just over a year into the role, citing unspecified family circumstances.
The $16 billion outfit will plug the gap in the C suite. But my question is, “When will the company get back on the growth track, generate services which are “must have”, and have sufficient funds to train booth staff?
In my talk, I mentioned mostly free and advertising supported sources of information. Budgets, despite popular perceptions about intelligence and police entities, are tight. Some of the LexisNexis services are, in my view, very expensive. Using lower cost options makes good fiscal sense. The new Reed Elsevier CFO may find that one business factor difficult to ameliorate.
Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2013
September 26, 2013
I took a look at the data in “Sensor Tower Publisher Worth Leaderboard – iOS – All-Categories”. Alas, there were no data about the methodology, the time period, or the criterion. Serious flaws, but the list is interesting. The list contains some suggestive information.
For example, the list does include game application developers, Facebook, and Google. There is only one property — ESPN — that I consider a traditional “publisher” but I have to stretch my own connotation of publisher to make ESPN a familiar face amongst the new kindergarten class.
Absent are folks like Bloomberg and Reuters. These are companies which have spent money on creating applications which provide these publishers with a channel to a mobile and tablet users. With the demise of NEXT (yet another Thomson Reuters’ new media initiative), I wonder if traditional publishers will make a Sensor Tower type list.
The list contains a large number of games along with outfits like Google. A few years ago, I wrote a monograph called Google: The Digital Gutenberg. Perhaps Google really is a publisher and not an online advertising company.
Assume the listing is accurate for a mobile/tablet demographic. The failure of a traditional publisher to crack the Top 40 underscores the rather disappointing results from the Herculean effort expended by publishers to remain in the game.
Stephen E Arnold, September 26, 2013
September 20, 2013
One of the esteemed reporters at the Washington Post calls for Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who famously bought the paper this summer, to respect the talent already in place at that historic publication. TechEye.net informs us, “Top WaPo Journalist Pens Open Missive to Jeff Bezos.” The award-winning Gene Weingarten recalls another time when he faced demands from on high at another publication:
“Weingarten presents an anecdote from his days editing the Tropic where publishes exerted pressure on editorial to run positive stories about corporate masters Knight-Ridder, ‘inevitably uncritical, nakedly celebratory, and drenched in self-promotion’. He and his colleagues declined, as they were ‘trying to establish a feisty, pugnacious identity, and being a corporate suckup toady lickspittle didn’t fit in with our plans’.”
We love that quote, which so colorfully sets the stage for any changes Bezos may attempt to impose on his new property. This time, though, Weingarten seems at least a little optimistic. He writes:
“You have bought a place filled with enormously talented and dedicated journalists who are, at the moment, terrified at the prospect of change we don’t really understand. . . . You are obviously a good businessman. I hope you have a clear vision of where to take this remarkable enterprise.”
We hope so, too. Investigative journalism, as important as it is to our society, has been fading fast. Will Bezos be the one to save it?
Cynthia Murrell, September 20, 2013
September 15, 2013
Digital books are supposed to replace the dead tree book, but according to the Rough Type blog in the post, “The Flattening Of eBook Sales” says they are do not doing too well. Nicholas Carr, the author, noted at the beginning of 2013 that ebook sales would follow the trend of 2012: decline sales. He pulls data from the Association of American Publishers that state eBook sales only grew 5% in the first 2013 quarter. Adult ebook sales were only up 13.6% and children sales were down 30.1%, partially due to there not being a big book a la The Hunger Games.
The digital book revolution is losing the pressure to chug along and many of the reasons that Carr lists are true. Some types of books are better suited in print:
“We may be discovering that e-books are well suited to some types of books (like genre fiction) but not well suited to other types (like nonfiction and literary fiction) and are well suited to certain reading situations (plane trips) but less well suited to others (lying on the couch at home). The e-book may turn out to be more a complement to the printed book, as audio books have long been, rather than an outright substitute.”
There is also that any Americans have no interest in the format, e-readers are slowing in sales when up against a tablet, and the price difference between a paper book and an ebook is not that much. Do you want my opinion? Staring at a computer screen makes me dislike going home to read a book on my tablet. I like the tactile difference with a printed book and also it does not require a battery, unless you count my imagination.
Whitney Grace, September 15, 2013
September 11, 2013
Interesting. I didn’t think the move toward digital books was fad, but now Rough Type reports on “The Flattening of E-Book Sales.” Blogger Nicholas Carr noted in January that e-book sales had declined last year, and now shares evidence that the slide continues. He writes:
“The Association of American Publishers reports that in the first quarter of 2013, overall e-book sales in the U.S. trade market grew by just 5 percent over where they were in the same period in 2012. The explosive growth of the last few years has basically petered out, according to the AAP numbers.”
Why? Carr suggests several reasons, including my own suspicion—that enthused early adopters have just about finished transitioning their libraries to the digital format. Other factors could include the realization that e-books work better for some sorts of books than others. Perhaps more importantly, e-books save readers much less cash than expected; most are not much cheaper than a paperback version. He also cites the waning popularity of dedicated e-readers:
“Most intriguing, to me, is the possible link between the decline in dedicated e-readers (as multitasking tablets take over) and the softening of e-book sales. Are tablets less conducive to book buying and reading than e-readers were?”
I personally don’t see why they would be, but then I’ve never worked with an e-reader myself—I didn’t see the point when the much more versatile tablets were hitting the market. Is there something special about the e-reader experience?
See the write-up for more facts and figures on e-book sales. Will the decline continue, or will the market settle into a post-novelty plateau?
Cynthia Murrell, September 11, 2013
September 7, 2013
After paying tuition, dorm fees, moving expenses, and for a meal plan, college students can expect to pay an extra six hundred or more on textbooks. Purchasing college textbooks has always had the feel of a racketeering group, where only the book publisher, bookstore, and occasionally the professor who assigns his book to make a couple extra dollars profit. The student is always left out in the cold with barely a few bucks for reselling their books back at a quarter of the price.
Textbooks are also a bother in their physical format, but thankfully there are alternatives in the digital age. Students can buy cheaper digital versions through Amazon and other textbook Web sites, but the savvy student is aware of free resources out there. Lifehacker tells us about, “Download Free, Open Source Textbooks From OpenStax College.” Rice University’s OpenStax College is where many students will be able to find their textbooks:
“This nonprofit initiative is supported by philanthropic foundations and the peer-reviewed textbooks are provided to over 200 universities and colleges, as well as individual students. Currently about a dozen textbooks are available, covering mostly the sciences, but history, economics, and other subjects are coming soon.”
The books are downloadable in EPUB or PDF formats and available to read on mobile devices. The selections are small at the moment, but expect it to grow. The article also points to other free textbook Web resources.
Whitney Grace, September 07, 2013
August 20, 2013
Well, this is an interesting move. PaidContent reports, “iPad Publisher Inkling Nabs $16M and Partners with Pearson and Elsevier.” The series C funding places Inkling’s Habitat platform at the heart of Pearson‘s and Elsevier‘s digital operations. The article informs us:
“Pearson — along with McGraw Hill — has already invested in Inkling a couple times, but now Inkling’s cloud-based publishing platform, Habitat, will serve as both Pearson and Elsevier’s primary digital content development platform, with all of their new digital content being constructed through it. Elsevier will also bring 650 existing medical textbooks to the platform. Right now, Inkling has around 550 titles available for iPhone, iPad and web.
“The $16 million funding round was led by Sequoia Capital. Inkling raised $17 million in August 2011 and an unspecified amount from McGraw-Hill and Pearson earlier that year. CEO Matt MacInnis told me the funding will be used to help large publishers integrate Habitat into their product workflows, as well as to ‘address the next tier of large publishers who will be using Habitat’ by hiring more people.”
Hiring is good, and a few new VPs have already been put in place. Founded in 2009, Inkling strives to reimagine learning materials by breaking down the assumptions that remain from our history with paper-based books. We are reminded of another Elsevier smart-content business, the engineering-focused Knovel, and are happy to see that site is still going strong. We hope Inkling fares as well with this new deal.
Cynthia Murrell, August 20, 2013
August 19, 2013
Print is dead, right? Nope. According to a recent survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports three out every four adults prefer to read a traditional paper book when asked the question: Would you rather read a book in a traditional printed format or on an electronic book-reading device like a Kindle? The results are discussed in the article, “75% Prefer Traditional Book To Electronic Reading Device.” In a phone survey, 1,000 adults were polled about their book reading habits on July 11-12, 2013. The respondents were asked the following questions:
“1. When was the last time you bought a book of any kind – within the last month, within the last three months, within the last six months, within the last year or more than one year ago?
2.When you buy a book, are you most likely to go to an actual bookstore, go to some other retail store, order it over the Internet or download it to your e-reader?
3. Would you rather read a book in a traditional printed format or on an electronic book-reading device like a Kindle?
4. Regardless of what you prefer, do you usually read a book in the traditional printed format or on an electronic book-reading device like a Kindle?
5. Have you ever seen a book title in a traditional bookstore and then, instead of buying it in the store, downloaded it to your computer or electronic reader?
6. How important is the price of books in your decision whether to get an electronic book-reading device?”
Fifteen percent enjoy using electronic devices, while ten percent are left undecided. A 95% confidence level and a 3% margin of error make this an accurate survey, except for a few factors. What was the age group of the respondents? Baby Boomers and older are most likely traditional book fans, because it what they have been conditioned too. Generation X is probably divided in favor and against, while the Millennials are more of a digital generation. The results may be accurate, but the demographics are skewed. Traditional books will be around for a while longer; a niche group will always prefer them like music on vinyl.
Whitney Grace, August 19, 2013
August 7, 2013
I have been following the flood of information about Jeff Bezos’ apparent purchase of the The Washington Post. I use the word “apparent” because it is not clear if Mr. Bezos or Nash Holdings LLC bought the newspaper. For the purpose of this Beyond Search item, let’s assume that a Bezos-controlled entity has the keys to the Lego kit with millions of blocks that the Washington Post represents. Building a profitable newspapers may be like taking the brightly colored blocks and assembling them in just the right way to build a cash machine.
Can Jeff Bezos build a money machine from the many Lego blocks that make up the Washington Post? Image from Lego Corp. at http://goo.gl/QG0xU2.
The obvious point is that Mr. Bezos, an Internet business superstar, sees riches where others see union hassles, declining advertising revenues, and “real” journalism about the most exciting place in the swampy area bordering on the Potomac.
Reuters’ take on the deal was interesting. The story “Amazon’s Bezos Pays Hefty Price for Washington Post.” Thomson Reuters rarely overpays for its acquisitions, so I interpreted the headline as a suggestion that Mr. Bezos’ financial skills are not up to Thomson Reuters’ standards. Both Thomson Reuters and Amazon have cost control challenges, and it is not clear which organization is better positioned for the economic storms which are forming on the horizon.
The Reuters’ story states:
The multibillionaire founder of online retailer Amazon.com Inc may have paid more than four times the price that the financial results of the Washington Post suggests it is worth.
Before the Reuters’ era, Thomson Corp. sold most of its newspaper properties. I wonder if some of the Thomson Corp. era executives are asking, “Why didn’t we meet with this fellow?” Too late now I suppose.
The other interesting angle on the Washington Post deal appeared in “Bezos Brings Promise of Innovation to Washington Post.” (Note: this link may go dead due to the pay wall stuff at the venerable newspaper.) The headline uses an interesting word “promise”. There is no guarantee that Amazon’s WalMart approach will work with “real” journalism. The write up says: