Paying by the Page

July 2, 2014

“Pay as you go” is a service model that allows you the freedom to pay for the types of services you want to use when you want to you them. The idea is that it saves people time and money. Ola Sitarska introduces us to the concept that books can be applied to the pay as you go model in her blog post: “Experiment Results: Books In A ‘Pay As You Want’ Model.’” The book was published as part of her work at Makerland. Makerland is an open source company that teaches people how to code and use the Internet to their benefit. Their book, Makerland Tutorials, helps people understand basic Internet usage and navigate the many options to help them promote themselves.

Releasing the book as a “pay as you go” project was a complete experiment. They offered a downloadable PDF and a printed paper copy. They advertised is using regular channels: newsletter, blog post, Twitter, Reddit, and news Web sites. The PDF was more popular than the paper copy. The results for the PDF are below:

• “average book was worth $0.87

• 89 out of 490 people paid anything (18%)

• if we extract only people who paid anything, then we have average of $5 per book. median is also $5.

• the highest payment was $20, 4x paid average and 23x average. the lowest one was $0.99.

• we’ve got 4 mailinator emails (of course, they also didn’t pay)

I think this results make me happy. I know they might be better if we invest more time into promotion, but I like this two numbers: 18% of people who paid anything and almost 500 people who downloaded the book.”

For an experiment that relied on free advertising channels and with a minimal investment, the Makerland team as able to make a profit and learned how to improve the “pay as you go” book in the future. Will this be a new way people read books in the future? It is more plausible for non-fiction books than fiction, but why not? Why pay for a book that you don’t end up liking or reading?

Whitney Grace, July 02, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Simon And Schuster Is A Pearl For Oyster

June 23, 2014

Did you know that there is a Netflix equivalent for book junkies? Oyster is a service where users pay a nominal fee and read as many ebooks as they want. Oyster launched fall, but despite good marks it was still criticized for lack of big name authors and titles. That was resolved when Oyster signed a deal with HarperCollins to access their library, but according to The Next Web, “Subscription eBook Service Oyster Adds Simon And Schuster.” It’s a big deal when you consider that Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and Walter Isaacson will be available for download.

While this is great news for bibliophiles, Oyster’s rivals might be unhappy:

“As it gains traction, Oyster could represent a viable alternative to Amazon, which has secured a dominant position in the ebook space. It’s not quite as easy to binge on books as it is to burn through a TV series on Netflix, but it’s great having the option to peruse and skim through titles for an affordable monthly fee.”

Reading does take longer than watching a TV show. You can also do other things when watching T, unlike reading a book. There is competition for Amazon, which helps prevent a monopoly. Oyster should take on Audiophile next.

Whitney Grace, June 23, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Editors Walk Out at Le Monde

June 18, 2014

Struggles continue in the ever-shrinking world of real journalism. The Columbia Journalism Review reports that the “Majority of Top Editors Quit Le Monde.” The walkout is the latest in a series of problems for the influential paper. Writer Edirin Oputu tells us:

“Seven of the 11 senior editors at Le Monde, one of France’s newspapers of record, resigned en masse on Tuesday over a conflict with management, according to reports. A center-left daily founded in 1944, Le Monde was one of the leading papers in the coverage of Edward Snowden’s revelations.

“‘A lack of confidence in and communication with editorial management prevents us from fulfilling our roles as chief editors,’ the editors wrote in a letter to management.

“’We have realized that we are no longer able to assume the tasks entrusted to us, and that’s why we are resigning from our respective posts,’ the editors wrote. They also said that they would continue working to keep the paper running smoothly until a new team was appointed but would then take up other positions.”

Staff members were also unhappy in February when management melded the print and Web departments without consulting them, leaving many concerned for their jobs. And that was before the new managing editor, who is described as “difficult to talk to,” was elected in March. The article also notes concerns about Le Monde’s seemingly unfocused digital strategy; management sidelined plans for a mobile-friendly evening edition without explanation. Is the paper in trouble? Perhaps no more than the rest of the newspaper industry.

Cynthia Murrell, June 18, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Learn Something New Today, With Free-As-In-Beer Downloadable Books

June 13, 2014

The article titled 12 Free (As In Beer) Data Mining Books on Christonard lists many excellent books available for download. Free-as-in-beer, the article explains, means that the download is complete and without payment. Statistical learning books, programming guides, guides to Bayes and Bayesian reasoning are all included in the list with a brief synopsis. For example,

Machine Learning – The Complete Guide – This one is new to me. It’s a collection of Wikipedia articles organized into chapters & downloadable in a number of formats. I didn’t realize they did this, but it’s a great idea. Because it’s a collection of individual articles, it covers quite a bit more material than a single author could write. This is an incredible resource.”

The possibilities are endless with content available for free. The only limitations on knowledge gathering today are time and ambition- based. Anyone with a few hours and the willpower to turn off the TV and Facebook can learn for free. This list in particular shows the appeal to beginners, with the article touting readability and the introductory level that many of the books maintain. They are not short, either. David Barber’s Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning clocks in at 648 pages, and The Elements of Statistical Learning by Hastie, Tibshirani and Friendman has 745 free-to-download pages.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 13, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Publishers Struggling in the Amazon

June 2, 2014

I have been watching the smoke from the artillery fire between Amazon and Hachette. I learned more about monopsony as an up and coming MBA buzzword than I wanted to know. (See “How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon,” New York Times, page A 19, May 31, 2014 and maybe online at http://nyti.ms/1twSPv2). I also learned that Amazon is a bully. (See Amazon’s Bullying Tactics, same newspaper, same page, and same date and maybe online at http://nyti.ms/T1rxlA one hopes.) Then the June 2, 2014 International New York tossed in some personal anguish in “Alone in the Ring with Amazon” on page 17 and not available online as I write this.

Let me summarize the approach of these write ups: Bad Amazon. Good publishers.

It seems that the buggy whip makers are annoyed at the motor powered vehicle. Amazon needs to make a profit, so it is doing what every good MBA-type does. Amazon is trying to increase its margins.

Bad Amazon. Shame on you for wanting to serve your stakeholders.

Let me summarize one of my experiences with one “real” publisher. The outfit is IDC, founded by the now deceased Pat McGovern. IDC published four reports as their own in 2012. No big deal, right? Well, the research for the reports was completed by me. IDC put my name and the names of a couple of my researchers on the reports. But there was one little anomaly in this deal. IDC did not issue a contract and continued to sell the fruits of my labor for two years until my attorney managed to get IDC to remove the reports from its online store. When I pressed for money, the IDC outfit had an human resources person call me to manage this particular human resource. My attorney was able to get a letter from IDC that said, in effect, sign this and agree never to tell anyone that we violated your notion of proper conduct. I did not sign. IDC continues to sell my work under their brand via Amazon too. Yep, square dealing from a real publisher. Do I care? Sure. Does anyone else? Nah, why should they? Aren’t publishers the good buys of the information world. These outfits are, I thought, incapable of nicking, scamming, and double dealing. I keep sending invoices. Perhaps IDC will pay one day? Hope springs eternal?

Was my experience with IDC an isolated incident of a big “real” publishing company trampling on the individual author?

Probably not.

So, when I read about the bully Amazon, my reaction is, “Invade and do the scorched earth thing, Amazon.”

My hunch is that others who have been unpaid and underpaid for their work by “real” publishers may feel the same way. If the author cheerleaders for Hachette and other big publishers are happy with their deals, good for them. When the economics of online shrink those advances and royalty checks, my thought is, “Maybe self publishing is better option?”

For many individuals, “real” publishing may not the Mr. Clean bathroom chemical for every content need.

Stephen E Arnold, June 2, 2014

Elsevier as a Symbol of the Greater Whole

May 27, 2014

Elsevier has recently been reviled in the academic library world for its high profit margins, political wrangling, and skyrocketing invoices. But Elsevier is really just a part of a greater issue, the crisis in academic publishing. Gowers’s Weblog dives in to the nitty gritty of the issue with his post, “Elsevier Journals – Some Facts.”

He lays out the whole controversy around Elsevier and takes a mathematical approach to whether or not the burgeoning open access movement will ever supersede the current model.

The author brings about this conclusion:

“I have come to the conclusion that if it is not possible to bring about a rapid change to the current system, then the next best thing to do, which has the advantage of being a lot easier, is to obtain as much information as possible about it. Part of the problem with trying to explain what is wrong with the system is that there are many highly relevant factual questions to which we do not yet have reliable answers.”

So what is to be done? Well, from the perspective of a librarian, the profession has to roll with the punches. Embrace open access when possible (and of high quality) but hang on to the scholarly journals that professors and students demand. There is no easy solution. We can only hope that the system moves in the direction of greater and fairer access.

Emily Rae Aldridge, May 27, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Failure of Academic Publishing

May 26, 2014

The current academic publishing model has been failing for some time, but it seems things are worse than previously thought. The model is broken: professors have to publish to be tenured, but they have to pay to be published. But the main market for academic publishing is academia, the very employers of these same professors. So the world of education is paying for academic publishing both coming and going. Furthermore, the pressure to publish and achieve tenure can be so overwhelming that everyone starts looking for some relief, or even a shortcut. The National Post has exposed a deeper problem in their article, “It’s the ‘Worst’ Science Paper Ever — Filled with Plagiarism and Garble — and Journals are Clamouring to Publish It.”

The article begins:

“I have just written the world’s worst science research paper: More than incompetent, it’s a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble. Now science publishers around the world are clamouring to publish it. They will distribute it globally and pretend it is real research, for a fee. Welcome to the world of science scams, a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.”

For a long time, academic publishing was protected through the stopgap of the peer review process. But information flows faster now, due to the Internet, and publishers have gotten greedy. In the opinion of this librarian, the importance of evaluating information is now greater than ever. It is no longer enough to trust a certain database, or even a certain journal title, each reader much be a careful critic of the information before them.

Emily Rae Aldridge, May 26, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Amazon Books: The Parable of the Trans Amazon Highway

May 24, 2014

Most people don’t know that I lived in Brazil in the period before the sheep’s foot rollers crunched through the Brazilian rain forest. The environmental adjustment was due to the need to prepare for the massive Trans Amazon Highway. When the project began to take shape, preparations had to be made. Once Rodovia Transamazonia became “official”, decades of political and economic preparation had been underway. By the mid 1950s, the need for BR 153 was evident to anyone who tried to go west from any major Brazilian city. It was an airplane or weeks, maybe months, of multi-modal transportation. Need to get across a stream. Chop down trees and put up a “bridge.”

Pretty darned effective I learned first hand. Source: http://bit.ly/1r3uFMY

I recall riding in a Caterpillar bulldozer equipped with  two sets of sheep foot rollers. Push though the jungle and then drag the rollers over the trees, slow moving animals, and the occasional native’s house, and you are ready to get down to road building. My father, never the environmentally sensitive type, explained that heavy equipment and bulldozing were beautiful: fast, cheap, effective, and potent. And even I, as a child, understood that the natives had to find their future elsewhere. Once the heavy equipment rolled through, the old ways were toast.

I fondly recalled these early lessons from my father, the giant US company for whom he labored as Managing Director, and stunned look on the faces of the people who lived in the forest and scrubland as we rolled through. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the Hachette professionals have that same look: A mixture of surprise, anger, and confusion. The heavy equipment drivers just shifted gears and crushed forward.

I read “As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish.” Interesting because the company appears to be bulldozing its way through traditional book publishing. My thought is that when the bulldozers finish, the old way is either gone or too expensive to continue. Savvy natives packed up and moved to favelas and reinvented themselves. Some were entrepreneurs and others tried to recapture a life in a transformed environment.

Digital bulldozers transform business process landscapes with speed and brutal efficiency. My father would have been proud of this approach to business. His one regret would be that Amazon’s corporate colors were not the flashy yellow and black that he so loved.

There were a couple of points in the “real” journalism article I noted. Let me highlight each and make a short comment.

First, “The literary community is fearful and outraged, and practically begging for government intervention.” My thought, “Once the forest has been bulldozed, it is tough to regrow.”

Second, “But the real prize is control of e-books, the future of publishing.” My thought, isn’t the future clear. Hasn’t Amazon won? If it had not won, why then the surprise that the bulldozer crushed traditional business processes the way the bulldozer took out the natives’ houses?

Third, the statement “If this is the new American way [attributed to writer and former advertising professional James Patterson], then maybe it has to be changed—by law, if necessary—immediately, if not sooner.” Catchy statement, but I thought, isn’t it too late? Regrowing that jungle and moving the natives back is a somewhat tough task.

Fourth,  Amazon allegedly has been making it tough to buy a biography critical of former Wall Street quant Jeff Bezos. My father did not give interviews either. Guess what? The highway was built through the gut of the Amazon.

And the parable?

Once the landscape is changed, going back gets tough. Modern life is not congruent to Rousseau’s fantasy.

Parts of the Transamazonian experience looks like Paramus, New Jersey. Image source: http://bit.ly/1kdwdPz

Amazon, like Google, has been operating for many years, pursuing the same goals, using the mechanisms of online, and building support from people who spend money.

Maybe governments are more powerful than Amazon, Google, and Facebook? The reality, however, is that the bulldozers have already rolled through. The dispossessed, annoyed, and confused can talk. It is going to be very difficult to restore the jungle and the previous way of life.

By the way, search doesn’t work too well on Amazon to begin with. Not being able to find a book is par for Amazon’s course. Bad search helps sales and Amazon’s imperative. I have learned to live with it. Perhaps the publishers, authors, and real journalists should follow my example. Adapt and move on. Yelling at a bulldozer driver and throwing rocks doesn’t change reality.

Stephen E Arnold, May 23, 2014

Real News, Real Journalism: Decades Late

May 17, 2014

Not much to say. New York Times. Going nowhere. Internal hassles. Here’s the scoop, which I assume is sort of accurate. Enjoy this internal report. Innovation.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2014

The Government Printing Office Plays the Name Game

May 8, 2014

According to The Washington Post Article, “Does The 153-Year-Old Government Printing Office Need A Digital-Era Name?” there is a bipartisan bill in the Senate to change the office’s work to better explain its digital age work. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Amy Klobuchar sponsor the bill. It would change the name “printing” to “publishing” and the two titles for the Government Printing Office’s (GPO) head officials would no longer be “public printer” and “deputy public printer,” but “director” and “deputy director.”

“Supporters of the measure say the current GPO name ignores the agency’s past and present efforts to reinvent itself for modern times with digital offerings such as e-books, apps and the Federal Digital System, which allows the public to search for, browse and download official publications from all branches of the government.”

The bill moved to the full Senate on April 10. The federal government funds only 16 percent of the GPO’s budget. The rest of its income is generated by digital and print sales of its products. The name change would better explain how the GPO has advanced availability of its records as well as endeavors to expand itself further. Go for the name change, GPO! The good thing is that the GPO wouldn’t need to change its initials.

Whitney Grace, May 08, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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