Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Print… it really will endure

Although I am probably one of the most technically oriented people I know, and always have been, I’m convinced print will be with us for a very long time. Libraries and presses, especially those of the University Press persuasion, have gone through some pretty radical changes in the last few decades. It’s easy to forget that this is really nothing new. There have always been changes in how books are created, cataloged, discovered, purchased…and those processes are simply evolving. The printed artifact, however, lends a sense of the ‘real’ that simply will not be replaced by electronic versions in the near future. By “near” I mean a decade or two. The complete migration away from the printed page may never actually happen, but books may indeed stop being printed in the traditional sense. I’ve opined about this many times, and am probably repeating myself in this very blog– the bottom line is, eventually, presses will be forced away from the ‘just in case’ model into ‘just in time’. There’s just too much waste in the existing processes, and as the technology marches forward to creating high quality printed volumes on demand the business processes will have to adapt. There’s also a very strong possibility that the preference for print will be expressed by individuals who will then bear the cost of their choice. We’ve seen this with so many things; get something online and print it out if you like. My bills and newspapers are delivered electronically, and sometimes I print them out…but rarely. What really needs to happen is for the overall quality of the electronic version, and the mechanisms by which they are delivered, must evolve to provide such a pleasant and useful experience that the user is no longer making a sacrifice. That day will come. As the machines improve, so a generation of readers matures with more exposure to receiving electronic versions of just about everything. Print is a lasting format, and libraries will continue to exist, but the day will come when consumers of information don’t know what they’re missing, and won’t miss it at all.

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Metadata and ebooks

I’m thinking about the problem of linking one title and several ISBNs– this could be called, “the challenge of editions” and used to be limited to soft and hard cover versions of the same work. It was difficult enough for database managers to sort through the issues related to those two (2) possible deliverables; now, with ebooks, many publishers are assigning a separate ISBN for each channel through which the electronic book is sold. Yep, you read that correctly… one ISBN for Amazon, one for B&N, and so on. There is no standardization, publishers do what works for them. On the face one might think it’s not that big of a deal, but when it comes down to building data models designed to describe a particular work the real challenges begin. I’m speaking from the edge of my knowledge at this point, but realize that where there are multiple ISBNs, and multiple delivery channels, there will be at least one URL associated with each of those ISBNs and the expectation that a link will lead to the intended work. Perhaps an opportunity exists to allow for the delivery of pre-filtered data on behalf of those who wish to use raw metadata as a primary discovery tool– think libraries and their catalogs (OPAC). Records are brought into the system, loaded up, and used as a means to provide search capabilities for patrons. With the emergence of patron driven demand, there lies a potential to pre-filter incoming data and only provide those links to editions which the library is interested in presenting to its patrons. So, if a library uses Ebrary’s platform (available through ProQuest) the could receive bibliographic records for works they do not yet own, but carry the appropriate fulfillment link should a patron elect to click-through and request or acquire the title. There’s obviously a lot more to this, and probably as many different permutations of solutions as there are libraries, but this topic of multiple ISBNs being used as key identifiers for linking will be on my mind.

Is E-book Innovation at a Stand Still? | Publishing Perspectives

Is E-book Innovation at a Stand Still? | Publishing Perspectives

via Is E-book Innovation at a Stand Still? | Publishing Perspectives.

For the consumer market, my answer to this headline’s question is: Duh, of course it’s at a standstill. It’s been an uphill battle just getting content out of publishers into a form that can be displayed through digital devices… there really isn’t much difference in the content being produced. Books represent the way content is produced (linear); and while the web and ebook reading devices have the capability to break this mold, they do little to empower authors to create such content. There’s also good old human nature– authors tell stories, whether you’re talking about research or scholarly content or a work of fiction. Those stories are meant to be read from beginning to end…any jumping around in time or subject is at the author’s discretion, not the readers. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’ve come to a point where innovation has stalled a bit. The emergence of ebooks is just the first step toward creating a completely new type of content. Now, copyright and distribution agreements lock content into containers, whether digital or physical, that are familiar. The devices let us do things like look up words or run a web search on a given term… you can’t really call that innovation, because that was being done long before the emergence of ebooks, it’s just a little easier now. What will constitute the next generation of ebooks, the next round of innovation, will have to be something big– something that allows the content to break free from its masters and provides the reader with something really new– now, I might have some ideas about what that might be, but I’ll save that for another post. For now, I’ll just reiterate, yes innovation is at a stand still.

How to use F12 Developer Tools to Debug your Webpages (Windows)

This is pretty neat… ie9 has some tools that beat the heck out of ‘view source’ when it comes to examining web pages. If you’re running ie9, give it a try- just get to a page you want to know more about and tap F12.

How to use F12 Developer Tools to Debug your Webpages (Windows)

via How to use F12 Developer Tools to Debug your Webpages (Windows).

Coupons never left

So, I remember the ’80s… well, I should say, the late-80’s. After the recession, when life was good, the stock market was cool again, and coupons weren’t. We’ve had our ups and downs, but like a pendulum¬†we, as a society, seem to find our center after swinging about. What has proven to be cool is saving money–the last few years has made that a necessity for many, and given the excuse to be frugal for most. Even if you’re not hurting, it’s okay to look for a real bargain. At the same time, the old channels of finding deals vaporized. Newspapers outlived their usefulness¬†and eyeballs moved to greener pastures. The need, desire, and let’s face it, fun of finding a good deal has never left the human spirit. Let’s not forget that those deals aren’t out there to serve the common man, no, they exist to bring customers to businesses. The cheap TV at Wal-Mart brings in throngs of people who end up buying all kinds of stuff they didn’t plan to purchase. Even the concept of a loss-leader has matured and become more sophisticated. Now, we have social media…or whatever you want to call it. Groupon, Living Social, the rest, they have simply taken the concept of the coupon to a new level and put it where modern consumers will find it and take advantage. I was struck by a conversation I had earlier today with an old colleague who was shocked at how well some of her professional associates (think doctors) have been doing with online deals. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to us, however. Professional services, are like any other business. They rely on customers coming through the door and paying money for whatever they have on offer. Now we are faced with deals that are just too good to pass up, and once we are there we just might find something else we like, or someone we like, or a service that makes the transition from ‘want’ to ‘need’. Brilliant. I love a good marketing idea, and using the web to haul in customers with a real value is a win-win for a consumer driven society. The best service providers and retailers are making use of modern marketing tools, and the consumers with money to spend are finding them. Hail to the green stamp, hail to Wednesday coupon book (something found in old newspapers)–they have provided the foundation for today’s marketers to tap into that old human instinct to get a killer deal and grow a customer base. A great business, especially a new venture, would be foolish not to use every avenue to reach customers. It is important to remember, however, that those businesses that depend on the latest promotion to survive won’t…and that’s also nothing new.