As we all know, Borders launched its site yesterday. I was browsing around it today. Their "Magic Shelf" looks identical to B&N.com’s (and not a feature I’m crazy about anyway). The "Borders Media" page seems a bit much – do I really want my bookstore hurling all these authors at me? I’m not sure. And that’s the thing – sure, Borders is doing their website better than Amazon did. No question it is very "bookstory". But does all that bookstore-ness actually mean anything when I can get a book AND a camera AND a set of knives from Amazon – in other words, on the web, why does it make a difference that a bookstore is a bookstore? What’s going to win Borders customer loyalty over Amazon, where people have been trained to go for books for over a decade, and B&N, which has pretty much scooped up the remainder?
I don’t know the answer.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 1:42 pm, Comments (0)
The Big Picture’s out and you can sign up for it here (it’s free, folks!). This issue concerns Microsoft’s shuttering of Live Search Books, which took many of us by surprise, coming as it did just before BEA. We also define ACAP, the Automated Content Access Protocol. Plus gossip about what companies and people are up to, as always.
We’ll be following up with a special issue later in the week (or early next, depending), which will contain an interview with Cliff Guren, Senior Director of Publisher Evangelism for Microsoft Live Search Books. So if you want that in your inbox, you know where to go.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 1:34 pm, Comments (0)
Via Peter Brantley, a link to the Microsoft Live Search blog:
Today we informed our partners that we are ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down next week. Books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes.
This also means that we are winding down our digitization initiatives, including our library scanning and our in-copyright book programs. We recognize that this decision comes as disappointing news to our partners, the publishing and academic communities, and Live Search users….[W]e intend to provide publishers with digital copies of their scanned books. We are also removing our contractual restrictions placed on the digitized library content and making the scanning equipment available to our digitization partners and libraries to continue digitization programs.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 11:13 am, Comments (0)
The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that B&N has put together a team to "study the possibility of acquiring" Borders.
Dollars to doughnuts that team is looking at real estate, at purchasing leases, not at buying the chain outright. As I’ve said before, B&N doesn’t need to buy Borders. But some of their stores’ locations are mighty tasty and the Riggios would be stupid not to look at that. The Riggios are anything but stupid.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 8:26 am, Comments (0)
Yesterday I realized that one of the women in my jury pool is one of my favorite writers. I was delighted.
Her blog is here.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 8:22 am, Comments (0)
The NY Post has a bit on Markus Dohle and the stir at Random House:
Random House is owned by German media giant Bertelsmann, which yesterday said it was dispatching Markus Dohle, an industry outsider with a background in industrial engineering, to take over its American subsidiary.
Dohle was most recently the CEO of Arvato Print, a Bertelsmann unit with 11,500 employees worldwide.
In contrast, Random, the nation’s largest trade book publisher, employs about 5,700, and most observers think that number is surely going to be cut.
"People are panicking and saying it couldn’t be worse," said one Random House author. "On the face of it, it looks like the guy is a complete production bean counter. It doesn’t look hopeful that he’ll share the romantic idea of literature and publishing."
I was thinking about this a lot as I sat through another day of jury duty (these lawyers can’t agree on anything). Coming from the printing and production side of things, Dohle signals a shift to the pragmatic. Olsen, while known as a cost-cutter, was still rather swashbuckling. As we’re on the brink of a recession (are we still on the brink? haven’t we fallen in yet?), it makes a lot of sense for Bertlesmann to focus on systems rather than on hitting a bunch of bestsellers out of the park.
Bestsellers aren’t going to do it for Random’s bottom line anyway – they have bestsellers all the time. Staking your business on that model isn’t making sense anymore. It’s better to look at tightening back-end systems, looking at innovative ways to market titles, and transitioning to digital workflow – THAT is what will keep you going while the economy’s sour, and will put you in a great position when it recovers again. Bertlesmann is being very smart.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 8:09 am, Comments (0)
I’m on jury duty this week and so far it’s not been a brilliant experience. It’s not BAD – there’s wifi, and everybody’s very polite. But it’s no wonder jury duty is mandatory. You couldn’t persuade anybody of their own free will to come in, sit for hours, finally get empaneled, and then the folks who invited you bicker constantly and can’t move anything forward. I felt like I was sitting there watching a very weird household drama between the lawyers for this case.
It’s not a waste of time, exactly – everyone needs a jury when their time comes. But it’s not something I’d ever volunteer for.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 8:58 am, Comments (0)
Delicious, nutritious, and good for your soul.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 10:53 am, Comments (0)
The wonk factor is only outweighed by the coolness factor here: the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, held in Florence, Italy, has released its proceedings. And what I’m really excited about is the article "The Readability of Scanned Books in Digital Libraries." You can download the whole thing, but here’s the abstract:
Displaying scanned book pages in a web browser is difficult, due to an array of characteristics of the common user’s configuration that compound to yield text that is degraded and illegibly small. For books which contain only text, this can often be solved by using OCR or manual transcription to extract and present the text alone, or by magnifying the page and presenting it in a scrolling panel. Books with rich illustrations, especially children’s picture books, present a greater challenge because their enjoyment is dependent on reading the text in the context of the full page with its illustrations. We have created two novel prototypes for solving this problem by magnifying just the text, without magnifying the entire page. We present the results of a user study of these techniques. Users found our prototypes to be more effective than the dominant interface type for reading this kind of material and, in some cases, even preferable to the physical book itself.
It’s about time someone studied this and measured it!!! I remember last year’s BEA where Cliff Guren was showing some differences in competitors’ scanning efforts (ahem) and Microsoft’s; that was very eye-opening, and made me wonder about kids’ books and all the illustrations. Anyway, cool beans!
Posted by Laura Dawson, 10:27 am, Comments (0)
B&N announced yesterday that it’s created a new position: Chief Merchandising Officer. Very smart idea – now they should do it for the website. According to the press release, Carey is quite the powerhouse:
After joining Barnes & Noble in 2003 as Director of Newsstand, Mr. Carey completely overhauled the system for ordering and replenishing magazines and newspapers, developing what is widely regarded as the most efficient supply chain in the industry. Under his leadership, Barnes & Noble has dramatically increased magazine sales, consolidating its position as one of the top magazine retailers in the United States.
Posted by Laura Dawson, 10:37 am, Comments (0)