Wednesday, September 23, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: 13 European Youth Award winners

An app encouraging people to discover pretty streets by walking instead of taking cars, and motivating youth to engage creating a trendy brand of ‘social projects’ through an online portal are just two of the aims this year’s most outstanding and creative digital initiatives from all over Europe pursue. 17 international experts selected 13 projects having impact on society as Winners of the European Youth Award in the European Youth Capital Cluj-Napoca (Romania).

Two intense days full of constructive debates, passionate discussions and fruitful collaboration led to the most important result of the European Youth Award 2015: thirteen projects winning this year’s contest for young & smart digital social start-ups.

“From the projects I have seen in this competition, there comes out a sense of “wow, I wish I could do that” and the feeling of pride and effort that these people put in their projects.”, says Marsha Tarle, Communications Manager at Telecentre-Europe and member of the EYA Grand Jury.

Among the change-makers of tomorrow who convinced the 17 members of the EYA Grand Jury are two brothers, trying to fight worldwide killer number one with the means of technology: coronary artery disease. In Sweden, they developed a screening and early diagnosis tool based on a machine learning getting smarter over the time. Ultimately, this tool may save many lives.

Although each of the winning projects is unique and stands out for itself, they have one thing in common: high-impact on society through the creative use of digital technologies.

The winning teams come from 10 different countries: Austria (2), Czech Republic, France, Germany (3), Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine. They are invited to showcase their projects at the Winners Event (EYA Festival) in Graz, Austria, from November 18-21. This three-day-long Festival is a unique event combining knowledge, innovation, networking, inspiration and motivation. On the basis of their presentation, the EYA Festival Grand Jury will select the Overall Winner 2015.

Apart from being recognized on this international stage and getting access to the vibrant EYA network, EYA winners gain much more: for instance, students from all over Europe will develop project analyses and each project will be taken under a mentor’s wing for two months. “GovFaces has benefited enormously from the award which played a central role in helping to affirm, validate and legitimize the quality and aspirations of our work.” concludes Jon Mark Walls, CEO of GovFaces his expierience of winning the EYA in 2014.

The complete list of winning projects and Festival program can be found on

Saturday, September 19, 2015

BPN 1713: The Trouble With Digitizing History

The Netherlands spent seven years and $202 million to digitize huge swaths of AV archives that most people will never see. Was it worth it?

Driving through the Dutch countryside near the town of Hilversum, I have an overwhelming feeling that the surrounding water will wash out the road, given that my car is almost level with it. So it’s surprising that the Netherlands’ main audiovisual archives at the Sound and Vision Institute reside in a multilevel underground structure here, ostensibly below sea level.
Sound and Vision, together with two other national institutions, finished digitizing the bulk of the Netherlands’ audiovisual archives last year, for a cost of $202 million over seven years. The project ran smoothly and transparently, digitizing 138,932 hours of film and video, 310,566 hours of audio, and 2,418,872 photos.

Read further at: 

Monday, September 14, 2015

BPN 1712: Launch digital newsstand Blendle in Germany

Newsstands, where newspapers, magazines and a small selection of books are sold, are not uncommon in the streets of Paris. The French call them kiosque.  Starting today, the Dutch digital kiosk Blendle is also accessible in Germany.

The digital kiosk Blendle is already available in the Netherlands since 2013. Soon after the start the service received venture capital up to 3 million euro from the German publisher Axel Springer (publisher of Bild) and the New York Times. The German equivalent of the Dutch service sells newspaper and magazine articles at a unit price of 25 euro cents.

The Blendle formula is new in the newspaper and magazine chain. Up to now, in particular newspapers tried to put up a payment wall, with little success. Only newspapers with financial and economic news were really successful. The formula to sell products at a unit price is new. Variations on this formula already pop up; so is the Swedish company Start-up Readly copying the music service Spotify offering a service of magazines  for they pay a flat rate of 10 euros per month.

Many publishers  welcome the Blendle formula. Yet it is questionable whether Blendle will occupy a crucial place in the newspaper and magazine chain. Apart from this question the digital kiosk will experience a problem in Germany as readers are still ink tifosi; they prefer to read printed paper.

Place in the chain
The formula of Blendle is new. Until now, there were a few services, who provided similar services, but just different; they are the so-called syndication services. These services provided a subscription service to a collection of newspaper and magazine articles. In contrast to the syndication services Blendle sells an article for a flat rate of 0, 25 euro cent. Besides Blendle targets a wide audience, while syndicators  target professional users.

For Blendle it is difficult to assess whether the service will ever be profitable. The history of syndication services shows an upward battle. The oldest digital syndication service LexisNexis dates back to the seventies. In the eighties, the company added the British FT Profile service to its portfolio and LexisNexis itself was acquired in 1994 by Reed Elsevier. The service works globally and has mostly businesses and institutions as customers. A competitive service is NewsEdge, part of Thomson, owner of Reuters.

In the Netherlands attempts were made at syndication services. In 1987 the Dutch Press database in The Hague was established. The service was sold to the newspaper group PCM in 1996 and became part of the archive service Fact Lane, which in its turn was sold to LexisNexis in 2002. One year later in 1997 the syndication service Your News was founded by by Jan van Ottele; the service went bankrupt in 2002.

Profitability for syndication seems to depend on a broad portfolio of newspapers and magazines, subscriptions and professional users. Moreover, the income is marginal. It took LexisNexis more than 10 years to become profitable. It took the British service FT Profile exactly 10 years to become profitable. The other syndication veteran NewsEdge showed a turn-over of 71,5 million dollars after 11 years.illion dollars. And Your News burned 31 million guilders in five years.

Acceptance in Germany
The adventure of Blendle in Germany is uncertain. Of course the digital world has been growing for years. Yet, Germany still is a country of ink tifosi, addicts to printed paper. Dutch news services noticed that, when exporting their formula to Germany. Your News was forced to withdraw within two years after the launch in Germany. also found out that the culture and reading habits in Germany were different. In 2011 the subsidiary of the multinational Sanoma withdrew from the German market after positioning  the news in two years, quoting a slow growth.

Great adventure
Blendle has started a great adventure. Blendle is no syndication service and therefore has no steady income from subscriptions and  has a broad range of passers-by. In June 2015 Blendle claimed 400 000 users in The Netherlands. But the question is how many of these only logged in to test the service using the free voucher of 2.50 euro. For the time being one can suppose that there are more ghost users than paying customers. In Germany the question will how quickly the German Internet users will accept Blendle and come back regularly to acquire articles and pay for them.

Blendle remains a middle man in the chain of newspapers and magazines. Its turn over and profits will be likewise. Let's be honest, the kiosks in Paris have never produced a publishing empire.

Friday, August 21, 2015

BPN: 1711: 2Q 2015 e-book sales Flanders

Sales of e-books in the second quarter of 2015 rose slightly, from 2.8% (in the previous quarter) to 3% of total book sales in the second quarter of 2015. When comparing the second quarter of 2015 with the same period last year, we recorded an increase of nearly 20% in the number of selling e-books. Yet, Flanders remains far below the level of the Netherlands where the e-book sales now amounts to 5.5% of total book sales.

There are more and more titles available as e-books. Compared to last year the number of titles available in digital form has increased by 17%, from 33 344 to 38 855 titles. That is 44% of the title list.

E-books are becoming cheaper!
In the e-book barometer (thanks to CB), we first present how the average e-book price (recommended consumer price) compares to the average price of a paper book. In 2015 the average price of an e-book was only 59.5% of that of the paper book. In 2010 this was still more than 83%. The average price of an e-book also is now 8.89 euros. This trend will please a lot of readers: the e-book is getting cheaper!

Online sales up 18%
This spring, the online book sales increasing rapidly. Online bookstores experienced an increase of 18% compared to the same period last year. It is a trend which has already manifested itself and unabatedly continues in recent years. This trend increases the share of online stores within the total book sales to nearly 15%. Second biggest climber is the independent bookstore with a sales increase of 8.6% in the first half of 2015.

News release: and CB

Friday, July 17, 2015

BPN 1710: Dutch e-books growing in Q2 2015, partly because of subscriptions

Press release CB
June, 17, 2015

The Dutch logistic company CB published its latest figures on e-books in the Dutch language (Q2 2015). It reveals that the number of sales increased by 25% compared to the same period in the previous year. Both the share of e-books in the total book sales and the share of e-books in online sales rose slightly (compared to the previous quarter).

New is the sale of e-books through so-called subscriptions. Subscriptions take in the second quarter of 2015 38% of total e-book sales on their behalf.

E-books by subscription
In addition to e-book sales and loans through the public library system, a new variant arrived: read e-books via a subscription. Through subscription services consumers pay a fixed monthly fee for a ‘unlimited’ amount of books.

Retail price
For the first time CB has analysed the average recommended retail prices for e-books in relation to the average price of the physical book. The price of an e-book was on average 83.6% of a physical book in 2010, but in 2015 it is 59.5%, downing the prices of e-book with 36% since 2010.

Download the e-book Barometer (Q2 2015) in pdf

Thursday, June 25, 2015

BPN 1709: A catalogue of the world

Not many people ever get the task to produce a catalogue of the world. Depending on the format of the reference work, only editors of a new encyclopaedia might be lucky. Such an encyclopaedia should be a picture of the contemporary world and not a reference book filled with Greek and Roman mythological figures. But how do you produce such a catalogue and put it in order? A conversation with a librarian might point you to classifications like the Dewey Decimal Code (DDC) or the Universal Decimal Code (UDC). The DDC and the UDC both consisted of 9 comprehensive categories. With the UDC you could accommodated a document in a category of a document, disclosing also information about the contents of the document by thematic keywords. Within these categories, the lemmas for future articles could be filled in, creating a picture of the different disciplines and eventually developing a picture of the world.

The UDC classification scheme was developed by Paul Otlet 1868-1944). This idealistic Belgian spent his whole life working on cataloguing the world, believing that the more you classified, the better the world would become. Apart from the classification scheme, he designed also index cards of 12 by 7 cm, on which a classification could be written. As the UDC system allowed more keywords links could be established interconnecting these thematic keywords. In this way a catalogue of the world would be created and a basis for an information society. Eventually this catalogue would result in the Universal Book, the book of source crowded, and global knowledge. In 1934 Paul Otlet had built a catalogue of some 12 million index cards which with the support of the Belgian king were housed in the exhibition buildings of the Cinquantenaire in Brussels.   

Apart from the catalogue the venue also serves as a museum of knowledge, the Mundaneum. It demonstrated Otlet’s dream of the knowledge society and how the index cards eventually could be linked together electronically. The museum contained also a room with the latest microfilm equipment and a telegraph room. In the Second World War the collection of index cards and museum collection were destroyed.

Predator of Big Data
Paul Otlet can be seen as a pioneer of the knowledge society. Internet he has never known, but he was certainly contributed to it. Although Americans always ascribe the birth of the concept hypertext to Ted Nelson (hypermedia) and Vannevar Bush, Otlet constructed a mechanical retrieval system in 1934 complete with wheels and hooks which brought the relevant tags/links to the surface. Actually Otlet’s catalogue was Google on paper. His 12 million index cards can be seen as a paper predator of Big Data. 

Reopening Mundaneum
Today (25.06.2015) the Mundaneum reopens in Bergen / Mons (Belgium) with the exhibition Mapping Knowledge. The reopening is in the framework of Mons, European Capital of Culture and has received support by Google.

In 2014 there is a very readable book about Paul Otlet was published under the title Cataloging the world, Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, written by Alex Wright and published as a printed book and as an e-book by Oxford University Press (ISBN 978 -0-19-993141-5).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

BPN 1708: The Dutch computer pioneers (M/F)

Recently a Delft University affiliated company received a grant of 135 million euros for the development of a new generation of computers, quantum computers. It can be seen as a renaissance of the computer building at Dutch universities and scientific institutions.

A movie about the computer earliest construction in the Netherlands is now on YouTube. The film is produced by Google and realized in collaboration with the CWI, the National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science in Amsterdam. The Dutch film has been produced with substantive contributions from science historian Gerard Alberts (UvA), Paul Klint, Research Fellow at the CWI, and computer pioneers Gerrit Blaauw, Dirk Dekker and Jaap Zonneveld. The film is available through the Google Computing Heritage Youtube channel, where Google already shows several web films produced with the aim to provide the European information technology heritage to a wider audience and to acknowledge the computer pioneers of the past.

Although the Netherlands had a company like Philips with an electronic background, the first Dutch computers came from the university. From 1952 onwards, not only scientists studied computers, but they began to develop them. Universities and scientific institutions even started to building them.

(c) ISSG

The first computer in the Netherlands was the ARRA I (Auto Relay Calculator Amsterdam). It was built in Amsterdam by the Mathematical Centre, now named CWI. It was a machine which processed with relays, switches operated by solenoids. In practice, the machine was not really useful. During the presentation on June 21, 1952 the machine was shown in the presence of the Amsterdam Mayor d'Ailly and Minister for Education, Arts and Sciences FJ Th. Rutten. The device had been given the assignment to present the a table of random numbers. It did produce it during the demonstration, but then the computer gave up. Its successor, the ARRA II, was a success. The computer contained radio tubes and transistors and core memory. This computer successfully carried out calculations for the Fokker aircraft factory and Delft Hydraulics. The ARRA I nor the ARRA II have been preserved. From 1995 more universities and scientific institutes such as the TU Delft and TNO started to build computers and from 1958 an industry started to spin out from the academic field with the company Electrologica, which was later acquired by Philips.

The movie is interesting as it focusses attention on hardware. Attention is also paid to the Dutch computer pioneers, not just the male pioneers. Striking is  the story of the computer women. In the analogue era smart girls were recruited from high schools to solve computational problems. In the computer age, these women were trained as programmers.