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.

Monday, May 25, 2015

BPN 1707: Publishing pics online more difficult for archives

In the Netherlands it will be more difficult to publish photographic collections on internet. A ruling from the Amsterdam court judged that copyright from an individual photographer is more important than digital access to collections. The ruling will make it more difficult for memory institutes to publish photographs online.

A Dutch photographer had started a court case against the  International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. Without permission the institute put 221 photographs of the photographer publically online as a digital catalog, though small and in low resolution with name and source. The institute is digitising its collection and has already put 70.000 photographs of its archives online. The photographer claimed 50.000 euro.

According to the ruling memory institutes need to get explicit permission from the copyright holder before putting pictures publically online. They can make use collective agreements with copyright organisation Pictoright. But the court put aside the financial claim as disproportional as only 7 photographs had been viewed 49 times.

With the ruling the court confirms that memory institutions have the right to digitise photographs in their collection and can make them viewable also to visitors internally, meaning on their own premises. Making them publically available online is not allowed, unless with permission.

The court case will be a handicap for memory institutions. But on the other hand the institutions do not have to fear extravagant claims. (The claim reminds of the copyright claims of three Dutch freelancers who in 1997 claimed 300 percent on top of their fee for a newspaper republishing their articles on CD-ROM and online).

Saturday, May 02, 2015

BPN 1706: Will Politico make it in Europe

On April 24, 2015 the US news site Politico started a European edition from Brussels. And according to the founder  John Harris it will be the dominating news organisation in Europe. But will Politico make impact in Europe. When told about the European move, president Obama said: “I think what Belgium needs is some, uh, version of Politico." Did Obama purposely reduce the importance of Politico to nation Belgium and not enlarge it to Europe or the European Union?

At least three serious attempts to provide a European news service have been undertaken in the past. As early as 1982 The Dutch publisher Elsevier undertook the venture Europe Data. This short-lived project was followed by the newspaper The European in 1991. By 2006 the third project EUX.TV was set up. Now in 2005 Politico steps in. It looks like companies in every decade take a shot at it.

Europe Data
Europe Data was founded in 1982 as a joint venture between publisher Elsevier and the regional investment bank LIOF of the Dutch province of Limburg and based in the city of Maastricht. Europe Data was set up as the European counterpart of the American database publisher Congressional Information Services (CIS), which was bought by Elsevier in 1980 for a rumoured 43 million US dollars.  The European database publisher would follow the same CIS business model: making government information available  by multimedia and at a price. For the European publishing house there would be a handicap: the information had to be multi-lingual. By 1987, however, it became clear that the database project EC-Index would never be profitable s Europeans were not used to pay for government information. So the publishing house with 25 people personnel was closed. The multimedia, multilingual and multi-bucks projects had come to an end.

The newspaper The European
The nineties of last century formed an iconic decennium. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 with a reunion of the two German countries as a result. This created an EU-phoria, which led many to believe in the United States of Europe. On these waves, the multimedia magnate Robert Maxwell finally saw a chance to execute an plan he had been working on since 1988: a transnational, pan-European daily newspaper. printed in colour with articles in English, French, and German. In May 1990 he proudly  presented The European, but the circulation on the continent of Europe made hardly any impression on advertisers. By November 1991 Maxwell left ship and was found floating near the Canary Islands. Yet, the project was not over and stayed alive with press barons pumping money in the newspaper hoping that Time Warner or Bloomberg would pass by and pick it up. But by December 14, 1998 the dream of a European news service was over.

In the first decade of the new century a new fresh attempt was undertaken to set up a European news service. With less money than Elsevier and the media mongul Maxwell  business journalist Raymond Frenken, former EU Correspondent for CNBC Europe and former Amsterdam bureau chief for Bloomberg News started in 2006 EUX.TV, an independent digital multilingual television station that covered European Union (EU) policy news from Brussels. The station broadcasted its news videos, interviews and documentaries through its website and through the recently started video service YouTube. The service was acquired by EurActiv, a Belgian video news production company. EUX.TV was most likely too early with video on internet as video was not accepted yet in IT circles. As a service EUX.TV has disappeared between the commercial video production and EU projects of EurActiv.

How about Politico
The new kid on the block is Politico. And they have settled into Brussel with a 40 people editorial staff and deep pockets. But money is no guarantee the operation will succeed. As seen from earlier attempts, there are questions to be solved. From Europe Data it is clear that a business model can’t just be transposed from the US to Europe. The European showed that the United States of Europe does not exist. EUX.TV showed that a European video news service was too early and probably too narrow for a profitable business model.

So far Politico is a multimedia publishing product. Politico is not multi-lingual, serving German, French and Spanish audiences, not to mention another 20 languages, being spoken in the EU. But will the editorial staff of Politico be able to crack at last the dilemma at the heart of the Europe: multi European countries or a European Union?  Of course with Ryan Heath,a sidekick of former commissioner Neelie Kroes, at the helm in Brussels, a European editorial policy looks guaranteed. But was Politico’s report on the taxi service Uber with a Belgium scope and not a Europe one just a slip?

Politico shows a lot of energy.  And their online news service attracts many an eyeball. Besides the company has big pockets and a proven business model. But their Achilles tendon will be in the editorial policy: will the reporting be multi country or pan European? The first litmus test will be the elections in Britain.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BPN 1705: Flanders E-book market up 11 pct

In cooperation with CB has designed a quarterly infographic on the developments of the E-book in Flanders. As in the Netherlands, the E-book in Flanders is on the increase in number of e-book sales compared 2014. Sales of e-books in Flanders have risen by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2015 and e-books now account for 3.8 percent of the total number of books sold in the first quarter of 2015. Remarkably is that 73 percent of the tot E-book sales can be classified as literature (novels, stories).