Saturday, August 23, 2008

BPN 1198 Audio books become popular in The Netherlands

The holiday season is a great season for print books. However it is also a good season for audio books, according to a survey by the audio book publisher Luisterrijk. No less than 60 per cent of 300 audio book buyers bought and downloaded copies especially for this purpose; 53,5 per cent listen to the books on their way to the holiday destination, while 73,3 per cent listen to the books at their destination. Other favourite places to listen to audio books are the car, the couch and the bed.

The audio book has been long around as a cassette book, a CD-ROM and now MP3. Yet by facilitating to download an audio book a new audience has been discovered. No less than 7 per cent of the audio book buyers have gotten acquainted with audio book in the last two years.

Audio books in the category courses and self development like language trainings are popular during the holiday; most likely people like to improve themselves for their jobs and for moving around in the country where they spent their holiday. For their holiday people also buy audio tours and audio books for children (to keep them quiet for the trip to France or Germany). Yet the most requested audio books regardless of the season are novels, literature and thrillers.

Interesting is the response to the question whether people buy less print books in favour of audio books. A majority of 80,7 percent says that the audio book is a supplement to print books. Only 20 per cent sees it a replacement. This indicates that the audio book is no longer the exclusive domain of people with a reading disability.

In The Netherlands more than 500 audio books in Dutch can be downloaded. By the end of the year 650 audio books will be available for MP3 downloading.

Audio books are mostly downloaded to MP3 players. Only 18,1 percent burn the books on CD-ROMs, most likely to be played in the car. The majority of respondents indicate to buy and download more audio books. Buying CD-ROMs is on the way out.

By November a new way of publishing audio books will be introduced in The Netherlands by the publishing company Cossee. The publishing House a catalogue of more than 50 titles and has sold more than 300.000 copies of audio books since its foundation. Books will become available on SD cards, so that they can be listened to on a mobile, laptop or on their gps-navigation system. The first audio book on SD card will be The Reade by the German author Bernhard Schlink, a novel which has been translated in 41 languages and has attracted millions of readers worldwide.

Blog Posting Number 1188

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Update 22July, 2008 Bertelsmann in race for Reed Business information

Bertelsmann through Grunner un Jahr has shown interest in acquiring Reed Business Information division from Reed Elsevier, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The bidding process has started with interest from capitl investment companies such as Bain Capital, but also from publishers like McGraw Hill. The take over amount is likely to be over 1 billion euro.

BPN 1197 A license fee on your PC

The UK newspapers regularly have a survey about the TV license fee, a subject which make UK people nervous. When the subject is brought up, they see all kind of moon and Mars cars swirling around the house.

Of course the fee of 139,50 pound (177 euro) is a hefty sum. And what do you get for it on BBC? Officially you get radio and television without advertisement. The license fee pays for 75 per cent of the costs of the BBC; the other 25 per cent comes out of a mix of revenues such as international fees for radio and television passing as well as rights to multimedia productions.

(Yesterdai the news broke that a BBC manager, who has worked for 39 years with the BBC, was to get a departure bonus of no less than 4 million pound. Of course this money comes from the coffers of the license fee).

But there is also good news for the BBC. A survey said: 61 per cent of the 2.021 Brits called the BBC their favourite station. The Scots were less happy as they think that the BBC is not representative for the way they live. Groups with low income have little sympathy for the license fee. From the survey it was clear that the license fee is not an ideal way to finance the BBC and only the BBC.

The UK is still a country which has the cursed license and all the myths around it. I have lived in the UK and have seen the way people behave towards the inspectors of the license fee. As soon as a strange car turns into the street, people will take a close look to see whether the inspectors are checking. Just have a look at lime@marmalade.net, a blog on how to circumvent paying the license fee. And the license fee is still a good subject for an April’s fool day joke and a race for aluminium foil.

(c) Wikipedia
In Belgium and the Netherlands the license fee has vanished. The fee is now in the tax people are paying, regardless whether they have a radio or television and regardless whether they listen or not.In Germany the license fee is still levied and even worse, also computers are seen as radio and television devices. Does the lady of the house own a car with radio, she will have to pay up the Rundfunkgebühren, the license fee. And even a smart mobile telephone (or Handy as the Germans say) is seen as a television and can be charged for 17,30 euro a month. The department charged collecting the license fees is involved in many court cases, which so far have various rulings.

Even if the license fee has been dispensed with like in Belgium and The Netherlands, things will become even more crazy when the collecting societies start following that same line of device thinking. You will have to indicate on a form how many PCs are in the home or the company and you will be levied accordingly.

Blog Posting Number: 1197

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

BPN 1196 High speeds, deceleration of internet traffic?

This week I noticed an article on the growth of Internet by on Z24, a Dutch business site. The article contained a portrait. I immediately recognised Andrew Odlyzko, now a professor at the University of Minnesota, from the picture. I visited him in 1999, when he was still working at ATT Bell Labs, while I was on a consultancy assignment about scientific electronic publishing. Andrew is a prolific author on the wired world (as his homepage shows). Almost all his articles are available online, even in a pre-print form (!). He writies about electronic publishing, but also on electronic money. And he is not using the commonplace argumentsin fact he can be rather contrary to common opinion as he showed with his article Content is not king in 2001. He goes deeper and takes arguments for example from internet traffic.

This time he was back on the subject of the growth of internet. Of course we have heard the stories of internet being choked with all the traffic. In 1999 he already wrote that this was a fallacy: The thesis of Internet time rests largely on a misreading of transient phenomena. One often-recited factoid, for example, has it that Internet traffic has been doubling every three months, which corresponds to an astronomically high annual growth rate of about 1,500 percent. In truth, however, Net traffic grew at that torrid pace for one brief period during 1995-96. Since then, annual growth in traffic has been in the neighborhood of 100 percent—still an impressive statistic, but not nearly as earth-shattering as the myth would have us believe.

I looked up his list of articles and found the most recent article on this subject: Threats to the Internet: Too much or too little growth. Looking at his arguments, they did not basically change much from his 1998 pre-print Data networks are lightly utilized, and will stay that way, which was published in 2003. The abstract reads: The popular press often extolls packet networks as much more efficient than switched voice networks in utilizing transmission lines. This impression is reinforced by the delays experienced on the Internet and the famous graphs for traffic patterns through the major exchange points on the Internet, which suggest that networks are running at full capacity. This paper shows the popular impression is incorrect; data networks are very lightly utilized compared to the telephone network. Even the backbones of the Internet are run at lower fractions (10% to 15%) of their capacity than the switched voice network (which operates at over 30% of capacity on average). Private line networks are utilized far less intensively (at 3% to 5%). Further, this situation is likely to persist. The low utilization of data networks compared to voice phone networks is not a symptom of waste. It comes from different patterns of use, lumpy capacity of transmission facilities, and the high growth rate of the industry.

But this time the 2008 article has a twist. His tentative conclusion is that the industry should worry more about inducing higher growth rates of Internet traffic, and less about imposing limits. That there are grounds for concern is shown by the example of Hong Kong (see MINTS for links to detailed government-collected statistics). Traffic levels there are about 6x those of the U.S., and the speeds of residential connections make those in the U.S. seem laughable. Yet traffic growth in Hong Kong has decelerated, and at the end of 2007 was down to almost 20 per cent per year. Such rates, far below rates of progress in transmission technology, should strike fear in the hearts and minds of telecom professionals.

So Hong Kong with fast connections and a very high traffic rate, is showing a deceleration of internet growth for 2007 almost 20 per cent. That is interesting. I am wondering what is going to happen in The Netherlands. Presently the glass fiber projects pop up like mushrooms all over the place. By 2010 many urban home will have a fast connection ranging from 60Mb to 100Mb. Will the internet traffic go down as well like in Hong Kong?

Blog Posting Number 1196

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BPN 1195 Bertelsmann shifts in tier gear

Bertelsmann has recently announced to leave the music business by selling its 50 per cent of Sony BMG to Sony. It will keep some music rights business, but it will mean that Bertelsmann is concentrating on fewer tiers in publishing. What has grown from a German publisher into a worldwide entertainment company, will now specialise in broadcast services, including online, and print products.

Bertelsmann has been in music business since 1958, when it founded the Ariola label and set up its own vinyl record lines in the company base Gutersloh (Germany). As it grew the company bought entertainment companies like RCA Victor. By 2004 Bertelsmann became partner in the joint-venture Sony BMG with Sony Music. Now the holding Bertelsmann AG has decided to sell its shares in this joint venture and leave the music business. Most renown fact of Bertelsmann music was the loan of 80 million dollar it wanted to give to the online service Napster, which was seen an illegal download service by the other four major music companies. The deal fell through and Napster went bankrupt.

The 750 million euro Bertelsmann will get by selling its shares in Sony BMG will go to the RTL Group’s television business. By beefing up the television segment, Bertelsmann indicates that it wants to be a major player in the European television market.

By amputating the music business from its business, Bertelsmann has started to shift into the tier gear. From a general publishing company with books, newspapers and magazines, music and television and with book clubs, the company is narrowing its field of activity. The company was between 1995 and 2000 the European partner and executioner of AOL in Europe, but sold the business. It started distributing books and music through Bol, but again sold off the distribution business as well. Now Bertelsmann is still in the print business with books, newspapers and magazines as well as in the television business.

Television can be seen as the major future business for Bertelsmann. At the heart of the commercial broadcast company is selling advertisement on television and on the supporting internet sites. There is no synergy between television and the print part of the company. The newspaper and magazine business is mainly German. The book business is international but is not used as a carrier for advertisement; as such it is a steady bringer of revenues, not being dependent on advertisements, but on the best sellers.

By shifting into the tier gear, Bertelsmann will get into the same split as AOL Time Warner. Between the RTL television division and the print product department will be no synergy in content, advertisements and distribution. The only common characteristic is the fact that they are part of the cultural industry, which relies on bestsellers. Of course AOL Time Warner is still finding itself in a more complicated business area: online, television, music and print. All their business tiers are in the cultural area and dependent on bestsellers. But since 1999 the company and the subsidiaries have found out that their content business is no playground for content cross-overs and business synergy. Where Bertelsmann has cleared its business model to two adjacent tier areas, AOL will still have to split AOL fromTime Warner or cut two business areas.

Update 22July, 2008: Bertelsmann through Grunner un Jahr has shown interest in acquiring Reed Business Information division from Reed Elsevier, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The bidding process has started with interest from capitl investment companies such as Bain Capital, but also from publishers like McGraw Hill. The take over amount is likely to be over 1 billion euro.

Blog Posting Number: 1195

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BPN 1194 One click to inspect the crop yield

Agro business is not my field. But with some forebears from the rural area, I have kept an interest of the computerisation of the agro business. No longer crops are transported by horse and carriage nor does one work with a skythe, but now the computer is at center stage. Last week was a historical moment in crop yield information gathering. Potato business intelligence is now just one click away from the farmer’s desktop and wheat is already in a pilot for interested people.

Croplook.com is now a new way of actual and accurate data gathering. For every professional in the potato industry who wants to make decisions on reliable figures with a high level of timely data.

Croplook's data gathering starts with satellites that routinely scan radiation data from the earth's surface. This remote sensing data is processed through a unique data model called SEBAL. This model provides absolute yield numbers in killogram per hectare. Without the need of any ground support. The SEBAL model has been developed at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, by Prof Dr Wim Bastiaanssen. SEBAL stands for Surface Energy Balance Algorithm for Land and is based on the actual intake of CO² and the evaporation H²O of plants. The SEBAL model is accurate per pixel with resolutions down to 10x10 meters. SEBAL is rapidly gaining worldwide recognition through its practical application in a variety of projects, of which the latest is the detailed and accurate measurement of crops in the field. Used by farmers to gain more productivity of a large number of crops. SEBAL is the only model in the world, which provides directly useful quantitative data such as kilograms per hectare or liters per square meter. The model is validated in scientific institutes, through technology assessments and has proven itself in agricultural practice.

Having paid and gained access to the service, a parcel overview is generated and summary data of all the selected parcels is available and ready for inspection n detail. A survey and use of the actual crop information available such as the number of hectares planted crop; yield in kg/ha; dry matter (for potatoes); total biomass production in kg/ha of all vegetation in the parcel. The information is updated every week.

On the new portal croplook.com actuel crop information can easily be bought per parcel. A parcel represents an area of 25 x 25 kilometers and can be choosen freely by clicking the parcels on the map of Europe, buy them and one gets direct acces to the actual crop growth information during the whole growth season of the crop. Even when one buys a parcel after the growth season historical data will be kept available.

Blog Posting Number: 1194

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Monday, August 18, 2008

BPN 1193 Second Sellabration by Sellaband

There was a Sellabration last Friday. It was the second anniversary of Sellaband, an organisation offering music band a way to get to produce a CD. So far Sellaband has helped 24 bands to record a CD, with the French artist AIOIA being the first progressive rock band to reach 50.000 dollar milestone. An investor has guaranteed security for the company for three years by investing a few millions. And from this week onwards the British and German Amazon sites will sell the records of the bands, while Amazon.com in the States is still negotiating.

Sellaband originated from the dissatisfaction that music companies refuse so many music bands, because they are not alike the last top band or are disliked by the company scout. So Pim Betist thought up another method of getting music bands into a recording studio, accompanied by an experienced producer. On the site Sellaband.com a music group can upload its music. Fans of the music groups, called believers, can vouch 10 dollar to become a share or part of the band; the believer can switch to another artist or band as long as the 50.000 dollar milestone has not been reached. Once a band or an artist has sold 50.000 parts, they get recording time in a studio. Once a CD has been recorded t is release and for sale. The believers get the CD. All the believers together get also one third from the profits just like the band and the organisation. A band can not leave Sellaband for a commercial music company within two years; in the two years the believers will be sharing in the revenues. Crucial in the operation is the internet site, including a shop and charts.

Sellaband has grown fast into an international organisation with a business site, artists and bands and fan sites. Internationally some artists and bands have broken through: Cubworld (USA), Electric Eel Shock (Japan), Julia Marcell (Poland), So What (The Netherlands). These bands played at the anniversary happening in the Amsterdam underground temple Paradiso. But not all artists and bands find enough believers around the world to collect 50.000 dollar in parts. Even a link of a band or an artist with a social network has proven not be a guarantee to pick up enough parts for a recording sessions.

The business model is interesting. While the well known music companies are bestseller companies, living on the sales of their latest top hit, Sellaband invites to participate in stimulating n artist or band that they want to see on the music scene. Sellaband is showing that the business model works for music. Of course it has not proven yet to be a steady factor in the music business. But is has proven to pick up over a 1 million dollar (23 times 50.000 dollar) in the non conventional market of believers.

I wonder whether this business model can be carried over other bestseller businesses like book publishing and movies. It would be a way to get rid of all kind of grants and subsidies. However, contrary to the music business, these cultural businesses are mainly limited by language. Yet it would be interesting to see whether this could work with for example publishers or serious movie proposals, but the amount of parts would be higher. I suspect that it could work in the movie business. I remember that the movie Butterfly Tattoo, which has been shot in the meantime and is ready for distribution, was able to pick up 200.000 euro in a very short time despite the fact that the producing team was not well known and hardly had experience. Thanks to an article in the Dutch financial daily FD, it collected the needed amount in no time. Of course it is also the way some Hollywood movie companies work by collecting money from movie stars. I guess that publishing books will be a harder business, but it would be worth a try.

Update August 25, 20008: Sellaband announced that it has signed a deal with YouLicense.com, to allow bands using the service to make their music available for licensing to producers, filmmakers, marketers and ad agencies. Sellaband will split revenues between the artists, their fan supporters on the service, and the company.

Blog Posting Number: 1193

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

BPN 1192 Open is not free

A Dutch judge already confirmed the working of creative commons licenses for content, but now an American judge stated in a strong ruling (PDF) that open source does mean free copyright use. The ruling upheld the Artistic License in a copyright dispute between the developers.

Robert Jacobsen had developed a Java system for model trains and made this available online under an Artistic License, which entails that other programmers can use the software in their software, but have to recognise the original programmer. The company Kamind used portions of program to develop a competing and commercial product, but did not comply with the Artistic License in a number of respects, including attribution, copyright notices, tracked changes or availability of the underlying standard version. Jacobsen asked the court for a ruling, but the lower court did not rule in his favour, saying that the Artistic License merely imposed 'contractual' promises, and that a violation did not constitute copyright infringement. But The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which usually rules intellectual property cases, agreed that the Artistic License has consequences as to the copyright and can not be used without any recognition of the developer.

The ruling has great consequences for developers of open software, which is usually offered for free. It is the first time that an Artistic License has been recognised by the court. For programmers using open source software it means that they always will have to recognise the developer, while for companies it means that they can no use the software without for commercial purposes without the knowledge of the original developer.

Professor Larry Lessig, a founding member of Creative Commons, said in his own blog: "For non-lawgeeks, this won't seem important but this is huge. In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licences set conditions on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the licence disappears, meaning you're simply a copyright infringer. This is a very important victory." The ruling has implications for the Creative Commons licence which offers ways for work to go into the public domain and still be protected. These licenses are widely used by academic organisations like MIT for distributing coursework, scientific groups, artists, movie makers and Wikipedia among others. Mark Radcliffe of the Open Source Initiative said: "This opinion demonstrates a strong understanding of a basic economic principle of the internet; that even though money doesn't change hands, attribution is a valuable economic right in the information economy."

Blog Posting Number: 1192

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

BPN 1191 e-Books can not be secured

The music publishers and distributors know it in the meantime: DRM does not work. E-book publishers and distributors still believe in it. So they follow eagerly very development in the field of DRM. They know that DRM-0 stands for not secured; DRM-1 is password protected, while DRM-2 contains an individual name like an ex-libris. Now they are looking closely at DRM-3, which is considered to be a waterproof security and popular; the format Mobipocket is using DRM-3 security. The Dutch foundation Authors’ Domain, a non-profit backlist publisher for Dutch literature, has tested the DRM security and concluded what it knew already: e-books can not be secured and sealed. I translate their press release freely.

The foundation used a book with the permission of the author and secured it by DRM-3. The copy is made with SS-OCR software: a combination of a screenshot technology and optical character recognition (OCR) for text recognition. The program can be downloaded by anyone from internet and used for thirty days. The program is easy to use.

It was possible to make a copy, but it was different from the usual cracking of the code. The code was in fact circumvented, but the result w the same: in a few minutes a copy of a secured e-book was made, while every other copy of the not secured e-book took only a few seconds.

The copy which was used was in an eReader format fit for Palm devices. The format can also be used for Mobipocket books with the aid of a free reading program on all current devices. eReader is popular among authors as Word files need relatively little correction. Authors Domain presently secures e-books with DRM-2, but also this security can be cracked.

On the web illegal e-books are available, especially of bestsellers. These are photographic files of not processed text, which are difficult to distribute given their volume. The SS-OCR generates a small file of processible text. The new hole in the software can be fixed with a so-called screen protection. A first patch has been published already. Publisher can now wait for the next cracking of the code. A security race will be started again.

The Dutch foundation thinks that security eventually should come from the reader. So it has instituted a department to explain how an illegal copy can be recognised. Publishers, authors and rights holders will be informed. By signalling illegal copies, it hopes to prevent copying on a large scale. The department has invited the Dutch collecting society Literary Rights Authors (LIRA) to cooperate.

When I read this I remember the many statements of the recording industry association of America (RIAA) condeming illegal downloading and threatening with leal hell and doom. Did all those court cases really help? Not really. It was only when iTunes came around and showed that it had a service and device and fair prices that more people started to download legally. Publishers should be more pro-active and develop their own services.

Blog Posting Number: 1191

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Friday, August 15, 2008

BPN 1190 Dutch bank online massively

In Europe the Dutch are in the forefront of internet banking, according to a recent survey by Forrester. No less than 68 per cent of the inhabitants process their bank matters online. Nowehere in Europe this percentage is that high; as such internet banking is an aboslute success in The Netherlands.

And thi is only the beginning as interbanking still will become more popular. It will almost become an automatic habit for young people, while the elderly people also use internet more frequently. Within five years th number of Dutch that will process thei bankin matters through internet will rise with 1,5 million people. By 2013 more thn 81 per cent will use internet banking.

The success of online banking can partly be explained by the experience the Dutch have with internet. Besides the banks are stimulating internetbanking intensively, as it saves them a lot of data entry work, paper handling and contact work. This eventually leads to less bank personnel and branch offices. It also leds to more customised offers for the clients.

The Dutch had already experience with electronic banking in the pre-internet era. In 1986 the Dutch Postbank, now part of ING, started an experiment on Viditel with a small group of people. This became later the banking service Girotel. In 1987 I changed over to Girotel and have been banking electronically ever since and I have never seen a local banking branche from the inside. Girotel became a success as it recognised that the clients had become data entry typists and asked a modest fee for the service.

Later on the Rabobank started experimenting. By the seventies the major banks were into electronic banking, but usually started with bussiness as first clients.But with the increase of the PC in the eighties more banks started to involve the clients, offering them local PC programmes. The switch to internet banking was only a small step for people used to electronic banking. But as internet yielded many new PC users, internet banking became popular. In the end it has also worked to the advantage of the clients. The money transfer has become real time with transfer internally, while the money transfers between banks has been shortened.

Blog Post Number: 1190

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

BPN 1189 Dutch still satisfied with analogue TV

Presently I am exploring digital television. Having bought a wide screen television and having a wide screen PC, I accepted a package from UPC consisting of a faster internet connection up to 10Mb, unlimited use of the phone and digital television. In the digital television offer are a lot of channels, which I have never seen and for which I hardly have time to view them. Sometimes the picture is better than analogue television; but on the other hand there is always a channel, which does not have the proper pixel order and broken sound fragments. I am I impressed? No, not really. Looking at the cheaper Digitenne (DVB-T) of the incumbent telecom operator KPN, it looks like there is not much difference except the monthly fee. Besides, by October 2009 the apartment will be connected with Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and a new choice of a provider will have to be made. So far the incumbent telecom operator KPN is one of the parties offering three packages of triple play.

Just when I am exploring digital television, I got to read the results of a survey by KPMG and TNS NIPO on analogue and digital television among 1.100 Dutch respondents. The good news is that 60 per cent of the respondents are familiar with digital television. The bad news is that one in four Dutch households has moved to digital television. So our household is one of them, but it also means that there are three households which are still watching analogue television as they are not convinced of the advantages of digital television. Another practical objection for switching to digital television is that you get one media player and will have to buy another media set for any other television in the house.

The Dutch television consumer is happy with the quality of the pictures delivered and sees no reason to call the service desk of cable companies like UPC or Ziggo or run to the service shops to book the digital television immediately. Besides the satisfaction with the analogue view of the television, the price is too high and the extra advantages are not clear.

Of course the price factor is holding people back. UPC has attempted to get every subscriber on digital television by offering them a media player, regardless whether they asked for it or not. That campaign went down the drain. Now they have composed three marketing packages with offers you can not refuse. Still people are holding back and do not see the necessity not the extra pay. Of course they can also switch to KPN and pay roughly 7 euro for digital television instead of the 15 euro for UPC’s analogue television.

As digital television should be the portal to movies and Music services on demand, it also means that the operators are still not reaping the maximum benefits of digital television. Yet the Dutch will pay just 3 euro for films and movies. Just 11 per cent is willing to pay more to get an ad-free channel.

It is clear that the television operators are going to have a hard time to sell their digital service. People do not want to have the technical hassle, despite all the promise of the operators that it will be easy to connect. Most people know that FTTH is near and they will wait for that. Then they will have to make a principal choice of technology (FTTH or cable) and of operator.

Blog Posting Number: 1189

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BPN 1188 Europe to become battlefield e-reader

Kindle is rumoured to launch a European Kindle at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt in October 2008. Deutsche Telekom researches digital newspaper. Sony open for other formats and starts distributing e-readers in the UK. Cybook works with SFR on wireless e-reader. iRex technologies distributes iLiad without wireless through Borders in the UK.

This is just an inventory of actions to come in the field of e-readers in Europe. Despite the fragmentation in languages, it looks like Europe has become a new battlefield for e-readers. The real battle in the UK will begin in September in the UK between the Sony-Waterstone combination and the iLiad-Borders combination, both combinations of hardware manufacturers and book distributors. However before this battle starts another battle is brewing in Germany. Kindle is said to launch the Kindle in October, while Deutsche Telekom is about to launch an e-Paper service. The leaking of the news suggests that a combination of Amazon with Kindle and Deutsche Telekom is in the making.

But these are not the only moves on the European continent. Another move comes from Sony. One is a real important one. Sony is leaving its regional subsidiaries free to formulate a local strategy for introducing the Sony e-reader. It has not formulated an all-over European strategy to attack a particular market. The regional subsidiaries are not obliged to develop the consumer markets in language areas which hardly have any e-books in the local language. If they want to develop the market, they can so; but they can also develop the educational market and the technical/business market. It is not the first time that Sony attacks the European market with an e-reader. In 1993 Sony canvassed Europe with the first Sony e-reader Sony EB (se photograph). In the UK, France and Germany there was some interest from consumers, but in 2005 when there was an economic downturn the campaign was stopped. One thing Sony did well was to organise publishers, software integrators and distributors in committees sponsored by Sony; the objective of the committees was to develop an offer of e-book for the e-reader and to set up a common market campaign. But as it looks now, Sony will not be the promoter on behalf of the e-book industry.

For the general market there also two moves coming up. Although details are lacking iRex Technologies is said to work on a new model, which should be launched in December. And Kindle is working on a 10 inch screen device for the B2B and educational market.

Of course at the same time of this e-reader battle, the UMPCs are coming on the market with price tags from 99 US dollars and giving e-readers a run for their money.

In short we have some fascinating times ahead not only in Europe, but also on the general e-reader market.

Blog Posting Number: 1188

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

BPN 1187 EU annoyance with the digital library for Europe

The European Commission is not happy with the contributions of the EU countries and the speed of the formation of the European digital library, Europeana. The digital library is supposed be launched on November 28, 2008, but the museums, libraries and digital preservation institutes are slow in bringing their digital collections online. Europeana should be a milestone for the European Union, showing Europe's cultural diversity in books, music, paintings, photographs, and films open to all citizens at the click of a mouse via one portal. (The access ticket is taken from the presentation Europeana in the European context and strategy by Marius Snyders, EU Digital Content and Cognitive Systems Directorate).

In a Communication the Commission called on Member States to raise digitisation capacities to make their collections available for Europe's citizens and to team up with the private sector. The Commission's assessment also shows that in many cases there is a gap between the objects which have been digitised and their online accessibility. For example, only one in four German museums that have digitised material offer online access to it and only 1 per cent of the material digitised by Polish archives is online.

However, further efforts by the EU Member States are needed, said the Commission in a new Communication on making available digital versions of works from cultural institutions all over Europe. Digitisation of cultural works can give Europeans access to material from museums, libraries and archives abroad without having to travel or turn hundreds of pages to find a piece of information. Europe's libraries alone contain more than 2.5 billion books, but only about 1 per cent of archival material is available in digital form. The Commission therefore called on Member States to do more to make digitised works available online for Europeans to browse them digitally, for study, work or leisure. The Commission itself will provide some120 million euro in 2009-2010 for improving online access to Europe's cultural heritage.

The Commission confirmed its commitment to help Member States bring their valuable cultural content online. In 2009-2010 no less than an extra 69 million euro from the EU's research programme will go to digitisation activities and the development of digital libraries. In the same period, Europe's Competitiveness and Innovation Programme will allocate about 50 million euro to improve access to Europe's cultural content. However, the total cost of digitising five million books in Europe's libraries is already estimated at approximately 225 million euro, not including objects like manuscripts or paintings. Realising the vision of a European Digital Library (Europeana) needs substantial investment from national institutions, but at present most countries only provide small scale, fragmented funding for digitisation. The countries are advised to address the following priorities:
- More funding needs to be allocated to digitisation, along with plans for how much material will be digitised.
- Most countries still lack methods, technologies and experience for the preservation of digital material, vital so that content remains accessible to future generations.
- Common standards need to be implemented to make different information sources and databases compatible for and usable by the European Digital Library (Europeana).
- Resolution of copyright issues, above all legal solutions to the problem of orphan works - works whose right holders cannot be found to consent to digitisation (IP/07/508).

Visitors to digital libraries can digitally discover copies of the famous Gutenberg bible – the first real book ever printed – at the British Library's website, the voices of Maria Callas or Jacques Brel at the French Institut National de l'Audiovisuel, or Da Vinci's masterpiece the Mona Lisa at the Louvre - without a ticket. The Dutch museum Mauritshuis has put paintings of the painter Vermeer on internet, while the French National Library is showing the poems of Baudelaire.

The EC however has also praise for some Member States, which have taken exemplary steps to accelerate digitisation of cultural collections. Slovenia adopted a Public-Private Partnership Act in 2007, providing new opportunities for private promotion of digitisation projects in public institutions. Slovakia has rehabilitated an old military complex as a large-scale digitisation facility using page turning robots. Finland, Slovakia and Lithuania used European Structural Funds to secure extra funding for digitisation.

Blog Posting Number: 1187


Monday, August 11, 2008

BPN 1186 Dutch newspapers are rearranging the landscape again

It is summer time, but the Dutch newspaper publishers PCM and Wegener are talking about rearranging their common assets and about swapping titles. PCM wants to buy the minority share of 37 per cent in AD from Wegener, while Wegener wants to buy the free local newspapers of PCM.

The news that Wegener wants to sell its minority share in AD (the former Het Algemene Dagblad) is surprising. Until 2005 AD was a lost leader within PCM. But AD has picked up and had a circulation of 468.000 copies and was profitable last year. The newspaper merged at that time with the paid regional dailies of PCM and Wegener, leading to a national edition with seven regional editions. In the title PCM owns 63 per cent of the share, while Wegener has a minority of 37 per cent of the share; yet both have an equal say of 50 per cent in the venture. The 37 per cent of shares is valued at 20 million euro. Surprisingly PCM wanted to buy all the shares in 2006, but Wegener kept them, despite the difficult management of a daily newspaper by two newspaper companies, as insiders have indicated.

AD has an illustrious history of editorial items such as the annual green herring test. With a summer of sports events ahead such as the European Soccer Championship, the Tour de France and the Olympic Games it announced a trial of a sport daily. Although the results have been encouraging, a continuation has been called off.

At the same time both companies talk about swapping the free local media of PCM to Wegener. PCM has 27 free local editions with a circulation of 1 million copies in the delta between Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Wegener being a major regional publisher would like to expand its local free newspaper market. In this way ad sales people are able to sell package deals for their local paid media, but also their local free media.

PCM will be able to pay the AD minority share package from the revenues of the sale of ThiemeMeulenhoff to NDC/VBK for which it will receive 170 million euro.

The move by Wegener is unexpected as the new owner of Wegener, Mecom, said last year, that the company was committed to its minority share. But after a year things have changed: a profit demand of 15 to 20 per cent by the holding Mecom and the new management at Wegener. In the background also plays Mecom’s financial state of art and strategy. Presently the company is involved in the sales of its Norwegian daughter Edda Media, the former Orkla Media.

The talks are still in an early stage and are dependent on some conditions such as transaction documentation and the green light of the monopoly watchdog. PCM and Wegener hope to complete the deal before the end of the year.

Blog Posting Number: 1186

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

BPN 1185 Correction on bloggers' registry

On July 20, I wrote about a proposal of a member of the European Parliament (MEP) to start a webloggers’ register. As weblogs represent an important new contribution to media pluralism, there is a need to clarify their status, and to create legal safeguards for use in the event of lawsuits as well as to establish a right to reply, says a recent own initiative report drafted by Estonian Socialist Marianne Mikko (see photograph). Own initiative reports are drafted by individual MEPs and are not proposals for EU laws. The report was later adopted by Parliament's Culture Committee, but with amendments, which affected some of the positions in the draft report. The EU department Information Society corrected an earlier report.

The report - adopted by MEPs on the Culture Committee on 3 June - also says there is "considerable risk" that the private media's pursuit of profit could compromise its ability to act as a watchdog for democracy. It goes on to suggest "implies a need to establish legal safeguards providing for the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits, and establishing the right to reply".

"The cases of unrestricted ownership concentration or of scarce content pluralism in the media are endangering cultural diversity and freedom of expression not only within national markets but also at European level. We need therefore strong European commitment to overcome those challenges especially in view of the new technologies and services in the media sector", said Committee chair Greek Socialist Katarina Batzeli (PES).

Weblogs and other new on-line media pose new challenges, say MEPs. The growth of commercial media outlets for user-generated content, such as photos and videos, used without paying a fee, raises problems of ethics and privacy, and puts journalists and other media professionals under pressure, they say.

The report "on concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union" - drafted by Estonian Socialist Marianne Mikko - also warns against the concentration of the media in the hands of a few companies because the media is vital to safeguarding democracy. "The media remains a powerful tool, which should not be treated solely in economic terms," she said. The report calls for social and legal guarantees to journalists and editors. It will be put to the vote in the full plenary in the future.

Ms Mikko told us "the blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them".

Asked if she considered bloggers to be "a threat", she said "we do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace". She added, "I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why".

Belgian MEP Ivo Belet (who acted as an advisor on the report for the Industry committee) said "weblogs and user generated content contribute in a lively and fresh way to a colourful and many-sided media landscape. They should not be restrained". The centre right EPP-ED member did concede however that some legal issues such as privacy and the right of reply need to be addressed.

German Liberal Jorgo Chatzimarkakis acted as advisor for the Economic and Monetary committee. He told us that "bloggers cannot automatically be considered a threat, but imagine pressure groups, professional interests or any other groups using blogs to pass on their message. Blogs are powerful tools, they can represent an advance form of lobbyism, which in turn can be seen as a threat". He said "any blogger representing or expressing more than their personal view should be affected by this report."

Blog Posting Number: 1185

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

BPN 1184 Copyright Law on Digital Preservation

A consortium of institutes from Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have prepared a report International Study on the Impact of Copyright Law on Digital Preservation reviewing copyright and related laws and the impact of those laws on digital preservation of copyrighted works. The report addresses proposals for legislative reform and efforts to develop non-legislative solutions to the challenges that copyright law presents for digital preservation. The institutes who contributed to the report are Library of Congress, National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), US; Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), UK; Open Access to Knowledge (OAK) Law Project, QUT Law Faculty, Australia; and SURFfoundation, Netherlands. This authoritative report was compiled in the framework of the National Digital Information and Infrastructure Preservation Program.

© Metopes of Selinunte

The report notes that digital works are ephemeral, and unless preservation efforts are begun soon after they are created, they will be lost to future generations. Its authors found that although copyright and related laws are not the only obstacle to digital preservation, there is no question that those laws present significant challenges.

Recommendations are provided for legislative reform and other solutions to ensure that libraries, archives and other preservation institutions can manage copyrighted digital information in a manner consistent with national and international laws. Specific recommendations include structuring national copyright laws to provide exceptions for preservation institutions to proactively preserve at risk copyrighted material in digital form, subject to measures appropriate to protect the legitimate interests of right holders.

According to the report, copyright laws should permit preservation institutions to preserve copyrighted works in accordance with international best practices for digital preservation, including making copies for administrative and technical purposes; migrating works into different formats in response to technological developments and changing standards; and maintaining redundant copies among preservation institutions and legally authorized third party preservation repositories to protect against catastrophic loss.

The report further recommends that copyright exceptions for digital preservation should not be conditioned on the category (such as literature or music) or format (such as compact disc or website) of the work.

The Dutch contribution to the report takes inventory of current digital preservation efforts in the Netherlands. It also looks at the way in which the Netherlands regulates the preservation of and access to digital materials: through agreements between cultural institutions and entitled parties, which ensure that 20th-century works will remain publicly available. Higher education institutions in the Netherlands, collaborating within SURF, have indicated that they want clarity about preserving and providing access to cultural resources.

The recommendations for reforming Dutch legislation also focus on works from collections in museums, archives and libraries. These works need to be digitized for preservation. A secure network would have to ensure access to these digitized works.

For the Netherlands, the report is particularly important in view of the leading international position which the National Library of the Netherlands has achieved with its e-depository. The Library is often quoted as ‘an example of good practice’.

The importance of the report is underlined by Dr. Wim van Drimmelen, Director of the National Library. In an article in the Dutch newspaper ‘NRC Handelsblad’ of 17 April 2008, the National Library argued for removing the legal obstacles to digitizing 20th-century library collections. In addition, Van Drimmelen argues that clear regulation and legislation in this area is also of paramount importance for new, digitally born documents since their accessibility is under greater threat than that of traditional information carriers.

Blog Posting Number: 1184

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Friday, August 08, 2008

BPN 1183 You can’t miss the Olympic Games

It is 08-08-08; today the Olympic Games start. 1388 days ago I was in Beijing and saw the first stadiums for the Olympic Games arise as well as the many construction works near the airport. Now the three week circus starts and I am glad I am not in Beijing, given all the crowds. Yet, I would love to see whether the waitresses of one of the restaurants I visited has made it to welcome the guests in English.

However I will have to watch the Games from Almere (The Netherlands). But I have a choice. Of course I can watch the games on television. Just a week ago I upgraded my UPC subscription to digital television. I installed it and so far I am impressed by some broadcasts and all the extra information. Yet I can imagine why people stick to analogue. So far I have not taken a HD package.

But outside the regular broadcasts, the NOS, the Dutch public broadcast organisation will offer broadcasts through 13 channels. The official channel Nederland 1 will offer all the highlights of a day. On the website the user determines himself which of the 28 Olympic sports he/she will look at on one of the 12 channels. There will also be summaries, highlights, statistics scores and on-demand content 24/7. Also special feeds and special widgets will be transmitted to record the performances of the Dutch sports people.

Central to the site and the channels is an electronic program guide (EPG). The EPG can be personalised according to the user’s preferences. From the schedule the user can click through to the live video channel.

However the user does not have to stay at home. Through NOS Mobile the user can also pick up the 13 channels. As the games in Beijing are between 3:00 AM and 4:00 PM, people can watch the games with a proper UMTS mobile telephone or a wifi connection at night, during the morning rush hour, during work or holiday. The content is free; the mobile telephone connection has to be paid for.

The NOS has acquired all the rights needed to broadcast the Olympic Games, ranging from television to radio, internet to mobile, live and on-demand.

It is remarkable that the media (television, newspapers and internet) are involving social networks. The NOS has feeds and widgets for Twitter and the Dutch social network Hyves. The daily De Telegraaf has created a Hyve with Hyves as a central place for news and background stories of the Olympic Games. De Telegraaf will blog from the press centre as well from the Holland Heineken House (see movie).



One thing is sure: if you do not want to miss anything of the Olympic Games, you need television, a computer and a mobile.

Blog Posting Number 1183

Tags: television, internet, mobile,
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

BPN 1182 Looking forward to a new (Reed) Elsevier

On Monday I wrote a posting on Reed Elsevier and I mentioned its forthcoming sale of Reed Elsevier Business division. This would make the slimmed down Reed Elsevier (or will it just be Elsevier again) a one-segment publishing company: scientific, technical and especially medical information (STM). Thinking about it I saw some similarities between the company histories of those two companies, which started out from The Netherlands and started there internationalisation and specialisation strategies in the eighties.

In the eighties The Dutch publishing company VNU started its internationalisation program. It bought publishing companies in Europe and the US and grew and grew. It sold its printing plants, followed by the sale of the newspapers and later on the book division, than bought and five years later sold its fast money maker, the directory division. In the meantime the strategy was to become a digital data company with more than 50 percent of revenues from databases. It started to specialise in marketing data company as those companies are less dependent on advertising revenues. And it collected a host of those companies with Nielsen as a pearl in the crown. From that point onwards it was no longer a publisher, but rather a data intelligence company. When the board wanted to buy the Kohi Noor diamond in the crown, IMS the shareholders, specifically venture capitalist started to revolt. In the end the board had to give up the acquisition and carve up the company into Nielsen and VNU Media (which sold most of its subsidiaries outside The Netherlands; it aims to become an digital publisher and is well on its way to become one).

For the former Elsevier the change into an STM company is the fourth step of the company to become a one-segment publisher. Elsevier began as a conglomerate of print plants and consumer, business and scientific publishers and over the years it sold off the division by division. The print plants were the first to go in the eighties. After that the newspapers in the consumer section had to go, followed by the consumer book publishers. The business division which got a big impulse when Elsevier merged with Reed, is now up for sale. So by the end of the year Reed Elsevier will be solely a STM publisher and might be re-named Elsevier or Elsevier Science again. Elsevier will be a full fledged science publisher with mighty databases like Science Direct. Of course the new company will be faced with all kind of new initiatives in the academic publishing world: open access and the public library of science.

The history of the two companies which were both Dutch by origin contains many similarities. They followed the same internationalisation policy and had the same strategy towards revenues from digital publishing (except Reed Elsevier and especially the scientific division was more aggressive than VNU). Now the new Reed Elsevier (or the future Elsevier or Elsevier Science) has also the intention to become a one-segment company, be it not an data intelligence company. Projecting into the future for the new Reed Elsevier (or the future Elsevier or Elsevier Science), the question can be posed, what the strategy will be of the new Reed Elsevier. Is the scientific publisher moving towards a break-up like VNU or will the company find fresh grounds in its one segment of publishing? Or will it also move out of publishing and more in the direction of running research organisations or other directions?

I wonder what the Elsevier Science people think about the new direction. Comments are welcome.

Blog Posting Number: 1182

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

BPN 1181 Watch out for the Google Street View car

If you are living in Holland or are visiting the Low Countries, watch out: the ET-like Google Street View car is in Holland! Stay inside; if you have to go out, cover your face with a mask or even better, dress up in a burka. Otherwise, you might be the laughing stock for the years to come or worse your marriage might end as you were not able to explain why you were in the same suspicious place as that strange ET car of Google Street View. Can you imagine, telling at a party that your marriage of 30 years was wrecked by a Google car!

At least the people in Amsterdam and Rotterdam might be safe by the end of this month. Since May the Google Street View cars are driving around in those cities and are recording street by street, so that anyone with internet can see in what street you live or are supposed to live. Instead of having a panoramic view, you can get a view as if you were driving through the street or do virtual walks from the train station to your house.

Street View was launched in the USA in the Spring of 2007 and started with the cities of San Francisco, New York City, Denver, Miami and Las Vegas and is now operational in Australia, Asia and Europe. The programme was already active in France; there was even a Street VIew programme for the Tour de France (even after the Tour you can relive the full edition). More recently the programme was started in the UK, where a weblogger had a talk with one of the drivers. And now Holland is being recorded. (Just search on Goggle for Google Street View car and you will see a line up of various camera devices; the one on the picture comes from the UK).

Infringement on privacy came up as a problem when the programme was introduced. A couple in Pittsburgh claims damages of 25.000 US dollars as the Google car shot photographs or part of a movie of the road in front of their house. This, while a notice board indicated that it was a private road. Google reacted rather indifferent by saying that in this modern world there is nothing like absolute privacy. But the company seems to have learned as it did go into discussion with British privacy groups and was able to reassure them with some measures. It also contacted the privacy watchdog of the European Commission and several European countries. The company reassures people that will not be recognisable and is now developing software to make faces and number plates fuzzy and unreadable. Whoever recognises him- or herself can lodge a complaint and demand the image to be removed.

It is not the first time that street film cars are touring around the Netherlands to record streets, the houses, offices, factories and parks. The first time this was happening was in 1989, when a transporter was used in Rotterdam to collect images of streets. It was a project by the former Dutch telecom monopoly PTT in cooperation with the CD-ROM producer CD-Europe. I am not completely sure anymore, but I suspect that the early navigation adapter Tele-Atlas was also involved. (BTW Not one complaint about privacy at that time!). Since 1992 the Dutch company Cyclomedia executes this type of work and has now 34 cars on the road to record the streets, one by one, for government and private companies.

Blog Posting Number: 1181

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

BPN 1180 Telcos seriously look at e-Papers

Der Spiegel, the sister publication of the German newspaper Bild, published a story on Deutsche Telecom being interested in digital newspapers. However the story was rather vague as the spokes person told the reporter that the telecom company did not have a content agreement with a newspaper nor did the spokesperson say anything on the e-reader(s) to be used. The story should be taken serious as Deutsche Telecom is picking up experience from its US sister network Verizon which is working together with Amazon’s e-reader Kindle, of which more than 240.000 have been sold already.

But the announced project does not really be on its way yet or does not want to tell too much about it. But in the fall the telco wants to start a pilot by handing out e-readers to some thousands of clients. The project is called News4Me and it is known that the telco tinkers on producing a personalised electronic newspaper. The site of Deutsche Telecom says: The News4Me project aims to create an individual electronic newspaper. Subscriptions are possible to complete issues or to individual sections from differing newspapers, which will then be transmitted to mobile devices. The contents and the layout adapt constantly to the way that you read. In future, wherever you are, you will benefit from easy access to current news and information which correspond to your personal interests.

So Deutsche Telecom or T-labs still have to agree on cooperations with newspaper companies. What DT wants looks like Google News. This asks for a lot of conversions from the various newspaper formats. Of course it has been demonstrated by Google and can be done for an e-reader.

The e-reader is still subject to speculation. However researchers of T-Labs have spoken about the specifications in June to Innovations Report and talked about an a screen almost as large a newspaper page, flexible and not an LCD screen with backlit facilities. The researchers referred to the product of the Dutch company Polymer Vision, the Readius (see photograph), with a rollable screen. They would also like to equip the e-reader with broadcast facilities, by which I think they mean video and audio.

It is interesting to see Deutsche Telecom going into e-papers as a telecom company and not having the support yet of the German newspaper industry. It is almost unbelievable as the international newspaper research institute IFRA is in Darmstadt and has been conducting an e-paper project for some years. Some US companies now benefit from the project by offering their newspaper to the public through Kindle. Besides IFRA recently performed a focus group test of e-reader with black and white screens provided by irex Technologies and Sony, but also colour screens, provided by Bridgestone.

But all these details aside: DT is the second telecom multinational going into a pilot of e-papers. Earlier this year France Telecom through its Orange Labs started the project Read & Go, the first 3G-connected mobile newspaper kiosk with the newspapers Le Monde, Le Parisien, Les Echos, L’Equipe and Télérama. Orange has specifically developed Wifi/3G coupled connectivity with a dedicated distribution platform, user interface and browsing capability. The Read&Go device has a storage capacity of 1 Gb – more than 200 newspapers – and also contains a e-library of thirty or so books (literature, strip cartoons, children's and practical publications, etc.) provided by Feedbooks, Médiatoon (Dargaud, Dupuis, Lombard et Kana) and Mango editions. The project will have 150 test persons. So far an iLiad has been used in the marketing utterances.

The move of the telecom companies France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom is interesting as the pilots are not just undertaken by newspapers and equipment manufacturers only like the projects of NRC Handelsblad in The Netherlands and Les Echos in France

Blog Posting: 1180

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Monday, August 04, 2008

BPN 1179 Elsevier: fine-tuning the last link

Reed Elsevier is much in the news during the last weeks. The financial results of 2007 have been reported, while the results of the second quarter of 2008 were published last week. Reed Elsevier senses strong business momentum and financial performance. It has a restructuring programme going which is on track to deliver further margin improvement. The sale of its education division Harcourt Education is fully completed; net proceeds of €2.7bn returned to shareholders.

Of course there are two very important changes coming up. Crispin Davis, the CEO, will leave Reed Elsevier beginning of next year. No new person has been presented yet (question will be, whether this will be a woman). And another item on the list is the divestment of Reed Business Information, which is in progress. Reed Business Information no longer belongs to the core business and will be sold as a division. This will present some name problems. Will the company continue a Reed Elsevier or return back to the company name Elsevier or Elsevier Science. In the Netherlands Reed Elsevier still has a magazine named Elsevier; changing its name will murder the magazine.

So the multinational will turn into a one-segment publisher, namely a publisher of scientific information. It is the fourth step of the company to become a one-segment publisher. Elsevier began as a conglomerate of print plants and consumer, business and scientific publishers and over the years it sold off the division. The print plants were the first to go in the eighties. After that the newspapers in the consumer section had to go, followed by the book publishers. The business division which got a big impulse when Elsevier merged with Reed, is now up for sale. So by the end of the year Reed Elsevier will be solely a STM (Scientific, Technical, Medical) publisher and might be named Elsevier Science again. Elsevier will be a full fledged science publisher with mighty databases like Science Direct. Of course the new company will be faced with all kind of new initiatives in the academic publishing world: open access and the public library of science.

In the meantime Elsevier, the publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, builds out its cashing machine by making it easier readers and subscribers to its more than 2,800 online journals to purchase article reprints for a variety of uses. Elsevier is partnering with Copyright Clearance Center to use CCC's Rightslink(R) service, the world's leading online platform for marketing and monetizing the rights to content.

The new reprint-ordering capability, available now, follows Elsevier's initial adoption of Rightslink in 2007 to handle copyright permissions for Elsevier's journals. Rightslink is an online e-commerce service that allows content users to instantly license content and order reprints online. The most widely used web-based licensing application, Rightslink is in use on more than 11,000 journals, magazines and newspapers, as well as thousands of books online. Major publishers uses the services from Rightslink such as Dow Jones, The New York Times Company, Springer, Taylor & Francis, O'Reilly Media, Time Inc., Oxford University Press, Nature Publishing Group, The University of Chicago Press, Blackwell Publishing and USA Today. Rightslink lets the Elsevier journal readers efficiently order reprints directly from ScienceDirect content pages online, providing a fast and easy transaction. It is also integrated into the print-and-delivery business process.

ScienceDirect and Elsevier's Health Sciences platforms deliver more than 9 million articles online from more than 2,500 peer-reviewed journals published in 24 fields of science, technology and medicine. More than 1 billion articles have been downloaded from the ScienceDirect and Health Sciences platforms by scientists, teachers and researchers.

Blog Posting Number: 1179

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

BPN 1178 Searching is still not cool

Whoever thinks that the search fight is over and Google has won, is wrong. Google is a marketing machine with a fast search engine, but excessive and dispensable results. On the marketing side it will be hard to win the fight, but in the field of search results lot can be won. Now a new entrant has presented itself: Cuil with a rather snoring blurb: rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics like Google does, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance.

It is clear that Cuil is in its beta phase; no advertisements, just a search machine and results. I had a look at it and did my own benchmarking with my name, the name of the blog and the name of our company. I compared the results of Cuil with the results of Google. I started with my own name Jak Boumans and was presented with the following results: 1827 results from Cuil and 7690 results from Google. Cuil offers fewer entries. Yet also Cuil has duplicate results and non-relevant results from either Jak or Boumans. When the duplicates are removed the number of relevant results could be diminished with 40 per cent. Cuil attempts to illustrate every entry with photographs and this leads to hilarious results. An old photograph - not taken by me and one I would have destroyed - is often used in connection with bibliographic data. But after 10 pages with results, a photograph does not work anymore. I also tested the name of this blog: Buziaulane. Google generated 5090 search results and Cuil 2143. Looking though the results in Cuil, the results concentrate on the name of the site and the occurrences in other blogs and on other sites. Multimedia assets are less abundant and in fact soberly applied. The last part of the benchmark took the company title and compared these: 1,3 million search results in Google and 4,7 million search results in Cuil. Funny part is that Cuil does not recognise the name as a company name, but as a method of reporting with electronic media. When I add the legal company form, VOF, there is only one result of an activity of the company; when the legal name is punctuated as it should, there is no result at all. So not even the chamber of commerce directories have been culled by Cuil. When I refine the term with the present and former company base, I get completely different results. When I add Almere to Electronic Media Reporting the search engine comes up with some results of the blog. When I added Utrecht, the first company base, there are more diverse results.

Am I impressed by Cuil? I loved Cuil in the first two benchmarks of my name and my blog’s name. But the results of the company are really bad, especially as the company names in The Netherlands are registered by the Chamber of Commerce. The addition of the multimedia assets is too much ad random, leading to portrait photographs next to for example the method of reporting with electronic media.

I recently also looked at Exalead. Putting this search engine through the same benchmark test, I got the following results:
Term/Exalead/Cuil/Google
- Jak Boumans: 672 results/1827/7690
- Buziaulane: 1578 results/2143/5090
- Electronic Media Reporting: 908,367 results /4,706.000/1,300.000

The retrievability of words and composed terms is still very inexact. The addition of multimedia assets is not an added value. So I guess that Google will stay alive for the time being.

Blog Posting Number: 1179

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

BPN 1177 Amazon buys Abebooks and dabbles now in two social networks

Abebooks was in the news yesterday. Amazon is going to buy the Canadian online marketplace for used, rare and out-of-print books. I remember that Abebooks was a winner in 2003 of the World Summit Award 2003 in the category e-business. (The WSA has a good nose for quality candidates!). The laudation for Abebooks read at that time: Abebooks.com is the world’s largest online marketplace for used, rare, and out-of-print books. It connects those who buy books with those who sell books and covers the entire cycle of an online transaction, from registration to logistics. Abebooks.com has unique features, including a matching system that helps users find unavailable books, direct bookseller contact and a free bookstore inventory management system. The site also includes literary features and community fora where booklovers have lively literary based discussions. Abebooks has an unparalleled selection including collectibles, comics and reading copies of bestsellers.

Amazon.com has reached an agreement to acquire AbeBooks,. Its site has over 110 million books listed for sale by 13,500 independent booksellers from around the world. It will continue to function as a stand-alone operation based in Victoria, British Columbia. AbeBooks will maintain all of its websites
But reading the news, I discovered some new thing about book and books collectors. While we have the friends’sites like Facebook and the Dutch Hyves and the professional network sites like Linkedin, Xing and Plaxo, there are also social network for booklovers. Abe books owes a 40 percent minority share in LibraryThing, which keeps track of books and finds other like-minded book lovers. Amazon has also invested in a similar service called Shelfari. So, what is Amazon going to with these two services? Basically the question is of course: has it any influence on those two companies and can it take any action such buying the majority stakes and merging the services?

Here is the reaction by the owner of LibraryThing: I congratulate Amazon on a shrewd acquisition. Abebooks is a great company, full of wonderful people. I have no inside info, but I can foresee Amazon's extraordinary technical infrastructure giving Abe a big lift. … The majority of LibraryThing is in my hands. Abebooks holds a minority of the shares, with certain notable but limited rights. This situation does not change when Amazon acquires Abebooks. Amazon will not get access to your data. The LibraryThing/Abebooks terms are specific. Abe gets only anonymized and aggregate data, like recommendations, and they can only use it on Abebooks sites (eg., Abebooks.com, Abebooks.de). Nothing has changed here. Abebooks customers won't see much a difference. The name will survive and the Abebooks.com site will continue. Both employees and management will remain in Canada. LibraryThing remains LibraryThing. We will continue to uphold and advance LibraryThing values, including open data, strict privacy rules and support for libraries and independent bookstores.

I did not see any comment on the site of Shelfari. This social site, online since 2006, introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari was the first social media site focused on books, and will continue to innovate as it brings together the world's readers. Our mission is to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word.

But both sites, LibraryThing and Shelfari are interesting. Their members can build virtual bookshelves to express themselves to their friends and to the world and discover books that are popular in their trusted circles of friends. It is also like a virtal book debating club where members can influence peers by rating and discussing books online and learn from people with similar reading tastes. They can also interact with with and learn from authors.

(BTW Have a look at the exciting, remodelled site of the World Summit Award, ready for the WSA 2009 edition. The site was produced by the board member Anya Sverdlov and her ACTIS team.)

Blog Posting Number: 1177

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Friday, August 01, 2008

BPN 1176 Twenty years in telecom networks

Recently, I received an interesting book on the history of SURFnet, the Dutch university network organisation (thanks Mariska!). The book is a commemorative book on the 20 anniversary of the organisations; it was also the commemorative book for the departing CEO Boudewijn Nederkoorn, one of the founding fathers of SURFnet.

The book is interesting as it presents contemporary online history. SURFnet was the result of university computer centres banning together to set up a network between the Dutch universities, to link the network to the European academic networks and to connect to the international academic networks. While setting up a network infrastructure, the SURFnet people got caught up in the internet roll-out. As they had the Dutch PTT (now KPN) as a shareholder, they got involved in the OSI X-25 vs. the TCP/IP discussion and decided already in an early stage that OSI-25was not the road to take, much to the chagrin of the PTT.

In the meantime the organisation has become a prominent network organisation in the Netherlands and outside. It now delivers an infrastructure for universities and colleges, libraries and school services. It also takes care of the international connections, for example with the Grid network Géant. By now it has developed six generations of networks and is drawing the seventh generation. The networks are so successful that even the old-time partner bought SURFnet5 for it commercial operation. Internationally it has optical light paths to speed up international secure services.

SURFnet has been a catalyser in the Dutch development of internet. It picked up internet from the beginning and was one of the first academic organisations to have it commercialised by private companies, while the Dutch incumbent KPN did not yet believe in internet. SURFnet was also one of the first organisations to establish Fibre To The Dormitory (FTTD) at jealous making speeds to normal consumers; it was also one of the first organisations transporting internet over the cable in dormitories.

The book, written by Verhoog & Warmerdam, a bureau for company history and genealogy, reads like a techno adventure book. However it wrongly establishes the impression that the network scene in pre-internet era was almost void and empty. From 1977 he Netherlands was already experimenting with online. The publisher Kluwer, now part of Wolters Kluwer, started to build up a legal online database. By 1980 a first consumer and SME service based on videotex, Viditel, came online. E-mail and online retrieval services were already handled by a national Datanet-1 as well as the European network Diane*Euronet (photograph taken in 1980, the network being demonstrated by the EC official Franco Mastroddi). The impression that hardly any network activities did exist in the early eighties or even before is based on the fact that the ASCII database world did not talk with the videotex world, which was looked at as the Volkswagen of the online world. Yes and there was already e-mail; in fact I have been empowered by e-mail since 1980, amongst others through the American service The Source and the hardly used videotext e-mail service of Viditel. All these services were searching for a market with confusion as a result. So when SURFnet started to set up another network, more confusion was added. But all this was over on January 1, 1997, when Videotex Nederland stopped its service and TCP/IP became a unifying factor in the network world.

Blog Posting Number: 1176

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