<![CDATA[The Book, My Friend - Boards, Books, and Bytes]]>Mon, 16 Nov 2015 12:11:20 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Spotify affecting user behavior?]]>Mon, 16 Nov 2015 20:10:17 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/spotify-affecting-user-behaviorI have been sitting on this article for a while now as I am not sure what to make of it.  Obviously, the subtitle is a bit presumptuous, "The best way to reduce illegal downloads is to offer good legal services."  The report is 42 pages long and is less conclusive than the Ars article linked above.  It's conclusion is that Spotify is revenue neutral.

But I feel that I need to share the article and the report because I would have assumed that Spotify is not revenue neutral and is negatively affecting the music economy.  This proves at a superficial level that Spotify is at least creating an equal amount of revenue.  The problem is where does that revenue go?

I have a hard time thinking that Spotify is really affecting piracy that much, but it seems possible based on this report.  However, we need to see this replicated many times over to make any strong conclusions.

<![CDATA[Human interest]]>Mon, 26 Oct 2015 22:46:30 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/human-interestWhile not connected to libraries in any way, this is a moving story.  I do know some the men involved and have worked with one of their Uncle's on a library project, but that is about as library connected as I can make this video:

<![CDATA[More Netflix wizardy]]>Thu, 24 Sep 2015 16:25:34 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/more-netflix-wizardyNetflix has calculated when viewers get hooked on a series.  Just amazing.  Bibliocommons and other library attempts to copy the industry pale in comparison to Netflix.  This is truly amazing and offers a glimpse into netflix survival and what libraries can learn from Netflix.  Many people smarter than me expected Netflix to start dying off after its strong foray into digital because we all knew that the studios would not appreciate Netflix taking a share of streaming revenue that seemed unnecessary from the studio perspective.  One of the core differences between the digital economy and the traditional economy is in distribution.  Studios like publishers needed movie theaters and bookstores to capitalize on their product.  The need was real because the studios could not replicate that service without massive cost and risk to themselves.

But that is not true in the digital age.  Instead of building thousands of stores all the studios need to do was build a software interface and they can serve the entire planet.  The cost is insignificant compared to the reward.  The obvious question is why would they share that profit with Netflix when they could cut them out?  Which is exactly what studios started doing a few years ago as they licensed less blockbuster material to Netflix.  But Netflix was nimble and a few steps ahead of the studios.  They began developing original content and figured out how to move b list content, which is what libraries have always done -with less success than Netflix- with their traditional bookshelves.  We have yet to figure that out online and are nowhere near figuring it out because books are inherently different than movies, and because we are simply not as smart, strategic, or nimble as Netflix.  But we can learn from them and keep trying to solve the same question.
<![CDATA[Too Cool]]>Wed, 09 Sep 2015 15:09:45 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/too-coolYou have to search to find redeeming value in this, but it is incredible.  I don't even want to try and calculate how many hours went into the color corrections and other editing tools to create this mash up. Bonus points if you recognize everyone:

<![CDATA[The difference between Netflix and Libraries]]>Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:53:43 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/the-difference-between-netflix-and-librariesPicture
This sentence jumped off the page of an article I read recently:

From its recommendation algorithms to its auto-play features, the objective isn’t to make sure you find what you want when you search — it’s to make sure you never search at all.

No sentence has summed up my frustration with library interface development than this simple statement.  It came from this article in the Verge that is actually about catalog depth in Netflix and other streaming services, but that throwaway line encapsulates all the frustrations I have had with the direction libraries are taking in their UI development.  Our catalogs and websites are designed for focused, terminal searches.  I had a quick email conversation recently with Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader about the trouble libraries have getting readers to try something that is not a blockbuster or bestseller.  The above quote perfectly captures the difference between libraries and Netflix.  Our physical bookstacks function more like Netflix's approach where a user wanders in thinking one thing and wanders out with three extras they did not anticipate.  But our best virtual efforts to date  appear only at the item level:

Some might argue that our search results do this as they utilize key words and other control vocabulary to rank search results, but the similarity is only superficial.  Contrast Netflix's interface with a library's:

Even at first brush anyone familiar with both interfaces recognizes the visual and experiential difference.  Searching is the prominent library experience, but Netflix uses data mining and algorithms to make content the primary experience.  Now this may be a reasonable and intelligent programming choice.  The problem is that even if libraries have the better design and UI, the market and our patrons are moving in the opposite direction. 

You can argue that libraries are starting to catch up as our catalogs are moving away from text and more to images and content, but the adaption is really superficial because we are not data mining and curating our content to user preferences the same way Netflix, Amazon, Google, Apple, Spotify... you get the idea.  The items we display on our home page are not tailored to the individual user, meaning that we are far less likely to get a positive feedback loop.  The only way to increase our clicks and checkouts with our superficial design tweaks is to put bestsellers and blockbusters on the home page, which leaves us no closer to expanding the depth of our circulation than before.

 I attended the National Association of Broadcaster's conference this year and heard the same question pop up about Netflix.  How had they managed to grow while their A list catalog shrunk?  The answer was that Netflix figured out how to move B list content.  They did that using the opposite design and interface philosophy of Libraries.  Netflix doesn't want you to search, they just want to deliver content that you like.  They have a much smaller catalog than us, but tech tools could easily manage the differential, we just aren't using them because we still adhere to 20th Century privacy ethics.  I don't know if that is a good choice for us anymore and Bibilocommons doesn't really fill the gap- yet.
<![CDATA[Kindle Unlimited at .0057 dollars per page]]>Mon, 17 Aug 2015 21:45:30 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/kindle-unlimited-at-0057-dollars-per-pageSo how much is a half cent royalty per page  worth?  Since Kindle Unlimited launched Amazon has tinkered with author payment models and their most recent monthly report reveals that Amazon's gross payout has grown from 1.2  to 11.4 million is just over one year.  During that time the book collection has  grown by about 25%, which  indicates that Amazon is proportionally paying more per book in the collection.  This is not necessarily a bad deal for Amazon as their income pool is practically unlimited.

This is the Spotify model for ebooks, and like Spotify Amazon does not pay per album/title, but rather per page/song like Spotify.  Spotify has a catalog of about 15 million songs and pays .01 cent per song play, which seems low in comparison to Amazon's extravagant .5 cent per page read, but consider the fact that I can play Spotify all day long in my office, so over the course of one hour I play around 20 songs which if we were to calculate out based on my behavior would still place Spotify in the pole position for highest weekly payout on me.  But I am not the average consumer whose consumption of the titles in Kindle Unlimited would be much more voracious as KU has a fairly rich popular and best seller catalog.

Which is where things get interesting for libraries.  Large urban libraries have recognized for a number of years that their popular music collections are outmoded in the age of Spotify and Pandora.  Patrons aren't even ripping our CDs anymore because they are so easy to get elsewhere.  At my library we are consciously tracking CD circulation and preparing for that moment when blips in our stats become trends and we begin the process of phasing out the CD collection.  The analog between music collections and Kindle Unlimited has many corollaries.  First, we have a much richer and deeper collection that KU, but the majority of what circulates is popular fiction.  Best sellers and the like make up the vast majority of what leaves our collection.  What is ironic is that early data suggests that KU has figured out how to move more of the "B list" titles, as Amazon is seeing a lot of casual reading outside of the best seller list.  So could KU pose a similar threat to libraries as Spotify does?

Not necessarily, because a majority of Spotify's clients are nonpaying, and I don't think advertising in books works as easily as it does for "radio".  Because even though Spotify is not radio, it still serves and operates in that same realm and patrons are willing to put up with those ads.  Wowio tried to use ads in ebooks some time ago and it never really worked.  This has to do with what I call the commodification effect digitization can have on a product.  Music has been thoroughly commodified to the point where the actual file has little to no dollar value, but because there is still a small monthly charge for KU, KU is not quite ready to fill that market the way Spotify and Pandora do.  As long as Amazon has this barrier libraries should be relatively safe from seeing subscription ebook services have the same affect on our book collections as Spotify has had on our music collections.  Instead of a large exodus, we will see a trickle of patrons choosing to pay for KU each year.

<![CDATA[Great article on ebooks]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 21:46:16 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/great-article-on-ebooksThis is a great article on ebooks.  The best I have read all year.  It explains the rise of shorter form writing, touches on changing reading behavior, and a number of other highly valuable topics.  I tend to agree with it, except for the long term implications.  I tend to be less confident of seismic shifts and change.  Human behavior is too erratic and unpredictable.  But the author only hints at these so I can't be sure if he is really trying to portend something bigger.
<![CDATA[Publishing evolution]]>Sat, 08 Aug 2015 00:37:31 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/publishing-evolutionShatzkin has a great post on some of the changes happening in the publishing world.  It is worth a full read, but the most interesting part for librarians is his inference that consumer habits are shifting away from the Big 5 and best sellers:

Our friends at Ingram told me another piece of anecdata which may also be at play. They keep track of the number of SKUs that sell 100 copies or fewer and those that sell 10,000 copies or more. The aggregate sales of the former group is growing; the aggregate sales of the latter group is not. What that suggests is that the sales of books that are not really commercial are taking share away from those that are, whether those that are come from publishers or indie authors like Hugh Howey. Whether that particular change is yet impactful, it is inexorable.

This is particularly meaningful for librarians as the bulk of our circulation activity is bestsellers and blockbusters.  I have always wondered if we are locked into that model or if we could find ways to get out of the bestseller model.  Based on this and other anecdotal data it would seem that is is possible for libraries to shift their circ patterns to a broader sampling.
<![CDATA[Library of Congress audio collection]]>Thu, 02 Jul 2015 21:25:08 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/library-of-congress-audio-collectionThis is a small but fun collection of audio recordings from 20th century literary figures.  It is quite rich and comprehensive if you are a lit/poetry person.  Makes you wonder how much stuff the LOC is sitting on...
There are only 50 recordings in there, but they are just so fun to listen to.

<![CDATA[On the sustainability of bookstores]]>Tue, 23 Jun 2015 14:12:54 GMThttp://www.thebookmyfriend.com/boards-books-and-bytes/on-the-sustainability-of-bookstoresNate Hoffelder has a great extended post on bookstores here.  He takes a pessimistic view of their viability and makes what I think is a convincing argument.  Rather than recap his argument, I think I will add my own thoughts to something he does not elaborate on.  While it is true that we have seen a rise in indy bookstores and have seen some statistical evidence that bookstores may be weathering the storm, there is another interpretation of that data that may suggest we are seeing a slow death rather than quick extinction.

First, the sudden implosion of Borders left a large hole in the market.  While Borders was not financially sustainable they still had a few million customers at least.  It is reasonable to assume that those customers migrated to other stores when Borders closed.  The same argument can be inferred from Barnes and Noble's slow death.  As B&N closes a few stores a year we see a migration of customers to other stores, which artificially inflates those stores numbers and may be creating the sense of viability and health that we read about for indy bookstores.  What we really need are demographic breakdowns of those customers to see if bookstores are capturing a large enough percentage of new and young readers to remain viable for the long term.  I for one am not convinced, as I live in a very rural and slow adopting community that is generally 10-20 years behind broader American society.  For example, I have never seen a community where so many private businesses do not have a website, and many are consciously choosing not to get on the web.  But even in our less tech savvy community the local and privately owned bookstores are struggling to make ends meet. 

While I hope that bookstores survive another century, I cannot feel as certain as others that they will.