Finding Your Next Book, or, the Discovery Problem

The Idea Logical Company • 15 October 2013

Beyond recommendation engines. Check out Mike Shatzkin's essay on alternate discovery paths for connecting readers to books, now that some 50% of book sales occur online and the trend is accelerating. "The point is that most people get their ideas about what to read next from many sources: people they talk to, reviews, news reports, business interactions," says Shatzkin. And, of course, recommendation engines—although he points out that current algorithms are equivalent to seeing through "one nearsighted eye." Read on for thoughts on why fewer than 5% of book titles now make up nearly 70% of sales and what can be done to broaden purchasers' perspectives.

This is a reasoned analysis of why good algorithmic recommendations are a hard problem. I'm pretty happy with Amazon because I make sure to help them—rating my purchases, weeding out gift items, saying when I'm not interested, etc.—but not everybody is willing to do this. Those folks might be willing to give up more of their privacy rather than invest the effort in which case Shatzkin's speculation about Google seems especially strong. My local bookseller, Kepler's in Menlo Park, CA, still has clerks who roam the aisles being enthusiastic about "hand-selling." (Michalko)

Can E-Books Save the Neighborhood Bookstore?

Fast Co.Labs • 17 October 2013

Novel idea. Check out this story about an alternative to the hardware-centric e-book marketing typical of Apple and Amazon. In addition to its open-platform approach, Zola Books allows indie bookstores to create a virtual storefront on its site and earn a portion of every e-book sold there. Author Audrey Niffenegger says, "There was this feeling that a reader was being asked to commit to a particular device . . . So [cofounders] Joe and Michael were just both thinking, 'Let's make good e-books that are available for all devices and then the readers don't have to choose, it doesn't matter what they've already bought . . . We'll be the Ben and Jerry's of e-books.'"

It's early days for this site and this idea. The recommendation section of the site is not yet operable. I wish them well but it does seem as though the dynamics of right thinking and good deeds figure unreasonably large in this scheme. Who knew The Time Traveler's Wife sold so many copies? (It's #88 in Amazon's Romance genre list) I base my astonishment on the movie which I was forced to watch on so many plane flights. Metacritic score = 47. (Michalko)

Why Amazon Is Ready to Think Inside the Box

Variety • 17 October 2013

Different strokes. Amazon and Netflix are both riding the wave of digital content delivery, but the two online giants have very different Internet video strategies: "Netflix sees owning a hardware platform as a liability, an unnecessary cost center, given the numerous other smart devices out there. The reason Amazon sees an advantage in the approach reflects their vastly different business models."

An interesting speculation based on frothy business intelligence. I think the conclusion is correct however. The most compelling content packages win regardless of the carriage and hardware channels. Consider the uneasy relationship between providers like HBO and CBS and the cable providers. (Michalko)

How Hollywood Can Capitalize on Piracy

Technology Review • 17 October 2013

Make it easy. The MPAA has a history of hand-wringing over revenues lost to "piracy," but the numbers show that unsanctioned downloading may prove to be the movie industry's "savior, an amalgamation of lending library, viral-advertising hub, and market expansion tool." Attempts to restrict access to digital content, such as DRM, tend to backfire, and the numbers in this article bear out the positive benefits of broader—if illicit—exposure.

Torrents as libraries of the future; I don't think so. But I do agree with the basic theses in this article. Circulation of any kind builds the legitimate market for content. As soon as music was easy to acquire and reasonably-priced, the market moved en masse. (Michalko)

What Does It Mean for the U.S. to "Lose Control of the Internet?"

The Atlantic • 16 October 2013

Tug of war. In a recently released statement, a group of organizations involved in Internet infrastructure coordination seeks to accelerate the "globalization" of control over the network and naming conventions. As justification for the move, the group cited concerns over the recent revelations of NSA snooping. Read on for policy implications and predictions for this latest round of negotiations.

This is a good layman's overview of the major entities governing the infrastructure of the internet and their motivations. The history of ICANN is pretty interesting. Especially for those of us who remember its early days and its connection to the library world. M. Stuart Lynn, who chaired the Commission on Preservation and Access (the predecessor organization to Council on Library and Information Resources) ran ICANN from 2001-2003. (Michalko)

A New Map of How We Think: Top Brain/Bottom Brain

The Wall Street Journal • 18 October 2013

Thoughts on thinking. Check out this overview of the latest thinking on how the different parts of the brain work together to spark imagination, plan ahead and achieve goals. Dubbed the "theory of cognitive modes," this concept amplifies the idea of neuro-networks, with all the parts of the brain working together in concert like a bicycle. Read on to find out whether your thinking style is more like Oprah Winfrey or Tiger Woods and why.

So after taking the quiz I am told that I think in situational Mover Mode. I guess I'm okay with that. (Michalko)

100 Incredible Things I Learned Watching 70 Hours of TED Talks Last Week

A Year of Productivity • 10 October 2013

Lists are fun. Skim through this list for highlights from blogger Chris Bailey's personal TED Talk marathon. Many ideas are familiar, but did you know you could make a piano keyboard from a banana (#72) and stream wireless data from a light bulb (#87)?

This is just fun. TED Talks, particularly with the advent of TEDx, are—despite the time limits—in clear and present danger of bloviation. I love this guy. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, how many personal name "clusters" are in VIAF?

Get the answer.