This is an example of a normal text note
Powered by ScribeFire.
John Kenneth Galbraith passes away at the age of 97. Galbraith is a Harvard icon. Richard Parker, his biographer and an economics professor at Harvard, describes Galbraith as Harvard's most famous economist. Galbraith has been active on many fronts (politics, foreign affairs, society, economics etc...). He has written 48 books.
Galbraith never stopped observing the world, writing books, articles, giving inteviews. Here are some of quotations by the great man and an interview he gave at UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies.
Here it is. What strikes me is how conventional the list is. An econometrician would view this as a strong positive autocorrelation effect: When you're a guru, the odds are strong that next year you are going to be (considered) one again. Or, you can call it the "winner take all" effect. So much for (bio)diversity. Given all the hype around the Long Tail this is rather strange indeed.
I wonder how useful this type of rankings is if it keeps delivering year after year the same kind of info. Don't you want to be taken by surprise, to discover ideas, authors that you were not aware of? Don't get me wrong I do not judge the quality of the work of the guys who made it to the list. Good for them. I wonder about all the good work that "long tail" authors have produced and that is still kept in the dark.
In a nutshell I want to be challenged, I don't care about "sticky averages"!
PS: By the way, since Peter Drucker passed away, they excluded him (even though they recognize that he would have kept his first rank). That's how you create some hype and welcome a new king (Michael Porter). But do ideas really die?
I just bought a new book (quite heavy by the way, see picture) entitled "The Art of Looking Sideways" (by Alan Fletcher, Phaidon Press). When I was in the bookstore, I could not get the book off my hands. Every page was like a magnet. I had to buy it. This book is not designed to be read in the usual way from beginning to end though. As the ttitle suggests, you have to read sideways.
This is an incredible piece of work which somehow should be required reading in many places including business schools. This is a tribute to the art of gazing. It is inspirational, recreative and full of useful, unexpected references.
In my view, it beats by a fat margin all the hype business books that are supposed to teach CEOS, managers, leaders, businesses how to be great, lasting etc...
I subscribe 100% to Roy R. Behrens, a professor of art at the University of Northern Iowa, when he gives his answer to the traditional question:
"If you were marooned on an island, what book would you want to have with you? ..... I would not hesitate to name Alan Fletcher's The Art of Looking Sideways, which is magnificent stimulant for creative thinking, designing, and teaching."
There is a lot of hype these days around the so-called Long Tail. The Long Tail idea is fairly simple. It goes roughly like this: Capitalism has endowed us with opulence (at least in developed countries). From goods to ideas, many things are available. However, we, as customers, get to see only the emerged part of the iceberg. Think of books, we see only what bookstores can carry (that is books that match their "dollar return per bookshelf square inch" benchmark over a rather short time). We don't see the rest (a bit with Amazon maybe). But the rest may be precisely what we need! So much for capitalistic opulence. Capitalism ends up synonymous of waste.
However each individual knows something that may be valuable to another person. The challenge is to find how these two people can identify each other and start to share. This is where the whole shabam of social networks, tagging, blogs, wikis, folksonomy etc... comes into motion. People at their own individual level are endowed and empowered with technological tools that enable them to spread their bits of knowledge. If I know this book that nobody knows about I can spread the gospel and attract new readers to it. In a nutshell, the "humane long tail" (me) advocates the "content long tail" (the unknown book).
Great! But how come the short tail (the experts, the gurus) does not do the same. After all, they know a great deal, a greater deal than I do. How come they are so unwilling to share? We know this for a fact at Cyberlibris: Indeed, we have more often than not asked faculty members who use Cyberlibris to share their favourite readings with the Cyberlibris community. End result, pretty disappointing in my own view.
Hope may be back though. I just read an article from the French newspaper Le Monde. As a matter of fact this is an interview of Kenzaburô Oé, a famous Japanese author who won the 1994 Nobel Prize in literature. At the end of the interview Kenzaburô Oé explains why he has created a literature prize where the jury has only one member: Him! When asked why he says that he is unsatisfied with the current literature critic system in Japan. He wants to make sure that authentic voices are heard even if they don't sell well in bookstores. And, he concludes "A weird idea of an old man, is not it...?"
No, Mr Kenzaburô Oé, this is not a silly idea. This is a bright idea that people of your calibre should buy and develop. The more initiatives like yours, the shorter the long tail!
I heard on the radio the other day that Swiss students went on strike to ask for more scholarships and less student loans. It sounds quite obvious that they would rather go for zero interest rate funding rather than for a loan with a strictly positive interest rate. Indeed, a scholarship is nothing but a fully subsidized loan. Hence what the Swiss students have been advocating is a zero cost funding topped by the right not to repay the principal of the loan. Well, I assume many of us would indeed love to be able to receive free money to fund the assets we want to invest in whatever these assets are.
What strikes me is that (far too) many people seem to think that we live in an "All or Nothing" society. Either you get what you want in full (zero cost funding for that matter) or you get nothing (namely a loan with an interest rate). But wait a minute, where has their creativity gone? Human brain is admirable precisely because it has always been able to fill the void between all and nothing. Let's take the example of the student loan again. It does not have to be zero rate or fixed rate. What if it were something where the loan installments would be indexed on some earnings measurement. When earnings would go down, installments would go down too precisely when you need it badly. When earnings would go north, installments would go north too precisely when you can afford it.
I know there are many contractual details to be fixed (may explain why the folks at My Rich Uncle don't offer the scheme anymore (?)). But the spirit is there: Use your brain to fill the void.
Last week-end, we went visiting antic shops and I was able to buy a vintage textbook dated 1900. The textbook is entitled "Textbook of Commercial Sciences" and has been written by Professor Merten of the University of Ghent. Very interesting book (we should have some of these wonderful vintage textbooks in Cyberlibris) where you can feel the author's passion for pedagogy.
Two things in particular have caught my eyes. The first one is
related to the way the reader can authenticate whether he is reading a
true copy or a faked one. Simple, each true copy has to carry the
author's signature. The absence of the signature indicated that the
copy is fake. It begs the question however of how you know the authors'
true signature in the first place and how you can be sure it has not
The second thing has to do with copyright and copyright enforcement. We all know the traditional formula. It usually says "All Rights Reserved".
Well here the text is rather different. It is a lot more personal. Indeed, the publisher says quite openly:
"All rights are reserved in accordance with the law. I am willing to sue anyone who would, in violation of my copyright, reproduce any theory or proof from this book, either from past editions or from the current one." The Publisher.
One cannot be clearer! Somehow I find it more "romantic" than the rather dry "All Rights Reserved".
What strikes me is that here again we are stuck in an "all or nothing" situation. Either the book is copyrighted (all) or the book is public domain (nothing: No Rights Reserved).
This is sad! What about having something that would say "Some Rights Reserved" I know that Lawrence Lessig and the folks at Creative Commons are fighting big time for this. The simple fact that they have to fight for it is again a strong evidence of the pervasiveness of the "All or Nothing" society. By the way the book by the way is an interesting creature as it blends in one entity the hardware and the software, the container and the content. Gutenberg was smart indeed!
But this obvious fact has odd consequences that we know quite well at Cyberlibris. Publishers often say that their business is to sell books. Not true! Their business is to sell content. This begs then the question of what is the best "container" to sell the said content. Sometimes Gutenberg is the winning option. Sometimes not. Again it is not all (Gutenberg) or nothing. Digital for that matter may win and that's how we make our living at Cyberlibris (not any kind of digital though: Digital without a clean and proper business model is doomed to failure).
The "All or Nothing" society is a real plague and the last thing we should do is surrender to it, an insult to our brain indeed. Next time you see or feel "All" or its mate "Nothing", watch and listen carefully there might be room for a new business. Your business!
I am currently reading the latest issue of The Economist. One article in particular has caught my eyes: Pulp friction. It's an article dealing with the recent Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Amazon hype on e-books. As The Economist has it: "Internet companies are racing to get books on line, but publishers are understandably wary."
This is an interesting article but some clarifications are in order. First let's get back to basics. Why is it that it takes so long for books to end up on line (as a matter of fact they are already on line but The Economist and other newspapers for that matter do not seem to know it)? Indeed, music, pictures, movies are already widely available on line.
To answer the question properly one needs to carefully reconsider Gutenberg's achievement. Let's start with a very candid question. What is a book? A book is a subtle combination of content (What the author has written) and container (the physical book itself). One single entity is both at the same time the hardware and the software. The hardware part is an achievement in itself. The user can carry it anywhere, he does not need any power, he can write on it, annotate, bookmark the pages. The book has often a bibliography, an index. When the book falls down, don't worry, it is still working. Some books are almost pieces of art: quality of paper, iconography, smell etc...
All this explains why book content did not emancipate itself from its container the same way music and movies did. As a matter of fact it did try. Remember what the fellows at Forrester Research were predicting about e-books market figures. They were promissing us the moon. But who wants to read on a computer even if its a Tablet PC or a so-called e-book device? Almost nobody. Gutenberg wins by a fat margin! So much for market research. Music and movies are different. They already gained their emancipation. One can even say that more often than not they have a life of their own. Indeed, music for instance got read of its traditional container (the CD) and went on line in a quite rude manner (Napster, Kazaa etc...). And, it works. That's the way how people want to consume music. Hence a whole ecosystem has developed around music content, the most notable one these days being the iTunes and iPod ecosystem. The same is happening with movies on line and on demand.
Let's turn to the second point that is not properly covered by the news. Is the book really the last content sanctuary? And, what does all this hype around books on line mean? First, let me emphasize that, contrarily to what most press articles seem to suggest, successful experiences and business models with on line books do exist (It seems to be human nature to talk about trains that derail and not about trains that arrive on time!). Indeed, for the book to be able to emancipate itself from its traditional container, it takes a properly crafted business model that aligns interests and value added from the publisher down to the end user. This model (or the ecosystem for that matter) exists, we all know it, it is called a library. What matters for an end-user is to be able to access the relevant information precisely when and where he needs it. A few words are important here:
- Relevant: For sure books exist that match one's information needs. The problem is to locate them and more often than not you won't find it in bookstores, even very large ones. Bookstores carry what sells fast enough (inventories, real estate etc...). Having access to a digital library powered by a proper search engine solves the problem. Publishers are happy too: They are in a position to re-monetize a (lost) relationship and they do so at a very "granular" scale.
- When: I need the info, whatever the info, now and not tomorrow. This is when I am willing to pay and where the publisher should be able to capture this willingness to pay.
- Where: I need the info even though I may be in a remote place: The piano shall come to me and not the other way round! The publisher shall be able to capture my willingness to pay even if I am not in a bookstore.
Well, this is what a digital library is all about and that is why it aligns readers' and publishers' interests. A digital library is where the content can indeed gain its emancipation from its container. This is where book content can be "nicely" unlocked. We see this everyday at Cyberlibris. Although I had a policy until now not to mix what we do at Cyberlibris (www.cyberlibris.com) and what I blog about, I find it timely and useful to have some exception here. Indeed, I am quite surprised when I hear or read that publishers are wary, hesitant or that they rush to be on line. Frankly, they don't need to. They are already there but, for sure, they did less noise than their music or Hollywood counterparts. Let's look at some basic facts (not to mention other on line initiatives like the Gutenberg project which mainly focusses on content without copyright):
We have roughly 200 publishers worldwide under contract. Through Cyberlibris their books are available on line, full-text and pages can be printed. Books can be annotated and enhanced by many on line functionalities. Does it really work? Well, ask the thousands and thousands of users that enjoy Cyberlibris worldwide. Does it pay a publisher to work this way? Well, ask them!
In a nutshell, do me a favor, read this.pdf (Article in French from Livres Hebdo).
Again I took the liberty of singing the corporate anthem for good reasons. Cyberlibris was started as an effort to improve opportunities to share information and knowledge (Hint: I have been an academic in a past life and spent fifteen years of this life sharing the bits and pieces I knew with my students and colleagues). This is our daily mantra. We tend to think that it has also become the mantra of the 200 publishers that work with us!
This is neither Pulp Fiction or Pulp Friction. This is Pulp Emancipation!
There has been a lot of hype around Google Scholar. This is indeed a useful tool for students and researchers. To put it in a nutshell, here is what Google has to say about it:
" Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for
scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books,
preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of
research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of
academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and
universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web."
To give my personal example, I was able to track papers of mine for which, sadly enough, I did not have copies left over.
Now here is some great news: SmealSearch, a service from the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University. From what I have seen playing with it, it is even better than Google Scholar. Here is what people involved in the SmealSearch Project have to say about it:
" SMEALSearch is a niche search engine that searches the web and catalogs academic articles as well as commercially produced articles and reports that address any branch of Business. The search engine crawls websites of universities, commercial organizations, research institutes and government departments to retrieve academic articles, working papers, white papers, consulting reports, magazine articles, and published statistics and facts. For certain documents, the database only stores the hyperlinks to those documents. SMEALSearch performs a citation analysis of all the academic articles accessed and lists them in order of their citation rates in academic papers (the most cited articles are listed first). Articles available through the SMEALSearch engine can be downloaded (for fair use) without any charges. However, some articles may have only the abstracts listed, and may have to be purchased directly from the appropriate sources."
Congratulations! This is a great tool. You can locate the papers, identify related articles, citations. You can rate the papers, post comments etc... You can submit papers. You can even search for business schools.
Lucky PhD students! It was a lot more difficult in my days (yes, there were less papers too!).
PS: I am sure Jim Mahar gonna be very proud of his alma mater!
Last week I attended one of the best events I ever went to in years. Indeed, I was fortunate to be invited to lecture at IPADE in Mexico City. IPADE is a business school that was founded in 1967 in the city of Mexico. Since its early days IPADE has developed many fine programs including an MBA for young executives and an Executive MBA (MEDEX). IPADE has reached top positions in many rankings (see for instance MB_05_Scoreboard.pdf ). It has now three campuses in Mexico City, in Guadalajara and in Monterrey.
The one thing that struck me most is IPADE's passion for details. Indeed, as the saying goes, God (sometimes the Devil) lies in the details. Any businessman knows, often by (painful) experience, that details are the source of many successes and failures. If by any chance you're in Mexico City, visit IPADE's campus, you'll see what it takes to care for details.
IPADE has run for some years now an interesting program called the MEDEX International Week. This program bring together (roughly 500) lecturers, professors and participants from IPADE and other business schools worldwide where the Executive MBA programs are being taught in order to share in a unique international event at IPADE´s main campus. This year the topic was devoted to the Mass Media and their social and economic impact.
The program included fine speakers such as Christopher Crommett (SVP, CNN en Espanol), Prasanto Kumar Roy (President and Chief Editor, Cybermedia Publications), Professor Doktor Arno Müller (FHNordAkademie) and many others.
I gave several lectures around the same topic entitled "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?: Internet and the Content Industry in the New (?) Economy" (presentation is here IPADE_Lecture.pdf ).
The main line of the talk is that we have gone from a perspiration economy (The robbing barons, the gilded age) to an inspiration economy (based on ideas and a cost structure where the marginal cost of production lies below the average cost). This has tremendous implications for those I call the media robbing barons (the content industry). In a sense, the robbing barons of the late nineteenth century / early twentieth century controlled capital and assets and you had to perspire for them.
Then came the financial revolution (easy access to capital, venture capital, private equity) and talent was freed from the robbing barons. Talent could go on its own. What happens to the media mogul (the media robbing barons) these days has the same flavor. Users (the We the Media of Dan Gillmor) have been empowered by a formidable technological revolution (backed by the financial revolution) including infrastructure (bandwidth, fiber optic etc...), hardware (iPod, computers, digital cameras, mp3 players, PSP of course...) and software (blogs, RSS, XML, Linux etc...).
This has far-reaching consequences on the way we want to consume content. Media moguls want the business landscape to remain vertical even if it is now digital: top-down, they produce what we consume. Moreover they fight big time to retain control for as long as possible ("copyright") of the content they distribute. "We the media" view things differently. We beg to differ as the Napster kids have shown. Our view is more horizontal and predicated on network effects.
Hence our demand for (digital) content has become a lot more elastic to price than the media moguls usually think it is. Why? Because we have the option to go for free: Pay nothing. Yes it is illegal. But think of the Prohibition in the US: When alcohol was prohibited (infinite price), guess what people did, they produced it themselves! When it became legal again at normal prices, nobody bothered to produce alcohol on his own.
Same here. And, that's why the content industry has to be creative and listen to its customers. It has the economic means for it: Indeed, with digital content, it saves on a lot of (distribution, storage...) costs. This money can be reinvested in new offerings that grow the pie instead of spending it on lawyers' fees to defend and control the current pie.
Steve Jobs has paved the way with iTunes. So does Yahoo with its latest Yahoo Unlimited. What is worrying though is that the old demons are not slayed yet. Indeed, the music industry is putting pressure on Jobs to increase iTunes per download price.
Again the content industry seems to ignore the economics of its current demand curve: To put it in Jobs' words:
"We're trying to compete with piracy, we're trying to pull people away from piracy and say you can buy these songs legally for a fair price'.
"But if the price goes up a lot, they'll go back to piracy. Then everybody loses."
The digital economy is not a Terra Incognita. It is for those who focus on their current slice of the pie only. It is not for those whose aim is to grow the pie. No wonder IPADE has picked this topic of Media and Content for this year International week. This is indeed what you would expect from a fine school that teaches its students to grow the pie!