Home | About NISO | Blog

Archive for the ‘book trade’ Category

ISTC and Ur-Texts

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Tuesday, I attended a meeting on the International Standard Text Code (ISTC), organized by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) in Manhattan.  The meeting was held in conjunction with the release of a white paper on the ISTC by Michael Holdsworth entitled ISTC: A Work in Progress. This is a terrific paper and worthy of reading for those interested in this topic and I commend it to you all, if you haven’t seen it.  The paper provides a detailed introduction to the ISTC and what role this new identifier will play in our community.

During the meeting as I was tweeting about the standard, I got into a brief twitter discussion with John Mark Ockerbloom at the University of Pennsylvania Library.  Unfortunately as wonderful as Twitter is for instantaneous conversation, it is not at all easy to communicate nuance.    For that, a longer form is necessary, hence this blog post.

As a jumping off point, let us start with the fact that the ISTC has a fairly good definition about what it is identifying: the text of a work as a distinct abstract item that may be the same or different across different products or manifestations.  Distinguishing between those changes can be critical, as is tying together the various manifestations for collection development, rights and product management reasons.

One of the key principles of the ISTC is that:

“If two entities share identical ISTC metadata, they shall be treated as the same textual work and shall have the same ISTC.”

Where to draw this distinction is quite an interesting point.  As John pointed out in his question to me, “How are works with no definitive original text handled? (e.g. Hamlet) Is there an #ISTC for some hypothetical ur-Hamlet?”  The issue here is that there are multiple “original versions” of the text of Hamlet. Quoting from Wikikpedia: “Three different early versions of [Hamlet] have survived: these are known as the First Quarto (Q1), the Second Quarto (Q2) and the First Folio (F1). Each has lines, and even scenes, that are missing from the others.”

In this case, the three different versions would each have three different ISTCs assigned to them, since the text of the versions is different.  They could be noted as related to the other ISTCs (as well as the cascade of other related editions) in the descriptive metadata fields.  Hamlet is a perfect example of where the ISTC could be of critical value, since those who have an interest in the variances between the three different versions would want to know which text is the basis of the copy of Hamlet they are purchasing, since there are significant differences between the three copies.

Perhaps most stringent solution in keeping with the letter of the standard might be that the First Quatro, have been the first known to published, since it was the first to appear in the Stationers’ Register in 1602 although it likely was not published until summer or fall 1603.  The Second Quarto and First Folio were published later—in 1604 and 1623 respectively.  Although the first Quatro is often considered “inferior” to later versions, assigning it the “Source” ISTC would be no different than if it were published today, and subsequently re-published as a revision (which would be assigned a related ISTC).  While there has been controversy about the source text of Hamlet that probably began not long after the day it was published and has certainly grown as the field of scholarship around Shakespeare has grown, for the purposes of identification and linking does the “Ur-text” matter?

Certainly, a user would want to know that this is the canonical version, be that the Second Quatro or First Folio versions.  The critical point is that we identify things differently when there are important reasons to make the distinctions.  In the case of Hamlet, there is a need to make the distinction.  Which copy is considered “original” and which is a derivative isn’t nearly as important as making the distinction.

It is valuable to note the description in the ISTC User’s Manuel in the section on Original works and derivations.  Quoting from the Manuel:

7.1    What is an “original” work?

For the purposes of registration on the ISTC database, a work may be regarded as being “original” if it cannot be adequately described using one or more of the controlled values allowed for the “Derivation Type” element (specified elsewhere in this document).

A work is considered to be “original” for registration purposes unless it replicates a significant proportion of a previously existing work or it is a direct translation of the previously existing one (where all the words may be different but the concepts and their sequence are the same). It should be noted that this is a different approach from that used by FRBR2, which regards translations as simply different “expressions” of the same work.

The “Source ISTC” metadata field is an optional one and is “Used to identify the original work(s) from which this one is derived (where appropriate). It is recommended that these are provided whenever possible.”  In the case of the three Hamlet “original versions” this field would likely be left blank, since there is no way to distinguish between the “Original” and the “Derivation”.  Each of the three versions could be considered “Original”, but this would get messy if one were not noted as original.   There is a “Derivation type” metadata field with restricted values, although “Unspecified” is one option.  Since there isn’t necessarily a value in the “original” distinction, there isn’t a point arguing about which is original.  In the real world, what will likely be the “original” will be the first version that receives the assignment.

This same problem will likely be true of a variety of other texts, especially from distant historical periods.   A focus on core principles, that we distinguish what is important, that disambiguation is important, and avoiding the philosophical arguments surrounding “original” versus “derivative”, just as the ISTC community is trying to avoid “ownership” of the record, will help to serve the entire community.

There is a lot more information about the ISTC provided by NISO. Members and subscribers can read the article that Andy Weissberg VP of Identifier Services & Corporate Marketing at Bowker wrote in Information Standards Quarterly last summer, The International Standard Text Code (ISTC): An Overview and Status Report. For non-subscribers, Andy Weissberg also presented during the 2009 NISO-BISG Changing Standards Landscape forum prior to ALA’s Annual conference in Chicago.  You can view his presentation slides or watch the video from that meeting.

The International ISTC Agency Ltd is a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales. Its sole purpose is to implement and promote the ISO 21047 (ISTC) standard and it is operated by representatives of its founding members, namely RR Bowker, CISAC, IFRRO, and Nielsen Book Services.

The first edition of “ISO 21047 Information and Documentation – International Standard Text Code (ISTC)” was published by ISO in March 2009. It is available for purchase in separate English and French versions either as an electronic download or printed document from ISO.

The free Ebook “bestsellers”

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

There is an interesting trend in the mass market for e-books, which is new on this scale: The free book.

Certainly free book distribution has taken place as a marketing tactic for decasdes, if not centuries.  However, since the release of the Kindle, this new distribution mode seems to have really taken off.

An article in the New York Times this past weekend described the growing trend.  As the Times reports, more than half of the “best-selling” e-books on the Kindle, Amazon.com’s e-reader, are available at no charge.

On Saturday afternoon, I double-checked this and of the books in Amazon Kindle’s top ebook “Bestsellers” list -

Top 5 – 4 free and one at $0.25 about the Kindle

Top 10 – 8 of top 10 – another at $8.55 (but on $0.95 off hardcover list)

Top 15 – 11 of top 15 – two more at $4.39 one at $7.50

Top 20 – 14 of top 20 – one at $5.50 and the first at $9.99

Top 25 – 17 of top 25 – two more at $9.99 including Dan Brown’s book

Ten more were not free in 25-50, so 18 of 50 or only 36% of top 50 book are paid.

11 more were for-fee books in the next 50-75

11 more in 75-100 –

In total 60 of top 100 “selling titles” for Kindle are free or public domain books.  Now Amazon changes this every hour, so a review of your own would probably not come up with the same results.  However, it seems that at least half and as many as two-thirds of the list are not “sellers” at all, but only downloads.

However in that article, the author noted theoretically “lost” 28K sales.  An old friend of mine knows one of the authors in that story and she told me that the referenced author actually made about $10,000 in royalties on her backlist during the free period, which is incredible.

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine and author of the Long Tail, described how free works at the dawn the internet age in his book “Free”.  I should note that I was one who took advantage of Anderson’s business model and read “Free” at no cost on my Kindle.  What publishers are doing is a perfect example of Anderson’s thesis: That people can use the medium of digital distribution and it’s *nearly* free distribution to get consumers to be interested in other non-free products.  You can download the first book of a series for free, but if you want volumes 2-12 of the “Twilight” series, you will have to pay. NOTE – that Twilight or Harry Potter didn’t employ this model.  However, 10 years from now is there a kids book series that kids are eagerly awaiting the movies of, that began as a series with the first book free?  I don’t think this process will change how people discover and share books, but it certainly will accelerate the process.

Does your ebook lack that sensory experience?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Do your e-books lack that special something that print had?  Do you miss the feel and smell of old-fashioned paper and ink?  Well, you needn’t worry any longer.  A new product was released earlier this year that could be the answer to your yearning for the heyday of the printing press: The Smell of Books

This “aerosol ebook enhancer” is purported to be compatible with a wide range of formats and is described as 100% DRM-compatible.  It is even noted to work with the DAISY Talking Book (NISO Z39.86) standard format.  Smell of Books™ is available in five designer aromas.

*  New  Book Smell
*  Classic Musty Smell
*  Scent of Sensibility
*  Eau You Have Cats
*  Crunchy Bacon Scent

I’ve submitted a request for a trial size some to test on my new Kindle.  I’ll post a review once it arrives!

NB: I came across this site today, while searching for examples of funny forgeries.  Thanks to the Museum of Hoaxes for the link.

Atlantic Records posts more digital sales than CDs

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Late last week, one of the largest music labels announced that its sales of digital files exceeded the revenue generated by CDs.  As reported in the New York TimesAltantic Records saw 51% of its sales generated by digital sales.  This was significantly more than Atlantic’s parent company, Warner Music Group, which reported only 27% of its total sales from digital distribution. 

It should come as no surprise that digital music is quickly replacing physical media.  One need only think of the weight and mess of thousands of CDs, versus a nearly unlimited amount on an iPod or streaming on demand.  The question is when will other media follow?  Some magazines are slowly getting rid of print in favor of online.  It will be some time before display technology exceeds the user experience of print on paper.  In some ways scholarly journal publishing is already headed down this path.  The rest of publishing is slower to adapt.  However, several tipping points will likely be reached fairly soon. 

* – Display technology needs to improve, so that the user experience is comparable to print

* - Standardization around some from of reader, or at least a common file format working on different devices

* - A Napster-like social movement among the broader tech-savvy early adopters (not regarding free distribution, necessarily) which pushes e-books and the like to digital.

* – A breadth and depth of available content to make the purchase of the reader worthwhile.

* – Mass production of readers so that they are no longer $300+  

* – Preservation strategies need to be improved 

 

Many of these issues are consensus based and awaiting either standards or adoption of existing standards. 

A bellwether of cutting to come?

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The AP is reporting today that Random House, the largest US-based trade publisher will be freezing pension benefits for current employees and eliminating them for new hires.  Like many organizations, Random House will maintain a defined contribution plan.  In part, this is continuation of an ongoing trend in business away from pension plans to more manageable (for the companies) 401K style plans.  However, the fact that belt tightening is taking place across the industry in indicative of larger pull back in the publishing market.

From the article:

[A spokesman] said talk of cutting pension had been going on for years, although changes at Random House have been expected since Markus Dohle replaced Peter Olson in May as chairman of the publisher’s worldwide operations. “Mr. Dohle’s planning and discussions about the company’s future has been and continue to be very interactive at all levels of the company worldwide,” Applebaum said

Also today, Barnes and Noble reported disappointing same store sales. Sales are down 4.4% to $1.12 billion, while same-store sales fell 7.4% from last year.”

From the article:

Three weeks ago, Chairman Leonard Riggio told employees through an internal memo that the bookseller was “bracing for a terrible holiday season,” and that he expected “the trend to continue well into 2009, and perhaps beyond.”

Riggio wrote, however, that the retailer expects to finish comfortably in the black for the year and doesn’t have any bank debt.

Thursday, Chief Executive Steve Riggio said there was “a significant drop off in customer traffic and consumer spending” in the latest quarter. He added that the company is “taking measures to reduce expenses for the balance of this year and next.” He didn’t elaborate.