Hugh McGuire

publishing, technology, media, philosophy, a bit of politics.

arcade fire + premium digital + all sorts of other things that we might add in the title

The Montreal/Texas band Arcade Fire has just released a new album, Suburbs. Arcade Fire is about as big as indie bands get, and their plan is to stay indie – as far as I know.
You can buy the new album here:
http://www.arcadefire.com/

And some interesting notes about how you can buy:
* Premium digital ($7.99)
* CD + Premium digital ($12.99)
* Vinyl + premium digital ($24.99)
All orders come with non-premium digital (ie in lossy m4a format) … with “visuals for each song, lyrics & contextual hyperlinks.”

Finally, you get one of 8 covers … randomly assigned.

In short:
– low quality digital is the baseline
– and it’s implied that if you want that for free you can find it
– everything else is a bundle of some sort: digital + something
– high quality digital, and physical copies are premium products
– a kind of customization: only 1 in 8 purchasers will have the same cover as you.

The digital is almost a give-away, everything else you are paying because you care enough to have something more substantial.

I suspect the big problem in the book business is that most books aren’t worth caring about enough to want a memento. So the real problem in publishing is not so much the shake-up of digital, but rather that consumers (and publishers) just don’t care that much about the majority of books that are published and bought.

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Heartwarming Thanks

One of our been-around-for-ages LibriVox volunteers, Gesine, started an initiative to collect and publish on our forums “thank you” notes sent to LibriVox from listeners, a great addition.

It’s been more than a year since I recorded anything for LibriVox, and the last thing I did was James Joyce’s “The Dead,” I think the most beautiful and moving short story I’ve ever read. LibriVox published my version of “The Dead,” from the Dubliners collection for Bloomsday, 2009. It was the one thing that I most wanted to read when LibriVox started, but it took me almost four years to get up the courage to do it.

I’ve never fancied myself much of an audiobook-maker, but there is a deeply spiritual engagement that happens when you record a book that you love. And that, always, has been (for me) a prime motivation for LibriVox, to give people a place to connect more deeply with books they love.

As far as I know, I’ve received two bits of fan mail for my LibriVox recordings, one ages ago for my overwrought chapter ofNotes from the Underground (one of our first LibriVox books); and just the other day I got another bit of mail regarding that recording of the “Dead.”

Here is what that note said, which (especially given the lambasting I’ve received for our recordings of Ulysses) makes me … it’s funny, trying to explain how it makes me feel… but the answer is grateful, though I couldn’t tell you why exactly:

Dear Mr. McGuire:
Thank you for your exemplary narration of Joyce’s “The Dead”. At the end I found myself listening in a trance-like state. My only regret is that Joyce never could hear it.
Yours,
David S.

In any case, thank you David S. for making my day.

Good Links, Weekly – July 24

More Good Links: Mitch (w / t) picks a link for me and a link for Alistair (w / t). Alistair and I do the same.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – Red Letter Media.

Alistair for Hugh: Techcrunch recently covered a three-hour, candid discussion with Conan O’Brien in which he said of Big Media producers, ‘Those men behind the curtain — the great and powerful Oz — are scared shitless right now,’ adding that the chaos is so high that anyone in the audience could just as likely be running a major network in a few years. This is pretty simple economics: one-to-millions media was based on economies of scale, but an audience of one is based on economies of skill. While the Techcrunch piece is must-read for anyone interested in new media, that’s not what I want you to watch. Rather, you need to see this 7-part, 70-minute review of The Phantom Menace, by a serial killer. It’s brilliant, and it proves O’Brien’s point more than any celebutante or startup could ever do. So grab a beer or three and some friends, and watch this.”

The Peekaboo Paradox – The Washington Post

Alistair for Mitch: “The Great Zucchini works 2 days a week, makes $100K a year. He’s scruffy and his trademark is putting a diaper on his head. This entertaining piece from The Washington Post looks inside the wacky economics of children’s entertainers. Beyond being a terrifying reminder to save all of my pennies, and the perils of living day to day, it’s actually an object lesson in marketing, supply, demand, branding, and the value of transparent innocence and customer empathy.”

No Minister: 90% of web snoop document censored to stop ‘premature unnecessary debate’ – The Sydney Morning Herald

Hugh for Alistair: In the start-up world we tend to think of Web technology living somehow on the edge of regulation – outside of the interference from the pesky officials who don’t get the Web. But we have some big debates ahead of us: about net neutrality, privacy, censorship and much more. Australia seems to have jumped off the deep end in efforts to bring censorship and government snooping to the Web. And, ironists that they are, the Australian government censored 90% of the policy document – drafted with industry consultation, but no citizen input – that will form the basis of their policy-making. Their rationale for expunging most of the document, according to Attorney-General’s Department legal officer, Claudia Hernandez, was to prevent ‘premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making.’ Which, if I understand the way democracy is supposed to function, is precisely the reason you allow debate.”

Real Editors Ship – FTrain.com

Hugh for Mitch: Editors and ‘old’-media people get a bad rap in these Interetish times. Paul Ford comes to the defense of the editor, arguing that in fact they have all the skills needed to rule our messy Web universe: seeing patterns, meeting deadlines, shipping product, separating wheat from chaff, evaluating what people like and don’t like. I’d never thought of it before, but editors as described by Ford are much like start-up product managers. Now, if only we can deal with that pervasive distrust of technology.”

Cooking For Geeks by Jeff Potter – O’Reilly Publishing

Mitch for Alistair: First off, a huge congrats to Alistair on the birth of his first child. I know you’re an O’Reilly published author, but when I saw the title of this book, I just knew it had your name written all over it. You’re a Geek, you love to cook and now you’ll be home a whole lot more. I could not think of a more appropriate piece of content that you should be devouring right at this exact moment (pun intended). So, welcome to being a Dad (and with that, you should also be checking out Digital Dads and the Dad-O-Matic Blogs). Now, get cooking and help your wife out a little, will ya?

Five Reasons Amazon E-Books are Outselling Hardcovers – SF Gate.

Mitch for Hugh: It was a big/historical week for the Publishing Industry. Amazon announced that digital books are now outselling hardcover books. This moment in time reminds me of when MP3 sales started to eclipse those of physical CDs. The digitization of any industry is never easy, and this transition for the publishing industry is going to be equally confusing and scary. Issues like rights management and what ‘distribution’ means is going to challenge the status quo. Just this week, I was told by my publisher that the rights to distribute my book, Six Pixels of Separation, on the Kindle format in Canada have not been secured (along with all books published by Hachette Book Group). Imagine that, you can’t get Malcolm Gladwell, the Twilight series or even Tony Hsieh‘s new book, Delivering Happiness, and thousands of other books in Canada via Kindle. What does that do for sales?”

Good Links – Weekly (July 10)

The Great Montreal Link Exchange continues (sorry this is late): Every week Mitch (w / t) picks a link for me and a link for Alistair (w / t). Alistair and I do the same.

Losing Our Cool”: The high price of staying cool.

Alistair for Hugh: Since Montreal’s in the middle of a heat wave, with temperatures cresting at 41 Celsius (105 Fahrenheit for our friends to the South) I thought this would be a good fit for Hugh. It’s about air conditioners. I never gave them much thought, but according to Losing our cool, they’ve shaped us more than we know: encouraging people to reproduce in the summer months; swelling the ranks of voters in Southern states; contributing to a drop in immunity, and more.

How to Teach a Child to Argue.

Alistair for Mitch: For Mitch, who’s frequently called on to convince others, here’s a piece my extremely expectant wife found on teaching your children to argue. While that sounds like a horrible idea, critical thinking and rhetoric can help children reason and figure things out. As we trust crowdsourced data, upvoted stories, and word of mouth more and more, the ability to think discriminately and to distinguish good arguments from bad will become a vital life skill.

Quantum Entanglement Holds DNA Together, Say Physicists.

Hugh for Alistair: Talking to Alistair often leaves me with a sore brain. Another thing that gives me a sore brain is quantum physics, particularly quantum entanglement. Entanglement is a property of quantum systems that links two particles’ states, even if they are separated by vast distances. Or, to quote from today’s link: ‘Entanglement is the weird quantum process in which a single wavefunction describes two separate objects. When this happens, these objects effectively share the same existence, no matter how far apart they might be.’ Well that’s pretty weird. Even weirder would be if it turns out that quantum entanglement is what holds DNA together. Be sure to read the comment thread.

A short History of the development of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology by Dr. Joseph Woo.

Hugh for Mitch: Jaron Lanier has written critically about Wikipedia entries replacing the more idiosyncratic pages by individual experts/hobbyists that used to crop up in web searches in the ‘old days’. At least Wikipedia is for the most part real text written by real people with the intention of helping readers get the information they want. But recently there’s been a new scourge, vapid pages of filler commissioned to match search queries to high-value adwords (see: Demand Media). So, I was shocked and awed and thrilled when I did a recent search for ‘pre-natal ultrasound history’ and found this page: ‘A short History of the development of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology’ written by Dr. Joseph S.K. Woo of Hong Kong. Says the homepage: ‘Rated among the top 5% of all Internet sites by Lycos in 1995’ (!) … A lovingly put-together treasure from the early, innocent days of the web. And still #1 ranked on Google for ‘prenatal ultrasound history.”

Who Is The New CEO?.

Mitch for Alistair: A fascinating Blog post by Vineet Nayar over on the Harvard Business Review Blog where he asks: ‘What then is the role of the new CEO? Is it to personally add the most value to the business? Or is it to enable those at the heart of this new value zone? If, as I believe, the latter is the case, we need to rethink our leadership styles and adopt one that is aligned better with current realities.” As businesses try to re-define themselves in a post-recession and New Media world, why aren’t we looking for a new definition of our top leaders as well?

Cyber Dissidents: How the Internet is Changing Dissent.

Mitch for Hugh: Freedom of information is something we all need to be paying a lot more attention to. This is an excellent panel discussion (it’s a video) that looks at how online technology is allowing many stories to get told in real time. While many of us are quick to point to instances like the elections in Iran or the Haiti disaster, there are many, many other stories that are being told as well. None of this would be possible were it not for technology and Social media tools, channels and platforms. After watching this panel discussion, you may start thinking differently about Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as real tools of change and access to freedom.

Good Links – Weekly (July 3, 2010)

This is week two of the Good Links Exchange, with selections from Mitch, Alistair and me. Each week, each of us choses one link each specifically for each of the other two guys, for a total of six links a week. For more info on this little project and the original post, check Mitch’s blog. And here are this week’s choices:

Can A Cognitive Surplus Re-ignite The Flynn Effect?
in Wikipedia

Alistair for Hugh: This is the name for a continuous increase in IQ over time – we don’t know why it happens, but theories include education, sanitation, and so on. We also suspect that it’s leveled out in developing nations. In our discussions of interactive textbooks and the Internet as a platform for education, it’s possible that we can rekindle (no pun intended) the Flynn effect through the ubiquitous access to broadband and Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus; certainly, with Wikipedia just a click away, we’re all smarter on demand. So here’s the Wikipedia entry for the Flynn effect.

The Future of Politics is Whose Infographic You Believe.

Alistair for Mitch: Green technology is both one of the biggest cultural and economic changes of the coming century, and one in which misinformation abounds. In the wake of the oil spill, people are receptive to that change, but communicating complex data on green tech is challenging, particularly with the greenwashing of terms like ‘clean coal’ and the highly politicized debates around nuclear power and ethanol. This illustration of China’s green power does a great job of communicating a lot of information simply. But I want you to look at it through the lens of legislation and politics in a democracy. After Roosevelt, you couldn’t get elected without radio. After Kennedy, television. Obama? The Internet. Legislators will have to resort to messages like this in order to convince people of their position, and the facts and figured will be ‘certified’ by various ‘independent’ groups.

It’s a Mindfield!
[Audio] Natasha Mitchell interviews Lone Frank on All in the Mind.

Hugh for Alistair: Advances in neuroscience are fundamentally shifting our understanding how we humans think, how we exist. ‘All in the Mind’ is Australia National Radio’s weekly show about this shift, hosted by the fabulous Natasha Mitchell. For my money, it’s the best science radio series/podcast in the world. More or less at random, this is a favorite recent episode about the ‘chemical self,’ religious experience, and the ‘I’ in the brain.

It Doesn’t Matter Which You Heard: the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
by Michael Barthel

Hugh for Mitch: I don’t know if Mitch is a Leonard Cohen fan, but I know that he was a music journalist for many years before becoming a digital marketing luminary, so this is my choice for the week. It’s one of the best things about music I’ve read in ages, and is the sort of thing I like to point to when people complain about the Internet and blogs shortening attention spans, or making writing shorter and dumber. As always: it depends what you choose to read.

Win With Web Metrics: Ensure A Clear Line Of Sight To Net Income!
by Avinash Kaushik

Mitch for Alistair: Alistair (literally) wrote the book on web monitoring, but Avinash Kaushik – the Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of both Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0 – had one of the most fascinating Blog posts earlier this week on what all of this data, monitoring and optimization should mean in terms of bottom-line revenue. As with everything Kaushik posts, it’s timely, super relevant and, above all else, entertaining. So, now you’re monitoring everything online… but is it making you cash?

The ‘Subliminal’ Effects Of Banner Ads.
by Laurie Sullivan

Mitch for Hugh: Hugh recently had an amazing Blog post titled, Death to Design? Death to the Banner Ad?, well, just this week, MediaPost ran this news item from a recent research report that states people may claim to hate banners ads and want them to go bye-bye, but they actually do impact purchase decisions and have a branding effect on the masses. So, as more and more people start using Readability and InstaPaper (like Hugh does), we may find a need for an additional marketing channel to build brand awareness and recall online.

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Good Links (Weekly?)

I had lunch last week with Mitch Joel (t/w) and Alistair Croll (t/w). Amid lots of brain-exploding chatter, Mitch had a nice idea: how about each week we each pick a good link for each of the other two guys. So, every week, six good links, specially chosen. Our own personalized weekly Givemesomethingtoread, that other people might enjoy as well.

Forthwith:

The Gartner Fellows Interview with James Burke.

This is a great interview with James Burke, which I think Hugh should read. Burke is brilliant, and if you get a chance to watch The Day The Universe Changed and Connections (all available on the james burke web channel on YouTube) it’s time well spent. (Alistair for Hugh).

Mixing Memory – Fart Spray (And Disgust) Makes Moral Judgments More Severe.

Mitch, you mentioned (rightly so) that while a pay-for-change-of-opinion model might work for big-ticket, highly branded, associated-with-self-worth products, there are many things that fall below this, where we have loyalty but aren’t talking about it much because it doesn’t affect our social status (thanks, Alain de Botton.) In that realm, I would submit that there are many hard-to-compute factors involved. Here’s a good write-up on disgust – simulated through a fart smell (no, really) and a messy office – polarizes moral judgments. (Alistair for Mitch).

City Of Sound – Emergent Urbanism, or ‘bottom-up planning’.

Alistair works with start-ups and innovators, and was partially responsible for setting up the informal co-working space that my company has been in for a little over a year. This article explores a more formalized (yet still grassroots) project that answers the question: how can you revitalize an empty downtown while encouraging start-ups? Answer: get cheap rent in empty buildings, wire up the buildings with a free wi-fi network, and offer start-ups rolling monthly leases. (Hugh for Alistair)

The Atlantic – Learns To Out-Innovate Itself.

I recently attended, with Mitch, a panel on the future of the magazine, at the Summer Literary Series. Panelists included: the fiction editor at The New Yorker, the associate publisher of The New York Review of Books, and an editor from The Walrus. The panel was a dud, with very little talk of the present, let alone the future. In counterpoint, here’s a short piece on how The Atlantic has reinvented itself, by taking this radical approach: ‘If our mission was to kill the magazine, what would we do?’ (Hugh for Mitch)

SlideShare – Design For Networks

You were talking a lot about what we should be measuring online – especially for Marketers. And, while I think that is critical, we also need to better understand why humans do things and design the technology around their needs. One of my team members (Sean Howard) sent me this great SlideShare presentation, and I think this will help you moving forward. (Mitch for Alistair).

Niemen Journalism Lab – Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus”: Is creating and sharing always a more moral choice than consuming?

I’m cheating here a little, both Hugh and Alistair should check this out. It’s a great review of Clay Shirky‘s latest book, Cognitive Surplus (Shirky is also the author of Here Comes Everybody). I’m almost finished reading Cognitive Surplus and this book is dog-ear marked and written in as if it were one of my notebooks from high school. It’s filled with great thoughts about the Web (with great examples) about how we share, connect and collaborate – which is all topics that drive how you develop new businesses and your perspective on the publishing industry. This review is awesome and the book is better. (Mitch for Hugh & Alistair)

Holy Sh*t: Devil at Your Heels

This feature-length documentary introduces viewers to Ken Carter, a Montreal-born stunt driver who made a living by risking his life. The film shines a light on the intense preparation that led to Carter’s first attempt to jump a car across a mile-wide stretch of the St. Lawrence River – a 5-year period during which the dare-devil raised a million dollars, erected a 10-storey take-off ramp and built a rocket-powered car.

Link: http://www.nfb.ca/film/devil_at_your_heels

[via joelpomerleau]

Barcelona Streetcar, 1908

NOTE: best to turn of the sentimental music.

(via http://twitter.com/ebertchicago)