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Book publishing – some recent innovations

Book publishers experimenting with new models; books fighting binge drinking in Italy

Netflix models

An article on Wired.com looks at a new online fiction service called Rooster in which a book publisher adopts a magazine model to make itself more like Netflix!  The service uses a subscription based model that sends content to iPhones and iPads.  The daily chunks of content should take about 15 minutes to read and will deliver two books’ worth of content over a month.  Similarly, Waterstones in the UK has announced Read Petite – a ‘rich reading experience for time-poor readers’.

Another innovation learning from the Netflix model is Epic!  This app aims to encourage children to read by offering rewards for completing chapters or starting ‘reading marathons’.  For a monthly subscription, children have access to a library of over 2000 titles and can rate the books they have read.  The app also allows parents to monitor their children’s reading habits.

Book buying and book borrowing and struggling readers

The latest Pew report shows the link between highly engaged library users and book buying.  The report shows that ‘Library Lovers’ – the heaviest users of libraries and about 10% of the US population – are also frequent buyers of books, despite many of them experiencing a drop in income.

The UK Charity Quick Reads found that reading e-books can be particularly helpful for adults who may be struggling with their reading while 48% say e-readers  have encouraged them to read more.

Binge drinking – books to the rescue!

Sadly Neknominate, the social media drinking game, has spread around the world. In Italy a literary alternative to the game has been developed.  ‘Booknomination’ follows similar rules but instead of drinking, the nominated person must read a passage from a book over a webcam.  The initiative is on Facebook on the hashtag #booknomination.

Sources: Springwise; DigitalBookWorld; TheLocal; Pew Research Center; Publishing Perspectives; Wired.

VAT on books and e-books – global survey

The International Publishers Association (IPA) and PriceWaterhouse Coopers have published the results of their latest global survey of VAT charged on books and e-books.

The research covered 51 countries, including 34 European countries (the US was not included because of the ‘complexities’ of its sales tax regime).  The report gathers current tax data and also analyses trends.

Since the last report was published, standard VAT rates around the world have been increasing and are, on average, higher in Europe than the rest of the world.  EU law also stipulates that booksellers must charge the full VAT rate for e-books while printed books are often granted discounted rates.  France and Luxembourg have reduced the rates charged on e-books and the European Commission has initiated court proceedings against them.

All of the major publishing markets in the survey (Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK) provide for reduced VAT rates or exemptions, at least for printed books.

Overall, approximately 50% of countries surveyed continue to apply the standard (i.e. higher) VAT rate to e-books.  Overall, Denmark applies the highest VAT rate – 25% on both print and e-books.

The report concludes that the trend towards bringing e-books into special VAT regimes should be encouraged to create a level playing field for all publications, irrespective of the format.

The IPA further stated that the current regime in Europe discriminates against e-books and is “inconsistent, technophobic … and unfair.”

The full report can be downloaded here

Europe: competitiveness and innovation

Europe has a reputation as being unfriendly to innovators – but is this fact or perception?

International business school INSEAD set out to uncover the truth.  First, as part of INSEAD’s European Competitive Initiative, it surveyed 1300 business leaders around the world to find out what they felt about the current state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.  Staggeringly, only 2% of the respondents disagreed with the statement “Europe’s innovation is hampered by a lack of culture of innovation and entrepreneurship”.

However, this was not because of a lack of quality people.  Most of those surveyed lay the blame firmly with European governments and institutions.  This negative view was held particularly strongly by non-Europeans.  When asked how they felt about the future of Europe, high percentages expressed concern or worry:

  • 83% of Latin American respondents
  • 74% of BRIC country respondents
  • 65% Asian country respondents
  • 60% of African respondents

That survey deals with perceptions of innovation in Europe.  But what does the data say?  In fact surveys and data from INSEAD and other institutions including the World Economic Forum paint a different picture.

The Global Innovation Index places six European countries in the top ten (in descending order Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands and the UK).  In fact, when the 2011 scores are aggregated across regions, Europe scores equally with North America.

Europe scores well in The World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report 2013 – particularly the Nordic countries and the UK.

Europe certainly has some work to do to change the perception of it as being unfriendly to innovators and entrepreneurs.

INSEAD’s European Competitiveness Initiative hopes to help business leaders in Europe by disseminating research, best practice and lessons learned.

 

Measuring the digital economy

Research suggests the government is seriously underestimating the size of the UK’s digital economy.

A report by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) commissioned by Google sets out to establish the true size of the UK’s digital economy.  The UK government has been using industry classification codes (SICs) to estimate that there are approximately 120,000 digital economy companies in the UK.  However, the NIESR research suggests that this figure is far too conservative.  Its own lowest estimate is 270,000.making digital businesses 14.4% of the total number of businesses in the UK (the government estimates 10%).

The report calls for improved measurement of the UK’s digital economy.  By switching from SIC-based models to measures derived from big data, the country could gain a richer picture of the digital economy.  Using this type of data for example would show that the digital economy’s share of jobs in the UK is 11%, not the 5% currently stated by government measures.  Other interesting findings derived from this type of rich analysis include the fact that the digital economy is not made up mostly of start-ups but that companies in this area have roughly the same average age as other companies.  Digital economy companies employ more people on average than other companies and are reporting faster growth rates.

Europe

The challenge of measuring aspects of the digital economy is being addressed by the EU, which in May 2013 announced it is launching a project to measure the size of Europe’s ‘app economy’.  According to David Dean of The Boston Consulting Group (speaking at a European Internet Forum dinner) Europe is already a winner in the digital economy.  He estimates that Europe’s internet economy will be worth 1 trillion Euros by 2016.

However some European countries are lagging behind and there are several countries catching up on Europe as digital economies, including Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia.

Cities of opportunity – what makes a city ‘great’?

What makes a city great?  How can cities thrive economically and yet remain liveable?

PwC and the Partnership for New York City have published the latest edition of Cities of Opportunity, a report which analyses the performance of 27 of the world’s cities against ten broad social, economic and technological indicators.  As well as analysing the current situation, the report also looks forward to 2025 to consider future scenarios and key success factors.

The cities analysed in the report currently account for 8% of world GDP but are home to only 2.5% of the world population.

Healthy growth in a city relies on a combination of ‘quality of life’ factors (good education opportunities; healthcare; safety and housing) combined with strong business and solid infrastructure.

The ten indicators used by PwC:

  • City gateway
  • Cost
  • Demographics and liveability
  • Economic clout
  • Ease of doing business
  • Health, safety and security
  • Intellectual capital and innovation
  • Sustainability and the natural environment
  • Technology readiness
  • Transportation and infrastructure

Intellectual capital and innovation

Innovation generates both social and economic growth.  In order to measure each city’s performance a number of factors are considered and scored to create a league table.  These factors include average class size, maths, science skills attainment, literacy rates and percentage of population who receive a higher education.

Also included are:

  • Intellectual property protection (Singapore scores top points)
  • Research performance at top universities (London rates highest – and three Asian cities appear in the top ten)
  • Libraries with public access (Stockholm scores highest)

The key measures of ‘Technology readiness’ include:

  • Internet access in schools and Digital economy score (Stockholm is top in both of these)
  • Broadband quality
  • Software development

The report features case studies on a number of cities and is available for download here.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

 

Entrepreneurship in Europe and beyond

The European Commission (EC) believes that entrepreneurship is a key enabler in improving Europe’s performance in economic reform, social cohesion and employment.  The promotion of entrepreneurship and self-employment in included in the EC’s 2020 strategy.

The Commission is focusing on encouraging unemployed people to start their own businesses and supporting social entrepreneurs.  It has been studying the development of entrepreneurship in Europe for over ten years and the results of the latest survey reveal the current situation in the EU and beyond – including 13 non-EU countries including Brazil, India and Russia.

Key findings

Attitudes to self-employment

  • 58% of EU residents would prefer to be an employee
  • 37% favour self-employment (down from 45% in 2009)
  • Self-employment is generally more popular with non-EU respondents.  In particular, there are high levels of people in favour of self-employment in Brazil (63%) and Turkey (82%)
  • Reasons for stating self-employment is not feasible include
    • The current economic climate
    • Lack of capital
    • Lack of skills
    • Risk of failure
    • Family commitments
    • 23% of EU respondents have started a business or are thinking about doing so

Why be self-employed?

  • Self-fulfillment, personal independence and freedom to choose the time and place of work are all popular reasons for EU respondents to consider self-employment.

Factors in choosing self-employment

  • Having an appropriate business idea (87%)
  • Having access to financial resources
  • Contact with an appropriate business partner (68%) and having a role model (62%)
  • Dissatisfaction with previous work situation (55%)
  • Fewer respondents are concerned about bankruptcy (43% down 6% since 2009) and irregular income (33% down from 39% in 2009)

Attitudes to entrepreneurs

  • 87% of EU respondents believe entrepreneurs are job creators
  • 79% believe they create beneficial products and services
  • 57% believe they take advantage of other people’s work
  • 52% would rather work for a family business, with 48% citing a stronger commitment to the community

The full report is available here.

European businesses and information risk

Although intellectual property can represent a high percentage of a company’s value, a significant proportion of organisations are failing to protect their information assets.

According to research undertaken by Iron Mountain and PwC, European businesses are not taking the protection of corporate secrets and intellectual property (IP) as seriously as other information risk issues.

The research shows that only 41% of mid-sized European businesses have plans to protect intellectual property and that 54% of companies believe that safeguarding this type of information is less important than protecting financial, customer and employee information.

Four industry sectors (financial services; insurance; manufacturing; pharmaceuticals) in six European countries (France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, UK) were analysed.  The pharmaceutical industry, despite being IP intensive, performed the worst – only 30% of the companies include IP in their information risk management and data protection plans.

Companies should focus beyond the direct cost of data loss or theft and take into account other, less direct costs, such as the potential impact on brand reputation and public trust.  According to the research, the best companies:

  • Treat information as a board room issue
  • Have a balanced information strategy – which is regularly monitored
  • Have a multi-disciplinary team in charge of information risk

A summary of the report (Information Risk Maturity Index) is available here.

Rebuilding Europe’s skills can generate growth

The economic situation in Europe is challenging to say the least.  Unemployment has grown dramatically since 2008 and economic growth is stagnant.  Although human capital is a critical driver of economic growth, 86% of European employers have cut or frozen their skills and training budgets in the last year. Paradoxically, 43% of the respondents reported at least a moderate skills shortage in their organisations or sectors.

500 senior decision makers across a number of sectors were questioned in a survey carried out by Accenture on behalf of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium.

The Accenture report focuses on three key challenges currently facing the European skills markets:

  • Untapped talent

The report calls for initiatives to help bring 25 million unemployed people and a further 15 million ‘discouraged’ people into the workforce.  (‘Discouraged’ people include older people, women with children and young people who have withdrawn from the world of work because of a lack of opportunities.)

  • Transferable skills and mobile workforces

Barriers to skills transfer are not only national.  Some organisations have trouble identifying and maximising their internal talent pools.

  • Lack of collaboration between sectors

There is scope for improvement when it comes to planning and managing shifts in employment patterns and labour markets.

The report makes a number of recommendations for stakeholder groups, including policy makers, educational institutions, employers and others.  Key recommendations include:

Actions for employers

  • Invest in data and analytics to profile and track internal talent
  • Offer flexible working options
  • Increase job rotations within organisations and collaborate with others in the same sector.
  • Build partnerships between small and large firms within supply chains to improve skills levels.

Actions for policy makers

  • Improve recognition of skills and qualifications across Europe
  • Simplify regulations regarding global talent recruitment
  • Support partnerships between businesses and education

 

Digital natives not all ‘e-skilled’

This week is European e-skills week.  This campaign sets out to raise awareness of the value of e-skills in Europe’s employment market.

According to figures released by the EU, the ICT sector is directly responsible for 5% of European GDP, employing 5.8 million people.  In the economic downturn people with fewer e-skills have experienced more difficulties in the labour market and this trend is set to continue – it is predicted that by 2015, 90% of all jobs, across all sectors, will require ICT skills.  The campaign also suggests that just because young people are ‘digital natives’ this does not necessarily mean they are ‘e-skilled’.

The campaign has pulled together the results of a number of research projects and has highlighted some interesting trends and statistics:

  • The number of computer science graduates has been declining across most of Europe since 2006.  Only Germany and Poland are bucking this trend.
  • Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg are the most ICT-specialised countries in Europe.
  • 58% of employers believed the education sector is not doing enough to prepare young people for the modern workplace
  • An average of 13% of young people across Europe are not using the internet regularly – in particular those with a low formal education.
  • Only 25% of young people across the EU consider that they have ‘high’ levels of basic internet skills (finding information via internet search engines; attaching files to emails; making internet telephone calls, file sharing and web page creation).
  • Only 10% of Europeans have created a web page (17 % of the highly educated; 7% of the low educated).

You can follow the links to the research and statistics from the original press release.

 

Everyone is talking but is anyone listening? Using social media to promote info services

There’s no doubt that, in some quarters at least, social media are replacing more traditional methods of communication. Earlier this week it was widely reported that French IT services giant Atos which employs 80,000 people is planning to ban the use of internal emails in favour of communication via other channels such as social networks, instant messaging and microblogging. 

A panel in the European Librarians Theatre at this year’s Online Information show, organised under the auspices of SLA, debated how to use social media tools to promote library services. The international panel featured Jo Alcock from Birmingham City University, Dennie Heye from Shell Information Technology International in the Netherlands, and Katrin Weller from Heinrich-Heine University in Germany.  

Jo had carried out an informal survey to find out how librarians in the UK were putting social media to work, and found a trend towards consolidating accounts and tools in order to streamline the wide variety of tools and services on offer.

The panellists agreed that were a number of obstacles that could impede the implementation of social media tools. Jo noted that senior management could be cautious, particularly given the experimental nature of some social media initiatives. Implementation can be time consuming, and this problem is exacerbated when staff don’t see the importance of the project. And in some settings, access to social media is banned altogether.

Katrin echoed the focus on experimentation and trial and error – a willingness to try things out and learn as you go is key to success in social media. There isn’t a manual!

From Dennie’s point of view, making the business case to senior management was all important. At Shell, they have introduced enterprise social network Yammer to enable communication between people working in different teams and offices. By focusing on its use as an IT support tool,  they were able to make a strong business case by showing that using Yammer freed up time for IT support staff.

Jo pointed out that librarians will need to exercise professional judgement in choosing the right tool for the job – for example public libraries will want to communicate with their patrons in specific ways which will be very different to the approach taken by a corporate information service; and there will be a difference between internal and external communications.

The panellists agreed that flexibility and personality were both key to the successful implementation of a social media strategy. Jo pointed out that you need to be able to adapt to changing expectations. Dennie recommended being yourself – an authentic, ‘human’ voice is much more effective than a personality-free corporate voice. For those wanting to take the plunge, Katrin suggested that you start by asking yourself ‘what will success look like’ so that further down the line you have something to measure against. This will also provide a touchstone to use when faced with choosing between the enormous range of social media tools out there.