Monthly Archives: March 2005

HP Acquires Snapfish

… and Hewlett Packard is acquiring Snapfish, the photo processing service. Ecommerce Times notes that the transaction "puts HP up against Eastman Kodak and its Ofoto service." HP says that the deal is a natural extension of its digital photography business in printers and digital cameras. Forbes in February noted that the pace of digital camera sales has slowed, while lab-produced digital prints continue to drop in price. PCWorld in its April 2005 issue analyzes the print capability and costs of 11 printers, including a chart with the per print costs of each device.

ipod Slights Classical Music Fans

After trying to rip some classical music CDs for my father, I readily relate to the recent Wall Street Journal article: "Highbrow  Lament: Classical-Music Fans Feel Slighted in Era of the iPod."

But even if fans manage to find
the classical tracks they want online, MP3 players aren’t set up to
easily sort classical music. When a digital song is purchased from an
online site, or even "ripped" from a compact disk, it’s more than a
file containing audio information: each track also contains text that
identifies the artist, album name, track name and track number, which
software programs on PCs and in digital music players use to organize
and display songs.

Pop tunes are generally known by their original
performers and are easy to categorize. But there are hundreds of
recordings of Beethoven symphonies under different conductors with
different orchestras. Many classical-music fans often purchase more
than one version of the same work, to compare performances and build
their libraries. It’s not uncommon for an opera lover, for example, to
own several recordings of Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro" with
different casts or conductors, or a Baroque-music fancier to have two
or three different recordings of Bach’s "St. Matthew Passion."

And woe unto you if you corrupt your iTunes files on your desktop computer; while Apple makes it incredibly easy to move music from your desktop to your iPod, trying to move the music back from the iPod to your desktop is an incredible chore. The limitation is designed to prevent privacy, but it is yet another example of a company arrogantly deciding what you can do with music that you might have already legally purchased. Additionally, if you live in Asia, you will find it difficult to buy music online from Apple. I guess the assumption is that most people living in Asia live to simply pirate music.

NewsTarget is among those pushing the iRiver flash players instead of the iPods, and The Digital Music Weblog agrees that the iPod is overhyped. A Boston Globe article says that the public’s seemingly unsatiable appetite for digital music is drawing additional attention from the cellphone companies. (Brett’s Blog looks at one such offering from Sony Ericsson.)

Update 4/13/2005: Fazal Majid has a good discussion of the issues for iPod owners who want to listen to classical music.

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Yahoo Acquires Flickr

Reactions to the news that search engine company Yahoo is acquiring photo hosting site Flickr:

Flickr tells its users that its DNA will remain unchanged. The statement did not impress Loren Baker. Eric Brochu says that Yahoo is a company that does not "get it." Jeff Jarvis says Flickr is running for the safety of a deep-pocketed, big brother. Om Malik reports the price tag at close to $35 million, while John Battelle calls it $15 to $17 million.  Terren Tong calls it a reaction to Google’s Picasa. BusinessWeek says Jerry Yang is focused on Flickr’s ability to generate a photo-oriented community, in part by making tagging a popular group activity. According to Search Views, the transaction confirms the "the credibility and profit-making potential of such an application," but wonders why Google has not yet folded in the photo-oriented applications that it has acquired. Fred Wilson says that he will "be watching what Yahoo! does with Flickr a lot more closely than what [Barry] Diller does with [AskJeeves]." (Speaking of Diller, Bambi Francisco says his acquisition of Ask Jeeves will not improve the search engine’s rankings.)

(Update 3/24) – Charlene Li says it is a great move for a portal like Yahoo; she calls portals the 800 pound gorillas of social networking. Clay Shirky believes the deal will allow Yahoo to focus on backend stability while Flickr focuses on responding to its users and developing new features.)

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Authors and Clinical Trials

Zoe friend Jai Claire puts us onto the Book Angst 101 blog, which laments how publishers need to take a longer view on writers and profitability.

And yet, for the business to sustain itself–and this is why your jobs
are so incredibly stressful and demanding–you’ve got to be able to do
exactly that: take chances on writers, and stick by writers, who won’t necessarily become bankable brands (if they ever
do) within three months, or even three books. With the fate of your
kids’ college educations on the line, you’ve got to be able to say to
those people above you–the ones who talk to the suits above them,
at Viacom and NewsCorp and Time-Warner and Bertelsmann and so on–that
sometimes real money must be invested now on "product" that won’t
really come to market for five years. CEOs–and even shareholders–in
pharmaceutical companies understand this. Why not in our industry?

But when profitable, blockbuster novelists are few and far between, and midlist authors are, unfortunately, way too common, is "Mad Max Perkins" indulging in wishful thinking?

From The Street to a Blog

A recent issue of Crain’s New York has an article about former Wall Street equity research analysts who have turned themselves into bloggers ("Former Analysts Put Stock in Blogs," 3/14-20).

About a dozen former Wall Street research analysts have started blogs in the last few months in an effort to strut their smarts before a new audience and revamp reputations that took a severe beating when the stock market bubble popped. The trick for these analysts accustomed to pocketing multi-million dollar paychecks is finding an audience and earning more than a few dollars that are dribbling in.

Crain’s mentions Stephen Castellano, Bill Burnham, David Jackson, David Strahlberg, Ezra Marbach and Tom Brown.

Drinking Faulkner’s Water

The Atlanta Journal & Constitution says that William Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, remains a station for many writers.

Acclaimed author Pat
Conroy dubbed Oxford "the Vatican City of Southern letters" with good
reason — not many cities of its size can claim even a handful of
published authors. Oxford seems to have one on every corner.

"There’s a climate in Oxford that sustains writers," says Dean
Faulkner Wells. "There are people here who love the written word so
much they will put up with all kinds of [nonsense] from the men and
women who create those words."

Diane Arbus the Spider

Portions of the Diane Arbus exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum today were so packed that they smelled like a lockerroom. Particularly so were two otherwise absorbing alcoves used to showcase Arbus’ notebooks, personal book collection and cameras. It was interesting seeing her evolution from a 35mm Nikon to Rollei and Mamiya twin lens reflex cameras, which she believed allowed her to get closer to her subjects. The exhibit’s journal excerpts give good insight into Arbus’ aesthetics. Though Arbus is maybe best known for her images of "freaks," she also had a well-honed ability to capture the essence of the people she came upon while traipsing around her native New York. Joel Meyerowitz recalls:

[She] was the spider. You
could see how she got into people’s lives. She was genuinely interested
in them, and they became entranced by her, enamored of her. She had
what would be called, in sixties parlance, good vibes – an aura,
charisma, something that emanated from her. If she was next to
somebody, near somebody, and she wanted to photograph them, she would
send out her interest. It was as if a bloom would just open up, and
they would see her, and she would say something to them in hardly an
audible way, and they would listen. Because if someone speaks low
enough, people listen. There was a kind of incantation in her whisper,
and people would go limp.

Most photography aficionados, for instance, know "Child with a Toy Hand Grenade" (in which she perfectly captures a boy’s anger at seeing Arbus take his photograph) and "Teenage Couple on Hudson Street" (in which the youth of the couple is only heightened by their oversized coats and wish to look grownup).

I learned a lot from studying Neil Selkirk’s prints of the Arbus images: where he chose to burn and dodge them. (Selkirk is the only person authorized by Arbus’ heirs to print her images since her suicide in 1971. After she separated from husband Allan Arbus, she did all her own printing.) The traveling exhibit originated at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the catalog is available from Random House.

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