Category Archives: Business Models

Will ‘Little Free Libraries’ do what eReaders didn’t?

Many years ago, in a neighbour’s store-room down Hildon Place, a few of us stacked our books together and called it a library. When the idea caught, we began issuing hand-made library cards. There was no organization to support us, but there was no shortage of kind old aunts who fed the librarians and patrons well.

So naturally I’ve been fascinated by the ‘Little Free Library‘ movement that’s been cropping up outside homes. The library (as you can see here) looks like a large bird house with a door and a plaque.

But will a little box on the curb spur a new interest in reading? We were hyperventilating with optimism when eReaders took the world by storm almost a decade ago.

A little library with no overdue fines looks quaint, but unlike digital trends, these decidedly analog ‘platforms’ (they are raised boxes, aren’t they?) have the potential to build conversations, and bring communities closer. There are some 40,000 Little Free libraries, to date, according to the website’s FAQs.

Starting one is as simple. Owners are asked to register one’s Library making it searchable online. Borrowers are urged to contribute a book for every book borrowed.

Some young people have launched their LFLs with aplomb, having constructed it out of scrap wood or from an old bookshelf. I could see this trend become almost a hobby, as young readers discover that there is more than one way to enjoy a good book.

  • If you like the idea, follow Little Free Library on Twitter @LtlFreeLibrary

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Whatever happened to music lyrics? Are good songwriters going extinct?

Tell me if you’ve felt this way – that the words of many recent songs are beyond awful.

We’ve got some oddly eclectic music going on at our home, so I do hear a wide range – from Adele and Chris Stapleton to Merle Haggard and Sting. But in so much of the other current music (and I know this sounds like a dad talking!), they are passably listenable, until you actually hear the words. You’d think a bunch of blindfolded monkeys were given word processors and the results were set to music. And while I’m at it,

I know there are folks who think, for instance that Adele’s lyrics are very old. Such as that refrain “I must’ve called a thousand times.” But she does tell compelling stories (River Lea, for instance, which has been the subject of literature before), and those stories never grow old, accentuated by the quality of the voice.

There’s a good article on the music industry on the business model of making us like bad music: How The Music Industry Is Brainwashing You to Like Bad Pop Songs. Basically it’s that ‘Stockholm Effect’ combined with virtually bribing radio stations to play terrible music until they infect our brains.

But to get back to the main point of this: Is the music industrial music complex ignoring good songwriters just to churn out radio hit after radio hit? Isn’t it odd that while there is so much of emerging musical talent via TV talent shows, songwriting talent seems to be going down the slopes.

Mr. Paul Simon, where are you when we need you most?


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If children ‘published’ books, would there be a market?

Today, ‘to publish’ means something else entirely.  It used to be tied to the notion of a ‘publication’ – which often meant material that got edited, bound and distributed by certain entities.

So should children publish books? 

I want put this question to those of you professional communicators, and also in education:

  • Should the definition of children’s books also include children-to-children books?
  • Could book stores get into the business of encouraging children to become storytellers, designers and illustrators?

Sure, there is a good self-publishing model out there at places such as Blurb, Lulu, etc. But (a) It is hardly affordable for most children (b) The POD model presupposes the content is already ready to go to press.

  • Are there places (such as ‘Maker Spaces’) for kids to polish their craft, and go all the way to putting a book on a shelf?

Many will say that the market is not significant enough to give it serious thought. But is that good enough reason to not consider it?

I pose this question because of a suggestion raised by one of my 3rd grade classes today. They wanted to know if they could publish their work in a book form. I was shocked at the question. This after all, was from 9 and 10 year olds!

I have pat answers for questions like this. Such as: “It depends what kind of readers you are thinking about” – an opening to a discussion about eBooks, online publishing, Wikis and such.

But this is a serious question that should not be confined to school-made solutions. Any suggestions?


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Suddenly Apple’s no longer the simpler interface

I used to be a die-hard Mac user. I owned Macs in the late eighties, and reluctantly moved to Windows.

But every time I have to deal with an Apple device, I wonder why things are so complicated, dorky in fact. The menu options are invariably labeled in ways that don’t resemble the action we want to take.

I tried to help a friend the other day transfer a video to an external drive, and oh the run-around his iPad gave us. No simple drag-and-drop worked – this from a company that practically invented drag-and-drop. We finally exported the file to Dropbox, logged into another PC (a Windows model), and downloaded the video to a thumb drive that was instantly recognizable on the computer.

Sitting beside each other, the iPad and the old Windows laptop looked like a Tesla next to a Toyota Tercel. But the latter got the job done.

I don’t use iPhones, and never owned a Mac since 1995. I’m happy with my plebeian tablet and non-IOS phone.


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Posted by on December 7, 2015 in Business Models, Technology


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Hi-tech Augmented Reality goes low-tech with ‘Cardboard’

In May this year I previewed Augmented Reality glasses – the Google ‘Cardboard’ variety. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Palmer Luckey, who came up with the clunky but amazing viewfinder called Oculus, is featured on the cover of the upcoming issue of TIME.

The plan this year is to feature Google Cardboard in a ‘STEM Talk’ in my class. As the TIME feature puts it content will be coming up soon that will enable us to learn in immersive environments. Using special or tricked out cameras that could record in panoramic view, students may soon be able to experience life on the Space Station, or that of otherwise inaccessible nomadic tribes.

Partnerships and competitors will soon bring this AR world into the mainstream. As would some GoPro hacks. I’m betting on Google cardboard, though it’s not as good as Oculus, (I could see schools more amenable to partnering with the Google folk, rather than Facebook, which now owns Oculus Rift).

It goes from this

to this







And it’s coming your way! Perhaps soon in my class!


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Non-Profit targets neglected childhood disease

My good friend Dr. Robert Selliah’s nonprofit, American Medchem was in the news last week.

His non-profit is looking into hitherto untapped (ignored, really) R&D for rare childhood diseases.

Robert’s a great communicator, in that he is able to succinctly define the challenge at hand. I apologize for the poor video quality.

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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Business Models


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“The world has lost an amazing human being.”

Hard to forget, the first PC I ever owned was the Apple Color Classic*.

But apart from giving many of us in advertising and marketing a simple (as in non-geeky) on-ramp to computing, we remember him for his vision, and his humanity.

I found this statement from him, made in 2005.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share…

…Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.”


*I have not used a Mac for the past 15 years. 

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Business Models, Disruptive, Technology


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