Author Archive

20% off print C&I books

Posted in C&I Books on July 25th, 2014

There’s a new 20%-off sale for most Lulu print books, including all C&I print books.

Good through July 28, 2014.

Use the coupon code

HAMMOCK14

That will get you $9 off Beyond the Damage, $3.40 off Your Library Is..., and anywhere from $4.50 to $5.40 off the Cites & Insights Annuals (all of which will go to $45 each later this year, so this is a great time to buy them).

 

See chapter 1 free; save 15% on Cites & Insights Books

Posted in Cites & Insights on July 17th, 2014

Just a quick note on two semi-related issues:

Big-Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage

If your academic library doesn’t already get Library Technology Reports–or even if it does–you might want to look at Chapter 1 of this report, the overview, which will provide a sense of the overall picture. To a great extent, the damage is in the details (covered in the other chapters), since a few very large academic libraries with strong budgetary support make the overall figures look better less bad than they otherwise would.

You can view Chapter 1 for free here. You can also purchase other chapters in e-form at that location.

(A reminder: I strongly believe that every academic library and academic librarian in the U.S. should be aware of this report, but not for personal gain–as with all Library Technology Reports, the writer–me, in this case–receives a single payment, so additional royalties don’t enter into it. I’m not complaining, and I’m delighted that LTR and editor Patrick Hogan saw fit to publish this.)

Beyond the Damage: Circulation, Coverage and Staffing–15% off the print version through 7/21/14

I’d like to think that dozens or hundreds of academic libraries/librarians will also find this book useful; it examines changes in the state of academic library circulation (no, it isn’t “down everywhere” or close to it), book coverage, and both professional and overall staffing relative to student population during the 2002-2012 period, using the same divisions of libraries as in the LTR report.

From now through July 21, 2014, you can save 15% on the print version by using the coupon code

DOGDAYS14

at checkout. The coupon code applies to all print books (technically, that’s not true, but it includes all the Cites & Insights print books–there’s a new economy category akin to mass-market paperbacks that isn’t included) in a single order, so it’s also a great time to buy Your Library Is... or one or more of the C&I Annuals.

Cites & Insights 14:8 (August 2014) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on July 15th, 2014

Cites & Insights 14:8 (August 2014) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i8.pdf

The two-column print-oriented issue is 32 pages long. A single-column 6×9″ version designed for online/tablet reading is also available, at http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i8on.pdf   (The single-column version is 61 pages long.)

This issue includes the following:

The Front: Once More with [Big] Dealing   pp. 1-2

If you read the June 2014 issue, you may be aware that “Big-Deal Serial Purchasing: Tracking the Damage” wasn’t available when I thought it would be.

It’s available now; this brief essay offers the link to the ALA Store page for the Library Technology Reports issue and notes the complementary book for those academic librarians with deeper interests.

I believe every academic library should pay attention to this issue of LTR. If your library subscribes, it should be available now (electronically) or in a few days (in print form). If it doesn’t, you should buy the issue as a separate. Some of you really would find Beyond the Damage: Circulation, Coverage and Staffing useful as well.

Words: Doing It Yourself  pp. 2-18

Notes on self-publishing and whether or not it makes sense for you (or for your library to assist with).

Intersections: Access and Ethics 3  pp. 18-32

A range of commentaries having to do with open access and ethics over the past 18 months or so–and a couple of brief followups on previous essays. (You may notice that one Very Large Journal Publisher doesn’t show up much in this essay. Its time will come.)

What’s not here: the list of C&I supporters and sponsors. I’ll add the three names (yes, three) in a later issue.

The Final Economist

Posted in Media on July 10th, 2014

It arrived on Monday–two days later than the cover date, but that happens sometimes.

It’s sitting in the special throne room plexiglass stand used to hold magazines being read in the throne room.

For the last year, it’s been the only magazine there–because it takes more than a week of throne room visits to get through an issue.

I never actually paid for The Economist; it was a Magazines-for-Miles deal using airline miles from one of several airlines I never plan to use again. Even at the absurd $0.02/mile exchange rate (which most people now think grossly exaggerates the worth of airline miles), the “price” was nowhere near $160, the one-year subscription price; I think it was around $60.

I’m one of those readers: I read most magazines cover to cover, and we subscribe to a lot of magazines. (Including ones that come with various other arrangements–e.g., VIA, On Investing, AARP The Magazine, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife, and now the new ACLU magazine–it’s something over two dozen.)

So next week I’ll go back to having a mix of magazines in the throne room stand–Fast Company (well suited to the location), some of the infrequent “comes because you do something” magazines, maybe Fortune if I’m ahead on other things.

I decided not to renew some months ago–quite apart from the $160/year, which is more than we spend on any four magazines, much less one.

A few of the reasons why:

What I Won’t Miss

The strained British/slang/invented language the “newspaper” uses.

The feeling that the only difference between “leaders” (editorials) and other articles is that the leaders are explicitly slanted.

The constant slagging of the U.S. and especially Obama.

Added 7/11: I especially won’t miss the frequent admonitions for the U.S. to get into another shooting war.

The special definition of “liberal” used when business or markets are involved.

The sheer volume of it all.

What I Will Miss A Little

Being better informed (to the extent that you can filter out the slant) about a range of nations and economic issues.

Some of the special sections.

I might say “The World in 2014″–but I never received that special issue, and by the time I realized I should have received it, it was far too late.

What I Will Miss The Most

I’ll miss this enough that I’ll probably start extending my library visits so I can catch up with recent issues (I’m assuming they keep at least four back; if not, I’ll have to start going more often).

The final page, especially when there’s no obvious candidate for the obituary of the week.

I find the final page superb. I plan to keep reading it.

[By the way, in case any silly person thinks the only reason I'm dropping The Economist is the price and thinking of giving it to me: Please don't. Contribute a third of the cost, or a little less, say $50, to Cites & Insights.]

In some ways, I’ve liked having a weekly magazine. Time is such a shadow of its former self that I’d find it sad to take (I read it for years, back when there was some substance to it). I might look at The Week or, less probably, Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Most likely, I’ll get used to not having a weekly–after all, I do still read the daily, even if via Kindle Fire 8.9.

liberation management: a non-review

Posted in Books and publishing on July 6th, 2014

I tried, Really, I did! Apparently once some years ago, three or four times in the last couple of weeks.

But I just couldn’t! Right around page 225 of 834, I decided I don’t need a soporific and no longer care why Tom Peters is/was so important.

The book title’s in the post title (the first two words, with “necessary disorganization for the nanosecond nineties” as a subtitle), all-lower-case and all, It’s by TOM PETERS, all upper case (with the T and M in yellow, the O in red, and “PETERS” in green with a red shadow–all very impressive).

Inside the book, oddly enough, the orthography is more normal!

Oh, sorry, reading Peters, I got in the habit of thinking every second or third sentence should end in an exclamation point–possibly as a way to enliven some seriously plodding prose.

The copy I have is a $15 mass-market paperback published by Ballantine (it’s a Fawcett Columbine book) in 1994, two years after Knopf published the hardcover. Both are divisions of Random House. The book’s copyright is held by “Excel/, A California Partnership” (I assume the slash is part of the corporate name but the comma isn’t). “A Note About the Author” at the end tells us that Peters is founder and chief of The Tom Peters Group (which, he tells us in the book, is really five different corporations or something like that), which is in Palo Alto even though “he and his family spend much of their time on a farm in Vermont, thanks to the information technology revolution (the Fax machine).”

Really. In 1992, the Fax machine (capital-F) was an “information technology revolution.” Maybe so; while the commercialization of the internet and the first ISPs go back to 1989, by 1992 it probably wasn’t very widespread.

Oh yes: there’s a doorstop of a book that I should say something about.

The first thing to say is that, if Knopf is/was supposed to have high editorial standards, they sure seem to be missing on this book. The proofreading is fine, but a good editor should have sat down with Peters and said something like “Drop 90% of the exclamation points, try saying things five or ten times instead of thirty or forty times, cut this by 75% and we might have a decent book–with a lot of editorial work.”

But, of course, Tom Peters was already hot stuff by this time, based on a book (with a coauthor) that may or may not have had falsified data (the link is to Wikipedia’s article; on one hand, I can believe Fast Company sensationalized a headline, since the magazine tends toward sensationalism–but on the other, based on too many other business books to count, I certainly believe that Peters cherry-picked at the very least).

This quote from an LJ review of this book is cogent: “Peters doesn’t have the benefit of an official coauthor, and it shows” (In Search of Excellence and his second book did have coauthors).

What I learned from the 200 pages I did read:

  • Tom Peters is 100% certain that every company in America must transform itself (long before now) into small self-selecting project teams that work closely with customers to meet their needs–pretty much “we’re all consultants of one sort or another,” although he doesn’t put it that way. (Somehow, I don’t see that working in ordinary retail at all, but I lack Peters’ vision.) It is, of course, true, as every student of Steve Jobs and Apple knows, that its successes in the iStuff category came about strictly because Jobs and small groups met with potential customers to see how Apple could best meet their needs…oh, wait…
  • Peters is Very Sure of Everything He Says! Hey, he’s a multimillionaire at this point so who am I to quibble? (One of the links from the Wikipedia article has him dismissing the fact that 98% of internet startups–companies done the way he thought everybody should do things–had failed. In essence, he said “So what? Some succeeded.”)
  • Peters is upfront in saying that everybody has to be a businessperson and, at least implicitly, that everybody must create and keep building Their Own Brand.
  • What comes through loud and as clear as the turgid prose allows is this: Peters’ future is 100% for extroverts. There’s no room for introverts in the “nanosecond nineties.” If you’re not out pushing yourself into project teams, creating your own new projects, and being assertive about everything…well, you’re toast.

Some of that may be unfair. In any case, I gave up. I’m sure others read this brick all the way through, were enlightened by it, and went on to found the only companies that could possibly survive the nineties and beyond. No, I don’t intend to read Peters’ more recent books. I’ll give some other absolutist guru a try.

 

 

 

 

Thinking About Effectiveness

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on June 29th, 2014

It’s been roughly three weeks since “Journals, ‘Journals’ and Wannabes: Investigating the List” (Cites & Insights 14:7, July 2014) appeared.

Thanks largely to those who tweeted and retweeted items about it or even blogged about it (you know who you are, and thanks), it’s had reasonably good readership so far: just under 1,400 copies downloaded as of the last time I looked.

That’s not great–less than half the first-month downloads for “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall” (April 2014), although I suppose people could have been hot to read “Forecasts and Futurism” in that issue, but more than the first-month downloads for “Ethics and Access 2: The So-Called Sting” (May 2014, accompanied by “Future Libraries: A Roundup”).

In case it’s not obvious, the July issue was a lot of work, so much so that it can only be justified by whim. Still, I believe the results made it at least partly worthwhile–specifically, the finding (as I interpret it) that most of the vast number of “journals” on Beall’s lists aren’t really predatory because either they don’t actually exist or because authors who are paying attention wouldn’t submit papers to them anyway. Oh, and the perhaps-more-important finding that the casual assumption, which I’ve seen stated by people who should know better, that most OA journals are sketchy isn’t supported by any facts in evidence, and certainly not by Beall’s list.

So what?

There’s the question. The issue’s been downloaded. I’ll assume it’s been read (never quite a safe assumption, but…)

Will it have any medium-term or long-term impact?

Will people view Gold OA journals a little less cynically?

Will people regard Beall’s efforts as the hobby (or hobbyhorse) they are rather than as indictments of OA in general?

I don’t have answers. It is, of course, awfully early to say. I’m not sure how I would find answers.

But it feels like an important question.

Thoughts?

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics Disc 9

Posted in Movies and TV on June 26th, 2014

Law Men, 1944, b&w. Lambert Hillyer (dir.), Johnny Mack Brown, Raymond Hatton, Jan Wiley, Kirby Grant, Robert Frazer. 0:58 [0:54]

If this movie was about 15 years older, I might excuse the awful quality of the print (missing frames, generally dark, some cases where it sure looks as though they’re swapping in old stock footage when they change views) on the grounds of early movie history. But this one’s from 1944, making it fairly late in the game for the “B” westerns.

The plot: two U.S. marshals are sent to a town that’s been having a lot of robberies, working undercover. One rides into town, sees one such robbery with four bad guys riding away and shooting things up, shoots the fourth—and becomes an instant hero. (There’s no sheriff in town.) He claims to be a cobbler (because that’s the first business he sees), and suddenly—turns out the cobbler was shot some months back—he’s in business as a cobbler, much to the eventual woe of anybody who needs boots repaired. The other marshal trails the bandits to their lair and works his way into the gang.

Doesn’t take long for us to find out that the reason every gold shipment from the bank (robbed three times this year itself) gets robbed is that the banker’s running the banditry. Of course, nobody ever suspects a banker. Meanwhile, the banker and gang conspire to set up his honest assistant and almost manage to do so. Naturally, it all turns out OK after some fancy draws and shooting and a few deaths here and there.

It’s just…not very good. Not even by the relaxed standard of these sub-hour programmers. Maybe $0.75.

West of the Divide, 1934, b&w. Robert N. Bradbury (dir & screenplay), John Wayne, Virginia Brown Faire, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Loyd Whitlock, Yakima Canutt. 0:54.

I like this for possibly the wrong reasons—there’s an innocence and sweetness about it, or maybe that’s mostly low budget. Set in the 20th century Old West (most folks ride horses but the town doctor drives a car), it features John Wayne as an orphan—with his sidekick (Hayes in a very early role—Canutt’s a henchman in this flick and the stunt double for some remarkable stunts) who rescued him when his father was shot and the killers believed they’d shot him too. (OK, I’ve only seen that plot basis a dozen other times.) Oh, and just as Roy Rogers is the spittin’ image of Jesse James, Wayne is the spittin’ image of a killer who stumbles onto him and his sidekick, dies from the poisoned waterhole he drank at, and has in his pocket an introductory letter to a local rancher (Whitlock, an almost Snidelyesque villain)…and the Wanted poster showing he’s a killer. So, since they want to know more about this rancher anyway…

The rancher’s trying to buy another ranch, whose owner—with the best water around (never heard that one before!)—doesn’t want to sell. That’s OK: the bad guy first arranges to steal the money the beautiful daughter takes to the bank (and fails, but his henchmen wing the poor girl, against his direct orders—and Wayne and friend manage to get the money deposited), then to rustle all the rest of the good guy’s cattle while killing off the good rancher (a killing left to Wayne).

More plot, lots of horseriding (and one good runaway-team sequence), some really crappy henchmen (who, among other things, accidentally gun down their boss), culminating in happiness all around and, of course, Wayne marrying the daughter. (One example—repeated twice—of what I assume was really low budget work: As the cattle are being herded out of the compound, in one of those midnights where you can see everything clearly, I would swear I could cattle turning after leaving the compound on a course to re-enter the compound at the back so that 20 or 30 cattle can look like hundreds.) The sweetness, in addition to all the charming plot duplications, is partly that this is the young babyface Wayne, partly that the Big Fistfights (with acrobatics included) are remarkably hamhanded examples of “I’ll hit somewhere five inches to the left of your face, in midair, then you’ll do the same to me, then…” with almost no sound effects to even try to sell the fights. By the way, if you’re an IMDB review reader, this is not a print with the new and deproved score; it has very little incidental music. Great cinema? No, but I’ll give it $1.00.

In Old Santa Fe, 1934, b&w. David Howard (dir.), Ken Maynard, Tarzan (horse), Evalyn Knapp, H. B. Warner, Kenneth Thomson, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Gene Autry. 1:04.

A tale of the New West—fast cars, phones and electric lights are standard, he cowboys riding in are mostly going to a dude ranch for an annual race, the horse-and-carriage is carrying dude ranch guests. Except that the ranch owner also uses the horses-and-carriage to deliver $20,000 of gold (he owns a nearby mine) to the bank—with a driver and no guards.

Anyway…Kentucky (Ken Maynard) and his crotchety old sidekick (Hayes, who else?—and in fine fettle) are riding in, he’s singing a really pretty bad song, the ranch owner’s beautiful daughter drives by too fast and winds up ramming a tree (but apparently with no real damage), and meanwhile two city slickers come by in the carriage—contemplating plans to mess with the rancher. Oh, and the bad guy in charge also wants the girl.

Lots of plot. Attempted blackmail based on the rancher having changed his name after fleeing parole on phony charges—but charges, as it turns out, that he’d long since been cleared of. The crusty sidekick betting Kentucky’s horse and all their money against one of the crooks—as they make sure he doesn’t win, both by loosening his saddle (which doesn’t help) and stringing up a wire along the course on the assumption he’ll be in the lead (which does). Of course the good guys win in the end, after various plot turns. (The sleeve plot description is pretty much wrong.)

The real oddity here: The movie’s title credits feature Gene Autry first, all by himself, before introducing the cast with Ken Maynard and the rest. But as far as I can tell, Autry only appears as a singer doing one song—along with Smiley “Froggy” Burnette in an uncredited role. (Apparently, it was the first picture for both of them.) The picture’s title? That’s Autry’s song. To be honest, I didn’t find Maynard all that appealing as a singer, a cowboy or the hot male lead—but the film’s reasonably good for its genre: good horse-riding, reasonably clever plot and all. I’ll give it $1.00.

Days of Jesse James, 1939, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Pauline Moore, Harry Woods, Arthur Loft, Wade Boteler. 1:03 [0:53]

This one—another B programmer with the singing cowboy—surprised me. I was expecting a variant on the “Roy Rogers looks exactly like Jesse James” theme used in one other picture, but didn’t get it. This time around, nobody knows what James looks like—except for the granddaughter of Gabby Whitaker (Hayes), who in this case is returning to Missouri with $40,000+ after 16 years of placer gold mining in California. (The James gang holds up the train they’re on; a brief scuffle with their dog results in James’ kerchief-as-mask being pulled down briefly; James chooses not to take the $40,000 in Gabby’s valise.)

That’s just the start. Once they reach town, the granddaughter convinces Gabby to deposit the money in the local bank (the banker was also on the stage). The banker can’t resist that amount of money, so stages his own holdup, pretending to be the James gang. The Banker’s Association wants Roy Rogers (peace officer) to help track James; the railroaders have their own person, who mostly wants to get the $50,000 reward for James before anybody else does.

Lots more plot, and Rogers (his character name is of course Roy Rogers, and of course there’s a song) and Gabby wind up pretending to be outlaws or, rather, ex-cons with no jobs to get in with James’ gang. One interesting plot twist has the banker fleeing town on the train…and Rogers and Gabby, pretending to be the James gang, robbing the train specifically to get back the bank-robbery loot, which they then return to the depositors as the sheriff watches.

Not bad. Seems tobe missing a few minutes. As is frequently the case, Jesse James comes off as more Robin Hood than robber and far too honorable to shoot a man in the back. I’ll give it $1.00.

Psst: If you don’t like the old one-hour (more or less) B programmers, you won’t like Discs 10, 11 and 12 of this set. If you like early John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers (and once in a while others), you’ll like them just fine.

Songs and arrangements, 1

Posted in Media on June 25th, 2014

(Or maybe 15 or 20…it’s been a while.)

The songs I’ve kept–specifically, the 800-odd songs on my Sansa Fuze, chosen from my collection of a couple thousand–are there for various reasons, mostly pure pleasure.

That pleasure sometimes comes from the arrangements not just the songs. And sometimes what I believe to be the key theme of an arrangement…isn’t.

Two cases (only the second speaks to the paragraph just above):

I haven’t kept all that many old war protest songs, but I have kept Tom Paxton’s Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation. That’s partly because of the lyrics (the YouTube version I link to includes them; consider the wonderful chorus–”we’re sending 50,000 more to help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese”–but also the penultimate verse. Both say a lot about the Vietnam conflict.

But there’s another reason the song’s on my Fuze: It’s one of the few songs I have that uses a 12-string guitar in its orchestral/organ mode, the really mighty sound of a well-played 12-string acoustic. (Back in Berkeley, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I knew of a local who played Great Gates of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition on the 12-string–or maybe he played the whole suite. It was damned impressive.)

The second one’s entirely different: Uptown Girl by Billy Joel. That’s the one where what I always remember as the key element of the arrangement…really isn’t.

To wit–well, play the song. At 2;20 there’s a drum riff (two groups of three strikes). It’s repeated four times, I think.

My auditory memory tells me that the riff is used throughout the song.

It’s not: It’s only used during about 15 seconds near the end of the song.

[I always think of Uptown Girl as Joel's tribute to the Four Seasons, but I may have the wrong group in mind.*]

Then there’s the single passage in James Taylor’s Gaia that makes it almost a test record for one aspect of speakers and headphones…but that’s another post.


*Or not. According to Wikipedia, Billy Joel says the Four Seasons served as inspiration for the song.

Helpful hint for indoor cat owners

Posted in Stuff on June 23rd, 2014

If you’re like us, your cat(s) use(s) [a] litter box(es) (ours use two Booda enclosures) and you use scoopable litter (we’re very fond of World’s Best pure corn-based litter).

And when you scoop up their solid waste, it stinks. So goes into a bag and then a plastic bag, so that it doesn’t stink up the house before garbage day.

Which is great as long as you have plenty of produce and other leftover plastic bags lying around. Not so great if you don’t.

[Note: this tip might also apply to dog owners who aren't neighborhood jackasses--that is, who follow their dogs and pick up the dogs' presents from nearby lawns and sidewalks.]

You can buy poop bags, but they’re six or seven cents each–not bad if you need the compact little roll to take with you, but high if you just need one or two a day to deal with litter boxes.

We found a solution of sorts, if you have a Smart & Final nearby (or equivalent):

Bags on a Roll–basically, rolls of thin plastic produce bags.

The roll we got has 1,640 11″ x 14″ bags, .35 mil (about as thin as they come, which is desirable)…and cost $18.99. That’s 1.16 cents per bag. If we had three friends with similar situations, I think the cost would come down to less than a cent a bag (if you buy four rolls or more, they’re significantly cheaper).

Yes, they do have the standard thin-plastic-bag warnings printed down one side. For us, one roll should be a three-year supply, and takes up about the same space as a jumbo roll of paper towels.

Big Blues: a book review (of sorts)

Posted in Books and publishing on June 21st, 2014

My nonfiction book from the most recent library trip was Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM, by Paul Carroll (New York: Crown, 1993, ISBN 0-517-59197-9).

Partway through reading it, I posted something mildly snarky on Friendfeed about enjoying this sort of book now and then: the “doomed business” book for a business that later turned out to be not quite so doomed as all that. (I read a similar book about Apple, written during the period when it was most plausible to suggest that Apple was a goner.)

I’ve finished it now. This isn’t really a review, but a few comments on this book–and, I think, the problems with this sort of book in general.

Not a bad book

It’s not a bad book. In some ways, it’s a good book, although I would have expected Crown to do a better job of editing–a few items are repeated to the point of annoyance (e.g., the overhead projectors built into rosewood desks). On the other hand, the book was clearly done in somewhat of a hurry: it appeared in 1993 and covers events through April 1993.

Carroll covered IBM for the Wall Street Journal for seven years. That gave him a wealth of contacts. IBM didn’t cooperate on the book (company policy), but he quotes lots of people by name and a few anonymously.

I think the first sentence in the previous paragraph may also point up a possible flaw in the book: To some extent, if you’re covering one company for quite a long period, it’s hard not to become a homer–hard not to start seeing things from the company’s perspective.

Thus, it strikes me that Carroll hammers pretty hard on the notion that Intel and Microsoft were pretty much nothing companies made into giants because IBM didn’t maintain enough control over them. He seems to take it personally that, by 1993, both companies were showing profits of one or two $billion…while IBM took an $8 billion loss in 1993.

The perils of prediction

The biggest problem with the book is that Carroll seemed to think he could predict the future, at least enough to tag IBM post-1993 as a relatively minor company. He also seems not to have regarded the new CEO (Lou Gerstner, an “outsider”) as having much chance of turning things around in any major way.

In 1993, almost certainly IBM”s worst year, it lost $8 billion. It went from over 400,000 employees in 1985 to 225,000 in 1995–although it had started to regain revenues at that point, up to around $72 billion gross.

Here’s the thing: In 2013, IBM had just about $100 billion gross revenue and $16.4 billion profit–and 431,000 employees.

Fact is, Gerstner and his successors did turn IBM around. They got rid of commodity divisions, things where they never could turn a big profit. Mainframes–seemingly irrelevant by 1993, as I read Carroll–never really went away. And IBM put together a package of higher-value services and products that seem to have served it in good stead.

Not that Intel and Microsoft have done too badly either. I keep hearing how Microsoft is irrelevant and doomed, but in 2013 it had roughly $78 billion in gross sales (about 3/4 of IBM) and $21.9 billion in profits (about 4/3 of IBM!), with around 127,000 employees. Intel’s a smaller company, with $52.7 billion in gross sales in 2013 and $9.6 billion in profit (with 107,000 employees), but it’s not exactly in its last throes either.

The final chapter makes much of the devastation caused by IBM’s drop in stock prices and by firing people. I can’t speak to the latter, but the former is interesting. To wit, looking at stock prices for late July, adjusted for splits:

  • In 1980, IBM was at 16
  • In 1985, it was at 33
  • In 1990, it had declined to 28
  • In 1993–at bottom–it was down to 11
  • By 1994, it was already back to around 16
  • By 1995, it was back to nearly 28: in other words, people who held IBM stock in 1990 and didn’t give up on it were whole.
  • In 2000, it was roughly 112
  • In 2005, it was down to roughly 84
  • In 2010, it was up to 128
  • In 2013, it was up to 197

If you bought IBM in 1985 and sold in 1993, you got shafted.

If you bought IBM in 1985 and hung on to it until 2000, you did pretty well…

General lesson?

I’m not sure there is one, other than “prediction is hard.”

As I remember, one key element of the Apple book’s negativity was that it seemed clear that Apple would never gain a substantial share of the PC market. That turned out to be right: Apple doesn’t have a substantial share of the PC market. But it does have some other little products that seem to be doing OK–OK enough so it had $170.9 billion in gross revenue and $37 billion in profits in 2013, with 80,000 employees. Just as IBM is no longer primarily a mainframe computer company, Apple isn’t primarily a personal computer company.

Times change. So do companies–even big, old, apparently-sclerotic ones like IBM.


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