Monday News: B&N sales drop, revamping Oscar voting, menstruation manual for boys, and dying wife’s message of love
B&N Still Searching For ‘Magic Bullet’ to Stop Sales Slide – It’s hard not to feel sorry for Barnes & Noble; they’re like the anti-Midas, stumbling from one bad scheme to another. Compared to last year’s third quarter, this year’s third quarter (which ended in late January) saw an 8% drop in total sales, accompanied by a drop in earnings, as well ($11+ million). Nook sales dropped more than 25%, which seems more like a plummet BN.com sales rose by 2+%, though, which is being touted as the good news. Are they just scrambling and reaching for anything, trying to stop their fall?
[CEO Len] Riggio said that, while B&N has had good success with some new categories such as educational toys and games, it still hasn’t found a “magic bullet” that can end the overall sales slide. The company will continue to experiment with various types of boutiques and new lines of merchandise to grow sales, he said.
Riggio said the new test stores the company has opened over the last several months, which offer a fresh look at merchandising, design, and presentation, have done “very, very well.” B&N is in the process of undertaking a “dizzying amount of tests,” Riggio said, to see what facets of the new stores can be rolled out to other locations. He said B&N is “on the eve” of developing a new prototype store “that we think will carry us well into the future.” Once a prototype is identified, Riggio said, B&N may need to move some stores, something that the company “knows how to do.” He added that, with the rate of vacancies in malls, he sees plenty of opportunity to relocate stores within the same markets if necessary. – Publishers Weekly
How the Academy Failed the Transparency Test – I haven’t paid much attention to Oscar voting, beyond knowing that basically everyone in the Academy gets to vote on basically everything. And the system has been raised in discussions about the RITAs and other book awards and prizes, because it is perceived as more “democratic.” So when I read this piece by Stephen Galloway, I was surprised at what he revealed about Oscar voting, from the fact that not all votes have the same weight (a 30-member foreign language committee, for example, has the power to determine nominees), to the lack of transparency in much of what the Academy decides. And it also sounds like the actual voting process is ridiculously complicated and even muddled, which could explain the Academy’s reluctance to banish their accounting firm.
Free and fair elections should adhere to the following core values: (1) Voting should be open and transparent; (2) The voting system should be clear and simple enough for everyone to understand; and (3) Each vote should have the same weight as any other. . . .
No election methodology is entirely fair; it’s not for nothing that Churchill called democracy the worst of all government systems, except for all the others. But the current, preferential-voting system muddies the results — and the results become even more confusing given that different rules cover one category and another, and the nomination process versus who actually wins.
Not too long ago, the Academy favored a basic, first-past-the-post approach — the same used to elect U.S. senators and congressmen: whoever gets the most votes wins. Now ballots are counted and redistributed; low-vote contenders are eliminated and their votes transferred, and then transferred again and again. It’s a system rife with confusion, and made worse by being handled in secret; it runs the risk of rewarding not so much the best film as the least bad. – Hollywood Reporter
Menstruation 101 For Boys: A Comic Book Is Their Guide – There are a lot of notable aspects of this Indonesian comic book designed to teach both boys and girls about the realities of menstruation, not the least of which is that it was actually the kids’ idea. There are a number of conditions in local schools that make girls’ periods even more difficult than normal, including the cruel teasing of boys. This comic book, funded by UNICEF, is making a difference, though, by normalizing menstruation, discouraging bullying, and breaking the taboo of keeping silent. There’s also a video (check it out at the link above).
So the comic book is a two-in-one product. Hold it one way and it’s a 10-page guide for boys. Turn it upside down and it’s a guide for girls, talking about everything from what menstruation is to how to put on a pad. And that yes, you can wash your hair when you’re on your period. And no, eating meat does not increase the flow of blood. . . .
It wasn’t a bunch of adults who came up with the content. “We didn’t want to do just want we thought was a good idea,” says Reza Hendrawan, UNICEF’s hygiene manager for the project in Indonesia. The team used a “participatory design process,” says Aidan Cronin, UNICEF’s chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for Indonesia. Team members met with about 100 boys and girls age 10 to 14 as well as teachers and parents in six provinces. – NPR
You May Want to Marry My Husband – If you’re following the NYT’s Modern Love column, you might already have read this. If not, get out the tissues before you start reading this piece by children’s book author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who, in the late stages of ovarian cancer, is writing a letter of recommendation for her husband, Jason, to potential future mates. She calls it a “general profile,” but it’s ultimately a love letter of the most mundane and profound sort, and it’s sadly, beautifully alive.
I have been trying to write this for a while, but the morphine and lack of juicy cheeseburgers (what has it been now, five weeks without real food?) have drained my energy and interfered with whatever prose prowess remains. Additionally, the intermittent micronaps that keep whisking me away midsentence are clearly not propelling my work forward as quickly as I would like. But they are, admittedly, a bit of trippy fun.
Still, I have to stick with it, because I’m facing a deadline, in this case, a pressing one. I need to say this (and say it right) while I have a) your attention, and b) a pulse.
I have been married to the most extraordinary man for 26 years. I was planning on at least another 26 together. – New York Times
Someone should give a copy of the menstruation comic book to that “inventor” who wants women to glue their vaginas shut during their periods.
In other news: Damn, that AKR letter made my heart hurt.
I had heard about the letter, but couldn’t bring myself to read it. Now you’ve told me that the author is Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Oh, God, I love her work. This is terrible news. Her “Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons” should be required reading for all of us on how to be good friends and good people. She made the world a better place with her words.
@darlynne I’m on the same boat! Our family loves her books, ‘Spoon’ is a classic for us!!
Not sure about the other aspects of the Oscars voting but preferential voting is a logical and transparent system that has been used in jurisdictions such as Australia for decades.
Where there are only two real options, first past the post voting makes sense. In a situation like Oscars voting with many potential contenders, preferential voting will generally deliver outcomes that better reflect voters choices.
For example if you have five options and ten people like film A, nine people like film B, and eight people each like films C, D and E. In a first past the post system film A wins even though it only recieved 23% of the vote, even if everyone who voted for films C, D, E thought film A was horrible and film B was almost as good as their preferred film.
In preferential voting, films C, D and E would be eliminated as the lowest vote getters and those votes transfer to film B so film B now has 33 votes or 77% of the vote. Even if you weighted the preferences and only gave half the value of the transferred vote, film B would still have 21 votes, double film A’s 10.
The other advantage is that people are more likely to vote their actual opinion, rather than trying to pick winners so as to not ‘waste’ their vote. So it means you’re (slightly) more likely to get good films rather than populist films.
There are many many other problems with Oscars voting (e.g. a skewed voter pool and heavy promotion of big studio films) but preferential voting ain’t one of them.