update on swets & zeitlinger

“Shareholder cash boost gives Dutch subscription giant a renewed opportunity to invest further in e-services.”

Looks like they’re getting some help to keep going. I hope they use the capital investment wisely and don’t end up sinking us all.

The Euro 45m The Euro 45m (£30.8m) cash boost will be privately placed with existing institutional shareholders, including NPM Capital and Compagnie Benelux Paribas (Cobepa). The Swets family now has only a 29% stake in the operation.

swets & zeitlinger financial trouble

Swets & Zeitlinger financial trouble could be the rumblings of another Faxon/divine debacle.

Swets & Zeitlinger is the parent company of Swets Information Services, a company which mainly handles print and electronic subscriptions for libraries. My current place of work uses Swets to manage about 95% of our print subscriptions, so I was (and still am) quite unnerved to read the following news report on Tuesday (posted to SERIALST and other places, but nowhere to be found online in my Googling):

Swets at brink of ruin after accounting fault banks demand capital injection
by Gerben Van Der Marel

Amsterdam – Swets & Zeitlinger, Dutch distributors of scientific information, are in trouble. The business needs refinancing after it was found that it made losses in the past years.

As a consequence of the problems Swets no longer meets the credit conditions of the bank. On Friday, shareholders will decide on a capital injection of € 45 million.

This is confirmed by Jan-Willem Baud, chairman of the board of supervisory directors. Baud is the director of NPM Capital, which holds 26% of the shares of Swets. Other shareholders are the Swets family (29%)[1] , Nesbic (23%), Paribas (15%), and Alpinvest (7%). The business has approx. 1400 employees in 23 offices.

NPM has promised new money. Baud: “We believe that Swets can go on for another hundred years in spite of the problems.” Other shareholders are still hesitant about whether or not they should jump to the rescue, says Baud.

Already in May it became public that Swets had found ‘errors’ in their books. And that hundreds of jobs will be scrapped.

Just last year Swets was still being offered for sale to international high-risk venture capitalists with a price tag of hundreds of millions. One buyer, Candover, pulled out in the last minute.

Swets is an intermediary between scientific publishers and major users such as universities. The company suffers from the increasing distribution of information through the Internet. Attempts to become more electronically active themselves have not panned out as predicted by the management.

The last figures published by Swets pertain to 2002, when – according to the information – a turnover of € 1.2 billion and a net profit of € 30.8 million were achieved. Swets now has to review the figures over 2001, 2002, and 2003.

According to Baud, transactions between parent companies and subsidiaries were processed incorrectly for years. Swets presently cannot give insight into the adjusted results. As a consequence of debit transfers, which Baud does not want to specify, Swets ends up in the red. “But non-recurring items do not get us into loss. Profits do have to increase though.”

Fraud, says Baud, was not discovered. Finance director Eelco de Boer is said to have stumbled across errors of his predecessor after taking up office last year. Whether these events will have consequences for director Eric van Amerongen or other managers, Baud does not want to disclose ahead of the shareholders’ meeting next Friday.

Shortly after this message was passed on, Arjen Oudheusden, Chief Executive Officer for Swets Infomation Services replied to the list:

As a brief comment to the article that appeared in the Dutch press I would like to inform you that Swets is operationally sound and that management is confident that the issues will be resolved at the shareholders meeting this Friday.
We are unable to comment further until after this meeting and we will issue a press release at that point.

Today, Dr. John R. Martin, the Director of Business Development and Marketing for Swets Information Services sent the following message, in part:

Resulting from the high level of confidence of the shareholders and management in the future of the company, we shortly expect to announce a significant strengthening of our share capital through the provision of new investment funds by our shareholders. These new funds will be used to accelerate our investments in e-services which will thereby further improve our services to our clients. Moreover, we will use part of the new funds to re-structure our organisation in order to further improve service and efficiency for the longer term.

I do not find either of these messages particularly reassuring. I am concerned that Swets may crash and burn, resulting in the same kinds of financial headaches former Faxon/divine customers experienced in 2002/03. While I have had great experiences with Ebsco Information Services in the past, I have also been aware of recent problems with the Los Angeles office that have resulted in poor service for West/Pacific Islands customers. Also, I’m not sure they have the infrastructure to handle the additional customers effectively. All in all, this is bad news for libraries and publishers everywhere. I hope Swets & Zeitlinger get their act together and pull through.

settling in

I’m finding that I have so many things to do in the transition from Kentucky to Washington that I hardly have time to read blogs, much less post in my own.

I’m finding that I have so many things to do in the transition from Kentucky to Washington that I hardly have time to read blogs, much less post in my own. For those that care, I am settling into life in Ellensburg just fine, and I’ve even found a house to rent from a landlord who is pet-friendly. That’s a rare thing around here, it seems.

Last weekend I visited with an old friend from Virginia who is vacationing in Seattle with some of her friends. We went to a WNBA game one night and a MLB the next afternoon. We also walked around downtown a bit and visited Pike Market near the end of the day. It wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it might be. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city in the future. Oh! I also spent some time at IKEA. They didn’t have the flatware I wanted in stock, though.

powell’s books newsletter

Sign up for the Powell’s Books newsletter! You’ll enjoy reading it.

I love the Powell’s Books newsletter! It always has clever non-sequitors like:

“The Mystery aisle buzzed with activity. As the new Mosley book found its place between “Gone Fishin'” and “A Little Yellow Dog,” the Chandlers and Hammetts nodded with approval. Although the Ellroys and Thompsons were pleased to see another noir, the Christies kept quiet and sipped their tea.”

not all proxies are the same

No, I don’t know everything there is to know about proxy servers.

A while back, I panned a book on e-serials collection management. One of the contributors found my review and wrote a response, which I will quote here:

As the person who wrote the essay regarding IP versus proxy access for the E-Serials Collection Management book that you reviewed on your website, I feel the need to respond. First of all, I agree that the amount of time it took between the writing of the chapters and actual publication was a serious concern, particularly since the focus of this book was technology. However, I should point out that the problems encountered using proxy servers have not become a moot point because of the presence of EZproxy and similar products. We have had EZproxy access and an alternative proxy method available on our website (the University of South Florida Libraries) for several years. Unfortunately, this has NOT meant the end of proxy-user problems. With multiple campuses and users in several cities, many problems are still reported each week by users having difficulty connecting. The reasons for the problems are as varied as our users. Personally, I prefer this type of IP access to the use of ID/password but, as with most things, ONLY when it works. Keeping this in mind, I now have a second self-created job title – Cyberjanitor.

My apologies to the author. I was not aware of the difficulties with proxy servers and multiple campuses. My former place of work (EKU) has only one IP range for the main campus and all of the extended campuses, so setting up IP access with vendors is very easy. They use the same login and password required for campus email to authenticate our users, and everyone gets an email account, with the exception perhaps of some adjunct faculty. For that campus, EZProxy works 99.5% of the time, which is far better than having to hand out new passwords to everyone each semester.

winner-take-all v. proportional representation

Third parties don’t work in the USA by design, albeit unintentional.

Some time ago, a friend sent me this article from Common Dreams. The premise is essentially, “Don’t vote Ralph or W will win.” However, what I found most interesting about it was a clear and concise explanation of the whys and wherefores of the differences between the USA representative democracy setup and most of the rest of the free world’s setup. We are a winner-take-all democracy that by its very nature only works in a two-party system. Third parties are almost never moderate, and therefore are likely to be pulling from only one of the two major parties, no matter what Ralph may want you to believe. When the setup is Major Party 1 at 41%, Major Party 2 at 39%, and Third Party leaning towards Major Party 2 at 20%, the Major Party 1 will win, even though they are a minority and do not truly represent a majority of the people. In a proportional representation system, the percentage of votes would translate to the number of seats won by each party, and thus coalitions would have to be formed in order to get a true majority. If the USA changed to this system, more people would feel that their interests are represented in the government and we wouldn’t be worrying about spoilers.

gmail invitations

update 09.24.04: It looks like I’ll have invitations in perpetuity, since everytime I give some out, my balance goes up to six again the next day. I’ve created a Gmail invitation button and put it on the left side bar of this blog which sends interested parties to this entry. I won’t continue to bump this up as I get more invitations.

I have five Gmail invitations for the first five people to comment on this entry with their email addresses. Don’t worry, your email address won’t show up on the blog, but it will show up in the notification sent to me. I need that to send you the invite.

update: I have six more invitations. Comment on this entry if you want one. I’ll keep bumping it up, I think.

update 09.24.04: It looks like I’ll have invitations in perpetuity, since everytime I give some out, my balance goes up to six again the next day. I’ve created a Gmail invitation button and put it on the left side bar of this blog which sends interested parties to this entry. I won’t continue to bump this up as I get more invitations.

KY to WA – day four

I woke up feeling somewhat depressed and ready for this trip to be over.

I woke up feeling somewhat depressed and ready for this trip to be over. Part of my depression was in knowing that we would not be in Ellensburg that night, having decided to get a motel room in Yakima instead (all of the rooms in the Super 8 in Ellensburg were booked, and I didn’t know of any other motels that would allow a cat). The other part was that this was the morning of yet another long day of driving.

We stopped at a bagel bakery for breakfast, and then a quick visit to the next door Barnes & Noble cafe for a picture with the Starbucks travel bug and my mocha frappucino. Then it was on to the scenic overlook on the edge of town. It was breathtaking and surreal. I took many pictures.

The landscape of Idaho and Oregon and Washington was stunning, of course, but most of the rest of the day the miles flew by without my hardly noticing the world around me. I was numb to the beauty of the earth, and there is only so much stunning and beautiful landscape one can see before the brain stops assimilating it.

Around two in the afternoon, we stopped in Baker City to find some lunch. We ended up in the downtown area purely by accident, but it was a fortunate accident. The historic downtown is a vibrant commercial area; a throwback to twenty or thirty years ago. We had several lunch options and settled on the historic Geyser Grand Hotel. The food was quite good and inexpensive. The decor was as grand as the name implied. I felt a bit like a character in an Agatha Christie novel, staying at a 1930’s hotel on holiday.

On our way down a mountain near Pendleton, we pulled over for a scenic overlook. It was a little hazy, so we couldn’t see much, but what we could see was quite beautiful. Again, I took several pictures. I wish I had taken more pictures in the early part of the trip. Not too long after that we crossed over into Washington.

Yakima was probably the dullest stop on the journey. The motel was definitely the dingiest, and the food options weren’t particularly enticing. We were both so exhausted we could hardly move enough to explore the town, but we did stop at a Starbucks for another picture with the travel bug. The barristas gave us the sympathy we craved after we told them how far and how long we had been traveling.

KY to WA – day three

I got a good night’s sleep and was feeling more my usual self the next morning.

I got a good night’s sleep and was feeling more my usual self the next morning. We slept in later than we aught to have for our nine hour drive to Twin Falls, but it was worth it. The coffee at the cafe was good, although I was disappointed that their wi-fi connection was having trouble. Earlier this week I commented on enjoying my mini Internet vacation. While I am still enjoying this state of transition and disconnection with the real world, I also know that there were at least 20 messages in my inbox when I checked it late on the evening of Day One. One can only imagine how many there must be now.

After breakfast, we located a geocache near the interstate and pulled out a travel bug to take with us. This bug is trying to visit as many Starbucks as possible. I think we can help with that.

We hadn’t been on the road very long before the coffee kicked in for Dad, so we stopped at the next rest stop. It turned out to contain a memorial for the Lincoln highway, and while Dad used the facilities, I took some pictures. Then we got back on the road and continued west. Shortly before one in the afternoon (local time), we crossed over the Great Divide at 7,000 feet. It wasn’t particularly breath-taking, just a sign along the road.

About an hour after that, we stopped at a rest stop and located the third and final rest stop cache on our trip. I think there were others, but I must have forgotten to download them or lost them somehow.

Dad & I marveled over the changes in the landscape as we drove across southern Wyoming, the northwest corner of Utah, and into Idaho. It seemed that with every mile, the terrain changed dramatically. We went from flat, rolling plains that suddenly opened up to reveal a vast valley with mountains in the distance as we descended. We skirted around mountains and hills that rose up into the sky out of empty plains. The vegetation changed from scattered grasses and brushes to thick grasslands and copses of trees. At one point in Utah we saw a pull-over for a scenic view and seized the opportunity to take pictures of the beauty around us. The official scenic view is a rock formation called the Devil’s Slide for obvious reasons.

As the sun sank into the horizon, blinding us and masking the landscape around us, we pulled into Twin Falls. The main drag into town was a haven of consumerism we had not seen in many thousands of miles of driving. It reminded me of Hamburg Pavilion in Lexington. We drove by all the restaurants and stores, dazzled by the unexpectedness of it all. At first we thought we’d try out one of the restaurant food options, but after we checked into the motel and unloaded the car, we settled on a pizza and bad TV.