Saturday, October 31, 2009

What To Do With Old Catalogue Cards

Some kids have never even used a card catalogue. I never really liked them. I'm short and I was a short kid and the upper drawers were always annoying. Now there's a huge surplus of the cards. Librarians at the University of South Carolina are opening a contest to see what people can make with the obsolete cards.

I'd love to see some flip books, if the cards aren't too stiff for that. I made a couple in dictionaries when I was a kid. It might be cool to try again with more complex pictures. And I'd use catalogue cards as bookmarks. I have an old sign-out library card I'm using as a bookmark currently.

Multnomah County's Library Steps up Security

Apparently Multnomah County's library books haven't had any sort of security system in them for almost thirteen years. Wow.

The county has decided to install Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in the library books and hope to have the task completed by then end of 2010. At first I thought the library didn't have any system, but supposedly they just turned what they did have off when there were too many false alarms.

The move comes four years after a police officer discovered hundreds of stolen library CDs and DVDs at a patron's home and the public learned that staff annoyed by repeated false alarms had turned off the few security gates that existed in library branches. The discovery led to a study of library security released two years later that showed massive annual losses.

How many false alarms make you turn off security gates? For a while, I couldn't go into a local pharmacy in a certain pair of jeans because they would make the gate alarms go off. That bad?

Here is some info in the article regarding RFID that I found helpful:

RFIDs are small devices about the size of a nametag sticker that adhere to books, CDs and the other materials. They've been gaining popularity among libraries nationwide for the last five years and have been used in libraries in Europe even longer.

The tags store and retrieve data and contain antennas that enable them to respond to radio-frequency queries. They can't be removed from items without damaging them and will trigger an alarm at the door if the item isn't checked out.

RFIDs are favored because they're much more accurate than the magnetic strip systems often used by libraries.

Learning is fun.

Racy Sex Guides in the Ottawa Library

Courtesy of my course instructor: Ottawa Library Defends Addition of Racy Sex Guides. Go, Barbara Clubb, go! Apparently a couple emailed the library about the books, saying that they were 'pornography veiled as instruction' and 'harmful to children'.

Should kids be reading these books? Well, no. Again, adult supervision is still a good thing in my opinion. A seven year old does not need to see 'colour photos, illustrations and diagrams' of oral sex. Neither does a thirteen year old, honestly, but it's not like they can't look that up on the internet and really I'd rather they get it from legitimate sources that encouraged safe sexual practices. I really wish that sort of thing wasn't of interest to kids beyond the what's-that-curiosity we all had. Seems like kids are getting into sex younger and younger these days, but honestly it's been happening for a long while. I have to wonder if a guide to oral sex would deter a few teenage pregnancies.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hitler Loves Cushing and E-Books

More about Cushing! I previously mentioned it in my first real post in September.

Sounds like things went pretty much how I thought they would, except the thing where people compare the headmaster James Tracy to Hitler. I really should have seen that coming, though. Has fifteen years on the internet taught me nothing? People love bringing Hitler into any argument. Any argument. Back in 1990, a guy named Mike Godwin said, "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Voila, Godwin's Law.

Here is an example from the article, taken from a blog at*:

"Save the books, fire the instigator of the book-burning. Let Hitler stay dead."

Contrary to the impression given back in September ("When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books"), James Tracy now says:

"If I look out the window and I see a student reading Chaucer, to me it's utterly immaterial whether it's a paperback or a Kindle. I'm just glad that they're reading Chaucer."

Scrolls are okay! Just not for research, which he says was what he was talking about. As for reducing his library staff, apparently that's not true:

Actually, he says, he has hired more librarians to help students navigate the electronic stacks and tell "what is valuable information or reliable from what is junk."

Not all the students love it. There's a comment by one student about giving people coffee in a library, and another about how annoying using an e-book version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was to take notes on.

While Kindles themselves are expensive, the books are less so:

Corbett [Tom Corbett, Cushing's director of Media and Academic Technology] says he can purchase many e-titles much more cheaply than traditional books. Often he pays just $5 apiece, so for the price of a $30 hardback, he now orders six e-books.

That's a pretty good deal.

More Hitler comparisons, from Paul Biba at TeleRead, who got it from someone named Danny Bloom: Amazing Luddite protest against ebooks. I saw this a while ago but was too astounded to comment or quote. If it's okay for Paul Biba, it's okay for me. Here is the Hitler reference in an essay, Protecting the Printed Word, by author by Alan Kaufman:

Which teen or twenty something in their right mind is going to opt for paper over electronic texts? No one of course. That's just the way of evolution, goes the narrative. Publishers and readers, writers and agents, are well-advised to get with this truth or perish. As to the bookstore, it is like the synagogue under Hitler: the house of a doomed religion. And the paper book is its Torah and gravestone: a thing to burn, or use to pave the road to internet heaven.

Surely book concentration camps are just around the corner. Sure, guy.

* No link for you. Look it up on your own!

Someone Plus Black Marker Equals Censoring

A library in Tennessee has a problem with censorship: someone is taking black marker and crossing out bad words.

Well, at least they're enterprising - at least, if it's just one person. One book at a time, they eliminate questionable words, like some kind of really crappy superhero. Thank you for protecting the rest of us from foul language!

How would you catch the person doing that? Are the books being checked out? If so, can an account be flagged as suspicious?

Monday, October 26, 2009

League of Extraordinary Porn

Two librarians in Nicholasville were fired for not giving a twelve-year old a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel. They felt it was 'filthy' and pornographic because the books 'contain lewd pictures of men and women in sexual situations that are inappropriate for children.' That doesn't really sound like porn. Porn's a pretty hefty word to sling about.

The Jessamine County Library director says it's against their policy to speak about employee terminations but he did give me a copy of their policy and it clearly states the responsibilities of the child's reading must lye with the parents and not with the library.

Well... yes. Of course it lies* with the parents. Just like with TV and movies. Was firing the librarians really appropriate? Could they have gone with a slap on the wrist? Was something stopping them from asking the girl if she could bring a parent or guardian to speak to them?

* Lyes? Time for a new copy editor.

The Siren Call of Infinite Knowledge

Peggy Orenstein wrote an article about an app that blocks internet for up to eight hours. At first I dismissed this article - I'm pretty tired of stories of people who can't exert enough self-control that they need a program to cut them off from the internet (which you can get around by simply rebooting, deemed 'humiliating'... come on). Further into the article, 'The Odyssey' was mentioned... specifically for Ulysses having to bind himself to the mast of his ship when encountering the sirens because he was helpless otherwise. Again with the helpless. Despite it being on my shelf, I haven't read The Odyssey (BAD librarian, NO COOKIE), and until now I always thought the sirens were tempting with nookie.

Those mythical bird-women (look it up) didn’t seduce with beauty or carnality — not with petty diversions — but with the promise of unending knowledge. “Over all the generous earth we know everything that happens,” they crooned to passing ships, vowing that any sailor who heeded their voices would emerge a “wiser man.” That is precisely the draw of the Internet.

I will admit to having lost quite a few hours to the endless links of the internet, the thing is the internet and its endless information is still there when I go away. I can pick up right where I've left off. Another point the article makes is that the internet isn't unending knowledge, it's unending information.

What's the difference between knowledge and information? Is knowledge the result of really thinking about information? Is it the practice of studying it instead of letting it all wash right over, in one ear and out the other? I'm not sure a library is so different from the internet that way. It's harder to be distracted by leaps away from the original subject at least. Physical books aren't linked together by the twitch of an index finger on a mouse button.

Still, I think that it's still up to the user to exert self-control. No one is helpless to the internet; there are such things, as with real books, as bookmarks, logging off and putting the book aside, page marked for later. I feel more obligated to read a physical book all the way through if I read just a part of it, but I don't so much have that problem with the internet.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sony Makes an E-Book Reader Available in Canada

Kindle vs. Nook has never really been an issue for me; I couldn't buy either of them anyway. At least Sony has some love for Canadians. Seriously. Large neighbour to your north, and you can't give us some books? There's an and everything.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Books vs. Screens

From Court Merrigan at TeleRead: The novel is screwed in the era of the screens. Tina Brown from the Daily Beast interviews author Philip Roth.

Roth thinks that in twenty-five years ("optimistically"), novels will have a cult-like following. Most people will choose the movie screen, the television screen, the computer screen. The video of the interview can be found here.

The logic seems to be that reading a novel takes more concentration than watching a movie or TV. Heck, sometimes I have a hard time focusing on a movie or show. When I can't focus on a book, it's time to turn the light off to get some sleep.

Is it really going to be reduced to a cult-like following? If so, I guess I'll be part of that cult. Reading a book provides full immersion in the story. All the actors are good actors; the way they say the lines is how you want to read them. Admittedly, sometimes the performance of the actor is better than what you can come up with, but most movies based on books I've seen, I've liked the book better. (With one exception: Lord of the Rings. I don't have the ability to concentrate on those books because of the writing style; I don't think that's necessarily a flaw on my part or Tolkien's.)

Part of me wants to say that it's just snooty to think people will read less because movies and television are 'easier', like it's looking down on the imaginations of others. Part of me thinks, however, that while special effects never used to be able to match what I pictured in my head when I read, they are now more than adequate - sometimes portraying fantastic things in a manner I would never have dreamed.

In any case, as long as the cult doesn't have to wear robes, I'm down with it. It'd be a shame, though, but isn't it already?

42 Essential 3rd Act Twists

Stolen from Boing Boing: 42 Essential 3rd Act Twists. I particularly like the Shyamalan and Double Shyamalan columns. What a TWEEST!

Google Fingers

Tiny, but it made me smile: scans of Google Books with fingers in them. The comments are maybe the best part. If you want to just check for yourself, here is the search for google books fingers.

The War on Science Fiction

Speaking of science fiction! I came across an article from The Spearhead called The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minksy. It was so awesome I had to take several days to process it, or at least that's the excuse I'm using for now.

It starts out promising:

Science fiction is a very male form of fiction. Considerably more men than women are interested in reading and watching science fiction. This is no surprise. Science fiction traditionally is about men doing things, inventing new technologies, exploring new worlds, making new scientific discoveries, terraforming planets, etc. Many men working in the fields of science, engineering, and technology have cited science fiction (such as the original Star Trek) for inspiring them when they were boys to establish careers in these fields.

Okay. Sure. Science fiction is great and inspiring. Unfortunately, now boys won't get that inspiration because of the feminization of the genre. There are girls in space now and that just isn't cool, okay? Girls in space mean relationships and talking and fewer lasers.

Pro-Male/Anti-feminist Tech (that's the name on the byline of this article) quotes Marvin Minsky, a leading AI researcher at MIT. Minsky says,

General fiction is pretty much about ways that people get into problems and screw their lives up. Science fiction is about everything else.

I find that statement false; science fiction deals with the problems people make. Science fiction has held a mirror to modern problems with a setting of the fantastic. Racism, communism, ecology, cautionary tales... science fiction is the perfect forum for all these things.

All is not lost, however:

There is still a great deal of written science fiction that is real science fiction, so all is not lost. However, many boys who would have gone on to make scientific discoveries and invent new technologies will not do so since they will never be inspired by science fiction as boys.

Thank goodness for books! Science is saved! Just don't read any Honor Harrington books.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Science Fiction Books for Beginners and Others

I came across an article by Sarah Hope Williams suggesting good Young Adults (YA) books to start kids on. I have read exactly two of them: Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I approve of both those choices! I don't have a problem with the themes of Ender's Game, though I will agree the author is a little wacky. I'd kind of rather a kid was ignorant of just how wacky for as long as possible; I know knowing that kind of thing about authors will sometimes colour my enjoyment of the books (Dave Sim, I am looking at you).

I'll be looking at some of the other books on this list myself, as my science fiction knowledge is pretty crummy. Some books I do consider science fiction that I enjoyed:

  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, the novel being better than the movie in my opinion;
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, actually the first of her Time Quartet series I ever read and perhaps the one I enjoyed most;
  • All the books from the Ender's Game universe featuring Bean, whom I enjoy as a character more than Ender himself;
  • The Honor Harrington books by David Weber, which have a very positive female role model, even if they get slightly more ridiculous the longer the series goes on;
  • The Otherland tetralogy by Tad Williams, often criticized for going on too long and having too many characters, which I have no problem with, and the occasional lapse into semi-purple prose that I do have a very minor problem with when it pulls me out of the story to snicker. Once you get used to it, it becomes less of a problem.
  • 1984, one of those 'must-reads' of science fiction.

I have read some William Gibson and liked Virtual Light the best. I may be lynched for finding H.G. Wells' The Time Machine a little boring, but in my defense, that book is considered one of the forerunners to sci-fi and by the time I got around to reading it the ideas were old hat to me. While I consider the Pern books science fiction I can't necessarily say I recommend them. They did provide the main bridge between fantasy and science fiction and 'adult'* books for me, though the science aspect was introduced after I started reading the series. Also, Anne McCaffrey is another example of author weirdness you could do without having pointed out to you.

* Not that kind of adult.

Book Clubs

I was reading an article about why you should resist the lure of book clubs by Adam Sternbergh and I thought it was a little uncharitable. Or at least it made me think about book clubs in general and whether or not I would like to be in one.

I rarely seem to read the same books as my friends. The only time I get to talk to them about books, it seems, is when I borrow them directly from them. (The exception would be George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, which most of my buddies have read and enjoyed. In my opinion, the series is fun because it's grittier than most fantasy novels out there and it has a way of going in directions you wouldn't expect if you've read a lot of fantasy novels. The first book, A Game of Thrones, demonstrates this extremely well. George R.R. Martin pulls something so unusual it hooked me on the series.)

Anyway, I like to talk about books when I can. I like to hear other people's opinions on characters I like and dislike, on plot twists, or their general observations. If you talk to other people about books, they can show you aspects of the story you may have missed. And that's cool, the sharing.

Would I join an actual book club? I'm thinking not. Mostly because of this:

...We talk about the chosen book for a few obligatory minutes before we move on to the part of the club I think most of us really look forward to, which is not talking about the book.

I like books, but I can really only go on so long about them. Some books have more I'm interested in discussing than other books. Agreeing to read a specific book and feeling obligated to come up with things to talk about kind of reminds me of school. I like it fine when I have opinions, but if I'm indifferent it's going to be pretty dull unless someone else is really passionate about the story. That, and I'm slightly too reclusive.

I think the article raises some a good point - that books should not be treated as an incomplete experience if they're not discussed in a group setting. There was also an interesting commentary on the intimacy of reading:

Which brings us back to the intimacy of reading. Consider something even as silly and modest as this article: I’m in your head right now. You have graciously allowed me to slip inside the private sphere of your consciousness, if only for a few minutes. (It’s like a twist on that hoary babysitter horror movie: The voice is coming from inside your head! ) This is very different from how we experience any other kind of art: no matter how much you enjoy a painting or revel in a symphony, there’s not a sense that the painter has hijacked your eyes or the composer has hijacked your ears. The writer, though, hijacks your thoughts. (Hello! Hello! — I’m making you say that right now.)

I've thought that was a little freaky myself.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Banned Book Reading Room

Cheap post for Saturday! The Henrico County Public Library in Virginia has a sassy display for Banned Book Week. Someone deserves a pat on the back for that one. The comments section is also somewhat interesting. Look, the slippery slope of what gets banned and how severely!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stop Talking About the Smell Already

I was reading this article by Gloria Mark in the NY Times online. The article was good, but there was one comment that made me roll my eyes:

No, no, no, no! E-books are Fahrenheit 451, long version.

On NYC and Boston subways, where you always see readers, I see only book readers. One guy had an e-book, and appeared to be skimming it, or embarrassed somehow, or both. Give us pages! Is that too much to ask? Fragrant paper pages that carry the author's words more closely to our senses, and our hearts. We do enough screen-scanning at work...please, let us keep real books for our leisure time!

I don't think I'd like an e-reader. I haven't tried it, but I don't think I'd like reading a little screen. Maybe I would; I'd have to test-drive one before buying. In any case, I am not necessarily pro e-book, so maybe someone can listen when I say stop talking about how important the smell and tactile sensations are. Just stop it. The smell thing is starting to get a little freaky.

The tendency to overreact to digital books is similarly annoying. E-books are not ruining it for everyone. There will not be a massive burning of paper texts even if it shifts toward digital copies. They will still be there.

The important part of reading is the actual reading, not what format it takes. Some people take exception to reading things on a screen; what about the people who would rather? There is a whole generation who look at computer screens not as something only for work. There are those who consider computer screens as a source of entertainment. A great thing about humans is their ability to adapt. Let's cross the no-physical-books bridge when we come to it, if we come to it. Right now, it's personal preference, and no one is forcing that commenter to start reading with a Kindle.

The book is important. The format of the book is not. And sorry, Dr. T from Atlanta, Georgia, for picking on you in particular. Not that anyone reads this blog!

I pity the fool who doesn't respect Dr. T.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One at a Time, Please

More about digital books in libraries. The article mentions a girl in Florida who uses her library card to download books to her laptop. I approve of her selection of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams (and I forgot Towel Day again this year), though I find Laurell K. Hamilton trashy. I figure being able to pick up a copy of anything Laurell K. Hamilton writes without setting foot in public place would probably be helpful. Now only the internet is judging her and not her local librarian.

But here's a weird bit:

Most digital books in libraries are treated like printed ones: only one borrower can check out an e-book at a time, and for popular titles, patrons must wait in line just as they do for physical books. After two to three weeks, the e-book automatically expires from a reader’s account.

One at a time? Really? But... why? It's not as though it's limited by only having so many physical copies. Is that a move to appease book sellers?

Speaking of book sellers, some have decided not to offer their books in digital format to libraries, with the argument that 'soon everything will be free'.

And as for physical libraries becoming obsolete, here is some hope:

For now, the advent of e-book borrowing has not threatened physical libraries by siphoning away visitors because the recession has driven so many new users seeking free resources through library doors.

Though they also mention that most people don't know the digital collection even exists. I wonder if my local libraries have any.

Church Burns Christian Books

And now for something completely different: a North Carolina church has decided to burn Christian books on Hallowe'en. They will also burn music. That's how hardcore Pastor Marc Grizzard is; he feels all versions of the Bible other than the King James are Satanic. Did he warm up with anti-church books? Maybe some Golden Compass? I hear there's a talking polar bear. That's gotta be worse than Rick Warren.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

6 Ways We Gave Up Our Internet Privacy

It's actually only four ways if you're a Canadian as far as I know.

More of the same; another article urging readers to have a little common sense about what they post about themselves.

  • Google: Always with the Google. Using Google's calendar services and others like it makes it possible for people to know all kinds of information about you and where you're going to be. People used to keep organizers and physical calendars for this sort of thing; yes, Google can store it online where you can get to it from anywhere with an internet connection, but you could also just carry it with you or keep it on your desk and tell people you'll have to check your agenda and get back to them. Astonishing.
  • Social Networking: The same thing goes for Facebook and Twitter and using it to constantly update with what you're doing. How much could a stalker find out about your whereabouts from what you post up for the general public? Is there anything out there you wouldn't want your ex-boyfriend to know? Take it down. This isn't even getting into someone finding out a password or two.
  • RFID Cards and Loyalty Cards: I've never heard of RFID cards before this, but that might be because I just wasn't paying attention and not because I'm Canadian and this article is written by an American. Loyalty cards, maybe. I'm not sure how those are so much worse than using a debt or credit card, save for providing information about what you buy to the specific company you buy it from... don't they already get that, though? Okay, it's still information gathering, it's just old news.
  • The Patriot Act: Skip. Be assured security went up in Canada, too, but it's nowhere near the US.
  • GPS: Again with the creepy. Use a map.
  • The Kindle: I can see it providing slightly more information than just ordering a book through a website could - the article says it can process how quickly you read a selection, for example - and then it's back to the summer bugaboo of items being removed without warning.
Just read a spy or crime book and take some tips from what the bad guys do in them. Hooray for paranoia!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Savagery and Ravages of Technology

So it's a bit of a cheat on a library tech blog, but it's so darn interesting: For the last hundred years, rightsholders have fretted about everything from the player piano to the VCR to digital TV to Napster. Here are those objections, in Big Content's own words.

We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry that is able to retrieve a surplus balance of trade and whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine.

You know, the VCR.

Nobody likes a change in format. I have to wonder if one day there will be people specializing in transferring data from one format to the next, a rapidly building snowball of content that we strive to hold on to simply because we made it... nevermind the getting paid part.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Review: The Bodies Left Behind, Jeffery Deaver

It's a slow news day, at least for things I'm interested in talking about, so I'll trot out a book review, I suppose.

The Bodies Left Behind
Jeffery Deaver

Plot Summary: A deputy in a small town goes to investigate a brief 911 call that got cut off after one word - 'this'. She happens upon a murder scene and is forced to flee the two killers, who are still there. What follows is a long night trekking through the woods with a spoiled-seeming friend of the victims and playing tricks of misdirection and mind games with the pursuers.

Opinions: I liked the trickery involved on both sides. I liked the protagonist, Brynn, and the antagonists are written well with motives of their own. Brynn's husband is a kind of boring secondary character. From what I've read of Deaver, he likes to include at least one big twist of plot in every book, the kind where you don't see it coming but in hindsight it makes sense. The book goes on a little too long for a lack of real payoff action-wise, though there is character growth. One detail is left annoyingly unsolved, but the book is worth a read if you're fond of mysteries and books with cops. I would not be particularly interested in reading another book about Brynn MacKenzie.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Library of Congress' Digital Collection and a Plea for Steve Guttenberg's Help

Google Books, Project Gutenberg, and the Library of Congress; all three are scanning collections to be stored digitally. The Library of Congress is up to 700 terabytes of data, though only 200 are available on the internet due to copyright. (A terabyte is still a lot, trust me.)

Do people have the same problems with the LIC scanning as they do with Google? Does Project Gutenburg? Has anyone considered the merits of consolidating all three collections under the LIC or Gutenburg?

I'd say collect it under the Library of Congress, but I'd rather it be held by an international entity, as in, one not tied to the United States. Like maybe the United Nations?

Perhaps most pressing: why isn't Steve Guttenberg attached to Project Gutenberg? Is it the extra T? Can you get rid of that, Steven? Only you can fight Google.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mister Congeniality

Proof people can be cartoon villains.

Constantine "Connie" Xinos is the president of the home-owners' association in a gated community in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook. He dislikes being near poor people (he successfully blocked a permit for a senior's home, stating, "I don't want to live next to poor people. I don't want poor people in my town"). He reportedly worked to elect an Oak Brook village council who would shut down the town library, which he also campaigned against. When local kids showed up at town meetings to ask that their library be left open, he is quoted as saying, "I don't care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books;" and to the library staff to "stop whining."

More here. Notice the lovely skylight in the library; it looks like a beautiful place. Most libraries I see are windowless caves with yellowy fluorescent lighting. I wish I had this library.

Now would be an excellent time for some random acts of kindness via the web to help this library out. Check out all this free publicity.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Relationship Between Public Libraries and Google

This paper by Vivienne Waller, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research of the Swinburne University of Technology, explores the relationship between Google and public libraries. It's pretty interesting and raises some good points:

  • Google tends to 'perfect technology first' before 'working out how to make money from it'. This could mean ads. Google already insists it be the only search engine allowed to link to the content of the Google Book Project. Some libraries are balking.
  • Search engine bias and the idea of relevance to search queries.
  • What happens if Google, perish the thought, goes out of business and the archive is inaccessible?
  • The motives of Google's project.
She also discusses infogration, described as 'the integration of aspects of the world in to the medium of information into which targeted ads can then be placed'.

To be successful, infogration requires that we live more of our lives on the Web. Hence, Google has been actively encouraging us to live more of our lives in the “Googleverse”. Google wants us to not only use its search engine to search for information, and to read using Google Books but also to use Google products (a shopping site) to buy things, to plan to buy things using Google Shopping List (a Web–based list of intended purchases), to let friends know what we want for our birthday or Christmas using Google WishList (a public list of what we wish we could buy), to find out what is happening using Google News, to share tagged photos using Google Picasa, and to hang out with friends using Orkut (Google’s version of a social networking site, very popular in Asia and India), or connect with people with similar interests using Google Groups. The list continues and expands with each new Google product. Google encourages us to communicate using Gmail, to plan trips using Google Maps, to bring Google along for the ride with Google Maps integrated into our cars and giving us directions, to virtually visit other places using Google StreetView, to describe ourselves in blogs (using Blogger) and be updated with the blogs we are interested in using FeedBurner. Google suggests that we manage our financial information using Google Finance and that we manage our health using Google Health (a repository for all of our medical records and a way of keeping our doctors up–to–date about our health).

That doesn't sound at all creepy!

I think the most important point to remember is 'libraries need to pay attention to that which is concealed by Google’s search results and by digitised information. What is concealed includes vital aspects of human knowledge and culture and it is part of the task of the public library to preserve these things.'

Teen Reader's Advisory

A library in St. Paul, Minnesota, is allowing teenagers to help make some decisions about their local library.

The idea is that because teenage interest in the library has surged in recent years, the libraries would be served well to find out how to serve the demographic better. (Apparently, this means more copies of 'Twilight', which I wasn't going to mention but the reporter did. Twilight gets kids interested in reading; it gets some adults interested, too, and even if the series is drivel, at least there's that. Kind of like the Harry Potter phenomenon, only creepier. In the interest of being fair, I have not read the Twilight books, but what I've heard has been pretty awful. And I saw the movie.)

This is pretty cool. If I'd had this option as a teenager, I might've gone and pitched in, met some other bookish kids, that kind of thing. I would've lobbied for more Terry Pratchett books. What a good idea!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

E-Book Readers Are Being Marketed to the Wrong People

Jason Pinter says e-book readers are being marketed to the wrong people. I think he's right - currently, e-book advertisements are aimed at people who already read a lot instead of at reluctant readers. Why not aim it more toward that market? Maybe take a note from the iPod and design them to be a little more fun. I wonder if there could be some way to add in a kind of dictionary function that would help people read - when you don't know a word, you could click it and get an option to look it up in a dictionary on the reader itself.

Ebooks should expand the book buying market, not be used as an alternative for the print edition. Look at the ads for the iPod: they're fun, they're cool, they feature all sorts of (pastel-colored) people who are far funkier than anyone you or I know grooving to the licensed beat. Then consider the ads for the Kindle: the music is straight out of your local elevator. Hesitant readers aren't going to rush out to spend $299 for the reading equivalent of John Tesh. iPods sell the experience. E-readers are selling the gadget. And that's bass-ackwards.

The author of this article gets points from me for his hilarious insertions of pop culture history, like 'Informer'. Except now I want to listen to that song, which is less good and might cost me ninety-nine cents.

Monday, October 5, 2009

That Book Will Cost You $11K, Sir

An article by Jason Boog* informs us the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) revised their 'Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials'. Bloggers reviewing items to disclose whether they got it for free when giving an endorsement. Breaking the new rules can cost a blogger up to $11,000 in fines.

* Sorry about your childhood, man.

Text Markup

So Princeton arranged for fifty students to get free Kindle DXs with their course material for the semester already loaded on 'em. Apparently, most of them don't like 'em.

One point of dissatisfaction was that the texts couldn't be marked up; I'm kind of against marking books permanently, but there are some books I wedge paper bookmarks between the pages of or add sticky labels to. It's just easier. (I will admit to having a couple of books on my shelf used for research with hiliter marks. Gasp.) I didn't even think of this when I thought about having e-textbooks, and it's a big advantage of the physical textbook. There's also a thing I do where I will try to recognize text by sidebars or illustrations; when I'm not sure where the stuff I'm looking for is at and it's not very conveniently in the index, I'll flip through quickly. It also helps when I can see how close to the beginning or end of the book I am. There are visual cues that would be much harder on an e-reader.

Can this be overcome? Probably, though I think I'll never feel as comfortable with an e-textbook as I do with a hard copy. Maybe younger people could do it more easily, though I consider myself fairly young and technologically inclined. Do Kindles allow you to see the text of two books at once or flip between them easily?

Sunday, October 4, 2009


More of the same: Will Online Piracy Become a Problem for E-Books?

I think the term (and I use that 'word'* loosely) 'Napsterization' is kind of dated to begin with, but I suppose it's the case most widely shouted about, so fair enough.

Will people stop buying books if they can just download them? Where is the line between library and download?

I think there's less of a case for book sales dropping than there is for music sales. Many reactions to stories like Cushing Academy's move to a 'digital' library go on about how people like reading books better, and the smell of them and memories of comfort and safety and all that. Which I am not denying; I have lots of good memories of books and being contorted while propping them up somewhere to read. The point is, book lovers love books as much as they love stories, while music lovers don't love CDs, at least not to the same extent (though record collectors can be pretty outspoken). Affection is more likely to be applied to whatever device plays the music, and one device plays a lot of music whereas one book only contains so much text. So let's kill some more trees, stack them up on shelves, and not let anyone else read them without paying the author.

* I did it again!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Like This

I want to be a librarian like this. When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher. I still do, I like helping people. Librarians do that, too. I think I would like to make a difference in someone's life. Probably in not such a dramatic way, but still. There are worse things to aspire to.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Social Media Policies

Do you really need a policy at your library or school regarding social media? Twitter. Facebook. Blogs. LiveJournals. There are all kinds of ways you can get yourself in trouble on the internet, yes. People have been fired over things they've posted, even.

Here is a simple rule: if you have something to say that might not be well received by the parties in question, do not say it online. Just don't. As secret as you think your Twitter account, Facebook page, blog, or LiveJournal is, you don't know for sure that someone can't find something incriminating online. That's just for personal stuff, like saying something snarky about your sister-in-law.

When you work for an organization and can be recognized, do not badmouth that organization. Don't post about it. If you simply must tell a story, give everyone a fake name or don't name names at all.

Be careful what you sign your real name to. Nothing on the internet ever truly goes away; you can write something that can get pulled up years and years later, and things that seem like a good idea when you're seventeen don't really reflect well on you when you're twenty-seven. Anything you post can be used against you. If you're going to use your real name, you had better be very professional.

Some of the suggestions in the article include:
  • Use a disclaimer. Agreed. The opinions expressed do not reflect on BigNameCompany.
  • Don’t share secrets. Agreed again. You do not want to be breaking news.
  • Be yourself. Not really agreed for all situations. You can 'be yourself' in the way your mom told you to be yourself without using your real name. There's always the option to reveal your real name later, but there are no takebacks. You may not want the kind of attention you can get.
  • Respect copyright. Don't pass someone else's stuff off as your own. Not articles, not blog posts, nothing. Always give credit when you can.
  • Respect your colleagues. And your friends. If your best buddy you went drinking with and got trashed with that one time and took pictures of can't friend his dear old Aunt Petunia when she asks, you need to take that stuff down. Or at least take it down if asked.
  • Avoid online fights. Debates? Mostly okay. Fights, definitely not. No matter how angry or annoyed you get, don't get into personal things with your opponent. And don't pick fights with people you don't like; the internet is full of opportunities for deception that might seem tempting but have serious consequences.
  • Post accurate information. Ever played the telephone game? One small bit of misinformation can turn pretty weird. See what happens when you don't get your facts straight. Bloggers get annoyed!
  • Consult the employee manual. Handy anyway. Really, I can't photocopy my rear end? No kidding.
  • Use good judgment. Well, yeah.
  • Provide value. It's not necessary. There are people who are happy talking about what their cat did that day and there are people who are happy to read it. If someone doesn't think what you're saying is valuable, they can choose not to read it. I personally hate Twitter. I choose not to read Twitter posts because I find the majority of people post just to post.
  • Accept responsibility. Seriously, this is an 'all the time' thing. If you mess up, admit to it. Apologize to offended parties. This one really annoys me.
I suppose policies are a good idea. Common sense just isn't common enough. Remember, lots of employers will put your name through a search engine before hiring you. So will people you date! Then again, maybe it's a good thing to know that nice guy you met is into wandering around in a fur suit before you get too attached to him. Or, you know, maybe that's attractive to you. I'm not judging you, as long as you're not hurting anybody.