Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mr. Edison's Kindle

Apparently Thomas Edison had an idea for metal-paged books that had 40,000 pages and weighed about a pound, sort of like a forerunner for e-readers if you squint and tilt your head funny. Still, an interesting read. Included are summaries of such forward-thinking projects as wireless automobile telephones (1913), telenewspapers and electric writers (1928), watch-case phonographs (1936), "magic lantern talkies" (1937), Colorfax (1947), neck-strap TVs (1965), and a bunch of others.

Public Libraries Take on E-Books

From Peter Osnos at The Atlantic: Public Libraries Take On E-books. More of the same; I was hoping for some update on HarperCollins' stance, but no such luck. The article mentions HarperCollins being willing to work with librarians, mind you. Another good quote about circulation:

For example, the New York system now has 125 copies of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but in three years it may only need a handful, and the revenue impact of pay-per-use could turn out to be small. Moreover, "dog-eared printed books" as one senior librarian explained to me, have always been replaced, and e-books significantly reduce the time, trouble, and expense of returning books back onto shelves.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Get Off My Lawn and Blog

Verne G. Kopytoff write for the The New York Times: Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites like Twitter.

Fewer kids are blogging now and instead turning to Twitter and Facebook to express themselves, which seems kind of sad. Twitter's 140 character cap on posts is just too small. Facebook's limits are better, but I suppose I'm still sad to see blogging on the decline.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

The article goes on to make some interesting points about Facebook and Twitter being used in a complementary manner with Blogs to advertise and get word of mouth out as well as stating older folks don't tend to defect as much.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Superman in Four Panels

Superman in Four Panels by Ty Templeton. My favourite part is the bit about the monkey (not anymore).

Scurrilous Amazon Reviews

Back to another of my favourite topics, online book reviews! Some Amazon reviews get attacked by paid hackers.

It all started when Rosie Alison’s novel The Very Thought Of You, was nominated for the Orange Prize, a prestigious award given to women authors in the united Kingdom whose books are passed over for other prizes. Alison’s book had not only been passed over for prizes but for any attention at all. But all that changed when the nominee list was announced: suddenly The Very Thought Of You was assailed by a barrage of nasty reader reviews on Amazon. “I feel cheated!” “One of the worst books I’ve ever, ever read.” “This book is so irredeemably awful that I didn’t get past page 58.”

HarperCollins, Big Tent Librarianship, Annoyed Librarian and Agnostic, Maybe

Now that you're familiar with the term 'big tent librarianship', here is an article by Andy from Agnostic Maybe entitled HarperCollins and Big-Tent Librarianship in which he discusses an Annoyed Librarian post about Public Library Privilege. Compare and contrast!

'Big Tent' Librarianship

'Big Tent' librarianship was mentioned in another article I found interesting and will shortly post, and since I had to look up what it was, I thought I'd share.

Under this big tent philosophy, I believe it is time for librarians to reach out and get to know the issues that face other types of libraries. It is time to bring down the misconception of professional separation and remember the core beliefs that are shared across the occupation. The mindset I propose strives for nothing less than unity of vision and sense of greater purpose within the profession. While we all attend to our own niche in the overall library picture, as peers we should work together toward the bigger picture for the continued vibrancy of all of the various roles of libraries of all types.

The theory is that our motivations for joining this career path are similar and we should unify and build from there. Stronger together than a lone, that sort of thing.

More on Amanda Hocking

More news concerning Amanda Hocking, discussed in the blog post Ebook Millionaire: she has signed with St. Martin's Press.

“I’ve done as much with self-publishing as any person can do,” Ms. Hocking said in an interview on Thursday. “People have bad things to say about publishers, but I think they still have services, and I want to see what they are. And if they end up not being any good, I don’t have to keep using them. But I do think they have something to offer.”

Michael Geist: How to Vote for the Internet

Of interest to Canadians: Michael Geist explains How to Vote for the Internet by asking a few questions of the candidates on subjects including affordable broadband, usage billing, and copyright legislation.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Movie Streaming Run-Around

Oh, blog. I have not forgotten you. Either I have been unintrigued by library news or hammered by schoolwork, but I can change. I promise.

Of interest: a new streaming-movie service allows you to rent remote access to a DVD player, thus sidestepping some copyright stuff.

Zediva has set up hundreds of DVD players. They’re automated, jukebox-style. You’re not just renting a movie; you’re actually taking control of the player that contains the movie you want. The DVD is simply sending you the audio and video signals, as if it were connected to your home with a really, really long cable.

It’s kind of hilarious to think that this arrangement is the solution to the future of online movies: data centers stacked to the ceiling with DVD players... Zediva is just buying dozens of copies of each popular movie on the day it comes out, and presto, it’s yours to rent by long distance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Are Book Genres Being Replaced by Tags?

From io9: Are book genres being replaced by tags? Eric Rosenfield debates whether or not standard genres like 'fantasy' and 'sci fi' (and, one assumes, 'romance') can still be used to classify books when books have been splintered into tiny little niches that potentially cross over into multiple designations. Have an excerpt:

The thing is though, the handful of categories that fiction is still sold under-as classified on Barnes and, "Fiction & Literature", "Mystery & Crime", "Science Fiction & Fantasy", "Teens", "Romance", "Horror", "Thrillers", "Westerns" (and lumped in is Poetry which is not fiction, and Graphic Novels which are another medium altogether)-are accidents of history and technology, and even these clear demarkations are of recent vintage; bookstores did not even have separate science fiction, mystery or romance sections until the 1980s or so, and books specifically marketed to niche groups were relegated primarily to book clubs, mail order, specialty stores, and if one was lucky, newsstands, all except the latter being where the modern genre categories really emerged after the implosion of the pulp magazine markets in the 1940s and of the bulk of the science fiction magazines in the 50s. And yet we now take these categories for granted and talk about "transcending" them as if they had such impenetrable physical form that they can only be passed over metaphysically.

The world that gave rise to these categories is fading rapidly into nonexistence. The new bookstores are not circumscribed by retail space, they're the limitless possibilities of a search box. We live in a world in which most any book you can think of can be downloaded to your home, and where anyone with an Internet connection can fill a blog with reviews, interviews, news items, and free-form ramblings about whatever she thinks is important. That is a paradigm shift on a level we don't fully understand yet.

I no longer believe we should stop using terms like science fiction and fantasy and so on; those terms can be useful in describing certain things, certain ways of reading. But their status as hard-and-fast slots into which we plug in all of our books is already starting to fade, as the once nebulous megacategory of science fiction and fantasy splinters into steampunk, urban fantasy, paranormal romance and so on, subcategories that once upon a time might have been merely commented on but which because of the 'Net have blossomed into subcultures all their own, distinct and often non-communicating with the groups reading the space opera or sword and sorcery that since Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings have dominated science fiction and fantasy respectively.

It is a big excerpt.

Twitter Lands New Author a Book Deal

More odd publishing news: Adam Christopher was discovered by publisher Angry Robot Books via Twitter. While perhaps not the most established publisher, Angry Robot Books does seem to publish books I would be interested in reading based on premises alone.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reddit Post: Buy a Book from Borders With Coupon, Help a School Library

From Reddit: If you buy a book on March 19 or 20 at Borders (and use this coupon), money goes to help build a school library!

Since we're about to have a big book-centered Secret Santa, I thought it made sense to share this. :)

A nonprofit I volunteer with is doing its 3rd annual book drive, and this year we are doing something special! We're building an entire school library at a new elementary school in Brooklyn, NY. Seriously, the library is currently a big empty room.

Borders has generously teamed up with us and on March 19 and 20, if you use this coupon ONLINE or IN STORE, $ will be donated to get shelving for the library. It does not save you money, but it is a free way to donate to a good cause! And it can be combined with other coupons you might have.
Note: The coupon doesn't work with pre-orders and I'm not sure if Borders stores that are closing will take it.

You can also donate books if you feel so inclined. It's a K-5 school and they need every kind of book a school library needs, including non-fiction and reference books. (They are also learning Latin! So maybe a few easy Latin books would also be awesome.) Used are fine if it is in good shape and not hugely out of date. You can read more on the campaign and find the address here:

Thank you everyone! And I'm happy to answer any questions. :)

Closed Stacks on Library Dating and Curriculum Suggestions for Library School

Closed Stacks is on an awesome run right now, with a post about a New York Times article about a library-based dating scheme and another with suggested courses for library school curriculum.

I suppose I would bring John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, since it is legitimately my favourite book. On the other hand, maybe I should try to game the system with something like Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game or Ender's Shadow, which would be more along the lines of truth in advertising.

My favourite curriculum suggestions include:
  • LIS710 – Introduction to Library Perverts
  • LIS738 – Mechanics of Photocopier Machine Repair
  • LIS770 – Internship with Passive-Aggressive Note Leavers

If there was a training course for photocopier repair, I would probably take it to make my resume more appealing. Also, I like fixing things.

The CMO's Guide to the Social Media Landscape

Stolen directly from The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian's Weblog: The CMO's Guide to the Social Media Landscape.

Tumblr's ratio of useful to crud is pretty low in my opinion. I wouldn't get too hopeful about that one.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Smelling

So now smelling books and keeping track of what they smell like is art. (The New York Magazine goes into more detail.)

I would like to propose that is not art but rather a hobby. See, it's funny if you consider it a hobby, but it's just annoying if you consider it art.

I was amused by one of the comments on the LISNews post:
this is completely unscientific. she omits all types of metadata that a librarian would include.
how long did she sniff each book?
did she sniff a random page or the inside cover or page 23? and "paper-y" in place of "paper"??? is that like saying a book has "around 200 pages"?

How would you even decide which page to sniff in a scientific manner? Page 23? Halfway through the book plus one page?

Libraries vs. HarperCollins

HarperCollins is making big waves in the library world by limiting ebooks to 26 loans before requiring libraries to buy the ebook again.

Our prior e-book policy for libraries dates back almost 10 years to a time when the number of e-readers was too small to measure. It is projected that the installed base of e-reading devices domestically will reach nearly 40 million this year. We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.

Alright, it is an outdated policy. On the other hand, I'm still in the camp that format and file changes make ebooks less permanent than hardcopy books. (Then again, I haven't actually been at a circulation desk and seen how damaged books get, nor do I know how many loans they go through before they're written off.) Twenty-six times seems pretty low, however. Maybe if they upped the limit a considerable amount?

The article also points out that Macmillan and Simon&Schuster don't yet offer libraries ebook versions of their books at all.

HarperCollins announced it was doing this in late February; it's starting to come into affect now, so it's not exactly new. Maybe people thought they wouldn't go through with it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Google vs. the Content Farms

Google says it has tweaked the formulas steering its Internet search engine to take the rubbish out of its results. The overhaul is designed to lower the rankings of what Google deems “low-quality” sites. That could be a veiled reference to so-called online “content farms” such as Demand Media's
- Google tweaks search to punish ‘low-quality' sites, Globe and Mail

Google doesn't like content farms. They updated their algorithms. But did it work?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

10 Myths From Usage-Based Billing Supporters Debunked

Peter Nowak posts 10 myths from usage-based billing supporters. (There is an ongoing debate in Canada about usage-based billing, by the way.)

  1. Data is not a utility.
  2. Delivery cost is paying for expansion.
  3. Congestion has not been proven.
  4. Investment is not making big ISPs poor.
  5. Heavy users are not all pirates.
  6. Pirates are not necessarily bad.
  7. Not all opponents of UBB are hogs.
  8. Market forces won’t take care of problems.
  9. Facilities-based competition is not the holy grail.
  10. Everyone else makes it work.
My favourites are probably the first and last:
Data is not a utility. There have been many attempts, including by the CRTC, to equate internet usage to a utility such as electricity or gas. Very simply put: it is not. The electrons that make up the data that passes to and fro over the internet are limitless and are not consumed and destroyed every time a YouTube video is watched. The “pipes” and other equipment over which these electrons flow are, of course, finite and therefore need to be continually expanded as the amount of traffic grows. These are two very different things, however. In electric-bill parlance, we’re talking about delivery and usage – the nice people at the hydro company bill us for both and the big ISPs would like to do the same. The difference is, the actual kilowatts that go over the hydro company’s pipes ARE finite and ARE destroyed once they are used. If you want to talk about fairness, then yes, it is okay to charge internet users for delivery, but how is it fair to charge for consuming a non-consumable?

Everyone else makes it work. I love pointing out how unlimited or practically unlimited internet usage is common in just about every other country because this disproves every argument there is in support of UBB. If ISPs in every OECD country except Canada, Australia and New Zealand can make it economical to give customers big or non-existent usage limits, why can’t we? ...The price of bandwidth continues to fall globally, so those countries aren’t having conversations about whether the internet is like electricity or whether it’s fair to charge heavy users extra, they’re talking about how to make all of their citizens heavy users. The reason we’re not having that conversation is because all those other countries have something we don’t: competition and consumer choice between providers, which keeps prices reasonable and usage limits high.

Think Finland.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Book Surgeon

Brian Dettmer carves up books and it's art!

Brian Dettmyer says this of his work:

"My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception," he says.

"The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge."

Those statements up there are art school talking. Sometimes I stop to take a moment to be glad I never went to art school and thus never had to try to sell my own art by saying things like that. Granted, the last time I picked up a pencil and seriously went about trying to draw something was during the Bush administration, so maybe I shouldn't be too self-congratulatory.

(The more recent Bush administration. I was still drawin' up a storm when his daddy was in office.)

Please note the article says the books are out of date, so slicing them up is OK!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ebook Millionaire

Amanda Hocking, 26, is making millions from publishing ebooks through the Kindle store.

Hocking, a self-proclaimed unicorn enthusiast and Muppet activist, writes about vampires, zombies, and yes, romance. According to reports, just one year ago, the Minnesota-based writer was "impoverished," "living paycheck to paycheck," and the manuscripts she sent out were rejected by publishers all over New York. Like many authors, Hocking turned to self-publishing, creating a store on Amazon. She set the prices of her work relatively low — 99¢ to $2.99 — and for every $2.99 book she sells, she keeps 70%. Hocking tells USA Today: "To me, that was a price point that made sense for what I would be willing to spend on an e-book… I use iTunes a lot, and it's 99 cents and $1.29 a song."

That's so crazy! Naturally, because she's self-published, she's getting a lot of flak for it. The Jezebel writer makes an interesting point, one that reminds me of last month's post about loving 'bad' writing:

...It's strange that just because she's a popular writer, folks are expecting her to be an excellent writer. Is Britney Spears an excellent singer? Is Jersey Shore an excellent show? It doesn't matter. People like what they like...

Hocking is fairly thoughtful about the situation and reflects on it in her own blog with candor and insight.

For further reading, Jezebel also links to The Book Deal Blog's Book bloggers can help sell your book: Tips for authors.

Friday, March 4, 2011

David Lee King's 10 Presentation Tips

As I continue with my library science program, I'm finding that presentations are being stressed as important. I wasn't expecting that when I entered the program! Librarians - all kinds - have to learn how to make good presentations. They have to learn how to make people believe something they didn't believe yesterday; it's a survival technique to make sure libraries and librarians (and information specialists) keep getting funding and keep getting acknowledged as important.

Some people in my program are better at presentations that others. They tend to be the ones who volunteer to present for group projects, and you can see their skills improve with each presentation. Those presentations help them stand out from the crowd, give them practice with selling their ideas, or ideas in general. It's like being a wallflower at a dance - sure, you might be more comfortable, but you're more likely to be overlooked.

I don't like presenting. I'm not afraid of it and I am willing to do it and I make myself volunteer to do it, but I can't say I find it fun very often (Children's Readership Advisory book presentations are an exception). I'm not all that outgoing a person, either; I'm pretty shy. (Yes, a shy librarian. Who'd've thought?) I guess my tip would be to treat presentations of any sort as a performance: you are acting, you are pretending to be a presenter, and your acting can trick people into thinking you're comfortable.

David Lee King is a much more accomplished presenter than I am, and he has a whole list of tips for presenting.

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me:

  1. Don't Use Templates
  2. Use Presenter Notes
  3. Use Presenter View
  4. Learn Your PC
  5. Use Screenshots
  6. Do What You Said You'd Do
  7. Tidy up Those Transitions
  8. Rehearse
  9. Interact with the Audience
  10. It's a Performance

Oh hey, look at that last one.

The Beauty of Data Visualization

Another post taken from my Database Searching class, here is David Candless on the beauty of data visualization:

Shh! Sound Health in 8 Steps

Look, a tangent! Sort of. Anything with the word 'shh' in the title attracts my proto-librarian interest.

Another talk by Julian Treasure: The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us.

As much as libraries are moving toward being active, non-silent areas, we should still appreciate silence - it allows us to be more productive. Sometimes - like yesterday - I'll find myself weirdly sensitive to sound and it quite honestly makes me feel awful. Chatty classroom environments are terrible for it. Sadly, moving away from the sound isn't so much an option in a classroom, unless I want to duck in and out of the door as the instructor speaks. It only happens every so often, but I do feel physically ill when it does. I wonder how common that is.

The eBook is Not the Enemy

From a friend of my Database Searching instructor: The ebook is not the enemy, so who is? by Trudi Stafford.

Here’s the thing: public libraries are in a unique position to promote and support reading and publishers should want to be our friends, not try to cut us off at the legs. That approach just doesn’t make sense and it smacks too much of out-and-out greed. Remember Gaiman’s point: if anything, sharing leads to more buying, not less – publishers need to recognize the symbiotic relationship they’ve always shared with libraries, who act as promoters and advertisers. Libraries get us hooked on books, and eBooks are going to help libraries do that even more. Why then are publishers feeling the need to punish an ally like the public library, or the consumer for that matter?

The article is full of good points like this, and also has The Ebook User's Bill of Rights, which I had not yet seen before:

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.