Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

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The iPad hype and why books are safe

April 9, 2010

There has been much talk about the cybersphere with the release of Apple’s new iPad.  Some of that talk has reflected the views of people who believe the days of print materials are numbered.  And please don’t mistakenly assume that because I am a librarian, I would shed tears over such a loss.

From the perspective of historical preservation, appreciation of literature, and a general love of books, I would certainly miss holding a book in my hand — the smell and texture of the pages, the feeling of turning each one with my fingers, and the weight of the object in my hand.

Nevertheless, I recognize that a change must come.  Printing anything on paper is destroying our environment, the only earth we have. Something must replace the traditional book, but the real question here is whether e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle or over-glorified e-book readers like the new iPad are the answer to this dilemma.  I think not.

There are two main problems with this theory.  The first is cost.  While there may be future devices that are inexpensive and easily distributable, these devices are not.  As much as Apple fanboys would have you believe that everyone and their mama is going out to buy an iPad, that simply is not the case.  If people have to pay more or even as much for a reading device as they do for mobile service or cable television, people will simply stop reading.

The second problem is format.  Digital media is currently laced with poison (i.e. DRM).  It is a hassle that you cannot share your e-books with others as easily as you would shared a print book.  It is ridiculous that libraries cannot do this, and until they can, e-books will always be second-rate.  The format problem is also reflected in the devices themselves.  No matter how thin they get, they are not going to replace the look and feel of a real book.

I believe the real solution is something like I saw on Caprica: a page that looks and feels like paper but is electronic.  We have the ability to synthesize almost anything these days.  I am lactose intolerant but can eat soy cheese and hardly notice the difference.  Paper can be synthesized and so can book covers that are stronger and more resilient than the current offerings.  Imagine hold a book that looks and feels just like a real book, but you can press a button when you are finished reading and turn it into the book’s sequel.

I am not writing this because of nostalgia or my love of books but just based on my observation of library patrons and people in general.  I believe that until we reach the point where the benefits of e-books outweigh the inconveniences and high cost, print books are safe.

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Pay for websites? That's so 1990's

May 8, 2009

Rupert Murdoch has once again made headlines (pun intended) by telling CNN that visitors to the web sites belonging to some of the numerous newspapers that his News Corporation owns will soon have to pay to access certain content. Instead of having free access to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Post, a visitor would have to “pay handsomely”, according Murdoch.

I know the man is old, but is he really that out of touch with technology and the development of new media?  Does he really believe that people cannot live without his newspapers?

When a news organization is failing, as many newspapers are, why would it benefit them to make it more difficult to get news to people who could use it?  Their goal should be to gain readers, not drive away the few they have left.

If a person has to pay to find out a piece of information on one site, they will simply find it on another site for free.  Instead of arrogantly thinking that they can just muscle people into giving them money, they should try earning it.  Give people a real reason to come to your web site.  Come up with something innovative that makes your site worth their time.

We live in an age where media is interactive, collaborative, and, most importantly, open to all.  If News Corporation or any other mega-news conglomerate fails to realize that, it might very well be the last mistake they make.  And maybe the world will be a better, more truthful place without them.

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So many things going on

April 18, 2009

Here is a quick rundown of all of the things going right now:

1. The semester is closing, and I have two big projects to complete: one cataloging final project and an annotated bibliography for my reference class.

2. In the next few days, I am expecting to receive a contract from the publishing company that is commissioning me to write a book. I will give more detail on that when it is signed and sealed.

3. I am looking for freelance writing jobs and might have found a long-term gig. Again, I will provide more information on that when available.

4. Summer classes start in May. I have already planned out the rest of my master’s program, which concludes a year from May (2010).

5. My kids are growing like weeds and eating like bottomless pits. I will post pictures soon.

6. We are about to push the TV show online in a big way; more on that as it develops.

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Librarian Fellowship Open Until April 24

April 16, 2009

This is the final call for any people interested in a full diversity fellowship from a grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, organized by the Indiana State Library and Indiana University School of Library and Information Science.

Applicants must demonstrate their commitment to enhanced diversity in Indiana libraries and agree to work in an Indiana library for at least two years after completing the 16-month program. (And Indiana is a great place to live, in case you were wondering).

I am 1/4 of the way through the program and have enjoyed it thoroughly thus far. It is hard work but well worth it in the end. Contact me if you need help applying. For more general information, see here.

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Librarian Opposes Google's Library Fees

February 22, 2009

From NPR:

All Things Considered, February 21, 2009· Google wants to give you access to its huge database of scanned, out-of-print books, but the company is going to charge for it. Robert Darnton, head librarian at Harvard University, says the deal violates a basic American principle — that knowledge should be free and accessible to all.

When I first saw the headline, I thought, “So what? What major online content provider actually gives their content away for free?  Academic and public libraries pay premium prices to get access to paid-content databases, only to turn around and offer it to the public for free.”

After hearing what the librarian had to say, however, I can see his point.  Those paid-for databases are already a commodity, but if Google might in fact provide us with the “future of books” (when we’ve overspent our use of trees and can no longer print physical books), it will be an travesty if our only access to libraries will be through commercial corporations such as Google.

Why do authors (or their lawyers), the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. get so uptight about their content being offered over the internet but yet are perfectly fine with them being offered through brick and mortar libraries?  Do they somehow think that because something is digitized they lose all control and copyright over it?  I would never read a novel sitting in front of my computer screen unless someone forced me to, but if I could preview a book, or just fine a quote from a particular page online, that would be fantastic.  Would I pay for it?  Definitely not.

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You think your children are smart

November 1, 2007

…but they’re just copying stuff from the Internet and pasting it into their research papers.  See, we Librarians know the truth.  We see what your kids do when you aren’t around.

I hate it so much, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, HATE it….almost as much as I despise Halloween.

And that is the end of the matter.

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Free DVD's, well, um, kind of

September 24, 2007

I just checked my mail…that is, snail mail…at my Library. Anyway, I got my usual assortment of book catalogs and magazine renewal warnings. Along with all that was a catalog from Learning Media of America with “Free DVDs” written in big letters. I think these are the same people who normally send Fax SPAM, so apparently giving stuff away for free has been somewhat profitable for them.

The Las Vegas-based company will send you all kinds of educational DVDs at no cost…just $5.95 for shipping and handling…and here comes the catch…PER DVD! Now, think about it. Let’s suppose I want 10 DVDs. Does it really cost $60 to ship 10 DVDs? If there are any postal workers reading this, feel free to comment and enlighten us.

Oh, and by the way, commenting on my blog is free, but it costs $5.95 for web hosting…per click.