March 2009

Wikipedia: Exploring Fact City

Contributors to Wikipedia have wondered aloud lately if — perish the thought — they are running out of topics. The obvious articles, low-hanging fruit like “China,” “Moses” and “Homer Simpson,” have been written and rewritten hundreds of times. There are more than 2.8 million articles on the English version of Wikipedia alone. Already looking back, Wikipedia this month got its first serious memoir, “The Wikipedia Revolution,” by Andrew Lih, an early Wikipedian (yes, that is what they call themselves), who writes about how “a bunch of nobodies created the world’s greatest encyclopedia.”

But these concerns seem misplaced — Wikipedia can no more be completed than can New York City, which O. Henry predicted would be “a great place if they ever finish it.” In fact, with its millions of visitors and hundreds of thousands of volunteers, its ever-expanding total of articles and languages spoken, Wikipedia may be the closest thing to a metropolis yet seen online.

Full article in the New York Times

Going to Computers in Libraries 2009?

If you have a long plane trip for Computers in Libraries 2009, we’ve got some podcast recommendations to help keep you informed and amused.

You can catch up on programs you might have missed with Tech for Techies, LISTen, and Hyperlinked History. Network producers do crank out a bit of content during the week. Links for network programs to plug into your podcatcher are:

Hyperlinked History:
Tech for Techies:
All Network Programs In One Feed:

Other programs to potentially try include:

Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4:
The Folks on the Hill from Radio Ulster:
Quirks and Quarks, a CBC science program:
tripleJ Unearthed Podcast:
CBC Radio’s Comedy Factory:
Community Divas:
GeekSpeak on KUSP:
KCRW’s Martini Shot:
Digital Planet on the BBC World Service:

To those traveling, fair winds and calm seas. LISTen will post per its normal schedule at 0400 UTC Monday.

More women are reading e-books

Today’s typical e-book reader is a woman, “between 40 and 50 years old, who tends to have a higher-than-average income and level of education.” A few years ago, by contrast, the most likely consumer of e-books was a male gadget freak.

More at the Christian Science Monitor

Western Union Now Offers Gift Card Claim Codes

If you are off the grid and do not have a credit card but you want to buy something at Amazon here is an option.

The Western Union Company today announced that consumers can now purchase Gift Card claim codes with cash at its U.S. Agent locations. The service offers a convenient and appealing solution for those wishing to make purchases on without using a credit card. Consumers can purchase Gift Card claim codes at any of the more than 44,000 Western Union Agent locations in the United States. The Gift Card claim codes allow the customer to purchase millions of items in over 40 product categories on

Full press release here.

Spider-Man Faces Being Banned In Nebraska Public School

Follow-up blog entry at to this story.

After watching the news story on Omaha’s KETV Channel 7 website, I did some research into the title of the book, since it’s never mentioned but the cover appears on air. The graphic novel is Spider-man Volume 2: Revelations. Written by J. Michael Straczynski, with luscious curves provided by John Romita, Jr., Revelations was published in 2002 in hardback. Both Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and the Marvel Comics website do not list the book as having been published within the last 6 years, so I don’t know why the book was reported as being new, other than the fact that it was apparently new to that library’s collection.

Now here’s where the school district might have dropped the ball in a big time way. On the copies I have been able to find, the book says in big white letters “Rated PG, Ages 12+.” This book would have been fine in middle or high school, just not in the hands of a 6-year old! Whoever reviewed this book didn’t do their job. Mrs. Svendsen has a right to complain.

Full blog entry here.

Bush and Obama Share One Thing: A Publisher

There’s a proud White House tradition of cashing in — er, signing lucrative book deals — on the way out the door. That includes not only Presidents but also first ladies, secretaries of state, speechwriters and so on, all the way down to the White House chefs. But the common wisdom in Manhattan publishing circles was that George W. Bush would have to cool his heels for a while before he penned his memoir. The thinking: Bush’s low approval ratings might render any presidential tell-all a toxic asset for his publisher.

But Thursday, Crown, an imprint of Random House, announced that the former President has signed on to write a book, to be published in fall 2010, tentatively titled Decision Points. According to the publishing house, “the book will not be a conventional memoir, but instead will focus exclusively on approximate a dozen of the most interesting and important decisions in the former President’s personal and political life” — including his decision to quit drinking, his reaction to 9/11, his response to Hurricane Katrina; and how he found faith.

Full article at

Google’s Book Settlement Is a Ripoff for Authors

Opinion piece in the WSJ:

To get through the 385 pages of mind-numbing legalese of the Google settlement, it might be better to be Nino Scalia, Bob Bork or David Boies. Preferably all three at once. Absent brain enhancement surgery, understanding this monstrosity by May 5, 2009, is going to be rough.

That’s the date by which every author and publisher in America is supposed to decide whether to “opt in,” “opt out,” or simply “ignore” a vast compulsory licensing scheme for the benefit of Google. Most, about 88%, are expected to “ignore.” That’s because they know their online display rights have value, and the last thing they want is to be herded like sheep into a giant contract commitment.

Continued here.

The Infinite Shelf

With Google having settled its copyright suit with authors and publishers, the company is now poised to be a modern Library of Alexandria with full texts of millions of titles online. Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, loves the access but wonders at what cost.

Seven minute interview with Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, on the radio program On the Media

Iowa Students Pass On the Love of Reading

First-graders at Riverside (IA) Elementary are getting a little help in developing a love for reading.

The industrial manufacturing class at Highland High, along with sixth-graders at Highland Middle School, donated bookshelves and books they each made in class to the 37 first-graders. They presented the gifts at an assembly at the school Friday morning.

Each of the first-grade students received their own small bookshelf made by the high school students and a book written and published by the sixth-graders to take home. Great idea, story from the Iowa Press Citizen.

Collecting Digital Books

We will discuss move of University Presses other publishers to publish in digital format and the consequences and logistics of adjusting to this. How do libraries “collect” such material? How do we manage it?