Theory

Theory

How Book Publishing Is Changing...For the Better, or Not? {Bits of Destruction}

More on digitization etc.

"Bits of destruction" is a phrase Fred Wilson uses to describe the destructive part of "creative destruction" brought on by digitization. We hear a lot about the destruction wrought on the newspaper business. A more interesting and nuanced wave is now hitting the book publishing business. Actually, it is three waves: the digitization of back catalogs, e-books, and print on demand. However this plays out, a lot of people will be affected, but the way in which it will play out is not at all obvious.

His blog discusses 'the dragon' Amazon.com, POD, acceptance of e-books and how these and other technologies relate to the state of the industry.

Thanks to Peter Scott for the tip.

Ohio Budget Squabble Round-Up

There are many reports about the Ohio budget crisis. SaveOhioLibraries.com has a post up noting that the Ohio Library Council has a status report. There has been a commentary posted about the video slots issue that is reportedly holding up passage of Ohio's state budget. These are a selection of recent articles in the matter: Budget makers gambling with future (Commentary, Cincinnati Enquirer) Q&A about Ohio's debate on slots at racetracks (Associated Press via Forbes.com) Gambling interests swarm Ohio Statehouse (WTTE Fox 28) Debate continues over slot machines (Mount Vernon News) Gambling in Ohio: a primer (Cincinnati.com) Gambling still key battle in budget work (Editorial by Senator John Carey, Ironton Tribune) Slots still only 'solution' to Ohio budget crisis (WKYC) Governor rejects call for November vote on slots (Toledo Blade) Skip the slots and work on a budget (Editorial, Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin) State budget standoff hitting children and school districts in Northeast Ohio: Child-care funds and adoptions halted (The Plain Dealer)

Fight the Power 2.0

Topic: 

A Model for Alternative Scholarly Recognition Measures in Academic Librarianship?

Eric Schnell points to The New Media Department and The University of Maine where they amended their promotion and tenure guidelines (all the way) back in 2007 with redefined criteria in the form of alternative recognition measures. Their documents identify nine alternatives to the standard 'article in a peer-review journal' model. He thinks the measures can be applied to library science since many aspects of LS has similar accessibility and timeliness requirements for their research/scholarship.
1. Invited / edited publications
2. Live conferences
3. Citations
4. Download / visitor counts
5. Impact in online discussions
and 4 more...

On Futuristic Door Stops

Recently, I faced the hideous situation of dead hardware. I had gotten dependent upon my Palm T|X. That model of personal digital assistant ("PDA") was great as it had built in 802.11b WiFi as well as Bluetooth. As long as I was within range of a wireless access point that I had rights to use, I had the Internet in my pocket. Early on, it worked quite well with a wireless infrared keyboard. I had a precursor to a netbook in basic form as I could use the keyboard to compose Word-compatible documents on a small screen. The device was great for trying to read online content such as Mobile Twitter, The Dysfunctional Family Circus, Instapundit, and more.

Unfortunately the PDA got stuck in a soft reset loop. It was showing its age. Three years of dutiful service is beyond what would reasonably be considered "mean time between failure". Although I was able to eventually break it free of the soft reset loop, it is now stuck at the digitizer calibration phase of initial setup. After multiple efforts, the digitizer could not be re-calibrated. I had a very futuristic looking doorstop.

Replacing it was an interesting battle. Initially I was carrying a legal pad and pen with me. While my "analog PDA" worked well for me, it was not small. It also looked quite anachronistic in today's world. That did not work well in the end.

Getting a smartphone was out of the question. Nobody calls! As it is now, I don't really have a cell phone simply because the usage for inbound calls was so light. For outbound calls, I use Skype. While devices like the Palm Centro, the Android G1, and the iPhone exist they really do not meet my needs. If I get a phone, I want one that makes calls. I would much rather have a separate PDA let alone a separate camera.

Getting a replacement PDA is a complicated adventure. The market for stand-alone PDAs is virtually non-existent as of late. I visited retailers like Office Max, Office Depot, Best Buy, and even a pawn shop in search of something comparable. Nothing was available as the trend today is the marriage of the PDA and the cellular telephone.

In the end, I had to turn to eBay. In addition to securing a Terminal Node Controller for certain projects, I picked up a replacement. Instead of getting a Nokia N800 as was sought, I wound up with a Palm IIIx. The Palm IIIx, while serviceable, is a very old device. This PDA is actually old enough that it has a battery door to replace the AAA batteries it runs on. I did get a keyboard to go with it but I need to get a suitable cradle to hook it up to a host computer. The device not only does not have Bluetooth, it does not have 802.11b WiFi either. IrDA-compliant infrared is the most the device has for signalling.

With these recent travails in replacing a PDA, I had given quite a bit of thought to eBooks. How truly valuable are eBooks? How do they compare with an old-fashioned RadioShack book light? As neither my paper books nor the Kindle have any backlight in them, such cannot be curled up with in bed without a booklight. Having to shine a booklight on the screen of the Kindle would be no different from shining one on the Palm IIIx. In that situation, you have a better chance of seeing your own reflection than seeing what you want to read. I am twenty seven years old and should not need "The Clapper" to be able to use an eBook device effectively in bed.

While the eBook may seem to be the way of the future, it does seem to be excessively involved and expensive compared to picking up something from the shelf. For those that feel the need to have everything available to them in one place, I suppose eBooks have a place. Right now I am finding print material to be easier and more enjoyable than the eBooks promoted today.

What is important to you: cute or practical?

Creative Commons License
On Futuristic Door Stops by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Three new things walked into a bar...

Walt: Three new things walked into a bar...
Here's a simple check on your perceptions. Which of the following do you consider to be successful–either currently or as some form of inevitable game-changer in the near future?
* Blu-ray Disc
* FriendFeed
* Kindle
Now, let’s put it another way: Which of these has greater actual marketplace impact–that is, which is actually used by the most people?

The so-called Darien Statement bothers me...

The so-called Darien Statement can be found at http://www.blyberg.net/2009/04/03/the-darien-statements-on-the-library-and-librarians/. I'm going to express a few of my thoughts here. There are some areas where the statement bothers me.

The statement is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. The statement of responsibility indicated in the relevant blog post indicates that John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor came up with this. I'm going to restate some of it here. I will attempt to interleave replies.

Purpose

"The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization."

How does that square with enabling legislation in most cases? Public libraries are public institutions and normally are creatures of statute. Libraries can only do what is authorized by statute. I imagine that the integrity of civilization is not something allocated as a responsibility of libraries in enabling legislation.

"The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change."

History has shown instead that the purpose of the library has in fact changed. With the rise of "third space" theory and more, libraries have shifted in focus from being only storehouses to additionally being commons.

"The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence."

How this can be read depends upon your definition of "The Library". As for that definition, there seem to be multiple possibilities.

"Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict."

That cannot happen in a public institution. Insubordination is a firing offense in most government bureaucracies and librarians generally do not have tenure protections that might insulate them in these cases. There are normally only two choices when faced with instructions you cannot follow: resign or comply.

"Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will."

Over time, the "why" does change. LCSH was arbitrary until Lois May Chan was contracted to study its systemization. We still assign subject headings, but the reasons underlying those headings and our choices are different now compared to thirty years ago.

"A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library."

I would think effective public communication would be more essential as the Nebraska video game case showed. If people had communicated, that whole mess would likely not have happened. Without keeping lines of communications open, taxpayers and those who oversee libraries are likely not to care about the library's role and instead prefer to cut budgets for better favored pet projects.

There is more to the statement but I won't address that at this time. In the end, it reflects a view of professional practice I've rarely encountered. What the statement aspires to seems to not be the norm in the US.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians

On March 26th, Darien Library hosted an event called “In the Foothills: A Not-Quite-Summit on the Future of Libraries” at which participants were instructed to “come prepared to help sketch out the role librarians should play in defining the future of libraries”. The two speakers, John Berry and Kathryn Greenhill, provoked a conversation among me, Kathryn and Cindi Trainor that began in my office the next day and spilled out across the ensuing week.

Kathryn and Cindi have beautifully captured the spirit in which this was written.

Here is the resulting document (CC License). It’s meant to be grand, optimistic, obvious, and thankful to and for our users, communities, and the tireless librarians who work the front lines every day, upholding the purpose of the Library.

The search for the next big thing

For those unfamiliar with the library field, librarians have a strange relationship with technology. On one hand, the library field has been quick to follow new trends of audio and video technologies. Even as we speak, my library is moving towards Blu Ray and expanding web based technologies such as eBooks and downloadable content such as movies and mp3s. We are working on bringing the library and the patron closer together through the internet with an online calendar, databases, and other remotely accessed sources.

On the other hand, it wasn't long ago that libraries were playing catchup to one of the biggest technologies, the internet. When the internet was emerging as a means for global communication, the majority of libraries balked at the addition of computers. Books, it was said at the time, was the main mission of the library. The internet was something that fell outside of that mission. Eventually, obviously, the massive amount of information exchange was too much to ignore. The internet rewrote the mission of the library in terms of the mediums that it could be expressed in. Combined with the linking of broadband communication networks and global information resources, literally a world of knowledge was brought to the simplest library setup.

At ACRL, One Librarian Looks to the Very, Very, Distant Future

In a session at last weekend's Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference billed as “not for the faint of heart,” University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) librarian and chief information officer Michael Ridley challenged librarians to imagine the library of the future—the very, very distant future.

In a talk that had Star Trek fans among the audience brimming with enthusiasm, Ridley spoke of a “post-literate” future in which man and machine meld seamlessly together. Ridley got right to the point. “What we do is toast,” he told the audience. “Are reading and writing doomed? The answer is an unequivocal yes.”

Ridley entertained his audience with a James Cameron-like vision of the future, where borgs, bio-computing, advances in brain research, the “hive mind,” and advances in pharmacology would one day—although not one day soon—undo the need to read, write, manage, or organize information as we now know it. Want to learn French? One day you will just take a pill, he suggested.

Full article here.

How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge

Clive Thompson on How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge:

We need to fashion information tools that are designed to combat agnotological rot. Like Wikipedia: It encourages users to build real knowledge through consensus, and the result manages to (mostly) satisfy even people who hate each other's guts. Because the most important thing these days might just be knowing what we know.

LISTen and Hyperlinked History by The Faceless Historian

While Stephen deals with the stress of moving, he asked that I fill in for him for a special episode of LISTen - The LISNews Podcast. As my alter-ego, The Faceless Historian, I'll take you on a journey through history back to the distant past and the origins of the DRM and copying controversies we deal with today.

Stephen and the regular LISTen gang will be back next week with your regularly scheduled podcast. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy something a little different about something related to issues we face in libraries today.

LibraryThing Calls for New Cataloguing Scheme

With all the talk of Dewey or Don't We...

Gawd I'm getting tired of that phrase.

Anyway, with all the talk of whether or not libraries should use DDC, LCCN, BISAC, or something else for their collections and then the possibility of using open databases instead of OCLC, it seems like cataloguing is on everybody's mind.

It is over at LibraryThing too, where they've issued a call for the creation of OSC, or the Open Shelves Classification. They're looking for a few librarians who are of a mind to create a system that's free, "humble," modern, open source, and crowd sourced. Indeed, they want something that the library profession has needed for a long time - a modern system capable of changing, and changing easily.

So if you're of the cataloguing bent, check it out.

Eric Lease Morgan’s Top Tech Trends for ALA Mid-Winter, 2009

Eric Lease Morgan’s Top Tech Trends for ALA Mid-Winter, 2009:
Indexing with Solr/Lucene works well
Linked data is a new name for the Semantic Web
Blogging is peaking
Word/tag clouds abound
“Next Generation” library catalogs seem to be defined
And several more...

Finally, regarding change. It manifests itself along a continuum. At one end is evolution. Slow. Many false starts. Incremental. At the other end is revolution. Fast. Violent. Decisive. Institutions and their behaviors change slowly. Otherwise they wouldn’t be the same institutions. Librarianship is an institution. Its behavior changes slowly. This is to be expected.

The Time of the Book

Well, it's had a good long run, nearly 600 years. But...is it the 'end of the book'?

Here's an opinion piece by Tom Engelhardt in the LA Times. He has worked in publishing for more than three decades and is currently the editor of TomDispatch.com, where a longer version of this article is published.

From the article:
Worlds shudder and collapse all the time. There's no news in that. Just ask the Assyrians, the last emperor of the Han Dynasty, the final Romanoff or Napoleon -- or Bernard Madoff. But when it seems to be happening to your world, well, that's a different kettle of fish.

Two weeks ago, a close friend in my niche world of book publishing (at whose edge I've been perched these last 30-odd years) called to tell me that an editor we both admire had been perp-walked out of his office and summarily dismissed by the publisher he worked for. That's what now passes for politeness in the once "gentlemanly" world of books.

His fault, the sap, was acquiring and editing good books. The sort of books that might actually make a modest difference in the universe but will be read by no less modest audiences -- too modest for flailing, failing publishing conglomerates.

Saving the Story at MIT

Article in the NY Times about research into how (motion picture) stories have been told, are being told and will be told in the future.

In league with a handful of former Hollywood executives, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory plans to do something about that on Tuesday, with the creation of a new Center for Future Storytelling.

The center is envisioned as a “labette,” a little laboratory, that will examine whether the old way of telling stories — particularly those delivered to the millions on screen, with a beginning, a middle and an end — is in serious trouble.

Press release from MIT includes the philosophy of the project: "Storytelling is at the very root of what makes us uniquely human," said Frank Moss, Media Lab director and holder of the Jerome Wiesner Professorship of Media Arts and Sciences. "It is how we share our experiences, learn from our past, and imagine our future. But how we tell our stories depends on another uniquely human characteristic -- our ability to invent and harness technology. From the printing press to the Internet, technology has given people new ways to tell their stories, allowing them to reach new levels of creativity and personal fulfillment. The shared vision of the MIT Media Lab and Plymouth Rock Studios allows us to take the next quantum leap in storytelling, empowering ordinary people to connect in extraordinary ways."

Greenstone 2.81 Released

David Bainbridge from the Greenstone team posted a release noting that a new version of the package was released. Greenstone originates from New Zealand at the University of Waikato. Relative to the changes in the new release, Bainbridge wrote:
The main focus has been on multilingual support. Improvements include handling filenames that include non-ASCII characters, accent folding switched on by default for Lucene, and character based segmentation for CJK languages. This release also features our new installer, which is 100% open source. Previously we had relied on a commercial program for this, which incurred a significant cost in keeping up to date; consequently we decided to develop our own installer, based on the excellent open source installer toolkits already available. There are many other significant additions in this release, such as the Fedora Librarian Interface (analogous to GLI, but working with a Fedora repository). See the release notes for the complete details.
The post gives details on downloading the release as well as daily builds.

Is the Internet The Start of History?

Philosophically inclined to view the arrival of the internet as the 'beginning of history'? Here's a column by Calvin Ross of the Napa Valley Register which views the internet as a critical mileage marker of civilization.

From the article: "I’d like to propose my own theory that the Internet may in fact be a kind of new beginning of history, if one thinks of history as the chronicling of human events and accomplishments.
I marvel that we know anything at all about history and even prehistory — that period before writing was developed — and I have the greatest respect for historians, archeologists, anthropologists and librarians who have built and maintained the public records and archives that comprise our knowledge of human and natural events.

I am, however, suggesting that since the advent of the Internet the record of human events is extraordinarily more dense and complete than ever before, and there’s every reason to believe that from now on the record of human achievement will be chronicled on a massive scale. Until the end of time we will have access to more ways of learning about who we are and where we have been."

Reisinger on "Holograms"

Don Reisinger wrote in his column about CNN's recent use of "hologram" technology in covering election events Tuesday night. Reisinger, a tech writer, expounded his view that CNN's move wasn't so hot. Reisinger also presented some behind-the-scenes views on how the technique is implemented.

Everything I needed to know about library policy I learned from "generation kill"

Aaron "Boot Camp" Schmidt: "Doing things like knowing people’s names when they approach the circ desk and starting to check them out even before they have time to find their library card are a part of creating a good experience. And because we spent the time detailing exactly how we can best serve our patrons, no one has to break any rules to do it. The ability to provide good customer service is built in to our procedures."

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