The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Monday, January 06, 2003

eBook: Unavailable? Yep.

justin_KLUBNIK is upset about how ebooks are treated in the earlier story about Cleveland PL circulating Overdrive ebooks. In his response, eBook: unavailable (due in two weeks), he says:

"is it just me, or is only allowing a limited number of eBooks not defeating the whole point of electronic media? why not let an unlimited number get checked out, all of which deactivate (need to be renewed) after a certain number of days? i mean come on, 'i'm sorry but that eBook is checked out' - how absurd."

It's not just you, Justin, but there isn't thing one libraries can do about it. The publishers and jobbers force us to pay heavy prices for each copy, and unlimited licenses are so far out of the range of our budgets that we can't even consider them. Library budgets are treading water at best, drowning at worst, so we can't afford more than one or two electronic copies of anything, which unfortunately means you'll see lots of "unavailable" statuses on popular electronic items as they become more widely circulated.

Which is a shame, since as Justin later points out, there isn't much demand for ebooks outside of libraries these days. In fact, I'll bet that we're a pretty big market right now collectively, even with our reduced budgets. We could be a major catalyst if the publishers would let go of their fears and price ematerials within our grasp.

Update: Slashdot has picked up this story, too.

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  1. Studios Using Digital Armor to Fight Piracy
    "Lying dormant in virtually every digital cable box in America is technology that can prevent viewers from recording certain programs to watch them later. Soon, several Hollywood studios are planning to tell cable operators to flip the switch. People who have become accustomed to recording pay-per-view and video-on-demand shows will probably still be able to, the studios say so long as they pay an extra fee." [New York Times]
  2. Satellite TV Orbits Closer to Cable
    "A percentage of customers leaving cable companies are turning to satellite TV providers, such as DirecTV, which grew at a "significantly higher (rate) than cable subscriber growth," the FCC said. The number of people subscribing to satellite TV companies increased from 19.3 million to 21.1 million, a 9 percent jump, during the first half of 2002, the report showed." []

1 definitely will not help stem 2, even though satellite TV users are not immune to this type of complete lockdown of content. Let's hope that everyone involved figures out that the people paying the bills are getting tired of all of this nonsense, especially in the absence of "a viable response to this problem."

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Libraries and the Semantic Web

"Joshua Allen speaks up, eloquently, for The Semantic Web." [Scripting News]

Here is (of course) my favorite part:

"Few people think about the noble role that librarians play.  Our ability to collect, organize, and preserve the voices and observations of those who came before us is critical to our continued survival as a species.  The story of Babel is a metaphor for what later happened at Alexandria; a reminder that we all suffer when we lose our ability to pass lessons to future generations.  It is possible for a single person to memorize the Quran and pass it on to others, but word-of-mouth is not enough to perpetuate the bulk of knowledge that enables the planet to support six billion people today.  Without written language and our knowledge stewards, we would have to eliminate many billions of people, because we wouldn't be able to maintain the capabilities that support them all.  Again, the Internet has had a profound impact on our ability to preserve our collective memory, but we are still very fragile.  A true librarian has vivid memories of Babel and Alexandria (when we also considered ourselves invincible), and lives the motto 'never again!'.  The first lesson of history (that we must learn and never repeat) is that history lost is humanity lost."

Amen! As Joshua goes on to say later in his essay (not specifically about librarians but I'm going to include us in the list), don't bet against us.

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Daily Novelty-tune Fix

"The 365-Days Project is wicked fun. In it, a blogger is digitizing a track from a truly impressive collection of novelty records, encoding it as an MP3, and posting a new song every day. I just downloaded 'Red Shadow (The Economics Rock & Roll Band) - Understanding Marx,' 'Janeen Brady & The Brite Singers - I'm A Mormon,' and 'The Dondero High School Symphony Band & A Capella Choir - Fox On The Run/Sunshine Of Your Love.' The commentary is fantastic, too...." [via Dollarshort, via Boing Boing Blog]

It would be so much easier if I could just subscribe to a RSS feed with the MP3 sent out as a RSS enclosure. Darn!

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Multimedia Fun

Scoble provided links to two great videos last week. The first is a Flash video titled Marry Me (get out your hankies), and the second is to's What I Wanna Do When I Grow Up commercial (requires Quicktime), one of my all-time favorite commercials.

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When we have new business cards made at work, I'm going to add the title of Technology Anthropologist to mine. Thanks, Ernie!

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Fine Art Photographers Pinhole Photography

picture of Grant's tomb as origami camera"To simplify these cameras as much as possible I made them out of the 11x14 inch photo-paper itself. There is no film in the camera because the camera is the film. Like a salad bowl made of lettuce leaf, and consumed with the meal, the camera doesn't exist after its utility is fulfilled. There is no machine. It is more of an arrangement than a thing." [via Kottke, via Boing Boing Blog]

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GeoURL Tagging

I finally got my act together and added the GeoURL meta tags to my site. Here's my geographical bloghood.

You can, too (especially easy if you live in the U.S.).

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Wireless Has Arrived!

I say that for a couple of reasons. The first is literal - I recently received in the mail a copy of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit by Adam Engst and Glenn Fleishman. The subtitle is "the practical guide to Wi-Fi networks for Windows and Macintosh," which is pretty accurate. When I first read pre-pub announcements, I knew then it would be a good primer and I was right.

It's a solid title for public library collections, with requisite chapters on security, traveling, troubleshooting, and the future. So a tip of the hat to Adam and particularly to Glenn, for the good work and the free copy. I'll definitely be holding it up at presentations. :-)

Side note: you can keep up with Glenn on his blog, which he has re-named Wi-Fi Networking News. Same bat URL, same bat content.

The second reason I titled this post "wireless has arrived" is because my mom says I need to visit so I can install a wireless network for my parents. She found out that she can share the broadband connection, rather than having to wait until my Dad goes to bed before she can get on the one connected computer. I've only been promoting this for two years and blogging about it for one, but the day has arrived. My mom wants wireless!

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The presentation I did with Barbara Fullerton at last November's Internet Librarian conference is now online in an HTML version. Behold, The Wacky World of Gadgets!

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Cleveland PL Circulates Real eBooks

Cleveland Library to Launch eBook System

"The Cleveland Public Library is launching an eBook system that will let people download publications onto their PCs and personal digital assistants.

The new eBook collection, which will go online in March, is believed to be the first of its kind in a public library and will operate much the same as a traditional library system. Patrons wishing to download the eBooks will need to have a Cleveland Public Library card. What's more, only a limited number of each eBook will be available, and after a preset number of days, the eBook will lock out the current reader so another patron can check it out.

About 1,000 books, including the latest titles from authors such as Michael Crichton, Clive Barker and Joyce Carol Oates, will be available as eBooks....

But Steve Potash, CEO of Cleveland-based Overdrive, which provided the Cleveland library system, said improved software protections and the growth of tablet PCs are driving an increased demand for eBooks....

The Cleveland system offers several new features, including the ability to download books onto PCs and PDAs and create a portable eBook that can be read even when patrons are offline. In a statement announcing the new collection, library director Andrew Venable said the system would allow people to borrow books of all types 'from the comfort of their home or office.' " [CNET]

This will be a most interesting experiment to watch, especially since I'm not convinced ebooks are ready for prime time yet. Bravo to CPL for trying, though. I'm not surprised an Ohio library, especially Cleveland Public, is the first to try this. I want more details, though. I'll definitely be following this story closely.

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NetGens Doing More Faster?

Multitasking Becomes Continuous Partial Attention

"Will the rapid access to a great deal of information, and to many information devices, exceed our abilities to handle both them and our lives?...

'It's not the same as multitasking; that's about trying to accomplish several things at once. With continuous partial attention, we're scanning incoming alerts for the one best thing to seize upon: "How can I tune in in a way that helps me sync up with the most interesting, or important, opportunity?... It's crucial for CEOs to be intentional about breaking free from continuous partial attention in order to get their bearings. Some of today's business books suggest that speed is the answer to today's business challenges. Pausing to reflect, focus, think a problem through; and then taking steady steps forward in an intentional direction is really the key.' " [Smart Mobs]

Interestingly, they're also doing it much faster, which is making more difficult for the rest of us.

"This is one more way that the gap between old and young is widening as fast as the frequently noted gap between rich and poor. My father is frustrated not only by fast-paced commentator talk but also by countless other ways technology has made the world harder to navigate. When he makes a phone call to a business, he rarely encounters people he can ask to slow down, speak louder or explain what they said. Instead he gets menus that fly by too fast, are too hard to hear and offer choices that don't apply to the purpose of his call." [The Washington Post]

And of course, last week Glenn Reynolds and his readers were reflecting on how this affects students in higher education (scroll up for more entries on the topic).

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Help Deciding on Lower-End Cell Phones and Service

The cover story for February's Consumer Reports magazine is a "complete guide to cell phones." They pick Verizon as the best carrier, mainly due to their customer service and fewer dropped calls. They also detail plans and rate phones, but unfortunately they don't include PDA/phone combos, built-in cameras, etc. I would have liked to see them produce a survey that would help answer Dave's and Aaron's questions. I hope we'll see such a survey later this year.

Interestingly, their glossary includes CDMA, GSM, and TDMA, but not GPRS.

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Putting Librarian Expertise to Work


"StumbleUpon is a browser add-on for finding and sharing great websites. Unlike directories or search engines, StumbleUpon uses member ratings to form collective human opinions on website quality." [via MetaFilter]

This is somewhat similar to the tool I want for librarian pagerank. Instead of "good" or "bad," a site would be "authentic" or "trustworthy."

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Become a Portable Walkman

Introducing the FPS Personal Backpack Audio System: With Sound This Fresh, Who Needs Headphones?

"FPS, Inc. is a Japanese loudspeaker company specializing in flat panel technology. The company manufactures Multi Cell Micro Array (MCMA) transducer technology which incorporate dozens of powerful, Neodymium magnets aligned on a slender template, above which a thin, high-temperature film diaphragm is suspended parallel to the surface of the magnets. On the surface of the diaphragm are conductive, spiral voice coil circuits, enabling a high degree of magnetic coupling - and hence low distortion. While FPS enjoys a solid reputation in professional audio, their newly emerging consumer product lines, including the new personal backpack audio system, are based on these innovative core technologies.

The FPS Personal Backpack Audio System is a tough, lightweight backpack that employs a pair of patented, water-resistant MCMA flat panel loudspeakers, a micro-digital amplifier, battery case and power/volume control all sewn into the pack's various compartments. The wearer simply plugs a CD, MD or MP3 into the system and the entire backpack becomes one mobile sound source.

Forget filling backpacks with books, workout gear or laptops. Today's savvy trendsetters are filling their backpacks with a fresh, new sound. Thanks to the all-new FPS Personal Backpack Audio System, music fans on the go are using their backpacks to crank up the volume and express themselves in a whole new way. All without losing touch with the sounds of the environment around them....

The FPS Personal Backpack Audio System is expected to retail for $60.00 to $90.00 depending on the quality and configuration of the backpack. It is currently available in six styles and two color schemes. Customized logos or colors are also available. In addition, the MCMA flat panel speakers are available in both a 2x2 model (4 watts) and a 2x4 model (10 watts)." [ePulse, via MetaFilter]

On the one hand, I don't like the idea of being surrounded by even more noise in the outside world. On the other hand, I'm surprised the backpack doesn't have a wireless connection to the internet for streaming sound. The kids would absolutely love this. I can envision them listening to music up at the bus stop....

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Coffee Shops and Libraries

Check It Out: Coffee Shops Perking in Libraries

"Now, over the last few years, public libraries here and nationwide have been following bookstores in going into the coffee shop business.

In the Chicago area, libraries in Joliet, Schaumburg, Gurnee and Batavia now offer patrons a chance to grab a caffeine fix. And cafes are in the works for libraries in Chicago, Skokie, Oak Park, Glendale Heights, Naperville and North Aurora.

'Libraries are recognizing the fact that patrons are doing this at Barnes & Noble and Borders,' said Shirley May Byrnes, executive director of the DuPage County Library System, which has 28 public libraries as members. 'If they want to keep up and keep their patrons, this is one of the things they have to offer.'

And while most libraries in older buildings don't have the space, just about every library that is building a new facility is looking at the possibility of a coffee shop....

It seems finding a good vendor is the most difficult problem facing libraries that are considering a coffee shop.

Schaumburg is on its second vendor in five years, and Bolingbrook and Chicago's Harold Washington Library are without coffee shops after being abandoned by their vendors.

Chicago hasn't given up, however. It moved its coffee shop space from the ninth floor to street level and hopes to have a new operation in place early this year.

Some libraries are saying no to the coffee trend. Oak Brook decided against coffee in its new facility, after patrons turned down the idea in a poll in 1996." [Chicago Sun-Times]

I didn't think any newspaper still ran a library headline that included "check it out" in this day and age. Wasn't this overdone twenty years ago?

My home library included space for a potential coffee shop in the original expanion plans, but some residents objected to the idea. I'm not sure why, since the closest coffee shop was a Dunkin Donuts that's ten miles away. With all of the commercial growth we're suddenly seeing, we now have a small Starbucks so go figure.

When the Library began Sunday evening hours two years ago (first 5-9 PM and now 4-8 PM), they provided free coffee, juice, and cookies, which was a nice touch. When Sheree became the Director there, she also ended the moratorium on food and drink, another nice touch.

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