Listing entries tagged with library
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major news: IFB and NYU libraries to collaborate 03.25.2008, 12:46 PM
A couple of weeks ago, I alluded to a new institutional partnership that's been in the works for some time. Well I'm thrilled to officially announce that the we are joining forces with the NYU Division of Libraries!
From Carol A. Mandel, dean of the NYU Libraries. "IFB is a thought leader in the future of scholarly communication. We will work together to develop new software and new options that faculty can use to publish, review, share, and collaborate at NYU and in the larger academic community."
A basic breakdown of what this means:
-? NYU is now our technical home. All IFB sites are running out of there with IT support from the NYU Libraries' top-notch team.
-? Bob, Dan and I will serve as visiting scholars at NYU.
-? With recently secured NEH digital humanities start-up funding (along with other monies yet to be raised), we will work with the NYU digital library team, headed by James Bullen, to develop social networking tools and infrastructure for MediaCommons. This will serve as applied research for digital tools and frameworks that NYU is presently developing.
-? We will work with NYU librarians, with the digital library team, and with Monica McCormick, the Libraries' program officer for digital scholarly publishing, to create forums for collaboration and to develop specific projects and digital initiatives with NYU faculty, and possibly NYU Press.
Needless to say, we're tremendously excited about this partnership. Things are still being set up but expect more news in the weeks and months ahead.
google books API 03.13.2008, 2:03 PM
Web developers can use the Books Viewability API to quickly find out a book's viewability on Google Book Search and, in an automated fashion, embed a link to that book in Google Book Search on their own sites.
As an example of the API in use, check out the Deschutes Public Library in Oregon, which has added a link to "Preview this book at Google" next to the listings in their library catalog. This enables Deschutes readers to preview a book immediately via Google Book Search so that they can then make a better decision about whether they'd like to buy the book, borrow it from a library or whether this book wasn't really the book they were looking for.
The GBS API is a big step forward, but there are some technical limitations. Google data loads after the rest of the page, and may not be instant. Because the data loads in your web browser, with no data "passing through" LibraryThing servers, we can't sort or search by it, and all-library searching is impossible. You can get something like this if you create a Google Books account, which is, of course, the whole point.
(via Peter Brantley)
"naked in the 'nonopticon'" 02.19.2008, 3:52 PM
If you haven't already, check out Siva Vaidhyanathan's excellent Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on privacy and surveillance: a review of several new books treating various aspects of the topic, but a great all-around thought piece. A taste:
Certainly the Stasi in East Germany exploited the controlling power generated from public knowledge of constant surveillance and the potential for brutal punishment for thought crimes. But that is not our environment in the United States. Basically, the Panopticon must be visible and ubiquitous, or it cannot influence behavior as Bentham and Foucault assumed it would.
...what we have at work in America today is the opposite of a Panopticon: what has been called a "Nonopticon" (for lack of a better word). The Nonopticon describes a state of being watched without knowing it, or at least the extent of it. The most pervasive surveillance does not reveal itself or remains completely clandestine (barring leaks to The New York Times). We don't know all the ways we are being recorded or profiled. We are not supposed to understand that we are the product of marketers as much as we are the market. And we are not supposed to consider the extent to which the state tracks our behavior and considers us all suspects in crimes yet to be imagined, let alone committed.
In fact, companies like ChoicePoint, Facebook, Google, and Amazon.com want us to relax and be ourselves. They have an interest in exploiting niches that our consumer choices generate. They are devoted to tracking our eccentricities because they understand that the ways we set ourselves apart from the mass are the things about which we are most passionate. Our passions, predilections, fancies, and fetishes are what we are likely to spend our surplus cash on.
And so these concerns extend to the realm of online reading. With networked texts, a book (or whatever other document form) may be reading you while you're reading it. This creates a major ethical quandary for libraries of course, who, to take advantage of social networking, collaborative filtering and other powerful affordances of digital technologies must radically revise their traditional stance on privacy: i.e. retain as little user data as possible.
nominate the best tech writing of 2007 01.15.2008, 8:44 AM
digitalculturebooks, a collaborative imprint of the University of Michigan press and library, publishes an annual anthology of the year's best technology writing. The nominating process is open to the public and they're giving people until January 31st to suggest exemplary articles on "any and every technology topic--biotech, information technology, gadgetry, tech policy, Silicon Valley, and software engineering" etc.
The 2007 collection is being edited by Clive Thompson. Last year's was Steven Levy. When complete, the collection is published as a trade paperback and put in its entirety online in clean, fully searchable HTML editions, so head over and help build what will become a terrific open access resource.
no longer separated by a common language 01.10.2008, 8:06 AM
LibraryThing now interfaces with the British Library and loads of other UK sources:
The BL is a catch in more than one way. It's huge, of course. But, unlike some other sources, BL data isn't normally available to the public. To get it, our friends at Talis, the UK-based library software company, have granted us special access to their Talis Base product, an elephantine mass of book data. In the case of the BL, that's some twelve million unique records, two copies Gutenberg Bibles and two copies of the Magna Carta.
kindle maths 101 12.07.2007, 9:19 AM
Chatting with someone from Random House's digital division on the day of the Kindle release, I suggested that dramatic price cuts on e-editions -? in other words, finally acknowledging that digital copies aren't worth as much (especially when they come corseted in DRM) as physical hard copies -? might be the crucial adjustment needed to at last blow open the digital book market. It seemed like a no-brainer to me that Amazon was charging way too much for its e-books (not to mention the Kindle itself). But upon closer inspection, it clearly doesn't add up that way. Tim O'Reilly explains why:
...the idea that there's sufficient unmet demand to justify radical price cuts is totally wrongheaded. Unlike music, which is quickly consumed (a song takes 3 to 4 minutes to listen to, and price elasticity does have an impact on whether you try a new song or listen to an old one again), many types of books require a substantial time commitment, and having more books available more cheaply doesn't mean any more books read. Regular readers already often have huge piles of unread books, as we end up buying more than we have time for. Time, not price, is the limiting factor.
Even assuming the rosiest of scenarios, Kindle readers are going to be a subset of an already limited audience for books. Unless some hitherto untapped reader demographic comes out of the woodwork, gets excited about e-books, buys Kindles, and then significantly surpasses the average human capacity for book consumption, I fail to see how enough books could be sold to recoup costs and still keep prices low. And without lower prices, I don't see a huge number of people going the Kindle route in the first place. And there's the rub.
Even if you were to go as far as selling books like songs on iTunes at 99 cents a pop, it seems highly unlikely that people would be induced to buy a significantly greater number of books than they already are. There's only so much a person can read. The iPod solved a problem for music listeners: carrying around all that music to play on your Disc or Walkman was a major pain. So a hard drive with earphones made a great deal of sense. It shouldn't be assumed that readers have the same problem (spine-crushing textbook-stuffed backpacks notwithstanding). Do we really need an iPod for books?
UPDATE: Through subsequent discussion both here and off the blog, I've since come around 360 back to my original hunch. See comment.
We might, maybe (putting aside for the moment objections to the ultra-proprietary nature of the Kindle), if Amazon were to abandon the per copy idea altogether and go for a subscription model. (I'm just thinking out loud here -? tell me how you'd adjust this.) Let's say 40 bucks a month for full online access to the entire Amazon digital library, along with every major newspaper, magazine and blog. You'd have the basic cable option: all books accessible and searchable in full, as well as popular feedback functions like reviews and Listmania. If you want to mark a book up, share notes with other readers, clip quotes, save an offline copy, you could go "premium" for a buck or two per title (not unlike the current Upgrade option, although cheaper). Certain blockbuster titles or fancy multimedia pieces (once the Kindle's screen improves) might be premium access only -? like HBO or Showtime. Amazon could market other services such as book groups, networked classroom editions, book disaggregation for custom assembled print-on-demand editions or course packs.
This approach reconceives books as services, or channels, rather than as objects. The Kindle would be a gateway into a vast library that you can roam about freely, with access not only to books but to all the useful contextual material contributed by readers. Piracy isn't a problem since the system is totally locked down and you can only access it on a Kindle through Amazon's Whispernet. Revenues could be shared with publishers proportionately to traffic on individual titles. DRM and all the other insults that go hand in hand with trying to manage digital media like physical objects simply melt away.
* * * * *
On a related note, Nick Carr talks about how the Kindle, despite its many flaws, suggests a post-Web2.0 paradigm for hardware:
If the Kindle is flawed as a window onto literature, it offers a pretty clear view onto the future of appliances. It shows that we're rapidly approaching the time when centrally stored and managed software and data are seamlessly integrated into consumer appliances - all sorts of appliances.
The problem with "Web 2.0," as a concept, is that it constrains innovation by perpetuating the assumption that the web is accessed through computing devices, whether PCs or smartphones or game consoles. As broadband, storage, and computing get ever cheaper, that assumption will be rendered obsolete. The internet won't be so much a destination as a feature, incorporated into all sorts of different goods in all sorts of different ways. The next great wave in internet innovation, in other words, won't be about creating sites on the World Wide Web; it will be about figuring out creative ways to deploy the capabilities of the World Wide Computer through both traditional and new physical products, with, from the user's point of view, "no computer or special software required."
That the Kindle even suggests these ideas signals a major advance over its competitors -? the doomed Sony Reader and the parade of failed devices that came before. What Amazon ought to be shooting for, however, (and almost is) is not an iPod for reading -? a digital knapsack stuffed with individual e-books -? but rather an interface to a networked library.
the tomb of the book 12.04.2007, 6:02 PM
"Vista de la Biblioteca Vasconcelos" by Eneas, on Flickr
A lovely meditation at BLDG Blog on the architecture of storage facilities for unwanted books. Speaks volumes (as it were) to the anxiety of obsolescence that keeps librarians up at night -? the thought of libraries themselves becoming tombs.
...a relatively random piece of 100-year old legislation - dealing with copyright law, of all things - has begun to exhibit architectural effects.
These architectural effects include the production of huge warehouses in the damp commuter belts of outer London. These aren't libraries, of course; they're stockpiles. Text bunkers.
...Perhaps it will take some future moment of cultural archaeology to break into these places, spelunking back into the literate past, to find well-tempered rooms still humming at 50ºF, humidity-free, where the past is refrigerated and Shakespeare's name can still be recognized on the spines of books.
sparkles from the wheel 11.30.2007, 5:19 PM
Walt Whitman's poem "Sparkles from the Wheel" beautifully captures the pleasure and exhilaration of watching work in progress:
WHERE the city's ceaseless crowd moves on, the live-long day,
Withdrawn, I join a group of children watching - ?I pause aside with them.
By the curb, toward the edge of the flagging,
A knife-grinder works at his wheel, sharpening a great knife;
Bending over, he carefully holds it to the stone - ?by foot and knee,
With measur'd tread, he turns rapidly - ?As he presses with light but firm hand,
Forth issue, then, in copious golden jets,
Sparkles from the wheel.
The scene, and all its belongings - ?how they seize and affect me!
The sad, sharp-chinn'd old man, with worn clothes, and broad shoulder-band of leather;
Myself, effusing and fluid - ?a phantom curiously floating - ?now here absorb'd and arrested;
The group, (an unminded point, set in a vast surrounding;)
The attentive, quiet children - ?the loud, proud, restive base of the streets;
The low, hoarse purr of the whirling stone - ?the light-press'd blade,
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold,
Sparkles from the wheel.
I was reminded of this the other day while reading a brief report in Library Journal on Siva's recent cross-blog argument with Michigan University Librarian Paul Courant about Google book digitization contracts. These sorts of exchanges are not new in themselves, but blogs have made it possible for them to occur much more spontaneously and, in Siva's case, to put them visibly in the context of a larger intellectual project. It's a nice snapshot of the sort of moment that can happen along the way when the writing process is made more transparent -? seeing an argument crystallize or a position get clarified. And there's a special kind of pleasure and exhilaration that comes from reading this way, seeing Siva sharpening his knife -? or argument -? and the rhetorical sparks that fly off the screen. Here's that Library Journal bit:
Discussion of Google Scan Plan Heats Up on Blogs:
Now this is why we love the Blogosphere. In launching his blog, University of Michigan's (UM) dean of libraries Paul Courant recently offered a spirited defense of UM's somewhat controversial scan plan with Google. That post drew quite a few comments, and a direct response from Siva Vaidhyanathan the author, blogger, and University of Virginia professor currently writing the Googlization of Everything online at the Institute for the Future of the Book; that of course drew a response from Courant. The result? A lively and illuminating dialog on Google's book scanning efforts.
how to keep google's books open 11.27.2007, 5:27 PM
Whip-smart law blogger Frank Pasquale works through his evolving views on digital library projects and search engines, proposing a compelling strategy for wringing some public good from the tangle of lawsuits surrounding Google Book Search. It hinges on a more expansive (though absolutely legally precedented) interpretation of fair use that takes the public interest and not just market factors into account. Recommended reading. (Thanks, Siva!)
library of congress to archive electronic literature (suggest a link) 11.16.2007, 12:55 AM
The Electronic Literature Organization seeks your assistance in selecting "works of imaginative writing that take advantage of the capabilities of the standalone or networked computer" for preservation by the LOC and Internet Archive:
The Library of Congress has asked the Electronic Literature Organization to collect a sample of 300 web sites related to the field and to contribute that sample to the Internet Archive's Archive-It project. The sites selected will be crawled and archived to the extent that the Archive-It technology allows. The result will be full-text searchable collections of the spidered HTML files in the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The ELO will enter metadata including a short description and keywords for each URL entered into the database. The ELO Board of Directors, Literary Advisory Board, membership, and community are encouraged to suggest sites here for three sets of links.
-? Electronic Literature: Collections of Works: Sites that aggregate works of electronic literature by multiple authors, such as online journals and anthologies.
-? Electronic Literature: Individual Works: Individual works of electronic literature and collections of works by a single author, as opposed to collections of works by multiple authors.
-? Electronic Literature: Context: Sites related to the critical, theoretical, and institutional contexts of electronic literature.
More info on how to suggest links at the ELO wiki.
googlesoft gets the brush-off 10.22.2007, 1:55 PM
This is welcome. Several leading American research libraries including the Boston Public and the Smithsonian have said no thanks to Google and Microsoft book digitization deals, opting instead for the more costly but less restrictive Open Content Alliance/Internet Archive program. The NY Times reports, and explains how private foundations like Sloan are funding some of the OCA partnerships.
the really modern library 10.08.2007, 1:48 AM
This is a request for comments. We're in the very early stages of devising, in partnership with Peter Brantley and the Digital Library Federation, what could become a major initiative around the question of mass digitization. It's called "The Really Modern Library."
Over the course of this month, starting Thursday in Los Angeles, we're holding a series of three invited brainstorm sessions (the second in London, the third in New York) with an eclectic assortment of creative thinkers from the arts, publishing, media, design, academic and library worlds to better wrap our minds around the problems and sketch out some concrete ideas for intervention. Below I've reproduced some text we've been sending around describing the basic idea for the project, followed by a rough agenda for our first meeting. The latter consists mainly of questions, most of which, if not all, could probably use some fine tuning. Please feel encouraged to post responses, both to the individual questions and to the project concept as a whole. Also please add your own queries, observations or advice.
The Really Modern Library (basically)
The goal of this project is to shed light on the big questions about future accessibility and usability of analog culture in a digital, networked world.
We are in the midst of a historic "upload," a frenetic rush to transfer the vast wealth of analog culture to the digital domain. Mass digitization of print, images, sound and film/video proceeds apace through the efforts of actors public and private, and yet it is still barely understood how the media of the past ought to be preserved, presented and interconnected for the future. How might we bring the records of our culture with us in ways that respect the originals but also take advantage of new media technologies to enhance and reinvent them?
Our aim with the Really Modern Library project is not to build a physical or even a virtual library, but to stimulate new thinking about mass digitization and, through the generation of inspiring new designs, interfaces and conceptual models, to spur innovation in publishing, media, libraries, academia and the arts.
The meeting in October will have two purposes. The first is to deepen and extend our understanding of the goals of the project and how they might best be achieved. The second is to begin outlining plans for a major international design competition calling for proposals, sketches, and prototypes for a hypothetical "really modern library." This competition will seek entries ranging from the highly particular (for e.g., designs for digital editions of analog works, or new tools and interfaces for handling pre-digital media) to the broadly conceptual (ideas of how to visualize, browse and make use of large networked collections).
This project is animated by a strong belief that it is the network, more than the simple conversion of atoms to bits, that constitutes the real paradigm shift inherent in digital communication. Therefore, a central question of the Really Modern Library project and competition will be: how does the digital network change our relationship with analog objects? What does it mean for readers/researchers/learners to be in direct communication in and around pieces of media? What should be the *social* architecture of a really modern library?
The call for entries will go out to as broad a community as possible, including designers, artists, programmers, hackers, librarians, archivists, activists, educators, students and creative amateurs. Our present intent is to raise a large sum of money to administer the competition and to have a pool for prizes that is sufficiently large and meaningful that it can compel significant attention from the sort of minds we want working on these problems.
Although we have tended to divide the Really Modern Library Project into two stages - the first addressing the question of how we might best take analog culture with us into the digitally networked future and the second, how the digitally networked library of the future might best be conceived and organized - these questions are joined at the hip and not easily or productively isolated from each other.
Realistically, any substantive answer to the question of how to re-present artifacts of analog culture in the digital network immediately raises issues ranging from new forms of browsing (in a social network) to new forms of reading (in a social network) which have everything to do with the broader infrastructure of the library itself.
We're going to divide the day roughly in half, spending the morning confronting the broader conceptual issues and the afternoon discussing what kind of concrete intervention might make sense.
Questions to think about in preparation for the morning discussion:
* if it's assumed that form and content are inextricably linked, what happens when we take a book and render it on a dynamic electronic screen rather than bound paper? same question for movies which move from the large theatrical presentation to the intimacy of the personal screen. interestingly the "old" analog forms aren't as singular as they might seem. books are read silently alone or out loud in public; music is played live and listened to on recordings. a recording of a Beethoven symphony on ten 78rpm discs presents quite a different experience than listening to it on an iPod with random access. from this perspective how do we define the essence of a work which needs to be respected and protected in the act of re-presentation?
* twenty years ago we added audio commentary tracks to movies and textual commentary to music. given the spectacular advances in computing power, what are the most compelling enhancements we might imagine. (in preparation for this, you may find it useful to look at a series of exchanges that took place on the if:book blog regarding an "ideal presentation of Ulysses" (here and here).
* what are the affordances of locating a work in the shared social space of a digital network. what is the value of putting readers, viewers, and listeners of specific works in touch with each other. what can we imagine about the range of interactions that are possible and worthwhile. be expansive here, extrapolating as far out as possible from current technical possibilities.
* it seems to us that visualization tools will be crucial in the digital future both for opening up analog works in new ways and for browsing and making sense of massive media archives. if everything is theoretically connected to everything else, how do we make those connections visible in a way that illuminates rather than overwhelms? and how do we visualize the additional and sometimes transformative connections that people make individually and communally around works? how do we visualize the conversation that emerges?
* in the digital environment, all media break down into ones and zeros. all media can be experienced on a single device: a computer. what are the implications of this? what are the challenges in keeping historical differences between media forms in perspective as digitization melts everything together?
* what happens when computers can start reading all the records of human civilization? in other words, when all analog media are digitized, what kind of advanced data crunching can we do and what sorts of things might it reveal?
* most analog works were intended to be experienced with all of one's attention, but the way we read/watch/listen/look is changing. even when engaging with non-networked media -? a paper book, a print newspaper, a compact disc, a DVD, a collection of photos -? we increasingly find ourselves Googling alongside. Al Pacino paces outside the bank in 'dog day afternoon' firing up the crowded street with "Attica! Attica!" I flip to Wikipedia and do quick read on the Attica prison riots. reading "song of myself" in "leaves of grass," i find my way to the online Whitman archive, which allows me to compare every iteration of Whitman's evolutionary work. or reading "ulysses" i open up Google Earth and retrace Bloom's steps by satellite. while leafing through a book of caravaggio's paintings, a quick google video search leads me to a related episode in simon schama's "power of art" documentary series and a series of online essays. as radiohead's new album plays, i browse fan sites and blogs for backstory, b-sides and touring info. the immediacy and proximity of such supplementary resources changes our relationship to the primary ones. the ratio of text to context is shifting. how should this influence the structure and design of future digital editions?
* if we do decide to mount a competition (we're still far from decided on whether this is the right approach), how exactly should it work? first off, what are we judging? what are we hoping to reward? what is the structure of this contest? what are the motivators? a big concern is that the top-down model -? panel of prestigious judges, serious prize money etc. -? feels very old-fashioned and ignores the way in which much of the recent innovation in digital media has taken place: an emergent, grassroots ferment... open source culture, web2.0, or what have you. how can we combine the heft and focused energy of the former with the looseness and dynamism of the latter? is there a way to achieve some sort of top-down orchestration of emergent creativity? is "competition" maybe the wrong word? and how do we create a meaningful public forum that can raise consciousness of these issues more generally? an accompanying website? some other kind of publication? public events? a conference?
* where are the leverage points are for an intervention in this area? what are the key consituencies, national vs. international?
* for reasons both practical and political, we've considered restricting this contest to the public domain. practical in that the public domain provides an unencumbered test bed of creative content for contributors to work with (no copyright hassles). political in that we wish to draw attention to the threat posed to the public domain by commercially driven digitization projects ( i.e. the recent spate of deals between Google and libraries, the National Archives' deal with Footnote.com and Amazon, the Smithsonian with Showtime etc.). emphasizing the public domain could also exert pressure on the media industries, who to date have been more concerned with preserving old architectures of revenue than with adapting creatively to the digital age. making the public domain more attractive, more dynamic and more *usable* than the private domain could serve as a wake-up call to the big media incumbents, and more importantly, to contemporary artists and scholars whose work is being shackled by overly restrictive formats and antiquated business models. we'd also consider workable areas of the private domain such as the Creative Commons -? works that are progressively licensed so as to allow creative reuse. we're not necessarily wedded to this idea. what do you think?