Here's a list of stuff I've bookmarked over the past week or so.
Thanks to my colleague Tim for tweeting about this short video, produced a year ago by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and McGill University Library. I wish it somehow did better job explaining how the money aspect of the equation keeps research out of the hands of some, as most of us here in the Western world can usually get access for "free" through our University libraries...
I'm just over half-way through Steven Levy's In the Plex: How Google thinks, works, and shapes our lives, and wanted to jot down a few notes (and remove the sticky I have marking a quote).
The early chapters aren't going to give you much new information if you've been a Google follower for a while, but there are some details I hadn't known before. About a third of the way through, as Levy starts discussing Google's move to the cloud, is when I started to find it more interesting. The following quote is the one that I marked with a sticky, as it reminded me a lot of one of the points I use to try to promote Summon here on campus:
Whether due to pathological impatience or a dead-on conviction that speed is chronically underestimated as a factor in successful products, Page had been insisting on faster delivery for everything Google from the beginning. The minimalism of Google's home page, allowing for lightning-quick loading, was the classic example. But early Google also innovated by storing cached versions of web pages on its own servers, for redundancy and speed. "Speed is a feature," says Urs Holzle. "Speed can drive usage as much as having bells and whistles on your product. People really underappreciate it. Larry is very much on that line." - p. 184
About the only beef I have with the book so far is Levy's tendancy to gloss over Google's misses. Oops, I was about to write how I seemed to recall that Gmail launched w/o the ability to search, something not acknowledged by Levy, but then I did my own search and realized it was Google Reader that didn't acquire search for a while :-0. Ahem. So ok, there was one other failure he glossed over with a single sentence, but I didn't mark that one, and now I can't find it. I guess that's a pretty little nit to pick!
I'll post again if I find the rest of the book remarkable. Onward with my first non-fiction title in months!
I'm here in New Orleans for another night, finishing up a visit to ALA. I was here primarily to participate on the Summon Advisory Board, but also spent today in the exhibits hall. If you're reading this in time to take advantage, here are a couple booths you should hit while here, depending of course on what you're looking for :-)
More generally, I was very impressed with what I saw of Springshare's new Mobile Site Builder and LibAnalytics modules. Yes, I know I can do both of those things myself, or with open source tools, but damn they make it easy and affordable. So much less hassle just to use their tools. Mango Languages just released an iOS app, which is the full content from the website. A no-brainer if you subscribe to their service already. There was one other vendor that I wanted to post something about, but it's completely slipped my mind. :-(
So I guess with that I'll just leave you with this NSFW summary of the weather here over the past few days:
When I recently posted a summary of Jane Burke's posts on the InfoViews blog, I hadn't realized InfoViews was owned by a ProQuest employee. Mike does point out that the views posted are his, and not those of ProQuest, but it's something to be aware of, and explains why he's collecting so many guest posts from ProQuest employees! :-)
Which brings us to the latest post, How Individual Book Buying Experiences are Reshaping Academic Library User Expectations for Ebooks, written by Leslie Lees, Vice President of Content Development at ebrary (recently acquired by ProQuest). She points out how Amazon and iTunes have influenced the way the general public expects to purchase information generally, and possibly non-fiction books as well:
As compared to journals and other forms of academic literature, books are purchased much more widely by individuals for personal use. If academic monographs in libraries had continued to be the only game in town, libraries would have retained more of their influence, but the explosion in the purchase of books for individual use has had a major impact on user expectations.
She also references a fascinating-sounding book (not available on ebrary) which I now have on hold at my library: Blair, Ann. Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale UP, 2010. Print.
Rumour time! I see that Mike posted an interview with Slavin Zivkovic, CEO of Springshare, makers of the wonderful LibGuides product. I wonder if ProQuest is going to acquire Springshare? :-)
Know what? I pirated two ebooks yesterday. My wife purchased two titles from the B&N Nook store, and after we collectively spent nearly two hours attempting to get them to transfer to her Sony PRS-350 ereader I gave up and grabbed them via bittorrent, and had them installed in a matter of minutes. That included finding, downloading, and then moving over to the ereader. I even did a fair amount of research trying to get Calibre plugins to help me strip the DRM, and was unsuccessful there before I went rogue.
What's that saying about DRM? Damn, I can't find the one about how DRM only works against law-abiding citizens, but I did find this one that says the same thing: Every time DRM prevents legitimate playback, a pirate gets his wings.
Stupid DRM. Wasted my time, didn't accomplish what it was supposed to.
ebrary is developing new ways to support an offline/download model and reading on hand-held devices. We are conducting this survey to better understand your needs, and we would very much appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Please feel free to share the survey with any interested colleagues. We ask that you respond by Friday, March 4.
David Booker at the Centered Librarian posts a two-part presentation given by Eli Neiberger at the 2010 LJ/SLJ eBook Summit outlining the uncomfortable position ebooks puts libraries and offering several solutions. There are a couple of straw men in the presentation, but it's quite thought-provoking, and does offer some suggested for avoiding the screwage. 20 minutes in total - definitely worth your time.
Yes, it's another review, but while this is another O'Reilly imprint, I got a review copy of this just for asking. I also mentioned that I'd compare Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred to the Instructables book I just reviewed.
This title only has 24 projects, but they're much more detailed, with pictures for almost each step along the way. While some also require soldering and some electronics knowledge, the fact that this book is geared towards kid-friendly projects necessitates that the soldering and electronics are at a much more basic level. My level :-) It also includes a chapter on these topics, introducing the reader to the basics of capacitors and diodes and circuits. With the information contained there, I feel qualified to tackle all of the projects within.
I left the book in my 8-year-old son's room one night and the next morning he informed me that we were going to build a ticklebox:
Personally, I think we'll be starting with the pop can flyer - only a can opener, utility knife and a pop can needed, and nobody gets hurt :-)
If you've got kids in the 6-14 year-old range, and want to make some cool things, I'm going to recommend this book for you. If you don't have kids, but want to make some cool things, and aren't already a soldering or electronics whiz, then I'm also going to recommend it. If you already subscribe to Make Magazine, skip it. If you wanted to buy a paper copy of either this or the Instructables book, I think I'd lean towards this one.
I am SO not a hardware geek. I've always been aware of it, but was sadly reminded of that fact as I read The Best of Instructables Volume I, the latest book I received as part of the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program. There are over 120 project in this book, all with pictures and clear instructions. What it doesn't contain is the skillset I need for the coolest of them; a solid understanding of electronics and the ability to solder. Having said that, I see that I can learn these skills on the Instructables website, where you can see almost all of the projects in the book.
The advantage of the book is having offline access in one nice volume. Projects are divided into the following categories: Home & Garden, Food, Photography, Science, Computers, Electronics, Robotics, Ride, Craft, Entertainment, Fun & Games, and Tools. Definitely interesting projects in each area (and come to think of it, the Food category doesn't require any soldering OR electronics!). This review has already taken twice as long as it should as I continue to leaf through (ok, I'm scrolling through as I have the PDF version), stopping to gaze at the wonderful projects that have resulted from someone's incredible imagination. Truly fascinating.
That said, if you're going to spend $25 or more, I'd highly recommend skipping the book and putting a little more money up to get a pro membership on the Instructables website instead. (No, I don't get a kickback for sending you there). You'll have access to almost every one of these projects (a few are unique to the book), but also thousands more. Oh, and if it's your first time visiting the site, please don't do it if you have other work to get done. Don't say I didn't warn you!
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to participate in the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program. I thought I'd give it a try and requested a copy of Head First WordPress. While I've long been a big fan of the O'Reilly "animal cover" books, this was the first Head First title I'd looked at, and I'm really pleased I did because now I'm a fan.
I've been using Drupal for several years now, and have always thought of WordPress as the other big kid on the block, though had always considered it solely as a blogging platform. Working through the examples in this title show that it can act as a much fuller content management system, and I plan to spend a lot more time with the platform as a result.
The Head First series takes a very conversational and visual approach to teaching, and I found it a very quick read, but also an engaging and comprehensive. Having used Drupal for so long, the first few chapters were pretty basic for me, but I really appreciated the later chapters on security and optimization for performance, both areas I can make use of regardless of the platform.
I look forward to looking at a more complicated (for me) subject like PHP and MySQL using the Head First approach. If you're looking for a good introduction to WordPress I think you'd find this book a winner.
I carved out a little time this afternoon to explore the several posts I'd bookmarked about the new Bluefire ebook reader, which is notable for being able to support ebooks containing Adobe DRM. Here are the links to follow:
I got it all to work with Calgary Public Library's Overdrive subscription, though not quite as seamlessly as I'd hoped. Looking at a couple of the screen shots in the posts above leads me to believe CPL's instance of Overdrive isn't showing me the full meal deal; I can browse the mp3 audiobooks, but can't view the eBooks from Safari on my iPhone. So I ended up finding a book on my laptop, saving the file do DropBox, and then picking it up with Bluefire from DropBox on my iPhone. Not onerous at all, but I'd prefer to be able to do the whole operation from my phone. I'll contact CPL to see if there are any tweaks they can make to allow me (us) to do this.
Would love to hear if you have the same success, and if your library's mobile interface for Overdrive lets you browse the ebook collection.
Teleread.com points to a refreshing post on the Kobo eReader blog: The eReaders Bill of Rights (the Kobo Perspective). Here are the five rights, but you should go read the explanations behind each of them as well.