Archive for the 'ebooks' category

eBooks and the Science Community: My ScienceOnline 2011 reading list

Jan 07 2011 Published by under acad lib future, ebooks, education, librarianship, so'11

I'll be doing a session at the upcoming ScienceOnline 2011 conference on ebooks with David Dobbs, Tom Levenson and Carl Zimmer:

Here's the description:

Sunday, 11.30-12.30

eBooks and the science community - Carl Zimmer, Tom Levenson, David Dobbs and John Dupuis

Ebooks are by far the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry. The New York Times is about to launch a best-seller list exclusively for ebooks. New systems, such as Amazon CreateSpace, allow writers to directly place their ebooks in the marketplace. In theory, they could do away with the need for a conventional publisher. Thus, ebooks could potentially disrupt traditional publishing in the same way blogging disrupted newspapers and magazines over the past decade. In this session we'll survey the ebook industry, look some examples of science ebooks, and discuss some of the implications of this development. We'll try to identify ways in which the science online community can take advantage of this opportunity.

My concerns are basically about access and business models. How do we get ebooks into people's hands and onto their devices and who pays for it? The core issue seems to be that the publishers (and authors?) want to monetize every single act of reading. Libraries (and readers?) would prefer not to head in that direction.

Is this possibly emerging ebook ecosystem of business models just a last gasp attempt by content creators to grab all the cash they can before the Web completely blows up their ability to get anyone to pay anything for digital content? Or is it economically viable and sustainable in the long term for those content creators?

In other words, typical librarian's point of view? Maybe, maybe not.

Some very rough notes on what I plan to talk about:

  • The librarian's perspective is the perspective of buying stuff and providing short- and long-term access to a wide range of audiences.
    • authors write and "publish" ebooks but libraries have to get them into people's hands, er, on their screens and in their devices
  • what are the business models for the range of "publishers" out there, from self-published to big mainstream trade publisher?
  • is the trade book industry headed for the same fate as the music industry? Why or why not?
  • ultimately, what's the difference between an ebook and the Internet?
  • Scholarly vs popular & everything in between
  • Key concerns:
    • DRM
    • Open formats & standards vs closed, ie epub vs other formats
    • device dependence vs. device independance
    • long term preservation

Anyways, here's some recent and not-so-recent posts on ebooks and online business models that I'll be (re)reading to prepare for the session.

Needless to say, this only scatches the surface of the available material on ebooks and, more broadly, business models for digital content.

I might do another of these reading list posts next week. As well, Scott Rosenberg also does fairly frequent link dumps on ebooks.

Suggestions for more are, of course, welcome.

6 responses so far

Friday Fun: How to Operate the New Paper Book You Received for Christmas

Jan 07 2011 Published by under ebooks, friday fun

A nice tutorial for all those Born Digital Natives out there who only know how to use the dagnabbit newfangled flibbergibbet iPadnicks and Kindlemawhoosits and Kobots.


1) Pick up book. Place in lap.

2) Open book.

3) Read the words.

Voila! Just three easy steps for you to enjoy that brand new paper book you received from Santa.

Put that in your manual typewriter and smoke it, you whippersnappers!

And get off my lawn!

6 responses so far

The Journal of Electronic Publishing on Reimagining the University Press

A terrific new edition of The Journal of Electronic Publishing (v13i2), focusing on the future of university presses and, by extension, of scholarly publishing as a whole.

A lot of terrific-looking articles:

There's some interesting commentary on the issue out there already, here and here.

The previous issue of JEP (v13i1) also has some relevant articles.

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A techy librarian and an instruction librarian walk into a bar...

Ok, not a bar, more like an information literacy class.

I thought I'd bring to everyone's attention a presentation by two of my York University Libraries colleaques, web librarian William Denton and instruction librarian Adam Taves.

It was at Access in Winnipeg a week or so ago:

After Launching Search and Discovery, Who Is Mission Control?

Reference librarians are whiny and demanding.

Systems librarians are arrogant and rude.

Users are clueless and uninformed.

A new discovery layer means that they need to collaborate to build it and then -- the next step -- integrate it into teaching and learning. How should we (reference librarians, systems people, and users) work together to better exploit the possibilities of open source systems so we can focus on discovery and understanding instead of the mechanics of searching?

Bill and Adam basically wrote up their presentation as a play featuring "themselves" and did a dramatic reading of said play in front of the conference audience.

I've read the script but haven't had a chance to get into the audio or video yet.

It's both informative and amusing and best of all, amusingly informative. It definitely dramatizes the techy/instruction divide within the librarian community as well as the the techy vs. "humanist" divide within the culture as a whole.

There's lots of food for thought and a bunch of great laughs too.

An semi-random excerpt from the script:

[ACT 3: Information literacy]

Adam: Well, yes and no. I still need to be able to use sophisticated search techniques. If I wanted Google, I'd just use Google. But getting back to your average undergrad. They need to understand things like who wrote the book - what makes that person qualified to speak on the topic. Who published the book - is it --

Bill: Yeah, but that's really some bullshit, isn't it? I mean, come on. These loftier IL goals, isn't that all just basically stuff from a grade ten media studies course, with a bit of Neil Postman thrown in?

Adam: They had media studies back when you were in grade 10? I didn't want to make things too confusing for you. Getting back to "disciplinary discourse" - how do people in a particular subject area talk to one another?

Bill: I guess --
[Bill continues trying to interrupt]

Adam: How is publishing in high energy physics different than, say, publishing in ancient Greek history? How do psychologists communicate their research to the academic community? Or, and we hear this one all the time, why can't we just digitize all the damn books in the library and be done it with?

Bill: Well, that's because of copyright and intellectual property issues and --

Adam: Exactly. IL Standard 5, Performance Indicator 1, Section d. Wouldn't it be interesting if, when we linked to full-text, there was some little clue as to the conditions of access. Like - "No copyright", or "licensed access secured". Then the catalogue is directly supporting an IL competency. Or another issue, how do you learn from your mistakes? A particular approach is not working well, but may tell you something about how to improve it and how to look for information about a certain --

Bill: Well, I do that all the time. It's basic to systems development and programming when you're debugg--

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Friday Fun: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction

Oct 15 2010 Published by under ebooks, education, friday fun

A really interesting article on from this past August by Ryan Britt, A Fondness for Antiques: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction.

In the past few years, media pundits and tech experts have been abuzz with variations on the question: "what is the future of the book?" Luckily, science fiction has been around a whole lot longer than Amazon, Apple, and Google, and as such, might be able to teach us a thing or two about the future of the printed word.

It's a really terrific look at some futurism from the past -- the old "Where's my rocket pack and flying car!" but this time applied to the world of books. Normally, this is the kind of topic I'd address in a serious post rather than a Friday Fun, but really, reading the article I don't see that I have too much to add to the points and that Britt makes.

One point that seems particularly relevant comes from my favourite Star Trek movie:

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock famously gives Kirk A Tale of Two Cities as a birthday gift. "I know of your fondness for antiques," Spock says, heavily implying printed books are like big collector's items in the 23rd century. Prior to this, the 60s Trek crew primarily accessed literature on multi-colored Heinlein-esque record tapes. It is from one of these, that Gary Mitchell quotes "Nightingale Woman," a poem written by an alien, implying poetry is being read and "published" in some form or another in the future and on various planets. This idea of a highly literate future is bolstered by the fact that everyone from Kirk to Doctor Crusher seems to know their Shakespeare.

I actually find that quote to be really inspirational. The future of the book isn't about nostalgia or pining for a lost utopia. At the same time, it's not about disrespecting the past or ignoring the traditions and technologies that have gotten us to where we are today. It's about moving forward, finding what works for real people in a real future.

BTW, in checking out the article you'll see that science fiction has more of less anticipated everything that's going on today from the iPad to Wikipedia!

3 responses so far

Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Summer 2010

The latest issue of ISTL has just been released and, as usual, it's filled with very interesting-looking articles.

The table of contents is below:

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Interlibrary Loan and eBooks: Helping you survive the summer!

A nice post from computer scientist Amy Csizmar Dalal on Five things that helped me survive summer:

5. Interlibrary loan and ebooks (tie). I am almost certain that I have checked more out of the library through interlibrary loan this summer than I have in my previous 7 years at Carleton combined. And this summer, I bought my first ebooks (because I was too impatient to wait for the paper versions to ship, but still). Recently I've expanded my view of which subfields relate to my research, and by expanding my view, I've discovered a whole new set of literature that will help push my research forward (and possibly in all-new directions!). I'm now way behind on my reading, but I'm also looking forward to scholarly reading in a way I haven't for a long time.

We're happy to help. And don't forget, libraries are getting more and more scientific and technical ebooks every day!

One response so far

Spring & summer conference schedule

I have a few conferences coming up and I thought I'd share my schedule just in case any of you out there in sciencelibrarianblogland will also be attending.

I'll list them in order, along with whatever I'll be presenting.

BookCamp Toronto, May 15, Toronto

9:30: eBooks in Education and Academia -- the glacial revolution
John Dupuis (York University)
Evan Leibovitch (York University)

Description: Despite growing public acceptance of eBooks, two areas in which they could offer the most benefit -- education and academia -- are far behind the eBook mainstream. This session will discuss issues directly related to educational (K-12) and academic (post-secondary) use of eBooks from the perspective of authors, readers and libraries. The session will also discuss the current generation of eBook readers -- both hardware and software -- in the context of student and researcher use.

Canadian Engineering Education Association, June 7-9, Kingston, ON

Using a Blog to Engage Students in Literature Search Skills Sessions

One of the main problems for librarians involved in engaging engineering students in literature search skills sessions is creating a list of customized, course-specific online resources that is easy for students to find and use. Such a list can include links to article databases (ie. IEEE Xplore), ebook packages (ie. Books 24x7), web resources, patent search engines and standards series. It can also be used to hold notes from the session, background information and links to useful tools such as citation management software. Given that blogs are becomming an increasingly popular item in the pedagogical toolbox, creating one to host these notes and links is an obvious possibility. Blogging tools such as WordPress are simple and straightforward to use. Blog entries can be easily linked to on a course website or even Googled by students. During the classroom session itself, the blog is used both to engage the students' attention and as an outline of the content. Adding interactivity via Instant Messaging widgets such as Meebo also make the blog a good tool for engaging with students both during the session and after it is over. Analysis tools such as Google Analytics can be used to assess the usage of the blog. A sample web page, created for the Engineering 1000 course at York University, can be found here:

(Note: The technical program schedule isn't set yet. I'll post when I know the date & time.)

Science Foo Camp
, July 30 - August 1, Mountain View, CA

Science Foo Camp is an unconference, so the program is self-organized by the participants at the conference itself. We're all expected to contribute by participating in creating and running the program.

So far my main idea for a session to propose is about Building Campus Open Science Collaborations. From the point of view of Open Access, Open Data, Open Notebook and all the rest, there are a lot of campus constituencies that can work together build the commitment, infrastructure and policies to make Open Science work. Who are there people and how can they all be brought together to make Open Science a reality on your cmapus.

Obviously this is in super embryonic format. I would really appreciate any input on my idea, especially how to make it speak to researchers that may be considering Open Science initiatives but might not know where to get started.

No responses yet

Google to Digitize Lost Library of Alexandria

Apr 01 2010 Published by under ebooks, friday fun

From the news release:

Google to Digitize Lost Library of Alexandria

by Paoli du Flippi
-- posted @ 4/01/2010 12:01:00 AM PT

Today at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, Executive Dan Clancy, head of the Google Books project, announced plans to digitize the contents of the Lost Ancient Library of Alexandria.

Initially, some confusion arose among the assembled media representatives, who immediately began to inquire about the details of dealing with the recalcitrant and xenophobic government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But Mr. Clancy quickly set the press corps straight.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you should know by now that Google does not undertake small projects. Or if we do, we do not convene press conferences to boast of them. No, although we are indeed currently scanning the contents of many contemporary foreign libraries as a routine part of our business model, I am talking now about access to the fabled and heretofore extinct institution which was founded during the reign of Ptolemy Soter in the third century BC, and which lasted in some form down until AD 391."

This "clarification" succeeded only in raising confusion and clamor among the reporters, newscasters and bloggers. But once order was restored to the auditorium, Mr. Clancy continued.

"You might ask how we here at Google have gained access to the Alexandrian collection, presumed to be forever lost. Was it through sponsorship of some archaeological dig perhaps, or a massive combing through museums and private holdings to reassemble the collection from unrecognized disparate bits? Nothing so trivial! Google simply had to invent a practical means of time travel, which we can now reveal to the public."

At this point, Mr. Clancy was joined onstage by a man who appeared to be his identical twin. Shortly after, a third duplicate appeared, and then, in quick succession, a dozen more.


Mr. Clancy grinned. "Well, Mark, it's like this. The task is already done! As soon as we knew we were going to do it, we realized that sometime in the future the task would already be completed. So we just jumped ahead into the future and brought the complete Library of Alexandria scans back to our era. That's the miracle of time travel and its paradoxes! By the way: the entire project fits onto a ten-petabyte thumb drive. And we have copies today for everyone!"

April Fools!

Locus Magazine does a great set of April Fools news items every year and this year is no exception.

Here are links to the other articles for this year:

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Book Camp Toronto: Saturday, May 15, 2010

The second Book Camp TO is coming up in about 6 weeks or so: Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.

Last year's edition was terrific and I'm really looking forward to another great conference.

What's it about?

  • What: BookCampTO is a free unconference about the future of books, reading, writing and publishing. Ebooks have arrived, and with them great changes are afoot. BoomCampTO 2010 will focus on what happens next, how this big shift to digital is changing different parts of the book business, and how we are adapting. Our focus is not so much on ebooks as everything else.
  • When: Saturday, May 15, 2010, 9am-5pm + drinks afterwards.
  • Where: University of Toronto iSchool: 140 St George St, Toronto, ON M5S
  • Who: Everyone is welcome at BookCampTO: publishers, writers, technologists, readers, editors, designers, book sellers, book buyers, printers, teachers, librarians ... anyone who cares about books.
  • Why: We love books, we love writing, we love reading, we love publishing, and we want to see the world of Canadian books thriving in the coming future.
  • How: BookCamp is a conversation. Session format is: a fifteen minute intro, with a 40 minute discussion with participants.

My York colleague Evan Leibovitch and I are proposing a session on ebooks in academia:

eBooks in Education and Academia -- the glacial revolution, John Dupuis and Evan Leibovitch (York University)

Description: Despite growing public acceptance of eBooks, two areas in which they could offer the most benefit -- education and academia -- are far behind the eBook mainstream. This session will discuss issues directly related to educational (K-12) and academic (post-secondary) use of eBooks from the perspective of authors, readers and libraries. The session will also discuss the current generation of eBook readers -- both hardware and software -- in the context of student and researcher use.

The registration is filling up fast, so you might only have a day or two before the waiting list kicks in.

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