NASIG 2011: Books in Chains

Speaker: Paul Duguid

Unlike the automotive brand wars, tech brand wars still require a level of coordination and connectivity between each other. Intel, Windows, and Dell can all be in one machine, and it became a competition as to which part motivated the purchase.

The computer/tech supply chain is odd. The most important and difficult component to replace is the hard drive, and yet most of us don’t know who makes the drives in our computers. It makes a huge difference in profit when your name is out front.

Until the mid 1800s, the wine sold had the retailer name on it, not the vineyard. Eventually, that shifted, and then shifted again to being sold by the name of the varietal.

In the book supply chain, there are many links, and the reader who buys the book may not see any of the names involved, and at different times in history, the links were the brand that sold it. Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling tried to trademark their names so that publishers could not abuse them.

In academia, degrees are an indication of competency, and the institution behind the degree is a part of the brand. Certification marks began with unions in the US, and business schools were among the first to go out and register their names. However, it gets tricky when the institution conferring the degrees is also taking in fees from students. Is it certification or simply selling the credentials?

Who brands in publishing? We think the author, but outside of fiction, that starts to break down. Reference works are generally branded by the publisher. Reprint series are branded by the series. Romances are similar. Do we pay attention to who wrote the movie, TV series, or even newspaper article?

What happens when we go digital? The idealist’s view is that information wants to be free. The pragmatic view is that information needs to be constrained. Many things that are constraints are also resources. The structure and organization of a newspaper has much to do with the paper it is on. Also, by limiting to what fits on the paper, it conveys an indication of importance if it makes it into print. Free information suffers from a lack of filters to make the important bits rise to the top.

We think of technologies replacing each other, but in fact they tend to create new niches by taking away some but not all of the roles of the old tech. What goes and what stays is what you see as integral.

library lending with the Kindle

kindle with newspaper
Amazon Kindle

I’m sure by now that you’ve heard the Amazon announcement that they will be offering a service to allow libraries to lend books to Kindle users. Well, the thing that got this academic librarian excited is this line from the press release: “If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.”

One of the common complaints we received in our pilot programs using Kindles in the classroom was that because the students had to return the devices, they couldn’t keep the notes they had made in the texts. Of course, even with this model they won’t be able to access their notes without checking out the book again, but at least it’ll be an option for them.

Of course, there is a down side to this announcement — the lending will be facilitated by OverDrive.  Unless you’ve been a library news hermit for the past few years, you’ve heard the complaints (and very few praises) about the OverDrive platform, and the struggles of librarians and users in getting the materials checked out and downloaded to devices. I hope that because Amazon will be relying on their fantastic Whispersync technology to retain notes and bookmarks,it will just as easy to check out and download the Kindle books through OverDrive.

trying out the iPad

I have borrowed an iPad from work to take notes on at ER&L next week. So far I’m learning that I can’t touch type on it, so I’ll have my head down a lot. Also, the screen is very sensitive, so I’m making typos when my fingers get too close. Will be needing to hone my hovering skills.

I’m also bringing my laptop, so I can switch to that if this gets frustrating.

Kindle 2 is kind of cool, actually

I’m not going to gush about how I fell in love with the device, because I didn’t.

My library (as in, the library where I work) has the good fortune of being blessed with both funds and leadership that allow us to experiment with some emerging technologies. When Amazon released the first version of the Kindle, we purchased one to experiment with. It was simply the latest in a long history of ebook readers that we had hoped to be able to incorporate into the library’s function on campus.

I took a turn at using the Kindle, and I was mightily unimpressed. The interface seemed very clunky, to the point of preventing me from getting into the book I tried to read. When the Kindle 2 was released and we received permission to purchase one, I was skeptical that it would be any better, but I still signed up for my turn at using it.

Last week, I was given the Kindle 2, and since it already had a book on it that I was half-way through reading, I figured I would start there. However, I was not highly motivated to make the time for it. Yesterday afternoon, I took the train up to DC, returning this morning. Four hours round trip, plus the extra time spent waiting at each station, gave me plenty of time to finish my book, so I brought the Kindle 2 with me.

I’m not going to gush about how I fell in love with the device, because I didn’t. However, I finished the book with ease before I arrived in DC, and out of shear boredom I pulled down a copy of another book that was already purchased on our library account. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to go from one book to another without having to lug along several selections from my library “just in case” I ran out of something to read.

Right now, I’m at least a third of the way in on the second book, and I plan to finish reading it on the Kindle 2.

I don’t think I’ll end up buying one anytime soon, particularly since I’ve put a stop to buying new books until I’ve read more of the ones I own. However, I have a better understanding of those Kindle enthusiasts who rave about having their entire library (and more) at their fingertips. It’s pretty handy if you’re someone who often has time to kill away from your library.

Learning 2009: Kindles, Sony Readers, iTouches, and iPhones

Presenters: Andy Morton, Olivia Reinauer, and Carol Wittig

The presenters brought three netbooks, three Kindle 2s, a Sony Reader, and an iTouch to pass around for attendees to handle. These are from the small collection recently purchased for experimenting with library and course use. They are hoping to get feedback or discussion about how the attendees think that they will impact classroom instruction.

While the Kindle is not likely to be very functional for traditional library services, rumors of the next version indicate that it will be more functional for textbook, newspaper, and media uses. This will definitely impact classroom activities. You can mark up text with notes, and it’s fully searchable, which could be handy for finding the notes you made to yourself.

Sony Reader uses the same kind of screen as the Kindle, but is smaller due to the lack of full keyboard. However, unlike the Kindle, it has a touch screen (and a stylus). There are expandable memory cards that can handle digital photos (in black & white) and audio. Like the Kindle, you can take notes on it. They’re also working with OCLC and Google Books to expand access to resources.

The iTouch and iPhone can make use of the Kindle software, and there are many other ebook apps as well. They are also useful for accessing internet applications on the fly. [Side note: I think I like this the best – one-handed touch-screen reading and much lighter than the dedicated ebook readers, but with a much larger screen than my old PDAs and brighter text.]

Netbooks are relatively inexpensive and easier to transport than full-size laptops. They’re certainly popular at conferences.