This month I’m indulging and pushing some of my favorites.
Need a concrete example of how publishers are “inserting friction” in order to make it difficult for libraries to share eBooks? Just look at the price difference.
Full version of above picture from American Libraries Magazine (pdf)
Ursula K. Le Guin says this of “frictioned” eBooks in libraries:
If the part libraries play in distributing ebooks gets “frictioned” into insignificance, it will be easier for the corporations to take further control of what ebooks you personally can obtain, how long a book will stay on your reader before you have to pay for it again, and whatever else they want to control. If they see profit in doing any of this, they’ll do it. If small publishers try to sell the books they don’t sell, the big corporations will eliminate the small publishers.
We’d be wise to keep our information base as broad as possible, by supporting the existing public libraries in their heroic and amazingly successful effort to carry on their job in the electronic age.
The goal of the public library has been to give anyone who needs or wants it permanent, unlimited, free access to books. All books.
The goal of the public library in the electronic age is what it always was: to give permanent, unlimited, free access to books — print books, ebooks, all books — to everyone.
I’ve been participating in Daniel Russell’s (previously mentioned HERE) free Power Searching with Google course. It is a lot of fun. I’ve refreshed stuff I already knew and learned a few new tricks I didn’t. The third class and mid-term assessment went live this morning.
I just posted this on Facebook but thought I’d share it here too.
I found myself returning to this article over and over during the last two days. It’s a rather chilling yet perspicacious examination of the increasing bifurcation of our society into a rich upperclass and underprivileged lower class (or, as put in the article, “Perfect world travelers versus people who don’t have passports. The drone owners versus the drone targets. And, strangely, those who can move freely in physical space and those who can’t.”) and the extent in which tech can play a role.
The sci-fi author M John Harrison recently blogged about how the traditional rhetoric of disaster (think The Road) is worn out – those issues are no longer the important issues – and that there is some other kind of disaster ready to be written. I tend to think that this is it – the ability of technology to either democratize everyone or fuel the machinations of the powerful elite. In which case, access to, knowledge of, and education about technology may need to be thought of differently, maybe even as a “human right.”
Cory Doctorow’s recent talk at the EBLIDA-NAPLE 20th annual conference in Copenhagen is worth spending 14 minutes on. He addresses the issues that librarians should be thinking about in regards to the future of e-books in our libraries. The first 13 minutes lead up nicely to his final plea to librarians (emphasis mine).
It is a feature and not a bug of ebooks that two people can read them at the same time…We are the people of the book and it’s time to start acting like it.
In conclusion, I have a simple but radical proposal for you. Stop buying ebooks with DRM on it. Period. I know it’s not easy, librarianship is not easy, librarianship has never been easy – ask the people at Alexandria. You are, after all, the specialists who safeguard information in the information age. Access to information has always been a radical political act. But you wouldn’t accept a publishers demand that its representatives be allowed to put hidden cameras in your collection to discover who was reading which books. You wouldn’t accept a publishers demand for access to your circulation records. You wouldn’t accept a journal publisher who said that your physical copies had to be confiscated and burned if you terminated your subscriptions. The digital equivalents are no more acceptable than the physical ones.
“What if everything in the world were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?”
-Soren Kierkegaard Either/Or: A Fragment of Life
I took this picture on July 12, 2007 and put it on my old blog coupled with the above quote. I was 23, had just graduated from Binghamton University, was generally confused about the world, and was reading a lot of Kierkegaard. The blue sky and gentle humming of early July always reminds me of that summer when, paradoxically, hope and cynicism blew in equally strong. Past thoughts can have a certain poetic power.
Imagine if a patron came into the library and asked the following question:
What’s the phone number of the office where this picture was snapped?
Maybe you think the answer is close to Impossible? But this is the exact question that Daniel Russell put to his audience of investigative journalists during a recent talk on Google Search Tips. Luckily, John Tedesco was in attendance and has written an interesting and helpful list of notes from the talk that should help with finding the answer.
A few of my favorites:
*Think about how somebody else would write about the topic.
Search is all about someone else’s language. Think about synonyms and use OR operators. Google’s “related search” feature on the search page also offers suggestions.
“Part of the skill here is being fascinated about language,” Russell said. “You’ve got to think about equivalent terms.”
*Force Google to include search terms.
Sometimes Google tries to be helpful and it uses the word it thinks you’re searching for — not the word you’re actually searching for. And sometimes a website in the search results does not include all your search terms.
How do you fix this?
Typing intext:[keyword] might be Google’s least-known search operations, but it’s one of Russell’s favorites. It forces the search term to be in the body of the website. So if you type:
intext:”San Antonio” intext:Alamo
It forces Google to show results with the phrase “San Antonio” and the word Alamo. You won’t get results that are missing either search term.
*Find relational search terms.
What if you’re curious about search terms that are near each other on a website?[keyword] AROUND(n) [keyword] is incredibly handy for finding related terms such as “Jerry Brown” near “Tea Party.” (“n” is the number of words near the search terms.) Typing “Jerry Brown” AROUND(3) “Tea Party” will show you all the websites where the phrase “Jerry Brown” was mentioned within three words of “Tea Party.”
*Think like a reporter.
When Russell teaches his students search skills, he tells them: “Think like a reporter.” What do you know, and how can that information help you find what you need to know?
A big part of a reporter’s job is knowing where to find information. Which state agency regulates the issue you’re interested in? How might that information be documented? Who would know more about the issue?
“You have to have a concept about what’s possible,” Russell said.
A common argument against libraries is the specious appeal to the fact that everything is a Google search away. The above would seem to support that claim. Of course, Google can’t perform a reference interview.
I had a patron come in this week with a simple request. He wanted to know the name of a woman featured in a segment on Good Morning America that aired over the weekend. The woman collects blankets and sends them overseas to countries in need. He had searched and searched and found nothing. Thinking the answer was just not available, he was ready to give up.
Even with the little information he gave me I thought this would be a simple answer to find. I pulled up Good Morning America’s website and hit a few of the keywords into their search bar. Nothing. I then broadened my search a bit. Nothing. Okay. Something is wrong.
“When exactly did you see the show?” I asked.
“9 am on Sunday morning.”
So, we hop on over to the local Channel 12 website and check their programming guide. From 9 to 10:30 am on Sunday morning they air CBS Morning News, not Good Morning America. Of course, it was easy to find the answer from there.
Who knows how long he searched before he asked me. Google does not say, “Wait a minute, something is not adding up.” But librarians do.