Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where'd Google Print Go?

With little fanfare, Google has changed the name of its digital library initiative from Google Print to Google Book Search. The old URL, print.google.com now refers surfers to books.google.com.

While the change doesn't look like much, on close examination it clearly represents a fundamental shift in Google's digital library philosophy. The title alone implies that the service is more of a book search/finding engine rather than a final destination for researchers – which, of course, it was all along!

Where'd Google Print Go?

With little fanfare, Google has changed the name of its digital library initiative from Google Print to Google Book Search. The old URL, print.google.com now refers surfers to books.google.com.

While the change doesn't look like much, on close examination it clearly represents a fundamental shift in Google's digital library philosophy. The title alone implies that the service is more of a book search/finding engine rather than a final destination for researchers – which, of course, it was all along!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ever Wonder Where's Google Going to Backup All Those Virtual Books?

Faced with the near impossible task of securely and permanently preserving and protecting thier substantial investment in the production of the millions of pages of books that it intends to scan and make available worldwide on the internet, Google has entered into an agreement with Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA under which Google will take possession of the storied former US Army airship base and mammoth dirigible hangars and indoor training center in Mountain View, California's Moffet Field.
Think about it, according to Google's stated plan, millions of books will be scanned into an enormous database that will ultimately be at the mercy of hackers, systems upgrades and a national power source. The only way to guarantee the collection's permanence is to store all the original data in hard copy! The 200-foot high Hangar One is a ready-made building of the appropriate capacity to store millions and millions of books and is a ready-acknowledgement of the safety and permanence of hard copy materials vis a vis a digital library!
From a press release of 28 September 2005:

“Google and NASA share a common desire-to bring a universe of information to people around the world,” said Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive officer.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

USA Today Editorial Gets it Right!

In terrific editorial, Needless fight threatens Google's online library, USA Today defends Google's "online library" initiative in convincing and in insightful ways. Excerpts:

"The publishers are not without reasonable arguments, but Google's are better. Copyright law specifically allows limited copying of protected material for purposes that serve the public — such as commentary, news reporting, teaching and scholarship — and Google's plan has broad public benefits. It will greatly expand the universe of knowledge online and could renew interest in out-of-print books.(Emphasis mine.)

"What's more, a ruling that Google needs the specific permission from publishers to index a minimum of information could call into question the very notion of search engines...."

"Amazon Pages:" the iTunes of the Publishing World?

According to a recent article in idm.net.au Amazon is set to launch new services called Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade. To quote the article:

"Building on its successful Search Inside the Book technology, Amazon is developing two new programs that will allow customers to search the complete interior text of hundreds of thousands of books and purchase online access to any page, section or chapter of a book, as well as the book in its entirety.
....
""Amazon Pages and Amazon Upgrade leverage Amazon's existing Search Inside the Book technology to give customers unusual flexibility in how they buy and read books," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon.com. "In collaboration with our publishing partners, we're working hard to make the world's books instantly accessible anytime and anywhere.""

A clever twist on the "online library" movement....

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Apologies to Readers

I have lately been experiencing technical difficulties with the Widget that I've been using to create entries to my blog. It reports a successful post and appears on the page when I check it. However the next day it simply disappears.

As a result, lots of brilliant (!) entries have been lost. Over the next week or so I will endeavor to recreate the ones I can remember.

I have also changed the way that I am editing the posts so they will actually get posted! Truly I have been entering new material approximately once a week, sometimes more often. I intend to continue to do so.

My apologies (for appearing like I was) slacking....

Thinking Outside the Wrapper When Thinking about Print Newspapers

Wrting for TheStreet.com about the value (or lack thereof?) of print newspapers and the newspaper business, Jon Markman makes a brilliant observation about the intrinsic value of home delivery of printed newspapers:

"It's a random Saturday morning, and after an evening of watching a baseball game on television, reading about it online and talking about it with friends over instant messenger, I pad out to the to the rain-soaked steps in front of my house in my socks and eagerly grab the newspaper. I tear the wet plastic sheeting off the rolled up paper, snap off the rubber band, and plop down in front of a fire with a cup of coffee to read it.

"Even though it's only The Seattle Times, not quite one of the world's top 10 newspapers, this uncomfortable sock-soaking adventure is counted as a great pleasure. I've spent a decade writing and editing online, but scanning the newspaper -- skipping my eyes over headlines without having to do any clicking, imagine that -- is still something I value and enjoy. In fact, if news were only available online, the home delivery of a full-blown, hard-copy version of the product might be seen as a fantastic innovation."(Emphasis mine.)

It is true: If we had been raised on newspapers and books being available solely online, the development and distribution of these materials in hardcopy would probably be hailed as the death of computers!

Well said, Mr. Markman!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Leave it to Librarians!

According to a press release from RLG, dated 29 October 2005, RLG is partnering with an impressive group of business partners to create a unique online database of books. The partners include the California Digital Library, Adobe (uh-oh!) Yahoo!, HP, Microsoft (oh well....). An ecnouraging thing about this program is that materials to be digitized will be selected and bibliographically described by RLG members and scanned from member libraries. The unique thing will be apparent association with third parties who will, for a fee, bind and deliver hard copy of any materials discovered at the site.

Excerpts from the press release follow:

RLG, a not-for-profit organization of over 150 research libraries, archives, and museums announced today that it will be a contributor to and partner with the Open Content Alliance (OCA) (www.opencontentalliance.org), a consortium that is building a permanent archive of digitized text and multimedia content. Generally, textual material from the OCA will be free to read, and in most cases, available for saving or printing using formats such as PDF.

The OCA calls this initiative the Open Library Project (www.openlibrary.org). This project will create free Web access to important book collections from around the world. Books are scanned and then offered in an interface for free reading online. The books can be downloaded, shared, and printed for free. They can also be printed for a nominal fee by a third party, who will bind and mail the book to customers. The books are always free to read at the Open Library Web site.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Newcastle (England) City Libraries Launches 24-hour Reference Service

Apparently this service, developed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in the UK links up a variety of libraries' reference staffs to be on call via email and online chat to handle any question from patrons. The article on 24dash.com does not explain how the on-call system works, but one does wonder how those late night reference questions are handled....

Google Print's Objective Revealed!

According to a USA Today article, "Google said its objective was to build the world's largest online card catalog."

What's more, "Google Print product manager Adam Smith says the biggest misconception is that Google's master plan is to display entire books online. "We don't have permission to do that," he says. "We're a finding tool, like a digital card catalog."

This is very insightful acknowledgement of what the Google Print initiative is all about. And a welcome one. Many people are tired of hearing how the compute is going to do away with reality as we know it. On the contrary, if it's a useful tool, it will actually enhance reality! That's what progress is all about. Right?

I still maintain that librarians need to be prepared for a rennaisance: free online services like this will mean better access to libraries and greater demand for books. Not only will libraries' collections grow, but our numbers of patrons will too.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

European Commission Announces Plans for Google Digitization Rival

According to a News.com (c|net) article from 3 October 2005:

The European Commission isn't about to sit back and let Google have control over digitizing the world's information--it's planning to turn Europe's "historical and cultural heritage into digital content."

According to an EC announcement on Friday, the aim of the project is to digitize and preserve records of Europe's heritage--including books, film fragments, photographs, manuscripts, speeches and music--and make it available online to all European citizens. To make this happen, the European Union is proposing high-level cooperation between the member states and has set a deadline of Jan. 20, 2006, for first comments on the plans.

The Commission acknowledged that the process of making the resources in Europe's libraries and archives available on the Internet "is not straightforward." It identified three key areas for action: digitization, online accessibility and digital preservation. The Commission also noted that several such initiatives are already under way within Europe, including the Collect Britain project in the United Kingdom, which is backed by the British Library and partly funded by the U.K.'s National Lottery.


-Let the games begin!

University of California, Berkeley, Partners with Yahoo! to Create Digital Library

The Daily Californian, today, reports:

"With the digital support of Yahoo Inc., which will provide its search technology to the project, the materials are scheduled to be made available beginning in the spring of 2006 on the Open Content Alliance Web site, the global consortium building the archive.

"This program will allow UC Berkeley students and researchers to access material at the click of a mouse without having to search the stacks of Doe and Moffitt," said UC spokesperson Jennifer Ward. "It will also be a great convenience to the public, including high school students, who will have access to literature at the universities without having to find transportation to campus."

The literature will be available for download free of charge, opening the door to convenient public access to the historical documents."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fort Wayne News Sentinenal Asks the Question of the Day:

In an article about the growing interest and availability of digital audio books, the writer's subtitle says it all: But so far the files can be used only on Windows, not on Apple’s iPod. NetLibrary and OverDrive, Inc., still won't (they say can'tprovide audio books in an iPod compatible format.

Don't these people read the news? iPod has dominated the digital audio market! Not good enough for MicroSoft devotees, I guess.... I think that this is just fascinating. I wonder if librarians refused to buy audio books that aren't compatible with iPod, if these companies would change?

The Financial Times Article Examines the Pros and Cons of Google Digitization Project

From the article: Tony Sanfilippo is of two minds when it comes to Google Inc’s ambitious programme to scan millions of books and make their text fully searchable on the internet. Mr Sanfilippo credits the programme for boosting sales of obscure titles at Penn Sdate University Press, where he works. But, he’s worried that Google’s plans to create digital copies of books obtained directly from libraries could hurt his industry’s long-term revenues.

Hmmm.... I wonder whether anyone has examined the impact Google's project will have on paper manufacturer's? I have a hunch they may sell a lot of paper!

Authors Guild Sues Google, Citing “Massive Copyright Infringement”

From the Author's Guild website press release dated 20 September 2005:

"The Authors Guild and a Lincoln biographer, a children's book author, and a former Poet Laureate of the United States filed a class action suit today in federal court in Manhattan against Google over its unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Library program. The suit alleges that the $90 billion search engine and advertising juggernaut is engaging in massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bucking the Revolution! At Least Two Libraries Dragging Patrons into the Future Their Way - Whether Patrons Like it or Not!

Two library systems have announced that they are providing digital e-books to their patrons. Maricopa Library District and Hawaii State Library Systems have each announced that they are teaming with Overdrive.com to provide exciting new services to patrons.

An interesting aspect of each program is that in an age in which over fifteen million iPods have been sold, Overdrive.com doesn't support that technology! Preferring clumsy Microsoft Windows Media Player, the company - and libraries who partner with them - apparently believe that iPod owners aren't worth the effort. In trying to come accross as cutting edge by providing new services using new technology, they demand allegiance to the stuffy monopoly of Microsoft instead of appealing to the true innvators in the MP3 world.

An interesting demonstration of counter-revolution: Why adopt cutting edge technology when blunt-edge will do? After all, blunt edge is Windows compatible!

Go figure!?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A New Definition of Reality!

Dr. Sam Vakin, writing in The Global Politician strains to give us a definition of the book, vis a vis e-books, that demonstrates print's inherent foibles. In his desperate attempt to describe print in terms that show it is inferior to books in digital format, he declares:

"Ostensibly, consumers should gravitate to the feature-rich and much cheaper e-book. But they won't - because the medium is as important as the text message. It is not enough to own the same content, or to gain access to the same message. Ownership of the right medium does count. Print books offer connectivity within an historical context (tradition). E-books are cold and impersonal, alienated and detached. The printed word offers permanence. Digital text is ephemeral (as anyone whose writings perished in the recent dot.com bloodbath or Deja takeover by Google can attest). Printed volumes are a whole sensorium, a sensual experience - olfactory and tactile and visual. E-books are one dimensional in comparison. These are differences that cannot be overcome, not even with the advent of digital "ink" on digital "paper". They will keep the print book alive and publishers' revenues flowing."

Perhaps he has forgotten that computers, too, exist in three dimensions, and possess smell and other sensory attributes? It appears to me that his "criticisms" of print are also print's greatest virtues: they exist in the gestalt, the here and now. And, we humans are to be criticized as preferring books because we can hold them, use them without restriction and enjoy them right here, right now?

I'm confused....

Yahoo! and Google's Library Initiatives: The New OPAC's?

BusinessWeekOnline's Stephen Wildtrom recently wrote an interesting article about Yahoo!'s and Google's digital library initiatives. In the article, he makes observations that support a point I've been making continuously on this blog: that Google's "project ocean" will essentially create an online index to the great books of the world. Who knows? Perhaps we're on the verge of a rennaisance in libraries! Mr. Wildstrom concludes with the following observations:

"Even if I end up having to go to a university library to see the whole book, this still strikes me as a powerful tool that I would have died for back in my student days. As useful as the Web is, Google Print shows how much is missing. It's good to see it gradually coming within clicking distance."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Forbes' interesting comment on the "Invisible Web"

Steve Manes has written an interesting essay in the Digital Tools section of Forbes, titled "Google Isn't Everything." With cute, lay-persons' wonder he describes his discovery of the invisible web and the revelation that there beauty is only skin deep!

Most interesting, however, are his comments about arrangement of the resources in the library websites. Sounds vaguely similar to complaints librarians have heard for centuries regarding arrangement of collections. Remember Ranganathan's Fourth Law: Save the time of the reader.

Perhaps Yogi Berra was right again: The more things change, the more they remain the same....

Library Journal article about "LibraryCity" raises more questions than answers

In the article about an apparently interesting and innovative project called LibraryCity [Note: no spaces, a la modern tech patois], the adivosory librarian, Tom Peters is described as:

"an e-book usability expert as well as former director of the Center for Library Initiatives at the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), the academic consortium of the Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago."

Keep in mind an earlier posting below in which the University of Chicago is in the process of building what is being touted as being the largest print library in North America!

The highlight of the article comes when Peters is quoted:

“Our goal is to construct a worldwide digital library of both public-domain and copyright-protected e-books... LibraryCity wants to stretch the traditional notion of a library… For example, we will make it possible for readers to post study guides, comments, and other documents that support the continued use of public-domain information as well as copyright-protected e-books.” It’s not yet clear how that would work.

But it will be fun to see them try....

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Wow! The Future IS Already Here!!

Thanks to Prof. Brian Baker (UDC) for this tibbit from Drexel University's "information" page on their proposed new law school. Apparently they won't even have computers at this law library: Blackberries only!
---------------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE:
The author of the linked article got LOTS of flack for his language about the future of law libraries. In the meantime he has "seen the light" and has apparently re-written the lbrary section of the proposed law school information web-pages. Good for him! In the meantime, the language on the page is a classic example of what can happen when one lets infatuation with all things "future" run away with you. I've decided to preserve the original language with the following excerpt:

"Thirty years ago, when the last first-tier university in the United States opened a law school, the Selectric typewriter (http://www.selectric.org/selectric) was state of the art, the telefacsimile (only later known as the fax) and the word processors were still on the drawing boards, and the Internet was still just an idea in some professors’ heads. Lexis® and Westlaw® arrived on the scene in the early 1970s, offering the first commercial, full-text legal information services, but the legal profession had depended on libraries as the source of the law, and was slow to accept these innovations.

"Today, only retired partners, law firm messengers, and people needing a quiet place to think or write can be found in law libraries, as virtually all legal resources have been digitized and made accessible through electronic data library services. Today, lawyers can access the law wirelessly from their offices, or over their BlackBerries®.

"Drexel was one of the first universities in the country to go “wireless” and to require its students to have computers. It has a very successful distance learning company Drexel e-Learning, Inc., that is providing quality educational programs to Drexel’s graduate and undergraduate students, ensuring that they can take classes when they want to, from wherever they might be. And its libraries (http://www.library.drexel.edu) are both wireless and rich with resources.

"Drexel’s law library will be similarly state-of-the-art. In fact, it will be three-dimensional. First, it will have a “physical core library”. This will include the resources that the American Bar Association requires all law schools to have. It will also include special depth in those areas that will be the focal points of the law school programs - health law, intellectual property, entrepreneurial business, environmental law, elder law, and the like."

MSNBC's "Practical Futurist" Comes to Some Impractical (Albeit Interesting) Conclusions

This article, "Turning Books into Bits" is worth reading. The Practical Futurist reports some interesting facts, and makes some interesting observations; unfortunately, he reveals the subtle oxymoron of putting the words "practical" and "future" in the same sentence....

Monday, June 20, 2005

British Library Web Page Features Cool "Online Book" Display

These are more than "online books" these are full featured, fully navigable online versions of important books. They include scrolls that you can scroll through, illiminated manuscripts with maginfiers and optional commentary.... Pretty cool, eh?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Creating an "Intelligent" Web

In this interesting, if impossibly (for the web anyway) LONG article, Sam Vaknin, Ph.D., describes an interesting initiative to create creator-defined meta-data as an integral part of HTML, thus making searching "more relevant." Good idea, too. Its just that teaching cataloging and indexing principles to millions of content creators sounds like a daunting task.

But, I guess after reading Mr Vaknin's article, they'll all be convinced that boning up on and following indexing standards is the "right thing to do!" And, of course, they'll just do it.....

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Google Goes Live With Print.Google.com

Google's "library digitization" project went live in Beta on May 26, 2005. Don't fret, yet. It's not all its cracked up to be. A search of "natural law," for example, turned up thousands of hits; but no full text! A search reveals the pages where you search terms appear, but then offers information of how to buy the book, or where to find copies. It appears to not provide full text of books - yet.

This only reinforces what many pundits have been saying: Google's project provides us with a virtual search engine, not a virtual library!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

University of Iowa Exhibit on Bookbinding Is A Reminder Of The Durability Of Books

Quotes from the i-newswire (U of Iowa news service):

"Today digital storage and retrieval methods are very popular, yet most digital storage is outdated and unreadable within 25 years," says Gary Frost, University Conservator. "On the other hand, a storage technology using carbon ink and papyrus of late antiquity has proven readable for 16 centuries."

The exhibition is presented by the Friends of the UI Libraries in conjunction with the conference "The Changing Book: Transitions in Design, Production and Preservation" that will be held at the UI Libraries July 22-25, and the University of Iowa Museum of Art exhibition "Bill Anthony: Fine Book Binder," on exhibit through July 31.

Georgetown Professor Laments U of Texas Library Book Removal Plans

Professor Michael Czinkota, in a special column to the Japan Times gives pretty good, if not original, defense of books in libraries.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Dutch Universities Create Free Internet Scientific Research Site

According to an article in The Register: "Scientists from all major Dutch universities officially launched a website on Tuesday where all their research material can be accessed for free. Interested parties can get hold of a total of 47,000 digital documents from 16 institutions the Digital Academic Repositories. No other nation in the world offers such easy access to its complete academic research output in digital form, the researchers claim. Obviously, commercial publishers are not amused." [Reed-Elsevier is Holland's own enormously big and profitable international science journal publisher....]

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In the World of Libraries You Don't Need to be a Nation to Create International Controversies!

According to a recent article in Cherwell Online, "France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain have asked the EU to launch its own library initiative, proposed by French President, Jacques Chirac.

"The plans come as several European countries have spoken out against Google’s digitisation plans, for fear of cultural dominance. Jean-Noel Jeanneney, President of the French National Library, published a book this weekend entitled, When Google Challenges Europe, presenting a vision of Google carrying out a hostile takeover of “the thought of the world”."

U Texas to Move 90K Books from Undergrad Lib for Info Commons

According to an article in The Ledger Online:

By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.

"In this information-seeking America, I can't think of anyone who would elect to build a books-only library," said Fred Heath, vice provost of the University of Texas Libraries in Austin.
....

The trend is being driven, academicians and librarians say, by the dwindling need for undergraduate libraries, many of which were built when leading research libraries were reserved for graduate students and faculty. But those distinctions have largely crumbled, with research libraries throwing open their stacks, leaving undergraduate libraries as increasingly puny adjuncts with duplicate collections and shelves of light reading.

Mr. Heath said removal of the books had raised some eyebrows among the faculty and anxiety among the library staff. But he said the concerns were needless. "Books are the fundamental icon of intellectual efforts," he said, "the scholarly communication of our time."

So, Mr. Heath said, speaking of the library, "if you move it, there's a pang, a sense of loss." He added that the books were merely being moved within the university's library system, one of the nation's largest, home to some 8 million volumes and growing by 100,000 a year. Basic reference books like dictionaries and encyclopedias will remain.

The move, Mr. Heath said, would free about 6,000 square feet in the four-story Flawn Academic Center, which opened in 1963.

Students at Texas, interviewed as they studied or lounged at the library tables, said that they would welcome extra computer space and that they got most of their books anyway at the far larger Perry-CastaƱeda Library. But some said they liked the popular selection at the undergraduate library and feared the loss of a familiar and congenial space.

"Well, this is a library - it's supposed to have books in it," said Jessica Zaharias, a senior in business management. "You can't really replace books. There's plenty of libraries where they have study rooms. This is a nice place for students to come to. It's central in campus."

Friday, May 06, 2005

"What me worry? My data's all been backed up!"

This headline, "Time Warner: Backup tapes with data on 600,000 employees lost" in national papers on May 2, 2005, says it all. First of all, computer data isn't all that permanent, is it? Second, it doesn't take much to affect a lot of data. One little misplaced trunk and "poof!" an entire library, gone....

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

EU to launch Digital Library

EU President, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced that the EU will form a digital library program to "counter" Google's digital library plans. "We have to act," he said, "That's why I say yes to the initiative of the French presidet to launch a European digital library." What's every body so afraid of?

Friday, April 15, 2005

eWeek Reports that Changes are Afoot for Windows Tablet PCs

According to an eWeek story, the millionth tablet PC was finally sold this past February after five years on the market! (Not quit a tidal wave of enthusiasm.) In any case, Microsoft (read: Bill Gates) sincerely wants this platform to succeed and he is convinced that smaller a form factor (about 6 X 8 inch) will make the platform more attractive. Bill reveals his hopes for the new platform in the excerpt from an interveiw with Peter Jennings, quoted in the article: "I am meeting with our tablet people about the idea of carrying text books around. They'll have just a tablet device that they can call up the material on. That's been a dream for a long time, we're making progress there." Just think, someday we can all have four devices: an iPod, a PocketPC/Palm device, a laptop and a tablet! Won't that be grand?!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Will the internet kill the printed book?

Ibrahim Ramjaun, has some interesting comments on this question, in a three part series published in March and April 2005 in LeExpress.mu, a newspaper or online news service from Mauritius (a small island nation off the coast of Madagascar). Read the articles here:

Will the Internet kill the printed book? (Part I)

Will the Internet kill the printed book? (Part II)

Will the Internet kill the printed book? (Part III)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Library Journal Reports that an Oregon Library Worker has been Accused of Stealing Books

One wonders what the defense may be: If the man sincerely believed that books and libraries were dead anyway, perhaps he was trying to do the local branch a favor by culling the hard copy collection. Or, I wonder if the books are also available in the library in online format, was he really stealing at all? He may claim that he was merely appropriating an out of date format of a title otherwise readily available to the library's patrons!

From the "What'll they think of next" File: Google announces "video-blogging"

From the article:
"[Google Co-Founder, Larry] Page admitted there were a number of issues to be sorted out with the service, including concerns about the nature of content that people may want to upload." Duh?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Library Journal Features an Insightful Analysis of Ranganathan's Five Laws

In an article titled, "Ranganathan Online," the authors examine Ranganathan's Five Laws as it applies to digital libraries. Well worth the read. (Even if they don't refer to another late treatment of Ranganathan Five Laws, "Reflections on Ranganathan's Five Laws," 95:3 Law Library Journal 411 (2003)).

French Call Europe to Arms Against "Americanization" of the Global Agenda

Interesting issue: Has American technological supremacy in the ether created a danger of international homoginization of human culture? Has Google become the McDonalds and Wal-Mart of the Internet? Some are beginning to think so....

The International Herald Tribune reports that the librarian of the Bibliotheque Nationale has called "Europe" (by which he seems to mean France) to arms in the digitization war. Jean-Noel Jeanneney says:

"I am not anti-American - far from it," the 62-year-old historian said in an interview in his office in the library's new headquarters overlooking the Seine. "But what I don't want is everything reflected in an American mirror. When it comes to presenting digitized books on the Web, we want to make our choice with our own criteria."

When Google's initial announcement went unnoticed here, then, Jeanneney raised his voice. In a Jan. 23 article in Le Monde titled "When Google Challenges Europe," he warned of "the risk of a crushing domination by America in the definition of the idea that future generations will have of the world." And he urged Europe to "counterattack" to preserve its culture and political influence.

The French Feud with Google heats up

FinFacts, an Irish Business and Financial Journal, carries a wonderful story Mar 26, 2005, "AFP shoots itself in the foot, not Google" by Michael Hennigan. The article implies that Agence France Press (AFP) has sued Google for providing references to its material as part of France's "vendeta" against Google for failing to include Biblioteque Nationale in the list of libraries that it would use as a source to build its online "library" project. In the end the lawsuit will leave AFP references out search results in Google. Everyone loses. Leave to the French to cut off their noses to spite their faces....

The French Feud with Google heats up

FinFacts, an Irish Business and Financial Journal, carries a wonderful story Mar 26, 2005, "AFP shoots itself in the foot, not Google" by Michael Hennigan. The article implies that Agence France Press (AFP) has sued Google for providing references to its material as part of France's "vendeta" against Google for failing to include Biblioteque Nationale in the list of libraries that it would use as a source to build its online "library" project. In the end the lawsuit will leave AFP references out search results in Google. Everyone loses. Leave to the French to cut off their noses to spite their faces....

Friday, March 25, 2005

New government policy threatens Library

Here's an excellent article about one library's reaction to the GPO's new policy regarding distribution of depository materials. Some of the comments are vey insightful. It makes one realize that one of the great advantages of print materials are their permanence: once something is in print (absent a catastrophe) they can't be altered without destroying the original. An online version can be altered with a few key-strokes and mouse-clicks.....

Harvard-Google Project Faces Copyright Woes

There's more here than meets the eye.... eh?

"Libraries Still Matter"

Randy Schofield, editorial writerr for The Witchita Eagle has written a wonderful, if sentimental, editorial about public libraries. Well done, Randy! As I read the editorial, it made me think of a recent trip to the "new" Los Angeles Public Library: a wonderful place that was packed nearly shoulder to shoulder in nearly every room! It was bustling with activity, on an early Monday afternoon. People of all ages and backgrounds were using the library for school work, personal work and for pure entertainment. In fact the library is so beautiful that as I walked through it, I ran into a number of groups of tourists, who like me, were there to simply take in the sights! There was also one organized tour. Every city should have one like this....

Slashdot Update on The Library at Amozonia

Unfortunately, the The Library of Amazonia is beginning to sound like the Tower of Bezos.... My Google Alert picked up this from Slashdot:

Posted byZonk
on Thursday March 24, @09:15AMfrom the like-powells-only-virtual dept.
theodp writes "Amazon had a dream. To bring the world a modern-day Library of Alexandria. Apparently they had a second dream. To own the patents on it. Interestingly, fears of lost cookbook and reference text sales voiced by the Author's Guild are echoed in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's patent application for the Suppression of features in digital images of content and a9.com CEO Udi Manber's follow up Access to electronic images of text based on user ownership of corresponding physical text, which discuss how one might block content from viewers who have no proof-of-purchase for a book on file with booksellers."

Blast from the Past (from Wired Magazine):
The Great Library of Amazonia

This article is remarkable. Especially when author, Gary Wolf, makes the insightful, if perversely chauvanistic and inaccurate, observation:

Therein lies a problem. Books are an ancient and proven medium. Their physical form inspires passion. But their very physicality makes books inaccessible to the multi-terabyte databases of modern Alexandrian projects. Books take time to transport. Their text vanishes and their pages yellow in a rash of foxing. Most important, it's still shockingly difficult to find information buried in books. Even as the Internet has revived hope of a universal library and Google seems to promise an answer to every query, books have remained a dark region in the universe of information. We want books to be as accessible and searchable as the Web. On the other hand, we still want them to be books.

This is sort of like complaining that the reason people are not flocking to online books is because hardware and software developers can't get off their duffs and develop services with the "look and feel" of books. To which I sound my frequent re-tort: If electronic books must have the look and feel of books in order to be successful, why not use books?

Further, why, in the first place are technologists so obsessed with competing with books as a technology? For example, contrary to Mr Wolf's observations above, books are frighteningly easy to transport compared to an online version.

Why can't they simply concede to reality and let books be books, and computers be computers?

i4dOnline Reports French to Challenge Google Digital Library "Hegemony"

French President to launch 'counter-offensive' on digital culture

23 Match, 2005

French President Jacques Chirac has promised to launch a new 'counter-offensive' against American cultural domination, enlisting the support of the British, German and Spanish governments in a multimillion euro bid to put the whole of European literature online.

The president was reacting last week to news that the American search-engine provider Google is to offer access to some 15 million books and documents currently housed in five of the most prestigious libraries in the English-speaking world. The realisation that the "Anglo-Saxons" were on the verge of a major breakthrough toward the dream of a universal library seriously rattled the cultural establishment in Paris, raising again the fear that French language and ideas will one day be reduced to a quaint regional peculiarity.

Source: http://www.cio-today.com

(The link was working at the time of posting the newsletter)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Blast from the Past: Mobias Technologies' Virtual Library, 1991

In November, 1991, Law Library Hi-Tech, a regular column in the AALL Newsletter, carried a story, "MOBIAS Technologies, Inc. Announces: 'Virtual Reality' In Law Libraries Coming Soon." The story reported that MOBIAS had developed a virtual library of a unique kind. Please click on the link above to read the story. (Please pardon the ad on the page.) Based on recent things that I've been reading, I'd say that I may be barking up the wrong tree....

Friday, March 11, 2005

Don't Get Goggle-Eyed Over Google's Plan to Digitize

[Again, my apologies to readers who are not Chronicle subscribers. But this is an excellent opinion piece.]

In an excellent contribution to the debate on the future of libraries, Mark Y. Herring, dean of library services at Winthrop University, has written an excellent Point of View column for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

      "What kind of advertising will Google use to pay at least some of the costs of digitization? Academics tend to be particularly allergic to ads and other distractions on their computer screens. Google already relies on ads to cover its costs; presumably it will do the same for digitization. Would scholars tolerate having an ad about, say, erectile dysfunction pop up as they read Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin, in order to have the work digitized?

      "The digitized "library" would undeniably be for picking and choosing, not really for reading. Is that the attitude toward books that we want to encourage -- the view that sound bites are more important than substantive thought?

      "Those are not necessarily insurmountable obstacles for Google. However, they are formidable.

      "Besides, the portability, convenience, and even comfort of a book are integral components of our intellectual lives. No one has yet made a convincing case that it's time to give up on books -- or libraries."


Ahhhh. A man after my own heart....

Friday, February 25, 2005

Chronicle of Higher Education: Online Textbooks Fail to Make the Grade

[Apologies to those readers who don't have subscriptions to the Chronicle online.]

February 11, 2005, page A35. "Online Textbooks Fail to Make the Grade: Students prefer handling pages the old-fashioned way." A very insightful article, well worth reading. The online version uses this as the lead-in: "Bound to differ, Students have shown a preference for printed textbooks over online versions, but publishers are encouraging them to make the switch anyway."

The key phrase in the lead-in is that publishers are encouraging them to make the switch anyway. Throughout the article it is revealed that publishers are pushing e-textbooks, not because they think the "newer generation" wants them, or because an online version of textbooks is somehow better. Rather, the motivation is because publishers can make more money. For example, McGraw Hill's textbooks are now marketed "per viewing", an arrangement where the student gets the equivalent of four looks at each page in the textbook. Then his/her license expires. In other words, if youj "purchase" a textbook with 100 pages, you get to look at 400 pages. That could mean that you look at the first page 400 times, or the whole book four times.

In the end, the article quotes one publisher, Mr. Greenberg, of an outfit called Atomic Dog, as saying, "that he is interested in using the online versions of his books for marketing leverage -- as a supplement and enhancement to paper textbooks, not the main attraction. He believes that is where the textbook market as a whole is going." Further, he says:

"I think in the future you'll see some combination of classic print with digital resources," he says. "The real value of digitization is the interactivity, not the readability. ... It's silly to think that the book, as a printed item, is going to go away."

Smart man.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Is Usage in Law Libraries Up or Down?

Well, it appears that its a little of both. Blair Kauffman, Professor and Law Library Director at Yale Law School, did an informal survey of law libraries user statistics. The results are fascinating, as Prof Kauffman points out:

"About half the libraries increased and half decreased initial check-outs and total circulation over the past two years. A few libraries, like Georgetown, provided data going back five years, and in at least Georgetown's case, the drop last year may be a blip, as they've bounced up and down over the five-year period. Also, some libraries, like Michigan, provided a wealth of related data, such as number of people entering the library, books reshelved and so on. In Michigan's case, most of these numbers (library entries and books reshelved) increased over the past three years (although check-outs dropped last year). If we all kept data like this in the same manner, the comparison might be a lot more useful. Do we want yet more ABA questionnaire categories? I'm not sure about the usefulness of what we've got here, but it seems to indicate that the use of libraries as measured by circulation is up this year over last at about as many of the reporting libraries as where usage might be down.

The next question is why is it up at some and down at others? Do coffee bars encourage the use of library materials? Pittsburgh (with it's well known coffee lounge) didn't report, but I believe William & Mary has a coffee cart, and they're numbers are off the chart."

A couple of other things should be kept in mind when thinking about and looking over the chart. First, as a rule, law libraries actually circulate very little material. In fact, the vast majority of many libraries only circulate Reserve Materials. Second, it would be helpful to note how such things as seating space, new building projects, full-time/part-time programs, etc., relates to library usage.

You can look at a PDF version of Prof. Kauffman's Excel chart here on my "Irregular Page". (So named for its irregular contents..... Wipe that smirk off your face!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Are Librarians Dodo Birds?

Professor Roy Mersky thinks not! Read his insightful comment, written with the assistance of Ronda Haskins, "In the Age of Google, will libraries become extinct?" published last year in the Austin American-Statesman. A true gem, the article makes some very good observations about the future. For one thing, without saying it explicitly, he observes that virtually the sole area where the web has displaced traditional library materials is in the area of ready reference. I agree. Perhaps the only types of materials that have met their match with the web are encyclopedias, almanacs and dictionaries. Although the jury is still out about how well they supplant these things. Just try to look up online the spelling of a word you can't remember how to spell!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

"Access by Google," Comment on Library Journal - Almost insightful

Library Journal's Editorial for this month attempts to address the "Google" phenomenon. But clearly the editor, Francine Fialkoff, misses the point. She frets about copyright issues, damage to print materials, and sees sales of books as a major concern for Google's project.

The point she misses is that while Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature has resulted in increased sales for Amazon, the analogy for libraries is that the Google service will likely result in patrons coming to the library to read the books that aren't readily available in the marketplace! It is my firm belief that a patron that finds Blackstone on Google, won't download the full text to his/her computer or handheld and read it in electronic format; rather, they will most likely either print it out or go the library and check it out. Printing the classic work will take reams of paper, and purchasing it will cost more than most consumers want to pay for an academic read.

I think that the time is ripe for libraries to begin thinking about expanding reading rooms. Particularly in their rare book rooms!